Sanded Vs. Unsanded Caulk: Which One to Use in Your Tiling Job?

One of the biggest debates among flooring specialists is to decide between using a sanded caulk or unsanded caulk. Sanded Caulk vs. unsanded caulk is one of the biggest decisions that you will have to go through once you start working on your next home improvement project.

Sanded caulk is more durable, but unsanded caulk is perfect for joints smaller than 1/8th of an inch. Sanded caulk is better for flooring options, while the unsanded caulk is better for vertical installations. Sanded caulk is better for high foot traffic areas, while the unsanded caulk is better for working with soft stones and smooth tiles. The choice of caulk depends on a verity of factors of the tiling job.

The majority of flooring experts are well acquainted with the distinction between sanded and unsanded caulk. Yet, even certain seasoned contractors, in general, are still uncertain about the variations between the two most popular caulk formulations.

Today, we will take you through the major differences between the sanded vs. unsanded caulk. Whether your next project is a residential one or a commercial one, you can easily take advantage of the knowledge from this guide and decide for yourself.

Sanded Vs. Unsanded Caulk

When it comes to choosing between sanded caulk and unsanded caulk, the decision can be tough. However, for your next tiling job, you need to know all the details, pros, and cons offered by these forms of caulk and settle the debate of sanded caulk vs. unsanded caulk. We will take a look at the following aspects of sanded and unsanded caulk materials.

  • Durability and Resistance
  • Vertical Adhesiveness
  • Side Effects
  • The Size of Joints


In simple terms, sanded caulk is sanded caulk. It’s just a typical caulk material mixed with sand material. Why add the sand to the existing caulk? Well, sand material is known to make the sanded caulk much more durable than the ordinary caulk material. Sand adds more power, resistance, and resilience to the caulk, and make it last longer than before.

On the other hand, the unsanded caulk material comes without any addition of sand. How can sand help with durability? Well, when unsanded caulk material shrinks, it pulls away from the tiles and slowly starts breaking up. Due to the addition of sand, the caulk doesn’t shrink as much as it should and remains adhesive to the tiles. This makes sanded caulk more durable than unsanded caulk.

Similarly, sanded caulk prevents scratching, rendering the tiles more robust. Unsanded caulk, however, can be vulnerable to extreme cracking when added to it by heat, rendering it unsuitable for most flooring and tiling jobs.

In most interior flooring installs, sanded caulk is the go-to option for the majority of contractors. That is because it can last longer than unsanded caulk, can withstand severe foot movement, and can be easily applied with wider joints.

The next time you are planning to do a home improvement project, and a tiling job, you probably want to find some high-quality sanded caulk for durability and more resistance.

Vertical Adhesiveness

The next thing you need to know is the vertical adhesiveness when discussing sanded caulk vs. unsanded caulk. Whether you have mounted a shower before or vertical tiling, the probability is that you must have used unsanded caulk. Unsanded caulk is particularly rigid because it does not contain any extra sand or mortar-like its counterpart sanded caulk.

You can quickly scatter the unsanded caulk material across a vertical surface, and when you work on it to spread it around the lines, it will stay stuck to the vertical surface. This makes unsanded caulk better than sanded caulk in terms of vertical prowess.

While unsanded caulk shrinks faster and more than the sanded caulk, on a vertical surface, this isn’t much of a problem. Tiles are normally laid down fairly close to one another, and this ensures that the shrinkage after the caulk dries and cures does not impact the tile’s longevity on a vertical surface.

Often, longevity is not much of a problem for vertical tiles. Although unsanded caulk is not usually recommended for tiles in a high foot traffic area, it will be fine for vertical tiles. Moreover, it won’t break, because little to no strain is added to the vertical tiles.

The usage of unsanded caulk for vertical surfaces has an added bonus. Working with it is better than with sanded caulk, and you can easily get a full and even distribution over the surface. All you have to do is place the tiles in the right place and apply the unsanded caulk.

Damage to The Tiles

The tile material that you are dealing with is another major factor when deciding between sanded caulk vs. unsanded caulk. The hard sand content in sanded caulk is known to harm fragile materials such as granite, marble, limestone, and other tile materials.

Sanded caulk acts pretty much like sandpaper. The ingredients that go into the creation of sanded caulk are often harder, tougher, and coarser than tiles, and can end up harming the overall quality and surface of these tiles.

If you are going to use soft and smooth tiles, you need to choose unsanded caulk for your project. The majority of flooring contractors use epoxy-based unsanded caulk for tiling projects, and it offers a shiny and polished look for the tiles.

The Size of Joints

When you want to use sanded caulk with joints smaller than 1/8 of an inch for a tiling job, you will end up facing a lot of severe issues. It would be best if you used unsanded caulk on small joints with less than 1/8 of an inch.

Unsanded caulk is almost often a safer option for such jobs. So, if you are thinking about using sanded caulk vs. unsanded caulk, you need to use unsanded caulk for projects with smaller joints for precision.

The addition of sand material to make the caulk more durable also refrains you from squeezing it into tight holes less than 1/8th of an inch.

Pinholing is another issue that is induced when using sanded caulk in tiny joints. When using sanded caulk for tiny joints, contractors will almost often need to use more water in the foundation. This makes it easy to disperse the caulk, but pinholes may also be created by excess water.

As sanded caulk absorbs vast quantities of water, pinholes develop and then evaporate over a long time period. The caulk over the now empty air cavity breaks as this occurs, creating a tiny pin-like void. These will destroy the overall look of your tiling project, and you will need to refill these holes in order to avoid any future problems.

Wrapping It Up

Now that you understand major differences between sanded caulk vs. unsanded caulk, you can make the best possible choice for your tiling job and project. Take a look at the job requirements, area of installation, the amount of foot traffic, and the size of joints.

This will help you make a smart choice based on the points mentioned above. Sanded caulk can help with durability, but unsanded caulk can help with soft stones. Choose carefully.

Isaac Atia

I am a home improvement enthusiast who enjoys sharing my tips and latest projects with other homeowners. When not working on the house, I enjoy playing soccer, hiking, traveling, and retail therapy!

Recent Content