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What is Grout?

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What is Grout?

The easiest way to describe Grout is to call it what it is…. Dirt. Grout is essentially a filler material made out of cement-like material and water. Other aggregates may be added to the grout depending upon the bonding power that you need and the general use of the grout. Once grout is used, it should form a waterproof seal between the spaces of something as small and decorative as tiles, or something as large and structural as concrete blocks.

Grout is NOT meant to act as glue that keeps tiles or other objects in place. There are other compounds that you can use to fill gaps and spaces in construction such as plaster or mortar, but unlike these – and properly applied – only grout should be able to easily slide cleanly  into small gaps to provide a waterproof seal.

As mentioned there are several kinds of grout depending upon your need, but for this article we’ll be focusing on two of the most commonly used grouts: Sanded and Unsanded. Sanded and Unsanded grouts are used primarily for tiles with gaps to fill between 1/8 and 1/16th of an inch wide.

Unsanded grout – as most Handymen will tell you – is one of the more common and popularly used grouts for tiles. Sit down on a toilet and look at the tiles to your left or right. If the tiles gaps are filed with a white chalk like substance that you can scrape away with your nails and tends to be unevenly applied (Sometimes the grout is actually on the tile), then you’re looking at Unsanded grout. 

If you’re looking  at something that looks like it has the consistency of granola and is more evenly applied, then you’re looking at Sanded grout.

A lot of Handymen will swear that Unsanded grout will do the job – and it will. However:

  • Unsanded grout dries quicker and is harder to remove. It’s akin to glue – which is why it usually ends up applied unevenly.

  • Unsanded grout is so hard, it may become brittle or be prone to breaking. If you ever find yourself looking at an unsanded tiled wall or floor, look for gaps or holes that we’re sure you’ll find.

  • Over time and with natural wear and tear or settling, unsanded grout may – as a whole – lose its water-proofing ability

  • Unsanded grout should only be used to fill smaller 1/16th to 1/8th inch gaps.

On the other hand, Sanded grout:

  • Is slower to dry and easier to manipulate – which leads to better application.

  • It is flexible and will resist shrinkage, settling and cracking more than unsanded grout.

  • Sanded grout may be cheaper but it is also abrasive. So don’t use it if your tile has a nice shiny surface. It’s best used for natural stones.

  • Best used to fill gaps that are wider than 1/8th of an inch.

Whichever you choose and whichever you choose, it is advisable to use a sealant on the grout afterwards.

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