Touching Up Grout – Ask THE Handyman St Louis

I have an area of grout in my shower that is coming loose. Could this be a problem? Can you tell me how to fix it?

Yes, Yes, Yes! Grout coming loose or any areas where grout is missing can be an expensive problem. If water gets behind the tile, it will cause the drywall to become like wet cardboard. As it does, the tile will no longer have anything to hold on to and will begin to come out away from the wall. Depending on how old your home is, you may not be able to match the existing tile and it is not a good idea to reuse old tile (they never lay flat like a new one). If you can’t match the old tile, you end up having to replace all of the tile in the tub area, or the whole bathroom! Expensive!

To take care of this problem, you’ll first need to remove any loose grout. A grout saw is an inexpensive hand held tool that will do this. The process is to slowly, but with some force, slide the tool along the grout line as needed to remove the grout. Be careful not to scratch the tile. When the grout is removed, brush any dust away. You’re now ready to regrout.

Whenever grout is touched up, the new color may not match perfectly with the old grout. Besides getting a close color to match the old grout, you need to look closely to see if the grout is “sanded” or “unsanded”. If it is sanded, when you look closely, you will see small bumps within the grout, about the size of sand particles, hence the term “sanded”. If your grout lines are very narrow, usually these will be unsanded. So, when you go to a tile store, you can get the proper color, and each color will either come sanded or unsanded. If your grout is anything other than white, you may want to pick up a grout color chart from the store, take it home, then pick out the color that closely matches your grout.

When mixing the grout, be sure to follow the mixing directions carefully, so that the grouting is done properly. You don’t want to have to do the project again later. With the grout mixed, use a grout float to apply it. This is a hard rubber float, which allows you to spread the grout, going in a 45 degree motion to the grout joints, forcing it in. After the grout is in, again, following the directions, you’ll need to come back with a clean sponge and wipe the haze off the tiles.

I would recommend after 2 weeks, that you seal the grout. This is an easy process of wiping on a clear sealer (which has the consistency of water), being sure to get it not only on the tiles, but the grout as well. Sealing the grout will keep the color true and prevent mildew.

Get It Done
Ask THE Handyman St Louis

Fixing a Flourescent Light – Get It Done – Ask THE Handyman St. Louis

I have a florescent light in my kitchen that isn’t working properly. I’ve changed the bulbs, but sometimes it works, and other times it doesn’t. Do I need a new fixture?

Fluorescent lights can be troublesome at times, however repairs are fairly easy. My first suggestion with problem lights is to simply replace the bulbs. But since you’ve already done that, let’s go to the next step.

With the switch on, try rotating the bulbs slightly, making sure that they have good contact in the bulb pin holders at each end. Sometimes, these sockets or bulb holders need to be replaced. If turning the bulb slightly brings the light on as it should be, wait and see if the problem persists. If it does, replace the sockets (two per bulb).

If rotating the bulb doesn’t help, it could be either the ballast or the starter that is bad. Older fluorescent lights have a starter, which is usually a gray, round device, about 1” long and the circumference of a nickel. You will usually see the starter with the bottom half being exposed. Sometimes you have to remove the bulbs to see them. To remove a starter, simply twist it one-quarter turn counter clockwise to remove it. The starters are usually less than $1 and are available at any hardware store.
If your fixture doesn’t have a starter, then it will have a ballast. A ballast is a transformer that will boost the 120 volt house current up to about 300 volts in order to light the bulb, then reduce the voltage down to keep it lit. Replacing a ballast can be done, but it may take a first timer about 30 minutes, as there are numerous wires to connect. Also, the cost of a new ballast can be $20 and higher, which means that sometimes, it may be less expensive to simply buy a new fixture, especially if the fixture is simply a shop light type.

If you decide to replace the ballast, be sure to look closely when buying the new one, as there are many different types. It would be best to remove the old one and take it to the hardware store with you.

Get It Done
Ask THE Handyman St. Louis