How to Repair Cracked Tile

Many Tacoma residents ask the same questions as a result of cracked tiles appearing in their walls and floors: Should I have bought more expensive tile when I remodeled my bathroom last year? Did I pay too much for my home in the first place? Are my kids somehow damaging the tiles? Is the foundation of my home cracked under the ground, causing cracked tiles above ground? Cracked tiles on the walls and floors of homes in the Tacoma area are a common problem, and you are not alone in your concerns.

How to Repair Cracked Tile


What causes cracked tile?

Unfortunately, there are many causes for cracked tiles, and it is often difficult to determine the source. Interestingly, cracks in the tile are often not the result of cheap or inferior tiles. In most cases, cracks are caused by aberrations under or around the tile. For example, cracks in tile may be caused by improperly sealed or cured concrete under the tile bed or by the natural swelling or flexing of underlying joists. It makes sense that identifying the source of the tile crack is an important first step toward a long-term repair.

Structural anomalies may cause cracked tile, but they are not the only reason that wall and floor tiles crack. Cracks may also be caused by the tile receiving a sharp blow. In fact, if the crack only extends across a single tile, the crack was likely caused by such a blow. You may remember dropping something heavy at that spot, or the crack may be near a door, which is a common spot for cracks because of difficulties encountered while opening or shutting the door while carrying sharp or heavy objects.

Tiles may also crack as the result of bearing heavy loads. A large, family-size refrigerator can weigh up to 300 pounds. Although industry standards dictate that a single tile can withstand the weight of one-fourth of a heavy refrigerator or freezer (enough to bear the weight of one corner of such an appliance), industry standards do not take into account the fact that such an appliance may be dropped for a short distance when being moved or installed. A small drop, even an inch or less, by such a massive item constitutes a sharp blow, causing even a high-quality tile to crack.

If the tile crack is extended, covering multiple tiles, it is likely that the issue lies with the concrete substrate laid below the tile or the adhesive laid between the concrete and the tiles themselves. In addition, cracks covering multiple tiles may be the result of tile that was installed over a control joint or improperly spaced joists.

How can I repair cracked tile?

Tile cracks caused by structural irregularities will need the expertise of a remodeling contractor, but other types of cracks are relatively easy to fix and can be successfully completed by an interested homeowner. Hairline cracks can be cleaned up by applying matching paint with a small paintbrush or cotton swab. A paint store could match the color of your tile with exactness. Apply the paint and then let it dry for a few minutes before wiping away the excess paint with a wet washrag. Although the tile will not be repaired, the crack will be much less visible.

Larger cracks can be repaired without remodeling the entire kitchen or bath by replacing only the offending tiles. Remove the broken tiles by placing a rag over the tile (to contain debris) and using a hammer to break the old tile into pieces. Remove the shattered tile along with the old grout, and clean out the old adhesive in the tile bed. Use a notched trowel to spread tile adhesive on the back of a replacement tile and set it into place, following the manufacturer instructions. Finally, fill the grout lines with grout, available in small squeeze tubes for minor repairs following manufacturer instructions.

If setting new tile is beyond your interest-level, consider calling a Tacoma-based remodeling contractor to complete a small job for you. Even if you hire someone for the job, replacing one or two tiles will cost a lot less than hiring someone to replace them all.