Cracked, chipped, or broken tiles in a ceramic countertop is something that needs immediate care as it can create hazardous leaks and bacteria growth on the counter. Replacing a ceramic countertop tile is easy enough to do as an evening project providing you have all your supplies at hand. The critical item to get first is a matching tile for the countertop, the right size, and the right color shade and pattern.
If the countertop was done in ceramic since you've been living at that place, there is a good chance that you saved the remaining left-over tiles, which will make the repair job a lot easier for color matching the tiles. If not, you can probably bring a few samples from your local store to get the perfect match, or at least the closest, since even that will be better than your damaged tile.
Most of the tools and other materials needed are very basic ones that you probably have already or that you can easily obtain from your local hardware store or home improvement center.
Step 1 - Remove the Broken Tile
Most do-it-yourselfers feel that removing the broken tile without damaging or cracking the other tiles is the most difficult part of the project. The task can be a bit daunting, but take some safety measures, and things will go well. First, put on your goggles to protect your eyes from flying chips, and also put on your work gloves. Pieces of broken tile can be extremely sharp and can easily damage your vision or cut you severely. Place duct tape on the edges of all the tiles surrounding the one you are replacing. This will help to cushion and protect them in case the hammer or chisel slips.
Use the box knife to score the grout all the way around the broken tile. Then, use the hammer to hit the tile a couple of times to crack it more. Pick up all the broken pieces and discard them. Don't use plastic trash bags, as they will cut through the bag. Instead, discard the pieces in an old cardboard box. Use the putty knife or scraper to scrape away any stubborn tile pieces and remaining adhesive and grout. Vacuum the area to remove any dust and tiny pieces of tiles.
Step 2 - Installing New Tile
Make sure the tile fits into the opening you have created. If the area is too small, scrape away all the grout against the adjacent tiles. Put some tile adhesive into the open area and make groves in it with the tip of your putty knife. Place more adhesive on the back of the new tile and push it into the opening, wiggling it a bit to bring it to level with the other tiles surrounding it and force out the excess adhesive while squeezing out the air pockets. Wipe away any extra adhesive before it has time to dry, as it's almost impossible to remove once it's dry. Use some spacer setting them in the space between the tiles to create and maintain an even and straight grout line.
Apply grout to the area between the new tile and the old ones, using a float to clean away the excess grout before it dries. The cloudy residue from the grout can then be wiped clean with a damp sponge to do this, rinsing it out in clean water frequently. Don't push so hard that you remove the grout you just applied. Residues from the grout will leave the tile looking cloudy, so use this as a guideline to determine whether you've cleaned the area properly.
Step 3 - Finishing the Job
After the grout has dried, you should seal the new grout. If you haven't sealed the countertop grout in the past year, you should re-do the entire countertop at this time. Keeping the grout sealed will keep the grout from staining and discoloring over time. It also provides a protective coating that renders the grout joint waterproof and helps keep it from chipping away. Apply the sealer with a paintbrush as per the manufacturer's instructions and also observe the manufacturers drying time recommendations for the job.