Tiles are a popular choice for flooring, especially in restrooms and kitchens. They’re durable, long-lasting, easy to clean, and waterproof. Although tiles are strong, eventually they’ll wear out, crack, or become loose. It’s best to handle these problems right away before it causes any further issues, such as water seeping beneath a cracked tile and growing mold.
Whether you’re new to flooring or experienced and interested in learning more, this article will help you understand what makes tiles loosen, how to fix loose floor tiles, and even how to handle broken tiles. With this information and the proper tools, you should be able to fix your own loose or broken floor tiles yourself instead of having to pay someone else to do it.
What Makes Floor Tiles Loose and Crack?
There are many reasons why your floor tiles become loose. Here are a few of the most common reasons:
As any house settles over time, the foundation can shift and walls can move a little too. Usually, when tiles are installed, a small perimeter is left between the wall and the tile to allow for the natural movement of the house. If no perimeter was laid or the house settles beyond the perimeter, it can cause tiles to loosen or crack.
One way of laying tile flooring is to place a dot of adhesive on each corner and one in the center of the underside of the tile before pressing the tile into place. This method allows too much room for gaps between the tile and the surface beneath it and can allow tiles to become loose.
Like most things, tiles expand in heat and contract in cold. It’s a minor and unnoticeable change in size, but when you multiply it by a large number of tiles, that’s a lot of shifting and changing over and over. It makes sense that thermal changes can lead to loosening or cracking tiles.
A large difference between the surface beneath the tiles and the tile material itself can lead to faster loosing or cracking of tiles. For example, concrete can move and expand at different rates than tile. Make sure the material of the tiles you’re using is compatible with the surface that will be beneath it.
If the adhesive used to bind the tile to the floor underneath isn’t strong enough, the tiles will loosen more quickly. It’s inevitable for most adhesives to weaken over time, though, so even a high-quality adhesive can eventually lead to loose tiles. If the adhesive is too thick, especially when using the spot-bonding method described above, it allows for too much space between the tile and the floor beneath. If the adhesive is too thin, it won’t be strong enough to bind the tiles to the surface beneath for very long.
How to Handle a Broken Tile?
A tile is kind of like Humpty Dumpty – once it’s broken, it can’t (or at least shouldn’t) be put back together again. Don’t waste your time or resources trying to bind a broken tile back together. It doesn’t look pretty and it will likely cause greater issues down the road. For example, if you miss even a small gap while repairing the crack in a tile, you can allow water and air to seep beneath it and cause mold or for the tile to just crack again soon. Do yourself a favor and replace, rather than repair, a broken tile.
One thing to note when replacing a broken tile is that you must take special care not to break the surrounding tiles. This may mean that instead of trying to pull up the whole tile in one or two big chunks, you may need to break the tile down into smaller chunks for easier removal.
First, cut the grout around the broken tile. Then try to lift up the broken tile, or if necessary, break it into a few pieces using a hammer or a drill. Be careful not to drill past the tile into the surface underneath. Then, vacuum up and clean away any debris so you can proceed to the next step, replacing the tile.
How to Fix Loose Floor Tiles?
- Cut the grout around the tile you want to remove and use a chisel or other tool to gently pry it off the floor.
- Now take either a new tile or, if you’re going to reuse the same tile (in case it’s unbroken), scrape all the adhesive off the tile and the floor beneath it and vacuum any debris.
- Reapply new adhesive to the new tile and to the floor, set the tile in place, and press it down evenly until it’s level with the surrounding tiles.
- Grout the area around the tile. After the adhesive has dried (this may take up to 24 hours), your floor should look as good as new!
If your tile is broken, your best bet is to remove that tile and replace it. As noted above, be sure not to damage the surrounding tiles.
There are many reasons why tiles crack or loosen, including natural house movement, temperature changes, old or improper adhesive, bad adhesive methods, and incompatibility between the tile and the floor beneath it. Luckily, you don’t have to be a home improvement expert to take care of your own tile flooring as it fairly easy and inexpensive to pull up and relay an unbroken loose tile or replace a cracked tile yourself.