Are you experiencing tile or stone cracks with little or no detectable foundation movement?

Foundation movement is common in our expansive Texas soils,, as well as expansion and contraction of concrete and wood foundation members.  Unfortunately tile and stone flooring cracks are an expensive result of even small movements.  But there is a way to help prevent damage to tile and stone flooring when these conditions occur![tab: How to stop cracking]

One of the first things we might notice with foundation movement are cracks in our tile/stone floor coverings and their grouts.  There are various causes for this condition and even small amounts of moving/flexing of the foundation can manifest itself with cracking tiles/stone and their grouts between them.  This can occur with both a concrete slab foundation as well as a wood raised foundation.  There are other causes of this cracking such as the normal expansion and contraction of the concrete and/or grout used to secure the tiles/stone to the floor, and from expansion and contraction of wood under various typical conditions.

When we start seeing cracking of tile/stone flooring or its grout though we immediately start suspecting possible foundation movement.  For some this can be very disconcerting even if movement occurred but was so small it is negligible and nothing to fret over!  For the conditions other than foundation movement it might give the impression of foundation movement.  Unfortunately now we have cracks in tile/stone/grout that do need to be repaired.  If we do not repair these then we can let moisture in beneath them from normal floor cleaning which can cause other issues.  Also tile cracks can be ugly to look at.  Repairing even one cracked tile can be expensive and depending on the tile, and if you even have spares on hand, might not be matched by anything currently available.

So is there really a way to prevent this from happening?  Absolutely and it is through the use of a decoupling membrane used under the tile/stone, between it and the concrete floor or wood sub-floor material (raised foundations).  The decoupling membrane acts to isolate the tile/stone from the substrate (floor surface) below it to allow flexing without tile and grout damage.  Obviously large movements are going to cause damage but for the large majority of smaller movement and expansion/contraction problems these decoupling membranes can work very well.  There are various manufacturers of these decoupling membranes but one large producer is Schluter Systems who manufacturers their Ditra decoupling membrane.  This manufacturer has several excellent videos and other information on their WEB site explaining decoupling membranes and displaying their installation.  They even have help videos for homeowners who want to Do It Yourself.  These can be found HERE and do a much better job of explaining than I would.

I know, I know this does little good for you now that you already have tile/stone installed and are experiencing cracking.  However if you are a current homeowner considering new tile/stone flooring you should seriously consider this and find a tile installer/company that knows how to install these membranes.  If you are building a new home you should speak to the builder about adding this under your tile/stone, at an additional charge of course.  If you look at your homeowner warranty for new homes many will replace cracked or damaged tile/stone flooring for the first year if it was proved to be other than homeowner damage.  Also these warranties do not guarantee any matching of the tile so in effect the builder can replace your darker floor tile with a lighter one if they want!

The extra money spent on this now can help save you a lot later!  So you might ask why don’t the tile people performing your remodel, or the builder building a new home, offer these decoupling membranes?  It’s all about cost and the cheaper they can quote a remodel or build the better chance they have of getting the job, even if decoupling membranes are the right thing to do!  So the next time you’re planning new flooring or building a new home you should seriously consider using these membranes and save some aggravation later.


PS Inspection & Property Services LLC is a full service home inspection and light commercial inspection company servicing the entire Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas metroplex as well as all areas around them.  If you are located outside of these areas we can still help service your needs so call us to see how we can help.  We strive to for the satisfaction of our customers in everything we do.  Our services offerings include:

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