Replacing old, stained, or damaged grout in a backsplash is a relatively easy home improvement project that can give your kitchen a fresh, updated look. With the right materials and techniques, you can regrout your backsplash yourself over a weekend.
What is Grout?
Grout is a cement-based material used to fill the seams between tiles on floors, walls, countertops, and backsplashes. It is applied wet and then allowed to cure and dry into a solid, durable material. Grout provides a waterproof seal to prevent moisture from seeping between the tile and damaging the underlying surface.
The purpose of grout is to:
- Fill in the gaps between tiles, providing a smooth appearance.
- Seal and protect the edges of the tile from moisture.
- Allow flexibility for the tiles to shift slightly without cracking.
- Add decorative color and design with different grout colors.
Over time, grout can become cracked, stained, or just appear dingy as it absorbs dirt and grime. Re-grouting is the process of removing old grout and replacing it with new grout for a fresh, clean look.
Why Regrout a Backsplash?
There are a few common reasons you may need to regrout the backsplash in your kitchen:
1. Discolored or Stained Grout
Grout is porous and will absorb stains over time, especially in a kitchen backsplash which is prone to grease splatters, food spills, and other messes. Stains from coffee, tea, wine, and cooking oils can be difficult to remove just by surface cleaning the grout lines. Replacing the grout provides a like-new appearance.
2. Cracked or Crumbling Grout
The grout between backsplash tiles is subjected to a lot of stress from the heat of cooking and daily use. Over time, the grout can start to crack, crumble, or break away in spots. These damaged areas allow moisture to seep behind the tile, which can lead to more extensive damage. Fresh grout repairs these problem spots.
3. Outdated Color Choice
Tastes and color schemes change over the years. The grout color that may have matched your 1980s decor may now look dated and dingy. Regrouting with a trendy new grout color is an inexpensive way to update the look of a backsplash and kitchen.
4. Inconsistent Grout Lines
Sometimes grout lines end up uneven, with different thicknesses in different spots. This can happen due to improper application or just natural tile irregularities. The uneven lines look sloppy. Regrouting creates evenly spaced, uniform grout lines for a crisper look.
5. Change in Tile Installation
If any of your backsplash tiles become damaged and need to be replaced, the new tiles will likely not match the existing grout lines. Regrouting the entire backsplash is the way to get uniform grout around the new and old tiles.
Can You Grout Over Existing Grout?
It is possible to apply new grout directly over old grout, without removing the existing grout first. However, this is generally not recommended.
There are a few issues with grouting over existing grout:
- Adhesion problems – New grout will have difficulty bonding to old, sealed grout. The new grout may crack or break away easily.
- Thicker grout lines – The grout lines will end up much thicker, which alters the look compared to the original.
- Color consistency – Applying a new color over an existing color often results in the old color bleeding through and causing discoloration of the new grout.
- Short-term solution – Grout applied over old grout is only a quick fix and won’t last as long as properly regrouting.
- Outdated grout – You’ll still have brittle, corroded old grout underneath that should be replaced.
For the most long-lasting results and best appearance, it is advisable to properly remove all of the old grout before regrouting a backsplash.
Can You Regrout Over Caulk?
Some homeowners attempt to avoid regrouting by using caulk rather than grout in the backsplash seams. However, this is not an ideal solution either.
Here are some drawbacks of using caulk instead of grout:
- Inflexible – Caulk does not have the slight flexibility of grout, so it is more likely to crack.
- Temporary – Caulk is not designed for the same durability as cement-based grout. It will need replacement much sooner.
- Messy – Removing caulk entirely to replace it can be tedious and messy.
- Appearance – The look of caulk lines is often uneven compared to the uniform appearance of grout.
For these reasons, it is better to regrout the backsplash properly rather than use caulk as a shortcut. Though caulking small changes in plane may be acceptable, the overall joint lines should be grouted for best results.
How To Regrout a Backsplash
Regrouting a backsplash is an achievable DIY project for most homeowners with some basic tiling experience. Here is an overview of the process:
- Grout saw or Dremel tool with grout blade
- Grout float or rubber grout float
- Grout sealing sponge
- Bucket for mixing grout
- Grout (either sanded or unsanded)
- Grout sealer
- Painter’s tape
- Drop cloths
Step 1: Prepare the Area
It’s smart to mask off nearby surfaces, like the countertops, so they are not accidentally damaged during the regrouting process. Use painter’s tape and drop cloths to protect the counters, floors, and walls.
Remove everything from the backsplash, like towel bars, utensil hooks, decals, etc. It is also a good idea to clear out items below the backsplash so that fallen grout does not damage anything.
Step 2: Remove Old Grout
Use a grout saw, also called a grout scraper, to rake out the old grout. Work diagonally across the grout lines to scrape out all of the grout at least 1/8″ deep. Take care not to scratch or damage the tile edges.
A Dremel tool with a grout blade attachment can also work well for grout removal. Be cautious not to dig too deeply into the grout lines.
Thoroughly clean out all debris from the backsplash crevices once done with removal. Wipe the tiles down to remove dust.
Step 3: Apply New Grout
Follow the mixing directions on the grout bag and prepare the grout with water in a bucket. Unsanded grout is best for backsplash joints less than 1/8″ thick.
Use a grout float to spread the fresh grout over the backsplash, pressing firmly into the open seams. Hold the float at a 45 degree angle and scrape off any excess.
Make sure all crevices are packed fully with no gaps or air pockets. Let the grout sit for about 15 minutes so it can start to set up.
Step 4: Wipe the Tiles Clean
Once the grout has firmed up slightly, start wiping a damp grout sponge diagonally across the tiles to clean off excess grout and smooth the lines. Rinse the sponge frequently to remove residue.
You want the grout lines to be smooth and even but not have any grout film remaining on the tile surfaces. Continue wiping until the tiles are completely clean.
Step 5: Final Cleaning
About an hour after finishing the grouting, do a final inspection and do any touch-up cleaning needed with a damp sponge and soft towel. Look for any remaining haze and remove it from the tiles.
Allow the grout to fully cure overnight before using the backsplash again. Avoid getting the new grout wet during the curing period.
Step 6: Seal the Grout
Once fully cured, it is highly recommended to apply a penetrating grout sealer as the final step. This adds water-repellency and stain protection.
Carefully apply the sealer to just the grout lines using the applicator bottle or brush. Wipe any excess puddling on the tiles right away. Allow to dry completely.
And that concludes successfully regrouting a backsplash! With some effort and care, your newly crisp, clean grout lines will provide a fresh feel in the kitchen.
FAQs About Regrouting a Backsplash
Can I use sanded grout on a backsplash?
Sanded grout contains fine sand particles and is more often used on floors due to its strength. For backsplashes, unsanded grout is usually preferred since the joints are narrower. However, sanded grout can be used on backsplashes as long as the grout lines are at least 1/8″ wide.
What color grout is best?
White or very light grout works well for most backsplashes and matches any tile color. It provides a clean, bright look. However, colored grout that matches or complements the tile can also be attractive. Dark grout highlights the tile edges, while similar colors downplay the grout lines.
Should I seal the tiles too when sealing grout?
Applying grout sealer just to the grout lines is sufficient. Sealing the tile surfaces is not necessary on a backsplash, unless they are very porous natural stone. Using too much sealer on tiles can lead to a shiny film buildup.
How long does regrouting a backsplash take?
Plan on regrouting taking 2-5 hours for a full backsplash, depending on the size. Removing the old grout is the most time-consuming step if done manually. Allow extra time for the grout drying and curing.
Can I regrout just part of my backsplash?
It is possible to regrout only a portion of the backsplash, but it risks an uneven appearance. The new grout lines never match the old lines perfectly. For the best results, regrouting the entire backsplash uniformly is recommended.
How long does regrouted backsplash last?
When done properly and cared for, regrouted backsplash can last 5-10 years or longer before needing replacement again. Using a quality grout and sealing annually helps maintain the backsplash. Harsh cleaning chemicals can shorten lifespan.
Professional Regrouting Services
Replacing grout in a backsplash is a DIY-friendly project for many homeowners. However, for large backsplashes or intricate tile patterns, a professional tiler may be advisable. Seeking professional regrouting services can be a good option if:
- The backsplash has delicate or easily damaged tile.
- There are difficult corners or patterns requiring special techniques.
- You want to match existing custom grout color perfectly.
- Old grout issues have caused leaking or more extensive damage.
- Your schedule does not allow the time for a long DIY project.
A professional tiler will have specialized tools to remove old grout thoroughly without harming the tiles. They will also have experience working efficiently to complete the regrouting promptly and properly.
The cost to hire a tile pro to regrout a backsplash often ranges from $1.50-$3.00 per square foot, not including materials. Get an estimate upfront and be sure to ask about any warranty on their workmanship.
While a DIY backsplash regrouting project can save money, there are times calling in an expert tile contractor is advisable to get the best results.
Maintaining and Protecting Grout Lines
Replacing stained or damaged grout can give your backsplash and kitchen a revived look. Keep your backsplash looking its best by taking steps to maintain the grout once installed:
- Use a gentle everyday household cleaner for wiping the backsplash versus harsh chemicals. Avoid acidic cleaners.
- Re-seal the grout once a year with a penetrating sealer to repel stains.
- Watch for any cracks or breakage forming in the grout and repair promptly before extensive damage occurs.
- Wipe up food spills, oils, and other messes quickly to prevent deep grout staining.
- Consider applying a protective barrier, like a backsplash film or clear caulk beads along the countertop edge, to shield the lower grout rows from excessive exposure to grease and grime.
With proper maintenance and care, your freshly grouted backsplash can continue looking great for years before needing regrouted again. Protect the beauty of clean white grout against daily kitchen use.
Transforming a Backsplash on a Budget by Regrouting
Replacing worn-out grout is one of the most budget-friendly ways to upgrade the look of a backsplash and kitchen. The cost to regrout a 10-square-foot backsplash starts at around $50 – $150 for materials.
That is much less expensive than fully replacing the backsplash tiles themselves. Even just adding a boldly colored grout can give the space a whole new style.
Some other low-cost backsplash ideas that coordinate well with regrouting include:
- Using grout paint to freshen up existing grout color
- Adding decorative tile trim along the edges
- Installing peel-and-stick backsplash film or decorative tiles over the existing wall
- Painting or refinishing cabinets to match the new grout color
- Updating or adding functional backsplash accessories, like a knife strip, shelving, or a backsplash outlet
With a grouting upgrade combined with a few small updates, you can achieve a fresh backsplash look that appears high-end without a large remodeling budget.
Even luxury kitchens need their grout replaced over time. Save money on an elegant kitchen backsplash reboot by strategically regrouting just the key areas most visible or worn.
Grout Color Ideas for Backsplashes
While white or off-white grout is the most common backsplash choice, selecting a colored grout is an option to add personality. The grout color you choose can complement or contrast the tiles for different design effects.
Here are some popular colored grout ideas to consider:
Matching Grout Color
Grout that blends in with similar colored tiles helps the whole wall appear seamless and makes the grout less noticeable. Light beige grout with beige subway tiles is a classic combo. Matching also works well with marble or natural stone backsplashes.
Contrasting Grout Color
Grout lined up against contrasting tiles – like white grout with black mosaic tiles – creates definition. Bright white grout makes natural stone tiles pop. Dark grout used with light tiles frames each one.
Boldly Colored Grout
Vibrant hues like cobalt blue, emerald green, or ruby red used as grout can make the backsplash a real focal point. This eye-catching look works best with relatively simple tile shapes and colors.
Neutral Toned Grout
For an understated look, medium gray, taupe, and greige grouts coordinate with most any color scheme. They add subtle interest without overwhelming the tiles or space.
Complementary Grout Shades
Choose a grout in a shade that complements but contrasts the tile color, like coral with aqua tiles or yellow with navy. This brings out certain hues in the tiles for unity.
The grout color possibilities are endless for creating a customized backsplash design. Consider the tile style, overall kitchen colors, and the vibe you want – from dramatic to subdued – when selecting a regrouting color.
Can You Change Grout Color Without Regrouting?
What if you have a grout color you want to alter without taking on a full backsplash regrouting project? There are a couple options that can change up your existing grout color less invasively:
A grout colorant kit provides an easy way to apply new grout color overtop of the old shade. After cleaning and etching the old grout, simply brush on the colorant liquid according to directions for full coverage.
Grout colorant won’t give the same durable result as true regrouting, but it is inexpensive and takes little time. Grout paint is best for small areas only needing a quick refresh.
Whitewash Paint Technique
For those wanting to lighten their grout, whitewashing gives a weathered, softened look. Water down white latex paint to a wash-like consistency and brush lightly over the grout lines.
When the paint dries, any darker grout still shows through a bit, resulting in a hazy, chalky finish. Whitewashing grout makes a nice vintage style.
While not permanent solutions, grout colorants and whitewashing eliminate the need to dig out old grout when changing the color. Consider either technique for a short-term backsplash revamp on a budget.
How Long Does New Grout Last?
Investing the effort into regrouting your backsplash prompts the question – how long until it needs replacing again? There are several factors affecting grout lifespan:
- Grout quality – Premium quality grouts that are polymer-fortified for flexibility and strength can last 5-10 years or longer. Standard cheap grout may last only 1-3 years.
- Sealing – Sealed grout resists absorbing stains and moisture better, extending its life compared to unsealed grout. Sealing should be renewed annually.
- Backsplash location – Grout in high heat areas nearer the cooktop degrade faster. Grout low on the backsplash also sees more wear from countertop use.
- Cleaning methods – Harsh cleaners and abrasive scrubbing wears down grout quicker than gentle cleaning. Rinsing solely with water is ideal.
- Tile quality – Stable, well-adhered tiles prevent added stress on grout lines compared to uneven tiles that crack and shift.
- Environment – Grout holds up better in temperature-controlled, low-humidity indoor conditions rather than outdoors.
With high-grade grout, proper installation, and careful maintenance, a newly regrouted backsplash can realistically last 5-10 years or more before needing a redo. Sealing and gentle cleaning are key preventative measures.