Bennetts & Company

Mapei Grout Refresh and Some Lessons Learned about Grout

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I’m a little hesitant to even write this post, because the “before” is straight up awful.

If you’re a home blogger, I’m sure you’ll get what I’m about to say. If not, I’m going to give you a little homework to help you understand.

I did NOT realize how bad my grout looked until I took a before photo and compared it to the after photo. It is amazing how we can just get used to seeing something every day, and then seeing a photograph or seeing an “after” shot can make you realize it. I’m going to post the photo, but dang guys, please don’t judge me. Just for fun – do me a favor and go take a picture of your bathroom right now. Walk away for a day or two, then upload that picture onto an actual computer and look at it. Then come back and tell me it’s okay, you’re not judging me anymore for my nasty “before” grout.

Anyway – here it is.

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You might be thinking. Hmmm, odd choice of grout color for that tile.  Unfortunately, this was not our grout choice. This is either bad grout, or bad tile installers and I’m not sure which. What it isn’t? Lack of cleaning. I have scrubbed this grout until I thought my arms were going to fall off using every method under the sun.

 

I just posted about our half bath renovation that we completed five years ago. I didn’t take a picture of the original grout color, but if you look closely in the very  top left corner of the picture, you can see what it used to look like. I don’t know who said this, but I need to hear it right now:

There will be no grout in heaven.

 

When we hired out the tile installation for this bathroom, we were new to home ownership and new to renovation so we did what we thought was super smart and purchased a paid membership to Angie’s list. We’ve since cancelled that membership and I can’t say that I would necessarily recommend it, although we didn’t have any nightmare stories. We simply didn’t get a lot of use out of it.

We found some people that could come right out and do the work. We saved money by pulling out the old fixtures and purchasing the tile and grout ourselves. They did a great job and were super fast. No complaints from us on those points. There were, however, some red flags that happened the day they came out to do the work that in retrospect, I should have paid more attention to.

 

We had done lots of googling and reading articles and were under the impression that the tilers would come out one day and install the tile, then they would have to come back out to our house a day or two after installing the tile to seal the grout. Most articles I read said this was a thing, especially in a bathroom where there’s lots of chance for water to get on the grout and generally a lot of moisture.

 

Here’s where the flags started to go up.

As they were finishing up installation, we asked when they would be back to seal it and, they said that wasn’t a necessary step because we bought “pre-sealed” grout. We had never heard of pre-sealed grout and to this day, I don’t know if that’s real or if it’s what we had. They said you didn’t seal this kind. It was just automatically protected when it dried and we’d be all set to go. Can I say for sure that the vendor did something wrong here? Nope. I can’t. But it seems odd to me that this “pre-sealed” grout turned from a pretty light gray to poo brown in less than a year. It also seems unlikely to me that we would have gotten extra features in our “give us the cheapest grout you’ve got” material.

We noticed the next red flag as soon as they left. 

We went to grab the bag of grout to google the name and see what all this “pre-sealed” stuff meant. THey had taken it with them. Not only had they taken the rest of the grout, which was probably worth all of $5, but they had taken an entire box of tile that we had left. We had decided to buy more than we needed (and even more than the recommended 10% extra because the margin for error was so small on a 25 sq. ft. bathroom. We figured if there was a lot left, we’d return it or sell it. Nope, they took it all with them. We called them to ask and they said there hadn’t been any left, but when we were outside chatting with them about the pre-sealed magic grout, we saw an unopened box sitting on the floor of our garage next to their tile saw. Honestly, maybe this is common practice in the tile world and I just don’t know that, but it seemed unusual to me.

Now – because these guys did such a good, inexpensive, and fast job otherwise, and I know absolutely zilch about tile and grout, I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt. If this grout we purchased (just powder in a bag) was “pre-sealed”, it’s a crappy product. Within months, the grout started to darken and show wear right in front of the toilet and sink. I panicked and got rugs, I obsessively hand cleaned the tiles with cleaning spray and a rag instead of just swiffering my floor to avoid letting moisture get on the grout lines. It was no use. The grout was gross and there was no saving it.

 

Over the years I’ve tried everything you can think of to save this tile. Elbow grease, with every cleaning implement I could find, all the way to a steel brush to try to scrape off the gross part of the grout. Nothing worked.

I’d read a couple of different blog posts about giving your grout a face-lift.
and

These articles were my starting point and I worked from there. I ended up deciding to go with this product: https://amzn.to/2FOcqqF

 

I chose the Mapei product because the process to use it seemed to be a bit more forgiving on things like dry times and how to get it off your tiles if you accidentally color outside the lines. You just kind of paint it on and you don’t have to be obsessive about not getting it on the tile because it wipes or scrapes off more easily. I used a craft paint brush because a tooth brush seemed too big to cover my grout seams.

 

Here’s a close-up picture of my grossest-of-the-gross grout. This is normally covered up with a rug that looks odd in here but it seriously HURTS MY EYES to look at this crap.

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I started and finished this project in one day and my only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner.

 

I cleaned my floors and put up a dog gate in front of the hallway to keep the homeowners (my dogs) out while I worked. I wasn’t sure how long this was all going to take so made sure to give myself several hours for the initial application. These are 12″ x 24″ tiles in a 5′ x 5′ bathroom. It took about 20 minutes to do the first pass with the Grout Refresh. On the first pass, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. I just squirted it along the seam, then took my paintbrush and went back and carefully spread it to where it covered the old grout, and tried really hard not to get it on the tile.

The questions I asked myself while doing this:

How much is too much? Or am I not using enough? 
If it accidentally dries on the tile, will it be there forever?
If its a little globby (like thicker in one spot than another) will it look weird?
Here’s what my first coat looked like right after I finished. Already such a big difference!
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Let me tell you – it ended up being FINE. I was so worried about applying it perfectly and turns out, it really is just super easy and does not have to be done perfectly. But I didn’t know that yet. I finished my first coat and set a timer on my phone to come back after 20 minutes and buff the tiles with a microfiber cloth to get any extra off.

 

I came back after 20 minutes with my Microfiber cloth to clean up but I found that it was still too wet and as I was trying to  wipe up these teeny tiny little spots of Grout Refresh that had gotten on the tiles, I was actually smearing it even more.

 

I changed tactics and let it try for another hour or so, then came back again with the microfiber cloth. This worked but I found that sometimes it would kind of start to peel the refresh up off the grout. Perhaps if I had let it dry a little longer, this method would have worked better.

 

Here you can see some of the little spots where the microfiber cloth grabbed and pulled up some of the refresh that was actually on the grout.

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I took a chance here and let it dry a little more. I came back with my box cutter and just kind of scraped it along the edges of the tile and cut it so that it didn’t pull up any of the Grout Refresh that was supposed to stay like the Microfiber cloth had.
I did find that in my overly cautious application, I had gone too thin in some spots.
I grabbed my little paintbrush and the grout refresh and went back over these spots carefully, then followed the same process of letting it dry for a few hours, then “trimming” the edges with a box cutter.
Voila: the end result.
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HOLY COW ITS SO GREAT I LOVE IT WHY DID I WAIT SO LONG TO TRY THIS!?

 

If you only count the actual time I spent working on on this, so don’t count drying time between layers, this probably took less than two hours. I’m sure it would take a lot longer if I had smaller tiles or smaller grout seams that required more precision. I used maybe a tenth of the bottle and I don’t have enough tile in my entire house to use the rest so I’m going to ask my neighbors and see if anyone wants it. I have no idea how well it will keep but assume that since it’s open and its a liquid, it will dry up eventually.

 

I’ve added this to the list of things to do to my upstairs bathroom to give it a little refresh. I’ll post photos of that too!

 

Just one more time for good measure though….

 

Before:
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And After:
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