How to Repair Cracked Grout Around the Pool Tile
Over time, you may find that the grout around your pool tile has begun to crack and lift. Exposure to the elements, chlorine, and sun may have faded the color of your grout and left you with tile that is looking lackluster, dull, and splotchy. This is a relatively common phenomenon, and one that can be remedied with the right tools, and a little bit of good old-fashioned elbow grease. By following a few simple steps, you can have your pool tile looking brand new.
Removing and Replacing Cracked or Fading Grout
Remove the old grout. There is a simple tool called a grout saw that's sole purpose is the removal of grout. You can find these tools at any tile or home improvement store. They are inexpensive and a must-have for removing old grout from within the tile joints. To remove the grout you place the toothed blades of the device in the grout joints and run the grout saw back and forth. The grout will break down into a powder. Use a shop vacuum to pick up the grout dust. Some grout may cling to the sides of the tile. Use your utility knife to scrape along the edges of the tile and remove this residual grout.
How thoroughly you want to remove the existing grout from the joints is up to you. Keep in mind though that matching new grout to old grout is a challenge. Older grout will have faded over time, so even if you are using the same color material, don't expect the old and new grout to match up perfectly. If you are really interested in achieving a consistent result throughout, then you should remove grout from all the joints, and essentially start from scratch.
Prepare the tile for grouting. Once you've gotten all the grout removed from the tile joints, remove all the debris you can with your shop vacuum. Then use a moist sponge to get the tile surface nice and clean.
Select your grout color. Mix the grout with water in your plastic bucket. When mixing grout, first add a small amount of water to the bottom of the bucket, then add your grout. Mix with your margin trowel and add water until you achieve the right texture. You want your grout to be moist, but not runny. You're looking for a consistency similar to that of thick cake batter. If your mixture is runny, add more grout powder. If your mixture is crumbly, add additional water. A little water goes a long way when it comes to mixing grout, so add water in small doses until you get it right.
Use your margin trowel to place a dollop of grout onto the tile surface. Then use your grout float to smear the grout over the surface and work it down into the joints between the tiles. Don't worry about getting grout on the tile surface. Later you will go back and clean it up with your sponge.
If you are working on a vertical surface, use the margin trowel to place a dollop of grout directly onto your grout float, then smear the grout over the tile surface. In tricky spots, like intersections between two walls, or under a lip, you can use your fingertips to work the grout into the joints. Make sure and wear your gloves for this---grout can really chew up your fingertips.
Fill your second plastic bucket with clean water. Use your sponge and the water to go over the tile surface and remove any residual grout from the face of the tile, washing out the sponge in the bucket of water as you go. This sponging process will not lift the grout from the tile joints, and it will help to smooth out inconsistencies.
Generally, you will have to sponge the tile surface at least twice in order to pick up all the excess grout. After sponging twice, let the water dry and then you will be able to see if the tile is clean. You can continue going over the tile surface and removing residual grout dust even several hours after the grout has been applied.
Once you have the grout all cleaned up, you're done.
- The cleaner you can get the tile surface prior to cleaning with the sponge, the better. Use the grout float flipped up at a 45-degree angle to the tile to scrape excess grout from the tile surface. This process is similar to that of using a squeegee to clean water from a pane of glass. If you squeegee over the joint surfaces at an angle, you will not lift the grout.
- You can seal your grout if you desire. Grout sealer provides a moisture barrier that will help keep mold away and make your grout joints easier to clean.
- There are a variety of different grouts on the market including several "through-body" grouts. These grouts hold their color and consistency much better than traditional grouts. The through-body products are generally more expensive than their traditional counterparts.
- If you are grouting a particularly large area, you may want to break it into sections. Otherwise, the grout will dry excessively prior to clean-up and make your task that much more difficult. This is especially true when working with natural stone and slate products.
- There are products you can add to water during cleanup that will help to remove the grout haze that may develop.
- Wear rubber gloves when working with grout. Tile grout is a cement-based product, and it can really dry out your skin!
Robert Howard has been writing professionally since 2004 and writes a weekly column for the "Synthesis," a Chico, Calif.-based newspaper. He maintains a blog and has published articles and works of fiction in a variety of different print and online magazines. Howard holds a Bachelor of Arts in visual arts from the University of California, San Diego.