Several years after you complete a bathroom or kitchen renovation, it inevitably starts to show some wear. One culprit is grout: Over time, it stains, cracks, and becomes loose, even if it was professionally installed. And if the grouting was done poorly to begin with, then the job really isn’t likely to last very long. Fortunately, it’s well within the range of the average do-it-yourselfer to remove and replace grout. Indeed, regrouting tile can restore lost luster and is well worth the time and effort.
How to Remove Grout
It’s certainly possible to remove grout by hand, the old-fashioned way, but it’s recommended that you opt for a power tool. Doing so makes much quicker work of what can be a labor-intensive, time-consuming, and potentially frustration-inducing home project.
If you’re up for taking the power-tool-free route, you need a manual grout removal tool. These typically come in one of two flavors. One looks like a screwdriver with a triangular carbide blade mounted on its end. How does it work? You pull the tool through a grout joint until at least one-eighth of an inch has been removed. The second type of manual grout removal tool features a carbide grit-edged blade—that’s why it’s sometimes known as a grout saw. To use one, you simply saw into the the old grout in the same way that you would saw into wood.
If power tools are more your style, you have at least a couple of effective options. One is to outfit your reciprocating saw with an accessory that is specially designed to remove grout (pictured at right). Alternatively, you can opt for an oscillating tool, such as the Dremel Multi-Max; these excel at smaller jobs, because they afford a high degree of control. No matter what power tool you end up choosing to help you remove grout, remember to keep a chisel or a flat-blade screwdriver on hand. The stubborn bits often need a little coaxing to come out.
Related: Top Tips for Cleaning Grout Lines
The first step in regrouting tile is to mix a certain amount of grout powder with a specific quantity of water. Stick closely to the manufacturer’s directions. Whether you pick sanded or unsanded grout depends on the desired width of the joints between tiles. Unsanded grout is typically used to achieve relatively thin grout lines; the sanded variety is recommend for joints any wider than one-eighth of an inch.
Once you have properly mixed the grout in a bucket, apply it with a plastic towel, then use a grout float to press the mortar deeply into the joints. As you do this, hold the float at a 45-degree angle to the wall or floor surface. Once you are satisfied with the distribution of grout, the next step is to clean off the excess before it has the chance to harden. To do this, use the grout float again, this time holding the tool at an 80-degree angle to skim the excess grout from the face of the tiles. In concert with the grout float, a large, damp sponge can be handy for wiping off any lingering grout haze. (Rinse the sponge often and change the rinse water as it becomes cloudy.) Finally, allow the grout to harden for a period of 24 to 48 hours. Walk on the tile surface only after that amount of time has elapsed.