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Replacing a broken tile

A walkthrough of how to replace a broken tile in your home.

Q: I dropped a pot in my kitchen and cracked a tile. How can I replace it without damaging the surrounding tiles?

A: (Brad Staggs, Ask DIY Home Repair expert): When just one tile is damaged, you need to isolate it before you remove and replace it. Here’s the procedure:

Materials:

Grout saw or rotary tool with cutting attachment
Safety eyewear if you’re using the rotary tool
Hammer
Towel
Wood or cold chisel
Vacuum
New tile
Tile adhesive
Putty knife
Notched trowel
Pre-mixed grout
Grout float
Sponge or towel

    1. You’ll need to further break the damaged tile with a hammer so you can get it out. So the shock waves from the hammering don’t damage neighboring tiles, isolate the tile by first removing the grout that surrounds it with a grout saw. You can buy a grout saw for a few bucks at any home supply store. Drag its blade through the grout — it will take some time to cut all the way through. You could also use a rotary tool with a cutting tip to take out the grout (figure A), but it costs a lot more.
      Safety Alert: If you do opt for the rotary tool, make sure to wear safety eyewear.
    1. Once the grout is out, lay a cloth over the tile and use a hammer to break the tile beneath into more manageable pieces (figure B). Remove the tile pieces, wearing gloves if they’re sharp.
    1. Use a wood chisel or some type of cold chisel to lift the old tile adhesive from the floor (figure C). Be careful not to gouge the floor beneath the adhesive.
    1. Vacuum the debris from the chiseling. If the floor’s not completely clean, the new tile won’t adhere properly.
    1. Find a replacement tile, either buying or cutting a new one to fit, or relying on the extras you may have saved when the floor was first installed.
    1. “Butter” the back of the tile with tile adhesive using a putty knife (figure D). Then use a notched trowel to smooth the adhesive evenly across the back of the tile.
    1. Place the tile and tap it down firmly with a hammer handle to make sure it’s attached to the floor. Let it dry for 24 hours before applying grout.
  1. Use a grout float to press the grout around the edges of the tile (figure E). Use a sponge or towel to wipe the excess from the top of the tile.

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