Do you love your tiles but hate the ugly lines in between them? If your grout is cracking, worn, dingy or stained, replacing it may be your next do-it-yourself project. Grubby grout can turn what once was a beautiful tile job into an eyesore, so why live with it? If your grout is cracked, you've got more than an eyesore on your hands: moisture seeping behind tile is a recipe for a ruined wall, floor or countertop.
Don't worry—you don't have to remove all of the tiles just to replace the grout, but this is a very time-consuming job, so be prepared. Replacing the chiseled-out grout is actually a lot easier than removing it, so know on the onset that the first step is the hardest!
The traditional tool for helping you scrape out that grungy grout is something called a grout scraper or grout saw. It's a hand tool with a super hard diamond blade to cut through hardened grout. Scraping is a slow process. Go cautiously if you use one since simple slips can scratch or chip the tile. We prefer to let a (small) power tool take the grunting and groaning out of the job. A rotary tool like the Dremel with a grout-removal attachment makes the process much easier when doing a whole room or countertop.
SAFETY CHECK!: Remember to wear your protective eyewear and mask! There will be numerous flying particles during this process so you want to protect yourself from debris and dust.
Begin to remove the grout by inserting your rotary tool's grout removal tip between the tiles and moving it up and down until the grout starts to flake off. Go slowly at first until you get the hang of it and then work carefully so as not to scratch surrounding tiles.
Jane Tip: You can tape the tile next to the grout line you're working on with painter's tape to help protect it from slips of your tool and accidentally scratching the tile.
Working slowly in small sections, work away at the grout. Remove the larger pieces with the tip of a flat blade screwdriver and remove the dust with a broom or vacuum.
Once the grout is removed and the surrounding surface is clean, you've done the hardest part! Next, you can prepare to replace the grout. If you're looking to match the existing grout (or not replacing all of the grout in a room), take some larger pieces of chipped out grout with you to your local tile store. An experienced clerk should be able to find a close match.
Or you might consider changing things up a bit and go with a fun color that better matches your décor. There are many different kinds of grout out there, so ask at the store about what kind is right for your type tile and the environment it's in (outdoors, indoors, kitchen, bathroom, etc.).
Jane Tip: For most indoor uses, a grout with a latex acrylic admix is preferred for durability and stain resistance.
Mix the grout according to the manufacturer's instructions. Grout dries quickly, so don't mix more than you can use in a half hour! The consistency should be that of pancake batter so that it easily flows into the cracks but doesn't drip all over.
Using the float, cover your surface with the wet grout, filling in the cracks with even, diagonal strokes. Be sure to hold your float at a 45 degree angle to the tiles to push the grout into the cracks. Don't forget your rubber gloves!
Drying time will vary depending according to the type of grout you are using. Count on the grout setting for about 5-10 minutes before you can start wiping excess away with a wet sponge.
Wipe the tiles clean with a dry rag, avoiding the cracks with the freshly-laid grout.
You may need to lay a second "skim" coat of grout to seal the deal since grout sometimes shrinks as it dries. Your first coat should dry in about a day, but check with the manufacturer to see whether a second coat should be applied and when.
If a second pass is necessary, repeat steps 5-8.
Jane Tip: If you have pieces of dried grout stuck to your tile, use an abrasive pad to gently scour them away.
Let the grout dry according to the manufacturer's instructions—usually it takes up to 7 days to dry completely. Be careful not to get anything on it during this period or it can cause a stain that'll be there forever.
Jane Tip: If you have larger than normal spaces between your tiles, be sure to spray the grout down with a mister bottle at least once a day for the first three to four days. We know this sounds a bit counterintuitive, but this prevents the top from drying out faster than the bottom which will help keep the top from cracking.
After waiting roughly seven days, you're now ready to seal the grout. This process helps close any pores. Yes, your grout has pores, too! Sealing them will protect your new grout from future discoloration and cracking. Simply apply the sealant and let it dry according the manufacturer's instructions. Keep in mind that most sealants can be toxic, so be sure to have plenty of ventilation in the room you're working in.
You're done! Now you have beautiful new grout to show off to all of your friends. Okay, maybe you won't exactly show it off, but at least you don't have to live with the grunginess or cracked grout you've been complaining about! Remember, cracks in your grout can lead to more serious issues later so solve the issue quickly—after all, now you know—it's not that hard to get out the grout!