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Old 04-03-2008, 09:47 AM   #1
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Failing Grout?


We ceramic tiled our kitchen 5 years ago using 16" tiles. The house is 20 years old with 3/4" plywood sub flooring. The tile contractor added 1/2" cement? board and applied the tile on top of that. He did a great job laying and cutting the tile, but the grout is failing in several areas.
We had another tile contractor come out thinking this would be a simple repair job. He told us that the original construction was done incorrectly and that because we're dealing with a relatively large area (12 X 24) a layer of cement should have been put down first instead of the cement board. He could regrout, but it would fail also. His solution - tear everything out and do it again - at a cost of $10,000.
Do I really need to do a complete tear out and re-install? Or, is there some type of flexible grout I could use that would accept a little movement?

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Old 04-03-2008, 10:12 AM   #2
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Failing Grout?


The grout isn't failing...the subfloor is inadequate, probably another layer of plywood should have been installed prior to installing the cement board and tile. cement board alone WILL NOT add any structural value to a subfloor.

What is the size of the floor joists and the spacing of the floor joists? What is the unsupported span of the floor joists? What is below this area?

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Old 04-03-2008, 10:19 AM   #3
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Failing Grout?


I'm not at home, but I believe joists are 2 X 10's, 16" centers, 12' span. This is on a first floor with a basement underneath.
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Old 04-03-2008, 11:12 AM   #4
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Failing Grout?


OK that structure should easily qualify.

Next questions:
What was on the floor before the cement board was installed?
Was the cement board installed in a bed of fresh thinset?
Was the floor grouted tight to the walls?
Have you tried tapping on tiles to see if there is a "hollow sound"?
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Old 04-03-2008, 01:15 PM   #5
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Failing Grout?


There was linoluem on the floor before. Linoluem was removed and the cement board was installed directly on top of the plywood. Tile glued?/grouted on top of the cement board. I don't think there was any thinset involved. From what I can see, grouting goes directly to outside walls.
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Old 04-03-2008, 01:36 PM   #6
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Failing Grout?


Now we're closing in on the problem maybe.

I'll offer this and you decide.

Most vinyl floor coverings are installed with a 1/4" plywood (of sorts) underlayment. If ceramic tile is planned this underlayment should also be removed. It offers potential for movement in a rigid floor assembly.

All cement backerboard makers want their cement backerboard installed in a fresh bed of thinset. This thinset is to insure there will be no up and down movement in the above rigid floor assembly. Installation of the backboard fasteners cause small voids under the backboard, the thinset eliminates any possible movement.

A ceramic tile floor should have a perimeter gap of 1/4" to insure the tile assembly has an opportunity to expand under changing conditions. To tightly grout a tile installation to the surrounding walls does not afford the tile installation an opportunity for expansion resulting in stresses on the tile assembly and possibly causing tile to de-bond and in some extreme cases causing the tiles to "tent" (raise upward).

Cracking and/or crumbling grout is a sign of movement somewhere in the substrate. The above conditions can cause that movement.
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Old 04-03-2008, 02:00 PM   #7
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Failing Grout?


OK, Having said all of that, what are my options? We love the tile, and except for the grouting issues, everything else looks fine.
Thank you for the responses. Maybe not what I want to hear, but at least I understand what's going on better now.
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Old 04-03-2008, 02:42 PM   #8
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Failing Grout?


The first thing I would do is get a wooden broomstick or dowel and ping each tile. If they report a solid sound and not a hollow sound I would then consider removing the grout (especially the perimeter grout) and replacing it all with epoxy grout. Leave a perimeter gap. Epoxy would not be as susceptible to the movement and wouldn't degrade as quickly, it would be much more durable (tho still not flexible) and the stain-proof characteristics would be a bonus.

If you get hollow reports from the tile then the tenting has begun.
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Old 04-03-2008, 02:56 PM   #9
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Failing Grout?


I'll check how solid things are when I get home tonight. If things seem to be relatively solid and I decide to go the regrout route with epoxy, how do you remove the old grout? I assume I'd need to do the whole floor, or can I just do the areas with a problem? I've done just about everyhting else around the house from roofing to brick sidewalks so assume this is something I could probably do. This could be trouble - I just used assume twice above.
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Old 04-03-2008, 03:12 PM   #10
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If you only repair areas then the grout isn't going to match and you wouldn't want to mix epoxy grout with standard cement grout.

Home Centers sell grout saws for about $7, that would work but be labor intensive.

A RotoZip or Dremmel may be a better option using a tile bit.

If you have access to a reciprocating saw there is also a tool known as the Grout Grabber that works pretty good in a recip saw.

There is nothing easy about any of it but it also isn't too difficult.
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Old 04-03-2008, 09:16 PM   #11
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Failing Grout?


Some good news & bad news. Bad news - joists are only 2 X 8's, not 2 X 10's as I thought before. Good news - went around tapping with a wooden broom handle and everything seems to be solid.
I went to Home Depot and got a grout removal bit for my Dremel tool. We did the kitchen, hall way and 1/2 bath,all with the same tile. Figured I'd start with the 1/2 bath and remove the grout. If I screw it up, it's a separate area and won't impact the rest. Based on te previous note, I assume I take all of the grout out - perimiter included, then only apply the new grout between the tiles, leaving the outside edges open?
Grout - I looked at Home Depot for "Epoxy" grout and they didn't have anything. Is this something special I need to go to a tile store for?
Anything else I need to know before I start making a mess this weekend?
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Old 04-03-2008, 09:24 PM   #12
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http://www.laticrete.com/Homeowners/...4/Default.aspx

Might have to find a pro supplier.
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Old 04-04-2008, 09:44 AM   #13
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Failing Grout?


Can those that are suggesting that a ceramic tile floor should have an expansion gap at the wall please cite their sources? I have never heard that before.

To the OP - As you have determined the grout has cracked because of movement in the floor. The 2x8 joists with ply on top is just not rigid enough. I have never used epoxy grout before but it sounds like it may be a pain to work with.

If it were me - I would see if I could add a beam in the basement splitting the 12' span of the joists. If you have the room, and are not planning n finishing the basement, etc. A beam under the joists and a couple of lally columns should take the bounce out. Then re-grout as normal. Oh, and if you go this way you can just replace damaged section, not everything. You may be able to match pretty close to what you have.
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Old 04-04-2008, 07:55 PM   #14
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Failing Grout?


First thing, Bud seems to know his trade, I totally agree with all he said. One cause that may have been overlooked. You said the grout was failing, in what way specifically? I have regrouted a few floors that were flaking out, due to mixing it to wet. A lot of inexperienced installers will do this to make application easier.

Second thing, WTF?

Quote:
Can those that are suggesting that a ceramic tile floor should have an expansion gap at the wall please cite their sources? I have never heard that before.
Tile needs a gap to anything!!!!!!!!!! If you do not know this elementary fact, please do some very, very, basic research.
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Old 04-05-2008, 12:03 AM   #15
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Failing Grout?


Quote:
Can those that are suggesting that a ceramic tile floor should have an expansion gap at the wall please cite their sources? I have never heard that before.
"Can those"!!!! Meaning me.

This has been common knowledge in the industry for many many years. I'd be happy to look it up for you and point you to the page and paragraph but the truth is you can do this as easily as I can. Go to your Handbook and take a look.

AH!!!! "What Handbook"(?) you say?

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