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Giving tile, shower or countertop new pizazz

A frequent question we receive: What to do with an old tile shower or kitchen or bath countertop that has lost its pizazz? Complaints center on grungy or stained grout, cracked or chipped tile and/or a dated color. Aside from such mostly cosmetic problems, many of these tile installations are in good shape, because most countertops and vintage tile shower jobs were installed over a mortar bed. This technique makes them far stronger than tile glued directly to wallboard, a technique that became popular in the early 1970s as home builders sought to cut costs to remain competitive in a booming housing market. If you have a glue job, our spice-up-your-tile suggestions are not for you, because the least bit of disruption can lead to leaks and subsequent water damage. But if you have a mortar job, you can transform your tired old tile into an attractive design element in your home. The best part is that, with some time and the right tools, this is a project you can do yourself. What’s the secret? It’s simple. Remove cracked, chipped or worn tiles and replace them with tiles of a contrasting color. Or use decorative tiles in a combination of colors and textures-or even create hand-painted tile with the color or pattern of your choice. The possibilities are endless. Note: You needn’t limit tile replacement to those that are damaged; you can remove random tile to create the design that best fits your vision-that is, if you simply want to change the overall look. Whether you’re working on a shower or countertop, the technique is essentially the same. You’ll need a few tools and some materials. They include a glass cutting tool; a small ball peen hammer; a grout saw (a small hand tool about the size of a tooth brush, with a barbed blade that easily grinds away grout); an old wood chisel; a driver drill and an assortment of bits; a roll of 2-inch painter’s tape; tile adhesive; grout; a grout float; a sponge; a small bucket, a shop vacuum and safety glasses. The tedious and most difficult part of this project is removing existing tile without damaging surrounding tile that you want to keep. Before you begin, mark the tiles you want to remove with an indelible marker, and surround them with a course of painter’s tape to protect neighboring tiles. Next, use the grout saw to remove the grout surrounding the tile. Make an X in the tile from corner to corner using the glass cutter. Use the driver drill to drill a small hole in the center of the tile the thickness of the tile, about 5/16 inch. You’ll determine the exact thickness once you remove the first piece of tile. The hole helps in removing the tile. Tip: Wrap a piece of electrical tape around the drill bit as a depth guide. Use a slightly larger bit to increase the size of the hole. Lightly tap on the tile with the round side of the ball peen hammer. The tile will crack along the X. Lightly tap on the chisel to pry the tile away from the mortar and to remove excess adhesive from the mortar. Remove all debris and dust using the shop vacuum. The goal is to have a smooth surface onto which new tile can be installed. Once all the unwanted tiles have been removed and everything cleaned up, including removing the painter’s tape, you can install the replacement tiles. Place a generous amount of tile adhesive at the back side of the tile and press the tile into the opening. Shift the tile back and forth to distribute the adhesive and ensure the surface of the tile corresponds to the surrounding tile. Make certain the tile is square in the opening and the grout joints align. Tile spacers can be especially useful in maintaining alignment, especially with vertical applications such as shower walls. Hold the tile in place with a couple of courses of painter’s tape. After the adhesive has thoroughly dried, usually about 24 hours, remove the tape and grout the tile. This is an excellent opportunity to regrout all the tile for a fresh look. It’s also a perfect time to change the color of the grout. Unlike removing a tile (where all the grout is removed), only the upper surface, about an 1/8 inch, needs to be removed when installing new grout. After all the grout has been removed and the area has been vacuumed and cleaned, the new grout can be installed. Press new grout into the joints using a rubber grout float, working in a diagonal direction. Do a section at a time and remove the excess grout from the surface of the tile with a damp sponge. Once the grout has dried to haze, buff the tile with a clean cheesecloth. Let the grout cure for two weeks, then seal it with a tile and grout sealer, to preserve the color and prevent staining. On the Web: http://www.onthehouse.com Or call 1-800-737-2474 (ext 59) for more home improvement tips.


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