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Loose Tile Inspection Guide

Loose tile can be caused by a few different reasons. Excessive movement in a sub floor can cause the tile to "pop" losing it's bond and breaking free. Concrete slabs can crack at any given time which will also cause the tile to become loose. There can be a plumbing issue causing unwanted water to rise to the surface. Let's talk about the two most common types tile failure and how to fix them the right way.

Concrete cracks can happen at any given time. A newly built house may not show cracks for years after it was built. When this happens, the crack will usually "heave" up causing a foundation crack. Most of these cracks are not a structural issue, but can create damage to your tile.

Start the tile removal process by removing all the grout to help from causing additional tiles to become loose and break their bond to the floor. Once all the tiles have been removed, it's time to inspect floor. Look for any cracks directly under the loose tile. If you see a crack, the next step is to see if any type of crack isolation was used during installation. This can range from a variety of products but should be visible. If all you see is the thinset, then either the crack was not there during the orignal installation, or the crack was ignored and the tile was installed directly over it with thinset or even worse, mastic.

Check to see if there is a hump that formed due to the movement that can happen during this "heaving" process. Sometimes it will need to be ground down before installation of new tile. If the crack is up to 1/8" wide, you can use a highly modified thinset that will isolate that possible movement and keep it from cracking your tile again. If the crack is larger, you should use a crack isolation membrane applied directly over the crack.

Loose tile can happen on a wood sub floor if there is excessive movement as well, or was not engineered to handle the load capacity for tile. Maybe the tile underlayment was not installed correctly. Use the same methods as noted above to determine and diagnose the problem.

And then we have a issue that may not have anything to do with the condition of the tile substrate. This would be considered an installer error by not cleaning the dirt and dust off the floor. Sweeping a floor is not good enough to prepare a floor for tile. Either vacuum it or wash it down with clean water and a sponge to remove any film. Remember, nothing sticks to dust!

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