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How to Fix Loose Floor Tiles: A Simple Guide to Quick Repairs

When you moved in, you fell in love with the fun little DIY projects. You refinished your cabinets, and voilà,—an instant makeover.

You even figured out how to build a cool paver patio.

The broken floor tiles in the bathroom? You’ve avoided them for months!

Did you know 1 in 3 older adults fall each year? Could paying attention to those loose floor tiles protect you from falling?

Aside from the way you’ll feel if you or a loved one suffers an injury in your home, broken tiles look ugly.

If you’ve avoided the repair job because you’re not certain how to fix loose floor tiles, we’re here to lend a helping hand.

Ready to get back on an even keel? Read our simple guide to quick floor tile repairs and lower your risk of slip and fall accidents. You’ll enjoy a more attractive floor too!

Gather Your Tools

tools for repairing tiles

Since you enjoy DIY projects you may have a few of the tools you’ll need hanging out around your workbench. Here’s your tool list:

  • Bucket
  • Trowel
  • Hammer
  • Utility Knife
  • Chisel
  • Level
  • Rubber Grout Float
  • Grout Sponge
  • Microfiber or Soft Cloth

If you’re lucky, the previous owners left a box of leftover tiles. If not, bring the tile with you to your local home improvement store.

You may not find the identical tile, but you should find something close

You’ll also need acrylic floor adhesive and grout.

Why Is This Tile Loose Anyway?

tile installation

Whether you laid the tile, or the previous owner did the job, when you have loose floor tiles, you always wonder what caused the tile to pop up.

There isn’t one cause but the most common reasons for loose floor tiles are:

  • Adhesion Issues
  • Load
  • Substrate Movement
  • Moisture
  • Weather

One of the most common causes of loose floor tiles is the incorrect use of adhesive.

Not applying the right amount of adhesive, also called dobbing, creates hollow areas under the tile.

These voids eventually lead to loose tiles.

Sometimes the tile installer (professional or DIYer) doesn’t use the correct adhesive.

Another adhesive problem occurs when the adhesive isn’t mixed correctly.

If the loose tile is part of an outdoor floor, rain and sunshine both put stress on tiles. Weather also affects the glue and the foundation underneath the tile floor.

These aren’t the only reasons tiles loosen up, but they’re a few of the most common. The most common room you’ll find loose tiles is the bathroom.

How to Remove Floor Tiles in the Bathroom

removing tiles

Since moisture seepage is one reason tiles loosen, it’s not surprising to find them on the bathroom floor.

The problem with ignoring loose bathroom or shower floor tiles is what happens to the subfloor, or substrate underneath. Unchecked, moisture seeping behind or under any types of bathroom tiles can cause structural damage. You may also end up with mold growing under the shower.

With a bit of patience, you can fix a loose floor tile.

First, remove the grout around the tile. This is where you’ll need the hammer and chisel. You may want hearing protection and safety glasses as well.

We didn’t put it on the tool list, but you can make the job go faster with an oscillating grout tool.

With the old grout removed, you can now remove the tile with your hammer and chisel. After removing the tile, scrape away the old thin-set.

Hint: This is a great time to take the old tile to the tile store and see if you can find a match.

Tips to Make the Job Easier

use trowel

Grab your level—it’s time to dry-set the new piece of tile. The new tile should sit lower than the others to accommodate for the new layer of thin-set you’ll spread on next.

Measure the thickness of your tile piece. Use a trowel that’s the same size to spread your thin-set. Usually, a ¼ inch trowel works fine.

You’re responsible for mixing the thin-set. You’ll know you’ve mixed the thin-set correctly if the trowel ridges keep their shape.

By the way, thin-set is another name for mortar and you apply it to the floor.

That said, some tile installers also suggest a procedure called back buttering, which means you apply a layer of thin-set to the underside of your tile.

You do this so that the tile sticks better to the old substrate.

Once you set the tile down, firmly press on each side. Make sure your tile is level and your grout joints aren’t crooked.

Don’t let the grout tempt you to apply it before you allow the thin-set to dry. Thin-set needs 2-3 hours of drying time.

You’re also the grout mixer. Funny thing about grout—when mixed correctly, it’s the consistency of peanut butter.

Also, don’t let grout intimidate you, it’s smashable. You spread it onto the center of your tile, and smash it into the grout joints.

Another tip that can make future tile repair jobs easier is to avoid loose tiles in the first place by using a process called shower tile sealing.

Final Floor Tile Repair Steps

final floor tile repair

Okay, let’s get back to our grout! Remember we gave you the tool list? Grab the rubber grout float, it’s time to scrape grout.

Hold the grout float at a 45-degree angle and start scraping. Make sure you remove all grout. Now, you wait.

Follow the grout manufacturer’s recommendations for how long to wait (usually 15-30 minutes).

You’re waiting for the film that develops on the tile. You get to remove it with the moistened grout sponge.

After another 60 minutes, you can buff the tile with the microfiber cloth.

Now You Know How to Fix Loose Floor Tiles

living room tiles

Congratulations! You’ve added yet another successful project to your DIY portfolio, and you can likely show someone else how to fix loose floor tiles.

Even though we focused on loose bathroom floor tiles, you can use this process for any loose floor tile, in any room of your home.

Did you enjoy reading this post? We sure hope so! If you did, hang out a while longer on the blog and enjoy more articles on tiny home living.

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