Fixing Cracked Tile

I Have Cracked Tiles: Now What?

There are several situations in the home that will cause a tile to break or crack. Even in a new home, there can be contractions and expansions of all the new wood framing members that cause a tile to actually snap and crack. In some environments, the humidity and the temperature changes can cause tiles and hard surfaces to crack of chip.

If this happens, is there anything that the homeowner can do to repair the damaged tile?

Although tile, stone, brick or any hard surface is a somewhat intimidating surface for the novice, it is really nothing but using common sense when removing and fixing the issue. If you think about the application process, the tile or other hard surface was applied to a sub-surface of plywood, or other substrate material. If this material shifted, swelled or expanded, the tile or hard surface could crack.
So what? This is usually not an indication of anything structural or serious, it is merely the cracking of a tile due to use, expansion and, or contraction or even an impact that was heavy and powerful enough to crack the tile.

What is wonderful, about a tile surface, is that it is individual tiles, stones, or bricks. What I mean about this, is that in most situations, the damaged tile can be removed from the field of tiles, stones or bricks without damaging the surrounding materials. In addition to be individual pieces, the hard surface is normally separated by mortar joints that separate each adjacent tile, stone or brick by at least ¼” of space.

Listed below is a summary of how we suggest you go about removing and repairing the tile, stone or brick.
1.) Identify the product that you are replacing. You do not want to remove anything unless you have a match to replace the removed element. Shop around and find a replacement piece. It is a very good idea to purchase at least two of the replacement elements, just in case you have difficulties re-applying the replacement.

2.) Identify the mortar that surrounds the tile, stone or brick that you are removing. It is important that the mortar be matched as closely as possible. Of course, if you cannot find a matching mortar, you can remove all of the mortar from the field of tile, stone or brick and re-apply mortar to all the joints. In this manner you guarantee a match, but have added to your scope of work.

3.) Find a soft old pillow, blanket, towel or piece of foam to kneel on as you perform your repair. Hard surfaces will cause your knees to ache if you do not have adequate padding to protect them. Another method of protecting your knees is the purchase of inexpensive knee pads.

4.) It is normally suggested that you break the hard tile, stone or brick that you are replacing directly in the middle. By breaking the element to be replaced in the middle, you are reducing the chances of nicking, chipping or scratching any of the adjacent tiles. The easiest method is using a large screwdriver directly in the center and rapping the screwdriver down with a hammer. One rap, should be enough to crack the tile, stone or brick.

5.) Using a chisel, putty knife or any other type of prying tool, get under the edge of the broken tile, stone or brick where you have cracked the element in the middle. By applying a prying action on the tile, or other material, you are putting an upward force on the material that is adhered to the floor and lifting it up. Perform this action carefully and slowly. You do not want to slip and hurt yourself or damage any of the surrounding field of tile.

6.) Remove the entire damaged tile, stone or brick in full from the area. If there are multiple damaged elements, remove all that are damaged. Make sure that you have adequate replacement material for whatever material you have removed.

7.) It is very important, once you have removed the tile, to clean all of the old adhesive from the subfloor. This may require the use of a chisel and hammer or a large putty knife to scrap off the entire area of remaining adhesive. This is important, and the cleaner you can make this surface, the better the fit of the replacement piece.

8.) In most cases, when replacing tile, apply the new adhesive to the backside of the replacement element. Do not try to fill in the area that you have removed the tile. It is easier, neater and more precise, if you apply on the back of the replacement item and not try to maneuver the putty knife in the space left by the removal.

9.) Place the replacement piece down onto the prepared area and center the piece of replacement tile, stone or brick. It is very important that you position the replacement piece as accurately as possible to ensure alignment with the adjacent tiles. It is a good idea to use a rubber mallet to hammer the piece down. Remember these replacement pieces are brittle, so do not hit the replacement piece too hard. Once you have properly set the element, allow the setting adhesive to dry. Do not try to mortar the joints, prior to allowing the tile, stone or brick to set.

10.) Once the replacement element is permanently in place, grout the surrounding joints. The grouting technique should be more precise than merely smearing the grout over the tile and pushing it in place. Use some finesse and the final cleanup will be much easier.

11.) Once the grout or mortar has cured, wipe down the replacement piece with soapy water to remove all of the scum from the grout or mortar.
Once you have performed these steps, your repair should be good to go. What is elementary when replacing any type of floor material, is that you have the replacement pieces ready to install. Do not remove unless you have the patching materials. So many homeowners in their excitement decide to get started, have a nice open spot in their floor, and then find out they cannot find the replacement material or have to order it. Have the replacement piece ready to go, and then remove the old.

That’s about all there is to it. If this appears too formidable, then there are plenty of professionals in the industry that make a good living replacing cracked hard surfaces.

What you can do, is try it. If you succeed, great, if not, call the professional!!

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