Can You Use Grout to Lay Tile?

By Mike

May 3, 2021

Grout not only adds aesthetic value to your tiles, but creates a seamless transition that prevents moisture, dirt, and debris from getting in between or under them. It also helps keep the tiles from rubbing and cracking against each other, therefore adding to their strength and rigidity.

Can you use grout to lay tile, though? Grout and mortar have just about the same ingredients, so it’s not much of a stretch to use one in place of the other, right?

Surprisingly, though, you shouldn’t use grout to lay tile as they’re not designed to fulfill such a purpose. Read on to know the difference between mortar and grout, and the reasons behind why they shouldn’t be used interchangeably.

Can You Use Grout to Lay Tile?

Typically, in a powdered mix of cement, limestone, and color pigment, grout is often used interchangeably with mortar in tile projects. After all, they have just about the same consistency and quality.

However, using one instead of the other is actually one of the biggest mistakes a user or contractor can make. You shouldn’t use grout to lay tile because it’s not as adhesive.

Some people mix unsanded grout with Acrylic Latex Additive in place of water until a sticky, peanut butter-like consistency is reached. However, this is merely a temporary solution and shouldn’t be used in large projects.

Mortar vs. Grout: What’s the Difference?

Mortar and grout are two essential materials in the field of construction, especially when it comes to tile installation. But what exactly is the difference between the two?

Mortar

Mortar is an adhesive cement specifically designed to secure floor and wall tiles to concrete and semi-concrete surfaces.

Compared to tile mastic, which is another type of tile adhesive, mortar can be used in areas that are likely to get wet, like bathrooms, backsplashes, showers, and even swimming pools. They’re more affordable than mastic, but require a generous amount of time to set.

As a result, mortar often leads to tile sag when applied in vertical areas. In such cases, you might want to use a mortar called no-slump or non-sag mortar, as it’s made with an extra-strong adhesive that reduces that risk of slippage and sagging.

You can find over five varieties of mortar on the market. Two of the most popular varieties are as follows:

Thin-Set Mortar

Made of a variety of cement, latex additives, polymers, and pigments, thin-set mortar is used as a bonding agent for bricks and heavy stone, including cement, marble, granite, and limestone, rather than glass, laminate, and light ceramic.

Thin-set mortar is usually either gray or white, which may cause the tile to appear dirty and dingy over time even with regular cleaning. This is why grout is used as a finishing agent.

While grout isn’t always necessary, it’s extremely important in a tiling project. It helps keep everything neat and tidy, plus it prevents water damage and debris from slipping in between the cracks.

SimpleSet Pre-Mixed Thin-Set Mortar 1 QT

Epoxy-Based Mortar

Made of a polymer-based bonding paste, epoxy-based mortar has high compressive strength and sticks quite well to resin-based stones and tiles.

Compared to thin-set, epoxy-based mortar is slightly difficult to work with as they tend to require lots of mixing and measuring. As such, they’re usually used by professionals rather than DIYers.

Tile Grout

When it comes to formula, grout is quite similar to thin-set mortar. However, as it’s made of higher quality sand and less lime, tile grout thinner is than the thin-set mortar.

Its thin, runny consistency allows it to easily slip in between the tiles, thus effectively sealing it. For extra protection, some people add an extra layer of grout sealant to increase its longevity.

Compared to mortar, grout comes in a multitude of color options so it matches the color or design of the tiles.

As follows are some of the most popular grout options today:

Epoxy Grout

Epoxy grout is a popular choice among contractors because it’s not porous and appears smooth and soft once applied. It’s especially beneficial to those who live in areas that experience frequent earthquakes, as it moves with the tiles instead of cracking.

It’s important to note that epoxy grout is rather expensive and difficult to work with, as it dries quicker than sanded and unsanded grout. The good news is, it doesn’t require a sealant as it’s a sealant in and of itself.

NADAMOO Epoxy Grout Bright Porcelain White, Dual Tubes Waterproof Tile Grout 19oz 400ml, Restore Tile Grout Line for Shower Bathroom Wet Room Kitchen, Caulk Gun NOT Included

Sanded Grout

Sanded grout is used for grout spaces larger than 0.8 inches. It comes in dry and pre-mixed forms, and as such can be used in a number of projects. Even so, sanded grout needs to be sealed with grout sealant to protect your tiles against dirt, spills, etc.

The only disadvantage of sanded grout is that it can’t be used in certain stone materials as it might scratch the stone surface.

Custom Building Products PBG117-4 SNWWHT 7 Lb White Sanded Tile Grout

Unsanded Grout

Unsanded grout, as the name suggests, is sanded grout but without sand. It’s often used for grout joints under 0.8 inches as sand might not fit in between the tile spaces.

Moreover, unsanded grout is a fair amount stickier than sanded grout, making it ideal for tiny gaps.

This type of grout is ideal for wall tile installation as it clings quite well to surfaces. Similar to sanded grout, unsanded grout needs to be sealed once applied.

Custom Building Product WDG5 5 lb Non-Sanded White Tile Grout

Can You Use Mortar Instead of Grout?

Like grout, which can’t be used in place of mortar, mortar shouldn’t be used instead of grout. Mortar is thicker than grout, making it quite difficult to cover all the gaps in between tiles.

On top of that, mortar doesn’t flow as easily as grout, which may cause it to leave unsightly gaps and holes behind during the drying process. It may also crack and weaken when water leaks through.

To prevent expensive damage, use mortar for mortar-related projects and grout for filling gaps.

Bottom Line

When installing floor tiles, we recommend using the proper material for the task. Mortar is a tile adhesive, while grout is a tile filler.

They’re two completely different products with different purposes. You can’t use grout to lay tile, nor can you use mortar in place of grout. We hope this clears everything up!

About the author

Hi I'm Mike! I'm the owner, writer, and sometimes editor of Foundedproject.com. Being a new homeowner can be a little daunting, which is why I created this blog. I write about problems that a new home owner might run into. 

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