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Ceramic tile is one of the most durable flooring materials there is. With proper maintenance, it should last decades. No wonder ceramic tile is so widely used in the home!

But every once in a while, you drop a heavy pot, your child thrashes around in the tub, or the subfloor shifts ever so slightly. Then you find it: a cracked or chipped tile staring up at you. Regardless of whether it's a hairline crack or a complete break, the tile becomes instantly vulnerable to further damage. You may be able to conceal it at first, but eventually you'll have to get to the root of the problem.

The only thing uglier than a cracked tile, in my opinion, is a poorly repaired one. You know the kind: uneven fragments of tile stuffed with grout. There's really no reason to have such an eyesore in your home, especially since replacing a ceramic tile is so much easier than it sounds:

1. If you were around for the installation, hopefully you've saved some of the leftover tiles for this very occasion. If you don't have any leftovers, bring the broken pieces to a tile store to see if they have anything close -- or if they know of a service that offers made-to-order replacement tiles.

grout sawGrout saw. Photo: Amazon

2. Now you have to break the cracked tile into pieces without damaging the surrounding tiles. There are two ways to do this. One is to cover the tile with a rag and use a hammer to break it up. If the pieces are still stuck in the mortar, gently use a chisel to get them out. Then use a chisel or putty knife to scrape out much of the old adhesive, and a grout remover to get rid of the surrounding grout. The other way is to use a grout saw manual grout removal tool to remove the surrounding grout (be careful not to damage adjacent tiles). Then pry off the damaged tile with a chisel (use the rag and hammer trick above if it won't come out easily), scrape out the adhesive with a putty knife, and clean up remaining debris.

3. You're ready to set the new tile. Spread tile adhesive over the back of your tile, but be sure not to add too much. You don't want it spilling over into the grout lines. Push the tile firmly into place and be sure it looks straight. Let it dry overnight or as long as the manufacturer recommends. The next day you'll be ready to grout!

Rubber grout float. Photo: Corbis

Make sure you use the same color grout that you used initially, or it will be slightly off. If you don't know what grout was used, get some samples from your local home improvement store and test them out on a separate, disposable surface. When you've found the perfect match, use the edges of a rubber grout float to press the grout into the tile joints and smooth it out. When the grout is no longer tacky, clean up the excess with a damp sponge. Don't forget to seal the grout after it is completely dry.

Here are more great tile tips:

Say goodbye to grout grime with natural DIY grout-cleaning cleaning solutions

These glass tiles for the home change color with heat exposure!

On the hunt for affordable tile for at-home applications? Check out 5 Great Resources for Tile

And check out this author's blog, Design Milk

  • Rick Alexander

    I don't know where this author got their info on tile repair, but if someone did things the way they said they could open a huge can of worms. Before attempting a tile repair all the grout needs to be removed otherwise the force of breaking out the tile can transfer into adjacent tiles and chip them. Also in most situations the thinset behind the tiles may not be scrapeable. It would need to be chisled out. Also, the author suggests using adhesive. I suggest finding out what your tile is set over, what kind of tile it is, and where it is being used and then talk to a professional to see if adhesive is okay or if you need to use thinset, which is impervious to water. Also, if you wait for grout to get tacky, which it never will, it will have set up so hard that you may not be able to get it off the tile. Also instead of using various grouts on a sample, why don't we suggest that the homeowner get a paper grout sample page and match it up next to their grout to find the best match. The author shouldn't put themselves out there as a tile expert in order to sell things. He or she may be totally screwing over some unwary homeowners.

  • Dan

    You must be a tile guy that want's to charge an arm and aleg that a homeowner can do by them selves

  • Max

    Way to go Rick! I have installed tile and it is not easy if the wrong product is used. Wrong product use, warrents a costly professional to correct the problem and then install. Be a Careful Consumer.

  • Jim Harrington

    A quick fix for a tile that's broken. I have taken paint and match the tile color. Paint the cracks, most will disappear. It works quick until you have the time to fix it right.

  • Ken DeAlba

    If you have damaged tile, it can be replaced by removing the grout around the individual piece before removing and replace with a new piece. Depending on the age of existing installation and the previous setting material, it is not uncommon to damage the surrounding tile in the process, so effort should be made to protect adjoining tile to prevent a seemingly small project from turning into much larger one. To ensure that your replacement tile will match the original, it is a good idea to order some extra tile at the time of installation and store it for later repairs. In most cases, it is beneficial to talk to a professional installer before you begin the repair. FAQ, glossary and tile tips: Submit questions:

  • NCaroll

    Can someone help me? I bought a house with a GREAT old bathroom -- with thick tile that I cannot replace. There are two tiles next to the tub where the subflooring warped a little (bad grout from prior owner) and I am worried they will can pull them up easily and I can see that it's just about an inch of the subflooring that is damaged. Is there ANYTHING I can do in that little area to pull up the tiles, level and fix the subfloor? The contractors all say I need to replace the entire floor, which I'd hate to do -- I love the original tiles/colors. Then I can just re-grout the tub to keep it from leaking again...

  • Dan

    Rick must be a tile guy that want's to overcharge homeowners
    for a job they can do

  • 7 Comments / 1 Pages

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