How To Fix Loose Floor Tiles (Without Removing Them)


Home improvement tasks aren’t always what people want to be doing with their day. However, it is sometimes necessary. You probably didn’t wake up this morning wanting to fix a tile on your floor, but here you are.  

How to fix loose floor tiles (without removing them) 

  1. Drill into the grout beside your loose tile. You need it to be deep enough to allow for the adhesive to get under the loose tile.
  2. Place the spout of the adhesive, or epoxy, into the hole you drilled and slowly squeeze some into the hole. 
  3. Let the material settle under the tile and continue to squeeze some into the hole until it stops settling under the tile. 
  4. Place something heavy on the tile to help remove air bubbles and set the tile into the adhesive(some adhesive may seep out of the holes, this is okay)
  5. Using a damp cloth or sponge, wipe away any extra residue.
  6. After 24 hours remove the heavy object 
  7. Put new grout into and over the holes, you drilled
  8. After everything is wiped off and cleaned up, you are done!

If you want to find the best Tile Adhesive, click here.

Fixing a tile is a relatively easy do it yourself home improvement task. This doesn’t take too many tools and honestly doesn’t take too much time either. Knowing what causes loose tiles might give you a chance to prevent it, but in the event that you can’t, having the correct materials and knowledge is key. 

How to Fix a Broken Tile

Loose Floor Tiles

As stated above, fixing loose tiles isn’t hard, nor is it a lengthy process. You only need a few supplies as well.

  • Drill and drill bit (no bigger than the size of the space between tiles)
  • Epoxy or tile adhesive
  • Grout
  • Damp rag
  • Something heavy (to place on the tile while the adhesive dries)

Once you gather your supplies, you can start the process of fixing your loose tile. Fixing a tile this way can save you money by not having to buy new tile or hiring a contractor to come fix it for you.  In some cases, the tile you have is no longer sold, in which case you would have to choose the closest match or replace all of the tiles to make sure it matches everything else. If this is the case, you would want to contact the manufacturer and ask to see if they have a plan in place to help those who need replacement tiles. It may not work, but it’s a good option to start with.   

Cracked floor tiles

You may run into a problem where your tile is not only loose but also broken or cracked.  When fixing a broken tile, you have a couple of options:

  • You can remove the entire tile.
  • You can inject the crack with some epoxy and paint over it with some paint that matches your tile color. 

Usually, you can call the manufacturer and ask if they have a paint color equivalent, or if they have any recommendations of a color. Oftentimes, this isn’t a permanent fix, but will allow you a little more time before having to replace the entire section of tile. 

While fixing your tile, it may also help you to figure out why your tile is cracked or broken.  If you don’t figure out why it happened, chances are it can and will happen again, causing you to fix it over and over. 

So, you will want to pay attention when fixing your tile to make sure you notice signs of wear and tear, or signs of other contributing factors that could be affecting things. 

What Makes Floor Tiles Loose?

Type of Bonding Used

When you need to fix a tile to the floor, you want to make sure the adhesive you use is strong enough and will continue to keep the tile stuck to the floor years and years later. Most adhesives, even the strongest ones, are going to weaken over time no matter what you do. 

But if you pick a strong, versatile adhesive, or look for one specifically made for your material type, you increase the time it will keep the tile in place. Cheapest is not the way to go when looking for a tile adhesive. 

When bonding your tile to the floor, you want to make sure you don’t apply the adhesive too thick, too thin, or not place enough on the tile. There is a method of applying adhesive called spot bonding, you place a dot of adhesive on each corner and one in the center, then place it down. 

Unfortunately, this allows for too much space under the tile, which will lead to premature cracking and loosening. You want to spread the adhesive in an even layer all the way across the tile. 

House Settling

Once a house is built, it starts to settle.  The foundation will shift, the walls will move, and everything will shift slightly to adjust with it.  Usually, the contractors will leave a space in the tiles that allow for room to shift and move. If this isn’t done, it can cause the tiles to crack and shift, which can make them become loose. 

Changes in Temperature

Everything grows and shrinks between hot and cold temperatures.  This is such a minor change in size that you are likely to never notice.  However, over time these minor changes can cause cracks and loosen the adhesive, thus creating loose tiles. 

Differences in Surfaces

The surface that tiles are placed on will expand and shrink as temperatures changes as well. However, if you place the same tile on the part of the floor that has two separate materials, it will expand and shrink at different rates, which will cause the tile to loosen much faster than it would normally. 

Moisture

Most materials are porous. Therefore, they have the ability to absorb water, even in the smallest amounts. When you spill water on the floor or take a hot shower, your tiles and grout are going to absorb some water. This can sink to the adhesive and cause it to lose its effectiveness, thus creating a loose tile.  

There isn’t much you can do. But if you seal your grout, it can help. Just make sure to always clean up spills promptly to keep moisture from seeping in.

Poor or Incorrect Installation

When tiles are being placed by contractors, they can make quite a few mistakes that can cause them to become loose prematurely.

  • Not using the correct adhesive
  • Placing the tile on the wrong surfaces
  • Using grout that is old or expired 
  • Not leaving room for the growth and shrink when temperatures change

Heavy Loads

If you have tile under your refrigerator, washer, dryer or freezer, it’s possible you have a tile cracked or loose.  Most likely, the weight of the appliance was too much for the particular tile. 

Most tiles are manufactured to comply with the standards for tile strength. This standard means that each individual tile needs to be able to withstand 250 pounds of pressure. Most tiles exceed this standard, and most appliances do not exceed the weight of 75 pounds per tile it would sit on. 

The issue is that this test is done with dead weight. However, if a person drops the appliance on a tile, the impact of that same weight would cause the tile to crack. 

Weather

If you have tiles outside, the weather is going to greatly affect whether your tiles stay placed correctly or not. Precipitation of any kind can affect the adhesive and how long it will last.  Also, of course, with tiles being outside, you have to deal with acts of God damaging the tiles as well. 

Tile in the Wrong Place

When you place tiles, you want to be very careful if you have to place them over joints in the floor or on the wall. You will need to do a bit more research if you have to place a tile over a joint, but it is possible.  

The issue with placing a tile over a joint is what it is already an unstable place when the house shifts or settles, the joint is going to move and shift more than anywhere else in the house. This will most likely break the tile before it makes it loose. 

Choosing the Right Adhesive for Fixing a Loose Floor Tile

When figuring out what adhesive to use when fixing your tile, you need to know what adhesives are used for what. When fixing a floor tile, you don’t have to worry about working against gravity, but you do need to worry about water and constant wear and tear due to people walking and dropping things.  

Another factor you have to consider is the flooring you are placing the tile on; this also matters when choosing the right adhesive. 

Thinset Tile Mortar

With this adhesive, you have two options

  • Standard – comes as a bagged powder that is mixed with water and starts setting once it is mixed. It must be used all at once or thrown away.
  • Pre-mixed thinset – comes in big tubs and is ready to use.  Usually, this is the more expensive option but has added convenience of not having to be used all at once. 

Now when using thinset mortar, you have quite a few positives. 

Positive characteristics of thinset mortar. 

  • Resistant to moisture and mold growth.  
  • Heat resistant, so it won’t lose its grip when heat is present.
  • Dimensionally stable, so it will not shrink or contract. 
  • Flexible. When using mortar, you have the ability to account for uneven surfaces.  Now, you can’t level out extreme levels of differences, but you can level out slight level changes or bridge gaps. 

Unfortunately, thinset mortar does have a cracking problem.  However, you can usually mix it with a special latex additive to help this issue. Overall, though, this is your best option for bathrooms due to its water resistance. 

Epoxy Tile Mortar

This type of adhesive comes in two or three separate tubes that must be mixed right before you use it. Epoxy set very quickly, so you will need to work fast, but this also allows for fixing the grout usually a few hours after fixing the tile. This type of mortar is best for certain materials like porcelain, ceramic, glass, stone, metal, mosaic, pebbles, rubber flooring and woodblock flooring.

Positive characteristics of epoxy-based mortar:

  • High compression strength
  • Sticks rather well to resin backed stones.  
  • Easy to use
  • Extremely simple to maintain. 
  • Very resistant to a wide variety of chemicals. You want the temperature to be between 60 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit to effectively cure the epoxy in a good amount of time. Warmer temperatures speed up curing time, but cooler temps slow it down. 
  • Great for wall tiles, because it starts gripping as soon as it is placed. 

On the downside, epoxy sets so quickly you won’t have much room for error or to change anything after placing the tile. After about 45 minutes, epoxy isn’t usable if it is not on the material you are adhering to, so you will need to work quickly.  It is also more expensive than your thinset mortar. Epoxy mortars are recommended for your professionals rather than anyone who is doing it themselves at home. 

Choosing a Grout When Fixing a Floor Tile

When fixing or replacing tiles, you will need grout to fill the holes and cracks between the tiles. 

Sanded vs. Unsanded Grout

Sanded grout is more resistant to shrinking and cracking than unsanded grout. Usually, you would choose sanded grout when the tiles are less than ⅛ of an inch. Unsanded grout gives a smoother look but doesn’t hold up as long as sanded grout.

Cement vs. Epoxy Grout

You also have the choice of cement versus epoxy grout. Epoxy grout is more resistant to stains, water, and chemicals, but it is harder to find and usually harder to install, especially when doing it yourself. Cement-based grout, however, is more easily found, cheaper and more versatile. 

Grout Color

You want to be very careful when choosing your grout for your tile fix.  Not getting the correct color will be very obvious once placed next to the grout that is already placed.  You need to keep the color consistent to keep up the aesthetic in your space. 

Tips for Making Your DIY Work

When fixing or laying your tile floor, there are a few tips we can give you to help things go smoother. 

  • Clean surface. Always make sure the floor you place your tile on is as clean as possible.  Less dust and dirt will allow for a tighter hold when placing the adhesive. 
  • Drying time. AllowIng for the adhesive to dry for the correct amount of time is very important.  Most places suggest waiting 24 hours at a minimum. 
  • Accurate measurement. Measure everything several times.  No matter how big or small your space is, you need to measure everything several times to confirm exactly how many square feet you need and then exactly how many tiles will fit into the area. 
  • Even application. When applying tiles to the wall, you want to spread adhesive on the wall, then place the tiles. You have to pay close attention to making sure the adhesive is spread evenly across the entire space. 

Picking The Right Tile For Your Floor

Ceramic

Ceramic tiles are made from a mix of clay, water, and minerals. If you are looking at glazed styles, they are covered with liquid gas before being fired at extremely high temperatures. Between the liquid glass and high temperatures, it creates a scratch-resistant surface, which makes it good for areas with a lot of activity. 

Ceramic tiles are easy to install and come in such a large variety of colors.  However, it would not be a good idea for high-impact areas where heavy things would be dropping or falling as ceramic can be easier to crack. Ceramic tiles are average in price, about $2-$7 dollars a square foot unless you go with a custom art design, which can get very pricey. 

Porcelain

Porcelain tiles are a type of ceramic tile, but they are fired at a higher temperature, which makes them less porous, denser, and capable of withstanding more impact.  This type of tile would be great for backsplashes, floors, or walls given that it is easy to clean, stain-resistant, and comes in a wide range of styles for wherever you need to place it. This type of tile is also on the cheaper side ranging from $2-$7 unless you go with custom art. 

The only downfall of this type of tile is that it takes special adhesive that will work with non-porous materials.  Using the wrong adhesive would create too many air bubbles under the tiles and cause loose tiles way too soon. Having to fix tiles too soon after installing can get very pricey and time-consuming when you could just use the correct adhesive the first time. 

Glass

Usually, glass tiles are simply glass forms on mesh backings.  They can be sold alone but are more commonly sold in a large mosaic mixed with other materials.  These tiles are best for walls and backsplashes, as very few are rated for floor impact. The reflective and colorful nature gives such a wow effect that this tile is used largely for places with a high traffic area or used for entertaining a lot of people. 

The downfall of glass tiles is the expense, usually $7-$30 a square foot, and even sometimes more than that.  Glass is also extremely hard and expensive to install due to the transparent look of glass. Unless you have a highly skilled carpenter, you will be able to see every air bubble or flaw in the adhesive through the glass once it is put on. 

Cement

Cement tiles are mostly handmade of natural materials and are made with bold colors that are rarely seen. They are resilient and durable, which makes them great for walls, backsplashes, and floors. Cement is difficult to work with, and most contractors aren’t familiar with the material, so it can also be very expensive to install. 

Cement tiles range from $9-$17 square foot, which is on the more expensive side of things, and with the hard install, you could be paying a large amount to have cement tiles put it your house. 

Stone

Stone tiles are natural made stone cut into squares. These tiles are uniquely designed due to their naturally made nature. The types of materials you can get into stone tiles are:

  • Granite
  • Slate
  • Travertine
  • Marble
  • Onyx
  • Sandstone

Stone can be used for walls, floors or back splashes due to its ability to withstand high amounts of traffic. You have to seal it when you install it, and it needs to be sealed again about every 10 years. 

The only downfall is that stone is easily worn down by water, pigment, and acid rather easily. If placing this tile in areas like workspaces or art studios, you would not keep your floors in great condition for very long. 

Got Some Leftover Tile? Here Are Some Ideas.

While tile is mostly made for walls, floors, and backsplashes, there are quite a few artsy fun things you can use leftover tile for. 

  • Tile Coasters– Using leftover tiles, you can cut them into smaller equal sizes and use them as colorful coasters for your drinks. 
  • Menu Board – You could get really creative with this option. You can adhere to the tile to any surface in a manner that resembles a calendar. Use it to plan out your meals each month in a different and colorful way. 
  • Tile Trivets – Similar to the coasters, except they would be larger and placed on your counters to protect them from heat damage. 
  • Tile Headboard – using any kind of base, you can use leftover tiles or a collection of broken tile, to make a unique looking headboard. No one would have the same one you do, and you could definitely make it to your liking. 
  • Mosaic Plant Pots – Using broken tile pieces, you can adhere the pieces to pots you put plants in to create colorful design pieces.  
  • Making a Mosaic – A Mosaic is a collection of broken or different colored tile that is used to make up an art statement or colored arrangement. 

Reasons Not to DIY Tiles

While most people successfully DIY their repairs or laying of tile, there are quite a few reasons that professionals recommend to not fix or lay tiles yourself. The only reason people recommend not to do this is to save you time and money, but let’s talk about more specific reasons. 

  • It’s a long term investment – Tiles are not something you can change your mind on the next day. They are not cheap, and the laying or removal of them is also not cheap. If you lay them yourself, you have to rent tools, which cost money, and if you decide you don’t want them tomorrow, that is quite a bit of money and time wasted.
  • Risking the lifetime of your floor – Laying tiles yourself can open you up for several mistakes. Mixing your grout wrong, spacing things wrong, or putting too much or not enough adhesive can cause loose and cracked tiles.  Costing you more money and time in the end, whereas if you just asked a professional, you wouldn’t be doing it twice. 
  • Water damage – placing tiles yourself opens the tiles for water damage if you don’t do the grout or sealant correctly. That can be far more costly to deal with than hiring a professional in the first place. 
  • Voiding the warranty – Most tiles come with a warranty. However, written in some fine print is that if you don’t hire a professional, it voids your warranty.  Just make sure to read carefully before you start any process so that if you need a claim, you still have that ability. 
  • Aesthetic – You may just get to the end of your placement and realize you placed tiles crooked or in the wrong pattern, which just messes with the aesthetic of the piece you are working on. 

Overall, tile is a great choice for any space you want to cover.  If you pick the right one, it’s cheap and easy to install and will last a long time before you have to fix or replace anything. Even if you have to fix or replace it, those steps are also easy and can mostly be done yourself through a bit of research. 

As long as you do your research, you should not have any problem completing your DIY without any hitches. While there are a lot of things to look at and remember when trying to fix or place your tile, the work is definitely worth it once you see your space come together.  There is something about doing the work yourself that makes it that much better.

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