Any number of things from improper installation to accidents can damage your wall tile, wherever it is. Unfortunately, this problem cannot be left alone and will need to be remedied as soon as possible. Cracked tile easily allows moisture to slip underneath, which can cause mold growth in warm environments like a bathroom shower. When you’re dealing with cracked tile, the only way to truly fix the problem is to replace it altogether. Here are the basics of how to remove damaged tiles and install a new one in its place.
Step 1 - Locate Replacement Tile
When you need to switch out a cracked wall tile, perhaps the most difficult part of the job will be finding a suitable replacement tile. If you have some tile left over from when the job was originally completed, this is going to be your best bet. Check in your attic, garage, or basement to see if any remain that you can use. It's common practice for installers to leave some behind for this very purpose. If you don't have any, try shopping the location they were originally purchased from. Tile is often discontinued after a few years which can make it difficult to find an exact match. You may have to simply spend some time trying to find a tile that is close instead. In the case, bring a sample to be sure you purchase something based on your eyes and not your memory.
Step 2 - Prepare the Area
Take some time to protect the area around the problem; you do not want to do any further damage to the other tiles on the wall. Use some masking tape to completely surround the cracked tile. This will create a protective barrier around the outside and will limit the chances of coming into contact with undamaged areas.
Step 3 - Remove the Grout
To remove the cracked tile, you first need to get rid of the grout surrounding it. This can be done in a number of ways. If you have a rotary Dremel tool, this will make the process very easy. You can simply hold it on the grout line and it will rotate at a high enough speed to grind the grout out of the line. Be careful not to crack any of the adjacent tiles.
If you don't have access to a Dremel, you can scrape out the grout with a stiff putty knife or screwdriver and plenty of elbow grease.
Step 4 - Take Out the Tile and Adhesive
After the grout is out of the joints, you can start to remove the offending tile. You should be able to just slide a putty knife underneath and pry it away. In most cases, however, it will break into several pieces before you get it off.
Make sure to thoroughly clean the area afterward. Scrape off any of the adhesive that still remains on the wall.
Step 5 - Install the new Tile
Apply some mastic to the back of the replacement tile with a putty knife, and make sure that it is smooth and level. Then, press the tile into place, and hold it there for several seconds until it sticks.
Step 6 - Grout
Check your specific mastic for directions on how long you need to leave it to sit before you grout and follow the instructions accordingly. Then, after purchasing a grout that matches the color of the rest of the wall, take a grout float and press the material into the joints. Let the grout sit for about 15 minutes, and then wipe off the excess with a damp (not wet) sponge. After the grout dries overnight, your project will be complete!