What's the Difference Between Grout and Caulk?

June 11, 2018
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Tile Grout and Caulk
While grout and caulk may seem similar, or even interchangeable, to someone who isn't familiar with the products, they are entirely different, with each having distinct properties and uses. Most grout is a mixture of cement, water, and sand. It's used to fill the spaces between tiles and keep them in place. There are various types of grout as well, each with distinctive properties and uses. Some other types include epoxy grout, acrylic grout, and urethane grout. Of these types of grout, epoxy is considered a top choice for tile projects for a number of reasons. Caulk, on the other hand, is a thick substance made of silicone, acrylic, or latex. While both have sealing abilities, they are not used interchangeably at all.

Uses for Caulk
Caulk is flexible and waterproof. It can be used in a variety of applications. Caulk is often used around the edge of a bathtub, where tiles meet the tub. It can also be used in corners or around the base of showers. Caulk can also be used around drains and pipes to prevent leaks, or around doors and windows as a weatherproofing device. Caulk is purchased pre-made and can be used in a disposable applicator or placed in a caulking gun for application. Either way, caulking is ideal for areas that sustain heavy moisture, with little or no cracking taking place over time. But after time most Caulks will grow mold and mildew on the surface and even within.

Flexible Caulk
Some other uses for caulk that may be overlooked include using it as a quick fix to put a piece of molding back in place, secure a piece of loose carpet back down on the floor, fix wallpaper that has begun to separate from the wall, or even to install light wood paneling without unsightly nails. Caulk can also be used to fix small holes in a wall, particularly before you paint. Caulk is also excellent for sealing small holes and gaps outside the home, with the added benefit of keeping out pests such as insects and rodents. As you can see, caulk can come to the rescue in a lot of ways. It's a lot like fixing things with duct tape. Caulk is good to keep on hand. It certainly isn't a substitute for grout by any means. In situations where you need to use grout, such as in a tile project, caulk is ineffective, but it does work for smaller jobs and it's ideal for quick repairs.

Uses for Grout
There are different types of grout. The most commonly known grout is tile grout, used to fill the gap between titles and to keep tiles in place. Most traditional tile grout is made of cement and water. Cement-based grout has been used for decades for tile projects, but there are some inherent issues with this type of grout. Cement-based grout is porous and easily takes on stains. It isn't weatherproof and needs to be sealed for any type of effectiveness. Excessive moisture can cause cement-based grout to crack and peel or easily develop mold and mildew. A better choice for tile work is epoxy grout, which requires no sealing and is ideal for indoor or outdoor use because it is highly resistant to staining, it's durable, and it can be used in areas where there is high traffic. See Epoxy Grout vs. Cement Grout for more information.

Epoxy Grout Can Be the Best Choice for Your Projects...Find Out Why!
Epoxy grout is more expensive than cement-based grout. This is one of the reasons many people choose not to use it. Upon close examination of the benefits, however, the slightly higher cost of epoxy grout is a minimal inconvenience compared to the headaches you can prevent and money you can actually save over time. This is because epoxy grout is also extremely durable, resistant to stains, resistant to cracking, and resistant to weather elements. It's great for places where there will be high traffic too, so while there may be a little more expense involved with using epoxy, that expense takes care of itself in the long run because epoxy grout will last a lifetime. There's no need to worry about the expense of replacing it or having to re-do the work.

When epoxy grout first became popular, epoxy products could be hard to work with, which often scared people away from using it. Early epoxy products were quick to dry and required a lot of precision when working with it. This is no longer the case. Many epoxy grout products include detergents that make cleaning up a breeze, so it doesn't require as much attention to detail to work with the grout as it used to. That isn't to say applying epoxy grout doesn't require some work, but by following directions for application, epoxy grout can be as easy to work with as cement-based grout.

Can You Use Grout and Caulk Together?
There are distinct uses for caulk and grout, although they are used together. Grout is used between tiles to keep them from moving. It isn't flexible like caulk. Caulk is used around the base of the tub or where the tiles meet the tub. It's waterproof and used as a sealing measure. Chances are good you have both of these products being used in your bathroom shower or your kitchen sink area, but they are not used interchangeably.

Epoxy Grout
Caulk is great for sealing around edges, particularly where there will be leakage or constant dampness, but putting it over grout is not a good idea. First, grout has its own aesthetics and colored grouts are often used as a decorative accent, so putting caulk over the grout is counterproductive. Second, grout is used between tiles not only to hold them in place, but in showers it is particularly important because it dries quickly and it's hard and non-flexible, which prevents tile slippage and water from getting behind the tiles. Since trapped moisture is a leading cause of mold, caulking over grout lines can increase mold risk.

This is another reason epoxy grout is so much better than cement-based grout. The durability and hardening properties of epoxy grout make it ideal for high traffic areas. Once applied properly, epoxy grout will endure. There will be no cracking, minimal cleaning and maintenance are all that's required due to the stain resistant nature of epoxy grout, and no change in the grout's overall strength as time goes on. For these reasons, it is never necessary to put caulk over grout, nor is it recommended.

There are some instances where a choice between grout and caulk may come up, such as the space between tile and a bathtub. A lot of contractors use grout in situations such as this, but for the most part, caulk should be used. It's more flexible and waterproof as well, unlike traditional cement-based grout, which provides no flexibility. Epoxy grout is much more flexible than traditional grout, so if you choose not to use caulk and decide to use grout to fill the space between tub and tile, always go with the epoxy grout. As for using caulk with grout, there is absolutely no reason for it. Caulk is used to seal. Epoxy grout needs no sealing because it is already durable and resistant to moisture and water.

The Best Grout and Grout Products Available Anywhere
When there's a tile project at hand, caulk is not the answer. Tile projects require grout. The Tile Doctor has the highest quality epoxy grout products available today. We are the leader in tile grout and grout finishing products. The Tile Doctor is the exclusive distributor for Litokol grouting and installation products in the U.S. We offer the widest selection of grout colors available, delivering high-performance epoxy grout products that have a leading edge over any other grout products on the market. At The Tile Doctor, we care about delivering products that meet strict guidelines for durability and functionality, but we also want to bring you the widest range of creative options as well.

Litokol's Starlike grout color collections, exclusively distributed by The Tile Doctor in North America, comes in 4 distinct collections that give you over 159+ colors and finishes (see Color Chart), allowing you a range of custom design possibilities to suit any project. Our Spotlight, Gold, and Night Vision finishes can be mixed with Starlike grout products to create stunning and unique results in you tile projects, such as metallic and glitter effects.

Starlike products offered by The Tile Doctor also include Starlike Crystal Grout, a two-component translucent epoxy grout for clear glass mosaics. The Tile Doctor also offers Starlike Crystal Glass Grout, which comes in a variety of colors, allowing you to bring dazzle to your tile work, and Starlike Glass Grout Jewels, which can bring a stunning addition to your glass tile work. Whether you're looking for brilliant colors, metallic colors, or subtle classic colors, you can find the right epoxy grout products at The Tile Doctor, where we believe that innovation is key to staying on top of the Ever-changing tile and stone market. The Tile Doctor brings functionality as well as aesthetics, ensuring consumers always have the best grout products and design options available.

To learn more about our superior tile epoxy grout products, and our line of sealers, cleaners, and maintenance products for your tile installation projects, contact us today at 1-877-TileDoc (845-3362). To find a store near you that sells Tile Doctor products, then use our Store Finder option on our website.

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