Repair broken or cracked tile

Ceramic tile can be a nice hard surface to have installed in your home. It is very easy to clean, durable and generally lasts a long time. But as with anything around the house, tile can be damaged. Cracked ceramic tiles are common, whether it be from a blunt force accident or just a weak tile that has given way from years of use. Chipped tile can sometimes get worse, giving way to growing cracks. While repairing cracked ceramic is one of those tasks you probably put off, you should think again. Cracked floor tile can be an opening for moisture to get through to your sub-floor, especially if it’s in a bathroom. It goes without saying, the problems you have if the broken tiles are in your shower or bath. There are a couple of ways to fix cracked tiles, a cover up (easy) and the replacement of cracked tiles (best method).


Repairing a piece of cracked tile
Depending on how severe your ceramic tile damage is, you may be able to fill your tile cracks. Hairline cracks are good candidates for this approach. Your goal here is to both seal and strengthen the split area to avoid moisture problems and keep any crack from getting worse. After all, you have to walk on this surface!

Pick up some strong-holding epoxy at any store that carries glue and other adhesives. 2-part epoxy (the kind you squeeze out and then mix together to activate), is the kind you want. This will be your cracked tile filler. Once you mix the two components together (use a small scrap of wood or an old chop stick), you can apply this to your cracked tile with a small brush or clean rag. Just spread it over and into the crack, then wipe up with a clean, dry rag before it dries. After it’s completely dry you can decide if you need to conceal the crack in the tile or not. Obviously, you would have to paint the area with matching paint (no, there’s no magic tile surface cover). You’ll have to use your artistic side, but the best approach is to go light and use a small brush to layer the paint onto of the tile crack. At your home center, you can find a clear coat sealer made for tile. This would be good to put on top of your painted area once it’s dry.

Replacing cracked tile
If your cracked or chipped ceramic tile is too big to repair as described above, then replacement is probably necessary. If you don’t have a matching tile to replace the broken one with, evaluate how the rest of the floor tiles look. Perhaps it would be better to replace the entire floor. Usually though, you’ll find spare tiles left over from the original install in the garage, basement or shed. If not, you may be surprised at how close you can match a broken piece of tile. Pick up some samples at the store and bring them home to help you. If it’s too hard and you don’t want to replace the whole floor consider replacing several tiles and make a pattern with the mixed-matched type. Use your creativity!

How to replace your cracked or broken tile?

  • First, remove the grout around the damaged tile. Use a hammer and metal chisel. Be very careful not to damage or nick adjacent tiles, so use a gentle but firm touch.
  • Now, break out the cracked tile. Use a larger chisel than what you used for the grout and hammer it at and angle away from you, working from the center to the edges. Again, be careful at the edges.
  • When the broken tile pieces are all removed, you need to scrape off the adhesive from the under-layment (either plywood or cement board). Scrape it off with a solid metal blade, seeking a smooth surface without gouging or chipping the under-layment.
  • Now, apply thin-set mortar to sub-floor surface where your replacement tile will set. Use the notched side of a mortar trowel to create the needed grooves in the mortar. Be sure to leave an empty gap near the edges to allow the mortar to spread (you don’t want it oozing out when you set the new tile in). Set it in and press firmly after it’s even with neighboring tiles (spacers can be used). Ensure it is all the way down and level by tapping with a rubber mallet on a piece of scrap wood wrapped with a cloth or old piece of carpet.
  • Prepare the side gaps for grout, by scraping any mortar out (before it dries) with a flat screwdriver. Wipe any excess off the new tiles and surrounding area and let it dry overnight or according to the instructions on the mortar package.
  • Using pigment, mix several grout samples so you can figure out what you need to match the existing grout. When you’re ready, fill the joints with your grout (you won’t be using much for this project, especially if you’re just fixing one cracked tile!). Apply grout sealer as normal using a small paint brush. Now, be happy you’ve fixed your cracked ceramic tile problem for good!

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