Sanded or Unsanded: Getting The Right Grout for Backsplashes

Backsplashes are a perfect way to finish off a new kitchen or bathroom project, providing a visually attractive design that, as the name suggests, catches the splashes and other spills in those rooms – but picking the right grout can be as important as picking the right backsplash tile.

Grout is a substance that is used to fill the gaps between floor or wall tiles, and is particularly useful when backsplash tile is used either for mosaic patterns or simply a series of the same-sized tiles. The two main types of grout in use for homes are sanded grout which is a cement-based mortar combined with sand grains, and non-sanded grout, meaning there is no sand mixed in with it.

Sanded grout is generally considered to be the stronger of the two options and is less likely to crack over time than unsanded grout, and its coloring can match with more tiles.

Unsanded grout, in contrast, might not be a strong but is perfect for smaller gaps of 1/8th of an inch or less between tiles. Because it does not contain any sand, this type of grout can also be good if the overall goal is a smooth, non-grainy tool, and it also won’t scratch the tiles.

Whether to pick sanded or non-sanded grout will depend on the type of backsplash tile project in mind, but it’s a fairly simple process to choose and get working on a great design plan.

Consider jumping into a dramatic look with 2×2 size tiles in different shades of brown, with veins of various hues of the same color. These can look great when arranged in a horizontal line across a bathroom wall, perhaps breaking up the tiling around the shower or bathtub. Given the small size of these tiles, the correct grout to use here would be unsanded.

In contrast, sanded grout is right choice for an alternative bathroom mosaic design using similar 2×2 sized tiles in neutral shades of brown and white. If these tiles are used for the shower floor and also for covering part of the shower wall with a mosaic, the natural colors and appearance of sanded grout will pair well with the tiles for a warm, inviting look.

For a larger-scale bathroom backsplash tile project, it’s possible to use same-sized rectangular marble tiles in black, white, gray, and blue for a mosaic that wraps around the bathroom walls. This is a stunning look with fine features that warrant using unsanded grout.

Yet another way to decorate the bathroom is using diamond-shaped white, black, and green tiles of the same size for a mosaic that will reflect natural light well. Given the fine nature of the glass tile, the best option here is to use unsanded grout which is not coarse like sanded grout.

Backsplash tile works just as well in the kitchen, and large rectangular “subway” glass tiles in light green can make for a great feature, with sanded grout the best way to fill the larger joints.

The design options above help to illustrate some of the ways to decide between sanded and non-sanded grout, so once homeowners have figured out the type of project and the corresponding grout that they want to use, the only thing left to do is start installing the tile.