Why Should I Replace My Tile Grout?


The bathroom is one of those parts of the house that we tend to take for granted the most. This is usually because bathrooms are so resilient and reliable that we find ourselves only needing to phone in for shower repairs when something has already gone very wrong. Even then, most people mostly just care about the actual plumbing and fixtures and forget a part of the bathroom that, if left neglected, can cause a lot more damage than leaky plumbing – this part, of course, is the tile grout.

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The bathroom is one of those parts of the house that we tend to take for granted the most. This is usually because bathrooms are so resilient and reliable that we find ourselves only needing to phone in for shower repairs when something has already gone very wrong. Even then, most people mostly just care about the actual plumbing and fixtures and forget a part of the bathroom that, if left neglected, can cause a lot more damage than leaky plumbing – this part, of course, is the tile grout.

Although bathroom tiles are typically resilient enough to last you well past a decade at least, the same can’t be said for the grout that takes up the spaces between these tiles. Tile grout does not last nearly as long as the tiles – often starting to deteriorate in about 2 to 3 years – so what ends up happening is several issues that will make you want to consider regrouting your tiles.

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Why does tile grout wear out?

For you to better understand the kinds of problems that arise from deteriorating tile grout, you should understand what it is made out of. A majority of the tile grout used in homes throughout Australia is what is called cement grout. As its name implies, cement grout is a paste made up of powdered limestone, sand, and an adhesive material that is mixed with water, that is then laid into the tile work. The problem with cement grout is that, like cement, its limestone filler is a porous rock; this will eventually cause the following problems once the grout wears out.

 

Problem #1: Worn-out tile grout gets dirty.

Although bathroom tiles and grout will usually be treated with a sealant that helps make it waterproof, this sealant layer will eventually wear out from friction and corrosion, made faster with the help of bathroom cleaning chemicals and rough brushing and scrubbing. Once this layer has worn away, the surface of the tile grout is left exposed to everything that goes on inside your bathroom, opening its tiny pores to all manner of dirt and grime from bathing and general use. This results in unsightly stains in the grout that will take a lot of scrubbing and use of chemicals to remove once the dirt has already set in. Cleaning, however, is only a temporary solution as scrubbing and brushing will only tear away at the grout more, exposing pores deeper into the grout that will also end up collecting dirt.

 

Problem #2: Worn-out tile grout gets smelly.

Besides the unwanted visual effect, dirty and gunked up grout is also the perfect home for bacteria and microbes that, if left to its own devices, will eventually create a subtle but lingering odour in the bathroom. This becomes especially worse when we factor in urine into the equation; although you can wash it off, some part of it will make its way into the tiny pores of the tile grout and leave that distinct “dirty public bathroom” sort of smell.

 

Problem #3: Worn-out tile grout can cause major damage.

Another side effect of worn out tile grout is something that’s a bit harder to detect until serious damage has already been done. As we’ve already mentioned, rough scrubbing and use of harsh cleaning chemicals will gradually tear through your tile grout over time. What we haven’t said yet is that tile grout does not extend that deeply, and there will come a point where enough of it has been torn away, allowing water to seep in through the gaps and into the structures underneath. This then becomes a source of severe leakage that can cause severe water damage and put your home’s structural integrity at risk.

 

What do I do about it?

Under normal circumstances, you could just have your tile grout replaced with the same cement grout you used last time. This is the option that people most often take since it is quite accessible (you can even buy it yourself from most hardware stores) and doesn’t cost too much to replace. The process is also relatively simple – the repairman comes to the house, grinds out any remaining tile grout, mixes a fresh grout paste, and lays it into the tile work as normal. This is then left to cure for 2 to 3 days, then the repairman comes back to apply a sealer over the tiles and the grout for waterproofing.

Although this option is by no means bad, replacing your tile grout with the same old cement grout still means your tile grout will deteriorate in just a few years, which can get expensive. The long curing process of the cement grout can also be an issue for homeowners who only have one bathroom, as it will be put out of commission for far too long.

 

This has led to the development of a new product called epoxy grout, a new formulation of tile grout that uses a plastic epoxy as both the filler and the adhesive material. This plastic epoxy, which starts as a thick liquid but cures into a tough, hard-wearing plastic, creates an effective, waterproof seal when poured into the spaces between the tiles, effectively serving as a sealer all on its own. And unlike cement grout, epoxy grout takes less than a day to completely cure, so you can continue using your bathroom with complete peace of mind.

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