Ceramic tiles are beautiful, long lasting, and relatively durable, but even they can break or crack at times. The advantage of ceramic tiles is that you can replace just one — you don't have to re-tile the whole floor like you do with some other types of flooring.
However, it can be hard to remove and replace broken tiles. To guide you along the way, here are some tips to help.
1. Score Around the Tile
To get started, you need to break the tile free from the grout that is holding it in place. A putty knife or a grout raker can help with this step — just score the knife around the tile so that you basically cut through the grout.
2. Pry up the Tile
Once you've cut the grout, start to pry up the tile with a putty knife. Depending on how broken the old tile is, you usually won't be able to remove it all in one piece. If you can't pry free the tile, hit it with a hammer to break it up into smaller pieces that are easier to pry free.
If the tile doesn't break easily when hammered, grab a drill with a bit that goes through ceramic, and drill a couple of holes in the tile. That weakens its integrity and makes it easier to pull up piece by piece.
For really small, stubborn pieces, you may want to saturate the area with mineral oil, turpentine, or another liquid that can dissolve adhesives. Then, just pull free the tile fragment using a chisel or putty knife.
Avoid getting that substance on nearby tiles or it may wear down their underlying glue. To prevent the liquid from spreading, you may want to make a moisture barrier with an old rag.
3. Find a Replacement Tile
When the old tile is completely removed, it's time to find a new tile. Ideally, your tile installer should have left you extra tiles to use as replacements as needed. However, if he or she didn't leave any extra tiles or if you have already used all of them, you will need to buy a replacement.
In a perfect world, you will walk into the hardware store and find the exact tile you need — however, that's definitely not going to happen every time. If the tile is in a discreet spot, you can get away with just putting in a tile that matches relatively closely. If the tile is in the center of your room, get more creative — for example, consider picking a contrasting color and then removing a few tiles and adding the contrasting tiles in all of those spots. That creates a fun effect and helps your new tile blend in.
4. Put in the New Tile
Finally, you've got a clean spot and a new tile. Spread some adhesive or caulk on the floor, and position the tile on the glue. As you press down, some of the glue will come out the sides. Don't worry, this is completely normal, and you can wipe off the excess glue when you're done.
The most important part of this step is to make sure that the tile is straight. You may want to use a small level to help, or even measure the distance from the other tiles — usually, there's less than a centimeter between each tile, but you can still measure it for straightness.
Rather than tackling all of this on your own, consider turning the job over to the pros. A tile installer, such as those at Monterrey Tile Company, can help you remove and replace broken tiles, or they can help you put in a whole new tile floor.