I have the opportunity to live in an adorable house on a larger-than-average chunk of land. Few things give me greater pleasure than sitting out on my front porch swing and taking in the view.
Unfortunately, the people who built the house did a lot of the work themselves and seemed to run out of funds just as they were about to put in the kitchen countertops. Their solution? Use the same tile as they used for the kitchen floor with a half-inch of grout surrounding each tile.
I’m not sure who thought it was a good idea to have textured tile and thick, sandy grout as a countertop, but I’m hoping it at least brought them in well under budget.
If you share my same lament of having dirty, chipped, or outdated grout in your kitchen, bathroom, or backsplashes, the good thing is that it’s relatively easy to remedy. With a little bit of patience, a steady hand, and a few tools, you could have this problem area in your home taken care of within a day or so. Applying new grout to an existing countertop, shower, floor, or backsplash is an inexpensive and simple way to breathe new life into your bathroom or kitchen.
- Safety glasses: Safety first! You’re going to be removing little bits of cement using a fast-moving power tool. As careful as you try to be, it’s possible that some of that cement dust or a small piece of grout could end up in your eye. It’s best to take the extra precaution and wear your safety glasses right from the beginning.
- Rotary or oscillating multi-tool: A Dremel is a good example of a rotary tool. Rotary tools spin around like a drill, and the special tile and grout disk means that you can work perpendicular to the grout that you’re trying to remove. If you’re leaning more toward an oscillating multi-tool, Dewalt, Rigid, Milwaukee, and most other leading power tool brands, make one that is capable of removing grout. An oscillating tool is different from a rotary tool because it doesn’t make a full rotation; instead, it moves back and forth very quickly. These tools range anywhere from $50-100, but they are so versatile, you’ll probably end up using them for several of your other home improvement projects.
- A thin flat-head screwdriver: This will help you scrape out some of the chunks of tile that your multi-tool loosened but didn’t remove.
- An old utility knife: The older and duller, the better! You’re not trying to cut anything out, so it’s better if you use a dull blade (it will keep you safer, too, in case the blade slips). You’re looking for something very thin to help you remove any last bits of grout debris.
- A vacuum with a hose attachment: You’re going to be using the vacuum throughout your whole project, so keep it close by. Vacuuming along the way will keep the dust down, and it will make clean up at the end of your project much faster.
It’s important to point out that a multi-tool that can cut through grout can also damage your tile if you’re not careful. While you’re working, try resting your arm on something sturdy, so it doesn’t get tired and slip off course. Also, don’t force your way through the grout because that’s a sure way to lose control and end up cutting into your tile. Your multi-tool is more than capable of eating through the grout, so have a little bit of patience. Remember: slow is smooth, and smooth is fast!
- Start by slowly running your multi-tool perpendicular along the grout line, making sure to keep it straight. After you’ve broken up most of the grout using a straight 90-degree, angle your multi-tool slightly to cut through more of the grout that’s underneath the tile. Make sure to vacuum regularly to keep the dust down and suck out the chunks of grout from between the tiles. This will give you a good idea of where to go back and make another pass.
- Use the screwdriver to knock out any stubborn pieces of grout, and then use the utility blade for the remaining precision work. Clean out as much grout as possible, making sure to scrape away any grout that’s clinging to the tile itself.
It may feel like a little bit of oversimplification to say that there are only two steps to remove your unwanted, dingy, or outdated grout from your existing tile, but it really is that easy. The task may feel a little daunting because it requires you to exhibit patience and concentration for an extended period of time, but don’t let that deter you. You may even be surprised when it doesn’t take quite as long as you were anticipating—which is something you can’t say about every home improvement project.