DEAR MIKE: The grout on my shower walls is stained and disgusting. I want to regrout the shower and hopefully make it look like new. How should I go about this and how difficult is it? -- Danny S.
DEAR DANNY: Grouting a shower is the easy part. Removing the old grout can be challenging and messy.
If you are going to regrout certain areas of the shower instead of the entire shower, be prepared for color differences between the new and old grout. It's kind of like matching paint. The new grout will make the old grout look even worse than it does now.
If you really want the shower to look like new again, you should regrout the entire shower.
Start by removing the old caulking from the shower. Use a putty knife and scrape the old stuff out being careful not to scratch the shower pan. Now comes the real job: removing the old grout.
In the grout removing business, carbide is king. You can use a grout saw, a rotary tool (like a Dremel), or a menagerie of carbide scrapers.
A power rotary tool is fast and accurate, but you better have the hands of a steady dentist. The rotary tool spins at speeds up to 35,000 rpm and the bit will cut ceramic tile just as well as it cuts through grout. The bits can easily break and ricochet around.
A grout-cutting kit may include a template with tiny plastic guides that are supposed to ride along the edges of the tile as the bit cuts, but occasionally the guide slips out of place and things get ugly.
If you are going to use a rotary tool, I would suggest you do it freehand. Wear safety glasses, a dust mask and gloves. Also cover the shower floor with a protective covering, such as cloth or cardboard.
Start at the top of the wall and with the tool lying almost flat against the wall, just touch the tip of the bit to the grout. Use both hands to guide the tool downward. The gloves will help your hands move smoothly down the wall. Cut to a depth of about one-eighth of an inch.
You will probably still need to use a manual tool even after the rotary tool to clean up some areas.
One of my favorites, called the Grout Grabber, sells for less than $15 at any home center. It looks like a screwdriver with a triangle attached to the end of it.
The triangular part of the grabber is made of carbide and chews up grout like a hyena on a fresh kill. It will cut a "V" in the grout and clean up the edges of the tile in the process. You simply move the tool back and forth in a rapid motion until the groove is cut. If you choose not to use a rotary tool, use this tool instead.
A grout saw works in the same manner, but it doesn't seem to cut as fast.
Once the grout has been removed, clean up the walls. Remove the dust and any soap scum from the tile.
Mix up a batch of grout according to the manufacturer's instructions. You will need to let it slake for 5-10 minutes before you stir it again and slop it on the walls.
You will need a rubber grout float, a big sponge, a clean white rag, and a bucket of water (together these items won't exceed $10). Slop some grout on your float and move the float diagonally on the wall. You want to stuff the grout lines and the diagonal movement will prevent the float from getting caught in the grout lines.
Hold the float at a 45-degree angle and force the grout into the joints. Clean off the excess grout by holding the float at a 90-degree angle and moving it across the tiles.
Dunk the sponge in water and wring it out. Wipe off the excess grout from the wall and smooth the grout lines. Continue this process until you have cleaned the tiles. Frequently clean off the sponge and change the water.
In about 20 minutes, a haze will form on the wall. Use the clean white rag and buff off the haze.
Caulk the shower with a silicone bathroom caulk (you can get different colors to match your grout). Your shower should look brand spankin' new.