So, your bathroom’s been in for a while and it’s still looking as stunning as it did on the day it was fitted. Or is it? You see there’s a common problem which affects pretty much every bathroom at some point, and one which sadly is pretty obvious to spot too: worn out grout.
Sitting between the tiles, grout keeps out water while also giving the surroundings a neater, more finished appearance. The trouble is, it doesn’t stay looking brand new forever, and over time it can start to look a bit worse for wear.
You see, grout is exposed to a lot when it’s used in a bathroom environment and is therefore prone to discoloration, mould growth and cracking amongst other things that will ultimately leave the room looking a little unloved. As you can imagine, this can really spoil the look of the room, and might also allow water to seep in which could potentially cause the tiles themselves to crack, which obviously isn’t ideal!
So what’s the solution then? Do you have to completely re-tile the entire room every few years? Well no actually, as although it can be a time-consuming process, replacing old grout with fresh new material isn’t anywhere nearly as frustrating or expensive as that. So without further ado it’s time to sit back, get your brew at the ready and discover just how straight-forward this whole process really is.
Step One: Assessing the grout
The first thing you need to do is assess whether the grout actually needs to be replaced at all, as sometimes all it needs is a thorough clean. Small bits of black mould can easily be removed with various cleaning agents, as can slight marring or discoloration due to dirt (if this is the case then bookmark the latter steps of this guide for another day and count yourself lucky!)
For general cleaning there are numerous ways to tackle the job. There are dedicated products that will shift mould, while bleach is also effective at restoring a bit of colour.
A slightly more unusual method of making old grout look like new again is to apply some whitening toothpaste to a toothbrush and work your way along the grout. This neat little trick not only works wonders but it’s also kinder to your tiles than harsh chemicals. Definitely keep this in mind if a simple scrub is all your grout needs.
If however, the grout has been in place for a while, it might be starting to crack in places, and will more than likely require a bit more than a general touch up anyway. If that’s your situation then here’s what you need to do:
Step Two: Preparation
If you’ve decided that replacing your grout is the only way forward then you need to start by removing the old stuff first. The best way to begin is by applying some painter’s tape around the edges of each tile in the area you’re working on to avoid any scratches. It’s also recommended that you cover up anything in the room you don’t want getting dusty. Gloves and a dust mask will come in handy too, while safety glasses are a must as you don’t want to be getting any rogue pieces of grout flying in your eye.
Step Three: Removal of old grout
How much grout you need to replace will determine the best approach here. If you’re doing the entire bathroom then obviously your power tools will need to come into play, but if you only have a few bits to sort out then a smart little tool called a grout rake (which looks a bit like a Stanley knife) will do the trick.
What you need to do is carefully cut into the grout (you’ll find this much easier if the tool you’re using has a carbide blade) and remove a good amount (at least up to half the thickness of your tiles) otherwise the new grout won’t be able to set properly. Don’t rush what you’re doing, and work on one area at a time as this will prevent the temptation to start cutting corners (literally if you’re not careful!)
Finish things off by either chipping out the remaining bits of grout from the edges with a hammer and chisel or scraping them out with the rake.
Step Four: Applying new grout
Before applying new grout, you should wipe down the tiles and make sure there are no bits of old grout which are loose.
You then need to place your fresh mixture of grout onto a trowel before spreading it across a small area of tiles, making sure it is worked into the gaps. Work in one area at a time as the mixture will begin to dry quickly and you don’t want to be left with dry grout all over your tiles as it’ll be a ‘mare to get off.
Go over the face of the tiles with a damp sponge once you’ve applied the grout to remove any excess. Once all the tiles are done, use a grout shaper to refine the edges for a perfect finish.
Tip: It’s also worth noting that although it’s not the most exciting thing in the world, grout doesn’t just have to be either black or white; you can get it in pretty much any colour. In fact there are even funky glitter-effect options available now too; perfect if you want something a bit more individual!
Once you’re done, you’ll instantly notice a massive difference. While it might not be a job you can do in five minutes, it’ll certainly transform the look of the room. In fact we can’t think of anything that will improve your bathroom as much for so little money!
Rob, Victorian Plumbing