Fixing a Tough Tile Break
You supply the light touch with tools; we'll supply the repair know-how.
A floor covered with ceramic tile is about as durable and low-maintenance a surface as you can get — until a cast-iron pot slips from your hand, or you drop the wrench when tightening that elbow joint under the bathroom sink.
But even then, you'll be glad to have tile underfoot, because replacing a broken or chipped one is pretty simple to do.
"It's a job most any homeowner can handle," says Joe Ferrante, a tiling contractor who's worked with the - saboteamos.info television show for nearly 20 years.
On the following pages are Ferrante's steps for a perfect repair. Just make sure to follow one critical piece of advice. "Take it easy with the hammer," he says, "or you'll end up breaking more tiles."
• Put on safety glasses to protect your eyes from chips and dust, then rake out the grout around the broken tile using a carbide-tipped scoring tool.
• Apply just enough pressure to remove the grout but not so much that a slip will gouge the neighboring tiles.
• Apply painter's tape around the edges of the adjacent tiles to protect them.
• Drill evenly spaced holes into the tile's broken sections with a 1/4-inch ceramic bit. This helps free the pieces from the substrate and makes them easier to chisel out.
When replacing any tile, it's always best to use one left over from the original installation. Then you can be sure that the replacement tile will perfectly match the existing ones.
If you don't have any extras squirreled away, bring the broken pieces to a well-stocked tile store, where you might be able to find a new one that's a close substitute.
Another option is to have tiles made to order. For example, North Prairie Tileworks, in Minneapolis, charges $30 a square foot (minimum order: 2 square feet) to match your broken shards, as long as the glaze color is in their collection. Custom glazes cost considerably more. Just make sure any replacement tiles meet the standards for ceramic floor tiles.
Or you could forget about trying to match the tile altogether, and fill the spot with an "accent" tile of a different color or texture. In that case, you might want to randomly replace a handful of tiles around the floor to make the fix blend in with the rest of the field.
• Working from the center out toward the edges, gently tap out the broken pieces with a hammer and a narrow (3/8- or 1/4-inch) chisel. If you don't have a tile chisel, a cold chisel or even a flat-blade screwdriver will also do the job. Start with the chisel at 90 degrees to the floor, then switch to a 45-degree angle after you penetrate the glaze.
• Once the broken tile is removed, use a wider chisel to clean all the old thinset off the substrate. The same technique applies for all substrates, including mortar, cement backerboard, or plywood.
Where to Find It
To order matching tile:
North Prairie Tileworks
Courtesy of American Standard
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