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Replacing Damaged Floor Tile

Ceramic tile is lovely and water-resistant, but accidents, shifts in your house and other situations can cause it to crack, chip or otherwise need replacement. Remember to wear goggles when working with tile, because ceramic material can shatter.

Floor Tile Replacement Tool Guide

  • Goggles
  • A nail sink or point-ended chisel
  • A hammer
  • A rubber mallet
  • A blunt-ended chisel
  • A notched trowel or putty knife
  • A paint scraper
  • A solid wood board that is slightly wider than the tile
  • Thin-set mortar
  • Grout (and pigment, if colored grout is desired)
  • Tile spacers (if replacing 2 or more adjacent tiles)
  • Large synthetic sponge
  • Grout sealer

How to Replace Damaged Tile
Before removing the tile, you'll first have to remove the grout.

1.Wearing your protective goggles, use a hammer to drive a nail sink or chisel into the crack or other damage in the tile. If the damage is near an edge or corner, just drive the nail sink or chisel into the tile center. Beginning at the center and working outward, use a broad chisel and hammer to strike in quick, controlled movements to chip out the pieces.

2. Prepare the area for the new tile by scraping away old mortar with a paint scraper or metal putty knife. Be careful not to ruin the subfloor beneath. Clean out the area with a shop vac or stiff whiskbroom.

3. Mix a small amount of thin-set mortar according to the instructions on the bag or box. If no instructions are available, mix to the consistency of peanut butter. Use a notched trowel to spread an even layer of mortar across the backside of the replacement tile, stopping about 1/4 inch shy of the edges. Install the tile firmly in its spot, making sure you allow even space on all sides for the grout. If you're installing 2 or more tiles next to each other, use tile spacers to keep your tiles even.

4. Protect the tile by placing a piece of carpet or folded cloth between it and a wood board. Position the board over the replacement tile and tap it lightly with a rubber mallet. Don't hit too hard, or you'll crack the tile.

5. Once the tile is level with the others, remove the spacers and scoop out any mortar than may have oozed into the grout joints using the narrow side of a putty knife or a flat screwdriver. Clean any mortar off the tile surfaces with a damp sponge and dry them gently with a clean cloth.

Applying Grout
Give the mortar 24 hours to dry (or follow the instructions on the package). If the room is very cold, you may want to give it more time. Once the mortar is completely dry, you're ready to grout.

You'll also want to use a grout rated for floors that matches what you already have. If the grout you're matching is colored, mix in a coloring agent (it may be helpful to mix a small test amount and let it dry so you will see the final product before you install it). Lacking an exact match, choose a color slightly lighter than your current grout, as it will darken over time.

Mix your grout in a small plastic container to the consistency of peanut butter and spread it into the open grooves with a rubber grout float or, if the area is small, a damp sponge, pushing it all the way into the troughs. Wipe any excess grout from tile surfaces with a clean damp sponge and dry with a soft cloth.

Once your grout has cured, use a small paintbrush to apply a grout sealer, which will help protect it from moisture and staining.

Hammer Talk to others in our Floors Forum to find out more about replacing damaged tile!