“Norma, I recently had some repairs done to my apartment as a result of a burst geyser. Some of the floor tiles starting lifting due to the enormous amount of water. Anyhow, these tiles were taken out and re-cemented in, except for one as it broke. We have tried everywhere to get another floor tile, but this particular make and model is no longer in stock. I have been thinking of getting a contrasting color tile and doing some art work on the tile… like writing a message of LOVE, HOPE, DREAMS, etc. What I need to know is how can I then glaze/protect this tile from getting damaged?” – VWHITE, WYSK Reader

NV: Hi VWHITE, you must be reading my mind! Turns out I personally have a tile project that falls right in line with your contrast tile replacement fix.

Love Hope Peach Faith TileLet me say, I love your idea of adding an accent tile with an inscription to replace a cracked one. When you can’t find an exact or nearly exact match, I always advise it’s better to use a contrasting accent tile, rather than a close-but-no-cigar mismatch, and work it!

When I say work it, I mean have fun with it, get creative, just like your inspirational message tile! What’s more, an accent tile can be used to bring art or visual interest to a plainly tiled floor or wall even when there are no cracked tiles that need replacing.

If you’re on a budget, since you’d only be using a few tiles, you can choose pricey high relief or glass tiles to make a border around the vanity mirror, create a mosaic medallion in your foyer, or accent a threshold (the lead image shows what I did in my house)!

You can also personalize a room, like painting a tile that reads La Cucina di Nonna for grandma’s kitchen. How about a few rubber ducky tiles around the tub of your kids’ bathroom? I advised a friend of mine to do that… looks adorable! Pet lover? Paw prints! The options are endless.

Decorative Tiles

zazzle.com tiles (left to right): who left the paw prints?, rubber duck, advice for living well, modern Moroccan monogram

Now, VWHITE, to address your question about how to protect personalized artwork on new tile from damaging foot traffic, here’s what to do…

How To Custom Design & Seal Accent Tiles

  • Choose a tile that’s properly rated for its location (i.e. high density for floors, frost-proof for exterior, water absorption for wet locations, etc.)
  • Clean off your accent tile with a household detergent – making it dirt and oil free.
  • Prime the tile with an oil-based primer. Let dry following manufacturers instructions.
  • porcelain paint pensUse carbon paper to sketch, stencil or freehand an image or message on a tile. Choose from the following paints to be sure your artwork won’t scratch off: ceramic/porcelain paint and paint pens*, enamel paint, oil based paint. Keep Q-Tips and alcohol handy to remove any oopsies. Let dry…
  • Seal the tile with a clear oil-based polyurethane. Apply at least 2 coats following manufacturer’s instructions.

*Ceramic/porcelain paints are applied to ceramic surfaces then baked in your oven for a glossy hard finish – you can’t properly use this product on tiles that are already installed. This paint is designed to be used without a primer.

Now it sounds like for you, VWHITE, that your broken tile has already been removed, but for those of us that need to first remove the tile, here’s what you do:

How To Remove & Replace A Tile

Note: Be careful! Tile shards are very sharp. Wear safety gloves and glasses!

Breaking out the old:

  • cracked-tile-stepsRemove the tile by first scraping out the grout joints with a grout saw.
  • Punch small divots in a big X across the face of the tile with a nailset and hammer.  With the divots as starting points drill out holes through the tile to weaken it and create a break point.
  • Now breakout the tile in small pieces with a hammer and chisel.
  • Once the tile is out, scrape away any remaining adhesive. Use a grout saw to clean the edges of the adjoining tiles.

Gluing and grouting in the new:

  • Spread tile adhesive on the back of the tile using the short end of the trowel or scraper. Run grooves through the glue.
  • Insert the tile in the space and gently press it in place using the butt of your fist. Check that the tile is sitting flush with the others. Be sure that the grout lines are even and line up with the existing ones. Wipe away any glue that may have squeezed out to the surface. Allow it to dry overnight.
  • To fill in grout lines, use a grout float to press the grout into the joints of the tile lines.  It’s best to hold the float at an angle and pass over the area firmly in a diagonal direction.
  • With a damp sponge gently wipe away the grout that remains on the face of the tile.
  • As the grout dries a powdery residue will form – gently wipe it away with a soft clean rag being careful not to wipe out any of the grout.
  • Apply grout sealer following manufacturer’s instructions.

Huichol Oaxaca_Mexican Folk Art TileVWHITE, about you reading my mind, I currently have to get creative with a few tiles in my pool – a project I’ll soon be tackling with summer’s end here. There are three border tiles, just under the coping by the main steps that are badly cracked. I’ve tried to find a match with no real luck – a similar blue, a similar finish, but nothing close enough to go unnoticed!

So instead of a settling for a near match, I’m going to find Mexican folk-art tiles that will contrast beautifully next to the existing royal blue tiles and desert landscape of my backyard. I think I may purposely breakout a few healthy tiles to extend the Mexican tile border the length of the step entry… hmmm… yes, I like this idea the more I’m thinking about it!

Norma sig

Got A DIY Question? Ask-The-Expert!

If you have a DIY home repair, maintenance or improvement question for Norma, now is your chance to ask-the-expert and have her answer. Your burning question may just be the “star” of an upcoming Fix-It Friday column.

Add your question to the comments section below or email it to Women You Should Know.


Fix-It Friday is an exclusive Women You Should Know® editorial series authored by seasoned veteran of home improvement, Norma Vally, the former host of Discovery Home Channel’s series “Toolbelt Diva” and a show on Sirius Satellite Radio by the same name. The weekly column is designed to inspire women – weekend warriors, aspiring handywomen, and even seasoned DIYers – to take on home repairs and maintenance projects with confidence and gusto.