Tile Repair & Maintenance

applying tile adhesive

Today's tile products -- from ceramic to cork to carpet -- are some of the lowest maintenance flooring materials you can install. Regular vacuuming and/or damp-mopping with a mild cleanser keeps them in top condition. Wet installations, like showers and baths, however, require more attention.

Projects in Repair

Cleaning routines
Shower enclosures and tub surrounds require you to remove the accumulation of soap scum and water deposits and to take measures to keep mildewfrom forming.

Commercial products are effective cleaners, but household products you probably already have on hand provide less expensive alternatives.

Remove thin soap deposits and water spots with a vinegar solution (1 cup of vinegar to 1 gallon of warm water). Weekly cleaning will keep the tile shining and prevent mildew.

Dip an old toothbrush into full-strength bleach and scrub to clean the grout joints. Check colored grout in an inconspicuous place first to make sure the bleach won't remove the color. Then rinse everything with clear water to remove residue. Make sure the room has sufficient ventilation and be sure to wear eye protection, old clothing, and rubber gloves when using bleach or other cleaning agents. Never mix bleach with other chemicals; such mixtures can release toxic chlorine gas.

Polish metal glazed tiles with a metal polish recommended by the manufacturer, and if you have to scrub a tile surface, use a nylon scrubber. Metal scrubbers leave marks that are difficult to remove, and steel wool can scratch surfaces and leave behind metal fragments that will rust in the grout.

Assess the damage
Damaged tiles, cracked grout joints, water spots, and other forms of damage may be superficial troubles or may indicate more serious problems with the structure or the substrate. Try to assess the cause of the damage before making repairs.

You may be able to live with a few cracked tiles in an old tiled surface. In fact the cracks may add to its decorative charm. Matching an old tile pattern will likely prove difficult. Even if you can find the pattern, the tile may have developed a patina with age, and the new tiles will be more noticeable.

Water problems
If you suspect water damage, check the obvious sources first: damaged caulk or sealant, exposed joints at fixtures, deficient gaskets, or packing material around faucets. If the surface seems spongy, pull up a tile and check for the presence of a waterproofing membrane. If there isn't one, you'll have to take up the entire surface, repair or replace the subfloor, and reinstall a membrane, substrate, and new tile.

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