Everything Grout: Grout Basics Answered

Sanded, Unsanded, or All-in-One? Grout Basics Answered



Sanded Grout

Unsanded Grout

All-In-One Grout

Recommended Tile Surfaces

Standard sized ceramic or porcelain tiles (could scratch other surfaces)

High gloss glazed or polished tile, marble and natural stone

Recommended for most Clay Imports tile EXCEPT traditional Saltillo tile if the grout joint is larger than ½ an inch

Approximate Cost (per 25 lbs.)

Under $20

Under $40

$36 for our recommended All-In-One grout: Mapei Ultra Color Plus FA 

Should I use sealer?

Yes, use a penetrating sealer compatible with your grout

Yes, use a penetrating sealer compatible with your grout

No, sealer is not required

Where should I use it?

Interior or exterior floors and walls; projects such as bathroom, kitchen, and shower floors/walls, backsplashes, countertops, ceilings

Interior or exterior floors and walls; projects such as bathroom, kitchen, and shower floors/walls, backsplashes, countertops

Interior or exterior floors and walls; projects such as bathroom, kitchen, and shower floors/walls, backsplashes, countertops

Sanded grout is recommended for projects with standard sized ceramic or porcelain tiles. Think of sanded grout as a slightly more refined version of cement that would be used in an exterior brick wall. It’s coarse and very strong. Sanded grout can also be used on dimensional stone, slate, granite, ceramic mosaic, quarry, brick pavers, most glass, and clay tiles. 

Sanded grout is typically cement based and comes in a variety of color choices. When using conventional sanded grout, due to its high porosity, it is recommended that you seal it. We recommend that you use a penetrating sealer compatible with your grout manufacturer. 

Conventional sanded grout can be used for interior or exterior floors and walls; projects such as bathroom, kitchen, and shower floors/walls, backsplashes, countertops, ceilings etc. 

There are advantages to sanded grout. It’s much cheaper than other grouts and very easy for installers. Practically anyone can mix and apply it.

However, there are some downsides to keep in mind. Its gritty texture can scratch surfaces, and be difficult to apply to thin seams like those seen in Zellige tile. Grime and dirt can also easily accumulate within its gritty texture.  

Sanded grout is not recommended in movement joints or change of planes in the tile installation. 

A movement joint is an intentional interruption in the tile surface to allow for movement in the wall or floor. 

A change of plane is when the corner or edge of any surface changes direction such as a corner, a wall to a floor, or a wall to the tub edge. 

For movement or change of plane installations we recommend using the All-In-One grout Mapei Flexcolor CQ.

Unsanded grout is best used on high gloss glazed or polished tile, marble and natural stone that could be scratched by sanded grouts. As the title of the product suggests, it doesn't contain any sand which means an increase in cost per pound when compared to sanded grout. Unsanded grout is typically cement based, and comes in a variety of color choices.

We recommend sealing, similar to sanded grout, unless otherwise specified by the manufacturer. We recommend using a penetrating sealer compatible with your grout manufacturer. 

Unsanded grout can be used for indoor or outdoor floors and walls; projects such as bathroom, kitchen, and shower floors/walls, backsplashes, countertops etc. 

Unsanded grout should not be used in movement joints or changes of plane in the tile installation. We recommend using Mapei Flexcolor CQ grout for installations with areas susceptible to expansion, contraction, or slight flexing and change of plane installations. 

After grout is applied between tile joints, it can shrink and pull away from edges of the tile, or shrink and recess away from the surface of the tile. To avoid grout caving in at seams, it's important to choose a formula that resists shrinking. Watch out for grout shrinking or collapsing when it dries. The best way to ensure this won’t happen is to test a small area beforehand.

Both sanded, and unsanded grout have the same curing time, typically 48 hours. If you plan on exposing to moisture, wait longer, about 7 days. Please remember to ALWAYS test grouting on a small section first to ensure compatibility.

Mapei Ultra Color Plus FA is the grout we recommend for most Clay Imports tiles. However, do not use All-In-One with traditional Saltillo tile if the grout joint is larger than ½ an inch. 

Fine aggregate (FA) allows for even narrow joint widths (i.e. Zellige) and improved clean-ability. This grout option is the best of both worlds. It has a special built-in technology that eliminates common problems found in cement based grouts. The drawback to All-In-One is its high cost, it can be up to 4x the cost of traditional sanded grout. 

When mixed correctly Mapei Ultra Color Plus FA provides color consistency, non-shrinking joints, fast setting times, increased stain resistance, and increased range for grout joint size. 

This grout can be used on clay tile, glazed terracotta bricks, dimensional stone, slate, granite, and most ceramic, ceramic mosaic, quarry, brick paver, porcelain, and most glass tiles. All-In-One grout does not require sealing. 

General curing time is typically 5 hours for regular foot traffic, 24 hours to expose to moisture, and 72 hours for exposure to steam and full submersion.

Tile worker grouting red terracotta clay tiles inside a house clay imports

Tile Surfaces

Pattern Clay, Handpainted Clay, Sealed Terracotta and Glazed Terracotta tiles are the most scratch resistant. 

  • - You can use sanded grout and All-In-One for these tiles safely without worrying about scratches. 

Remember to ALWAYS test grouting on a small section first to ensure compatibility.

Cost

As the title of the product suggests, unsanded grout does not contain any sand (which acts as a filler). The cost per pound of unsanded grout is higher than that of sanded grout. As mentioned earlier, All-In-One grout can be up to 4x the cost of traditional sanded grout. Sanded grout is the most budget friendly option.

What grout size should I use?

There is no set answer for what size grout joint you should use. However, the answer is based on a variety of different factors including tile size, grout being utilized and the design aesthetic that you want to achieve. We’ll go over some considerations to get the right grout size for your next project. 

Clay Imports makes its tile by hand, variations are to be expected in size and thickness from tile to tile and even batch to batch. The smaller the grout joint, the more noticeable size variations will be. When possible, we recommend using larger grout joints to account for size variations. The thicknesses of each tile will vary depending on your final tile selection. 

There’s a trend right now with Zellige tile to butt tile joints together where they have minimal or no joint. If you want to do this, you need to be aware that due to size variations the result will result in a crooked line. Otherwise, if you want a straight line you will have to incorporate spacing of at least 1/16” or  ⅛” of an inch. Joint size can be larger if the tiles are large.

Off white brick tile with wide grout lines clay imports

Smaller grout joints will accentuate size variation found in handmade tiles.

Tile size

You must consider tile size when picking a grout size. Large tiles tend to have more size variation than smaller ones. Large tiles require a larger grout joint, in order to keep grout lines straight.

Tile type

Some tiles are built for smaller grout joints, such as Zellige tiles which have mitered edges that allow for a closer, stacked joint.

Tile shape

With handmade tile, interlocking shapes will require different spacing.

Person on knees scrubbing terracotta shaped tile floor clay imports

Where you will install your tile

It’s important to consider where your tile will go. Floor installations can provide more traction if larger grout joints are utilized. The type of substrate below the tile install is essential to consider as well. Grout joints allow for some give when there is movement present in foundations. 

Cement foundations have less movement which makes them suitable for tighter joint spacing. Wood substrates will see more potential for movement as temperatures change; aim for larger grout joints when possible. 

High-rise condo buildings experience greater movement the higher up they are. It would be best to consider a larger grout joint when possible due to potential substrate movement.

Grout size options

Grout spaces will generally vary between 1/16” and 1/2” inch. Standard spacers can be purchased in these sizes. The variations found in handmade tile make wedge spacers a good option.

Glazed Thin Brick

We recommend 1/8” and 1/2” inch grout space for Glazed Thin Brick. Expect high variation in grout joint size with the installation. 

Pattern Clay Tile

We recommend 1/16” and 1/8” inch grout space for Pattern Clay Tile. Expect some variation in grout joint size with the installation. 

Saltillo Tile

We recommend 1/4” and 1/2” inch grout space for Saltillo tile. Depending on your desired look, you can use grout joint size up to 3/4” inch. We recommend a minimum spacing of 1/4” inch. Joints larger than 1/2” inch will usually be installed by sight, as spacers larger than this size are hard to find. Expect high variation in grout joint size with the installation.

Shaped Saltillo Tile 

Interlocking shape tiles are typically installed by sight, utilizing wedge spacers as needed. Expect high variation in grout joint size with the installation. 



To review, when working with handmade tiles, smaller grout joints will make variations in tile and grout size more apparent. When possible larger grout sizes are recommended for a straighter more professional finish. However, in the end it’s up to you. It’s trendy to have tighter grout spaces but with most handmade tile that isn't always the best choice.

Grout width material recommendations

Sanded Grout: Generally 1/8” to 5/8” inch can be used.

Unsanded Grout: Generally 1/16” to 1/8” inch can be used.

All-In-One: Generally 1/16” to 3/4” inch can be used.

Caution

These tips will help you avoid any costly mistakes that could ruin your tile!

General tip: ALWAYS perform a test on a small area prior to use. 

A difference in grout color can be caused by cement based grouts not being mixed the same each time. Try to mix all the grout you will use for installation at once to get uniform grout color. 

Efflorescence, a whitish powder or surface crust, can occur in any Portland-cement product.

We highly advise against using black grout, as it can irreversibly stain your tile! If you wish to use a dark grout color with Clay Imports tile, we recommend not using any shade darker than dark gray or charcoal.

Some types of glazed ceramic tiles, marble, granite, and marble agglomerates can be permanently stained, scratched, dulled or damaged when grouted with pigmented grout or sanded grout formulas. 

Generally, white grout is best suited for grouting white or light-colored marble or granite. Take all the necessary precautions to ensure that your marble or granite tiles are compatible with colored grouts. 

Check the tile or marble manufacturer’s literature and test grout on a separate sample area before grouting to determine the suitability of the product with colored and/or sanded grouts. To learn more about how to choose a grout color, check out our blog here.

Thank you to The Tile Press installation experts for helping us put this comprehensive guide together! If you still have questions feel free to reach us at contact@clayimports.com or chat with us here!




Disclaimer: since the installation of tile greatly determines the integrity of the project and the tile itself, Clay imports does not warranty this product and is not responsible for dissatisfaction of material following installation. Please inspect all tile upon receipt and notify us immediately if you have any quality concerns. This guide is meant to serve as a general resource. Because each project is unique, consult your tile installer before installing your tile.

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