When fitting or repairing bathroom tiling you need to get the grouting and sealing right. If you rush it you will end up ruining the look of your bathroom and you are also likely to find that water leaks around your sink, bath and shower. This will also happen if you use the wrong materials – you need to use waterproof, ideally mould resistant products not just water resistant ones. Parts of the preparation work are tedious but I cannot stress enough how putting in a little bit more care and time will result in vastly better results.
If your tiles are starting to look dirty and old; consider just re-grouting them rather than replacing the lot. This will transform a tired bathroom into brand spanking new one at a fraction of the cost.
The following article covers how to prepare your surface, removing grout, re-grouting and sealing. Many of the points are covered in this video we found on youtube which will be particularly useful for those not familiar with the tools or how to apply silicone sealant.
Removing Old Grout
If you are grouting new tiles make sure that you have left the tile cement to dry for at least 24 hours. That’s it – skip to the next section.
If you are refreshing or repairing exisiting grout read on! First of all clean your work surface with a good scrubbing brush and a multi surface cleaner. Now you have to remove the old grout. If you are repairing cracked grout then make sure you remove all the grout in the cracked area. Do not just try and cram a bit of new grout over the crack, this will not work but it will make a mess of your tiles.
There are several tools you can use to make the job of grout removal easier. Consider a power tool like a dremel or similar. You can get grinding blades or special attachments that are perfect for fitting between tiles and grinding away the grout. If in doubt just ask for advice at your local DIY shop as they will be able to help you choose the right tools. If you decide to use a power tool do not press too hard in an attempt to speed the job up – you risk scratching your tiles and injuring yourself.
The low tec alternative involves elbow grease, a small knife and chisel or flat head screw driver. Use the knife to run along the edge of the tile to separate the grout from the tiling and then chisel out the thin wedge of grout from between the tiles. Go lightly and angle your chisel otherwise you will chip your tiles.
Be careful when removing grout as it is abrasive. If you are working in a shower cubicle or bathtub and you stand on a lump of old grout you can scratch your bathroom furniture, use an old towel or a blanket for protection. Once you have finished run your vacuum over the tiles to get rid of any grout lumps or dust.
If you have any broken tiles chisel them off and replace them. Leave the tile cement to dry for at least 24hours before re-grouting.
Mixing or Buying Grout
You can buy powdered grout that needs mixing with water or premixed pastes. What you choose is up to you and depends on what is on offer, how much you want to grout and what your budget is. If you would like to use a coloured grout then you can buy specialist powders from the tile manufacturer or you can simply dye your own using standard dyes. If you are only looking for and approximate colour match, which is good enough for most jobs, then you can buy premixed grout in a range of colours.
Remember you need to use waterproof not water resitant grout. Products with latex in are good and less likely to crack in the future.
If mixing your own follow the directions on the packet but make sure that the texture of the grout is firm enough to hold on a knife but is still soft. Leave it for 3 – 5 minutes and mix again as this will remove the lumps.
It is really important to applying your grout in the right direction. You should apply it at 45 degrees to the tile edges – i.e. diagonally. This helps the grout really get in between the tiles. It will make a complete mess of your tiles but it really is the only way of doing a good job. The grout wipes off the tiles really easily so do not worry about that.
You can use your finger or a cloth for applying the grout if you are only repairing a small crack or section. However for large areas get a grout float. Use this to press the grout into the spaces and gently scrape the excess grout from your tiles.[
After 15 minutes use a damp cloth to go over the area you have done to remove the grout from the tiles before it dries. Use light motions to make sure you do not displace the grout.
Now you want to finish the grout to give it a smooth surface and to make sure it is not higher than the tiles. I find it is worth using a wet finger to lightly run over the grout and make sure that there are no gaps. This will also remove excess grout and start to give you a smooth finish to the grout. If it starts looking bumpy, re-wet your finger. You can also achieve the same effect with a damp round edged sponge or a cloth. Have a go with both techniques and find the one that suits you. This is the bit of the job that my husband looses interest with resulting in bumpy uneven grout that ruins a perfectly good tiling job so do not scrimp on this bit of the job. It is virtually impossible to tidy up the grout once it is dry without removing it and starting again.
Do not grout in the hole between your bathroom furniture – sinks, baths and shower cubicles – and the tiles. You need to seal this with silicone – see next section. You will get some grout in this space during the job but just scrape it out with a screwdriver.
Make sure you leave the grout to dry before you use the bathroom. Read your grout instructions but be prepared for a wait for a few days.
Sealing Bathroom Furniture
When you clean out your old grout you should also remove the old sealant. You might need to use a sharp knife to remove it from the bathroom furniture and the tiles. You should use a tube of waterproof sealant that matches the colour of your grout or bathroom furniture. You can buy transparent ones too for the edges of glass shower panels.
Use a sealant gun and apply it very slowly at an angle. If you try to rush it you will get big globules of sealant everywhere but where you actually want it. On that topic, be very tidy as silicone sealant dries quickly and is hard to get rid of. Wear gloves and work on small sections.
If you are working around a shower cubicle seal the inside walls against the tiles but if you are sealing a panel to a shower tray apply the sealant to the outside of the shower not the inside. Applying the sealant to the inside seems sensible but it is a common mistake and results in leaking.
Once you have applied the sealant with the gun rub over it with a wet finger or wet tool to push it into the gap and smooth the surface.