Have you noticed, recently, that your bathroom floor tile is looking a bit dingy, and no amount of elbow grease makes the floor look clean? It’s time to re-grout and freshen the place up! This is not a difficult job, and if you’re working in a five-by-seven foot bathroom, you could probably finish the grouting in a few short hours. You will be spending all of that time on your knees, though, so knee pads should be at the top of your materials list.
Take this shopping list to your local hardware store, and get started. You will need:
A couple of sponges
A couple of buckets
Some soft cloths
To begin, remove any old grout. Anything between the tiles that is cracked, yellowing, or molding, must go. You can remove the old grouting compound with a grout saw or a grout removal bit in a rotary tool. Sweep away any debris this process creates. Next, select the color of your grout. I bet you didn’t know that you have several options! All come in a powder form of premixed colors. The color determines whether the eye notices the individual tiles, or the pattern of the tiles as a whole.
Light grout tends to blend in, and appear invisible, highlighting the tile itself. Dark grout accentuates the pattern of the tiles, and how the floor looks on the whole. If you are looking for a continuous appearance, go light. If you are embarking on this project after having laid the tile yourself, and you’re worried it might not be complete perfection, go light. It will mask imperfections, and tile lines that aren’t perfectly straight. Alternately, if you want to highlight your individual tiles, or you have irregular edges on purpose, choose a grout color that contrasts with the tile. Also, dark grout is a good choice for high-traffic areas. Dark grout is much easier to clean.
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to mix your grout. You can use a trowel for mixing. For a strong and colorfast grout, get the right consistency using the least amount of water possible. You are looking for a really thick cake batter consistency. Adding too much water will prevent the grout from hardening properly. Make sure you take the time to mix the solution thoroughly to minimize color variation. Do not make too much at once; surplus grout will begin to set before you can apply it to the floor. Think about working in half-hour shifts, and try to mix only as much as you think you’ll use in that time period. It’s also a good idea to have a bit extra once the job is done so that future repairs can be make easily.
If you have laid the tile yourself, you will want to be sure that the tile adhesive – the stuff holding the tiles to the floor – has cured for at least 24 hours. Try to wipe any adhesive out of the grout lines with a bristle brush before you apply the grout. Once this is done, get the knee pads. You’re ready to hit it.
You’re going to be working backwards, so drag your grout bucket to the furthest corner from the doorway, scoop some grout – maybe about a half-gallon -onto the floor. Holding a hard-edged rubber grout float at a 45-degree angle, spread the grout in sweeping arcs, pressing it into the joints to try to fill them completely. This is a nice upper-body workout. To remove the excess grout you will certainly have, hold the grout float at a 90-degree angle, and sweep it diagonally across the tiles. This will ensure a smooth finish without gouging.
Once you’ve covered your first section, wait about 15 to 30 minutes for the grout to set. You can then start cleaning the muddiness from the floor. Use a damp sponge, taking care not to gouge or drag any of the grout from the corners of the tiles. Here’s an effective method: fill two buckets with water; dip your sponge into the first bucket and wring it out; wipe the tiles in a circular motion, or at a diagonal, to the grout lines to remove debris from the tiles, and then rinse that sponge in the second bucket. Repeat until you’ve cleared your first grouted section. Stand up, stretch your back, rub your knees, admire your work…and wait about three hours before repeating that process.
Despite your best efforts to clean up the excess grout, you will still find a cloudy, grout haze over your tiles. Again, go over the area with a damp cloth, but this time, follow immediately with a dry towel or cloth, and buff dry. The grout will cake off, and you can sweep up with a broom.
You’re almost done!. By this point, you have let the grout dry for 24 hours, or several days…check the manufacturer’s instructions. Before sealing, crack a window, if you can. You will want some ventilation. Spread the sealer with a small paintbrush or a sealer applicator. Clean off any smears within the first few minutes. Then let everything dry for at least 24 hours.
The final step will be to fill any gaps or expansions with caulk. Caulk is both a sealer and an expansion joint. It will flex if the floor expands or contracts as humidity levels change. You will most likely caulk sharply-angled areas areas, or where the wall meets the floor, like in front of a bathtub, or shower. Aim you caulking gun, and fill any gaps. Smooth the caulk line with your wet finger.
That’s it! Stand back and admire your freshly-grouted bathroom! To protect this job well-done, consider re-sealing the grout every six months to a year.