Regrouting ceramic tile can give old, worn out tile a fresh new look. Over time, grout can become discolored, cracked or just look generally grimy. Replacing the grout in ceramic tile is an easy weekend project that can make a dramatic difference in the appearance of a tiled surface. With some preparation and a few key tools, you can regrout ceramic tile and have it looking like new.
What You’ll Need to Regrout Ceramic Tile
Regrouting ceramic tile requires just a few basic supplies and tools:
- Grout removal tool – A grout saw or grout scraper tool helps remove old grout. Look for one with a carbide or diamond tip blade for smooth removal.
- Grout float – A grout float helps spread new grout into the grout lines. Use a soft rubber float.
- Grout – Purchase premixed grout or mix your own grout from a powder. Match the color to your existing grout.
- Sponge – Use a coarse sponge to wipe excess grout off the tiles.
- Bucket – Have a bucket on hand to mix grout and hold water for cleaning.
- Old rags – Keep some old rags or towels handy for wiping up excess grout and water.
- Knee pads – Knee pads protect your knees while regrouting. Opt for gel knee pads for maximum comfort.
- Safety gear – Wear safety goggles and a dust mask when removing old grout.
How to Prepare for Regrouting Ceramic Tile
Proper preparation is key to achieving good results when regrouting. Follow these steps to get your tile ready for fresh grout:
- Clear the area of any furniture or belongings. Remove bathmats, towels, appliances, etc.
- Use painter’s tape to mask off any areas you don’t want to regrout, like the perimeter between the tile and wall.
- Thoroughly clean the tile and grout lines. Use a tile cleaner and a stiff scrub brush.
- Vacuum up any loose crumbs and debris from the grout lines.
- Check for any cracked, damaged or missing tiles and repair or replace them.
- Allow the tile to dry completely before regrouting. No moisture should be visible.
- Have sufficient ventilation in the room when regrouting. Open windows and use fans if needed.
Proper prep removes dirt and grime so your new grout sticks well. It also prevents damage to surfaces around the tile.
How to Remove Old Grout from Ceramic Tile
Removing old grout takes a bit of elbow grease but goes quickly with the right tools. Follow these steps:
- Put on your safety goggles and dust mask – grout removal can kick up a lot of debris.
- Hold the grout saw or removal tool at a 45 degree angle to the grout lines.
- Slowly run the blade along the grout line to rake out the old grout. Apply gentle pressure.
- Clean out all grout from the joint down to the bottom edge of the tile. Don’t scratch or damage tile surfaces.
- Use a pointed grout remover tool to clean out hard to reach spots.
- Vacuum up all debris after removing the grout. Go over the tile several times.
- Use a damp sponge to wipe a light mist of water over the tile to remove any remaining dust.
- Allow the tile to dry completely before regrouting. No moisture should be visible.
Taking time to fully clean out the grout lines allows your new grout to adhere properly.
How to Mix and Apply New Grout
Mixing and applying fresh grout takes practice. Follow these tips:
- Prepare the grout according to package directions, using cool clean water.
- Only mix up as much grout as you can use in 30 minutes. It will start to harden after that point.
- Stir the grout thoroughly but avoid too much air bubbles. Bubbles can cause weak spots in the finished grout.
- The grout should have a thick, peanut butter-like consistency. Add more powder or water as needed.
- Use a rubber grout float to force grout deeply into the grout lines. Hold at a 45 degree angle and move diagonally across tiles.
- Work in small sections of about 4 square feet at a time so the grout stays workable.
- Remove excess grout by holding the float edge at a 90 degree angle to the grout line and pulling it diagonally.
- As you work, use a damp sponge to gently wipe any grout off the tile surface before it dries. Rinse the sponge frequently.
- After about 15 minutes, do a second pass with a clean damp sponge held perpendicular to the grout lines to smooth and level them.
Take your time applying the grout and wiping the tiles clean for best appearance. Don’t rush the final smoothing pass with the sponge.
Tips for Regrouting Ceramic Tile
Follow these tips for a successful regrouting project:
- Work in small sections so the grout stays workable and is easier to wipe clean.
- Make sure tiles are fully dry before regrouting to prevent bonding issues with new grout.
- Avoid wiping tiles with a dirty sponge or you may smear grout onto the tiles. Rinse sponges frequently.
- Don’t apply too much water when smoothing grout or it may become loose and crumbly.
- Go over the final smoothed grout with a dry towel 30-60 minutes after application to wick up excess moisture.
- Avoid walking on freshly grouted tile for at least 24 hours while it fully cures and hardens.
- If completing a large area over multiple days, stop grouting at a natural break, not mid-tile.
- For best results, use a grout release agent like mineral spirits on porcelain or other non-absorbent tiles. Wipe off any excess.
- Make sure to seal porous grout once fully cured, usually after 72 hours. This prevents staining or discoloration.
Cleaning and Sealing Grout
Freshly grouted tile looks great when first installed but keeping it that way takes some maintenance:
- Sweep or vacuum tile regularly to prevent dirt buildup within grout lines.
- Mix a mild solution of dish soap and warm water. Use a soft brush and clean grout gently with circular motions. Avoid harsh cleaners.
- For stubborn stains, make a paste with baking soda and peroxide. Let it sit for 5 minutes before scrubbing and rinsing.
- Reseal grout every 1-2 years using a penetrating silicone or acrylic sealant made for grout. Follow product directions.
- Don’t use steam cleaners on grout. The intense heat can damage grout or weaken the sealant.
With proper care, freshly regrouted tile can look pristine for many years to come.
Troubleshooting Common Grout Problems
Sometimes regrouting doesn’t go according to plan. Here are some common problems and how to fix them:
Crumbling or Cracking Grout
- Cause: Too much water used when mixing, grout applied too thin, or rapid drying.
- Fix: Rake out crumbling grout and reapply. Allow to dry slowly.
Grout Haze on Tiles
- Cause: Not wiping tiles clean before grout dries, using dirty sponge water.
- Fix: Gently scrub tiles with a diluted vinegar solution. Avoid harsh chemicals.
Discolored or Stained Grout
- Cause: Natural staining agents like dyes, grease, or mold.
- Fix: Use a specialized tile cleaner made for stained grout. Reseal once clean.
Grout Lines Not Level
- Cause: Not smoothing grout properly with sponge during application.
- Fix: Wait 72 hours for grout to fully cure then regrind/smooth with a special grout removal tool.
- Cause: White powdery mineral deposits on surface of grout. Common with cement-based grout.
- Fix: Dampen grout and scrub with a stiff nylon brush. Vacuum up residue.
Frequently Asked Questions About Regrouting Tile
Still have questions about regrouting ceramic tile? Here are answers to some commonly asked questions:
Should I seal tile before regrouting?
Sealing is not necessary before regrouting. The grout will adhere to unsealed tile just fine. Only seal porous tiles after grouting is complete and cured.
How soon can I walk on freshly regrouted floors?
Avoid walking on tiles for at least 24 hours after grouting. Wait 72 hours before cleaning or using shower walls. This allows the grout to fully cure and prevents weak spots or crumbling issues.
Should I regrout the entire floor or just problem areas?
It’s best to regrout the entire installation at once. Spot regrouting often leads to color variation between old and new grout. Doing it all provides the most uniform, consistent appearance.
What’s the difference between sanded and unsanded grout?
Sanded grout contains fine sand particles and is used for grout lines 1/8 inch or wider. Unsanded grout is smoother and used for thin grout lines under 1/8 inch. Check your existing grout width before buying replacement grout.
How do I get a matching grout color?
Take a chip of your old grout to the hardware store. They can do a color match and get you the closest grout color available. For best results, regrout the entire installation.
Can I use acrylic grout instead of traditional grout?
Yes, acrylic-based grouts are user-friendly options for DIYers. They resist staining, require no sealing, and are great for shower walls. Traditional cement grouts are more durable for high-traffic floor areas.
Will regrouting a shower involve removing tiles?
Usually you do not need to remove tiles – just the old grout between them. Removing and resetting tiles is much more complex. Regrouting is a simpler DIY project.
Replacing worn out grout gives tile a fresh, clean appearance and prevents more damage from occurring. With some basic equipment and safe preparation, DIYers can successfully tackle regrouting ceramic tile floors, walls or countertops. Pay attention to details like drying tiles thoroughly, applying grout carefully in manageable sections, and smoothing for an even finish. The results will revitalize the look of your tile.
If you carefully follow the steps outlined here for prepping, grout removal and application, you can avoid pitfalls and achieve beautiful results. Don’t be afraid to regrout ceramic tile yourself. With a little time and effort, your tile can look like new again.