I’ve been posting a lot about the bathroom lately.
I wrote three posts in all, covering toilet and sink, bath and radiator, and ceiling. Alongside these posts has been the unavoidable acknowledgement that it’s time to re-do the grouting around the bath. I’ve been putting it off for several months – “I can’t get the parts!” “It’s too nice and sunny outside to be stuck in the bathroom!” – but now Autumn’s here, it’s time to bite the bullet. That stain in the silicone is not going away by itself, and nasty chemicals no longer see off the yellowing in the grout. Time to get the tools out.
This is a job that is easy to underestimate. I know because that’s exactly what I did. “It’ll just take the weekend. One day to chisel all the old stuff out, another to put in the new grout, then let it dry overnight”. Well, that was wrong for a start. The grout takes 24 hours to set, as does the silicone sealant, and you can’t do both at the same time. Oh well.
So anyway. Step one is to take all the bits and pieces away. The fittings are largely fine; the shower hose is caked with limescale, but there’s nothing there that a good soak in bicarbonate of soda won’t straighten out (Ok, and a bit of picking with a knife at the stubborn bits.) They can all go to one side while I start to scrape out the old grout.
It’s hard work, and makes my fingers ache. This is mostly due to the tool I bought to do the scraping. It’s a specially shaped thing designed to be dragged down the line of grout, and lift out old stuff away from the tiles. Problem is, the handle is knobbly plastic, and you have to push a lot harder than it suggests to actually cut into the old grout. This hurts…
I persevere though, and occasionally bring in an old, sacrificial screwdriver and blunt knife to pick and scrape at stubborn bits. I soon have a heap of dust in the bath, and channels in which I can spread new grout.
I dig down to about 3-4mm deep between each tile, on the presumption that the new grout can bind to the old, and be thick enough to create a decent crust. The tiles are about 5mm thick, and in places it looks as if the original grout had only gone a part of the way down the gap in the first place. That old grout had lasted 16 years, so I’m happy the new stuff should last ok.
Two days of grout grubbing, and several rounds of tile scrubbing, and I’m about ready to start putting the new stuff on. It’s messy, but actually quite fun to play with. You smear it on, then gradually work over the gaps until they’re full, then scrub off the stuff that smeared across the tiles and use that on the next gap. Quite tricky on the feature tiles, as they have a bumpy texture. I will need to work on these carefully to clean them up.
Anyway, once a block of tiles had been done, I took the corner of the tool and ran it down the gaps. This scraped off the excess and left neat shallow channels between the tiles. I could then take a sponge and wipe off the excess grout from the tiles, bringing them to a reasonable polish. If you use the sponge at a diagonal to the tile it will glide over the top of this channel, missing the grout rather than digging it out and undoing all the work. This is easy to manage, except for the feature tiles which are already at a diagonal to the main tiles! Still, I got them clean in the end, and the tiles are once again shiny enough to see a reflection.
24 hours later, it’s silicone time. This is something I pride myself on. I can make a good seam. The secret that everyone already knows of course is: fill up the bath full to the brim before you begin…
Silicone sealant is very flexible and will stretch and compress as the bath moves, but it will pull off and de-bond if it is stretched too much. When you get in the bath you cause it to sink a little compared to the tiles. This will stretch the sealant. So, the secret is to deal with the stretch up front, and it will be much less likely to fail. Filling the bath adds weight, which mimics effect of you getting in. If you apply the sealant with a full bath, let it cure, then let the water out, the cured sealant will be squashed slightly. This is fine – the sealant can easily cope with being squashed and won’t de-bond. Thereafter, when you get into the bath, rather than stretching the sealant, you will just be removing the pressure that is squashing it, letting it get back to how it was when it was applied.
So why not just be in the bath when applying the sealant? Well, because it takes 24 hours to set!
While the sealant is curing, I can re-fit the various shower bits and pieces.
They’re looking quite shiny once again. Very pleasing.
So, end to end, the job took about 5 days. It felt like much longer, mostly because we couldn’t have showers in that time and had to make do with baths. Baths are ok when you need a soak and a de-stress, but they’re not so good when you’re in a hurry and have to wash your hair.
Anyway, here’s a set of pictures that show the process close up, start to finish.
Now to keep it clean and help it last another 16 years.