An Easy DIY Project
When a ceramic tile job begins to look old and dingy, before you give in and install new tile, you should consider simply removing the grout from the seams and packing them with fresh, new grout. Provided the tiles themselves are in good condition and are still solidly adhered, regrouting the tile will make the entire installation look brand-new.
It's also quite an easy job. It requires no special skills, just a little bit of your time and the correct tools and materials. It takes about two hours to remove grout from 16 square feet of 6-inch tiles (about the area of a kitchen backsplash), and another 30 minutes or so to apply new grout. The required time, of course, increases if you have larger areas or if you have smaller tiles, which means more grout lines. But the skills are not difficult, and you can save lots of money by doing this work yourself.
What You Need:
- Rotary or oscillating tool
- Safety glasses
- Utility knife with a dull blade
- Small flat-head screwdriver
- Shop vacuum
- Several large buckets
- Several sponges and rags
- Ready source of clean, clear water
- Grout in powder form
- Grout float
- Triangular trowel
- Dust mask
- Grout haze remover (optional)
- Grout sealer (if needed)
- Foam brush (if needed)
Regrouting is a two-step process by which you first remove the hardened old grout from the seams between tiles with power tools and some manual scraping, then force new grout into the seams and let it dry before wiping of hazy residue on the tiles.
Regrouting is not as messy as many home DIY projects, but it can be a little dusty while you are grinding out the old hardened grout. It may be a good idea to erect plastic sheeting around the area you'll be working in, to confine dust and debris. Make sure to frequently suck away the debris with a shop vac.
And make sure to wear a dust mask during the removal stage. Grout dust should not be inhaled, so make sure to protect your lungs.
Use an Oscillating Tool or Rotary Tool
This is one job where cordless oscillating or rotary tools work better than more powerful corded tools. Corded tools may be difficult to control for the fine work of sawing out hardened grout mortar.
Fit your oscillating tool or rotary tool with a blade designed for grout removal. Most manufacturers sell blades designed for this purpose—usually, these are blades impregnated with fine diamond chips that make quick work of pulverizing hardened grout.
Work patiently as you move the blade through the hardened grout lines, holding the blade perpendicular to the surface. Take care not to allow the blade to nick or chip the ceramic tile. On the first pass, your goal is to simply remove the bulk of the grout—don't worry about removing every bit of grout on the first pass.
As you work, pause frequently to remove dust and debris with a shop vac.
Clean Up the Grout Lines
Once you have removed most of the grout, now make another pass with the oscillating tool to clean up the grout lines. This time, angle the blade slightly in order to get close to the edges of the tile. Make sure not to linger on the edges of the grout lines, as this can easily damage the tiles. The grout will crumble quickly under the action of the blade. Do not force the blade if you find that some areas do not easily grind out—these bits of grout will be removed manually later.
Pause frequently while working to vacuum out dust and debris.
Remove Remaining Grout Manually
Where the power tool fails to remove all traces of grout, follow up with a flat-head screwdriver or dulled utility knife to carve out any remaining bits of grout. Take care not to scratch the face of the tiles.
Once the old grout has been removed from the seams, use a shop vac to thoroughly clear out any dust and debris. The grout lines must be completely clean and dry before filling them with fresh grout.
Mix Tile Grout
Tile grout is available both as a dry powder that must be mixed with water or as a premixed semi-liquid paste in tubs of various sizes.
If you are mixing dry grout, begin by adding half the recommended amount of water in a plastic bucket, then add the half the recommended amount of dry grout powder. Mix thoroughly, then add more water and more grout powder gradually until the full amount is obtained. The proper mixture should have a smooth, paste-like consistency that is just barely pourable.
Some grout may have instructions to allow the mixture to sit (slake) for a short period before applying. If so, follow the manufacturer's instructions regarding this.
Apply Grout With Trowel
Using a triangular trowel, liberally apply mixed grout to the tile surface. Do not attempt to pack the grout into the seams; simply tap liberal amounts of grout onto the tile surface. If you are working on vertical wall surfaces, you can forego this step.
Press Grout into Seams With a Grout Float
With the rubber float held at an angle of about 60 degrees, press the soft grout fully into the seams between tiles. Work in alternating directions to make sure the seams are fully filled. Scrape the excess grout away from filled seams to other sections of tile.
Grouting is easiest if you begin at one corner of the tile installation and work systematically out from that point to the rest of the tile installation.
When working on vertical wall tile, apply the grout by loading the face of the grout float with a line of grout, then carefully applying it to the face of the tiles, pressing it into the seams. Applying the grout in small amounts will make for neater work on wall surfaces.
Remove Excess Grout, Then Clean Off Haze
Once all grout lines are filled, use a moistened sponge to remove excess grout. Make sure the sponge is barely wet—too much water will pull grout out of the seams. Lightly stroke the sponge across the tile surface without pressing too hard.
This is a slow process. Continue to clean out your sponge and move them across the tile surface until all excess grout is gone. Don't worry about cleaning the surfaces of the tile completely; that will come next.
Once the grout has dried completely, a faint haze will still be present on the surface of the tiles. Use a soft cloth to buff the surfaces of the tile and remove any remaining haze. If you wish, you can use a purchased haze-removing product to polish the tiles.
Follow the grout manufacturer's recommendations for sealing the grout lines. There may be a curing period required, or some products may not require sealer at all. Where sealer is called for, apply it to the grout lines with a foam brush, making sure to wipe away any excess from the face of the tiles.