Sanded Vs. Unsanded Caulk – What’s The Difference?

Gaps in floors, walls, tubs, and window seals are common household issues that caulk can easily fix. The problem arises from the diversity of caulk types. This leads to confusion among homeowners and DIY enthusiasts of which type of caulk to use.

Fortunately, these many types fall either into the categories of sanded or unsanded caulk. The matter of sanded Vs. unsanded Caulk can indeed leave you scratching your head.

Basically, the success and durability of your renovation task rely on choosing the right type of caulk.

In general, Sanded caulk tends to be bulkier in texture and more suitable for heavy-traffic areas and larger gaps. Traditional or unsanded caulk is a great fit for filling gaps between softer materials.

If you embark on a renovation project and are confused between them, keep reading this blog. We’ll unravel their distinctions and guide you toward the perfect choice for your project.

Sanded Vs. Unsanded Caulk: Quick Overview

Unsanded caulk is the standard type of caulk that you use in common home improvement projects.

Sanded caulk is what the name suggests, it is the traditional caulk with added sand. This addition provides extra texture, weight, and resistance to a tiling project.

In general, you can substitute sanded caulk for unsanded one but not the other way around. This can lead to the failure and breakage of the caulked area. Now let’s take a closer look at both types.

What is Sanded Caulk? 

caulking floor tile with sanded caulk

Sanded caulk comes on the top list of versatile sealants. It stands out through its optimum gap and crack filling, as well as its unique texture. Sanded caulk is a preferred option in construction and large home improvement projects due to its suitability for large-scale gaps. Fixing gaps that are larger than 8 inches in width is more efficient with sanded caulk.

The gritty and grainy texture of this caulk allows it to resist wear and tear. It also increases its ability to fit tougher materials and surfaces, like concrete and wood.

The gritty texture increases the durability of caulk, but it might raise your doubts about the finish and appearance. Sanded caulk is not easily paintable.

The versatility and durability of this sealant might lead you to believe that it is the same as sanded grout. While both materials are used to fill cracks, they are different. The main difference lies in the material. Grout is only made from cement, while caulk comes from a variety of materials.

What is Unsanded Caulk?

man creating waterproof seal in bathtub using silicone caulk

You can use unsanded caulk to fill smaller gaps and provide a watertight seal. Unsanded caulk has a smooth texture, which the sanded type lacks. The absence of bulky sand particles doesn’t indicate less performance.

On the contrary, such softness provides the sealant with smoothness and flexibility. It also facilitates its blend into the interiors in visible areas like countertops and tile joints.

Regular caulk comes from a variety of materials, such as:

  •  Silicone

Silicone caulk is a water-proof sealant with solvent-based characteristics. It is commonly used for filling indoor gaps, particularly in plumbing fixtures. Its water-resistant nature makes it ideal for caulking bathtubs and sinks without breaking due to moisture.

Silicone sealant is also the best choice for closing expansion joints and cracks around doors and windows. One of the major cons of using this caulk is that it is not paintable. But for many homeowners, its durability can weigh against the paint problem.

  • Acrylic

Acrylic caulk comes from acrylic resin. This synthetic material offers increased flexibility compared to latex. It is durable and provides water resistance, but is not paintable. Over time, its color gets yellow, which is one of its biggest drawbacks.

  • Latex

Latex or acrylic latex caulk is a suitable option for fixing small cracks in moldings and walls. Latex comes from synthetic rubber. Despite its functionality, it is not the best seal for bathrooms, as it is not water-resistant. Also, it is not durable enough for heavy-traffic areas. However, it is paintable and is not harsh on natural rock surfaces such as limestone.

  • Polyurethane

This versatile caulk combines the best of latex and silicone sealants. It has the flexibility of silicone and the paintability of latex. This is why, you can apply it on a wider variety of surfaces such as brick, wood, and concrete. It is suitable for filling larger gaps and is often preferred by tile installation and construction workers.

Sanded Vs. Unsanded Caulk: The Comparison

caulk applied on baseboard

When you hear the names sanded and unsanded caulk, you might think that sand is their only difference. However, these two sealants are used for different cures for distinctive home cracks.

Here is an in-depth look at the major differences between sanded and unsanded caulk:

1. Ingredients

Sanded caulk contains sand particles as the primary filler. Sand thickens the texture and makes it similar to sanded grout, which is used in marble tile installations. The main base of the sanded caulk type is either latex or acrylic. There are fewer common variations with a silicone base.

Unsanded caulk doesn’t have a sand filler. Also, it consists of silicone as a base. Other common unsanded caulk types include variations with latex or acrylic bases.

2. Texture

One of the notable differences between sanded and regular caulk is their textures. Sanded caulk has a rough and grainy texture with visible sand particles. The latter has a soft and sleek texture.

3. Applications

The difference in appearance, ingredients, and texture results in using sanded and unsanded caulk in different situations. The presence of tough sand particles makes sanded caulk suitable for fixing large gaps or cracks. In such areas, traditional caulk might sag or shrink leading to filling failure.

The smooth texture of unsanded caulk allows for easy and efficient application on small gaps. Aside from the gap size, the type of the gap plays a huge role in determining the right caulk type.

For example, vertical gaps around doors and windows require unsanded sanded caulk. It comes with superb vertical adhesiveness due to its increased concentration of adhesives.

On the contrary, sanded caulk is a better fit for horizontal applications. This results from its improved filling capacity. This is why it is a preferred choice to apply on concrete surfaces or fill the gaps within floor tiles.

4. Paintability

Another point where both caulk types go their separate ways is paintability. In general, sanded caulk has decreased paintability due to its tough texture. The paintability of traditional caulk differs depending on the base material. For instance, latex caulk offers optimum paintability and a better aesthetic finish.

5. Water resistance

Both types of caulk offer water resistance. However, the sanded type has a superior resistance to moisture. The increased water resistance prevents water from penetrating the sealant leading to the growth of mold and mildew.

6. Adhesion

While both caulk types are great where you need adhesion, they offer different levels. If you want increased adhesion on rough surfaces like concrete, you’d better opt for sanded caulk. However, for delicate surfaces, such as glass and granite, that need smooth filling, unsanded caulk offers the right adhesion.

7. Flexibility

Both caulk options are flexible but traditional or unsanded type is more flexible. It has a smoother texture making it more suitable for filling moving joints. Sanded caulk, on the other hand, is heavier and less flexible. Thus, it won’t accommodate moving areas due to the higher breaking chance.

8. Durability

Sanded caulk is stronger than the traditional type. The added sand particles increase its strength, durability, and wear and tear. This does not mean that unsanded caulk is weak but offers the right levels of durability where it fits.

Sanded vs Unsanded Caulk: Which is Better for You?

Choosing either sanded or unsanded caulk depends mostly on the purpose of use and the nature of the environment. If you are trying to fill wide or deep cracks, you should opt for sanded caulk. In the case of repairing smaller gaps or moving joints, it is better to use unsanded caulk.

So, if you want to make some tub repairs, sanded caulk will be a better fit due to increased water resistance. Yet again, you will want to consider the type and size of the gap along with the tile type. But generally, sanded caulk is the right match for heavy traffic areas with increased moisture levels.

Keep in mind that unsanded caulk is easier to apply due to its smooth texture and flexibility.

Still uncertain? You might want to seek professional advice from a reliable certified contractor.

If you need further knowledge about other adhesion materials, explore our relevant expert guides:

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