Updating Your Shower/Tub Walls – Get It Done – Ask THE Handyman St Louis

I have an older home with wall tiles throughout my bathroom.  Some of the tiles are cracked and not looking too good.  What can I do besides tearing everything out?

Other than replacing the tiles, there are a few things you can do to make the walls look better.  First, if the grout around the tiles is dirty, you can attempt to clean this up, by either regrouting or trying cleaning products.  Regrouting is done by using a hand-held grout saw, a grout float, and new grout.  This does take some time and effort, but can make things look better.

You’ll need to know if your grout has a sand additive to it or not, so that you can match the existing grout.  Also, be aware that if you are not removing all of the grout from the entire wall, you may see slight color differences between the new and the old.

As to the cracked tiles you mentioned, again, if you aren’t going to replace them, a clear silicone caulk will at least keep the water from getting behind the wall.

A second option would be to cover the tiles with a tub or shower surround.  More and more homes are installing these, as it makes the appearance nice and smooth, cleans easier than tiles, and needs less maintenance.  The trick to a nice looking shower surround is not to buy the least expensive ones, as they can be less on quality as well.  For a good one, you can plan on spending  $300 – $500.  The surround for a shower is slightly more.    Usually, there will be shelves built in for toiletries.

Although installing a surround is not extremely difficult, it is better to let the professionals do this, as one mistake can ruin the surround, especially if you are going to have one mounted onto the existing tile in your bathroom.  Care needs to be taken so that the tile still shows on the borders, making the project look its best.  Some hardware stores carry a couple of surrounds, but for a better selection, you may want to go to a plumbing supply house, such as Henry’s Plumbing.  You can even get a surround which looks like tile, if you like.

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Change Your Backsplash – Get It Done – Ask THE Handyman St. Louis

I just moved into a home and have a lot of items on a “to-do” list. One of them would be to tile my backsplash above the kitchen sink. Can this be done easily?

Congratulations on the new home! It sounds like a normal move-in, where there are many things to be done on the wish list. Tiling an area above the sink can be a great way to add character and dress up the area. Tiling a backsplash is not a very hard job to do. The hardest part of the job is cutting the tile, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

First, I’m assuming the area above the sink is drywall or plaster, and is in decent condition. If so, you’re ready to go. Begin by choosing the tile you want. Most backsplashes consist of 4” tile, but any size can be used. Generally, you’ll want to lay the first course of tiles just above the counter top and sink. Starting at one corner, spread the adhesive with the smooth edge of a notched trowel.

Next, using the notched side of the trowel, go over the same area to create the ridges from the notches. As you begin, just run the mastic to go slightly above the first row of tiles, for one or two feet. Press the first tile into place, giving it just a slight turn both ways as it goes on. Be sure the tile is straight and don’t just depend upon the corner wall being straight, because chances are, it isn’t.

Next, place two plastic spacers on the top of the tile and two on the side. This allows for perfect spacing between the tiles. Continue on to the end of the row, but if the last tile needs to be cut, leave it for now. It’s much easier to do all of the tile cutting at one time. Go on to the second row, remembering the spacers, and continue until all of the full tile areas are done.

You’re now ready for the cutting of the tiles. It is much easier to use a wet tile saw for this. They can be rented from most larger hardware stores, or from a flooring store. Get some instructions from wherever you rent the saw. Make your cuts and install them in order. It is best to make each cut, or only a couple of them and install them, rather than cutting every tile at one time.

Once the tiles are up, you need to let the mastic dry, usually for about 24 hours. You’re then ready to grout the tiles. Be aware, any color of grout can be used. This is an easy way to add a distinctive color to the scheme. Follow the instructions on the grout carefully when mixing the grout. Then, using a grout float, apply the grout to the tiles. This will at first seem like a messy job, but basically, you’re just working it into the joints, in a circle fashion, to be sure it goes in well. As you do this, remove any large amounts off of the tile. Follow directions as to when you can sponge off the haze from the tiles. This will usually have to be done a couple of times.

Once the grouting is finished, you’re ready to caulk the area along the counter top, top, and corners as needed. The coloring of the caulk is up to you, but will usually look best if it matches the grout color.
Sealing the grout and tiles is a good idea, but you usually have to wait for a week or so before doing it. It is an easy process, and the sealer can be purchased wherever you got the tile.
Be sure when you’re all finished to pat yourself of the back!

 


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Touching Up Grout – Ask THE Handyman St. Louis – Get It Done

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 re-grout.

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.


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Replacing Damaged Tiles – Get It Done – Ask THE Handyman St. Louis

I live in a 95 year-old house and have several damaged wall tiles in the house’s original bathroom. Miraculously, we also have some spare tiles that have been handed down from owner to owner, so it is possible to replace the damaged ones. I am sure the original ones are set in concrete, so removing them is not going to be easy. Do you have any recommendations on how to get this done? I have a full complement of power tools, including an air chisel, if that helps.

It is a wonder that you still have some of the original tiles! That will make this job much easier.

To remove the cracked tiles, begin by placing a drop cloth or blanket inside the tub or shower. Next, remove the grout around the tiles to be replaced. A hand held grout saw will be fine for this. It just requires “scoring” the old grout until it is completely gone. To get the tiles out without damaging the surrounding tiles, you need to create more cracks in the bad tile, so that it will come out in pieces. A masonry drill bit and drill can work, as well as a hammer and chisel. Be patient and be careful. Sometimes you will want to just break the whole thing in one good swing of a hammer, but this can cause more damage, so just take your time. Also, be sure to wear goggles, and the tile chips can fly into your face.

Once you have the tile removed, you’re going to need to remove some of the mastic or cement that was under the tile, to get the area smooth and level. Otherwise, the new tile won’t lay exactly flat. To do this, a cold chisel is perhaps the best tool, along with a hammer. Again, take your time. You’ll want to remove enough cement so that when you simply place a new tile in this spot (without any mastic), the tile should lay flat and slightly further into the wall than the surrounding tiles. This way, when you add the mastic, the tile will then lay even with the surrounding ones.

Once you have all of the cracked tiles out, use mastic and a notched trowel to install the new tiles. Normally, the mastic is applied to the wall, then the tiles are put in place. In this situation, you may not have enough room to do this, so you may have to apply the mastic to the back of the tile, using the notched trowel. Next, put the tile in place, slightly turning it as you do. Use a slight amount of force, getting the tile in enough so that it is even with the surrounding tiles. You may want to buy some tile spacers, which go between the tiles temporarily to be sure the new tiles are straight and that you have a uniform space between them. Be sure to wipe up any excess mastic that may have come from behind the tiles.

After all the tiles are in wait at least 24 hours, then apply the grout, following manufacturer’s directions.

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Replacing a Cracked Floor Tile – Ask THE Handyman St Louis – Get It Done

One 12×12 tile on our kitchen floor cracked and cracked and finally came out. We have tiles of the same pattern in a corner of the laundry room and would like to remove a laundry room tile (where it wouldn’t be missed) to glue into the empty space on our kitchen floor. But how can we remove a 12×12 tile intact?

Replacing a tile isn’t a very hard job, but getting an existing tile out without breaking can be very difficult and many times impossible. My first suggestion is to try and match the tile. Take it to tile stores and explain your situation. If they don’t carry it, they may be able to special order it for you. If they can’t get it, ask for any recommendations of who might be able to. Go on line to see if you can find something that will match. Try everything you can before attempting to remove the good tile. If you are able to find one, buy several, as the problem may come up again down the road.

If you have to resort to removing a tile, first remove the grout. This is done with a hand held grout saw. This isn’t a power saw of any type, just a blade on the end of a short handle. Being very careful not to nick the tile, remove the grout on all four sides of the tile. When this is done, if the tile is still firmly in position, you likely won’t be able to get it out without breaking it. But you can try. Just take your time trying to free it around the edges and see what happens.

Another possibility is to cut around the tile clear through the sub-floor, but you are creating a lot of additional work by doing this, and the job may not turn out as nice as you want it to.

If you do find the tile, begin to install it by scraping away all of the old mastic. Clean the area as best you can, then apply new mastic with a notched trowel, then set the tile in place. (NOTE: there are times when the old mastic cannot be completely removed which might cause a bit of unevenness with the new tile. Again, the only way to avoid this would be to replace the sub-floor underneath, which again is a lot of additional work).

It is always a good idea to use “spacers” on each side of the tile so that is doesn’t move after it is set in place. Let the tile stay for 24 hours, being certain that it is not walked on or disturbed. Next, grout the tile, following the manufacturer’s instructions on mixing. A grout float will be needed, along with a sponge for clean up and wiping the residue away.

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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.

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Removing Wall Tile – Get It Done – Ask THE Handyman St Louis

I live in a 95 year-old house and have several damaged wall tiles in the house’s original bathroom. Miraculously, we also have some spare tiles that have been handed down from owner to owner, so it is possible to replace the damaged ones. I am sure the original ones are set in concrete, so removing them is not going to be easy. Do you have any recommendations on how to get this done? I have a full complement of power tools, including an air chisel, if that helps.

It is a wonder that you still have some of the original tiles! That will make this job much easier.

To remove the cracked tiles, begin by placing a drop cloth or blanket inside the tub or shower. Next, remove the grout around the tiles to be replaced. A hand held grout saw will be fine for this. It just requires “scoring” the old grout until it is completely gone. To get the tiles out without damaging the surrounding tiles, you need to create more cracks in the bad tile, so that it will come out in pieces. A masonry drill bit and drill can work, as well as a hammer and chisel. Be patient and be careful. Sometimes you will want to just break the whole thing in one good swing of a hammer, but this can cause more damage, so just take your time. Also, be sure to wear goggles, and the tile chips can fly into your face.

Once you have the tile removed, you’re going to need to remove some of the mastic or cement that was under the tile, to get the area smooth and level. Otherwise, the new tile won’t lay exactly flat. To do this, a cold chisel is perhaps the best tool, along with a hammer. Again, take your time. You’ll want to remove enough cement so that when you simply place a new tile in this spot (without any mastic), the tile should lay flat and slightly further into the wall than the surrounding tiles. This way, when you add the mastic, the tile will then lay even with the surrounding ones.

Once you have all of the cracked tiles out, use mastic and a notched trowel to install the new tiles. Normally, the mastic is applied to the wall, then the tiles are put in place. In this situation, you may not have enough room to do this, so you may have to apply the mastic to the back of the tile, using the notched trowel. Next, put the tile in place, slightly turning it as you do. Use a slight amount of force, getting the tile in enough so that it is even with the surrounding tiles. You may want to buy some tile spacers, which go between the tiles temporarily to be sure the new tiles are straight and that you have a uniform space between them. Be sure to wipe up any excess mastic that may have come from behind the tiles.

After all the tiles are in wait at least 24 hours, then apply the grout, following manufacturer’s directions.


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