Grout cracking, coming up


Old 01-27-15, 10:36 PM
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Grout cracking, coming up

So I looked at a friend of a friends floor over the weekend because they have some areas where the grout is cracking and coming up. It is a stone type tile with a plywood subfloor. There seems to be movement in the subfloor causing the grout to crack. It is only in about 5-7 areas, one of which is in front of the refrigerator and when I stepped on the spot it squeaked and I felt the movement. The store/sub-contractor that installed the tile has been out twice since the 1 1/2 year ago install. I think they are just tired of dealing with the store so they wanted a 2nd opinion.

I know I can grind out and re-grout the tile but I don't think it will stop cracking. I was wondering if it's ok to use grout caulk in this instance? All the tile is fine, not cracking or coming up.

BTW I have installed ceramic and tumbled stone tile before for myself and family but never professionally. I've seen grout cracking before but have never repaired so just want to go about it the "BEST" way.

Thanks in advance
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Old 01-28-15, 06:37 AM
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It is going to come down to a poorly installed job. Several things come to mind, the first being that the tile was installed over the top of old linoleum, second would be an insufficiently thick subfloor and third would be installation directly over plywood without the use of cement backer board. Grout cracking in "5 to 7" areas is a significant fail in my opinion. I'm also going to say that it is only a matter of time before some of the tiles also begin to fail. Cosmetic fixes like you are requesting will do nothing to correct the situation other than provide a feel good that you covered up the hole.

If you take a screw driver and using the handle side, tap on the tiles, you will be able to determine the extent that the tiles themselves are adhered to the subfloor. Hollow sounding tiles are not well bonded and can be considered loose. Hollow non-bonded tiles are sometimes only held in place by the grout itself preventing it from moving.

If there is a floor register in the room, lift it and take a look at the subfloor make up. Tell us what is the thickness, number of layers and the makeup of each layer. Other considerations are the size and spacing of the floor joists. This menu will tell us if we can salvage successfully.
Old 01-29-15, 04:26 PM
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Sorry, but this was never done right and the only real solution is to tear it out and start over.

Z got you started on the information you're going to need, please follow his instructions.
Old 01-31-15, 03:06 PM
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I think this statement says it all:

"It is only in about 5-7 areas, one of which is in front of the refrigerator and when I stepped on the spot it squeaked and I felt the movement."

The reason why floors "squeek" is because the floor joists were too wet when they were installed and the subfloor was nailed down to them,

As those joists dried out, the wood shrunk, (primarily perpendicular to the wood grain) causing a gap to open up between the top of the joist and the underside of the subfloor. So, now, when you walk over that spot, the subfloor rubs on the nail as it moves up and down, causing both to vibrate and the resulting floor squeek you heard.

Ceramic tiling simply doesn't have the flexibility or elasticity to accomodate any movement of the flooring beneath it. So, it cracks up.

You can do any number of things here, but so long as the subfloor is moving up and down when you walk over it, no re-grouting is going to last.

I'm thinking that the long term solution here is to replace the tiling with a flooring that's much more accomodating of movement of the subfloor. Sheet vinyl comes to mind. I've never installed laminate flooring, but I'd investigate that option as well. Unless and until you stop the subfloor from moving up and down when you walk over it, you can't expect ceramic tiling to last on that floor.

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