repairing cracked tile
Photos by Merle Henkenius
Glazed ceramic tile is among the most durable floor, wall and countertop coverings and, when properly installed and maintained, it can last a lifetime. But as tough as it is, tile isn't indestructible. Anyone who has dropped a cast-iron pot or heavy can of food on a tiled kitchen floor is well aware that the fire-hardened glaze on tile can chip. And the tile itself will crack under normal, everyday use if it's hiding a manufacturing defect or if the subfloor flexes too much. All of which means you'll probably have to replace a broken ceramic tile sooner or later. The good news is that you can handle it yourself. All you'll need are a few common tile-setting tools and materials, and a portable drill with a masonry bit. GEARING UP
The hardest part of tile repair is finding a replacement tile that matches. First, check your basement, garage or storage shed - the tile setter might have left a few extra tiles behind when the floor was laid. If you don't find any, check with local tile dealers for a match. But if the floor is old, finding a matching tile could be impossible. Manufacturers often discontinue old patterns and colors as new ones are introduced. Unless you're willing to live with the damage, choose a replacement that comes close. Matching the new grout to what's already there is also important - the wrong color will make the repair conspicuous, even if the tile is dead-on. Go to a well-stocked tile outlet or floor-covering dealer and ask to see the colored grouts (about $7 for a 10-lb. bag). Take home a sample chip that shows the different colors, compare it to the existing grout and pick the matching color.
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