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Pamp81 04-05-2013 10:41 AM

Is glazed ceramic tile permeable to vapor?
We are in a crazy bad situation. We had our 1950's kitchen floor ripped out (by an abatement company to be careful), and we had them leave the black mastic (cutback?) there, since we planned to put ceramic tile there to cover it. After the floor was ripped out, my son and I had immediate ear ringing and headache (chemicals from the mastic or the wood subfloor we are guessing.) We immediately had ceramic floor tile installed the next day. (A layer of thinset, then Durock, then more thinset, then 18 inch glazed ceramic tiles.) This was all done a little over 3 months ago, and we are STILL having the same headaches and ear ringing. It's bad. The chemical is making its way out. We sealed the grout with something that was designed to seal in any emissions that could be coming up, but the problem still exists. We are now thinking that maybe the chemical vapor is coming up through the tile itself. They are glazed tiles (matte finish), but maybe the vapor can still come through? We know that the problem is not coming from any of the new materials, because we had the same tile and grout installed in our bathroom with no problems. We are beside ourselves, because, other than tearing up the entire floor, we have no idea how to fix the problem. It has not subsided, so we don't hold out hope that it will eventually go away. I mean, it could take years. My son and I have actually had to stay in a hotel part of the time.
So, can anyone tell me if "glazed ceramic tile" could be allowing vapor through? Also, any ideas how to fix the problem without tearing up the floor? (We are considering a sealer called Hardseal by Safecoat to just coat the entire floor with.)
Thanks so much,

djlandkpl 04-05-2013 10:50 AM

I'm no expert but I would doubt the tiles would let vapor through. Plus with the thinset and backerboard, there's quite a bit of material to block the vapors. Have you brought in anyone that can do air quality tests?

Pamp81 04-05-2013 10:57 AM

Our next step is to have the air tested. One environmental person told us that the cement board and thinset are porous, so they could be letting the vapor through. But we weren't sure about the tiles themselves. Thanks for the reply. I am hoping someone might know if the tiles might allow the vapor through.

joecaption 04-05-2013 11:28 AM

Vapers from what?
Asbestos does not have vapors.
Sounds like that abatment company tryed to use a chemical on the floor while they were working.

Pamp81 04-05-2013 11:37 AM

Joecaption, I should have been clearer. We think the vapors are from the old mastic that had never been exposed to air before. When the linoleum was torn off, it exposed the mastic. At least that's our best guess, considering there wasn't anything else there when they were done, except old plywood and mastic. (The abatement company didn't use chemicals, at our request.) There was no asbestos in the air--they tested for that.

Dorado 04-05-2013 01:01 PM

Vapors can get through all that. Even materials that are made purely to be impermeable to vapors, without the balancing act of also needing to be walked on, cleanable, and home-applied, allow some vapors through with the exception of glass and metal. It's good that you're getting the air tested.

This reminds me, I have some old Mortite caulking cord that's "not known to be toxic" but it stinks and I'm afraid of it. I'm throwing it out today.

Canarywood1 04-05-2013 02:24 PM

Ceramic never needs to be sealed, the glaze on the surface is all that's needed. Only grouts and stones need to be sealed to help protect it.
The only powder type grout that does not need to be sealed is when you add a two part epoxy to it.

What IS recommended to use is a penetrating sealer. Not a silicone sealer. Penetrating sealer you can use 72 hrs after grouting and the tile and grout haze is off. Silicone sealers don't last as long and takes a 30 day gout curing before sealing.

Forgot to say i doubt vapors are getting through the tile.

joecaption 04-05-2013 03:42 PM

Far more likly you may dealing with a hidden mold issues, allergys, (hay it is spring time)
Just not seeing how mastic could be the issue.

ddawg16 04-05-2013 03:46 PM


and we are STILL having the same headaches and ear ringing.
And what did the doctor say about it?

I suspect there is more to this story......

Pamp81 04-05-2013 04:04 PM

Ddawg and joecaption--no, this isn't some other health issue. The headache and ear ringing are very specific and nothing like we've every had before. It literally feels like chemical poisoning. My son and I both have the issue, and so does my husband, just milder. It's not a mold issue or an allergy issue. (This began the week before Christmas.) There is no question it's related to the floor. It would be way too coincidental that these are the exact symptoms that began immediately after the abatement people finished the job of tearing up the floor. There was definitely something chemically related going on from that moment on. We find it strange too,so that's what's driving us crazy. But, no, there's not "more to the story." That's the whole story, and although strange, it's still happening.

ddawg16 04-05-2013 04:34 PM

Have you been to a doctor?

Why was the 'Abatement' company there in the first place? Vs a flooring contractor?

Where did you get the tile?

When did you move into the house?

What part of the country are you in?

Are you in litigation with who put down the tile or abatement company?

Dorado 04-05-2013 04:36 PM

Maybe you can take a sample of the surfaces they were working on and send them somewhere for testing. Even if the air is good now a physical sample that contains stripping chemicals that they weren't supposed to use could be evidence for a lawsuit.

Pamp81 04-05-2013 04:40 PM

Ddawg, no there's no litigation. It's nothing like that. We had the abatement company because the house was built in the 1950's, and we don't know if there's asbestos, so we were being careful. We were, after all, tearing up 9 inch tiles. The abatement company was great--so was the tile installer. We used the same tiles we had previously used in our bathroom with no problems at all. I'm in Missouri. There is nothing else to the story---We are just trying to avoid tearing up the floor so we wanted to know if we need to seal these tiles. I asked the question if vapors could be coming through the tiles, so we could decide whether sealing the tiles would even help. This has been going on for 3 months, we are not able to live comfortably in our home, and we need to resolve it. There is no underlying story. No litigation, no issue with the abatement company, installer, tile company, or anyone else. We tend to be more chemically sensitive than most people I hope I've put your suspicions to rest. We really just need some help.

sam floor 04-05-2013 04:58 PM

Test for Radon. Disturbing the floor could have altered something. I live in Missouri, Radon is common here.

Dorado 04-05-2013 05:56 PM

You can also get an air cleaner. Look for reviews in Consumer Reports or somewhere. You need one that's best for fumes which will have a lot of charcoal.

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