Beautiful tile can stop looking so beautiful if it lifts or cracks. With the money you spend on a tile floor, you want to know it has been installed properly, looks attractive, and will last for years. So, if you notice a crack appear in your gorgeous tile, it can be heartbreaking.
Tile cracking is a real problem for many homeowners. Let’s get to the bottom of what causes tile floors to break and what steps can be taken to prevent it.
What Causes Tile Floor Cracks?
Tile fractures can happen simply due to heavy objects falling on your floors, but often, cracked tile arises from a poor installation or through lack of care.
Depending on whether you are in a new build, remodel, or the home you’ve lived in for a while, broken tile can arise for a variety of reasons, the most common of which are:
- Improper Subfloor Preparation— Nothing can stand without the proper foundation, and your subfloors are the base for your tile. Without proper subfloor preparation, your tiles can crack. This can happen because the subfloors are either left uneven or dirt and large debris still cover its surface as the tile is laid.
- Concrete Settlement— Concrete is porous. It absorbs water and expands and contracts due to temperature changes. Tile is rigid and does not expand and contract in the same way. When the tile is adhered to concrete, its lack of give can cause it to crack during concrete settlement.
- Control Joint Installation— Because concrete is prone to cracking, it is poured with premade cracks called control joints. These joints help keep any potential fractures that form from spreading across the entire foundation. Once a crack hits the control joint, it will be stopped. This also allows homeowners to track any fissures in their concrete.
However, if the tile is installed over the control joint, it is installed over a purposely weakened area of the floor and can easily break.
- Concrete Did Not Fully Cure— Concrete should be allowed to cure after it has been poured. As it dries and the moisture evaporates, the concrete shrinks. If the tile is installed too quickly, it can snap as the concrete shrinks. (It’s important to remember this fact if using a concrete leveler to level out floors.)
- Improperly Sized Expansion Joints— If you’ve ever wondered why tiles have spacing filled with grout, the answer is that these expansion joints are left to allow for shifting and movement. Because tile is so rigid, it needs space to move as the underlying concrete shifts. If expansion joints are too small and tiles are placed too closely together, that tile won’t have enough room to move and can fracture as the subfloor shifts.
- Extensive Mold Growth— Mold has many negative effects on a home, and one of those effects can be cracked tiles. Moisture can seep into your grout, which promotes mold growth. If that mold is allowed to continue sprouting, it can make its way under the tiles, causing them to lift and break.
How to Prevent Cracking
As you can see, the majority of tile cracks occur due to improper installation. This makes hiring a skilled tile professional essential to the lifespan of your tile. Tile experts can best prepare your space and install your floors to prevent cracking.
The best way to prevent tile floor fractures is properly preparing your surface before installation. To begin with, a professional should even out the subfloor. This can be done in a variety of ways, but the most common are the use of a leveler or the installation of plywood.
After the floor has been leveled and allowed to cure, your floors need to be thoroughly cleaned by vacuuming all debris and dirt from its surface, as well as properly mopping and scrubbing it. Remember that any remaining debris can cause cracks to form.
Do not apply tile directly to plywood or cement, no matter how clean it is. You should make sure that an anti-fracture membrane has been laid between your tile and the subfloor. Anti-fracture membranes are designed to absorb any cracking energy and disperse it across a larger area of the floors. This keeps all that pressure off of a single tile and prevents cracking.
Once your tile has been properly installed by a professional, proper maintenance and cleaning can help expand its life, keeping it from developing cracks and other issues. A professional grout and tile cleaning can help with this. Having a professional remove mold, remediate cracks, and restore your grout or broken tiles will make your floor last longer.
You should also clean your grout and tile on a regular basis to prevent mold growth and keep it from spreading and lifting your tiles. Consider sealing your grout to protect its pores as well.
Professional Tile Cracking Prevention
Whether you need a professional to properly install your new tile flooring or you need a grout and tile restoration, our team at Groutsmith Tulsa is ready to help. We want to take care of your tile needs so that you can enjoy your beautiful floors for years to come.
See our grout and tile cleaning services for more information on how we can help maintain your floors. And if you are ready for a properly installed tile floor or need help fixing already cracked tile, contact us for a free in-home estimate and demo.