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Q.After the tile installer left one of our recent projects, we found dried epoxy grout on some of the bathroom's fixtures. He also failed to remove the grate from the shower drain when he grouted and now excess epoxy clogs the drain and fills in the screw slots, making it impossible to remove the grate for cleaning or replacement. Is there an easy way to clean up his mess?

A.Mark Brooks, technical services manager with Laticrete International, responds: For spot removal of excess epoxy grout, your best option is to use a heat gun capable of reaching 500°F. (Don't use a torch, which is too hot and may scorch or crack the adjacent surfaces.) The heat gun will soften the cured grout so that you can scrape it off the fixtures and out of the screw slots. After you've removed the grate, you should be able to clean the softened grout from it too.

You can also use this approach to remove individual tiles, though mechanical or chemical methods are suggested for large-scale grout removal. (For more information, see Laticrete's technical data sheet TDS-400 at www.laticrete.com.)

As with most tile repairs, it's a good idea to try this method on an inconspicuous area or test patch first, since a heat gun can damage finishes as well as some soft glazed tiles. Be sure to consult the manufacturer of the fixture or setting product — in this case, the drain assembly and waterproofing membrane — to determine its maximum exposure temperature; typically, epoxy grouts begin to soften at about 160°F. Work slowly, use tools that won't scratch the chrome — like wooden scrapers and Scotch-Brite pads — and provide adequate ventilation, since heated epoxy grout can give off a fairly strong odor.