Good grout removal tool

LybanJanuary 3, 2010

Could someone please tell me what is the best grout removal tool.

We have a huge job to do, kitchen hallway, bathroom, laundry room and another hallway all done 21 years ago in the same tile.

The tile is in good condition but the grout has been slowly crumbling and cracking over the years. We would like to tackle this a bit at a time and remove the grout and add new grout.

Before starting I was wondering what kind of Grout removal tool to buy.

I see the hand tools at about 7.00 but am thinking that this might not be enough for this job.

Any opinions?

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Ummmmmm....... do you want the good news or the bad news first?

The good news is that Dremel has an attachment for removing grout that works pretty well, depending on the size of the grout joint.

The bad news is if your grout joints are cracking and crumbling, that's just a sympton of the problem, not the problem itself. I have a feeling that if it's progressed as far as you describe, you may find yourself picking up most of your floor tile with your hands as you remove the grout. Most likely, the only things holding the itle in place for quite a while have been grout and gravity.

The problem could be one of several, from going directly over plywood with the wrong thinset (which was done quite often 20 years ago... actually still is), to structural issues that need to be resolved. I'd know more once you get into it and describe to me exactly what's happening.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2010 at 2:19PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

A good grout removal tool will be the grout grabber but as bill say i don't think this is what you need in your case

Here is a link that might be useful: Grout Grabber

    Bookmark   January 4, 2010 at 4:08PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I wouldn't recommend the "regular" Dremel "drill-like" version of the tool for grout removal at all (even with the special "grout removal attachment"). There are two tools that do a great job:

1. Either a plain utility knife or any one of the grout removal hand tools available (Google "grout removal tool" and you'll find a bunch).
2. Fein MultiMaster oscillating tool $399 for the kit which includes the grout removal blade (now available at Sears' website--don't know about in-store availability).

You could also opt for one of the competing oscillating tools with a masonry blade: either Rockwell or Dremel (the oscillating version, not the "drill-like" version of the Dremel). Of the three, Dremel is the worst, Rockwell, second-best, and Fein (the most expensive), of course, the best. Both Bosch and Craftsman make battery-powered versions for only about $100, but, from what I've read, the batteries don't last long enough for this kind of work. Maybe they're fine for small jobs--I don't know. I own the Fein.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 12:55AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Well, I Googled "grout removal tools" myself, and landed at a site for a tool called the "Grout Getter." I ordered the set of three for $18.65. Seems like a darned good product at a reasonable price! This place also sells grout manufacturer-matched silicone. I ordered eight tubes for my Hydroment-brand "Blue Heron" sanded grout (which actually dries a dark gray, and matches our gray tile nicely). Neat place! Had everything I needed but didn't know where to get!

    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 11:44PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Well, I had to check this one out too. Certainly looks like it does the job. Unfortunately, they don't tell you how much the "Grout Grabber" tool sells for! You have to e-mail them for a quote! Also, they say it only works on joints 1/8" or larger. Looks like a blade attachment that you put on a standard reciprocating saw. Not sure. Website not too explanatory.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 11:58PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

As promised, the Grout Getter delivered via Priority USPS. I got it in two days. Unfortunately, they sent my Hydroment-matched, colored silicone "separately," which I assume, means, "slower." Disappointing, since I really wanted to de-grout and re-silicone the tub surround perimeter this weekend and have a usable shower. Oh well, on to the good news . . .

The Grout Getter is AWESOME! It works great! It's actually a fairly nicely designed tool. The blades are replaceable and are held in place by a meaty allen screw (wrench included) that goes straight through the blade. The blades are thick so there's absolutely no "wiggle." You also have a great amount of leverage because the blade is perpendicular to the rubber-cushioned handle. I'm using the diamond-shaped carbide blade for my floor joints that are Source:

    Bookmark   January 7, 2010 at 11:19PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Happily, the Hydroment-matched colored silicone from Grout Getter came on Friday, before the weekend. Oddly, the tool itself shipped via USPS Priority, while the silicone shipped via FedEx. Anyway, I'm happy that I now have the entire weekend to work, and possibly complete, the project.

Anyway, on to the Fein . . . So I dragged out my expensive, German-made oscillating tool (yeah, that one on TV) and used the round, segmented carbide blade designed for grout removal (included with the $399 kit). It's gold in color with little flecks of metal around the edges. It's segmented, meaning, that there's a partial "slice" cut out of the circular blade so that you can get flush into corners. I just sent my GF to the store to go out and buy the thinner carbide blade as well, although the standard carbide blade is thin enough to do probably 95% of your grout-removal chores (if you have nothing significantly less than 1/8" joints, you'll never need it). I'm doing the tub surround and there's some fairly tight clearances, so I thought I just better get everything.

I first taped the acrylic tub to protect it, and spent about 20 minutes using the Fein around the grout joint between the tub and the surround tile work. Works like a dream. The Fein is easily the best type of tool for the job. Don't get me wrong, the hand tool from Grout Getter is nearly as easy and just as effective. However, for this particular application, the thin profile of the Fein's cutting tool allowed me to remove the grout without damaging the acrylic tub's surface. Both tools are great, and I'm sure most would be satisfied with just the hand tool alone. But, the Fein has many other unique cutting uses, so I thought it was a good investment regardless. Plus, we have a LOT of de-grouting to do, basically the whole house.

If the Fein is too steep, the Rockwell would do the job (sold at some Home Depots), and is much more affordable (about $150 for the small kit), but I think you need a tool to change the blades--the Fein just has a lever-clamping device--much easier. If you do choose the Fein, be warned--the blades are EXPENSIVE! It's a pricey tool, but a high-quality tool that's clearly best-in-class. For other chores around the house, if you need precision plunge cuts in a variety of materials, the Fein can't be beat. If you go to their site, you can locate a local dealer by zip code. They aren't sold at Home Depot-type stores, they're typically sold at specialty tool and woodworking suppliers. Of course, they're also available online from a number of e-tailers. The price is pretty much the same no matter where you buy it.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2010 at 5:01PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

All this "grout grabber" fluff looks suspiciously like a commercial endorsement. I second Bill's recommendation of the Dremmel grout saw. The small "blade" fits between 1/16th grout joints and there is also a larger one.

And I can affirm that I received no compensation from the Dremmel Corporation. Hey, I'm still peeved about the failure of my cordless Dremmel after only a year of use.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2010 at 7:45PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hey, I'm just trying to share information here. My tiler bought a Dremel (drill-like version, not the oscillating version) with the special Dremel grout attachment. I saw him try it out. In my opinion, it simply didn't seem to be the best tool for the job. He tried it--didn't like it, and returned it. He and his crew then proceeded to de-grout the floor using utility knives (with which he later cut a nasty 3/4" slice into his finger). The $8.00 tool I bought online works way better than a utility knife, and it's much safer. My GF is de-grouting the shower surround tile as I write this--she's almost half-done! As I said, the hand tool is so effective, it's almost easier than using the $399 power tool I bought. Plus, I don't have to worry about her fingers getting cut. I have no affiliation with any home remodeling company or tool manufacturing company (I work in entertainment for a major television network).

I'm a homeowner just trying to figure this stuff out. I found the hand tool online, ordered it, and tried it out. I posted an end-user report, which I thought would be useful to others. My posts were specific and detailed so that the information would be clear, and hopefully helpful to some. If you're happy with the Dremel, great! I have a similar kind of tool, a Rotozip. I have the full "kit." It's good for some things, but it's probably one of the least-used power tools in my inventory.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2010 at 11:51PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

"The problem could be one of several, from going directly over plywood with the wrong thinset (which was done quite often 20 years ago... actually still is)"

Funny you should mention that, Bill...I recently decided to replace a few cracked tiles in my kitchen. Actually, I hate the tile but can't afford to do the whole thing right now and the previous owners had some leftover tiles in the garage. And there was also one small area where the grout had mysteriously worn away.

I discovered that this tile was laid directly on plywood! So I might end up with the same problem again but it's just a short term fix for me until I can re-do the whole thing. What thinset should they have used? Now I can't remember which one I used, except that it was probably Laticrete since I got it at Lowe's.

It also got me to the heck do I deal with this when it is time to re-tile. Will all the plywood have to be taken up first? With the small amount I had to do, I was able to chip it off and clean it up, but I can't imagine doing a whole floor and would guess that you couldn't put Ditra or Hardibacker right over old thinset? It seems like this plywood goes all the way under the cabinets as well...

    Bookmark   January 10, 2010 at 1:29AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I've got the Dremel Multi-Max and grout cutter accessory and that worked well, though as others have said the blades are pricey! I notice Harbor Freight (Chicago Tools) has a knockoff now for much cheaper - wonder if the accessories are interchangeable?

While effective, the Dremel isn't exactly the most powerful tool, and I suspect it could drive you nuts if you had a whole room of grout to remove. Wouldn't an angle grinder with a diamond blade work as well?

    Bookmark   January 10, 2010 at 1:47AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Slightly off-topic, but related, so I'll ask it here . . .

We finished de-grouting the tub surround's 12" x 12" porcelain tilework last night. However, there remains a thin layer of excess cementatious grout over the top of the tiles. That is, the finish side of some of the tiles have a layer of grout over them, extending about 1/4" beyond the grout line. These are mainly present on the tiles that meet the ceiling. We're basically dealing with a sloppy grout job by the tiler's crew (plus the fact that I subsequently changed my mind on the grout color).

What's the best method to remove this? I was planning to use a scraping blade on an oscillating tool (Fein), since it seems pretty hard to get off. It's almost as thin as paint, but it's black grout over light gray tile, so we absolutely have to completely remove it somehow. Should we use a metal spatula, sandpaper, what? What method/material seems to work best to remove "paint-like thin" layers of overgrouting on porcelain tile? Thanks for any replies!

    Bookmark   January 10, 2010 at 3:31PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo


I'm clearly no tile expert! But, FWIW, when we demo'd our kitchen, I couldn't believe how strongly attached the original-tiled counters were to their plywood substrates. All of the existing tilework on the kitchen counters, including all of the grout work, was all completely intact. Never had a problem with those counters at all, which I assume were installed at least 30-40 years ago.

About the tools: Most people I know who own Harbor Freight tools only buy them if they need it for one specific, short-term job. If you're not happy with the MultiMax, I would guess the Harbor Freight brand may be less than satisfactory as well. HF does operate retail locations, and you could simply call them to find out about blade compatibility. They're generally pretty willing to help over the phone.

I would imagine any "spinning" type tool with a diamond blade would work well. But with a high-torque tool like an angle grinder, and a super-hard diamond blade, I would fear that you might risk damaging the tile. Again, I'm no expert--maybe it works great, I don't know.

I'm sure if I threw a diamond blade onto my Rotozip, that would probably do a pretty good job of removing grout as well. The nice thing about oscillating tools (Dremel MulitMax, Rockwell, Fein), is that they aren't as likely to damage the surrounding surfaces as much as a traditional power tool, due to their unique design.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2010 at 4:01PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Okay, I just sent GF to Target to buy a boatload of Mr. Clean-brand MagicErasers. There's a lot of thinly smeared, excess black grout over the face of the tiles. The grout has been there for about three weeks now. It's VERY thin, so GF suggested MagicErasers. We'll see how this works (remember, these are porcelain tiles, so they're pretty durable, not too porous, and have color all-the-way-through). If anyone has any better suggestions, please post!

    Bookmark   January 10, 2010 at 4:50PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

A light buffing with a MagicEraser totally did the trick for the tile faces! Worked like, uh . . . magic! A metal spatula behind a piece of 400-grit, wet sandpaper worked for the tough corner overgrout areas (our tile is matte-finished porcelain--don't try this with glazed or shiny tile or marble!).

    Bookmark   January 10, 2010 at 8:21PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Non-acid grout haze remover, found in and HD or Lowes tile aisle.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2010 at 8:54PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks, Bill! Was wondering about that, but wasn't sure. Don't mean to get the thread too off-topic, but while I'm at it: We have two products already, but both contain acid: TileLab's Grout Haze Remover (which contains glycolic acid), and Miracle-brand, MiraClean #1, all-purpose cleaner, which doesn't say what it contains, but looks yellow. Is there a specific brand of non-acidic haze remover that you would recommend?

    Bookmark   January 10, 2010 at 10:21PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Any of them will do. Tile lab does have a non-acid clener, and it's labeled as such.

If you can't find that, you said in another thread you're using Hydroment grout. Go to wherever you got the grout and pick up Hydroment's "Remove". Same thing.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2010 at 1:05AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Would recommend the Fein if possible to buy or rent, if they do rent these. I just removed all of my grout from a bathroom and did buy the grout removal attachment for my dremel. These are about $10-11 a piece and 2 of them got me through about 4-5 tiles!!! I would cost me more $ in replacement dremel tools than to buy a new one. Go for the Fein!!!

    Bookmark   January 11, 2010 at 4:46PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks again, Bill!

About the Fein: Yeah, great for grout removal, but I think I would go for their diamond blade instead next time. I went through one whole side of my thin carbide "grout" blade in only about an hour of use. The carbide blade is like $62. The diamond blade is about $100 (yikes!). But, if it lasts at least 40% longer than the carbide blade (which I'm sure it does, and more), it's gonna be worth it.

But, after using both the Grout Getter hand tools and the Fein, the hand tools really do the trick. They're easy to use, don't require much effort, don't rustle up a dust storm, and don't make any noise! The Fein is pretty loud and made a lot of dust when we de-grouted the recently grouted surround. Really can't say enough about that Grout Getter--the three different blades are really useful.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2010 at 5:21PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

4 1/2" grinder with a dry diamond blade and a good heavy duty shopvac with a fine dust filter. I'll "ungrout" 100 feet with a 3/16" grout joint or bigger in about a 1/2 hour, by myself. You better have a steady hand, though, so you don't let the grinder jump out of the joint and scar the tile! (that's why I didn't suggest it up above)

    Bookmark   January 11, 2010 at 8:03PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo


The tile seemed adhered to the plywood pretty well except the row right next to the cabinets and I suspect they didn't get thinset under there as well as they could have..but I also suspect a decoupler like Ditra might have been better in an older house like this where there's been settling. Just guessing, I don't really know! Not to mention that they pushed out the kitchen at some point and the transition to the newer floor isn't level even to the naked eye. Considering all that, I guess it's held up ok.

Yeah, I know the reputation of Harbor Freight tools, but I thought that if the blades were interchangeable it might be worth trying one out on my Multi-Max. You wouldn't think they could screw up a blade too badly. They were signifigantly cheaper, but then I probably won't have a need to cut out grout that often anyway. I'm not really unhappy with the Multi-Max, it did its job well - I just tend to think it would take a long time on a large floor. But then again, the grout lines I had to cut out were extra wide so they did probably take longer than most would.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2010 at 9:39PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

WARNING, please realise that tile grout can contain Asbestos. Have the grout tested by a specialist.

I blasted a tonne of it off with a power tool. Pounded it into powder. I was wearing the best mask you can get, didnâÂÂt help it got everywhere. 24 hours later someone told me grout can contain Asbestos. I checked it out for myself, it most certainly can. DonâÂÂt let anyone tell you it cant.
Lucky for me I had it tested 24 hours later (express post to a lab) and it was fine, no Asbestos. But on my google searching prior to finding out it was fine, I came across all these forums of people blasting it off as I did. IâÂÂm now going to post on all the forums I can giving warning about tile Grout. Its not just the grout, its also some tiles, make sure you do your research instead of turning your home into a danger zone.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 2:29AM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
White tubs not really white?
For our new build, I have chosen Imperial Blanco white...
tile layout help master bath
I am planning to use 18 x18 on the floor and same tile...
Shower glass strong enough to hold towel?
We will be getting semi-frameless glass shower walls....
Help me finish designing bathroom
Need a little help and to ask if you think I'm heading...
recommend sink for combo powder/bath
am planning combo laundry/half bath. side by side washer...
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™