Help Bill V or anyone ! New porcelain floor tiles coming loose!

kristine_2009May 29, 2010

We had about 600 sq ft of 20x20" porcelain tile installed about 4 months ago. Last month a couple of tiles starting making a clicking noise when you walked on them. Installer came back last week and replaced the 2 that were "clicking". Since then 5 more tiles are now clicking. I watched him pull the first 2 up. The tiles came up clean on the back, all of the thinset is stuck to the cement board but none to the tile back. Is that typical? Any ideas on what could be the problem? Of course this tile is now discontinued and I only have about 3 boxes left. This could be disastrous if they all start "popping".

This was all new flooring (new addition). So everything underneath was all new materials. I saw him put the thinset under the cement board as well as under the tile. He mentioned that he did not back butter the tiles.Could that be what caused this? The thinset was troweled onto the floor only. I still have part of the bag of mortar left, it is Mapei Ultraflex polymer modified mortar (gray). We live in the midwest and these were installed in cool dry weather. It is now warm and humid, wondering if that is why they are now starting to loosen?

Please help with any advice you may have about what has gone wrong and the best solution to fix it. Thanks so much!

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If he has been laying tile for any time, I can not believe it is a transfer problem. And I believe mapei Ultraflex can be used with porcelain. My mind initial goes to Deflection. Grout Lines should also be deteriorating. It does not smell like climate to me. They would normally not just pop loose. Popping loose failures normally with my stores means deflection. I have had recent climate issues on about 3 occasions and all of them crack the tile in sub floor joints.It sounds like either adhesion issues (Mortar) or Deflection (Vibration) I am curious as to what Bill V says. I do not believe it is a cut and dried answer without examination of home.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2010 at 1:28AM
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Thanks for your response. Our subfloor is 3/4" advantech plywood with 1/4" cementboard. I will have my husband check to see what we have for floor joists. Maybe it is possible our contractor didn't build a strong enough floor underneath.

In only one instance has a small amt of grout cracked, it has been intact on all of the others that have come loose. Our tile installer is really at a loss at why this is happening.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2010 at 7:02AM
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I'm not an expert but have done quite a bit of tiling. This sounds like the installer let the thinset get skinned over before setting the tile, or the tiles were dusty on the backside and the thinset stuck to the dust, not the tile.

I never back butter my floor tiles, but I periodically lift one back up and check for adhesion. So far, I have never had a tile where I could "pop" it off and have no adheasive on the back side.

If you subfloor is not solid you will have cracking grout or craking tile, but the tiles should still be bonded to the thinset. There are some subfloor material that thinset won't stick well to and tiles can come loose, but then the thinset is on the tile and not sticking to the floor.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2010 at 10:48AM
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I agree with MacyBaby. If your installer spread more thinset than he could lay tile on before it began to dry (skin) on the surface, it might not adhere to the tile as well as it should have. I would be even more suspicious this was the problem if several tiles next to each other are coming up but other areas seem to be very well adhered. I'm using the same thinset on some ceramic tile I'm laying now. Time will tell if I have problems but I am buttering both the floor and the tile...this takes forever!

    Bookmark   May 31, 2010 at 11:06PM
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There is mortar that is not to be used with large format or porcelain tiles. It takes a premium grade mortar 25 bucks a bag minimum retail to work on a 20 inch porcelain tile. Also, Deflection can vibrate tiles loose..not just crack them. I too believe that it is a mortar issue. Not where it was setting up on him though. Perhaps wrong type mortar. Not buttering the back should not do it if he was compressing the tiles into the mortar bed. Now that is why I asked if he was an experienced layer. That will not happen with an experienced tile layer. also, Is it mapei ultraflex 2 or 3...? there are different types...

    Bookmark   May 31, 2010 at 11:31PM
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It is Mapai ultraflex 1. So far all of the tiles that have come loose are in the foyer. We did 3 other rooms at the same time and so far they are ok.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2010 at 1:31AM
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"Our subfloor is 3/4" advantech plywood with 1/4" cementboard."

"20x20" porcelain tile"

That is very likely not a stiff enough floor for tiles that large.
The cement board adds no deflection strength.

If the joist spacing is 24 inches the floor is definitely not stiff enough, and even with 16 inch OC joists is probably allowing to much movement unless the joists are oversize for the span.

Large tile on a regular 1/360 floor are not going to stay in place very well.
Large tiles are well into the 1/720 deflection requirement.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2010 at 9:27AM
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We have 24"x24" porcelain floor tiles that look like marble and have a very slight grout line (maybe 1/16"). Our contractor had to raise the floor up so high to make the tile level with the hardwood floors but didn't anticipate it until it was too late. So, rather than floating the whole floor up and using just a little thin set, he used all thin set. Went through a LOT of bags at his expense. Now, several tiles have a hollow sound when you walk on them where the thin set settled and there's air between the tile and the floor. I'm wondering if there's a recommended method for repairing the hollowness? The grout lines are so tight, that I'm afraid trying to remove them would crack them. And we too, only have a few tiles left for emergency breaks. Can anyone help with a suggestion for repair? Would drilling a hole in the tile and squeezing thin set down into the hole help? HAHA! I'm clueless. Thanks in advance.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 7:51PM
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