Caulk or grout, what’s the difference?

“I need to have my shower regrouted” is a very common question I deal with almost daily. Yet, most of the time, that is not what they need. What they actually need is to have the caulk replaced. It is a common mistake and I decided it is time to help folks learn the difference between caulk and grout.

To make it simple, for all to grasp, understand and remember, Grout fills in between the tiles and Caulk seals the corners and seams. * The only time we recommend using grout instead of caulk is when you have a tiled shower floor. We recommend using a high-performance stain-resistant grout in the seam where the wall tile comes down onto the floor tile.

Grout is used as filler for the spaces in between tiles. It is hard and smooth or ‘sandy’ depending on how wide the grout lines are. It can be colored to match or contrast with the tile. Grout itself is basically porous but is generally followed up with something to block absorption for longer wear and sanitary reasons. When grout becomes damaged it will usually chip, crack or crumble. There are new types of grout that, when dry, will block staining.

Caulk is soft, flexible, rubbery even. It is used most often along the edges and seams where two different surfaces meet. It is water-resistant and the main purpose of caulk is to seal a space to keep water from passing through. Older caulk that needs to be replaced may start peeling away from surfaces or showing signs of mildew or mold. Acrylic caulk allow you to match the color of the grout and/or tile but can harden, crack and crumble over time and may need to be replaced more often. Silicone caulk, often referred to as rubberized silicone caulk, remains flexible for most of its lifetime without peeling, cracking, or distorting. It will maintain and keep a waterproof barrier against moisture much longer than acrylic caulking as a result. But, it is much harder to work with because it is not water clean-up like acrylic.

Difference between grout and caulk

Some things to know about Grout:

  • Removing grout needs to be done carefully and with the right tools and techniques or it can lead to chipped and broken tiles! Best to leave it to the pro’s.
  • Grout needs to be mixed correctly and applied with special tools. Depending on the type of grout used, a sealer should be applied after it is dry. Read the manufacture’s package for wait time.
  • Grout color can be customized.

Some things to know about Caulk:

  • Caulking and recaulking can be a ‘do it yourself’ task depending on the type of caulk used. Silicone is harder to work with and not recommended for first-times.
  • Good caulking technique can take time to develop, but even a bad or messy looking job can be effective at the important task of sealing an area when waterproofing is more important than appearance.
  • Removing old caulk can be done without special tools and not much risk to surrounding surfaces. We recommend using a razor scraper. It is also an important step before you can apply new caulk to any surface. DO NOT put new caulk over old. It will not hold.
  • Caulk comes ready to apply. Drying time for caulk is generally 4 hours or less.

Hopefully this has helped you to understand the difference between regrouting and caulking. If this is not something you are ready to tackle, please give Grout Kleen a call at 908-864-2122 or visit them online at

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