Bathrooms, along with kitchens, are the most enjoyable rooms to design. They are rooms in which a multitude of styles and aesthetics can be employed and the results almost always look incredible. One of the centerpieces of a beautiful bathroom can be an elegant tiled shower.
Picking the perfect tile for your shower is a really exciting task and the wide range of styles means that there is something for everyone to get excited about. However, when it comes to deciding what type of grout you should use with these tiles, the task becomes a little less exciting and a little more overwhelming.
That's why, in this article, we will help you to decide what grout you will use for your lovely new tiled shower by detailing all of your options. By the end, you will understand the strengths and weaknesses of the different options and should have a good idea of which grout is the one for you. You never know, the topic of grout may even become exciting to you!
What actually is grout?
Now some of you may already know what grout is and what it does, however, others will not. So in this next section, we will just run through the basic information about grout and what function it serves.
Grout is a material that is formed primarily of cement, water, and sand (not all grouts contain sand, but we will get onto that later). It is a filler material that is lined in the gaps between tiles. It effectively sticks the tiles together and holds them in place whilst also sealing them up and ensuring that nothing else gets stuck in between the tiles.
A key property of any grout you will want to use for your shower is that it is waterproof. This is because a shower is obviously a very wet environment and you really don't want any of that water getting in between and behind the tiles, weakening the structure and potentially causing water to leak out of the shower. A badly waterproofed shower would leave you having to spend lots of money on lots of repairs.
Now you know what grout is and what you need it to do, we will talk to you more about the key decisions you need to make when deciding what type of grout you want to buy to use in your shower.
Epoxy or cement grout?
The first decision you will need to make about the grout is whether you want epoxy grout or cement grout. We've been nice to you with this first question because there really is only one answer here and that is epoxy grout.
Remember what we said was the most important property a grout used in a shower needed to have? Yes, that's right, it needs to be waterproof. Epoxy grout is extremely water resistant, much more so than cement grout. Due to cement grouts, porous nature water gets inside them very easily. This can cause major problems, for example, the influx of moisture into the cement grout will mean that it can become a breeding ground for all sorts of nasty molds and fungi.
In addition to this, the fact that it is not waterproof means that it is nowhere near as durable as epoxy grout. After a short period of time, the grout will begin to shrink meaning cracks will form and your tiles will become unstable.
The only thing that cement grout has over epoxy grout when it comes to their use in showers is that it is cheaper... at first. When you first grout your shower you will find that it is cheaper to so do with cement grout than it is with epoxy grout. However, due to the cement grout's lack of durability, the costs will rack up as you will be having to make much more regular repairs than you would with epoxy grout.
Sanded or unsanded grout?
As we mentioned earlier, grout can either contain sand or not (sanded or unsanded). And whether it contains sand or not makes a big difference to its strengths and weaknesses. So, another question you need to ask yourself is, do I want my grout to be sanded or unsanded? Don't worry, we know you aren't ready to answer that yet so we will now explain the differences between the two for you so that you are ready to make that decision.
One of the benefits of sanded grout is that it is very durable and resistant to cracks. This is because the larger sand particles give the grout much more strength. The other major benefit of sanded grout is that it does not shrink whilst it is left to set (or cure). The larger, heavier sand particles cannot be moved as easily and therefore hold the grout in place rather than it shrinking.
Having said this, the larger sand particles also mean that sanded grout is maybe not the best option to go for when picking a type of grout for your shower. Firstly, the large number of sand particles in the grout can lead to your tiles becoming scratched especially if they are a softer material like granite. Secondly, and more importantly, you should not use sanded grout in any gap smaller than 1/8 of an inch wide as the sand particles and therefore do not provide the level of precision needed.
Due to the lack of sand particles and higher concentration of cement, unsanded grout does not have the same issues as were mentioned at the end of the section on sanded grout. In addition to this, the higher concentration of cement actually makes it more adhesive than the sanded grout, meaning it sticks to the tiles better.
Although the unsanded grout does shrink more while setting this is less of a problem due to the gaps in between the tiles already being very small.
The general consensus among people that know what they are talking about is that unsanded grout is the best option for showers, due to the thin gaps between tiles requiring an option more precise than sanded grout.
How to apply the grout
Before you even try to put any of your grout in the tiles, first you need to thoroughly clean the tiles, you will also want to clean a trowel and a grout float as you will be using these later. The reason you want everything to be so clean is because any bits of dirt that get stuck in your grout will be very difficult to remove, especially after it has set.
Now that you have cleaned the area you can start to actually apply the grout. Different brands of grout will have slightly different instructions but the main idea is the same. What you want to do is put grout on the surface of the grout float, you can do so using the trowel. Then you want to run the grout float over the tiles at a 45 degree angle so that grout completely fills the gaps between tiles. Use the side of the grout float to clean the surface of the tiles.
Continue with this process until all of the gaps between the tiles have been filled. Then leave it to set before using the shower. Refer to the individual product for how long it needs to be left to set. It is important to note that in the gaps between a tile and shower floor, you need to use a waterproof caulk rather than grout.
For a more visual demostration on how to apply grout, you can watch the video below.
What color grout should I use?
This section will focus less on the practicality of the grout you are using and more on the aesthetic side of things, arguably the more exciting side. When it comes to deciding what color grout you want to use, the key is to consider the color of your tiles. You have three routes you could go down:
- Match colors - if you want to highlight your beautiful new tiles rather than taking attention away from them, or any of the other centrepeices of your bathroom, then the best thing to do is find a grout that matches the color of your tiles.
- Contrast colors - this a much more bold and daring option. Contasting the grouts and tiles will makes the tiles seem smaller, which can be nice if you have a particularly large shower area. It will potentially take attention away from the rest of the bathroom but if you've found a colour combination you just love, then why not!
- Complement colors - this is the middle ground between the two options and it involves picking a grout colour that is a similar shade. This will create a subtle contrast without drawing attention away from anything else.
When considering all factors we would say, and the majority of people will agree, that unsanded epoxy grout is the best grout to go for use in showers. This is because you need the grout you are using be both precise (due to the small gaps) and waterproof and that what unsanded epoxy will give you.
Phew! Now that you've got that complicated bit out of the way you can go back to planning your dream bathroom! Just remember that the color of your grout is not something that you should overlook because the color you chose can really determine what stands out and what doesn't in your bathroom.
Does shower grout need to match floor grout?
No! You may want to make your floor grout the same colour as your shower grout to maintain the aesthetic of the room. However, they do not need to be the same type as grout as the gaps between floor tiles might be wider and floor tiles will not need to be waterproof.
Is unsanded grout easier to clean?
Yes unsanded grout is easier to clean. This is because the larger sand particles in sanded grout mean it has a much more coarse texture than unsanded grout. The coarse texture make it a bit more of a hassle to keep clean than the smoother texture of the unsanded grout.
Do you need to seal tile grout in a shower?
If the grout you have used for the tiles in your shower is epoxy grout then you will not need to use a sealant on it as it already naturally repels water. However, if you have used a cement grout the yes, you will need to seal it.