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The Worst Grout Removal Tool Ever – Hammer & Screwdriver

Time to answer a very common question I see online : Are The Hammer and Screwdriver Good Grout Removal Tools

How about I just go right out and say it: The hammer and screwdriver are the worst grout removal tools EVER.

It’s time to put this silly myth to bed, read on and learn why. 

The Hammer & Screwdriver Should Never Be Used As Tools To Remove Grout

The hammer and screwdriver combo shouldn’t be used as a tool for removing grout and it’s a bad idea.

A hammer and cold chisel should also be avoided as that combo is essentially the same thing.

Yeah, it’ll get the job done but it is very primitive, can very easily damage tiles and with so much better grout removing tools out there, there’s no good reason to use this method. Tile grout is not mortar between bricks and should never be treated as such, the principles that allow you to chisel out mortar should never be applied to tiles unless you intend to ruin the tiles and take a month to accomplish it.

Using a hammer and screwdriver to remove tile grout may sound funny to you but trust me it’s a concept that has found its way onto the internet and some folk do ask me this question:

“Can I remove grout with a hammer and screwdriver?” or “How do I remove grout with a chisel/hammer and screwdriver?”

After I bang my head against my solid wood computer desk for a few hours, I reply:

“No, no and simply no. Do not try to use a hammer and screwdriver to remove grout and there are no methods I will share with you to accomplish this task.”

What really get’s me going is seeing this caveman method of grout removal on Top 10 lists of the best grout removal tools. You have probably seen a site or two mentioning this primitive method before you stumbled upon my site.

It’s frustrating that such misinformation is still alive and kicking in 2020 and good folk not knowing better will think that it’s the right way to remove grout because some caveman wrote it on their site.

If you look like these guys, then go ahead: use a hammer to chip out your tile grout.

Internet MisInformation

Let’s get one thing straight; I’ve got nothing against cavemen, I’m one myself.

Just take a look at my picture below, but at least I am a caveman that embraces electricity, modern tools and my brain. (Okay, only a little.)

This site is dedicated to providing tiling advice for everyday people, not throwing together random information for the sake of having a top 10 list. 

Back in the good ol’ days when we were driving in first gen Mustangs and Apache’s, I could see the hammer and screwdriver being one of the popular methods of removing grout, simply because there wasn’t much else available.

Back in those days, however, tile gaps were much wider and the tiles were made differently, not to mention the grout was just concrete mixed with sand.

So pops could spend all weekend hammering out his grout with those hand tools as it probably worked a whole lot better with their configuration of tiles. Fast forward a few decades and now we have large format tiles with straight edges, minimal tile gaps and most important of all: power tools equipped with diamond or carbide tips!

The more heavy-handed methods of tile grout removal do not really apply in our modern times as the risk of damaging tiles is far too great and because you can waste your valuable time doing something that could be done in one-tenth of the time.

Now we have oscillating multi-tools with specialist grout removal blades that remove grout quickly, safely and much faster than a hammer or screwdriver ever could. 

Oscillating Multi-Tools Are Better Grout Removal Tools

What Others Say About This Grout Removing Method

I’ll admit it.

Removing grout with a hammer and screwdriver/cold chisel does work, you’ll eventually get the grout out…along with 30 chips of tile glaze if you don’t take care and you have luck on your side.

The only reason you’ll want to remove grout with this method is if you have huge grout gaps like you’d see in terracotta tile but even then only in conjunction with the oscillating multi-tool.

What others say about using this grout removal method:

Before writing this segment I dug around on the web to see what others had to say about using the hammer and screwdriver to remove grout.

The general consensus wasn’t overly surprising.

Yes, people were removing grout with a hammer and screwdriver and no they don’t recommend it to anyone thinking of doing the same.

While they managed to remove the grout, they also managed to ruin their tiles when the screwdriver slipped on the smooth grout and they ended up hammering into the tile and not the grout.

They also mentioned how long it took to even remove one row of grout around the tile. The speed of any grout removal project with the hammer and screwdriver is directly affected to how solid the substrate is.

If you are removing grout from a wall tile or a tiled floor with a wooden foundation, you will find the tiles to “bounce” as the substrate isn’t 100% solid and moves with the force of the impacts.

Imagine removing grout from these tiles

This trampoline effect will absorb a lot of your effort and make the task even slower as only a fraction of the might from your impact is actually hitting the grout.

The rest is being absorbed by the flexing substrate.

Does all this sound like something you want to do?

Grout Removal Tool Alternatives

I will never recommend using the hammer and screwdriver as a grout removal tool. 

Even if you own a rental home and do not care what the tiles will look like for your tenant, your time is far more valuable than to spend it on your knees, painstakingly hammering away at old grout.

You can pick up a total grout removing oscillating multi-tool set for $50 and get the job done much faster. You will also be able to move your shoulders the next morning without any pain.

If budget is a concern and you need to remove grout urgently then I would sooner recommend you get a grout saw. They are cheap and effective and can be picked up everywhere online or home renovation stores so getting your hands on one shouldn’t be too hard.

Before anyone rips into me about my opinions on the hammer and screwdriver, please remember I am only trying to share with you what I found over years of experience to work.

I am not going to announce that removing grout with a chisel is a good idea or that it’s the best grout removal method because it’s not. There are far better and more efficient tools for grout removal that will do the job quickly without any damage to your tiled surface.

A grout saw makes removing grout much easier.

CAN I USE THE HAMMER AND SCREWDRIVER/CHISEL TO REMOVE GROUT WHEN REPLACING A TILE?

Short answer: No.

Long answer:
Here is another problem with the caveman grout removal combo.

You can use the hammer and chisel to remove grout for a regrouting job but it won’t work if you are wanting to replace a tile

The screwdriver/chisel will only be able to “safely” remove about half the depth of the grout, anything further and the shaft of the tool will be touching the glaze of the tile. This will lead to damaging the tile when you strike the chisel to remove the grout further.

This becomes a problem during tile replacement as you need to remove all the grout from around the tile to ensure you don’t damage the bordering tiles while you remove the damaged one. The reason being that the grout acts as a bridge or connector between the tiles and if they are still connected, the grout may come out together with pieces of tile glaze from the bordering tiles.

So you need to remove all the grout from the grout gap, down to the mortar, to ensure a safe tile removal and replacement but you can’t do that with a hammer and screwdriver/chisel.

Leave This Tools For What They Are Meant For, Don't Remove Grout With Them

Conclusion

I believe it has become abundantly clear by now that I want you to avoid damaging tiles at all costs when removing grout.

As a professional, the thought of damaging a tile while removing grout or replacing a single damaged tile makes me sick.

A client is paying me to repair something and make it look better, not make it worse and I want you to do the same. It’s this mentality that I am trying to instil on you so that you can accomplish your grout removal task without heartache or further costs to your budget.

I know how easily tiles can get damaged during grout removal, I have seen it happen countless times and all I can do is equip you with the knowledge on how to go about it the best way.

So put down that hammer and screwdriver, there are many better ways to remove grout from tiles that are safer, quicker and ensure no tiles will get damaged needlessly. Yes, you can remove grout with them but at the cost of the tiles, your time and your health.

I’ll hit you with a classic platitude to end it off:

“It’s time to work smarter, not harder.”

Leave the screwdriver in the cupboard, grab a grout saw or oscillating multifunction tool and remove that grout properly.

My website is chock full of articles on the best grout removal tools, do a search and discover how to properly remove grout.