While tile is a durable material that is commonly used as flooring or in bathrooms as a tub or shower surround, it can still break if hit or if something heavy gets dropped on it. When this happens, it is not the end of the world, although it can be a challenge to replace. If you don’t have any extra tiles left lying around from the initial installation, it can prove difficult to match the tile, especially if it an unusual size, shade or texture. This is a project that can be completed by any handy homeowner or can be hired out to a residential contractor who specializes in flooring.

If you elect to tackle the project yourself, there are a few tools and materials you’ll need to find before you begin:  

  • Grout Saw
  • ½-Inch Cold Chisel
  • Hammer
  • Replacement Tile(s)
  • Tile Adhesive and Grout

With everything together you are now ready to begin the task of replacing a broken tile or two!

Step 1:

Using a grout saw, work your way around the broken tile by scraping away as much grout as possible. You’ll want to be sure that you work slowly to avoid damaging the drywall or backing underneath the tile. Removing the existing grout and creating a gap around the tile will protect the adjoining tile from breaking as a result of the blows to the chisel.

Check how big the grout lines are around the tile. If they are an 1/8 inch or less you’ll want to check to ensure that your grout saw won’t chip the adjoining tiles. If there is a possibility that the saw could damage the tiles’ edges, unscrew the blades and remove the saw-shaped insert for a narrower cut.

Step 2:

Start by placing the tip of your chisel near the center of the tile and give it a light tap. Gradually add force each time you strike the chisel. As bits and pieces of the tile begin to break free, locate a spot where you can wedge your chisel between the tile and the wall or floor. Use moderate taps to loosen broken pieces of tile from the center.

Step 3:

After establishing a starting point in the center of the tile, gradually work your way toward the outer edge of the tile using moderate taps. If you are replacing a small tile, you’ll want to take advantage of the backing that allows small tiles to be installed in sections and wedge your chisel between the tile and its backing.

Step 4:

Once the tile and all the adjoining grout have been removed, use a stiff-bladed putty knife to remove any remaining mastic that is still attached to the subsurface. You don’t need to worry about making sure the surface is perfectly smooth, it just needs to be free of anything that will prevent the new tile from sitting flush with the adjoining tiles. Once you have removed anything that is still attached to the backing, vacuum the space to remove any dust from the opening.

Step 5:

Test your replacement tile to ensure that it fits and sits slightly below the surrounding tiles. Once you have checked the fitting of the new tile, apply an even 1/8-inch layer of adhesive, or a combination of adhesive and grout, to the back of the tile. Carefully press the tile into position, being sure to center the tile in the opening.

Step 6:

After pressing the replacement tile into place, immediately check and confirm the position to ensure that it aligns with the surrounding tiles. Use tape to hold the replacement tile into place until the adhesive has completely dried overnight or as recommended by the manufacturer.

Step 7:

Once the adhesive has dried completely, you are ready to grout around your new tile. Use either a premixed grout/adhesive or mix grout to the consistency of peanut butter. Using the tip of a plastic putty knife, press the grout into the grooves surrounding the new tile. You’ll also want to fill any areas in the grout that might have been damaged during the removal of the broken tile.

Step 8:

For a small job, you can use your fingertip to smooth out the grout, making it level with the edge of the tile. Use a wet sponge to smooth grout to an even layer with the edge of the tile and to wipe away any excess grout from the surface. You’ll want to be sure to avoid exposing the repaired grout and tile to any moisture for several days as the grout needs time to harden.

Step 9:

Approximately a week following you’ll want to apply grout sealer to the fresh grout to continue to protect it from moisture. After applying the sealer you’ll want to wait an additional few hours to clean and seal the grout as this will provide long-lasting protection for the grout.

As you can see, replacing a broken tile is an easy task that does requires time and attention to detail. If you prefer not to tackle this project alone, a residential contractor such as Quality Design can quickly replace the tile for you, making it look as good as the day it was first installed!