I have an older home with wall tiles throughout my bathroom. Some of the tiles are cracked and not looking too good. What can I do besides tearing everything out?
Other than replacing the tiles, there are a few things you can do to make the walls look better. First, if the grout around the tiles is dirty, you can attempt to clean this up, by either regrouting or trying cleaning products. Regrouting is done by using a hand-held grout saw, a grout float, and new grout. This does take some time and effort, but can make things look better.
You’ll need to know if your grout has a sand additive to it or not, so that you can match the existing grout. Also, be aware that if you are not removing all of the grout from the entire wall, you may see slight color differences between the new and the old.
As to the cracked tiles you mentioned, again, if you aren’t going to replace them, a clear silicone caulk will at least keep the water from getting behind the wall.
A second option would be to cover the tiles with a tub or shower surround. More and more homes are installing these, as it makes the appearance nice and smooth, cleans easier than tiles, and needs less maintenance. The trick to a nice looking shower surround is not to buy the least expensive ones, as they can be less on quality as well. For a good one, you can plan on spending $300 – $500. The surround for a shower is slightly more. Usually, there will be shelves built in for toiletries.
Although installing a surround is not extremely difficult, it is better to let the professionals do this, as one mistake can ruin the surround, especially if you are going to have one mounted onto the existing tile in your bathroom. Care needs to be taken so that the tile still shows on the borders, making the project look its best. Some hardware stores carry a couple of surrounds, but for a better selection, you may want to go to a plumbing supply house, such as Henry’s Plumbing. You can even get a surround which looks like tile, if you like.