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Tile Maintenance



Repairing tile is a cumbersome job that can be done by the average homeowner. But it is a messy, dirty job. Professionals can do your repairs in a quick and timely manner, and it will save you the pain of doing it yourself.

In most cases, damaged tiles should be replaced. Hopefully you saved some extra tiles from the original installation to make repairs. If you have a common tile, it may possible to buy new pieces a few years after installation, though there may be some slight color variations. Professional tile and grout repair companies specialize in repairing tiles and can make new grout match the old. If you do not have spare tiles, it might be possible to lay out a pattern combining some new tiles with the old tiles to look nicely integrated.

Here are some common types of damage:

Chipped or cracked tiles are often created from impact and should be replaced.

Scratched tiles should usually be replaced. Most tiles are glazed with glass, which gives them their waterproof qualities. Damage to the glaze puts the tile structure at risk. Deeper scratches can also be a cosmetic problem. Often a tile's coloration is on the surface. Deeper scratches will uncover the white ceramic underneath.

Tile discoloration is very rare. Usually a tile's color is set during the firing process. If for some reason discoloration happens, replacement is the only option.

The best way to repair loose floor tiles is to remove and replace them with new tiles. However, when replacement tiles are not available, it is possible to bond loose tiles by injecting a liquid bonding material into strategically drilled holes in the grout lines between tiles. The activated bonding material is allowed to cure and the holes re-grouted.

Worn tiles need to be replaced. The erosion created by normal wear and tear puts the tile at structural risk.

Virtually all new shower and kitchen installations develop cracks in certain grout joints within the first five years after a new home is constructed, regardless of the price of the home.

These joints are:

  • The perimeter grout joint around the shower floor.
  • The vertical corners.
  • The perimeter caulk joint around the composite shower floor pan if used instead of tile.
  • The backsplash joint on the kitchen counters where the counter meets the vertical wall tile.

Sometimes the tile looks nearly good as new but the grout is cracked and missing. Professional grout cleaning can remove years of stains and dirt from grout by carefully hand scrubbing each grout joint with special commercial tile and grout cleaners. The grout can then be sealed with penetrating grout sealers to minimize future stain problems.

The color of grout can often be changed without re-grouting. The process also stainproofs the grout so that dirt and spills are unable to penetrate into the grout in the future. When grout is missing, cracked and stained beyond cleaning, it can be regrouted. After sufficient curing the new grout should be sealed with a good penetrating sealer.

Moldy caulking is unsightly and unsanitary, it can also allow water to leak into the walls. The most common problem is at the joint between bathtub and tile or shower pan and tile. If these joints are not fixed in a timely manner, great damage to the structure can occur. Professionals can remove the old caulk, clean and apply mildew-cide to the open joint, then thoroughly dry, wipe the surface with solvent and apply a new bead of mildew resistant caulk to the open joint.

In the kitchen, the cracked backsplash joint is mostly a cosmetic irritation. But because shower and tub grout cracks can lead to serious water damage behind the tile, these joints should be properly repaired in a timely fashion. If allowed to leak for long periods of time, bacteria can grow in the damp wallboard and wood behind the tile. The problem goes beyond tile repair making it necessary to hire a general contractor to replace all the rotten building materials.

All tiles are subject to damage, especially by impact. However, porcelain tiles are becoming increasingly popular because they are very tough. These man-made tiles are harder than granite - a razor blade won't even scratch them. Porcelain tiles also have consistent color from top to bottom. Scratches are extremely rare; if they occur, they have little cosmetic or structural impact.

When matching replacement tiles are unavailable and the cost of replacing the entire countertop is prohibitive, you might consult with a bath fixture refinisher. As long as the tile is still structually sound, they can often repair chipped and cracked tiles with a special porcelain filler, then refinish all the tile and grout into a solid surface in the color of your choice.