Getting home from a long day at work and hopping in the shower is supposed to be relaxing, but when your shower tiles are cracked, broken, or showing signs that water may be seeping through them, you need to act fast to avoid significant water damage. Cracked and broken shower tiles can be removed and replaced without having to redo the entire shower, so you won't need to spend thousands just to have a relaxing shower again.
However, adjacent tiles can be damaged if you are careless during the removal of the broken tile pieces, so it's crucial to work slowly to help keep the cost of the project low and avoid creating more work for yourself. In addition, it's important to find matching grout and tiles before starting this repair because if you cannot find materials that match the size and color of the existing shower tiles and grout then you may need to replace a larger section of tile or redo the entire shower for a uniform appearance. Follow these straightforward steps to learn how to repair shower tiles in your bathroom.
Dust and small shards of tile will break off during the removal process, so keep your eyes safe with appropriate safety glasses. Also, make sure to wear thick, cut-resistant gloves when you are handling the broken tiles because ceramic tiles can cut as easily as broken glass. Take these simple precautions to avoid serious injury.
Equipment / Tools
- Grout saw
- Drill with a masonry bit
- Putty knife
- Caulking gun
- Ceramic tile adhesive
- Replacement tile(s)
- Tile spacers
Remove Damaged Tiles and Grout
The cracked and broken tile or tiles will need to be removed from the shower wall before new tiles can be installed, so you will want to use a grout saw or another grout removal tool to carefully cut into the grout around the damaged tile. Go slow and take your time to avoid damaging any other nearby tiles and be careful not to cut too deeply, as you may penetrate a waterproof membrane underneath the tile.
Pull out the pieces of grout, then use a drill equipped with a masonry bit to drill a hole through the center of the damaged tile. You may need to drill two or three holes to help break up larger tiles; just make sure not to damage the material under the tile.
Finally, use a chisel and hammer to carefully break the tile into small pieces and remove it from the shower wall. A putty knife or a similar scraping tool can be used to scrape off any remaining tile adhesive to create a smooth, clean surface for the replacement tile.
Inspect the Waterproof Membrane
Once you have removed the tile from the wall, it's necessary to perform a thorough inspection of the material underneath the tile. If there was an existing waterproof membrane, make sure that it is undamaged before continuing with this repair. If there isn't a membrane under the old tiles, then it's a good idea to paint the surface with a fluid waterproof membrane to protect the wall from any future water damage.
Apply the Tile Adhesive
If you added a fluid waterproof membrane to the area behind the tile, then make sure to wait for the membrane to fully cure before proceeding. When the membrane is dry, use a putty knife or notched trowel to apply ceramic tile adhesive to the smooth, clean surface. Only apply enough for the number of tiles you are installing because any excess adhesive will be pushed out from the sides when the tile is installed. This can interfere with the application of the grout and impact the seal on the tile.
Install Replacement Tiles
The replacement tile should slide in easily, but to make sure that the spacing is correct it's a good idea to use tile spacers. These simple additions will help to keep the tile in place while the adhesive sets. Another factor to check during this part of the repair is that the new tile sits flush with the old tiles. If you removed all of the old adhesive, then the tile should sit flat against the wall, but if there is any dried adhesive remaining, this could prevent the tile from sitting flush.
Grout the Joints
Check the tile adhesive information provided by the manufacturer to determine how long you need to wait for the adhesive to set. Typically, this takes just a few minutes before you can begin to apply the grout to the joints surrounding the tile.
Liberally apply the grout with a putty knife then use a sponge and water to clean any excess grout off of the tile. Keep in mind that you need to smooth the grout lines before the grout dries to ensure that the repair has a consistent appearance with the surrounding shower tiles and grout lines. The grout will need about 24 hours to properly dry and cure before the shower can be used.
Apply Waterproof Bathroom Sealant
Any areas inside the shower that could be vulnerable to water damage, like a narrow gap between the tub faucet and the wall, should be sealed with waterproof bathroom sealant. Use a caulking gun to apply this sealant to fixtures and joints that are susceptible to leaks and allow to cure for about 24 hours before using the shower.