Can this grout be restored?

DreamingoftheUPMarch 2, 2014

It was suggested in my original post (link below) to create a new thread about the grout in my bathroom. I would like to keep the tile in my 1950's bathroom. The combo tub/shower leaks at the back wall and is currently not being used for showers. The grout and caulking around the bottom have cracked and separated. Also, when I tap on these lower tiles, it doesn't sound solid as the tiles higher up. Maybe they are coming loose?

The mosaic tile floor is in sound condition however the grout lines are dirty in many spots.

My question is - do you think these two problems can be solved by a tile cleaning/grout restore company? Has anyone had success with these companies? I'm in the Chicago area and there are independents and franchises (Grout Doctor, Sir Grout, etc.). Also, if there is a way to fix these problems, any suggested materials/methods I should look for when I call companies in for estimates?

I'll post pictures below.

Here is a link that might be useful: 1950's bathroom restore

This post was edited by DreamingoftheUP on Sun, Mar 2, 14 at 21:50

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Caulk separating from tub. Looks like the tub has settled over the decades!

    Bookmark   March 2, 2014 at 9:45PM
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Cracked grout.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2014 at 9:46PM
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Cracked grout on the other side, under the spout.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2014 at 9:47PM
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Stained floor grout.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2014 at 9:48PM
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Stained floor grout.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2014 at 9:49PM
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COOL tile! Wish we could find some of that green mosaic for one of our bathrooms.

Honestly if it was me I'd try scrubbing with a water/bleach solution to see if it helps any. If that didn't work well enough I'd look into regrouting. If you're lucky enough of it on the floor would have worn away for new grout to be able to grip to. For the shower I'd get out the grout saw and redo that, then caulk the corners.

Afterwords I'd seal both. Just so you know though, grout isn't waterproof and that's where sealing will help out to a degree.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2014 at 12:12PM
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Those cracks around the tub appear as if the tub was not properly set and supported, which is a problem. Now, there is a remote possibility the tub has settles as far as it is going to, BUT I wouldn't count on it. It is more likely that it flexes and moves a bit every time you step in and out of it and you would soon see damage in any repair if you don't address the tub. Additionally, if tiles sound hollow when you tap them, that indicates they are not firmly and completely set in thinset - need to come out and get re-installed or replaced correctly.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2014 at 12:30PM
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I have had good luck cleaning grout with Corax Clean Up with bleach. Just spray the tile and grout and let it it for a few minutes. If need be, scrub the grout lines with a stiff brush. Then wipe it up with a damp sponge. Just did this at my sons house last weekend and he couldn't believe how great his floor looked.
Clorax Clean Up can be usually found in big box stores, grocery stores, hardware stores and even drugstores like Walgreen. The bottle may be blue or green.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2014 at 9:47AM
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Thanks for all the recommendations. Since I was going to have some tile replaced (three have chips, replace the two handle tub faucet with a stacked thermostatic/volume control and open up the junction box to put in duplex switches to replace the despard switches) and some of the loose tile needs to be reset, I was thinking about bringing in the pro tile grout cleaners/restorers since they will do all that in addition to cleaning and regrouting where needed. I actually have a box full of this tile in the attic. Been sitting there for 50 years. :) Besides the dirty and spotty grout, the floor appears to have been waxed before. The main traffic areas are worn off but in the corners and against the wall, there appears to be a wax build up.

The claims online almost seem too good to be true. That's why I was wondering if anyone was satisfied with such a service. Guess, too, it depends on what it will cost. See the example below.

The Chlorox stuff would be good for ongoing cleaning to prevent a repeat.

Here is a link that might be useful: Amazing grout cleaning

    Bookmark   March 4, 2014 at 10:11PM
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I don't think that trying to clean and repair that grout is your problem . You stated that the bottom tiles sound hollow. I think that water has gotten in, probably through the holes in the grout , and over time has compromised your wall. If it's been 50 years, there's probably only drywall behind that tile. Drywall is not waterproof.
You can check it out by removing some of those hollow sounding tiles. My guess is that there's black mold behind them and the drywall is "mushy".

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 1:22AM
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My guess is that there is no drywall back there and that the tile is installed with mud backed with metal lathe. Regardless though, it does sound like some of it has separated and that (lower?) portion could be redone with spare tile they already have, and at the same time a waterproofing membrane like Kerdi could be added.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 7:09AM
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The house has plaster. But good point - maybe would be better to remove a few courses from the bottom and rebuild. I'm going to have to think this through. I have a good tile guy I've used before who also does regrouting. Might be a better route than a 'grout restore' company.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 7:21AM
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"It's leaking."

This is the thing that concerns me. If water has indeed been getting into the framing bays, then it might be worth it to do a bit of demo and repair.

If you are simply interested in bit of a superficial make-over, then:

For the floor grout, I'd look at a grout colorant. Aquamix Grout Colorant is a product I recommend. It's an epoxy colorant so it'll be pretty much bulletproof against future dirt and stains. You do need to clean the existing grout well. They have a recommended grout cleaner. It can be tedious to install, so read through the instructions and see if it's the right product for you.

If not, there are similar products.

Obviously for the pulled away caulk, it's best to remove and replace the caulk. Caulk sometimes pulls away from a surface because too large a bead of caulk was put in the joint. With a large thick bead, as the caulk cures, it shrinks, and that curing shrinkage can result in the gaps similar to what you have. The beefier the bead of caulk, the more shrinkage you get.

If you have a deep joint that you need to fill with caulk, look at using a foam backer rod to fill the deepest part of the joint. That'll prevent you from overfilling the joint and possible ending up with excessive shrinkage. Backer rod is not always needed. It's just something for you to be aware of in case it applies to your situation.

If backer rod comes in different diameters, if one doesn't fit your situation, you can apply two beads of caulk. One deep in the joint that doesn't fill the joint completely, Let it cure. Then another over the top of it to properly fill the joint.

For the cracks in your wall grout, they may be shrinkage cracks. Or they may be structural cracks. If you're looking for a superficial fix, take a utility knife and cut into the cracks to remove any loose or flaky grout. Then mix up some unsanded grout and fill all the joints.

After the new grout has cured, you can apply Aquamix Grout Colorant over the wall grout. It'll make it all pretty and new.

Just a few ideas.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 1:44PM
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Yeah, didn't put my brain in gear even though knew the bath was over 50 years old. Of course it isn't drywall. They didn't use it then, they used plaster and lath. But, still think the same problem.
I saw a home improvement show not long ago that had a hollow sound behind the tiles. The walls were plaster and lath. It was a tub only, no shower, so was only tiled 5 or 6 rows up. There wasn't enough caulking right in the corners. When they removed the bottom row of tiles the back of all the tiles were black with mold and the lath was rotten . I don't have smell-a-vision, but I can imagine, b/c one of the men was gagging.

I'm not saying yours is to that extreme, but I'd consider the possibility, with the water leaking, broken caulking and grout, and the hollow sound behind the tiles.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 9:35PM
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Just my opinion but plaster and lathe use transitioning to drywall seems to be a regional thing. In the parts of the US I've lived in it generally seems to have happened sometime in the 1940s but I've been told there are other locations where code didn't change to allow drywall until the 1980s or later. FWIW our 1959 house has mostly original drywall and a 1938 one I looked at had plaster and lathe. I totally agree on water intrusion through cracks and unsealed grout causing the hollow sound beneath the tiles. You're spot on with that.

I have some old tiles with the backing still on that were once installed like the OP's are if a picture would help any. It's not a guarantee but all the 1950s bathroom tile I've dealt with was installed with wire lathe at the back, tile mortar up to 1" thick, then the tile. The newer stuff ('80s/'90s) has generally been drywall -> greenboard / second sheet of drywall -> thinset and tile and much easier to tear out.

The home shows are funny though - we've replaced severely rotten joists and subfloor with decades or dry rot underneath our house and nothing smelled really bad. Just sort of a basement or earthy scent like working with potting soil. Death is a whole other story and thankfully we haven't had to deal with that one.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2014 at 9:33AM
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schicksal, there's a difference between dry rot and mold.
Dry rot does have an earthy scent, but doesn't necessarily have mold. Moisture is what causes mold and the mold is what smells really bad. The more mold, the more smell, and this house I mentioned had a lot.

I truly hope that the tile problem you have is just minor and that regrouting and caulking fixes everything.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2014 at 10:03AM
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Thanks for all the replies. I've started to scope out a couple of tile companies to come in for an assessment and estimates.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2014 at 8:57PM
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Wow, we have the exact same tile in a house that I am buying! Just got an estimate for acid washing & regrouting at $800 for a bathroom. Unfortunately, the walls and shower are a funky aqua which has a number of cracks (your color is much nicer with that tile - our tile - in my opinion).

Any updates? I may try to clean it up myself and save the $800. Thinking about tiling over the existing walls/shower with white subway tiles to deal with the cracked tile issues.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2014 at 6:14PM
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No update yet. I've got two grout restore companies in mind, but haven't called them in yet for quotes. I want to have the rough in done for the plumbing and the electrical work done. That will require removal of some tile and the grout company would have to replace it, so I want them to see all the work needed. Also, while the plumber is here, he'll remove the old toilet so the floor tile can be cleaned better around it. The electrician and plumber both said they'd get back to me with the numbers; will have to call on Monday to move it along. The vanity was measured by the refacing company. The new doors should be ready to redo the vanity in about 3 weeks, so the clock is ticking.

The wallpaper is down and am in the process of prepping the walls for painting. Hope to have the painting done next weekend. The curtains are down, of course. I already like the room much better. It's much brighter and the window looks great. First thought I'd go with a valance, but am going to skip it, for now at least. That beautiful window was hidden under the curtains all these years and I want to eyeball it now. :)

I've already got the new light fixtures, the knobs for the vanity doors & drawers, the grab bars and the new curved shower rod - all stashed in the spare bedroom.

This post was edited by DreamingoftheUP on Sat, Apr 5, 14 at 22:43

    Bookmark   April 5, 2014 at 10:40PM
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