Tile is a common choice for flooring, both for its durability and for its attractive appearance. However, like any surface, it can only support that much, and your tile can crack in due course.
When this occurs, the first thing to do is to locate the cause. Do not try to repair the tile without solving the underlying problem; Any repairs you make may be temporary, and the cracks may come back or rise. Read this article to troubleshoot your cracked floor tile.
Reasons for Cracked Tile Floor
Identify these reasons for the tile crack as a first step to prevent the tile floor from cracking.
Lower Standard Tile
If you have recently invested in newly tiled floors, it is normal to worry if the tiles you have purchased do not meet standards. Fortunately, homeowners can count on home improvement stores and other retail lines to meet ANSI and ASTM test standards. This means that you can be sure that your tiles are made of quality materials. If you find that a tile does not comply with ANSI and ASTM standards, we recommend that you avoid this mark.
The floor tile will not hold as well or as long as the approved tiles. Its durability of the material may seem acceptable at first glance, but under constant use, it may burst and crack earlier. You must check with your tile supplier to find out which may be the best option for your home before taking a decision.
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Tile Received a Heavy Blow
If the crack is in an area and spans a single tile, the crack is most likely caused by a heavy hit on the floor tile. Sometimes you will see a tile removed from the mosaic where it touched the object.
In kitchens, especially where heavy objects like cans, pots, and pans fall, ceramic tiles frequently break. Construction standards (ASTM C648) do not govern sharp knocks on tiles, only heavy and heavy loads. Doors are another common place for impact cracking of tiles as items can fall out when the door is opened. In general, these types of cracks are found near the periphery of the soil, not in the center.
Heavy Stationary Loads
People frequently ask if heavy objects can break the tiles. Most floor tiles meet the ASTM C648 breaking strength standards. The test ensures that your tile can withstand up to 250 pounds of pressure per square inch.
That’s a lot of pressure considering the fact that a 22 cubic foot vertical two-door refrigerator exerts up to only 75 pounds of pressure PSI (per square inch). Although tile can crack under heavy loads, it is rare.
Something Heavy Has Dropped
If the crack is isolated in a specific area (or even a specific tile), the damage likely occurred when a heavy object fell. Think about the last time you could have dropped something heavy. Was it a piece of furniture that you entered through the entrance, a plate or a ceramic bowl? The iron in the bathroom? Did you accidentally drop a cast iron pot while trying to wash it?
All of these things may show only a slight hit at first, but the damage can spread over time if the area is under continuous pressure like constant pedestrian traffic.
Installed on a Control Joint
When the floor tile is cracked, most owners assume that it has something to do with the tile itself. However, any floor repair contractor can tell you that the tile you’re walking on is just one layer in a floor sandwich.
As concrete underneath is more prone to getting cracks, its cracks are controlled with control joints. Your constructor must know that it is not very wise to install tile over areas that will put imbalanced pressure to crack the tile.
The Concrete Substrate Has Not Hardened Enough
When you pour concrete for the first time, you should let it harden so that all the water can evaporate. The concrete shrinks after all the water have dissolved.
The Tile Council of America suggests that new concrete harden for at least 28 days or as long as possible. Freshly poured concrete that has not had time to harden is more likely to crack and create cracks in the tile.
How to Prevent Floor Tile from Cracking
Do you plan to install new floor tiles? Take these precautions to avoid cracking the tiles in the future.
1. For a concrete subfloor, it is most useful to add steel reinforcing bars when the concrete slab is poured. This will prevent the formation of cracks in the concrete, which will cause “reflective” cracks in the tile. Another technique is to install a crack isolation membrane over your existing concrete subfloor.
2. For a wood subfloor, make sure the wood resists buckling and bending. Otherwise, the extremely brittle tile could break when stepped on. If necessary, reinforce the subfloor with a ¾” sheet of plywood. Do not adhere your tiles directly to the plywood, as it will expand and contract in response to changes in the humidity in the house, causing cracks in the tiles.
3. For any type of subfloor, make sure it is clean, dry, and level before installing your tiles. Consider adding 1 or 2 layers of the bottom layer.
4. To minimize moisture penetration, avoid gaps between tiles and grout. Finish the grout with a waterproof sealer.
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