What is Grout? Welcome to Grout 101!
Here’s Everything You Need to Know About Grout
What in the world is grout?
If you’ve played the home renovation game, you’ve probably come across grout. But maybe you’re not sure what it is and why you need it.
That’s where we come in. We’re here to clear up the confusion around grout and give you the rundown on everything you need to know about this critical binding agent.
Welcome to Grout 101!
In this article we’ll be covering:
- What is grout?
- What is the purpose of grout?
- What are common grout types?
- Is epoxy grout better than regular grout?
- What grout colors are available?
- Should I match my grout color to my tile?
- Should I use darker grout with lighter tile?
- Why do you need grout between tiles?
Click on the links above to get straight to the information you’re looking for or keep reading to discover everything you need to know about grout!
What Is Grout?
According to the Tile Council of North America, grout is a mixture of cement, aggregate, and other ingredients (like sand or water) that produces a water-resistant, dense, and uniformly-colored material that is commonly used for filling gaps or reinforcing existing structures.
Boiled down, grout is essentially a material used to fill the cracks, fissures, or voids in natural or man-made materials.
There are two main families of grout: cementitious grout and chemical grout. Each grout family also has its own subtypes, like sanded and unsanded grout, but we will cover all these grout varietals in depth a little bit later on!
What Is The Purpose Of Grout?
Like we mentioned above, one of the most common applications of grout is filling gaps and sealing joints, like the spaces between tiles. Grout fills in those gaps and prevents the tiles from moving over time or getting cracked along the edges.
Grout can also be used in pressure grouting, which is a process that pumps grout into soft soil or structural voids to strengthen and stabilize existing structures, or structures where the foundations have shifted.
But that's not all! This mixture also comes in handy for embedding rebar in masonry walls or connecting sections of pre-cast concrete.
In the world of grout, there are a number of key terms you should keep in mind. Keep these terms in mind as you learn more about grout!
- Grout joints: The grout joint refers to the space between the surfaces that you are grouting, usually tiles.
- Grout tile spacers: Grout tile spacers are small, plastic and T-shaped objects that maintain a consistent gap between tiles, creating an even finish for grouting. Tile spacers usually come in a few sizes, ranging from 1/4 inch to 3/8 inch.
- Grout floats: Unfortunately, we're not talking about the delicious drink kind of float here. A grout float is a handheld tool that presses grout into the joints between tiles. Resembling a trowel, a grout float is a hard rubber pad with a handle on the side.
- Grouting bag: If you've ever used an icing bag to decorate cookies, you'll understand the need for a grouting bag. Similar in form and function to an icing bag, a grouting bag encases the grout and makes it easier to apply in clean lines.
- Grouting sponge: After you've applied grout to your tiles, there will be leftover grout on some tiles that you'll want to get rid of. Enter: the grouting sponge. A grouting sponge has high-water retention and soft, rounded edges so you won't mess up the grout you worked on as you remove any unwanted extras.
What Are Common Grout Types?
When you’re choosing grout, it’s important to research what type of grout is best for your intended use. Grouts vary, and some may be more durable than others, so it’s important you find one that is suitable for the unique needs of your next home project.
Discover which grout is the best fit for you by perusing the different types of grout, below!
Cementitious grout is one of the main grout families and consists of a flowable mixture of solids (cement and sand) and water.
With this grout, cement acts as the binding agent for the mixture. And the amount of water added to cementitious grout determines how the mix flows.
Because of their flexible flow, cementitious grouts can be used for deeper applications. Installers can tweak the flow of their cementitious grout to get in those hard-to-reach spaces.
There are two main types of cementitious grout: sanded and unsanded grout. We’ll cover both, below!
As the name suggests, sanded grout is a cement-based grout with silica sand, inorganic aggregates, and chemicals.
Thanks to its sand, sanded grout is stronger and less likely to shrink after curing. Because of this, sanded grout is a great choice for filling larger joints, like those that are 1/8 inch to 3/8 inch or wider.
Sanded grout is commonly used in flooring applications because its durability will stand up to the pressure of regular foot traffic.
Sanded grout can also be used in bathroom floor installations, kitchen floor installations, or entryway installations.
It also comes with a less expensive ticket price than unsanded grout because the sand used as filler in this grout type is cheaper than the filler used to make unsanded grout.
But those considering sanded grout should be warned: sanded grout contains abrasive particles, has a visible grit, and is porous. Because of this, sanded grout may attract dirt and it should not be used on easily scratched surfaces, like marble. To prevent absorption, sanded grout should also always be sealed after installation unless otherwise specified.
Quarry-type grout is the same as sanded grout, except for the fact that a coarser grain of sand is used to make quarry-type grout.
Quarry-type grout is used for joints that are 3/8 inch wide to ½ inch wide, like the joints used with Saltillo tiles.
Also known as non-sanded grout, unsanded grout is a mixture of cement, water, and non-sand aggregate particles.
Unsanded grout is used to fill joints less than 1/8 inch wide because this type of grout tends to shrink after curing. With unsanded grout, sealing after installation is not always required, but it is usually recommended—it’s better to be safe than sorry!
You’ll want to opt for unsanded grout when there are narrow joints or vertical surfaces involved in an installation. Unsanded grout is stickier than sanded grout so it makes it easier to work with vertical surfaces like shower walls.
Unsanded grout is also a great option for installations involving bathroom walls, polished stone, or rectified tile.
And good news for prospective unsanded grout goers: you don’t have to worry about abrasive particles in unsanded grout. The lack of silica aggregate filler makes this mixture perfect for grouting easily scratched surfaces like ceramic, glass, metal, marble, or natural stone.
You should also keep in mind that unlike sanded grout, unsanded grout is more expensive and may not have as many color options available.
Polymer Cement Grout
To keep up with the demands of modern building, cementitious grout is now available with added polymers, like a latex polymer additive.
The added polymers in these high-performance hybrid grouts make them stronger and more water resistant than their cementitious equivalents.
And polymer cement grouts can sometimes offer better color consistency than traditional cement grouts, and greater resistance to efflorescence (the salty, white residue that can appear on porous materials over time).
Polymer cement grouts are a great choice for projects like high-traffic residential areas, commercial spaces, and kitchen counters or backsplashes.
Now that we’ve covered cement grouts, it’s time to say hello to a new standard of grout: epoxy grout.
Epoxy grout, or 100% solid epoxy grout, is a part of the chemical grout family. It’s hailed as the new standard of grout because it tackles concerns associated with traditional grout, like water absorption, strength, and chemical resistance.
Epoxy grout is made from epoxy resins, aggregates, and some type of hardener. It does not use cement or water like traditional cement grout does and is non-porous.
This type of grout uses epoxy as the binding agent instead of cement, making it extremely hard, durable, and much stronger than cement grouts.
It also comes with several benefits compared to traditional cement grout, such as:
- Epoxy grout has great color consistency
- Epoxy grout does not (usually) need to be sealed
- Epoxy grout is resistant to breakage and chemicals
- Epoxy grout resists mold and mildew
- Epoxy grout is almost completely stain-resistant
- Epoxy grout doesn’t effloresce
So, when do you opt for epoxy grout over your regular, run-of-the-mill cement grout?
Epoxy grout is often the preferred choice for installing tiles in areas like showers or floors. Using epoxy grout in these areas gives the tiles added protection from any moisture that might be lurking under the tile.
Epoxy grout isn’t just for showers and floors—it is also suitable for tiling:
- Heavily trafficked areas (ex: entryways or hallways)
- Bathroom vanity backsplashes
- Kitchen counters and backsplashes
- Residential or commercial flooring
- Areas exposed to harsh conditions (ex: restaurant kitchen)
Is epoxy grout better than regular grout?
With all those benefits, you might be wondering why installers don’t just do away with cement grout. But epoxy grout isn’t all good news: this grout type definitely has its drawbacks.
For starters, epoxy grout can be 3 to 4 times more expensive than cement grout.
It also tends to have a plastic look, which doesn’t agree with the aesthetic of some homeowners.
Epoxy grout can also be harder to work with, and without expert knowledge can take more time to set up than regular, cement grout. This grout type may also be more difficult to shape and slope and can even slump in the joint as it cures.
Finally, it usually takes much longer to cure epoxy grout than cement grout. If you have a tight turnaround on your renovation timeline, it may be better to avoid this grout type.
Keep these considerations in mind as you decide what grout type is best for your next home renovation project!
Epoxy Emulsion Grout
Not to be confused with epoxy grout, epoxy emulsion grouts are a mixture of cement and epoxy resins. Generally, these grouts are not stainproof and may absorb liquids or stains.
However, epoxy emulsion grouts are stronger and have greater chemical resistance than polymer cement grouts.
Another member of the chemical grout family is furan grout. Furan grout was developed in response to a need for a grout that was more chemical and heat resistant.
Dubbed a high-performance grout, furan grout is based on a thermosetting plastic that resists high temperatures and strong chemicals that might otherwise degrade traditional, epoxy grouts.
Unfortunately, furan grouts are a little high maintenance—they cannot be washed with water and require special installation techniques.
Furan grouts are typically used with industrial projects, brick pavers, and quarry tiles.
What Grout Colors Are Available?
Grout color can make all the difference in how your final tile installation comes out. It can transform the look of a space by artfully accenting or blending in with the tile you’re installing.
Thankfully, there is no shortage of grout colors to choose from. Today, you can find a grout for pretty much every color in the rainbow and some manufacturers even offer custom coloring services for their grouts so you can find a shade that matches your vision.
Not sure what color to choose? Some manufacturers, like LATICRETE, offer grout samples so you can see how the color will live in your space.
Should I Match My Grout Color To My Tile?
Matching your grout color to your tile comes down to a matter of preference. You absolutely do not have to match your grout color to your tile color if you do not want to!
When you’re choosing a grout color, ask yourself: do you prefer a more cohesive look? Or are you open to creating some distinction in your installation?
Explore Grout Possibilities by Browsing our Gallery
It’s good to know that grout color can change depending on the amount of water added to a grout mixture or how long the grout cures for. If you want to get a close color match, opt for an epoxy grout to get more even coloring.
Looking for installation inspiration? Head to our Gallery! It’s chockful of tile installations that may help you decide what type of grout and tile color combination you like best.
Should I Use Darker Grout With Lighter Tile?
One of the biggest debates in grout colors is if you should use dark grout with light tile, like pairing classic white subway tiles with dark gray grout.
This is again a matter of individual preference, so ask yourself what installation aesthetic you prefer before you choose your grout color.
Darker grout colors can create a more dramatic and contrasting look with lighter tiles. With cement grouts, dark colored grouts can become even darker over time especially in high-traffic areas, providing an even more distinctive look that may hide the telltale signs of time.
You can also use dark grout colors to highlight accent colors in tiles that feature multiple shades!
Below is an example of how you can pair dark grout colors with lighter tiles. We’ve selected a dark grout color here to pick up the rich, navy blue accent color from our Popsicles Sharpie tile!
If you are considering dark grout for your next tile installation, be wary of grout haze.
Grout haze occurs when excess residue from installation dries on the surface of the grout and surrounding tiles. It's white in color and usually appears as glossy patches, dull smears, or streaks.
Certain installation situations are more likely to create haze than others. For example, grouting light-colored stone tile with dark grout is one instance where excessive hazing can occur because stone is porous and can easily absorb the excess residue from installation. Dark grout also contrasts the haze's white color, amplifying its appearance.
If you do opt for dark grout, avoid the perils of grout haze by taking extra caution during your installation.
Remember to seal your tiles before an installation to prevent unwanted haze! Sealing your tiles beforehand will help ensure that your tiles do not absorb any grout colorant dyes or additives.
Why Do You Need Grout Between Tiles?
When you are installing tiles, the tiles you’re installing will first be adhered to the wall, floor, or surface of your choosing. Once the tiles have been glued in place, there will be gaps between each of the tiles.
This is where grout comes into play.
Like we mentioned earlier, grout locks the tiles in place and prevents the tiles from shifting over time. Another bonus? Grout also protects the edges of your tiles and keeps them from chipping easily.
So, if you want a tile installation that will look beautiful and last, make sure you get that grout!
What Grout Do You Recommend For LIVDEN Tiles?
When it comes to our sustainable, high design tiles, we recommend using an unsanded grout.
Grout Me Out
Now that we’ve covered what grout is, the purpose of grout, the various types of grout, and the differences between grout and other common adhesive products, it’s time to wrap up Grout 101.
We hope you enjoyed this crash course in grout!
If you have any questions about how to pair our modern tiles with different grouts, don’t hesitate to reach out to us! Drop us a line and we’d be happy to help point you in the right direction.
Had enough grout today? Get grout off your mind and check out our collection of decorative tiles made from 65-100% recycled materials.
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