Man's hand with trowel while grouting ceramic tile.

Man's hand with trowel while grouting ceramic tile. Credit: iStock

Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's are bearing down. Family is coming over. What about that cracked and crumbling grout in your bathroom or on your kitchen backsplash?

No worries -- you can have great-looking grout in just a few hours if you don't have too much to do.


Gather the following tools. You'll need a hard rubber float made especially for applying ceramic tile grout. You can find these at hardware stores, big box home centers and online. Get a special grout sponge while you're at it. These sponges have rounded corners and edges. Ones that are about 7 by 5 by 2 inches work well. Do not use a sponge that has sharp 90-degree edges or corners.


Purchase a bag of wall grout that matches the color of your existing grout. If your grout is dirty, clean it first and allow it to dry so you know its true color. Wall grout is different from sanded floor grout. Wall grout is made for grout joints that are one-eighth of an inch or less in width. Most wall tile has grout joints that measure about one-sixteenth of an inch. Wall grout is just a powder with no silica sand particles in it.


You need to remove any crumbling or loose grout. You can use a flat-bladed screwdriver and a hammer if you need to. Be very careful you don't chip or scratch the tile. You can use small power rotary tools that have bits that are made to remove grout. Once again, practice using this tool in an out-of-the-way location so you get comfortable with it.


Once all the bad grout is removed, use a vacuum or a brush to remove any small particles or dust.


It's time to mix the grout. Using a clean bucket, pour about a cup of the wall grout powder into the bucket. Add clean cool or cold water. Add it slowly and stir the water into the grout until the consistency of the grout is that of warm cake icing. You don't want the grout to be so thin that it pours or flows easily. If you add too much water, the grout will crack and crumble and all your work will be wasted.


Dip the hard-rubber float into some water and shake it off. Use a wide putty knife and scoop some grout from the bucket and put it on the wall tile where you're grouting. Put on a half-cup or so.


Hold the rubber float at a 30-degree angle to the surface of the tile and push the grout ahead of it, like a bulldozer pushes soil. Cross the grout joints at a 45-degree angle so the edge of the rubber float does not drop down into the recessed grout line joints. Push hard enough so virtually no grout is left on the surface of the tile.


Wait about 10 minutes. Dip the sponge in clear water, saturating it. Squeeze all of the water out of the sponge. Lightly wipe the sponge across the tile to remove any grout paste. Flip the sponge over to reveal a clean surface and wipe again. Each stroke will make the grout joints look better. Rinse the sponge frequently and squeeze it, removing all water.


When the grout joints look quite good, to get them to match the existing grout, try putting the grout sponge on a narrow edge and sliding it back and forth along the grout joint until the grout profile and width matches your existing grout joints.


After an hour, use clean water and the grout sponge to wipe down the tile to remove all grout haze from the tile. Change this water frequently and fully rinse the sponge each time you go to use it over the tile. Once again, squeeze all water from the sponge before putting it on the tile.

SUMMARY Water is your enemy when grouting. If you put too much water on the grout when finishing the joints, you'll dilute the cement paste and the grout will be weak. It will crack and crumble in time. After two hours, take an old towel and buff the tile to remove any grout haze from the ceramic tile.


3 hammers out of five

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