Cracked Up – A Handy Guide To Replacing Damaged Shower Tiles

Damaged or cracked bathroom shower tiles can be unsightly and may even lead to water damage in your walls or flooring. But even a novice can often fix individual tiles with a few tools and some elbow grease. Here's a 5 step guide to handling it on your own. 

Remove the Grout. Use a grout saw (usually pretty inexpensive at most home improvement stores) or something similar to carefully remove the grout from the joints between the damage tile and those around it. Be careful not to dig too deeply and damage the protective membrane underneath the grout. 

Break and Remove the Tile. Unless the tile is already very damaged, you'll need to break it up somewhat in order to remove it. You can do this by carefully drilling holes in the tile with a masonry bit. A chisel will help you finish breaking and digging out the tile. Avoid damaging the bottom layer of membrane during this step as well.

Check the Problem. Once you've removed the tile, be sure you understand what damage might already have occurred, whether the protective coatings are in place and what caused the tile damage. If there is a leak or if the tile is near water fixtures, you will likely need to work with a qualified plumber to ensure that no further damage will be occurring. Once you're comfortable that you know the underlying cause(s) and they're a thing of the past, continue with step 4 to replace the tile. 

Clear the Backing. There will be a layer of adhesive or mortar in the empty space, which you will remove in order to create a clean surface for placing new adhesive. Check to ensure that the waterproof rubber or vinyl membrane on the wall is intact. If this is damaged, you may be able to replace it according to manufacturer instructions. If you're unsure how to do so, it may be a good idea to work with a professional bathroom repair company.

Add New Adhesive and Tile. Using a putty knife or trowel, apply a thin layer of new tile adhesive (check with the manufacturer of the tiles to determine what type is recommended). Place the new tile firmly into the empty space, making sure the surrounding joints are evenly spaced. Once the tile is dry, add new grout and clean it up with a wet sponge. 

If you don't have a lot of damaged tiles, they can be repaired one by one following this same outline. If there is too much damage, you may want to call in the professionals who specialize in bathroom repair to assess whether replacement might be a good choice instead. But whether you do it on your own or with help, the result will be a shower you can enjoy and be proud of for years to come.