A: At this point, your only feasible option is to replace the broken piece. Gorilla Glue, in its original and most common formulation, is a polyurethane adhesive. It needs a damp surface to cure, which is why it’s great for gluing items such as wet lumber but not so great for gluing dry materials such as ceramic tile unless you mist them first with water. The glue doesn’t have much “grab,” so you need to clamp the pieces tightly as the adhesive cures. Excess glue bubbles out around the joint. Or, in cases like yours, where the pieces aren’t tightly clamped, it leaves the surface covered with foamy residue.
While polyurethane adhesive is still wet, it’s possible to wipe off excess with a dry cloth or one moistened with paint thinner. But once it’s dry, you have to cut, sand, scrape or pick off the foam, bit by bit. Doing that would almost certainly mar what was once a relatively clean break, thwarting a good glue job even if you switched to a different kind of adhesive and rigged up a way to clamp the joint while the glue dried.
Before hiring someone to remove the old holder and install a new one, find a suitable replacement piece. You can do this yourself rather than pay someone to shop for you, but be aware that you might need to compromise on something that is close to what you have but not an exact match.
The homepage of the website for Community Forklift (301-985-5180; communityforklift.org), a store in Edmonston, Md., that specializes in used building materials, has a link to see many of the store’s products that are available via eBay. The store has black vintage toothbrush holders for $35, but the back plate appears to be smaller than a typical vintage tile (4¼ by 4¼ inches), so you might also need a few black tiles that the installer could cut and fit to fill the space.
By searching eBay for terms such as “black vintage cup holder,” you can find other options, including new but vintage-looking toothbrush and cup holders for $24.99 from one seller and $34.99 from another. These pieces have a back plate that measures around 5 by 5 inches. It’s designed to fit into the gap left by a single piece of vintage tile, typically 4¼ by 4¼ inches, and cover the grout lines and a bit of the tile on the surrounding sides. That gives the repair person a bit of wiggle room if edges of the adjoining tile chip while the broken piece is coming out. But the look would be slightly different from what you have now.
Another option is a surface-mounted toothbrush and toothpaste holder from Period Bath Supply Company (periodbath.com) for $45. You could replace the broken piece with a flat tile and then install the cup holder over it. Period Bath Supply’s website also shows a vintage “ming green” toothbrush and cup holder in a tile-in style, which is designed to exactly replace the space of a tile, just as in your piece, for $25. But you would need to determine whether ming green matches the green tiles in your bathroom.
Removing the broken piece is the trickiest part of the process, said Edgar Salazar, owner of Edgar’s Ceramic Services in Hyattsville (240-601-1565; facebook.com/edgarsceramicservices). “I’m worried,” he said. “If the wall is plaster, other pieces might come out. Sometimes that happens, sometimes it doesn’t.” He said he would cut the grout, then very slowly and carefully chip out the broken piece.
Joshua Rector, a customer service representative for Michael & Son Services (800-948-6453; michaelandson.com), a home improvement and repair company that takes on home handyman tasks and has locations throughout the Washington area, including in Hyattsville, also warned that removing the broken piece might damage tiles on one or both sides. When that happens, the company often suggests replacing the entire row of tiles in a contrasting color so there’s no need to find replacement tiles that match the original color.
In your case, you might be able to find green tiles that match yours at Community Forklift, which shows vintage green tiles on eBay in colors such as jade green, matte spruce, teal green and surf green. But it’s risky to match colors from what you see on a computer screen, so you might wait to see if the surrounding tiles are damaged, and then take one of your green tiles with you to the store. Community Forklift has set up a low-contact system for purchasing materials in person during the coronavirus closures.
If you do need to replace tiles and can’t match the green, your other option would be to replace the whole row with black tiles, which don’t present the same color-matching issues.
Salazar and Rector both estimated that removing the old piece and installing a new one might be a two-hour job, if everything goes well. Edgar’s Ceramic Services has a $100 minimum fee, which would cover that. Michael & Son charges a $29 dispatch fee to have someone go to your house and write up a written estimate. If you agree to have the work done, the dispatch fee would apply to the overall price. Rector said the company estimates costs only via in-home assessments.
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