Cracked grout ?

sipsyDecember 7, 2011

Our 1600 sq ft house is about 4 yrs old. We had 12 x 12 porcelain tile installed throughout the entire house. In the last 2 years numerous cracks in the grout have occurred. In one area the edges of tiles have cracked in addition to the grout. So far we have lived with them, but now we have decided to have something done. My question is what to do? I'm not sure if putting tile in the entire house was a good idea- our decision was based on the fact that we live in the country and have a lot of red mud tracked in by our dog.

If we decide to put down carpet in the bedrooms will we have to take up the tile to have it put down - if not should we have the tile repaired before we do so (we have lots of extra tile). If we decide to get the tile repaired what can we do to make sure the grout doesn't crack again? Can another type (wood or engineered wood) floor be put on top of the tile w/o taking it up? Another issue that we have had with the floor is the grout was apparently never sealed. A lot of mystery stains have occurred in areas that are not used in the house. Any suggestions as to what to use to get rid of the stains if we decide to keep the tile and how to seal it afterwards? Thanks.

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If the sub-floor is not stiff enough the movement will result in cracked grout and tiles.

The larger the tiles the stiffer the floor needs to be.

12x12 tiles should have a solid inch of wood on larger than usual joists.

Joists are usually sized to 1/360 of the span as the maximum allowed deflection, and 3/4 inch plywood (and occasionally 1/2 inch) is often used as the sub-floor.

If the joists are anywhere near the maximum allowed span for their size, and the sub-floor is only 1/2 inch cracking is very likely.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2011 at 12:32PM
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Grout and tile cracks are caused by movement in an underlying system.

It could be a missing or improperly installed backer board or membrane, an improperly installed subfloor, its underlying framing system, or your house "settling" casuing movement in underlying systems that may be caused by improperly prepared or installed footers or foundation.

There is no way to tell without physical inspection.

Any repair of only the tile/grout may be a temporary fix that may need to be addressed again at a later date.

The only wood floors you may be able to install over this as-is, is a floating system.

You should have a guarantee to your new home that is required by law in your state (usually they are 10-20 years). I would contact the state and/or the builder. They may tell you that the guarantee for the floor installation has expired, however the problem may not be with the flooring installation, unless its a missing or improperly installed backer board or membrane.

You may be able to get relief from your states contractor complainace department if they license contractors.

I fear there may be underlying problems with the construction of your home that your state, an inspector, and the builder may be better able to address.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2011 at 2:41PM
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Are you over a basement or crawl space? If so, go under the floor and see how long the joist span is under where your tile is cracking. Also measure the dimensions of the joists (e.g., 2x10) and the spacing (e.g., 16", 24" on center). You can use the JB Deflectolator (google it; GW will kill links) to see if you've got deflection within the necessary limits to support tile.

Then come back and tell us what you found. Replacing tile won't help if you don't fix the root cause that cracked it in the first place.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2011 at 10:11PM
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