Rosie on the House: DIY Tile & Grout Repair

Cracked tiles not only look bad, but they are also trip hazards.

A chipped tile can be a trip hazard, and you can cut your foot on the sharp edges. Chipped and broken tiles must be repaired. Dirty and crumbled grout can make your home appear unkempt.

Here’s how to remedy both.

Rosie on the House: DIY Tile & Grout Repair

Clean the old grout first so you can make the best match with the new grout.



A chipped tile can be a trip hazard, and you can cut your foot on the sharp edges. Chipped and broken tiles must be repaired. Dirty and crumbled grout can make your home appear unkempt.

Here’s how to remedy both.

A cracked tile floor could indicate a cracked concrete floor that has telegraphed through to the tile. Telegraphed means the flooring will take on any imperfections, protrusions, or undulations in the substrate (foundation). It is often a result of poor installation and maintenance.

There are several ways of handling telegraphing. The best way is to remove all of the cracked tiles plus an additional row on each side of the cracked tiles. Completely clean the concrete floor, exposing the crack underneath the tile. Most professional floor covering wholesalers and retailers carry a floating bitumen membrane (usually 6″-8″ wide, sometimes 12″ wide) that you apply over the top of the crack. It serves as a cushion and shock absorber between the tile and the crack itself. Then you simply re-spread the thinset mastic and relay the tile and grout as usual. This process, called slip- sheeting, has a much better success ratio in solving the cracked tile problem than other options you may be tempted to try.

If you have chipped tiles, any good epoxy glue-type product will repair ceramic or Saltillo tile (if you still have the chipped piece). However, refinishing the surface to match the original tile can be tricky. You may want to try using a similar color of auto body paint to make the blemish disappear.

If you need to replace tile and do not have extra from the original installation, and it has been many years since it was installed, you may have trouble finding a perfect match. Once you have selected the right color and texture (or as close as you can), be sure it is the same size as the one(s) being replaced. Buy extra tiles so that if other tiles break down the road, you will have the best match to at least the one(s) you just replaced.

Tools needed for removing and replacing tile:

• tile

• utility knife

• hand grout saw

• cold chisel

• hammer

• eye protection

• work gloves

• sponge

• clean rag

• floor adhesive

• rubber float

• bucket

• level

• water

• grout

1. Remove the unrepairable tile by cutting the grout around it with a utility knife or hand grout saw.

2. Carefully chip out the tile by setting the cold chisel in the crack. Hit it with the hammer until the cold chisel can scoot under the tile. Be sure not to damage the surrounding tiles and grout.

3. Remove any adhesive that remains on the floor with a damp sponge.

4. Thoroughly clean the area, making sure all the bits of adhesive and tile are cleared away.

5. If the tile is cracked because the foundation is cracked, apply the floating bitumen membrane first. Then liberally apply the tile adhesive to the area where the new tile will be placed. Spread it out evenly using the flat side of the trowel. Then use the notched side to make grooves in the adhesive.

6. Place the new tile on the surface, and make sure it is level with the rest of the floor.

7. Remove excess adhesive from the tile and the surrounding area. Let it dry for a few hours.

Now it is time to grout the tile into place.

There are three major types of grout.

Un-sanded / Non-sanded Grout

Made from mixing cement, water, and non-sand particles, it is used in grout lines smaller than an eighth of an inch wide. Because it does not have abrasive particles, this type of grout is great for natural stone such as polished marble and ceramic tile on shower floors and walls.

Sanded Grout

A cement-based mortar that is ideal for grout lines that are larger than an eighth of an inch, it is great for ceramic and stone tile. Because it is absorbent and may attract dirt; it should be sealed.

Epoxy Grout

Strong, durable, and versatile, epoxy grout is made by combining epoxy resins and hardeners. Impermeable to liquids and moisture, it is likely to be used for backsplashes, kitchen floors, and bathrooms. We love it, as it doesn’t need to be sealed, but because it is epoxy-based, it is tricky to use.

To find a grout that matches what is currently in place, start by deep cleaning the grout around the nearby tiles with an oxygen bleach powder mixed with water. Grout swatches are available at flooring stores. Match the swatch to the existing grout and buy more than needed. That way you will already have it on hand if you need to replace grout in other areas later on.

Let’s get to grouting.

1. Following the grout manufacturer’s instructions, mix the grout.

2. Grout the tile into the floor using the rubber float. Apply the grout into the cracks diagonally.

3. Drag the round handle along the new grout lines for a clean, finished appearance.

4. After the repair is finished, clean the tile, and seal the grout. Click here to learn how to clean the tile and seal the grout.

Weekly sweeping and mopping of the floor, regular inspection of tile and grout, and resealing will keep your flooring in good condition for a long time.

For more do-it-yourself tips, go to rosieonthehouse.com. An Arizona home building and remodeling industry expert for 35 years, Rosie Romero is the host of the Rosie on the House radio program from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturdays on KTAR-FM (92.3) in Phoenix; KGVY (1080AM 100.7FM); 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. in Tucson and KNST-AM (790) in Tucson.

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