There are three essential steps to building anything: plan how to put everything together, put everything together, and make sure it doesn’t fall apart. There are plenty of ways to do the last part, engineers can choose from mortar, plaster or even a joint compound, depending on their needs. But there are some cases wherein the similarities between structural pastes are so close that some DIYers use them interchangeably.
One of the biggest examples of this scenario is when people switch from using grout to caulk and vice versa when renovating or fixing bathrooms. This is an easy mistake to make since both compounds are used to either repair tiles, or make them adhere to a surface. According to Giddyup Tile and Grout, the difference lies in where the renovator applies the paste.
Grout is a mixture of water, sand, cement, and sometime fine gravel, similar to the elements that make up mortar. The chemical mixture of grout forces it to behave in certain ways that are great in some situations. For example, it only holds onto crevices, allowing users to smear it across the smooth face of a tile without fear of having a hard time cleaning it later. In addition, it protects the edges of tiles from chipping and cracking.
Caulk on the other hand, is an adhesive with silicone, acrylic, or latex bases, making it more flexible than grout even after it hardens. But its strength also works against it, because it can hold onto smooth surfaces without crevices. This means that if caulk gets on the face of a tile, it’s there forever or until drastic measures are taken to remove it. This is why professionals use a special gun when applying caulk, for extra precision.
The best areas for applying caulk are on places with joints, or areas that need constant movement. On the other hand, flat surfaces such as walls and floors are better served by grout and its easy application. It’s easy to see why mixing these two up can be disastrous. Fortunately, now you know the difference, and can use the right tool for the job.