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We just moved into a newly constructed apartment (construction finished on this unit at least 8 weeks ago). When I set my hand on the shower wall getting in and out, I noticed that a powder stuck to it--both with a wet and dry hand. It appears that the grout is coming off. I also noticed a few spots where there were small holes and cracks in the grout. What could be causing this? What is the fix?

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When I set my hand on the shower wall getting in and out, I noticed that a powder stuck to it

I suspect poor / lazy grouting technique. After grouting it is normal for the tiled surface to be covered with a "grout haze", which is just a very thin film of dried grout left by the grout finishing/sponging process. Good sponging practices, e.g. using multiple buckets/sponges (dirty, cleaner, cleanest) and frequent sponge wringing and water changes minimize (but do not eliminate) the haze. Pros will wait till the grout is cured then use a mild acid rinse followed by clear water rinse, to remove all haze.

I also noticed a few spots where there were small holes and cracks in the grout

Again, not unusual with inferior technique. Common cause of small holes/cracks are poor grout installation, e.g. lame technique with grout float, incorrect water/grout ratio, improper mixing, failure to allow grout to slake, crappy / lazy sponge technique, etc.

You can try to mix up a bit of additional grout and use a finger to smooth it into uneven areas and small pits/cracks; make sure to moisten existing grout in the area first. This will almost always be visible to a critical eye but may be better than leaving as-is. Alternatively you could grind down all the grout and completely regrout... You are a victim of money vs. craftsmanship, which is more common than not these days.

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  • thanks for your response! The powder that is coming off when I touch the wall seemed like it was coming off from the grout itself--not from the tiles. Does that change the diagnosis or fix? This is a professionally managed rental, so it sounds like we need to ask the landlord to address it. – userL Aug 8 '19 at 21:58
  • Yes let the landlord know about it. If they do nothing then they at least can't accuse you of somehow causing it. If the grout itself is powdering off it probably wasn't mixed correctly... a silicone grout sealer might stabilize it though. – Jimmy Fix-it Aug 9 '19 at 5:31

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