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:
Grout saw or rotary tool with cutting attachment
Safety eyewear if you’re using the rotary tool
Wood or cold chisel
Sponge or towel
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Vacuum the debris from the chiseling. If the floor’s not completely clean, the new tile won’t adhere properly.
- 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.
- “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.
- 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.
- 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.