Dirty or cracked grout can majorly detract from the appearance of even the nicest tile floor. If your grout is falling apart, or has stains that you can’t remove, re-grouting is a relatively inexpensive, do-it-yourself way to make your floors look close-to new.
But first – if your grout is dirty, but in good shape otherwise, it’s worth trying to clean it before moving on to re-grouting. There are several grout cleaners on the market, or you can simply use a baking soda and vinegar paste and a grout brush (or toothbrush). If you’re able to get your grout clean enough for your liking, consider adding a fresh coat of grout sealant to help prevent future staining. If, despite your best efforts, the grout is still stained, it’s time to think about re-grouting. Although it can be a time-consuming project that takes a bit of elbow grease, it’s not particularly difficult.
Before re-grouting, make a trip to the local home improvement store to pick up the following supplies:
• Grout – the two main types of grout are sanded and non-sanded, and both come in a variety of colors. If the gap between your tiles is less than 1/8”, you can use non-sanded grout, which isn’t as strong but can be easier to apply. If the gap is larger than 1/8”, you’ll need to use sanded grout (One exception – never use sanded grout on marble floors, no matter the tile spacing, as it can scratch the marble.) Consider choosing a “no-shrink” grout, which can decrease the chances that you’ll need to do more than one application, or a grout that has antimicrobial properties. Make sure you buy a bit more grout than you think you’ll need.
• Grout saw – this $10 or so gadget will make the process of removing the old grout much easier.
• Grout float – also inexpensive, you’ll use this to apply the new grout.
• Grout sealant – check the package of your grout to see if a particular sealant is recommended.
• If you don’t have any, consider picking up a few spare tiles that match yours in case of breaks or chipping.
Also gather a few rags or a couple of sponges, and a squeegee and pair of gloves (both optional).
Remove the Old Grout
Clean the tile floor, and then use your grout saw to begin removing the old grout. Slowly run the saw back and forth on the grout line, and the grout will turn to dust that you can later vacuum up. Take your time, and be especially careful to avoid chipping tiles when working on corners. Any grout that is cracking or damaged needs to be removed in it’s entirety, but if you have grout that’s only stained, you can get away with removing 2/3 of it before applying the new grout. Once you have all of the old grout out, vacuum and wipe up all of the dust and any grout pieces. It’s important that there be no loose debris in the grooves.
Apply the New Grout
Exactly follow the package instructions to prepare the new grout, being especially careful not to use too much water. Before applying it, dampen the grout grooves, but don’t leave any standing water. Then use your grout float to spread the grout evenly into the grout lines. Push the grout down into the grooves as much as you can – it should end up flush with the tile – but don’t stress trying to make it perfect. After you’ve grouted the entire area, use your finger to smooth down any bumpy or uneven spots, then run a damp rag or squeegee over the entire area to remove any excess grout from the tiles. If, during this process, you remove a bit too much grout from any of the grooves, simply add more and re-smooth.
Seal the Grout
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding drying time. Once the grout is completely dry, examine it for any gaps or other obvious imperfections. If you find any, you’ll have to repeat the grouting process in these areas. Once you’re satisfied with your work, it’s time to apply the grout sealant. Grout isn’t water resistant, and the use of a good sealant repels water and can make your grout last longer. Different grouts have different sealing instructions.
Once the sealant is dry, wipe the entire surface with a damp (not wet!) rag or microfiber towel. Don’t worry when you see a “grout haze” over the surface of your tiles – this is normal. Let it dry, and then do one final wipe down with a dry towel.
Re-grouting tiles isn’t beyond the skill level of the average do-it-yourselfer. It can be time-consuming and tedious, particularly if you’re doing a large area, but when you see your gleaming new floors, you’ll probably find it well worth it!