If you're starting on bathroom or kitchen renovations, you may be wondering if it's better to use grout or caulk on fixtures and tiling. Both materials play a big role in ensuring aesthetic appeal and functionality. Because they're so similar, it's all too easy to use these terms interchangeably.
However, treating caulk and grout like they're the same could ruin a home renovation project. There are key differences between both of these materials, particularly in how and where they're applied. In this post, we’ll break down the big differences that set grout and caulk apart and which is better for your project.
Grout vs. Caulk: Main Differences
Both grout and caulk are essential construction materials. Grout is a mixture of cement putty used to fill crevices. Often, cement grouts are used to fill in the spaces between tiles in bathroom areas. You can see grout lines between the tiles in restrooms and areas where there are tile floors.
This material keeps tiles from shifting and prevents chipping, serving as a protective shield against damage. Caulk has another purpose. It’s used to fill gaps, cracks, and holes with a waterproof seal. Let’s dive deeper into the key differences between these two materials.
Caulk and grout might feel or look similar on the surface, but they’re actually made from different materials. Caulk can be made from acrylic, latex, silicone, or a mixture of all three. Most general-purpose projects are done using acrylic latex caulk, but you might opt for other types depending on the area you’re caulking.
There are also different types of grout, each with their own composition. Generally, grout contains a mixture of cement, colorant, watert. This isn’t always the case, though. There are 3 main types of grout: epoxy, sanded, and unsanded grout. Epoxy grout is made from epoxy resin and filler material. Sanded and unsanded grout are differentiated by their grit level. Sanded grout must be above 1/8 grit, while unsanded grout is below 1/8.
It’s important to know whether or not to use grout or caulk in certain scenarios, as they have different uses. Grout is porous but still effective in wet areas. When binded to backer boards behind tiles, grout makes a powerful and water-resistant surface. If you’re working on any kind of tile project, you’ll probably use grout.
Although grout is mostly used for tiling projects, caulk is a useful material in many scenarios. Caulk can be found in outdoor construction projects and kitchen areas. It’s commonly used around plumbing or electrical fixtures. Similar to grout, caulk is also especially useful in bathroom areas. It’s used to seal gaps and joints where shower walls meet, ensuring a watertight and durable barrier.
Caulk creates a protective seal over gaps and cracks that prevents moisture from seeping into gaps. In this way, it acts as a barrier, preventing issues such as mold growth and water damage. This material is critical for the integrity of surfaces and promoting a long-lasting and secure environment.
Preparation and Application
Another factor that sets these two materials apart is how they’re prepared and applied to surfaces. Caulk’s preparation before applying is minimal. Depending how much you need, you can order it in large buckets or smaller tubes. Caulk is usually applied with a caulking gun or straight from the tube. It can be easily smoothed over with your finger. Caulk is flexible, so it can absorb movement and stretch without cracking.
Cement-based grout is packaged as a grey or brown powder. It must be mixed with water and stirred before application. Once the mixture is ready, the grout is spread over tiled surfaces with a grout float and pressed into the gaps. Excess grout is then wiped away with a damp sponge. Grout dries and hardens around the edges of tile, keeping them firmly in place.
One of the biggest differences between grout and caulk is caulk’s water resistant features. Caulk, especially silicone caulk, is waterproof. This makes it ideal for areas such as kitchens, sinks, bathtubs, toilets, and even the outdoors. Silicone caulk forms a watertight seal, preventing mold, rot, and moisture exposure. Caulk reacts very differently from grout. Instead of cracking, its flexibility allows it to withstand the elements.
While grout does have some water-resistant properties, it’s not waterproof. Grout is prone to cracking and staining over time. To mitigate this issue, a grout sealer is often applied to add a layer of protection.
When it comes to adhesion, caulk is usually a better choice if you need an adhesive for a wide variety of surfaces. Caulk can be applied on glass, tile, metal, concrete, mortar, wood, and more. It’s also stickier than grout, so it easily adheres to surfaces. Caulk may be a more versatile adhesive, but grout’s adhesive properties are great for tiling purposes. Grout is purely for adhesion, so it makes sense it’s a go-to material for tiled-surfaces. It dries down firm and strong around tiles, making them immovable.
Which is Better?
Now that you know the differences between each of these materials, you may wonder which is better. It depends on the type of project. There are some situations where you might need to choose between grout and caulk, like when deciding how to fill the space between tiles or the bathtub. If you prefer a material that is easier to apply and remove, grout is the better choice. Caulk takes a steady hand to apply, and it can be difficult to remove.
Grout is a common choice for many contractors, but generally caulk is the better choice for durability. Silicone caulk’s waterproof properties and flexibility make it ideal for the bathroom, and it’s useful in ways grout falls short of. Using silicone caulk on your projects ensures your client will get long-lasting results.
Silicone Depot: The Best Choice For Your Project
Whether you’re working with caulk or sealant, Silicone Depot has the best products for your next construction project. When it comes to the materials you use, only the best will do. Silicone Depot is proud to carry top-of-the-line sealants and caulking accessories, with bulk discounts available for contractors. Shop our online selection of products today and see the quality for yourself!