The majority of tile will last for generations with some lasting for thousands of years. There are Roman baths that are still working, and lined with the original material. Nevertheless, whether ceramic, stone or modern composite, tiles can and do crack occasionally. Unfortunately, repairing cracked bathroom tile is never easy but with patience and care, it can be done by any do-it-yourselfer.
What Causes Cracked Bathroom Tile
One major reason for tile cracks is faulty installation. If the under floor is not perfectly smooth and flat, not to mention sturdy, excess pressure is exerted on the tiles laid on top of it. Eventually, that pressure will cause a crack somewhere.
Any badly done grouting makes the problem even more probable since gaps in grout lead to water reaching the under floor, where it does damage. It also creates less support for adjoining tiles. The result is once again a higher likelihood of a cracked bathroom tile.
However, even a perfectly done installation is no guarantee. Under floors are frequently made of plywood sheets that are subject to warping from heat, moisture and temperature changes. That opens a gap between the underfloor and the tile that was not there during the installation. Those factors can also cause expansions and contraction in the grout and tile that cause gaps to appear long after installation.
To replace a single cracked bathroom tile, it is necessary first to have a replacement. It is always easiest to have spares left over from an installation whenever possible. Matching tile later can be difficult. If that is not an option, you just have to do the best you can.
Removing Cracked Bathroom Tile
Removing the old tile does not require great skill or experience, just patience and a little bit of technique. Using a drill with a masonry bit, drill a few holes into the tile. Then take a grout saw and patiently scrape out the grout around the tile. Then, using the holes as leverage, take a Phillips head screwdriver or similar tool and fracture the tile into pieces. If necessary, use a hammer and chisel to shatter the tile.
When removing the old tile, it may be helpful to place a small block of wood near the edge you are working on as this helps prevent scraping or cracking adjacent tiles.
If you repeat this operation, you will get all or nearly the entire old tile out. The small, rough edges that are left will have to be smoothed out to provide a good seat for the replacement. It is equally important to scrape off any tile cement or other material that would create a rough surface underneath the new tile.
How to Replace Cracked Bathroom Tile
Line the underside of the new tile square with tile cement in a few short rows, then put it in place. Allow it to dry for the time recommended on the directions.
Using grout of the same color as the rest, line the gaps, getting as much as possible down into the groove between tiles. That minimizes the odds of leaks and provides that support for adjoining tiles discussed earlier.
Using a wooden cuticle tool or ice cream stick, or plastic putty knife, carefully scrape away any excess grout before it dries. Remove any smeared on the tile with a slightly damp sponge.
Take care to get the tile into position flat on the floor or wall and square with the other tiles. Avoid tilting in any direction while wiping away excess grout.