Cracked grout around your home can not only look bad, but it can also cause problems for both you and your home.
Grout is what fills the fine lines between the tiles on your floors and walls. It’s a mix of cement and sand and bonds your tiles together while creating a waterproof seal that keeps any spills or moisture from getting through to the sub-flooring or walls.
Over time, grout can crack or chip away. This can cause tiles to shift and crack (hello, tripping hazards), and also lead to damage to the sub-flooring and drywall behind your tiles. But the good news: Taking care of your damaged grout is easy, even for a novice DIYer.
Select the Right Tools for Your Task
Each cracked grout repair job is different, so you'll want to carefully select the tools you use to grind down and remove damaged sections.
For example, grout blades are angled and curved differently. Look for a multi-tool that you can adjust or find a one-off tool that works for the job at hand.
Grind Down the Crumbling Grout
Using your dremel or grout blade, grind down the cracks or crumbling grout so that you can easily replace it. Start with the sections where the grout grooves are deepest and work your way back.
Aim for uniformity throughout; no uneven edges or rough patches. This step will set you up for success later when you place new grout in the area.
Remove the Damaged Grout
Next, you’ll need to remove what’s left of your cracked grout. For grout that’s already loose and easy to remove, you can do it by hand. The more difficult-to-access pieces should be jarred loose during the grinding-down process.
You should always remove as much of the old grout as you can before adding a new layer. Otherwise, newly applied ground won't bond correctly to the surrounding surfaces, creating an even bigger headache later on.
Color-Match the New Grout
Unless you’re replacing all the grout in your space, you’ll need to find a replacement that’s as close to the original color as possible. Otherwise, it’ll be very obvious where you regrout.
You can get help by taking a piece of your old grout to a home improvement store. An employee might be able to color-match the sample to one of their products.
Apply Your New Grout
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If you purchased a mixable grout, start by mixing grout powder with water per the instructions. Read the instructions and product labels carefully to get the ratio correct.
Pour a quarter to a half-gallon of grout over the tiles that you’re regrouting. You can also use a putty knife if it's a smaller section. Using a rubber grout float, spread the material evenly over the edges. Move the grout float in sweeping circles to help move it evenly across the tiles and into the crevices.
Avoid putting too much grout on the tiles at one time. It's better to start with small layers and add more later. You'll need to wipe any excess grout off the surrounding tile before it dries to prevent it from adhering to surface tiles.
Let It Dry
Whether you’re fixing the grout on your floor or your walls, you’ll need to let it dry completely before walking on the surface or allowing water to come into contact with it. Drying times vary by product, but normally grout requires 48 hours to fully cure.
Seal the Surface
An easy way to keep your grout looking its best—and prevent future cracks—is by sealing it. This step is an investment in keeping your grout looking its best for a long time, and it ensures that it will last as long as possible. You'll reduce the likelihood of future cracks and holes—as well as mold—by using a grout sealant.
Once the grout is dry, use a ¼ cup of vinegar mixed with eight ounces of water in a spray bottle to wipe down the area. This step removes impurities and also helps disinfect the area. Be sure to wait the appropriate amount of dry time per instructions.
Apply a thin coat of the appropriate sealant with a sponge, quickly wiping any excess off before it has the chance to dry. Apply between two to three coats, being sure to allow an hour of drying time between each layer.
The type of sealant you use varies depending on the type of surface. For instance, your bathroom will probably see more moisture than your living room floor, so you’d want to make sure any sealant you use in that area has a waterproof component.
When You'll Need to Call the Pros
While many grout repairs are small (and easy) enough to be handled on your own, there are a few situations where you might want to hire a grout repair service near you.
If your grout issues have caused, or are caused by, structural problems like cracked floorboards or water damage, you may want to call an expert to help you get to the source of your problem before attempting to fix it yourself. Otherwise, fixing the damaged grout will only be a temporary solution to what could become a major problem down the line.