The grout is an important embellishment of the tile work. In some applications, tiles fit closely together so there is little grout to begin with. This is often on bathroom walls or in cafeteria tile work, and some people choose to use a fine caulk bead to touch up the grout instead of replacing tile grout.
More commonly, replacing tile grout is a bigger maintenance procedure because grout lines are anywhere from 3/16″ to as much as 5/8″ wide. The trick in replacing tile grout is to get the grout out without damaging the tiles, and you will need a special tool to do the job right.
Tile Grout Saw
This tool is a very inexpensive one, and not very large. Anyone who expects to use an electrical contraption for grout removal will be disappointed with the grout saw. It is a simple wooden handle that has a straight piece of metal attached to the bottom and facing in the same direction as the handle.
The process of cleaning out the grout consists of applying downward pressure on the metal cutter and pushing and pulling it back and forth in the gap between the tiles. The metal cuts out most of the grout and doesn’t damage the tiles as long as the operator is careful to keep the saw from jumping out of the grout joint.
A large area can take some time to complete with this simple tool, but it is important to have patience and not make mistakes trying to finish quickly. A slip causing a tile to be scratched only adds more work to the process.
It is not necessary to get all the old grout from between tiles, as long as none remains stuck to the edges of tiles and enough new grout can be placed in the space to hide whatever remains.
Installing New Grout
When all the grout has been removed that is necessary for the replacement, the dust should be carefully removed and the tiles cleaned. A close examination should be made to be certain that no part of the initial grout will be seen before mixing the replacement grout.
Replacing tile grout is a messy job, and you will need a rubber grout trowel, a firm sponge, buckets with clean water, cleanup rags, and paper towels. There is no need to attempt to place the grout in the grooves if you are using a standard mortar type material; just drop a glob on the surface and begin working it into the joints with the rubber or foam bottom trowel.
It takes some practice to get the knack for replacing tile grout. First, the trowel should be cocked to make about a 45 degree angle with the surface of the tile. The grout should be pulled across the surface at diagonals to the grout lines, and the direction the trowel travels should be alternated.
For instance, if looking down on the tile, one pass of the trowel would be from the top right corner to the bottom left, and the next would be from the top left to the bottom right.
Several passes are necessary to push the grout entirely into the void.
Once the grout is installed, it is necessary to wait for around fifteen minutes before beginning the cleaning process. A damp cloth used for this purpose should be rinsed often and the water should be replaced as necessary to get as much of the residue off the tiles as possible. At the same time, pressure has to be light so grout won’t be pulled out of the joint.
Once the tile looks relatively clean, it should be allowed to dry before buffing with the paper towels to remove any residue.