Pool Repair: Replacing Pool Tiles

how-to-remove-calcium-from-pool-tileEven the most well-made pool will require some level of repair after a few years of use. With any luck, you’ll never face anything disastrous, and will only ever need to address minor fix-ups.

While Sun Valley Pool Service is always happy to assist with pool repair projects, we also like to empower our customers with a bit of DIY know-how for those who don’t mind getting their hands dirty. For our readers needing pool repair in Orange County, our friends at Bronco Pool Service are happy to assist!

In this article, we’re going to explore the steps and materials necessary to replace broken tile.

Replacing Pool Tiles

Most pools with tile have a relatively thin strip of them around the top perimeter of the well. While there are some exceptions, the majority of tile repair jobs will only require a slight reduction in the water level.

There are products available that work underwater for tile repair. But the truth is that working with fully dry materials and surfaces will make for longer-lasting results.

If it is feasible to reduce the water level so that all the tiles are exposed, this is your best option. While you’ve got that in the works, make sure you’ve gathered all the right tools for the job:

  • Grout Saw: These look a lot like a flathead screwdriver, only the edge is much wider, and is serrated like a saw.
  • Flathead Screwdriver and Hammer: You will need the hammer throughout the project, and a flathead screwdriver will offer more precision in smaller spaces.
  • Thinset Repair Mortar: This product is available at your local home repair shop or your local pool care company. It is specially designed for use in and around pool water.
  • Tile Grout: Be sure you select the waterproof mixture that’s designed for use in bathrooms, pools, etc.
  • Tile-?: Do you really need new tile, or are the broken pieces large enough to simply reapply? You may have a few leftover from the initial pool installation, or you may want to try and color-match with a few new tiles.
  • Trowel: You will need this for mixing the mortar and applying it to the tile.
  • Tape: This is to hold the new or repaired tile in place as the mortar dries.

Removing the Grout

Your first step is to set the grout saw along the edge of the tile and use the hammer to chip away any remaining grout that is still holding bits of tile in place. As mentioned above, a flathead screwdriver may be more accurate for use in corners or around smaller tiles.

Removing the Tiles

You will then use essentially the same process to break loose the tiles themselves. Be sure and angle the tool as close to the pool wall as possible, to increase the chance of breaking the tile clean in one piece.

Applying the Mortar

Follow the instructions provided on the packaging to prepare the thinset repair mortar for use. Use your trowel to mix it, aiming for a smooth, paste-like consistency with no clumps or air bubbles.

Some kits also include a separate bonding agent, that is to be mixed in once the mortar itself is prepared. Once mixed, use the trowel to apply a 1/8 inch layer to the backs of the tile pieces.

Placing the Tile

Because the mortar dries quickly, you will want to place the tile directly after applying the mortar. Tape them down as you set them, and check them frequently within the first couple of hours, to be sure they haven’t slipped out of place.

24 to 48 hours is plenty of time for the mortar to completely dry and bond to the wall of your pool. At this point, it’s safe to remove the tape.

Add Grout

Now that your tiles have dried, use small bits of waterproof tile grout to seal the edges and reinforce their placement. Why only a small amount at a time? The “small and careful” method reduces mistakes, and leaves less of a mess to clean up, in the event that you smudge a bit of grout onto the tiles themselves.

The grout will be fully dry within about 24 hours. At this point, you can gently chip or scrub off any overlaps. Once everything is tidied up, go ahead and fill your pool water to the appropriate level, and enjoy a job well done!

For our visual learners out there, here is a helpful how-to video to walk you through this process.


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