Installing a new tile shower?

With an endless selection of colors, patterns, and sizes to choose from, new tiling is a fun home improvement project. One that can elevate your shower experience and give your bathroom the transformation it deserves. 

But when it comes to deciding between the different types of grout to use, things can get a little tricky…

Hot water, steam, and condensation are just some of the factors you need to take into consideration when grouting a new shower. And if you don’t install the right type of grout, it can cause inconvenient and expensive problems with your shower down the line.

So, which type of grout is best for your shower? 

It depends! There is no one superior kind of grout, and in this article, we’ll help you understand the different types of grout and help you choose the perfect one for your unique bathroom. 

Let’s get started!

Grout: The Basics

What is grout, and what exactly is it made of?

Grout is a reinforcing filler material that embeds, binds, and seals the space between the joints of tiles. Water, cement, and sand are the basic elements of grout ‒ but not all types of grout contain sand. 

Male putting grout in between tiles
Grout is essential for any tile project.

Whether your new tile shower is more for utility or show, one thing is certain: The type of grout you install needs to adequately waterproof your shower

Otherwise, you’ll most likely find yourself having to repair things like cracked or crumbling tile, water leaks, and other issues. (And should you ever have to repair a leaking shower and want to avoid removing the tiles, we recommend reading this article.)

When deciding between the best types of grout for a shower, there will be two rounds of decisions:

  • First, decide between sanded vs. unsanded grout.
  • Secondly, decide between epoxy grout vs. cement grout.
  • Third, decide which color grout to use.

We’ll explore all three of these essential decisions.

1. Sanded Grout vs. Unsanded Grout

It goes without saying that sanded grout contains aggregate sand material, while unsanded grout does not. But why does grout contain sand in the first place? 

Sand provides anti-shrinkage qualities during the curing phase. As sanded grout dries, the immobile sand particles stay locked in place. 

Because of its firm and rigid nature, sanded grout is also highly resistant to cracking. This makes it an ideal choice for the bathroom floor, but is not generally recommended for the shower walls.

Why is this? Sanded grout is not recommended for filling joints that are less than ⅛-inch, which is usually the case with shower tiles. Filling such narrow joints requires a higher level of precision, and sand particles are typically too large for these smaller spaces. 

Due to its high concentration of sand particles, sanded grout can also scratch softer tiling materials, such as limestone, granite, and marble. 

Unsanded Grout

Unsanded grout contains more cement than its sanded counterpart. Once dried, unsanded grout shrinks due to its high levels of cement particles. It is also more prone to cracking. 

Despite these qualities, unsanded grout is the most common choice for shower tiles. Because it doesn’t contain sand, unsanded grout has a stickier consistency, making it a better and more adhesive choice for filling vertical, tighter gaps and preventing the fall of tiles. 

Unsanded grout may shrink, but this isn’t a huge issue when dealing with vertical shower tiles bound closer together and requiring a more precise finish. Unsanded grout is also a safer option for softer stones, such as marble and limestone, because it doesn’t contain scratchy sand particles. 

Sanded vs. Unsanded Grout: Which Is Better?

Generally speaking, unsanded grout should suffice in between most shower tile joints, whether or not the joints or larger or smaller than ⅛-inch wide. 

If the shower tile joints are further apart and greater than ⅛ of an inch, that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to use sanded grout. Because shower tiles are vertical, you won’t need to worry so much about the tiles cracking due to pressure and weight. (Again, sanded grout is ideal for floor tiles that absorb a lot of foot traffic.)

Should you decide to use sanded grout to fill a tighter and narrower joint, keep in mind you’ll need to mix in more water to make the grout easier to spread. This approach can lead to pinholes, which can trap water and potentially cause your shower tiles to collapse over time.

2. Epoxy Grout vs. Cement Grout

Now that we’ve explored the differences between sanded vs. unsanded grout, let’s dive into the epoxy grout vs. cement grout conversation.

Epoxy Grout for the Win! Here’s Why: 

Epoxy grout is a popular choice for showers due to its high water resistance. Made from resin and fillers, epoxy grout is also highly adhesive as a sealant and bonds well to tiles and other building products

In fact, epoxy’s durability and adhesiveness makes it an ideal choice in humid climates or places with high moisture and dampness, such as gym showers and indoor swimming pools.

Epoxy’s high stain resistance also makes it an ideal choice for showers. Because it requires no sealing, it is less maintenance and easier to install.

Highly porous and absorbent, cement grout is more likely to shrink, crack, or break down over time. Cement-based grout is also more likely to become a breeding ground for mold and fungi due to its highly absorbent nature. 

(Did you know mold can show up around a shower within 24 hours? Nothing could be worse than taking the time to install cement grout, shower, and have mold show up shortly after.)

Compared to other types of grout, epoxy is one of the more expensive materials; however, epoxy’s durability and longevity can make it a more cost-effective option, requiring fewer repairs and less maintenance over time.

How to Install Epoxy Grout in a Shower

Your epoxy grout will come with a set of directions, and these can vary from product to product. But first, clean the shower thoroughly, especially the tiling. Debris and traces of dirt left behind can get caught in the grout and become hard to remove. 

male using epoxy grout for floor tiles
Fill in the gaps using a trowel and have a damp sponge for cleaning away epoxy residue

Using a trowel, fill the gaps in between the tiling and apply small sections of the epoxy. Smooth it out using the trowel. 

You’ll want to have a damp sponge handy so you can clean away any epoxy residue from the towels.

(Keep in mind as a friendly reminder pre-grouting: You’ll use grout to fill the joints between tiles, and you’ll use caulk to fill the area between the tiles and the tub or shower floor. The caulk you use should also be waterproof.

3. How to Choose the Right Grout Color

More often than not, unsanded epoxy grout is the ideal grout type for residential showers. 

That’s not to say you can’t won’t or shouldn’t use sanded or cement grout, but these types of grout may be more suitable when installing floors or closing large gaps (greater than ⅛ inch) between tile joints. 

Choosing the color of your grout is the next step, and it’s an important one. The color of your grout can significantly affect the final result of your new tiled shower. If the color is too busy or contrasting to the tile, it can create an eyesore and make your bathroom appear small and claustrophobic. 

So, how do you go about choosing the right grout color? Here are some suggestions!

Match the Tile & Grout Color

It sounds simple enough, but by matching the grout color to the tile color, you’ll create a cohesive and more spacious finish, all while drawing attention to other areas, like the bathroom mirror, the sink fixture, the linens, or wall décor.

blue tiles with blue grout
Matching the color of grout and your tiles will create a cohesive and spacious finish

Choosing a white tile? Go with white grout. 

Beige tile? Beige grout! 

Black tile… black grout… And so on…

Complement the Grout to the Tile

If the above suggestion is too matchy-matchy, go for a grout that subtly compliments your tile color.

You can highlight your new shower tiling by using a grout of a similar shade. For example, if you’re installing white tile, use a soft gray grout. The soft gray is subtle enough to create the contrast you want without drawing too much attention away from the tile. 

If you’re trying to highlight a dark-colored or black tile, use a dark and shadowy grout for a contrast that’s faint enough to make the distinction but not overpower the overall finish. 

Contrast the Grout & Tile

Depending on your personal taste and intention of your bathroom, contrasting the colors of your grout and shower tile can deliver bold, vivid, and head-turning results!

While contrasting colors can make your tiling appear smaller than it really is, this may be the look you’re going for, especially if the shower is fairly large and you want to “tighten” the space. 

Or, there may be a color combination you love and want for your bathroom, regardless of how unconventional and daring it may seem!

Choosing the Best Types of Grout for Your Shower

You work hard to make your home entirely yours, and there’s nothing more gratifying than feeling glorious in a shower you’re proud of and look forward to experiencing at the beginning or end of each day. 

While there are several different types of grout out there, unsanded epoxy grout is usually the first choice for home showers. We hope your new shower tile installation project goes off without a hitch! Or, have you tried using other types of grout, like sanded or cement grout, for your shower? 

We’d love to hear all about your experience and which grout worked best for your shower!