Having a sleek and updated bathroom is at the top of the list for most homeowners and homebuyers. Dirty, chipped and cracked grout on bathtub or shower walls instantly decreases the perceived value of your home.
When grout is too far-gone to be salvaged with deep cleaning or grout colorant, take a day or two out to regrout. Smooth, new grout lines will renew the appearance of existing tile and restore the overall look of your old bathroom.
Evaluate Old Tiles Before You Regrout
Crumbling and cracked tile grout can be a sign of more extensive structural damage. When old grout has been degraded and penetrated by water and mold, it no longer protects underlying walls from seepage and mildew. Before you regrout tile, determine the integrity of existing tiles and walls.
Knock on tiles to ensure they are still intact. A hollow sound is a strong indicator that tiles are barely holding on from water damage. Push on the walls to feel for any sponginess or give—a sure sign the substrate is beyond repair, which means complete demolition, reconstruction and retile. At this point, to regrout tile would be counterproductive, while prolonging the structural damage, which can spread through other parts of your house.
Cut Out Old Grout
Once you establish the bath tile is intact, take care removing grout so you don’t damage tiles. But be sure to chisel deeply enough between joints, about 2/3 down, to create enough space and to ready the surface for new grout to bond and set. Get rid of any loose pieces of grout between joints before you regrout tile or you will end up with new cracks after all your efforts.
Most bathroom grout consists of porous cement and will readily remove with the right tools. A utility knife is effective for removing grout between thinner bathroom tile joints, but requires elbow grease. A carbide-tipped scoring tool is useful for grinding out grout, but used between thinner joints it can scratch tile. Newer grout removal attachments for spiral saws make digging into narrower joints much less work.
Before you regrout tile, clean the carved out joints with a small nylon clean-out brush and grout cleaner.
Mix and Spread New Grout
How you mix and spread the tile grout will make the difference in whether your new tile job lasts or deteriorates like the last job.
Adding too much water to the grout mix causes structural weakening of the grout as it cures over time with too much evaporation. Adding extra water to the grout mix after it has already begun to cure in the bucket causes the grout to cure unevenly once its applied and to gradually crumble.
Add just enough water to the grout mix for a frosting like texture—a process called slaking. Cement based tile grout begins to cure rather quickly, so mix only amounts which you can apply in a relatively short time. A latex-based cement will be more durable than a standard cement. (Epoxy grouts are another grout alternative, substantially more expensive and challenging for the do-it-yourselfer.)
The enduring strength of the regrouting job depends upon how well you pack the grout into the joints. With narrower tile joints, you can too easily skim the surface between tiles with too little grout, missing the depth of the crevices—resulting in a weak application. Use a non-sanded grout mix for thinner tile joints and a sanded grout for tiles with bigger joint spaces.
Use a padded or rubber trowel at a 45-degree angle to spread tile grout, fill tile joints and rake off excess. .
Finish the Regrouting
Clean the renewed joints before the grout begins to harden. Use a clean, well-wrung sponge to smooth and wipe away any unwanted grout without digging into grout lines. Too much water in the sponge can dissolve the cement in the grout and set it up to weaken over time. Keep your sponge continually clean so you don’t discolor the grout. Buff the wall with a rag and let the tile dry for 24-48 hours before using.
Seal to Protect the Tile Grout
Since grout is highly porous, adding silicone sealant over newly installed grout is crucial to protect from water and stains. Wait several days or up to 30 days, depending upon instructions, to let grout fully cure.
If you are happy with the grout color you’ve applied, you can use a clear sealant—or if you want to change or enhance the grout color, use a grout colorant, which both colors and seals your grout.
Enjoy Your New Bathroom
When you regrout tile, you dramatically transform your bathroom. You will enjoy the results whether you live with it or show it for sale.
• When tile grout in a bath or shower is chipped, cracked and falling away, it’s time to regrout tile.
• A smooth, clean grout surface in a bath increases the perceived value of your home.
• Evaluate the tiles before you regrout tile or your home improvement project might soon be falling down.
• Be careful cutting out old grout so you don’t damage tiles; but dig deeply enough so new grout will penetrate joints and set with integrity.
• Adding too much water to grout mix causes weakening and crumbling of grout over time.
• Pack the grout completely in between tile joints or your grout job will be structurally weak.
• Wipe with a clean sponge—which is not too wet, or the cement in the grout will weaken over time.
• Wait several days to seal, until grout has had time to fully cure.
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