Between the Tiles: Comparing Cement Grout and Epoxy Grout

Photography Courtesy of Emser  Tile
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Grout plays a fundamental role in tile installations. Though it often goes unnoticed, grout is hard at work between the tiles, bonding them together, strengthening their surface, and fighting off water damage and stains, while imparting a finished look for floors, walls, and countertops. “We know that grout is a key factor for the performance and result of a project,” says Ramon Heras of Porcelanosa. “It’s more important than people know.” Grout comes in two basic types—epoxy and cement—and deciding on which one to use depends on the particular needs of a project. The information below compares the characteristics of grout’s two essential types.

Cement-Based Grout

A steadfast standard for locking tiles into place, cement-based grouts hold a long track-record of use, with recent additions of high-performance types now available. Cement grouts are made up of a mixture sand and water and are also offered in un-sanded varieties. Un-sanded cement grouts are recommended for interior applications with joints measuring less than ⅛ of an inch. “Un-sanded cement grouts are not waterproof and need a sealer when installed in shower areas,” says Heras. “This is the perfect grout for tight joints and suitable for any tile or natural stone. It is mixed with water, and the application is very fast and so is the cleaning with water.” Sanded grouts, on the other hand, should be used for joints that measure more than ⅛ of an inch. It is suggested for use across both interior and exterior applications, particularly for walls and floors. “Sanded grouts come with sealer in its formula and are water and stain resistant,” adds Heras. Moreover, a more heavily sanded grout is advised for accommodating any joints larger that ⅜ of an inch.

Photography Courtesy of Walker Zanger
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Advantages of cement grouts include affordability, a resistance to fading, and an ease of use—they are considered to be far more forbearing during difficult applications. They are also easily cleaned. Some of the disadvantages of cement grout include its propensity to soak up stains and spills over time, since it is very porous by nature. As such, sealing cement grouts is a necessary step. Moreover, cement grouts are less ideal for narrow gaps, as the thick paste may not pack well in joints of ⅛-inch or less.

Epoxy-Based Grout

Establishing new standards for durability and stain-resistance, epoxy-based grouts are well suited for high-traffic settings in which sealed cement might fall short. Made from two-part epoxy resins mixed with filler powder, epoxy grout is revered for its near-perfect imperviousness to stains. Its other advantages include better water absorption, added strength through an extremely hard and durable form, and a high chemical resistance. “Epoxy grout is perfect for floors, especially commercial floors, damp areas like showers or steam showers, facades, or swimming pools,” says Heras. “This is a bi-component material that once mixed gets a consistency similar to glue. It is totally waterproof and stain-proof and keeps the same color over the time.”

Photography courtesy of Riad Tile
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While it boasts superior strength and stain fighting capabilities, some of epoxy grout’s disadvantages include cost, an aesthetic appearance that resembles plastic, and a more laborious installation process. The ensuing chemical reaction that occurs after its two parts are mixed together mandates that the grout be applied quickly afterwards in small batches—an intricate process that can prove to be tricky. Additionally, it must be cleaned immediately after installation.

Knowing the ins and outs of grout is imperative to picking the right type for a project. “Grout is as important as the surface selected, in terms of look and performance,” says Heras. While their applications can be seen as analogous, it is worthwhile to compare the nitty-gritty nuances that set cement and epoxy grouts apart.

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