Having tiles fall from your bathroom walls is a nightmare for any homeowner, especially if you just had the bathroom redone. If a tile fell off your shower wall, you need to get it replaced quickly to avoid further damage and mold growth.
When tiles fall in your shower, you need to remove the remaining tile from the wall, prepare the area, and prep the new tile. When replacing the tile, check to ensure it’s flush on either side and leave room for grout. Tile adhesive should cure for 24 hours and grout for 24 to 36.
Why Do Tiles Fall Off Shower Walls?
Most tiles fall off shower walls because of improper installation and exposure to hot water. You can’t avoid hot water in your bathroom, so it’s essential to remedy the issue as quickly as possible. However, tiles can fall off for more than just one reason:
- Someone didn’t clean the tiles before they installed them. Chalkdust on new tiles interferes with the tile’s ability to stay on the wall.
- The installer accidentally used a water-soluble adhesive (that’s not very helpful in a shower!).
- Someone didn’t prime the tiles.
- The installer used grout before 24 hours had elapsed to allow the tiles to set.
- The grout wasn’t waterproof.
- The shower was used too soon and penetrated the grouting.
- Someone skipped grout sealant.
Tiles typically fall off due to an installation error. If a company did it and you have a warranty, they can replace the tiles for you. If you DIYed it yourself, you might have a few more steps before you have the shower of your dreams.
What To Do When Tiles Fall Off Shower Walls
If you recently had your bathroom redone, take a picture of it. You want to record evidence that the damage wasn’t your fault. Contact the company that did the installation. Most construction jobs come with a limited warranty, so you may be able to have it replaced free of charge.
If you did the tiling or don’t have a warranty, you need to start safely cleaning up the shards. Whether you have slate tiling or ceramic, tiles can splinter and shatter when they fall, leaving you with a dangerous bathroom situation. You should wear hard-soled shoes and work gloves, and use a dustpan and broom.
Next, you should remove any excess tile scraps that may still be on the wall. These can also fall and cause more damage to your floor, or you can injure yourself while showering. From here, you’ll install new tiles and add grout to ensure they stay in place.
How To Replace a Tile on a Shower Wall
Replacing tiles has four easy steps that can take a lot of effort. You’ll want to remove all damaged tiles, install new tiles, add grout, and then give the shower 24 to 36 hours to cure before use.
Remove All Damaged Tiles
Hopefully, you only need to repair a few tiles, not an entire wall. You need to remove all remnants of the broken tiles because new tiles won’t lay properly on an uneven surface. When removing the broken tiles, take special care not to damage the tiles on either side.
If the remaining tile sticks, you can use a hammer and putty knife to tap the tile pieces out of place gently. They should pop off without any resistance.
If you have an entire tile you need to remove that’s been cracked or damaged by other fallen tiles, these steps are for you:
- Place masking tape or gaffer’s tape on the tile
- Use a hand drill with a ceramic bit to drill a small and shallow hole into the tile through the tape (you can now remove the tape)
- Remove the grout on either side of the towel
- Use a hammer and chisel to remove tile fragments, starting at the hole you drilled
- Scrape or chisel off any remaining tile adhesive
- Brush all dust away
Install New Tiles
When installing your new tiles, you’ll apply the adhesive directly to the back of the new tile. Then, press the tile into the location you just cleared. Press the tile firmly until it’s flush with the tiles on every side.
If the tile is too high or too low, you’ll need to pull it off and add or remove adhesive until it is flush with its neighbors.
Next, you’ll place spacers between the tiles to ensure there’s enough space for grout on each side. Let the adhesive dry for 24 hours before adding grout. Otherwise, the moisture from the adhesive will stick behind the tile.
Grout Between Each Tile
Once the spacers are in place, and the tile adhesive has sat for 24 hours, use a grout spreader to spread the grout between the tiles. When the grout starts to harden, you can drag a grout shaper along the tile’s edges to make a unified finish.
Allow the Grout to Cure
Allow the grout to cure for 24 to 36 hours, and then wash up the surface with a damp towel or sponge to remove any remaining residue. You can spray the tile seams with grout sealant to give them extra protection from hot water.
Overall, replacing a broken tile yourself is a relatively simple process that can save you anywhere from $150 to $400.
How To Prevent Tiles From Falling Off Shower Walls
The prevention is in the tiling process. You can’t do anything if you have contractors doing all the tiling. However, there are things you can do when you’re doing your own tile work that can ensure your tiles stay on your wall.
- Make sure you don’t rush the process. Tile adhesive needs time to set, and so does grout.
- Use water-resistant adhesive and grout.
- Don’t skimp on the adhesive. Add enough to support the weight of the tile.
- Keep your work area dry.
If one tile falls off, consider placing a dehumidifier in the bathroom for a few days, and do not use the shower. The dehumidifier could help keep the remaining tiles on the wall if the issue was water infiltration.
What Happens if Water Gets Under the Tiles?
Water can do more than cause tiles to fall off shower walls. When water collects under the tiles, mold can grow and cause health issues. Mold growth is especially problematic for the elderly, the young, and people with respiratory health problems.
My Bathroom Tile Is Lifting but Isn’t Broken
It’s easier to repair a tile that hasn’t fallen and shattered. Like fallen tiles, you want to replace lifted tiles quickly. The less water that seeps into the adhesive, the better.
- Gently use a putty knife to loosen the tile along the seams and pop it off.
- Remove the adhesive on the tile and wall.
- Rinse the tile and wipe the wall down with a damp cloth or sponge.
- Apply adhesive to the tile and fit into place with spacers on each side.
- After 24 hours, add grout between the tiles, and then use grout sealant after another 24 hours.
- Wipe off the area with a damp sponge.
It isn’t the end of the world when a tile falls in your bathroom, but it is an issue that you should repair quickly. Without an efficient repair, more tiles can fail, and mold can begin growing. You can hire a contractor for $150 to $400 or replace the tile yourself with a few YouTube videos and some elbow grease!