How to replace broken tiles

Our original plan was to write a short and sweet tutorial about how to install shelving over a tile backsplash. Turns out installing the shelving in the kitchen was not a short and sweet process for us. We got the old “measure twice, cut once” phrase backwards because we made the same mistake TWICE, which led us to having to replace it with some new ones.

The process of chipping a tile out and replacing it with a new one is less intimidating than I thought it would be. It’s really pretty simple, so long as you are careful to not use too much force, slip, and scratch surrounding tiles that you are not trying to replace. We made that mistake a whole bunch of times before realizing that we really just needed to slow down and be more careful.

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Step One: Gather supplies

Tip: If you are looking at this list and feel as clueless about what these tools are as I did, do some research and look at the “pick up in store” section of HomeDepot.com. That way, you can write down the Aisle and Bay of the item you’re looking for and feel a little less out of your element at the store.

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Step Two:

With your carbide scoring tool, carefully (seriously, carefully) loosen the grout between ties. If you rush though it (like we did) you will end up damaging nearby tiles that you otherwise would not have had to replace.

Tip: If you aren’t sure what color your grout is, try to collect some of the grout dust you chip out so you have a sample to compare at the store.

Step Three:

Cover the surrounding tiles that you do not want damaged with painters tape. This will help protect your tiles from any small slips. We didn’t do this step and really should have. We ended up initially having to replace only 6 tiles and in the end replaced 15 because we made so many mistakes.

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Step Four:

Drill holes in the tiles to start loosening them up. This will make the next step a little bit easier.

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Step Five:

Start to hammer away at the tiles. When they are loose enough, take a tool to pry them up. I recommend hammering softly and accepting that this job will take a little bit longer than you would like it to.

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I think our tile project was a worst-case scenario kind of situation, so you might be able to skip past this step. When we chipped our tile out, we also hammered through the drywall and sheetrock. We took a small saw (on our trusty leatherman tool) and carved out the debris left under the tile chipping. We removed enough to get down to the insulation. Our drywall and sheetrock was about half an inch thick, so we picked up a piece of half inch thick mdf (plywood would also work, we chose mdf simple because it was the cheapest option) and cut it to fit in the hole left behind the tile. We screwed it directly to the exposed studs and saved ourselves a lot of trouble in patching in drywall.

Step Six:

This is where the project starts getting easier and more fun! I think it was more fun at this point because I regained hope that we would successfully complete this project. I had serious doubts along the way! I didn’t get a chance to take photos of this part, but I did get some video that is highlighted in my instagram kitchen story.

  • Comb a small amount of tile adhesive over the substrate in straight lines using your notched trowel.

  • Set the tile in place and press down firmly to level it with the surrounding tile.*

    *Our tile was so tightly set that we didn’t need spacers, but you would put those in as you go along if you needed them.

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Step Seven:

After waiting a day (check what your adhesive/mortar says on the package for how long you should wait) for the adhesive to dry, you are FINALLY ready for grout! We used a silicone grout, which is not safe for floors, or high traffic areas, but was super easy for us to use. We applied it with a caulk gun and then rubbed it in with our fingers.

Step Eight:

After waiting for the grout to dry—including the excess left behind on the tile—wipe the tile clean with a damp sponge. We did this step three times before our tiles were completely clean.

And voila! Your tiles should be looking good as new.