DIY: Shower Restoration

June 25, 2014 0 Comments

DIY: Full Shower Restoration

(Re-Grouting and Re-Caulking a Shower)

Is your shower stall or tub surround looking dull, with pitted, yellowing or missing grout lines? Mold and mildew getting out of control? Here is an inexpensive way to make your shower or tub surround look new again!

Note: This DIY is for areas with narrow (1/8”) grout lines, with smooth, unsanded grout. Typically, if your tiles are 6” or less on a side, this DIY is for you. If your tiles are larger, with wider grout lines that are rough (indicating sanded grout), a completely different process is required. I will cover that project in a future DIY.

First, you will need the following items, pictured below left to right:

  1. Vacuum cleaner with hose attachment
  2. Dry rags, or preferably, microfiber towels
  3. Caulk gun with caulk
  4. Clean sponge
  5. 32 oz or bigger container for grout mixing and dispensing
  6. Grout removing tool
  7. Very firm putty knife
  8. Grout float
  9. 5 gallon bucket with clean water
  10. Unsanded grout, desired color (not pictured)

Out of these 9 items, I hope I only need to explain 2 of them. If not, this DIY might be out of your league.

The grout removing tool is the thing that looks like a screwdriver with a triangle on the business end. You can find one at Home Depot in the Tile Department for less than $10.  It works by fitting an edge of the triangle into the old grout line, and running the tool firmly but carefully along the grout line. The tool should contact the tiles on each side of the grout line, but not so hard or jerky that you damage the tiles. This is the trickiest part of the restoration, and the most vital. You must get at least some of all the grout line removed, or the new grout won’t adhere properly. (Fresh grout won’t stick to old, exposed grout. You need to have removed the entire line, or have freshly exposed old grout to work with.)

The other tool that you might be unfamiliar with is the grout float. The thing that looks like a bacon press. Also available at Home Depot in the Tile Department, for about $5. This tool is used to spread the wet grout all over the working area and into the grout lines. Make sure to get a float with a relatively soft, spongy base, because a firm float will not effectively push the wet grout into the narrow grout lines.

The first task is to completely remove the old caulking. That is the flexible, formerly white gunk in all the wall/wall and wall/floor seams. Also, if anyone has gotten creative with the caulk gun and tried to repair gaps in the grout lines, you have an especially tedious task. All of the old caulk needs to be removed. There is no one way to explain how to do this, just use the putty knife, or the flat edge of the grout removal tool to scrape it all off. Any old caulk remnants show up in a very stark manner against fresh white caulk and grout.

Next, use the grout tool to remove the old grout. Work in a pattern, starting with all the vertical lines on one side of the area, then doing all the horizontals. Avoid moving from area to area piecemeal, it will go much faster and you will have a more consistent finished project if you completely prep each area before moving on to the next.

Note:   No need to aggressively clean the surfaces before or during the removal of the old caulk and grout. The re-grouting process is remarkably effective at cleaning the tiles. One exception: if you use Scrubbing Bubbles with that blue coloring that turns white, you need to rinse that completely out of the grout lines and tile surface. It will mix with the new grout and discolor it when it gets wet.

Vacuum up all the old caulk and grout, and wipe the tub or basin with a damp rag.

Now, the area should be completely prepped, with all old caulking removed, and the old grout lines removed; or recessed, freshly exposed grout showing. Mix the desired color, unsanded grout according to the directions in the 32 oz container. The mix should be the consistency of a McDonald’s milkshake after melting for 10 minutes. A little soupy, but firm enough to stay in the grout line. The idea is for it to be thin enough to push fully into the grout line, firm enough to stay without falling out.

Again, work in a pattern. I do one wall at a time, all of the edges first, then fill in.  Pour about 3 oz of wet grout onto the float and spread it onto the tile. Work it into the grout lines like you are frosting a cake. You have to press much harder, of course, but the idea is the same, spreading the material back and forth in a sweeping motion. Remember, the goal is to press the grout into the lines, leaving as little as possible on the tile. Work at a 45 degree angle to the lines, as this pushes new grout into the lines without pulling it out.

After completing one wall, use the damp sponge to remove the grout from the tile and finish the grout lines to a consistent, smooth texture. Again, work at a 45 degree angle to the grout line, sweeping back and forth until the grout is off the tile (there will be a slight haze, but no clumps of grout), and the grout line is smooth and consistent.  Rinse the sponge frequently.

After completing all the surfaces, go over the entire area, smoothing lines where necessary, filling in gaps you’ve missed. This is the detail part of the project. How you leave the grout lines at this stage is how they will look permanently, for the most part.

Now, after the grout has dried for 10 minutes or so, take a dry rag or microfiber towel and rub the haze off the tile. They should sparkle like new, nothing cleans tile like a thin layer of abrasive grout!  If any of the grout lines are too thick, you can rub them down gently to the desired level.

Lastly, caulk all the wall/wall and wall/floor seams. I know this is much easier said than done, so here are some tips I’ve learned:

  1. Start with the smallest continuous bead you can lay down out of the caulk gun. Snip the dispensing nozzle close to the end so that you have a very small (<2mm) hole.
  2. Use your index finger. All the tools sold for making the perfect bead are useless.
  3. For the final finish, I wet my finger to get a perfectly smooth line.
  4. Remove unwanted caulk immediately from the tile/tub. It dries fast!
  5. Work about 2 feet at a time. Finish 2 feet, then move on.

There, you are done! Just a few more notes.

  1. Do not pour the 5 gallon bucket down the drain! Rinse all tools and the bucket outside with a hose, into the street or alley. Grout will clog your drain in a particularly expensive fashion.
  2. Grout takes 72 hours to fully cure. That’s 3 days. It looks and feels dry after a couple of hours, but if you get it wet within 72 hours, it will not cure properly.
  3. Seal the grout lines with a high grade product, I recommend and use BulletProof by duPont.

That’s about it. Good luck with your project, and be sure to call me if you want to avoid the whole mess and have it look like new!

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