Re-routing floor and wall tiles

Wall and floor tiles sometimes lose their grout. We see installations that are many years old that have never lost grout, and others that were done last year that need attention. Facilities or construction problems combined with settlement are the cause. I recently saw a house built in the 1950s and the tiles looked brand new (in fact they were out of style and back) and the installation looked as perfect as it should have been 60 years ago.

The tiles are attached to the wall or floor (most of the time) with adhesive. Thinset is a process that uses a special adhesive to bond tile to a substrate, such as a waterproof gypsum board or a reinforced backing board. When it hardens, the fresh grout is drawn into the spaces between the tiles with a rubber trowel and cleaned. When the grout fails, the danger is water, which reaches the thinnest layer. This begins the process of freeing the tile from the substrate. Water can collect behind the tile and develop mold. This mold will eventually reappear through the grout and the shower will start to smell swampy. We see these every day. This is the reason why it is imperative to replace the missing grout (or putty, we’ll get to that later).

The rerouting done by a tile installer who probably installed many of the time bombs that these situations represent (always check their references with the contractors they replace, as well as previous customers and you will find a great one) usually starts with trying to remove grout. We often see that a razor blade or knife is used to cut the grout to hold the new grout. This process is doomed to failure, as the grout will look good at first, but will wash away. Long before the owner wishes.

The tool we use to deeply remove the grout before re-routing is our key advantage. The tools used to remove the grout are essential for professional work. We use the Fein Multimaster to achieve a great result. A gentle swing removes the grout (without disturbing the tiles) and we can replace the grout in a way that will last much longer than any method. Dust is kept to a minimum. We started using this method, after seeing the ineffective way grout and sealer are removed in most cases, leaving the customer unhappy when the freshly skimmed grout is gone in a matter of months. Ineffective removal techniques include (trying to score the grout with a utility knife and just scraping away the old grout) are just efforts to make sure that at least some of what is applied sticks for a while.

Another important consideration in rerouting is how the edges are treated. Edge and corners must be caulked. The grout begins to shrink as the water evaporates and cracks form. The putty contains latex or polyester instead of water, and this ensures (if applied correctly) the corners and edges will not form cracks. Your installer can tell you that they have been grouting the edges for years and have never had a problem. We hear this all the time as we are estimating showers with cracked grout in the corners. I suspect that there are two reasons for not caulking: 1- the problem that must be taken to acquire the caulk that matches the necessary color of the grout 2- the caulking technique requires patience that not everyone has.

The first place we usually start in the re-gluing process is to match the color of the existing grout as this is just a rare circumstance where we will have to remove all of the grout. This can be a problem in some cases and if necessary we can apply a colored stamp to the grout to achieve a uniform look.

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