My 10-day old grout is cracking!!?!?

diymidwesterngalDecember 14, 2010

SO my contractor ripped out my OSB subfloor and installed (if I am remembering correctly) 1/2" plywood then 3/8" plywood. Then used ECB membrane before setting the tiles. I'm not exactly sure what kind of adhesives were used, but I'm none too pleased with the install. Even though the porcelain 12x18 tiles are textured, we don't feel that they should be uneven in their placement. Yes, I'm being extremely picky but they are not fully level. I mentioned it to him, and he did offer to rip "the one or two that you think are terrible" out, but I sort of ignored it because we were arguing about my feeling doubly-billed by over $1200.

A week later, the "wet" grout is for sure dry and not uniform in color. It has also started cracking in 3-5 different places - around 3 tiles that are not close to each other. Could it be because of the extreme cold we've had and these tiles being close to the door that currently has no door jamb? (I'm in WI, temps outside are negatives). ?? DO I need to tell him to rip it out and start over? Any words of wisdom to help me from freaking out because I think he considers us a "lost cause" and isn't going to do his best work anymore??

Yikes!

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floorguy

Too much water in the grout mix!

It has shrank since losing all the added water.

It could also be from movement in the substrate.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2010 at 11:08AM
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brickeyee

"SO my contractor ripped out my OSB subfloor and installed (if I am remembering correctly) 1/2" plywood then 3/8" plywood."

Without knowing joist span, spacing, and size there is no way to tell if the structure is solid enough.

Large tiles require a VERY solid substrate (about the same as stone).

    Bookmark   December 14, 2010 at 3:56PM
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mongoct

Another consideration is the grout used. Sanded versus unsanded.

Unsanded is quite smooth and is used for grout joints less than 1/8" wide. Unsanded has sand added as a bulk filler, it can have a bit of texture, sort of like sandpaper. It's used for joints 1/8" wide and up to about 1/2" wide.

If unsanded is used in wide joints, it can crack as it cures.

If sanded is used in narrow joints, it can be tough to get the larger particles down into the joint so as to completely fill the grout joint.

The membrane can help if there is some movement in the floor, but as has been mentioned, the larger the tile you use, the flatter and stiffer the floor has to be.

If your cracks are at an intersection...floor to tub, floor to wall, tub to wall, wall to wall corner, etc, then the cracking is expected due to disimilar movement. Those areas typically get caulked.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2010 at 7:54PM
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homebound

Tell him it looks awful (and he knows it), and that it needs to be regrouted by someone experienced. At the same time, get the worst of the uneven tiles reset. Soften him up by letting him think you have a friend that may be interested in a tile quote, too, but that you will discuss that after your job is finished.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2010 at 8:46PM
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diymidwesterngal

Thanks for the feedback all. He immediately agreed to redo the cracked grout of course, and also replaced 2 large-chip tiles that were in the main walkway.

Now that it has been 6 days since the last tile work, the rest of the grout is cracking. I'm completely distressed. The first grout job was done by someone else, with the GC doing the "repairs" -- but all of it is now cracking and crumbling. The grout was never sealed so I'm not sure whether or not that is anything additional to worry about.

I'm going to request that he come out to redo ALL of the grout - most is cracking anyways, and the color is far from uniform now. Is there anything I can keep an eye out for, or should ask him to be aware of when grouting this time? It is a sanded grout and the lines are not too narrow. I would guess 1/4 - 3/8" wide? Should I ask him to try a different kind of grout?

Also, MongoCT: you mention that where the tile intersects wall/door/etc it should be caulked... All of my wall-tile edges have a baseboard over so no cracking can be seen, but what kind of caulk should be used at the doorway? It is the front door, and gets a lot of traffic. Can caulk be shaded, or do we go with a standard "color" available and get over it?

Thanks again all! I appreciate your time :)

    Bookmark   December 28, 2010 at 1:55AM
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mongoct

Tile-to-wall can be left with an open gap if it's to be covered by baseboard.

At a door threshold, if you need colored caulk, there are color-matched caulks available. Texture-matched too, meaning you can get "sanded" color matched caulk if you use sanded caulk. You can also tint your own, easiest is a latex caulk with latex paint or pigment mixed in.

Blotchy or uneven grout color grout can usually be attributed to too much water used during cleanup.

Cracked grout can be shrinkage cracks from packing it in to wide of a joint than it's specified for, or from too much water used when mixing the grout.

I've seen people mix grout too wet and it flows too easily, they "pour" is on the floor then slather it around with a float. Grouting should be a vigorous workout, packing it in the joints, working it to get it where it needs to go. It's not casual like icing a cake.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2010 at 9:38AM
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brickeyee

Over watered grout is also much more prone to damage from substrate flex.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2010 at 11:24AM
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floorguy

Grout should be the consistency of toothpaste, not honey

Too much water in the mix, or movement in the substrate.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2010 at 8:00AM
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