Tile Grout Removal Tool: Does This Exist? Where To Get It?

If you’re got nasty, stained tile grout, sometimes the easiest option is simply to rip it out and replace it.  Cleaning tile grout can often take as long as a full-out replacement.

But how do you remove tile grout without damaging the tile?

Many products claim to remove grout from tile.  Let’s take a look at the main ones:

1.  Flathead Screwdriver and Hammer


Image:  www.cae2k.com

Hammer and flathead screwdriver are the traditional method of chipping out tile grout.  Unless you have just a small portion of grout to remove, this method will tire you out quickly, leading to inevitable tile damage.

  • Type:  Manual
  • Cost:  Around $3-5
  • Effective (1-10):  1

2.  GroutGetter


Image:  GroutGetter.com

A slight improvement over the screwdriver/hammer method, the GroutGetter has a triangular head to better gouge out grout with less impact to the tile.

  • Type:  Manual
  • Cost:  Around $10
  • Effective (1-10):  3

3.  Dremel Tool


Image:  Dremel

The Dremel is a 12V rotary tool which, though not specifically designed to cut out grout, has countless interchangeable heads that will accommodate this use.

  • Type:  Electric
  • Cost:  Around $100
  • Effective (1-10):  8

4.  Ridgid JobMax Combo


Image:  Ridgid

This multi-tool set from Ridgid features a JobMax™ power base handle with a Multi-Tool head that includes saws to cut through tile.

  • Type:  Electric
  • Cost:  Around $200 at The Home Depot
  • Effective (1-10):  6

5.  The Grout Remover


Image:  TheGroutRemover.com

The Grout Remover is a novel concept.  Rather than cutting or zipping out the grout with a rotor, The Grout Remover “vibrates and reciprocates which helps eliminate damage to the existing tiles during the regrout process.”

  • Type:  Electric
  • Cost:  $69-$149
  • Effective (1-10):  ?

Tile Cutting Tools

In fact, you’ll probably use not one, but several, of these tile cutting tools.  Good thing is that, aside from the wet tile saw, these are all pretty cheap tools to buy.

Snap Tile Cutter

Snap Tile Cutter

A snap tile cutter is an el cheapo tile cutting tool that you can get from any hardware store, costing you less than a night out at the movies.  It has a glass cutter-like wheel that rolls along the top of the tile, scoring it.  After the score, you push down on the snap tile cutter to break the tile in two.

  • Only makes straight cuts.
  • Cuts are not always perfectly clean.
  • Very cheap device to buy.
  • Easy to accidentally break tiles with this tool.

Wet Tile Saw

Wet Tile Saw

This is the Big Mama of tile cutting tools.  Professional quality wet tile saws are  very, very expensive–running in the thousands of dollars.  But you can buy DIY-level wet saws for in the $200-$500 range that do a decent job.

  • Straight cuts only.
  • The continuous spray of water cools the tile and keeps dust down.
  • Uses a round blade, just like a circular saw.
  • Takes some practice–and many “test tiles” to get right

A Dremel tool is another way to make semi-circles and even full circles in soft tile.

Tile Nibbler

Tile Nipper

This is a hand tool that lets you nibble away at the tile to make rounded cuts or remove sharp, excess points from the tile.  Sometimes called a “tile nipper,” too.  Given the low price, you should just buy one and have it on hand.  No doubt you’ll find a need for it.

  • Very cheap.
  • Make semi-circular cuts (but not complete holes).
  • Can be frustrating and slow to work with.

Rod Saw

Rod Saw Blade

An alternate way to cut semi-circular holes.  A thin, gritty blade that attaches to a hacksaw.  The cheapest of the tile cutting tools out there, so it can’t hurt to pick one up and have it on hand.

  • Extremely cheap.
  • Cleaner curves than the tile nibbler.
  • Will not work on thick or floor tiles.

Learn About Types of Subfloor and Underlayment

Below the finish floor, and above the floor joists (or concrete slab), is the subfloor.  Sometimes, you’ll have an underlayment that comes between the subfloor and the finish floor, too.  These terms are confusing because sometimes you’ll want both, sometimes not.  And other times, the same material can  be used as both subfloor and as underlayment.

You have several types of subfloor and underlayment options available.  Let’s take a look, and I’ll do my best to separate the terminology.

Solid-Wood Subfloor

In modern home construction and renovation, the solid-wood subfloor isn’t seen very much.  If anything, this “subfloor” is the actual, finish floor of solid wood that the renovator has decided to lay over with another type of flooring.

Plywood Subfloor

Plywood has been used as a subfloor for quite some time now.  Plywood comes in 4’x8′ panels and is laid down in that size straight onto the joists.  The plywood is laid with its grain perpendicular to the joists.

You can’t just run down to Home Depot and grab any old kind of plywood.  The Half-Assed side of me says, “Yes, it probably will last,” but armed with just a tiny bit of information, you can certainly buy the right kind of subfloor plywood, and it’s like this:

Plywood is rated for certain uses.  In this image shown, the first figure refers to the ply’s rating on roofs; the second figure applies to floors.  So, ignoring the first number, we can see that this plywood is rating for flooring joist which are 24 inches on-center.

The Engineered Wood Association is a good resource for plywood ratings (apparently, we don’t call it plywood anymore?  Well, whatever…).

OSB Subfloor and Underlayment

Oriented Strand Board - OSB
Oriented Strand Board - OSB

OSB stands for oriented-strand board, and it works as both subfloor and underlayment (amazing, huh?).

Not to be confused with particleboard, OSB is serious stuff, and it’s bonded with resins that can even withstand exterior weathering.  In fact, OSB is often used for exterior applications.  OSB gets graded by the Engineered Wood Association, too.

Plywood Underlayment

If you’ve got a subfloor, but this subfloor is not smooth and flat enough for your finish flooring, you may decide to lay down plywood underlayment.  This plywood underlayment does not have to be as strong as plywood subfloor because it’s not such a structural material.

Particleboard Underlayment

Yes, underlayment only here.  Particleboard is not a structural material.  Wood chips are bonded together, and it’s nowhere near as strong as OSB or plywood.

What is Dimensional Lumber?

You hear this term, dimensional lumber, a lot; but in my mind it’s over-used and almost redundant.  Here’s why:

Dimensional lumber simply means any kind of lumber that comes in standardized sizes.  So, rather than a knobby, gnarly, and oddly-sized log, we’re talking about the 50 or so 2×4’s that are sawn out of that tree.  The tree:  not dimensional.  The two-by-fours:  dimensional.

That’s the definition of dimensional lumber.  Common sizes of dimensional lumber that a DIY homeowner will encounter at, say, the local lumberyard, Lowe’s, or Home Depot?

  • 2×4
  • 1×4
  • 1×1
  • 2×6
  • 2×8
  • 2×10

Now, as far as lengths go, you’ll have something like 8, 10, and 12 feet.

But it’s practically pointless to talk about dimensional lumber in the context of DIY remodelers.  Nearly every stick of lumber you will handle is dimensional.  There might be a few, rare exceptions if you’re doing some landscape work with some oddly-dimensioned piece of wood, but that’s about it.

Basically, it’s all dimensional lumber.

This Log...Definitely Not Dimensional Lumber
This Log...Definitely Not Dimensional Lumber

The Many Uses of Wood Shims

Wood shims are great things.  But I’m not really sure if you should classify them as a building material or a tool.  I think the fall into both categories.  It’s surprising how many people buy wood shims just for installing windows or doors, but never use them for other things…

It’s a great idea to buy wood shims and have them on hand for multiple uses. Wood shims are not just for installing doors and windows. You may decide to buy a wood shims (they are cheap, so why not?) and keep a couple of packs in your tool chest for things like: a spare “wedge” for forcing two pieces of stubborn lumber apart or elevating a sheet of drywall against a wall prior to screwing in (place the wood shims in opposite directions to make them flat).
Wood Shims