Kitchen Floor Tile Install Deteriorating Help!

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Old 08-02-15, 09:21 PM
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Kitchen Floor Tile Install Deteriorating Help!

Wifey and I replaced the floor in our condo last year and unfortunately hired a contractor before we really knew what to look for, and let's just say he ended up being less than the professional he had made himself out to be (he didn't even remove the electrical outlet covers before tiling up to them for the backsplash!!!)

Unsurprisingly, we are having trouble less than a year later with the tiles coming loose from the floor and the grout popping out.

I bought all the materials for the job and while I am a little fuzzy on the details, I do remember buying Hardi Backer board and good thinset. I can't remember what type of grout was used (sanded or unsanded) but that probably is irrelevant as it seems the thinset has failed to secure the tile down anyway.

Only area that is coming loose, right now, is the high traffic area in front of the sink that is shown in the pictures.. ..

This is my plan if you can please help me critique it:
1. Cut grout out where it has already popped. I have a dremel, I presume a grout wheel is good for this?
2. Pry up the loose tiles. This should be easy with a chisel as one of them already slides.
3. Inspect underlayment (praying there is cement board underneath there).
4. Reapply thinset for the loose tiles. Can I reuse the tiles?
5. Put back down and regrout the removed grout lines a few days later.
6. Wait and hope the rest of the tiles don't start popping up.

Am I correct in thinking it is probably due to failed thinset (probably due to poor application) causing the tile to shift, and thus popping the grout lines?

Thanks for your help

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  #2  
Old 08-03-15, 12:41 AM
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Am I correct in thinking it is probably due to failed thinset (probably due to poor application) causing the tile to shift, and thus popping the grout lines?
Maybe not! Since it's in front of the sink, it could be a water problem. The thinset held everywhere else. Look under the sink for signs of a leak.
 
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Old 08-03-15, 02:38 AM
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If you have loose tile, pop one up and let us see both the back of the tile and the floor area where it came from. Could be water, but it shouldn't affect the bond between the cbu/thinset/tile. Do you recall if he taped his cbu joints?
 
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Old 08-03-15, 08:08 AM
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Let's start at the basics - what is the composition of the subfloor and the size, spacing and unsupported span of the floor joists?
 
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Old 08-03-15, 09:53 AM
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I agree we should start with stickshift's suggestion. Let us know what you find.

Originally Posted by vtballa34
Am I correct in thinking it is probably due to failed thinset
Since this guy is obviously not a tile setter, there could be several reasons, I doubt it's bad thinset quality though. Do you know if he spread thinset under the backer if there is a backer? Got more details, pics of the installation process?

Jaz
 
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Old 08-03-15, 10:57 AM
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No I have no pics of the tile going in--i trusted that the guy I hired was capable of doing the job.

This is in a condo so I have absolutely no way of detrmining the joist size, spacing, and whatever other structural components associated with them. Plenty of other units, and my bathroom in this one, has tile installed with no problems.

There is no sign of a water problem, now or in the past.

I will get the tile up and take a picture of the back of it and the subfloor and post them up for feedback.
 
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Old 08-03-15, 11:49 AM
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Being a condo building your structure is likely not like a house. It may be framed like a house or with pre-cast concrete slabs then covered with a gypsum product such as Gypcrete.

Let's see what you find when you investigate.

Jaz
 
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Old 08-06-15, 11:32 AM
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Wifey went over to the condo yesterday and pulled the loose tile up. She said that as soon as this one came up, the other ones around it were loose too. Here is what we found:

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I went back through my receipts for the project and this is the thinset we had used:

Thinset

It is for porcelain and these are porcelain tiles.

Only thing I can think of is the notches on the trowel were too small to grip that porcelain back, since none of it appears to be stuck to it. What do you guys think?
 
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Old 08-06-15, 12:13 PM
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Since I see no thinset on the back of the tiles, I am left to assume they were not back buttered and they never adhered to the thinset on the floor.

What's under the thinset we see?
 
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Old 08-06-15, 01:24 PM
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Good point. If it were back buttered we would be seeing more on the tile I reckon.

I checked my receipt and purchased 1/4" HardieBacker CBU. I presume that is what is underneath the thinset.
 
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Old 08-06-15, 01:50 PM
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What about under the CBU?

We're still trying to make sure you have the proper foundation for tile.
 
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Old 08-06-15, 02:38 PM
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I have no reason to suspect there is anything but plywood underneath there. As you can see though, there is really no way to tell on account of the thinset and CBU covering it up. So it follows that the size of the plywood would also be unknown.

As noted, the majority of the units in this condo complex of 100+ units have tile in their kitchen. 100% of them have tile in the bathrooms. I suppose it is POSSIBLE that my condo is the anomaly of the group, and if it is I guess I would have to deal with the consequences. But I'm really looking at solutions for repair at this point rather than revisiting unlikely scenarios involving the structure of the floor.
 
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Old 08-06-15, 02:46 PM
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I hear you but something caused this to fail and I don't want to just assume it was a poor installation and then have something else cause you another failure down the road.
 
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Old 08-06-15, 02:55 PM
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And I sincerely do appreciate that. But the source of my frustration is that I have no way of determining that. Tearing it all out and starting from scratch, including cutting out a section (and subsquently repairing) of the plywood to determine its thickness would certainly be overkill if the failure was due to poor installation.

And given the hackjob he did on the wall tiles (not removing the electrical outlet covers before tiling up to them) and the evident lack of any coverage on the removed tile makes me fairly confident in diagnosing this as an installation issue. If not, like I said, I can deal with the consequences of that at a later time and learn my lesson.

So it looks like possible causes of poor installation in this case are:
-No back buttering the tile
-Possible wrong trowel size
-Possible wrong thinset used

So my questions would be:
-Is backbuttering always advisable for 12x24 porcelain tile?
-What trowel size is appropriate for 12x24 porcelain?
-Is the porcelain thinset I linked to from Home Depot a good product?
-If I can remove the tiles without breaking them, can just reapply thinset over the existing CBU/thinset, or do I have to tear that CBU out?
 
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Old 08-06-15, 06:57 PM
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vtballa34,

Determining the thickness of the subfloor and the size and spacing of the joists is very simple. Just because you can't see it doesn't mean you can't figure out what you've got. More on that later since I doubt that's the main reason for your failure. We also need to determine if there's thinset under the Hardie.

* The thinset used is plenty good for your installation. Looks like not enough was spread on the floor. Use " x " or maybe " x ".
* Tiles not back buttered. Looks like thinset dried out before tiles were set.
* Probably because Hardie was not damp sponged just prior to setting tiles.
* All the above are installer error, not surprising based on your first post.

* It's not absolutely necessary to back butter, but it's advisable in most cases, esp. for amateurs.

* You can reuse the tiles based on the pic. Need some prep first, like cutting off the between tile ridges.

* My suggestions are based on all other requirements having been met, which we don't know yet.

Jaz
 
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Old 08-06-15, 09:35 PM
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Thanks for the reply Jazman. Can you please explain what you mean by "Need some prep first, like cutting off the between tile ridges"? I'm not sure I follow that.

Are you thinking that if there is thinset under the Hardie that I can just retile over the failed thinset? Or am I misunderstanding?

If so, how to determine if there is thinset underneath the Hardie? Maybe just cut up a small piece?
 
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Old 08-06-15, 11:42 PM
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I was a tile setter. As mentioned, spreading thinset on the tile directly is not necessary. If I can, I avoid doing so. When I am setting cut pieces I tend to do so. If a tile is too wet, it will not set. If you wait to long before laying the tile, it will not set well and can appear like the tile you removed on the back. I will spread thinset out for as many rows of tile as I can. The trowel size that was used could also be the culprit.

You can see how the floor was prepared by removing a floor vent. You should see the cement board and if thinset was used under it. If there are no floor vents, you can remove a tile against a wall or cabinet. You should be able to determine how the cement board was installed there also.

Jazman is saying that you can scrape down the thinsit that exists within the removed tile space. Once that is done, vacuum, mix your thinset and lay the tile again.
 
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Old 08-07-15, 07:32 AM
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From the looks of the tile that you removed and the remaining thinset on the cement board the wrong size notched trowel was used and thus not enough thinset. If you just have a few loose tiles, you can proceed to remove them remove the old thinset and reset them with the proper sized trowel. Those tile appear to be large format and likely require a 1/4 x 3/8 or x notched trowel. You should back butter the tile. The thinset that you have is a decent thinset and was not the problem. If its just a few tiles, you have nothing to lose except the cost of a new bag of thinset and grout.

From the picture, I suspect that you might have this problem with the entire installation. Once you start to remove the loose tiles you will find out for sure. If that trowel size was used throughout the entire installation, its only a matter of time before the entire floor fails. It may have already, and you just dont know it yet. You should try to gather the info requested above about the joist size, spacing and spans as well as the subfloor and installation of the cement board. If the failure is widespread, you will want to fix any deficiencies before you replace the tile floor.
 
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Old 08-07-15, 08:36 AM
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T
Originally Posted by vtballa34
Thanks for the reply Jazman. Can you please explain what you mean by "Need some prep first, like cutting off the between tile ridges"? I'm not sure I follow that.
There's gonna be thinset ridges around every tile, they need to be removed if you plan to install the tiles without removing everything. I'm not saying you should do it that way though. Don't know yet. Let us know when you figure out if the Hardie is installed right.

Drill a small hole in the floor to determine the thickness of the subfloor and size of the joists. Stick a nail in the hole and hook the head under the subfloor. Mark the nail to determine the thickness. In the same hole, stick a straight wire or dowel until it touches the ceiling below. Mark the distance.

Jaz
 
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