Home Improvement

Tile Adhesive vs Grout – What’s the Difference?

If you’ve ever had your bathroom or kitchen tiled, or if you are planning on doing it yourself, you may have come across terms such as grout, mortar, tile adhesive, mastic, and many more. They are all used to stick your tiles to the wall, right? But what do they mean? And what’s the difference between tile adhesive and grout, anyway? The answer is simple – they are used for different things. If you want to find out more, read on!

Table of Contents:

If you have ever:

  • Thought about tiling a room yourself;
  • Wondered how tile adhesive and grout differ;
  • Wanted to know what the different types of adhesives are;

Then this article will answer your questions!

What’s the difference?

As mentioned above, the main difference between tile adhesive and grout is in their purpose. They are essentially two separate steps of one whole process. Tile adhesive is the compound used to stick the tiles to the wall or floor. Grout, on the other hand, is the mortar used to fill in the gaps between tiles and create a uniform look, as well as protect the surface. To better understand how the two mixtures differ, let’s take a closer look at what they are.

What is tile adhesive?

Tile adhesive or mortar is used in the first step to laying new tiles. It is basically the “glue” that gets the tiles to stay in place. You use it not only when installing, but also when repairing cracked tiles. There are three main types of mortar: thinset, mastic, and epoxy.

Thinset mortar

Thinset mortar is perhaps the most common type. Traditionally, it is cement-based and comes in powdered form. When mixed, it has a smooth, sticky consistency. Thinset mortar creates a strong bond between the tile and the surface, making it a popular choice. It can also be heat- and moisture-resistant, as well as safe against mould. This makes it a good choice for wet areas such as bathrooms. It is, however, prone to cracking, so latex additives can be mixed in to improve its flexibility. Thinset mortar can come in powdered or pre-mixed form, with the latter being more expensive.

Tile mastic

Tile mastic is a sticky adhesive that comes in pre-mixed tubs. It is essentially water-based acrylic glue. Unlike thinset, it’s best for dry areas, as it’s not moisture- or heat-resistant. The material is very simple to use and easy to clean up. It also has a long shelf-life, meaning it can be stored longer than other types before it’s used. Its downside is that it can’t be used with glass tiles.

Epoxy mortar

This is the strongest type of tile adhesive. It’s resin-based and typically comes with three components – resin, hardener and powder. The product sets very quickly and provides a strong bond to the surface. It is waterproof, chemical and grease-resistant, as well, making it a preferred choice for industrial floors. Its drawbacks are that it is more expensive than the other types, has a strong smell while being applied, and is quite tricky to use. Generally, epoxy mortar is best left to the hands of professionals.

What is grout?

Tile grout is, most commonly, a cement-based mortar that fills the space between tiles. This provides a clean, finished look and acts as a preventative measure against mould and bacteria build-up. The range of colours, it comes in, means that you can match it to your tiles and create a uniform look. To further protect the grout, a sealant can be applied over it. The main types of grout are sanded, unsanded and epoxy.

For tips on how to clean tile grout, check out our helpful blog post.

Sanded grout

As the name suggests, this is a mortar compound that has fine sand mixed into it for better durability. It is mostly used for filling in wider spaces, starting from 3mm. Its added strength makes it a good choice for grouting floors. The material is ideal for stone, marble and granite, as well as for tiles, which are on the heavier side.

Unsanded grout

This mortar mixture does not contain any sand, although other additives can be mixed into it. It is best used to fill in thin grout lines, up to 3mm, as the lack of sand makes it easier for the compound to get into the tighter space. The product is also easier to apply and is the preferred grout for wall tiles.

Epoxy grout

As with epoxy tile adhesive, epoxy grout is the most durable and most difficult to work with. It is, however, waterproof and chemical resistant, making it perfect for bathrooms and showers. It is best for ceramic, porcelain and vitrified glass tiles.

Is your home in need of new tiling?

We can help! Fantastic Services offers a professional tiling service, done by skilled and insured tilers. The specialists are equipped with all the tools they will need for the job. We can collect and deliver the tiles and materials upon request, and even remove any old ones. Enjoy the benefits of a fully tiled, grouted and sealed bathroom or kitchen without any effort! Simply contact us for a quote and book your appointment.

You may also like:
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Enjoy a neatly redecorated bathroom now! Find out more about our tiling service here.


  • Tile adhesive, or mortar, is used to secure the tiles to the walls or floors.
  • Grout is the compound that fills in the spaces between the tiles.
  • Tile mastic can’t be used with glass tiles.
  • Powdered thinset needs to be used up after mixing and cannot be stored for later use.
  • Epoxy mortar and grout are the strongest types, but the most difficult to work with.
  • Sanded grout is best used on floors, while unsanded is better for walls.


Did you find this article useful? Do you have any experience with tiling or grouting? Share with us in the comments below!

Image source: shutterstock / Margarita Mindebaeva

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