Tile has been around for millennia and has been used for both practical and decorative purposes by kings, queens and common people alike. While it is great to look at and has unmatched durability, tile can and does crack. When that happens, it is a bummer for any homeowner. Let’s talk about why your tiles might be cracking and what you can do about it:
Why Is Your Tile Flooring Cracking?
Did your tile get hit hard with a sharp blow?
If the crack is in one specific area, encompassing only a solitary tile, it probably took a hit. Kitchens are especially common areas for this type of cracking because there are many heavy objects being used in that room. Doorways are also a common impact-related cracking area because things are sometimes dropped while opening.
Did your tile crack under a heavy load?
The vast majority of tiles comply with ASTM C648 Breaking Strength standards. Tiles are tested to make sure that they do not break under 250 pounds of pressure, the tile passes. Sometimes, specialty tiles have higher breaking points. If a refrigerator, table or cabinet were to land too hard on the flooring, it could crack the tile.
Was your tile over a control joint?
Let’s begin at the beginning: What are control joints? Control joints in concrete are basically cracks that are intentionally put there. Since it is almost certain that concrete will crack, these joints are strategically placed to regulate where, and how, cracks will happen. If there is tile bridging such a gap, the tile may crack.
Was the tile installed on improperly installed joists?
Joists are the long wooden pieces placed under the subfloor in order to hold up the subfloor, the mortar, the tile, the contents of the room, and the people in it. That is a lot of weight which is why joists that are spread out too far from one another will not stop deflection in your subfloor. This will ultimately allow floor tile to bend.
Has your tile’s concrete substrate cracked?
As concrete cures, the water in it disperses triggering the concrete to shrink. If it is not allowed to cure long enough, issues arise. When a tile’s concrete substrate cracks, the tile cracks. If your tile is cracked continuously over a long area, then you probably have a cracked substrate. In order to fix this, you will have to have the tile torn up and a crack isolation membrane installed before installing new tile.
Summary: There are a great many reasons why your tile may have cracked – from cracked substrate to contractor mistakes.
Does Your Tile Flooring Need To Be Replaced After Flooding?
Perhaps your tile is not cracking but exhibiting other odd changes. These issues may mean you need to remove the old tile and replace it with something new:
Efflorescence appears is a common condition on stone, terrazzo, and tile installations when the stone is exposed to a large quantity of water – creating a powdery appearance. The powder is a mineral salt from the setting bed and can be removed by cleaning professionals, but many times will come back after the original washing because stone will continue to effloresce until it is totally dehydrated.
The drying process can take anywhere from several days to months. Putting a sealer on it is a common mistake because it holds in the water causing flaking and spalling of the stone. So, what do you do? You need to have an expert come evaluate the stone for residual moisture and let you know whether it is salvageable.
Sub-florescence happens when the mineral salts do not make it all the way to the exterior. Then, the salts crystallize just below the surface.
This obviously causes stress within the pores of the stone and results in spalling. Spalling will create pits in the surface of the stone. If your flooring has been exposed to a great deal of moisture, your stone or tile needs to be tested for salts by a skilled expert professional.
Summary: Flooding is one possible cause of problems with tile, especially stone tiles.
Can Your Tile Flooring Be Repaired?
This depends an enormous amount on the type of damage and how visible it is.
- For small chips in tile, nail polish may be a simple fix. Just find one to match the tile and paint over the chip. The polish may darken over time. If so, just remove with acetone and do it again. However, larger chips or holes will require a bit more work. Purchase a ceramic filler (you may need to mix colors) and fill in the area, then sand and add a coat of lacquer.
- For VERY cracked tile, you will need siliconized caulk. Paint it with oil or urethane-based paint. Tiles that are broken, severely cracked or are missing portions will need to be replaced. If you do not have extra matching tiles, you can try and match it as closely possible or you may want to re-do the floor.
- You can paint worn-out or tired-looking tile with an oil or urethane-based paint (best for foot traffic). Prior to painting, scrub the floor very well and then lightly sand it. Use a roller or sprayer. Then, let dry for 24 hours. Afterward, seal it.
- You can pry up loose floor tile with a chisel or putty knife but be careful to avoid breakage. Coat the subfloor and the bottom of the tile with fresh adhesive (be sure to remove the old stuff). Then, put the tile back down.
Tile floor will sometimes simply need complete replacement. If that is the case, a pro can help you to remove the old tiles and choose new ones. Then, they can install the new tiles soundly so that they (hopefully) won’t crack again.
Summary: Some tile flooring cracks can be repaired but more severe damage may require professional advice and/or complete replacement.
Tile Flooring Advice
Tile flooring is beautiful, durable, versatile and classic. There’s no wonder why it has been used for so many centuries in homes of all shapes and sizes all over the globe. From mansions to small cottages to apartments and more, tile is everywhere – and for good reason. If your current tile has seen better days, don’t give up on its decorative potential. Contact us or call us at Motor City (586-200-0610) to talk about the many types of tile we carry and how we can help. Be sure to check us out on Facebook as well!