What to do next? (floor tile GROUT cracking)

huangoOctober 11, 2013

What to do next? (floor tile grout cracking)

(This is about my familyroom floor tiles, but people have tiles in their kitchens, so I thought GWKitcheners would know.)

So the grout in my familyroom is cracking/chipping/separating. Terribly. All over/just about 70% of them.
One main cause is that my subfloor/joist is not sturdy/stiff enough.
Before install, my GC did tell me that my familyroom floor has some "give" to it, a bit springy. He told me that he would reinforce the joists underneath. And something about a flexible mortar.

Oh, do you think the heat of the radiant heating underneath is a factor?

--> So, what to do next?
Is it something that my GC should fix?
Or something I pay someone else to fix?

I�m pretty unhappy about this. While the cracks/chips are not obvious until you look down (80% of the tiles are 18"x12", and 20% are 12"x12"), the grout should not be cracking/separating.

Appreciate your help/feedback.

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What did he put down before he put the tile in? Did he use hardibacker?

Radiant heat should not be a factor.

Go around the room and tap the tiles with the handle of a hammer. Do they have a hollow sound?

    Bookmark   October 11, 2013 at 12:15PM
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Oh dear, this happened to me, but on a very small scale (5x5 bathroom).

My brother-in-law was doing me a huge favor. :) Took out the vinyl and laid tile. He left and drove home, some 300 miles away. My grout started disintegrating, returning to sand. The tile store told me we'd used old grout (who knew?) and it had to come out. As I removed the grout, tiles began lifting up. He had also used the wrong trowel and the tiles weren't even sticking. I had to get a pro in and it was a total redo. My BIL felt awful about it.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2013 at 12:43PM
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Your GC was negligent in installing a floor over a moving substrate. To be a sound subfloor for a tile installation, there should be no movement at all. You could end up with tiles cracking as well. What has he said about this?

If there is movement in your floor, regrouting will not solve the problem. It will just crack again. Listen to what the first install is telling you.

This post was edited by snookums2 on Fri, Oct 11, 13 at 13:17

    Bookmark   October 11, 2013 at 1:02PM
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You should start with GC who did it and see if he will guarantee the work. We had to regrout one of the colors of tile/grout that we had installed on our infloor radiant heated floor. We thought that who ever mixed that grout didn't do it right because adjacent rooms with a different color tile/grout were OK.

We ended up regrouting with a premixed grout that seems more flexible but I think perhaps we should have gone with epoxy grout. Epoxy is supposed to add to the structural integrity of the floor/tile.

We patched several times before deciding which grout to use. Patches with the original grout didn't hold up so maybe it was the grout and not the mixing. Patches with the premixed that was billed as crack resistant did well so we decided to pull it all out and redo the entire floor with it.

Caution about steam cleaning the premixed flexible grout. It shrinks and cracks so never steam clean it. Did you ever steam clean your current grout? If so that may have caused the problem.

Just throwing out a bunch of ideas...

    Bookmark   October 11, 2013 at 1:13PM
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The tiling industry has very specific standards about the amount of deflection that's permitted for tile floors. GW doesn't like it when a link is posted but find the tile forum hosted by John Bridge and ask the professional tillers there.

They will walk you through the steps of determining whether your floor meets the requirements for tile. If it doesn't, replacing the grout will not solve the problem, as it's probably being caused by the movement in the floor.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2013 at 2:00PM
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your grout (and eventually the tiles) will crack if there's ANY movement in the floor. Shoring up the joists underneath is nice and all, but he should have beefed up the subfloor so there wasn't any movement before he laid down the first tile. Look at your contract carefully to see if he will fix this or pay for having it properly done. This is an installation failure and not a failure of materials or improper care on your part.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2013 at 2:11PM
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P.S. That's a really ignorant statement, that he will use a flexible mortar to account for any movement. Someone who knows what they are doing would never consider installing over a floor with movement. You might want to get someone else in there to assess and fix the problem. That is very basic knowledge of tiling, not a technical concept.

It sounds like it could be a large area, which can get tricky and requires some technical expertise. So considering these issues, beware how and who you move forward with.

This post was edited by snookums2 on Fri, Oct 11, 13 at 16:17

    Bookmark   October 11, 2013 at 2:24PM
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I've done some DIY tiling after a lot of reading/research. I agree with the statements that a sturdy tile install cannot be done directly on an unstable surface. I used Ditra, which provides *some* isolation from movement. However, Ditra's installation specs list specific acceptable floor joist distances for different types of tile (stone vs porcelain). And they also specify exactly what should be between the Ditra and the joists (how many layers, etc). Additionally, in a very large space, I believe installs suggest expansion joint(s) where there is caulk rather than grout to allow some movement across such a large span. With extensive grout cracking and damage, it sure sounds like the installation was not done properly.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2013 at 3:53PM
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I have no advice but wanted to weigh in with my sympathy. So sorry that this has happened, especially frustrating I'm sure, since it's over a radiant heat layer. While replacing tiles in our master bath (a much smaller space) we chipped one of the wires for the radiant heat (and broke the circuit) and therefore had to first fix the radiant heat and then lay tiles again. Hope your GC is able to help. Best, oldbat2be

    Bookmark   October 11, 2013 at 7:59PM
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Quick thank you to everyone.
Now I'm more concerned about my tiles cracking, than just the little grout cracking.
Until then, no more jumping in this room...(difficult mandate when you have 2 little monkeys for kids... moved the Reebok trampoline to the livingroom)

My GC is coming Wed morning to take a look.
I'll show him this thread, and look up John Bridge.


    Bookmark   October 12, 2013 at 9:43AM
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Am I reading this wrong? Your GC firmed up the substrate before he tiled. So he diagnosed and fixed that problem. The tiler may have used old grout, mixed it incorrectly (too much or too little water), or used the wrong kind of grout for the size spacers he was using. If the tiles seem firmly adhered, you may just need re-grouting, which necessitates the removal of the old grout, a thorough cleaning, then re-grouting.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2013 at 11:05AM
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GC = tiler. He and his main guy tiled/grouted the familryoom.

One thing about this dark gray grout was that certain parts of it had dried w/ a white haze. The haze went away when I gave it 2 good washing/elbow grease.

The grout was a new box. Let's see if I can find the box.


    Bookmark   October 12, 2013 at 11:44AM
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Check over at JB to do your research, but I would suggest not showing him the threads.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2013 at 1:58PM
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Quoting EAM44 ... "Your GC firmed up the substrate before he tiled. So he diagnosed and fixed that problem."

What exactly did the GC do to "firm up the substrate"?The OP is not clear on exactly what was done here, so it's hard to make the call as to what exactly went wrong or whether or not the floor was prepared properly for tile installation. Did he install the tile directly over a wood subfloor without putting down any Hardibacker?

    Bookmark   October 12, 2013 at 4:41PM
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Go to John Bridge dot com forums and look under "forums"

In the blur bar at the top, there is the "Deflecto" which will give you a "go or no-go" as to your floor.....

    Bookmark   October 12, 2013 at 5:30PM
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Springy floor that later starts cracking? Highly suspect, over bad grout.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2013 at 5:40PM
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