Heritage Restoration, Inc.

Regrout or Coat My Tile?

My house was well built in the 1960s. The grout around the pink ceramic tiles in the shower appears gray and black. It’s time to change the appearance in terms of color and to make cleaning the shower stall easier. A retailer is advertising the new “tile transformation” kit, and Miracle Method also advertises surface restoration. I do not want the shower stall gutted because the tiles themselves are in good condition. What are the best options?

Lee

Lee,

Tiles are most often made from porcelain, fired clay or ceramic with a hard glaze. Although in this general description is a huge array of quality, from the clay to the glaze. I would agree with you desire to keep it in place, since any tile lasting over 50 years is a good tile, especially if the glaze is in good shape. Your second bonus is if the grout is original, then you are getting even more longevity than many modern remodeling.

The question seems to be on what is best to make it look good. Well, the best thing may not be the easiest, although not only will it look better, but perhaps last longer than you want it too. But I will start with the tile transformation kit.

If the tile transformation kit is the same as the instruction sheet I am looking at, wow, run away, fast. This kit is meant for those that hat what they see, and want to paint a finish on top that will at least be a new color, but perhaps be a terrible finish. The idea is that you get your tile squeaky clean, like cleaner than you ever had it. Then remove everything from the walls that can be removed, cover everything you don’t want painted, and be sure you keep the windows open since the smell will knock you out. Then, once you are done, use the thinnest nap, or roller thickness, you can, since you will eventually see every bad brush and roll mark forever. Then, you can coat over the first coat with a “textured stone” look, which looks like speckled paint that hides poor work.

Now you can certainly use it, but when it fails, it will fail miserably, even if you prepped it well and stayed conscious during the application. I have painted horrible plastic tile with straight up latex paint, but that was just to buy time before I gutted it. Although at least it was just a paint smell, not a noxious, put you out kind of smell.

So I suggest the harder, but longer lasting solution: rerouting. The tile and the grout have certainly proven itself over the years to be stable. If grout was falling out, or tiles came off the wall, then it would suggest the install was poor and reusing it would be impractical. The tile you have may be on wire lath, which makes it incredibly stable, and a big, huge pain to remove. So good choice in keeping it.

To regrout, you just have to remove all of it. There is the by hand method, or the power tool method. By hand can be my favorite 5 and 1, razor knife or other hard tool that will fit between the tiles. Just be sure not to go deeper than the tile itself. The power tool method is picking a tool that meets your long-term needs. There are single use tools that do just grout, or multi-purpose tools that remove grout, sand, cut and basically can be a fun, all around “who knew I could do this” kinda tool. IF you are buying a tool that is cheap, keep the receipt in case it dies before the job is done.

Once all, not most but all, of the grout is removed, then you can put in new grout using the manufacturer’s recommended methods. You will be the envy of the neighborhood with the most beautiful retro bathroom.

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