Q. We recently purchased a home with badly chipped bathroom sinks. I want to replace these sinks, but they are bordered in ceramic tile that must be taken off to remove the old fixtures and install new ones.

Since the tile is in good condition (it also matches the wall tiling), I would like to preserve these tiles. Do you have any suggestions on how the tiles might be removed and reset after the new fixture installation?

A. Removing the tiles without damaging them will be nearly impossible. However, you might consider removing only those tiles that actually border the old sinks.

If you are installing larger sinks it may be possible to select a sink design that has a splash plate large enough to span the area between the sink and the remaining tiles. If this is not feasible, you will have to install a new tile border around the new fixtures.

Since a close match of new tiles to the old will probably not be possible, consider replacing the old tiles with a contrasting or complementary color. Even an ornate design would work as a decorative accent, one you might consider carrying out in the wall tile, with spot replacement of older tiles.

Removing in-place ceramic tiles takes patience and care. A welding effect is created when tiles are set in mortar. To remove tiles, you will need a hammer, nailset or common center punch and a cold chisel as well as an inexpensive glass cutter and putty knife.

Using a hammer and center punch or nailset, poke a hole through the glaze in the center of each tile to be removed. Using a glass cutter with a carpenter's square or thick metal ruler as a guide, heavily score the grout at all edges of each tile to be removed. Then, heavily score the face of the tile with an "X" from corner to corner, with the center of the "X" over the puncture hole you previously placed in the tile.

Using the cold chisel and hammer, start chipping out the tile at the center punch hole, working around the hole to enlarge it. Be sure to strike the tile to be removed with light, rapid blows or you may crack adjacent tiles.

When the tile fragments have been removed, use the putty knife to remove all of the old grout and adhesive so the surface will be ready for replacement tiles.

In replacing wall tiles you will need patching plaster to restore the wall finish. Mix and apply according to manufacturer's directions, making sure that the finish is smooth and even.

Primer after thoroughly dry, prior to installing the new tiles. Replacement tiles should be put in place with adhesive or epoxy and regrouted.

Instructions on new tile installation, including the details of cutting curves for corners, etc., are available from your tile dealer, along with proper tools.

Send inquiries to Here's How, Copley News Service, P.O. Box 190, San Diego, Calif. 92112-0190. Only questions of general interest can be answered in the column.