What If A Countertop Tile Needs To Be Replaced?

What if a countertop tile needs to be replaced? Ceramic countertop tiles break infrequently, but it's good to know that it's a relatively easy repair. An unlucky hard blow can be enough to break tile at...

Ceramic countertop tiles break infrequently, but it's good to know that it's a relatively easy repair. An unlucky hard blow can be enough to break tile at times, especially if the tile is on an uneven surface. Another common problem is unsightly holes left after removing a fixture that was fastened through tile. Rarely, ceramic tile can be dyed by accidental exposure to a strong chemical,if the stain is small enough, it might be possible to remove just a few tiles.

Can a homeowner repair tile countertops themselves? Michael Bryan, professional tile fabricator and installer, considers this question, "The homeowner can do it. It is just time consuming and it is messy. You just start chipping it up little by little. Usually, you get to chisel underneath the tile and then just start in one spot and work your way around."

The first consideration, long before a tile breaks, is to save some extra tiles. In 10 years your local tile shop might carry the same exact tile you used, but chances are it won't. If purchasing a new home, ask the manufacturer about their owner's maintenance package. It should include a few tiles from each tiled surface in the home.

Once a repair is necessary, then it's time to consider the scope of the project. All broken tiles will need to be removed, with care not to break further tile. Experts recommend removing the grout adjoining the broken tile first using a small grout saw. This is not a power tool, and can be picked up inexpensively at the local hardware store. Once the grout is out, it's time to break up the tile and pull it out piece by piece.

It's important when breaking up tile to wear both thick work gloves and eye protecting goggles. Ceramic tile shards are extremely sharp, and have a habit of flying after impact. Using a cold chisel and a small mason's or engineer's hammer, begin carefully chipping away at the tile. Only use as much force as is necessary for the task,additional force can break through the cement backing underneath and require an even larger repair. Expect to break the tile into dozens of pieces before you can easily get them out.

Use a putty knife to scrape the remaining surface smooth and use a broom or shop-vac to get up some of the grit and dust. Spread some adhesive across the back of your new tile and carefully fit it back into place. It's important to make sure the patch tile is flat, level, and lined up evenly in the center of the space. Wipe up any extra adhesive and clean it out of the cracks, then leave the tile to dry as long as necessary (usually about 24 hours).

Re-grout the area in much the same way it was originally grouted. Use a flexible spreader or squeegee to spread the grout into any empty seams, wipe any extra off the tile and into the hole, then let the grout firm up. Use an appropriate tool to shape the seam and remove any lumps (a flattened disposable drink straw works). Wipe up extra grout with a damp sponge, and polish off any haze left with a soft white cloth. Let the grout finish drying for at least 48 hours (or according to directions), then apply a sealer if desired.

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