Restoring Ceramic Tiles
Although ceramic tiles are a very durable material, there are some problems that are common. These include broken tiles and grout that needs to be replaced. Fortunately for homeowners, both issues are fairly easy and straightforward to repair, provided the tile was installed after 1959. If your tile is older than 1960, it was probably set in a masonry base, and needs to be repaired by a professional.
Damaged grout is the biggest problem with ceramic tiles. If the grout is damaged, water can work its way underneath the tile and ruin the tiling. Because of this, tile should be regrouted as soon as damage is obvious. Regrouting will require an awl or utility knife, a grout joint guide, a grout float or sponge, grout, a cloth, and grout sealer.
When replacing grout around ceramic tiles, a premixed grout should be chosen for its resistance to stains and mildew. Before you can apply the new grout, the old grout must be scraped out. This can be done using a utility knife or awl. Because this is time consuming, you may use a rotary tool with a straight carbide bit of the appropriate width, which will make the job much shorter. After the grout is removed, any broken or chipped tiles should be replaced.
Next, the grout joints must be cleaned and rinsed. Grout is spread over the whole tile surface — the ceramic tiles and the spaces between them — with a sponge or a foam grout float. Make sure that the grout is worked into the joints, and smoothed with your finger or a toothbrush after it has set slightly. Wipe the excess grout off of the tiles with a damp cloth.
After the grout has dried completely, check to see if it has shrunk. If so, you may have to reapply the grout. Wipe away any residue from the grout, and clean and polish the tiles. Apply caulk, and be sure to keep the area dry for at least 24 hours. After the grout is completely cured, apply grout sealer.
If any of the ceramic tiles are broken, you will need to replace them before the new grout is applied. After the old grout is removed, use a hammer and chisel to break the damaged ceramic tile into small pieces. Carefully remove all broken pieces, and scrape away any old adhesive that remains. Place the new tile in the area to make sure that it fits the space correctly. Apply adhesive on the back of the tile and place it in the hole, twisting slightly and pressing firmly to ensure contact with the wall. Hold the tile in place with masking tape for 24 hours, until the adhesive is dry. Apply grout as outlined above.
Written by Bronwyn Harris