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Removing Grout

Remove Old Grout

If you're thinking of removing grout to give your ceramic or porcelain tile a fresh, clean look instead of installing new tile, you have a couple of options. Both take time. On the bright side, you won't have to remove your existing tiles, but on the flip side you can't grout over the old grout. It has to come out.

Where to Begin When Removing Grout

No matter which method you choose to remove the grout from your flooring or other ceramic tile surfaces, preparation is an important part of the process. For this project, be sure to cover the floor.

In bathrooms you'll also want to protect the tub if you are working to remove grout from the wall. Loosened pieces of grout can be sharp and risk scratching your tub's surface or even tiles on the floor if you happen to step on them. It's better to take precautions:

  • Cover the floor.
  • Cover the tub or anything lower than the area you are working on.
  • Dispose of grout fragments regularly.

Old Fashioned Removal Method

The first option for removing grout is by hand. Tools you'll need for this job include:

  • Dust mask
  • Eye protection
  • Grout saw
  • Grout scraper
  • Masking tape
  • Rotary tool and carbide bits
  • Scraper with teardrop bit

Using the carbide-tipped scraper to remove grout makes the job a little easier but it is still tedious work. It not only takes a lot of time but also plenty of elbow grease. This tool can be purchased at your local home improvement store like Lowes or Home Depot.

The good news is that they don't cost much, but with the use of a carbide-tipped scraper comes a necessary warning. Don't start to rush because you're tired. If you're not careful, you could scratch the glazed surface of the tile. When using a scraper, apply firm but gentle pressure as you run it across the grout. Keep repeating this action and gradually the grout crumbles and can be removed.

Chisel Method

If the carbide-tipped tool doesn't work on your grout, you may have to go back to the old-fashioned chisel method. Chiseling the grout from between your tile can be accomplished with a flat-bladed screwdriver or chisel and hammer. Carefully tap the screwdriver (or chisel), working away from the existing grout. If you work toward the grout, you increase the risk of chipping the sides of the tiles.

Power Grinder to Remove Grout

Using an electric grinder is another option for removing grout, but be aware that using a power tool like this increases the chances of damaging tiles. The tools you'll need include:

  • Cloths and sponges
  • Cordless grinder with grout-removal bit
  • Dust mask
  • Gloves
  • Hot white vinegar
  • Safety goggles
  • Tarp

Gloves, eye protection and a dust mask should be worn throughout the project. Along with covering the floors, be sure to cover anything you don't want to dust when you're finished. Also close all doors and windows in the room as well as air vents that can carry the dust elsewhere. There's no sense making more work for yourself.

Once you've prepared the room with tarps, etc. and donned your safety gear, take up your electric grinder fitted with a grout-removal attachment. You'll have to read the instructions that come with your particular grinder for recommended settings. Begin to remove grout by drawing the bit toward you through the grout. Continue this process until the grout is removed, but don't remove grout more than an eighth of an inch beneath the tile's surface.

Clean Up

No matter which method you use to remove grout, be sure to clean up when you're done. A vacuum works best to pick up loose grout dust. Once you've vacuumed, wash the tile with hot white vinegar and rinse. Once the area dries and you're done celebrating a job well done, you're ready to apply new grout. Have fun!

Removing Grout