Today I’m responding to reader Antonio who asked about loose grout around tub tiles. Antonio was also concerned about his linoleum and a leaky shower door. I’m focusing on the grout because the fix is usually straightforward. Replacing old linoleum can be tricky because it may contain asbestos – in which case you’ll need to have it removed by a professional and disposed of appropriately.
As for potential water damage, here’s a cautionary tale to illustrate why you need to take it seriously: Once upon a time, Mr. Fix-It pulled back some old carpeting around our beautifully tiled shower stall to show me how to check for dry-rot. “Just do this,” he said, poking ever so gently at the subfloor with a screwdriver…when the screwdriver suddenly plunged through the floor and disappeared.
I won’t repeat what Mr. Fix-It said next – this is a family publication. But I will tell you he spent days and dollars repairing and retiling the shower and replacing rotten floor boards and dry wall – not just in that bathroom but also in the adjoining bathroom.
And, with the guidance of a licensed contractor, he had to fix two badly-damaged floor joists. All because of an old and improperly installed shower pan that had leaked for years. If he hadn’t discovered the damage when he did, at some point the floor around the shower might have given way, and the fix would have cost a whole lot more.
If your grout is loose enough that the tiles are also loose, don’t mess around. Call a pro to determine whether or not moisture has seeped through the grout and under the tiles. If cost is an issue, ask the pro to prioritize the problems, and budget accordingly.
But if it’s just loose grout, the fix can be simple and satisfying (if somewhat tedious).
Let's Get To It
First, clean out the cracked grout with a little tool called a grout scraper or grout saw – available at the hardware store or online for less than $10. Using a back-and-forth motion and some pressure, scrape out the existing grout, being careful not to let the blade slip and scrape the tile.
When the grout is crumbly, clean it out with an abrasive sponge dipped in a 50/50 solution of water and household bleach. You’ll want to wear rubber gloves while you do this. In the process, you’ll also kill any mildew.
Now you’re ready to replace the grout. The simplest is premixed. But before you rush out and buy a tub of it…what color is your current grout? If white, then it’s easy. If not, you’ll need to match what you have now to what they have in the store.
To re-grout, simply apply with a trowel or spatula. If you’ve watched any of those home improvement programs on TV, you know it’s perfectly okay to get grout on the tile itself because you’ll clean it off later. As you apply the grout, run a rubber-gloved finger gently down the seam to make it match the existing seams.
Let the grout dry for the maximum amount of time. It could be as long as 72 hours, but check the instructions of the grout container. Once it is dry and has set, clean off the tiles using an abrasive pad and some water.
Dry with a towel, apply grout sealer and let dry (again, please be sure to follow the instructions on the container), and you’re done.
DISCLAIMER: I am not a professional but am happy to offer DIY tips on projects that have worked for me in the past. I, along with Castro Valley Patch, will not be held responsible if for some reason your outcome turns out differently than mine.