DO-IT-YOURSELF : No Re-Grouts if You Shower Tiles in Care

From Associated Press

Ceramic tile is an attractive and durable material that is especially popular above bathtubs and inside showers. It’s so popular that alternative surface materials are often offered in styles that imitate the look of the real thing.


However, tile isn’t maintenance-free. When problems arise, you’ll have two simple choices.

You can fix them now, for a few dollars, or you can fix them later--for hundreds more. Once water penetrates the tile grout, wall damage can be extensive.


The problems almost always begin with damaged grout joints, and for one of two reasons. In today’s housing market, installers need to move through a job quickly. The problem is that tile work resists speed with two obstacles. The first is that tile mastic cures too slowly, the second is that grout cures too quickly.

The mastic used to glue tile to walls will set in a day, but takes days longer to cure.

If the spaces between the tiles are grouted too soon, the gases that must escape in curing create tiny pinholes in the grout.

As for curing the grout, the best approach is a wet cure, where the normal drying rate is prolonged. When cured properly, the grout becomes hard and water resistant.

If allowed to dry too quickly, the grout will have a soft, chalky surface that absorbs water. As the water is absorbed, the grout swells, fractures and falls away.

In either case, water reaches the drywall behind the tiles and destroys it.


How do you know when your ceramic tiles need help? To begin, look for discoloration in the grout. Dark spots in grout suggest that water is penetrating, either because of pinhole openings or because the grout is loose.

As water penetrates these gaps, molds grow in them, holding more water and further weakening the grout in those areas.

Where water mineral levels are high, the dark spots will be surrounded by lighter, yellow-orange discolorations. Of course, if small strips of grout have already fallen out, you’ll have little time to waste.

You should also closely examine the caulked seams in the corners and where tiles meet the tub. Where you find spots of dark discoloration or cracks, a repair is in order.

Before you can re-grout and re-caulk, you must properly prepare the tiles.

Use a carpet knife to remove any loose or degraded grout and caulk. Dig out grout a few inches on either side of a discoloration, and extended openings where grout may have already fallen out.

Remove discolored and cracked caulk with a sharp knife or razor-type scraper. Simply cut along each edge of the caulk seam. This will loosen the caulk so that you can pull it away in strips.

With the damaged grout and caulk removed, clean the entire surface thoroughly so that new grout, caulk and sealer can adhere properly. Any of the tub and tile cleaners on the market will work.

If you prefer a home remedy, try a formulation consisting of half a cup of household ammonia, half a cup of white vinegar and one-quarter cup of baking soda.

Use a toothbrush and tile cleaner or diluted household bleach to scrub persistent stains. Rinse, allow to dry and wipe away any cleanser residue with a dry cloth.