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Tiles can crack for a variety of reasons, from heavy furniture to constant foot traffic from passers-by. Whether your tiles are ceramic or made from natural stone, cracks and chips can quickly ruin the appearance of your walls or flooring.
While cracked tiles might seem impossible to repair, it’s surprisingly easy to fix thin cracks or, in cases where your tiles are severely damaged, replace them without any damage to the rest of your floor or wall.
In this guide written by the experts at Tile Depot we’ll share some simple tips and techniques that you can use to repair or replace cracked tiles and conceal damage with ease.
When you’re installing tiles, keep a set spare
No matter how carefully you care for your tiles, sudden pressure from furniture or foot traffic can cause them to crack. Keeping a set of 5-10 spare tiles around makes replacing cracked tiles easy and saves you an extra trip to the shop or online order.
When you’re installing tiles, keep a spare 5-10 to use for repairs and replacements per room. If you’re installing tiles outside or in an area with lots of foot traffic, keep 10+ spare tiles to deal with the higher likelihood of tiles cracking over time.
Ceramic tiles installed in sunny areas such as balconies or garden paths might fade because of sun exposure. Keep your spare tiles outside in the same area so that they match your existing tiles even after the sun’s caused their colour to lighten.
How to repair small cracks and imperfections
While tiles that are severely cracked need to be replaced, small cracks can be fixed (or at worst, concealed) relatively easily. By using paint that’s the same colour as a tile, you can cover cracks in its surface and return it to its original look.
Repairing a hairline crack in a tile is surprisingly quick and easy. You’ll need some oil-based paint and primer to match the tile, a paintbrush, some marine epoxy and some soapy water.
You’ll also need a towel to use for cleaning up, a cloth that you don’t mind throwing away afterwards and, believe it or not, a hair dryer. You’ll use the hair dryer at the end to quickly dry the paint without getting any moisture stuck in the tile.
Let’s start by cleaning the tile. Dip your cloth in soapy water and scrub away at the tile until it’s completely clean. You’ll need to scrub quite firmly to remove any dirt that’s gotten stuck in the tile since it cracked.
Once you’ve cleaned away dirt and dust, gently rinse away extra soap. Switch on the hair dryer and point it at the crack in the tile to apply heat until the tile is completely dry.
After the tile has dried out, apply some primer to your paintbrush and gently brush it onto the crack. You only need to paint over the crack – the rest of the tile doesn’t have any gaps and thus can’t let any water in.
Let the primer dry naturally. This usually takes two to three hours. Once the primer is completely dry, apply some paint to your paintbrush and paint along the crack. It will take several hours for the paint to dry, so leave your tile overnight.
After your paint has dried, it’s time to seal the crack using epoxy. Use a very small paintbrush to apply the epoxy. Keep brushing gently until the crack is exactly level with the surface of the tile.
Epoxy takes several hours to dry, so leave your tile for two to three hours before returning. Avoid applying any pressure to the cracked tile for 24+ hours to let the epoxy completely set in place and prevent the tile from cracking again.
How to replace severely cracked and damaged tiles
Not all tiles can be repaired. If your tile has a large crack that goes from one end to the other, or it has several small cracks that meet and separate the tile into several parts, you’ll need to remove it and replace it with a new one.
Removing a damaged tile is simple. The first step is to smash the tile into smaller pieces, which can then be removed one by one. Use a cloth to cover the surface of the tile and use a hammer to smash it into smaller pieces.
For smaller tiles, a hammer often isn’t appropriate. If you’re worried about hitting the surrounding tiles, you can instead cut into the tile and split it into four triangle-shaped pieces to remove manually.
Once you’ve smashed the tile, carefully remove each piece with your hands. Some edges could be sharp, so be extremely careful when removing the tile and ensure you don’t touch any sharp edges. You can use a chisel to remove small pieces.
After the tile is removed, brush away any dust from the space left in the floor. You now need to apply adhesive to fix the replacement tile in place. Use a notched tile trowel to spread tile adhesive and gently insert the replacement tile into the floor.
If you’re worried about uneven spacing between tiles, use tile spacers to make sure your new tile is equidistant from all the surrounding tiles. The tile adhesive will take several hours to set before you can apply tile grout and finish the job.
Once the adhesive is dry, carefully about tile grout around the edges of the tile. Give the grout plenty of time to dry before you clean the surface of the tile using a moist cloth. Let the tile’s surface dry, then brush away any remaining dust and tile grout.
Take care of your tiles to avoid cracks, chips and imperfections
The key to extending the lifespan of your tiles is installing them carefully. Uneven tiles, which are a common side effect of rushed installation, face different levels of pressure, which can often lead to cracks developing over time.
Take care of your tiles, not just by keeping them clean, but by making sure they’re installed correctly. This way, you’ll deal with far fewer cracks over the life of your tiles.