How to Fix and Repair Loose, Chipped, and Broken Tile

how to fix loose tile

Tiles break or come loose over time - it happens. There are ways to prevent loose tile, but none of that matters once you have one that is shaking or rocking under your feet. Leaving a broken or loose tile in place​ can cause you a lot of problems.

If you just have a chipped tile, then you'll want to fix it before it develops into a larger problem.

Knowing how to fix loose tile can prevent moisture from leaking into your wall or floor. Moisture leaking into the structure of your home can open you up to much bigger problems.

To avoid those problems, it is important to get that tile repaired quickly. Here is how to fix a loose tile.

​Broken Tile vs Loose Tile vs Chipped Tile

Before you get started fixing your tile, you need to evaluate which situation you have, as the process will have some differences.

If you just have a loose tile that hasn't broken yet, then you'll be able to pull it up and put it back in.

This is great because you won't have to deal with getting a new piece, but you'll have to exercise caution in removing it.

If you're looking for how to repair broken tile, the process is very similar, but you will definetly have to find a new piece of tile.

You can be a lot quicker about removing the broken piece, but you'll have to go to extra efforts to find a new one that matches. 

​Finally, if you are looking at how to fix chipped tile, then you need to make an evaluation of how bad the chip is. If its small, you can probably just repair the tile without removing. But if it is substantial, you'll need to follow instructions for removal and replacement

Evaluate the Tile Problem

Is it only one tile or are several damaged? How serious is the damage? Is the damaged tile just like all of the other tiles around it or is it part of a pattern of different tiles?

There are a couple of ways to deal with the problem and knowing how big the problem is will help you determine how to fix chipped tile in your home.

Fixing Chipped Tile

If it just a small chip or crack in your tile, or its a wall tile that does not have weight placed on it regularly, you may be able to fix it with some simple epoxy.

Fixing your tile may be as easy as mixing the epoxy and brushing it on. Ask at your local home improvement store for the kind that will best meet your needs.

Removing Grout First

No matter how you plan to remove your tile, you will also have to remove the grout surrounding the tile. Grout helps to create a seal around the tile, thus preventing moisture from leaking in between the tiles.

You cannot set a tile into old grout if you hope to preserve the integrity of your moisture seal. One or even two tiles may not seem like a big deal, but leaving a small area of vulnerability in your moisture seal can be your home's undoing.

Remove grout with a grout raker. It is a small hand tool that scrapes away grout between joints. Be careful not to go too deep. You do not want to risk damaging the substrate beneath the tile.

You may also want to use a vacuum to remove dust. This will set the stage for removing your loose tile in one of the manners listed below.

how to fix loose tile

Removing the Old Tile

There are several methods for removing tile, and which one you go for depends on if your tile is broken or not.

Preserving Your Old, Loose Tile

If you are hoping to keep your old tile and just reset it, then you will have to be careful with its removal. Your best bet is to use an iron:

  • Place a heated iron directly on the tile to melt the adhesive underneath the tile
  • Use a paint scraper to gently pry up the tile. With a little luck, you can avoid damaging your tile.

Demolishing Your Old, Broken Tile

If you are not worried about preserving the tile, then you can demolish it. The best way to accomplish this is to get a drill:

  • With a masonry bit, drill a hole in the tile. As with removing the grout, be careful not to drill too deep so that you do not damage the substrate beneath. If you are working with larger tile, you may have to drill several holes.
  • Once the holes are drilled, it should not be difficult to use a chisel, a hammer, or other blunt object to break up the tile for removal. Take caution not to break any of the neighboring tiles. Even though you will know how to repair broken tile, you do not want to repair more than necessary.

Remove Old Adhesive

Once you have removed the tile, you will want to remove the old adhesive underneath to give yourself a clean surface to work with. It is important to have a clean surface to work with when you are learning how to repair loose tile.

You may need some mineral spirits to help loosen the adhesive. Let it set for a few minutes so that it has time to do its job. Then, use a paint scraper to remove the adhesive.

guide on how to repair loose tile

Apply New Thin-set and Replace Tile

Once you have cleared away the debris, check to make sure you have not damaged the substrate. If it is damaged, you may need to repair it. If it is not damaged, use a notched trowel to apply new thin-set mortar or tile adhesive to your tile.

If you are only working with one or two tiles, a putty knife may be sufficient for spreading your adhesive material. Press the tile back into place.

You may want to use spacers to ensure the tiles are set evenly and the joints are all the same. ​

​Place Weight and Let it Set

Place a weight against the tile to help push out any air that may be underneath the tile. If it is a floor tile, you can just set books on top of it.

For a wall tile, you may want to place a chair or some other object against the tile. Check the adhesive manufacturer's instructions to find out how long it will take the mortar or adhesive to set and leave the weight in place until then.

Re-grout the Tile

Once the tile adhesive has set, it is time to replace the grout. Use a grout float to apply the grout. Hold it at a 45-degree angle and swipe it diagonally over the tile.

When grout has been successfully set into the joints between the tiles, use a damp grouting sponge to remove the excess grout. A grouting sponge has rounded corners so that it does not accidentally dig the grout back out from the joints.

Reseal the Tile

Sealing grout is an often-overlooked step when learning how to repair tile. Check the grout manufacturer's instructions to find out how long the grout needs to cure. Then, seal the grout by rubbing a grout sealer into the area you have just finished replacing. Let the sealer set.

It usually does not need to set for more than a few minutes. Then wipe it off. You can check if you have done it correctly by laying some water on it. If the water beads, then you have been successful.

At this point, your tile will probably look a little dull, and it will need a good cleaning to restore its shine. Make to use a tile sponge (not a kitchen sponge) when cleaning.

resealing grout after fixing loose tile is a crucial step

Caulk if Needed

If the tile you replaced is near the tub or any fixtures, you may need to apply caulk. Make sure to use a good quality caulk to ensure you preserve your moisture barrier. Try to apply the caulk evenly, so there are no spaces or piles in the caulk seam.

It is vital that you don't skip this step if you're working in an environment that commonly has moisture. It can be tempting to skip this step and wrap up the project, but even the smallest amount of water can work its way behind the tile and cause major problems. Caulking can save you a lot of problems down the road!

​Additional Considerations

​One of the challenges with replacing broken or chipped tile is that it can be hard to find a good replacement option. For example, if you purchased a home and inherited the tile, you might not have leftover replacements. 

One option is to opt for painting your tile, rather than trying to find an exact match. While this might not be your first choice, it can be a good second option when you can't find an exact replacement.

Another option is that you can find the correct tile, but it comes in the wrong size. In this case, you'll want to cut the tile down to size with a good, accurate tile saw. If you don't have a tile saw, you can also try using a tile cutter.

Conclusion

You will know you have done a good job if the tile you replaced does not stand out from the tile around it. Now you can stand back and enjoy the job you have done.

Figuring out how to repair broken tile or how to fix loose tile does not have to be difficult. To recap, the first step is to remove the broken tile. Clean the area that it was removed from and then replace the tile. Once the tile is replaced and the adhesive has had time to set, re-grout.

Success! You now know how to repair loose tile. ​Once you know how to repair tile, you are free to enjoy your tiled home once more.

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