Make your tile floor level and safe for your young explorer.

How to Fix Uneven Ceramic Tiles

by Eric Jonas

If you've invested your time and elbow grease into laying a brand new tile floor, a few uneven tiles can be frustrating when they mar the look of the finished floor and become instant trip hazards for little feet. If there are just a few uneven tiles, you can repair the floor if you’re willing to invest a little more elbow grease. Since the mortar underneath is generally the likely culprit, you can pull up the uneven tiles and set them back down properly to create a level and trip-free floor.

1 Cover the tiles next to the uneven tile with painter's tape to protect the surrounding tiles while you work.

2 Tap a chisel or flat-head screwdriver with a hammer along the grout line down one side of the uneven tile. As you tap, the force will break up the grout, exposing the side of the tile. Slide the chisel or flat-head into the grout line and begin prying up the tile. Work gently to avoid breaking the tile so you can reinstall it back in place evenly.

3 Scrape off the underlying material once you have removed the tile. The thin-set mortar or mastic that was used to secure the tile to the floor is the likely culprit of the tile's unevenness. Continue to chisel it away until you reach the subfloor and the area is completely smooth and flat. Remove the painter’s tape and then clean out the area with a vacuum. Remove the thin-set or mastic from the back of the tile as well.

4 Prepare a small batch of thin-set or mastic according to the manufacturer's instructions and spread a layer into the missing area or onto the back of the tile with a trowel. Press the tile into the clean space and then place a level across the newly placed tile and the adjacent tiles to ensure that it is even. The thin-set or mastic will not set right away. If the tile is not even, you can remove it to add more or remove some, and then try placing it again. Let the mortar dry according to the manufacturer’s instructions -- generally 24 hours.

5 Refill the gaps in between the tiles with grout and use a grout float to smooth the grout line's surface. Remove grout that gets on the tile's face with a damp sponge and then allow the grout to dry according to the manufacturer’s instructions before walking on the floor.

Items you will need

  • Painter’s tape
  • Chisel (or flat-head screwdriver)
  • Hammer
  • Vacuum
  • Thin-set mortar or mastic
  • Trowel
  • Grout
  • Grout float
  • Sponge

Tip

  • If the tile breaks during removal, the floor isn't ruined forever. You can replace it with a new tile, leftover from the original installation, or make the floor unique by replacing it with an accent or mosaic tile instead.

Warning

  • Wear a pair of safety glasses when you're chiseling the tile and the floor.

References

  • Working with Tile; Tom Meehan
  • Ultimate Guide to Ceramic & Stone Tile: Select, Install, Maintain; Editors of Creative Homeowner

About the Author

Eric Jonas has been writing in small-business advertising and local community newsletters since 1998. Prior to his writing career, he became a licensed level II gas technician and continues to work in the field, also authoring educational newsletters for others in the business. Jonas is currently a graduate student with a Bachelor of Arts in English and rhetoric from McMaster University.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images