From time to time while tiling, you might make a mistake. Hey, there's no reason to feel bad, even the most accomplished tile setters can foul up a job. (It's true, I've seen it firsthand.) The key thing to remember is that you can fix just about any mistake you can make, as long as you have the time, patience, and desire to do it right.
When we were tiling our backsplash we had a situation where one of the tiles was sitting significantly further out than its neighbor tiles. We didn't notice it before the thinset had setup, and instead ran across the offending tile the next morning while removing the spacers.
There may have been just a little too much thinset on the back, or perhaps we didn't push hard enough to get it snug against the backerboard, or maybe we just got a little slack in the moment. Whatever the case may be, we had a single bad looking tile among a long run of decent looking tiles that would have looked horrible if we decided to just go ahead and grout.
Since the grout hadn't been applied, fixing this little snafu was actually rather easy. I grabbed a few tools that I might need for the job, including a screwdriver, putty knife, tile spacers, and notched trowel, and got to work.
Knowing the thinset had not fully set up having been applied less than 24 hours earlier, I figured I could pop that tile out without disturbing its neighbors.
Working my way around the sides of the tile I pushed and wiggled the putty knife the in the hopes of slowly loosening the thinset bond. Though I wanted to apply enough force to loosen the tile, I made sure not to put any real pressure on any tile around it. The last thing I wanted to do was knock on of the surrounding tiles off the will, or worse, chip/damage one.
After wiggling around a fair amount, and using the counter as a bit if adequate leverage, the single high tile popped free from the wall.
As I mentioned, the thinset was not fully cured, but it had hardened enough to really be stuck on both the backerboard and the back of the tile. Had I just slapped on more thinset and pushed it back in place, we would have been right back where we started. Instead, using the putty knife and screw driver on the more stubborn parts of the tile, I scraped the thinset off of the backerboard and tile to create a fresh, smooth surface.
I had to work carefully since I didn't want to disturb the other tiles around it, but I was able to remove everything that I needed to take off.
With the tile clean and ready for reinstall, we used some of the thinset we had just mixed up for the next section of backsplash we were working on. By applying the thinset with a small putty knife to the back of the tile (rather than the wall), we were doing what it called "backbuttering" the tile. This allows us to both apply adequate thinset, achieve full coverage, and scrape with a notch trowel to give a propper but one off backing for the tile.
Pushing the tile into place in its opening, we were able to get it nice and flush with the surrounding tile --the ultimate goal of this whole process.
To ensure proper placement we used the same spacers here that we had used on the rest of the backsplash, two spikes on the bottom and the green 1/16" around the perimeter.
After allowing a few minutes for a slight cure we were able to remove the spacers and check out the results of our little error correction.
This is one of those easier done than said tasks. In total it probably took about five minutes, and it allowed me to correct an issue that would have become a significant focal faux pas of the kitchen backsplash had we just left well enough alone. Writing this blog entry easily took at least 10 times the amount of time and effort as it did to correct the problem.
Does it seem easy to you? Or are you a "leave it alone" kind of person. There's nothing I'm better at than focusing on my own mistakes, and this one would have driven me nuts. I'm so glad I took the five minutes I needed to correct the problem.