Grout Re-Coloring

• Re-Coloring Grout Joints (Floor Tiles)

- John P. Bridge

Invariably, there are people who do not heed my advice about choosing a grout color resembling dirt when they have their floors tiled. Floor grout gets dirty, I don’t care how you try to maintain it.

Then there are those who through no fault of their own end up with a tiled floor whose grout joints are either intolerably dirty or the existing grout color is not to their liking. The grout may have started out white, for instance, but now it approximates the “dirt” color.

In the past there was only one remedy for this sort of situation, and that was to remove the existing grout and re-grout the floor. This might still be an option if the floor area is very small, say, under 10 square feet, but there is another way to change the grout color without removing anything. Trying to remove grout is always a mess under the best of conditions.

To avoid the mess, you can paint the surface of the grout with a grout “colorant.” Colorants are made to match just about any stock grout color available. You can make your grout lighter, or you can make it darker. You can touch up areas to match surrounding areas. Grout colorants are available at full-service tile supplies and at some home centers. And they are made by a number of manufacturers.

There is a catch to all of this, of course. The job is tedious. Using grout colorant, you must completely cover the grout but not the tiles. If you don’t have a steady hand, you will be constantly wiping the product off the edges of the tiles. There are felt or foam tipped applicators which might make the job simpler, although I’ve never tried them. As a matter of fact, I’ve never used grout colorant at all. I consider it a do-it-yourself process.

Most people use a small brush, approximately the width of the joints or a little narrower. Keep a rag handy, so you can wipe the colorant off the edges of tiles as you go along.

An important step is making sure the grout is clean before you start. Grease and other deposits will preclude the colorant from adhering. Also, you must make sure the grout is completely dry.

If you have cracked or damaged grout, repair it and allow the repair to cure a few days before you begin the coloring process.

Divide large floors into segments, instead of trying to complete them at one “sitting.” Attempting to perform too much work at one time will result in what is known in the trade as the “it’s good enough attitude.” Seldom is work completed in this frame of mind “good enough.” I have through the years become so aware of the tendency that I hardly ever work a full day anymore. The shift ends when I feel the “attitude” coming on. I think it’s coming on right now, as a matter of fact.

Look into AquaMix grout colorants at the Custom Building Products site.

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