Top 5 Reasons Why Floor and Wall Tiles Crack

cracked floor tiles
Most homeowners in Adelaide will be familiar with the dismay of discovering a cracked tile in their bathroom, kitchen, laundry, or even patio. While cracking in tiles can result from standard wear-and-tear or an unfortunate accident, it can also indicate more serious issues. Identifying the underlying reason behind your cracked tiles can help you determine what actions are best to take and if you should plan to implement preventative measures. In this blog post, we’ll explore the top 5 reasons behind the mysterious fracture in your floor or wall tiles. If you’ve noticed characteristic signs of a cracked tile, read on to discover the most common culprits and what you can do to combat them.

It may come as no surprise that improper installation is commonly the underlying cause for floor and wall tiles cracking. While tile systems, and tile installation is carefully outlined by the Australian Standards, tiling is also a complex and multi-staged process, rife with opportunities for error. If you or the previous homeowner invested in professional service, these missteps might be less likely. However, for those pursuing a DIY project, it’s essential to pay attention to the following:

Improperly spaced joists

Floor joists are structural elements that support the flooring materials’ weight. In the case of floor tiles, the joists play an essential role in providing a stable and level surface for installation. If the joists are not correctly spaced or supported, the floor may sag or become uneven, which can result in loose or cracked tiles.

Poor subfloor preparation

The subfloor is the space that lies beneath a floor covering. Subfloor preparation is vital for the successful installation of floor tiles because it ensures they can adhere to a smooth and stable surface. Proper subfloor preparation can help prevent tiles cracking or coming loose and improve the finished floor’s overall appearance. To prepare a subfloor for tile installation, the subfloor should be clean, level, and free of any defects that could affect the quality of the finished floor. The subfloor should also be adequately sealed and treated to prevent moisture from damaging the tiles.

Poorly Mixed Adhesive

Adhesive is a material used to glue tiles to the floor or wall. The type of adhesive used for installing floor tiles can vary depending on the type of tiles and the subfloor’s condition. Choosing an adhesive that is suitable for the job and provides robust and durable bonding is crucial. Selecting the wrong adhesive for your tiles or subfloor, or mixing the adhesive incorrectly, can result in the tiles becoming loose and damaged over time.

Lack of expansion joints

Expansion joints are crucial to the success of tiled surfaces, yet many are unfamiliar with their importance. In essence, expansion joints allow building materials to move with changes in temperature, atmospheric pressure, and other natural forces. In accordance with Australian Standard S 3958.2-1992, stress-relieving expansion joints should be featured in external tile work at centres of 4.5 metres and internal tile work at centres of 8 to 10 metres. Without expansion joints in place, tiled surfaces can strain and suffer structural damage. When evaluating a building project, never underestimate the importance of these silent heroes. A lack of expansion joints is a surefire way to cause unwanted problems in floors and walls that can lead to costly repairs.

2. Incorrect tile choice

Tile selection is a tricky affair. Whether you’re looking to spruce up the bathroom, kitchen, or your outdoor space, selecting the incorrect tile for your application can lead to chipping, cracking, stains and much more.

Indoor tiles

Selecting the right tile for indoor use can take time and effort. The sheer amount of choice can be paralysing for homeowners looking to make a wise long-term investment. First, you should consider the tiles’ location and intended use. For example, tiles in high-traffic areas, such as entryways or kitchen floors, should be durable and easy to clean. Tiles in a bathroom or shower should be moisture-resistant and slip-resistant. Ceramic and porcelain tiles are a popular option for kitchens, laundries, and bathrooms, as they are moisture and slip-resistant, durable, easy to clean, and are available in a wide range of styles and colours.

Outdoor tiles

As with indoor tiles, considerations for outdoor tiles should take into account the tiles’ intended use and location. Outdoor tiles should be weather-resistant, durable, and slip-resistant to ensure safe and long-lasting flooring. Popular outdoor options include natural stone tiles, such as slate, granite, travertine, or marble. These materials are durable and resistant to weather and wear, making them a good choice for high-traffic areas. However, natural stone tiles may require more diligent maintenance, as they can be prone to staining and scratching. Concrete tiles are a similarly durable and versatile option available in various colours, textures, and styles.

3. Using the wrong chemical cleaners

It’s essential to keep your tiled surfaces looking their best, especially if they are a visible part of your home. But while it can be tempting to reach for the most potent chemical cleaner you can find, this approach can do more harm than good. Certain chemical cleaners contain abrasive compounds that can leave dull scratches and discolouration on the surface – fading or changing the tiles’ overall colour. A safer option is to opt for a milder cleaning solution, such as one containing an ammonia-free detergent. Not only will these products pose less risk of damage to your tile surfaces, but they are also often much gentler on your hands and much better for the environment. By taking a little extra care when selecting which cleanser you use, you’ll be able to enjoy beautiful tiled surfaces for years to come.

4. Environmental changes

Environmental conditions can often be the culprit behind cracked tiles. Too much moisture in the air or sudden temperature changes can cause your floors and walls to expand and contract, putting pressure on the outer layer of the tile and leading to cracking and chipping. To minimise the impact of environmental changes on floor tiles, it’s important to install the aforementioned expansion joints and choose tiles specifically designed for the intended use and location of the space. For example, tiles in a bathroom or outdoor space should be moisture-resistant, while tiles in an outdoor courtyard should be designed for long-term sun exposure. It’s also essential to properly install and maintain floor tiles to protect them from environmental changes. This may involve using a moisture barrier, sealing the tiles, or regular cleaning and maintaining the tiles to prevent damage. By taking these steps, you can help ensure that your floor tiles remain in good condition, even in more dramatic climates.

5. Defective Tiles

Like any product, tiles can be defective due to manufacturing flaws. Tile defects can cause cracking in the tiling even if the tiles themselves have been installed correctly. If you notice any chips or cracks in the tiles, it is essential to replace them as soon as possible before further damage occurs. This can help prevent the tile from becoming too weak and eventually crumbling apart. Look out for any visible discolouration on the tiles; this could be a sign of water damage or staining.

How can I find out why my tile has cracked?

If you’ve already ended up with cracked tiles, don’t despair. Identifying the cause of your tile cracks can help you deal with them more effectively. Of course, if you damage your tiles yourself, you won’t be in need of much detective work. However, if you suspect something else might be at play, the most straightforward way to do this is by having your floor inspected as part of a professional building inspection. A qualified inspector can shed light on your issues and recommend the best course of action to repair or replace damaged tiles and prevent future problems. By having a professional investigate, you’ll be able to get to the bottom of your issue and make sure it won’t happen again.

How do I repair my cracked tiles?

When repairing cracked tiles, the best course of action will depend on the severity and location of the crack. Minor cracks may be filled with a special epoxy or cement-based filler. For larger cracks, it’s usually best to replace the entire tile rather than try and patch it up. No matter your approach to fixing cracked tiles, it’s essential to ensure that you prepare the surface correctly before applying any repairs or replacements. This includes cleaning and drying the affected area so that any new material adheres properly. For more egregious damage or if you are in doubt about how to handle a repair, it’s best to enlist the help of a professional tiling contractor.

Wrapping Up

Tiles are an excellent option for decorating and constructing home surfaces, but they can be damaged in numerous ways. From the wrong cleaning solution to a lack of expansion joints to improper subfloor preparation, unexpected problems can lead to cracked tiles throughout your home. The bottom line is that tile maintenance can be complex, but with the proper precautions and care, you can keep your tiled surfaces looking great for years to come. Proper selection, cleaning, and environmental control are vital in preserving tiles in top condition. So be sure to do your research, ask the right questions, and consult with professionals when necessary so that you can enjoy tiled surfaces that look beautiful and last for years. If you’ve noticed that your tiles are suffering from an undetermined source of damage, get in touch with our friendly team at Select Building Inspections. We can help you get to the bottom of your tiling mystery.  


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