How to Repair Ceramic Wall Tile

Ceramic wall tile is very durable, but it can eventually show signs of wear. Tiles crack or loosen, and the grout between tiles wears down and crumbles. These are more than simple cosmetic problems, because unless you repair the damage, water can seep behind the tiles and cause more serious trouble. To keep the problem from getting worse, make the repairs as soon as you can. In this section, we'll tell you how to replace, regrout, and recaulk ceramic tile.

The hardest part of replacement is finding a tile to match the broken one. If you can't find a new tile that matches, try salvage yards for an old tile. To replace a tile:

Step 1: Remove the old tile. To do so, put a piece of masking tape at the center of the tile. Then, wearing safety goggles, drill a hole into the taped spot with an electric drill and a carbide bit. Peel off the tape and score an X across the tile with a glass cutter. Then break up the tile with a cold chisel and hammer and remove the pieces.


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Remove a damaged ceramic tile by drilling a hole in the center and cutting it with a glass cutter. Chisel out the pieces.

Step 2: Use a scraper or a chisel to remove old adhesive and grout from the wall where the old tile was. Make sure there's no loose grout around the opening.

Step 3: Spread ceramic mastic on the back of the new tile with a putty knife or a notched spreader, leaving the tile edges clean.

Step 4: Carefully set the new tile into the opening on the wall. Press the tile in firmly, moving it slightly from side to side to distribute the mastic, until it's flush with the surrounding tile surface. The space around the tile should be even, and the tile should be perfectly aligned. Tape the tile in place with masking tape or adhesive tape. Let the mastic cure as directed by the manufacturer.

Step 5: Remove the tape holding the tile in place. Wear rubber gloves as you mix ceramic tile grout to fill the joints around the tile, following the manufacturer's instructions. Use a damp sponge to apply the grout all around the new tile, filling the gaps completely.

Step 6: Let the grout set for 15 minutes, then wipe the wall with a clean damp sponge or towel to remove any excess grout. Be careful not to disturb the grout around the new tile. After removing the excess, let the grout dry completely -- at least 12 hours. Do not let the tile get wet during this drying period.

Step 7: Once the grout is dry, rub the tile firmly with a damp towel to remove any remaining grout from the wall.

Loose ceramic tiles can be removed and then reattached with the same procedure. Scrape out the old grout around the loose tile with the corner of a putty knife, and carefully pry out the tile. If it cracks, it will have to be replaced by a new one, as explained above. You can locate loose tiles by tapping across the wall with the handle of the putty knife.

Estimating Ceramic Tile
Most ceramic tile is 41/2 square inches. You can use the table below to estimate how many of these tiles you need per linear foot.
Length of Row Tiles Required
5 feet 15
6 feet 17
7 feet 20
8 feet 23
9 feet 26
10 feet 29
11 feet 32
12 feet 34

Regrouting Ceramic Wall Tile
Crumbling grout should be replaced as soon as possible to prevent mildew and water damage. To regrout tile:

Step 1: Scrub the tile thoroughly with a strong household cleaner. Rinse well. If the old grout is mildewed, you must remove the mildew before you regrout. Scrub the tile joints with a toothbrush dipped in chlorine bleach, then rinse the wall thoroughly.

Step 2: Remove all the crumbling grout you can with the edge of a putty knife, then vacuum.

Step 3: Rinse the wall to make sure it's absolutely clean, but don't dry it. It should be damp when the new grout is applied.

Step 4: Wearing rubber gloves, mix the ceramic tile grout according to the manufacturer's instructions. Apply the grout with a damp sponge, wiping it firmly in the wall areas that need grouting to fill the joints. Smooth the newly grouted joints with a clean damp sponge. As necessary, add more grout and smooth it again, filling the tile joints completely.

Step 5: Let the grout dry for at least 12 hours. Don't let the wall get wet during this period. Then scrub the wall firmly with a clean, dry towel to remove any grout that's left on the tiles.

Step 6: To protect the new grout, seal the tile joints with a silicone tile grout liquid or spray.

Recaulking Fixtures
Because tubs and sinks are used practically every day, caulking between the fixture and the wall often cracks or pulls loose. When this happens, water seeps into the opening and damages the joint and the surrounding wall. Use silicone caulk to make the repair.


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Cut a new tube of caulk at an angle for better application.

Step 1: Use a putty knife or a utility knife to remove all the old caulk from the joint.

Step 2: Clean the joint thoroughly with a strong household cleaner. If the joint is mildewed, scrub it out with chlorine bleach. Dry the joint thoroughly with a clean rag wrapped over the blade of a putty knife.

Step 3: Apply silicone caulk to the joint. Cut the nozzle of a caulk tube at an angle, so that the opening is a little larger than the open joint. If you're caulking several joints, start with the smallest joint and work up, recutting the nozzle of the tube as necessary for the larger joints.


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Squeeze caulk evenly to waterproof a joint between tile and a tub or a sink.

Step 4: Let the new caulk dry for several hours. Don't let it get wet during the drying period. Let the caulk cure completely (see manufacturer's instructions) before using the fixture.

As you've seen in this article, maintaining the walls in your home takes considerable effort. But if you follow the directions we've put forth, you'll be able to do anything from installing drywall to framing a partition. Best of all, it should add up to big savings because you won't have to call a professional.