Homes contain more mortar than you might think. From brick walls to shower stall floors, the building material appears in numerous domestic construction applications. When you use mortar in the home, you face numerous choices, such as plaster-based or cement-based mortar and white mortar versus gray mortar. Few differences exist between white mortar and gray mortar, though the two constitute different materials. Differences include ingredients used in the mortar and each material's suitability in colored mortars.

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Stucco is technically a type of mortar.

Mortar Basics

Technically speaking, mortar constitutes any material composed of a mixture of cement, lime or plaster, and sand and water. The terms "white" and "gray" apply primarily to cement-based mortar. When you add water to a mixture of cement and sand, the two form a claylike substance that dries to form an incredibly hard bond. Builders use mortar to bind numerous types of material, from bricks to ceramic tiles, and materials within walls, such as wooden frames and lath.


The primary difference between white mortar and gray mortar lies in their ingredients. Gray mortar may contain any of a number of types of cement and sand. White mortar, on the other hand, usually contains only white cement and white sand. Types of white cement found in white mortar include white masonry cement and white portland cement. In some instances, white mortar may contain ingredients very similar to gray mortar, differing only in that the materials in the white mortar were bleached at some point during the manufacturing process.

Creating Colored Mortar

You can use gray or white mortar as a base material for colored mortars. Colored mortars provide aesthetic value, in addition to their practical applications, by adding or reinforcing colors in both interior and exterior environments. Creating colors in mortar entails using paint pigments and colored sands. White cement provides more lucid and precise colors because it provides a blank canvas, so to speak, while gray mortar muddies colors with its own hue. However, if you plan on using white mortar in its natural form as well as to create colored mortar, you must use separate mixing areas. White concrete picks up pigmentation from even the slightest presence of paint or colored sand.

What's In a Color?

Ultimately, the distinction between white and gray mortar comes down only to a distinction of color. The performance of mortar ultimately depend upon the qualities of the ingredients, not the colors. A mortar with strong cement and high-quality sand creates a stronger, more durable material than mortar with weak cement and low-quality sand. Always ask about the qualify of materials used in mortar before purchasing it.