How to replace a cracked ceramic tile

If you’re lucky, you’ll have some extra tiles. If you don’t have extras, however, visit some tile stores. You might be able to find a close match. If you can’t find anything close, you can get creative and replace a few more tiles to make a new pattern.

Matching the grout can be a bit tricky, even though tile stores carry a wide range of colors. For the best match, take a piece of the old grout with you to the tile store.

Once you’re home, mix some grout before you start the project to make sure the color matches. Grout changes color as it dries and you may find you’ll need to do some color adjusting by mixing two colors.

Adhesives and grout

Whether the damaged tile is on the floor or on the wall, the repair steps are similar. The main difference is the type of adhesive and grout used.

For floor tiles, use thin-set mortar as the adhesive. It comes in a powder that you mix with water. Follow the directions on the package for the correct mixture consistency. To regrout floor tile, use sanded grout.

For wall tile repairs, use premixed mastic adhesive and non-sanded grout.

Always check the adhesive package for the required drying time before applying the new grout. If you rush the regrouting step and the tile shifts, you’ll need to start over. Lastly, seal the grout with grout sealer, available from the tile dealer.

All of the specialized products, including the grout saw, grout float and adhesive trowel are sold at tile stores. Materials and tools will cost about $20.

1 REMOVE the damaged ceramic tile with a cold chisel and hammer. Start at the edge of the tile, in the grout. Ceramic tile is brittle – small pieces will fly! Wear safety glasses and gloves. Be careful not to chip the surrounding tiles.

2 REMOVE the old grout with a grout saw. Some of the grout can be chipped out with the chisel; however, you’ll need to saw away all of the old grout to ensure a proper fit for the new file.

3 SCRAPE off the old adhesive with a cold chisel. Get rid of as much as possible so the new tile will adhere properly and lie flat. Scraping is the best way to remove old adhesive. Don’t use a heat gun or solvent unless you want a big mess.

4 APPLY the adhesive (thin-set mortar for a floor tile) with a notched trowel on the back of the tile. Be sure to spread the adhesive out to the edges. Don’t skimp on the adhesive: Too little will make the tile sit lower than the surrounding tiles. Any excess adhesive will ooze out and can be removed after the next step.

5 PLACE the tile, making sure that the grout lines are even with the adjacent tiles. To set the tile firmly into the adhesive, use a short length of wood and gently tap it with a hammer. If the tile is lower than the the surrounding tiles, simply remove it, apply additional adhesive and then reset the tile. Scrape out any excess adhesive from between the tiles with a screwdriver. Once the ceramic tile is set, stay off it until the adhesive is dry, usually 24 hours.

6 SPREAD the grout using a rubber grout float. Hold the float at a 45-degree angle to the tile. Move the grout in both directions at an angle to the grout lines to make sure it fills the gaps between the tiles. Let the grout set for about 10 minutes and then wipe the area with a damp grout sponge. A grout sponge has rounded corners and is the best way to shape the grout lines. Once the grout has dried, usually overnight, wipe off any residue with a soft cloth.

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