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Thread: loose tiles in bathroom

  1. #1
    DIY Junior Member exodus125's Avatar
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    Default loose tiles in bathroom

    Maybe someone here can shed some light on a problem I have.

    When we bought our house about 5 years ago, we noticed a few of the tiles in our master bath were loose. we noticed more an more tiles get loose as time past.

    A few days ago, I got home to find a row of about 8 tiles all buckled into a teepee shape right in the middle of the bathroom. I removed some of the tiles which jsut basically pulled right off and noticed some of the times had absolutely no thinset stuck. They also seemed to not ahve been pressed down hard enough for the thinset to grip it good.

    My main concern is if this was caused by some kind of water damage, or is it just a poor tile instalation? All the tiles around the toilet and shower, where I would suspect a water problem to originate from have tiles around them that are ont here good, problem seems to be originating from the center of the bathroom. I suspect the one tile that had no thinset stuck to it to be the problem, but would water from walking on tiles wet after a shower cause all the tiles to lift like that? I also live in miami so the bathroom gets hot sometimes on hot days, I know heat and humidity can casue problems as well.

    here are some rough sketches of the problems, the second picture shows what the floor looked liked on the loosest tile that I lifted up, the thinset looked perfect, as if the tile was not layed on it hard enough or was set on the thinset too late or something.





    Any light anyone can shed would be greatly appreciated.

  2. #2
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    What you are seeing is referred to as 'tenting'. It is caused by lack of expansion joints. It is likely that the tile was set tight to the walls, and when it got warm and expanded, it had nowhere to go but up. For an experiment, take a piece of paper and lay it flat on the table. Near each end push the paper towards the opposite end slightly. You only have to move the paper a very small amount before it creates a bulge. Now, it could also be that it wasn't installed well - if they didn't use a large enough trowel and press the tile into the thinset, then you won't have good coverage. The gold standard is to achieve at least 90% coverage of thinset on the back of a floor tile, and more is better. If they spread too much thinset out before covering it with the tile, or it was too thin, or mixed too dry, or used beyond the pot life, then you may not get good adhesiion. Also, if it was walked on too soon after installation, you can have problems. If you have no expansion room, even if it is well adhered, you can get tenting, but in that case, it may crack the tile in the process rather than popping the whole thing loose. Expansion provisions are also an issue when you have a large area, or one that is unevenly heated because of large windows and sun exposure. Soft joints, or expansion joints may then be necessary in the middle of the floor as well as around the edges.

    My guess is if you look, you'll find it was grouted tight to the wall, leaving it no room to expand. A good place for tiling help is www.johnbridge.com.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

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    DIY Junior Member exodus125's Avatar
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    What do expansion joints look like? I know the tiles themselves have very narrow grout lines

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    DIY Junior Member exodus125's Avatar
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    Default

    here are some pictures





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    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    It appears that the tile is grouted tight to the walls...thus, no room to expand. There are several ways to make expansion joints: if the room is small enough, just run the tile underneath the edge, and leave a gap at the wall, hidden by the baseboard; leave grout out of a joint, and fill with a flexible (could be grout colored) caulk; install an engineered expansion joint (www.schluter.com makes a variety, as do others). In addition to sun exposure, other things can cause spot heating like heating ducts running beneath the floor.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

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    ACO Shower Drain Sales johnfrwhipple's Avatar
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    Default Tenting - Why Bathroom Floor Tiles Need To Move

    I found this discussion on Houzz.com today with a great example of Tenting that I wanted to share here with you all. Tenting is when tile pops and make a little pup tent type shape.



    Photo Source: Tenting Tile Picture

    I wrote a ideabook on the subject titled "Why Bathroom Floor Tile Needs to Move" - you can read it here.

    Be very careful with tile and thin-set choice when you are working with larger format tile.

    Another reason to switch to a good quality thing-set like a S1 or S2 and perhaps a Strata Mat uncoupling mat over Ditra (if waterproofing is not needed). Non-modified thin-set has very little expansion abilities and can suffer from mortar fatigue. Where as a premium thin-set like LAticrete 254 has flexibility.

    If you have large South Facing windows extra care needs to be taken.

    If you have already installed Ditra then make sure that the Ditra is not tight to the walls and go out and find some Ardex X5 modified thin-set to install your tile with.

    Tenting is common - tile floors need to move.
    Last edited by johnfrwhipple; 12-09-2013 at 05:51 AM.


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  7. #7
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    Tenting is caused by lack of expansion joints...typically when the tile is either laid tight to the wall, or is grouted tight against an immovable object, be it a wall, door frame, cabinet, etc. Industry standards have changed recently, and they now recommend expansion joints in smaller sized rooms than before inside, but it has remained the same for outside installs. When using Ditra, the tile and mortar as an assembly, can move independently of the subflooring, but expansion joints around the perimeter and if a large surface area are still required. The recommendation is to make rectangles out of the areas, with the ratio of L:W no greater than 1:1.5.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

  8. #8
    DIY Senior Member Vegas_sparky's Avatar
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    Does tenting commonly occur when tile is laid directly on slab? How about when laid over CBU, on a wood subfloor? Once this happens, is there a remedy, or would the job have to be redone. That looks like it could turn into a real nightmare in a large room.

  9. #9
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    Tenting is caused by failure to provide for expansion to occur. There are some basic rules:
    - leave a gap around immovable objects: i.e., do not lay tile up against the wall or fill that area with grout
    - depending on the size of the field, leave appropriate expansion joints. The TCNA guidelines on this have been changing. They used to be different outside verses inside, but are converging. Basically, because of potential solar influence, the max distance between engineered expansion joints is smaller than in a structure, but if there are a lot of windows, those distances become less to handle uneven expansion. Also, the ratio of the distance across length and width should fall within certain parameters - a long hallway for example may need expansion joints partly because of the long run, where they wouldn't be needed (except at the edges) on the short distance.

    Note, tenting is different than accommodating the variance of the materials, and those are best handled by a decoupling layer.

    An engineered expansion joint can be simply a grout line that is caulked with a suitable material verses grouted, or one with a built-in flexible strip (www.schluter.com makes a bunch of these, as do at least several other companies).

    The forces from expansion/contraction can exceed the bond strength of a properly installed tile.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

  10. #10
    builder:anti-builder dhagin's Avatar
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    Default

    What Jim said.
    dana
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