Advice about Grout

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Cracks in the grout around tub

Jan 2012

Last summer I had an architect/contractor team do a remodel on my house, which included foundation work and a bathroom remodel. We have had to contact them several times since because of problems, such as the new furnace making loud noises and having brown water in the mornings after repiping the house. Now it has been about 6 months, and there are cracks in the grout around the tub and up both corners where the walls meet. Actually, around the tub the grout is also breaking off.

The architect initially said that it is better NOT to use caulk over the grout, because it degrades quickly. But this is the solution his tile guy (subcontractor) has suggested. Is this sort of cracking normal in Berkeley homes? Is caulking the best solution? Better to regrout? Is the cracking a symptom of a larger problem? Like the foundation settling? Or the tub settling? I would appreciate advice, and if anyone has had similar problems, how were they solved? Thank you! Overwhelmed by house remodel

The joint between tub and tile wall is prone to movement due to two different materials and settling-not to mention the weight of water and you in the tub. As such the joint is supposed to be done with flexible silicone caulk so it can move independently. All the rest of the tile should be grouted and should not be cracking. The tile wall should be isolated from the tub by a gap which is then filled with caulk. Make absolutely certain only 100% pure silicone caulk is used. Any substitutes are prone to mold and early failure. Use GE 100% Silicone caulk period. I did one today and it should be good for 15 -20 years or more. Do not apply caulk over grout! Instead ALL the grout should be removed first to create a 1/8'' gap then the joint is caulked. A dremel or die grinder with carbide bit makes easy work of grout removal. That is what should have been done.

Any contractor that didn't do it that way right off should not be used to ''fix it''. The next bad move a bad contractor would make is to show up with latex caulk and try to squirt it over the grout to cover the crack in the grout that they should have never put there. The tile will continue to crack and the cheap caulk will mold and fall off. Now is the time to do it right while it is clean. Think of that joint as an isolation joint where there should be a gap between tub and wall filled with silicone rubber to seal it from water leaking into the wall. The tub should not touch the tile but instead be 1/8'' separate. If it is touching or solid grout was used then the movement will stress all the tile work and create other cracks in the grout above/tile field. An intentional gap is normally left there. The grout work should have also been sealed with grout sealer after grout dried. Sounds like a bad tile job to me. Hope you can fix it soon. Once it gets covered with soap scum it becomes a huge job to fix it right. tile man

It's not clear here whether your tile person sealed the tile and grout after installation - ideally with two or three coats of sealant.. The cause of the cracking could also be that the grout wasn't forced into the space well enough.. I generally use a tile & grout caulk around the tub - it gives the best of both worlds and is generally available in shades to match existing grout. Even though it is silicon-based, I also treat with sealant once it has dried as an extra barrier against moisture penetration.. The tile should have come down over the lip of the tub, but should not rest on the tub surround - this is the gap into which the grout is forced after the tiles have set. I would recommend removal of the cracking grout and replace with tile & grout caulk. Make sure that it was all sealed when installed, and re-seal periodically. Some cleaning products can degrade sealant, so choose with care. Hope that helps.

Grout Repair on Recent Remodel

Oct 2009

Last year we had our bathroom gut-remodeled. Now the grout around the tub is deteriorating and there is dampness in under the tub in the sub-floor. The company that did the tile work is saying now that we shouldn't regrout, but do silicone caulk as there is no lip on the fiberglass tub. According to them since there is no tub lip the grout won't last. I'd like to get a second opinion before we proceed with them. Anyone have a tile contractor whose job has held up well over the years? Or a contractor that did a great repair job? Thanks, Jesse

Dampness under the tub and subfloor? According to them this is caused by no lip on the fiberglass tub? b.s! You are being had here. No tile installation should ever, EVER, rely on caulk to prevent leaking or water damage. Caulk is never forever! The problem here is probably poor substrate preparation/installation. Whoever installed the backer board failed to provide waterproofing behind it and/or left the backing too high to prevent water from flowing somewhere behind the tub. There should always be some sort of ''lip'' on a built-in tub for the water to drain over and around.

The solution: After checking for possible leaks from the spout and valve area, tear out at least the first course of tile around the tub where the tub meets the wall. Have another contractor do this and take lots of pictures as you go. Any irregularities, such as cuts to the tub, or missing overlaps in the backerboard should be noted. All manufacturers of every product used has standard installation best practice guidelines and you should be able to find many of these online.

Grout Doctor recommended?

July 2009

I saw an old recommendation for the Grout Doctor but am looking for recent feedback on anyone who has used the local Grout Doctor, Oakland, Charles Pellicci to remove/replace old, moldy caulk from around a bathtub? Was it expensive and was the new grout job professional and worth the money? Anon

I thought the only solution to the mildewed/stained grout in our bathtub/shower area was putting in new tile. But there was nothing wrong with our old tile. After having Mathew Belina's men (The Grout Doctor: do their magic, our shower area looks totally new. Amazing! And I'm picky. I also had them clean the grout around our kitchen tile and seal it. Again, amazing how wonderful it looks. Mathew and his crew are as good as it gets and reasonable for what they do. lm
We have used the Grout Doctor a couple of times and been very pleased with his work. No more moldy grout!
June 2009

Has anyone had any recent experience with ''The Grout Doctor'' that's based in Oakland? We have moldy caulk around the tub that needs replacing. I suspect it wasn't done properly in the first place. Any alternative recommendations would be much appreciated as well. Thanks! Anon

I recently hired the Grout Doctor to re-grout and caulk our kitchen counter top and bathroom floor and tub. We had a good experience (on time, good work, etc.) and for a few hundred dollars they made the kitchen and bathroom look great! Brenda
i had the grout doctor come out and resurface tile and re-grout as well as re-caulk my tub. within one month the tub caulk was molding worse than before we had it done. they chipped several tiles with the regrout and missed some spots. the owner came out to fix some of the problem areas but i think my husband is going to have to re-caulk the tub again since it was so poorly done by one of the owners employees. maybe he (the owner) does a good job, but his enlisted workers may not!! i will not use them again. beth
We used the Grout Doctor and he was great. happy with my tub
We used the Grout Doctor and he was great. happy with my tub

Small Grout Job

Nov 2008

We'd like to have the grout around the tub redone in a bathroom or two. I don't think the grout was ever sealed properly and black mold has appeared that we can't remove. Any good recommendations for someone to come and redo the grout ? mostly just around the tub? Anyone tried the local ''Grout Doctor?'' (We're in Berkeley.) One tub could also probably do with a ''bleaching.'' Thanks! No more yucky grout

Jim Ondersma -925-408-2243 - I have used him for multiple projects in my home - superb work, attention to detail, cleans up after himself. I have referred him to others and have always received the positive feedback. Greg
I used the Grout Dr. to replace moldy & missing grout and caulk in my kitchen and bathroom floor as well as re-caulk the bathtub. It wasn't too expensive and it looks great! I recommend calling them -- they're based in Oakland. Brenda