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Tile Grout Removal & Tools

Tile Grout Removal

OK, it's time to get to work. Hey, no coffee! It might make you jittery. We have four options available to us to remove the old grout. Two require hand tools, while the other two require the use of power tools. I'll describe each method and you be the judge.

Hammer and Chisel (Really an Old Screwdriver)

Option one works. I've used it for many years. It takes time, but it is effective. You simply chisel out the old grout. You must use a thin chisel, such as an old flathead screwdriver. The trick is to tap lightly and to hold the screwdriver at a 45 degree angle to the grout. If you pound straight ahead, you will chip tiles.

The other important step in this process is to chip "away from" grout that is in place. I know that you can not do this initially when you first start to chisel. However, once you have a half inch or so removed, you need to chisel towards the place you just removed grout from. This technique puts less stress on the tile than if you were to chisel towards existing in-place grout. You will never get all of the grout from between the tiles. You are simply trying to expose the sides of the tile or the unglazed portion. If you try to chisel too deeply you will chip the tile. NEVER drive the chisel down in between two tiles! This will crack tiles. Occasionally, you will have to gently scrape little bits of grout from the edges of tile. Take your time.

The Scraper / Digger Raptor Claw!

If you visit a ceramic tile store, you should find a hand tool that some people use to remove grout. It is simply a single piece of curved steel to which a singular thin carbide tooth is attached. You drag this tooth across the grout and sort of plow out the grout. It is tough to do and you run the risk of scraping a tile if not extremely careful. I have never liked using this tool to remove grout. It is, however, a very effective tool for scoring and cutting cement backer board for tile. Be careful if you choose this method!

Power Grinder - Dremel Tool

If you own or can borrow a Dremel®, this may be your best bet. These tools are variable speed hand held grinders. You can purchase up to 72 different tips to do just about any job. They have an attachment designed for grout removal. Once attached to the rotary tool, it keeps the tool at the proper angle and the cutting bit centered between the tiles. If you don't like the sound of a dentist's drill, this may not be for you!

RotoZip® - Another Power Option

Drywall hangers use a neat tool to cut out drywall around electric boxes and any other opening. These are basically a mutation of the Dremel Tool. The RotoZip uses special drill bits that are shaped so the side of the bit cuts. The RotoZip and Porter Cable companies make bits that fit this tool which will cut ceramic tile. If this bit cuts tile, it will easily handle grout. The RotoZip tool, in my opinion is much harder to control for grout removal than the Dremel Tool. However, it beats chiseling the grout by hand. Be careful and just go slow till you get the hang of it. There is a grout removal attachment for the RotoZip tools.

No matter which way you go, be sure to lay an old blanket or drop cloth in the tub/shower area. Grout chips, if stepped on, will easily scratch a tub or shower surface. Periodically, remove the blanket and vacuum or brush the chips from the tub area. The time will be well spent.

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