Chipped Tile Repair
DEAR TIM: I dropped a glass on our new tile and put a chip in one of the tiles. The chipped tile is part way under the refrigerator and we don't want to put in a new tile. The inside of the tile is very dark, but the top glazed surface on all of the other tile is a white/tan color. Is there anyway we can fill the chipped place and do some kind of repair job? Ann A., Estero, FL
DEAR ANN: It is absolutely possible to repair this chipped tile. If you are patient and have some decent hand-eye coordination, you can very possibly accomplish a repair that will fool everyone unless you draw their attention to the exact spot of the accident.
The first step is to gather the needed materials for the job. You will need a small amount of oil-based primer/sealer, high gloss oil paint that matches the color of the tile exactly and a syringe of two-part clear marine epoxy.
The primer sealer can often be purchased at a hobby shop. They sell paints in small bottles very similar in size to fingernail polish. The finish paint will probably have to be mixed at a top-quality paint store that just sells paint. Hopefully you have a spare tile you can drop off to the paint store. If you give them a day or so, they can spend time when they are not busy to get a perfect color match.
Once you have all of the supplies, you can get to work. The first thing to do is clean the chipped area with soap and water and rinse with clear water. Use a hair dryer for several minutes to ensure the tile is completely dry. Even when you think it is dry, continue to blow warm air over the chipped area for 15 minutes. The exposed tile can soak up lots of water and it may take a while to wick out all of the moisture from the tile.
Once the tile is dry, use a very small brush and carefully apply some of the primer/sealer to just the chipped area of the tile. Do not get any on the upper glazed surface immediately adjacent to the chipped depression. Do not apply so much that you end up with a puddle of paint in the chipped area.
Wait two hours and then apply a coat of finish paint in the same manner as you applied the primer/sealer. Once again do not get any on the glazed surface of the tile and do not apply any excess paint so it puddles in the chipped area. If one coat of finish paint completely coats the dark area of the tile so that the color looks perfect once dry, then it is time for the final step. If there is a color difference, apply a second light coat of finish paint 24 hours after you apply the first coat.
Once the color matches the surrounding part of the tile, then wait an additional 24 hours. The final step is mixing the two-part marine epoxy that will fill the chipped area so it is the same height as the surrounding glazed part of the tile. Be sure the marine epoxy is clear and that it says it is waterproof on the label.
Carefully squirt out equal amounts of each part of the epoxy onto a scrap of cardboard and mix it very well. I prefer to use a toothpick for this task. Be sure the chipped tile area is lighted very well so that you can see what you are doing.
Apply the epoxy with the tip of a toothpick being very careful to only get it in the chipped area. Carefully dab a small amount of epoxy at a time and add just enough so the top of the epoxy is level with the top of the tile. It usually takes an hour for the epoxy to fully set. Protect the epoxy from any foot traffic for a minimum of 24 hours.