How To Replace A Ceramic Tile

If you have ceramic tile in your bathroom, you may have needed to replace a tile or two at some point. But what is the best method to go about replacing ceramic tile? Can it be a DIY project, or should it be outsourced? We've done a bit of digging into the techniques used to replace ceramic tiles to help you out.

Here are a few general steps to replace ceramic tile:

  1. Remove the old grout
  2. Use the chisel to break up the tile
  3. Remove any remaining adhesive
  4. Apply adhesive and replace tile
  5. Put painter's tape on the tile
  6. Apply a new layer of grout

Removing ceramic tile is a very simple job, but it's one that requires a bit of effort. And if you plan to replace the tile in an entire bathroom, you'll definitely have your work cut out for you. The project may take anywhere from one to three days, depending on the size of the bathroom. Continue reading to learn more about the steps to replace ceramic tiles.

A male builder installing tiles on the bathroom floor, How To Replace A Ceramic Tile

Steps To Replace Ceramic Tiles

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Man laying tile on floor

Sometimes ceramic tiles may crack or chip, causing you to replace them individually or as a group. When the cracks are small, you may be able to cover them up using epoxy. However, when they are larger, this is more challenging to do. Damaged tiles can stick out like a sore thumb, which can hinder the aesthetics of your bathroom. Here's how to replace them with new tiles.

Things you'll need for this project:

  • Pry bar
  • Hammer
  • Grout saw
  • Tarp
  • Chisel
  • Painter's tape
  • Trash bags
  • Broom
  • Heavy-duty work gloves

1. Remove the old grout

Take your grout saw and use it to scrape away the grout around the tile. Start slowly to avoid damaging the drywall behind the tile. If the grout lines around your tile are on the narrow side, pay special attention to where you're placing the saw so that you don't chip the edges of those tiles.

See this grout saw on Amazon.

2. Use the chisel to break up the tile

Start on the left side of the room and place the tip of the chisel on the corner of the tile and give it a light tap on the butt. Tap it a few more times, gradually adding more force as you do. As the pieces of tile began to break off from the wall, find a new spot behind the tile to chip away and continue to do so until you have removed all of the tiles.

See this chisel set on Amazon.

Don't worry if some of the paper from the drywall peels off during the process; you can fill in the damaged areas with an adhesive. Be sure to change the angle of the chisel to minimize this, however. As you establish a starting point with each piece of tile, softly tap on the chisel to work your way along the edges to take advantage of the wedges between them.

3. Remove any remaining adhesive

Take a putty knife and scrape away any remaining grout or adhesive from the wall. The surface doesn't need to be perfectly smooth, but the smoother it is, the better the new layer of tile will adhere to it. If needed, use a vacuum to suck up any dust on the floor or wall.

4. Apply adhesive and replace tile

Use a small putty knife to scoop out adhesive from the jar and apply it to the area where the new tile will be placed. Smooth the adhesive out with your putty knife so that it is about 1/8-inch thick and evenly spread over the area. Next, place the tile into position and press it firmly against the wall.

See this putty knife set on Amazon.

5. Put painter's tape on the tile

Apply painter's tape to the tile to hold it in position as the adhesive dries. This may be anywhere from 4 to 24 hours--but make sure to always follow the manufacturer's instructions.

See this painter's tape on Amazon.

6. Apply a new layer of grout

Take your putty knife and apply a new layer of grout to the surrounding areas of the newly applied tile. Be sure to scrape any overlapping grout on the edges of the tiles with your putty knife--do this before it dries.

Smooth the grout out with your fingertip so that it is flush and level to the edges of the tiles. Next, take a damp rag or sponge and wipe off any remaining grout from the edges of the tiles. Allow the grout to dry for one to three days before exposing it to moisture.

Quick tips for replacing ceramic tiles

  • When replacing ceramic tile, try to avoid adhesives that aren't specifically designed to be used with ceramic tile. Sometimes it can be challenging to match the broken tile with a new tile that has the same texture, size, or pattern. If you don't have any leftover tiles from the original set, chip off a single tile or a piece of broken tile and take it to your nearest home improvement store so that they can match it for you.
  • Always wear protective work gloves when cleaning up remove tile, as the edges can be extremely sharp and hazardous.
  • If you plan on replacing all of the tiles in your bathroom, be sure to lay down drop cloths or tarp to help minimize the cleanup effort once you're finished.
  • When using a chisel to remove tiles from the wall, take note that the more gentle you are with the drywall, the less patchwork you'll have to do right before you apply the new layer of adhesive.

Is ceramic tile durable?

Yes, it's known to be a very durable tile option; however, porcelain still reigns supreme in terms of durability and overall hardness. Ceramic tile is fairly easy to clean and maintain, and glazed ceramic is also stainproof and waterproof.

Glazed ceramic tile also has a high tolerance for humidity, meaning that it is less likely to develop mold and mildew stains from continued use. Once applied, ceramic tile can last anywhere from 15 to 20 years or more.

How much does it cost to remove and replace ceramic tile?

The cost to remove and replace ceramic tile depends on a few factors. Let's look at some of them:

  • The size and type of the ceramic tile
  • The size of the bathroom
  • The condition of the current tile and subfloor

Most ceramic tiles will range anywhere from $5 to $10 per square foot. The total cost will usually depend on the size and the pattern of the tiles. General contractors, depending on where you live, will charge anywhere from $50 to $75 to remove old tile and install new ceramic tiles.

However, most tend to charge by the square foot of the tile space, with average labor cost hovering around $0.80 per square foot and installation cost averaging around $7 to $20 per square foot.

This means that if you have an average-sized bathroom of 40 square feet, you can expect to pay around $600 to $2,000 for removal and installation. If you're planning on removing and installing the tile yourself, you can expect to pay around $200 to $400 for the tile alone.

Can you put new ceramic tile over old tile?

A set of ceramic tiles

Yes, you can install new ceramic tile over old tile. However, you will need to ensure that you prepare the area properly before doing so. If you do not, you may find your tile will begin to crack prematurely or even fall from the wall. Here is a good preparation process to use to help avoid a bad install and a messy tile removal process.

Things you'll need:

  • Orbital sander w/80-grit sanding belts
  • Shop vacuum
  • Dust mask
  • Thinset
  • Trowel
  • Safety glasses
  • Ceramic tiles

1. Examine the subfloor

Take a close look at all of the tiles that are currently on the floor. Next, tap them lightly with the butt of a hammer or a wood mallet. Listing for hollow sounds, which is an indication that some of the tiles may be loose and in need of removal and a re-set.

2. Grind down any uneven areas

Take an orbital sander and run it over the subfloor to grind down the tiles until you have a smooth even surface. It's best to use a grit of 80 or less to make things go faster.

See this orbital sander on Amazon.

 3. Remove old grout

Remove any loose or moldy grout with a putty knife.

4. Vacuum and rinse the tiles

Next, vacuum the tiles to remove any dust from the sander and wipe them down with warm soapy water and detergent. This will help to remove any glaze, wax, or sealers. Rinse the tiles with clear water and let the area dry.

6. Apply thinset

Once the area is dry, spread thinset on the floor using a large trowel. For extra adhesion, spread a thin layer of thinset on the back of each tile as well. Be sure to always apply the adhesive in one direction and try to avoid laying it on too thick.

See this thinset on Amazon.

7. Set the new tile

Start in a corner of the room farthest from the wall and press each tile into the floor, row by row, making sure that the edge lines are perpendicular.

Wrapping Things Up

We hope that this post has given you all of the information that you need to replace your ceramic tiles. Replacing tiles can be a time-consuming task, especially when you are replacing the entire bathroom. It's best to plan out the project and estimate how much time it will take you to complete each step, this way you will have a good idea of when you can expect to complete it.

Before you go, be sure to check out some of our other posts:

How To Get Hair Dye Off Bathroom Tiles

How To Transition From Tile To Carpet [Carpet Installation Plan In 5 Steps]

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