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Mojomama 03-17-2009 03:56 PM

Tiles cracking, popping, grout falling out.
Someone please help me! I had 12x12 tiles laid in my kitchen and down two halls almost two years ago. About one year ago, I noticed a few cracked tiles - called the contractor - he replaced them. A few months later - more cracked tiles, some of them make a popping sound when walked on and the grout is coming out around some of them. Called the contractor - he decided that the FlorCraft Ceramic Tile Floor and Wall Mastic was bad and contacted the manufacturer.

These tiles are in various places throughout a 450 square foot project - not in one place, not just in areas where there is a lot of traffic, etc.

The manufacturers rep is saying this:

The test results on the bucket of Mastic your contractor sent to us came back within normal limits as I told him. It was at the bottom of the spec, but it was within normal limits.

The errors that were made on the part of your contractor during the installation are as follows:

He did not use a supporting bed of cement based thinset underneath the Hardi Backerboard, instead he used a skim coat of our mastic underneath the backerboard. The Hardi Backerboard instructions say “Apply a supporting bed of mortar or modified thinset to subfloor using a ” square notched trowel.”

He did not leave a 1/8” gap between the individual sheets edges of the backerboard and between the walls and cabinet bases. The Hardi Backerboard instructions say that they recommend 1/8” gap between sheet edges.” Furthermore, they say, “ Keep all sheet edges 1/8” back between walls and cabinet bases.”

He did not use the fiberglass mesh tape where the backerboard sheets meet. Hardi Backerboard instructions state that you are to use a 2” wide high strength alkali resistant glass fiber tape at the joints of the backerboard.

Expansion spaces not left around the perimeter of the room

Trowel patterns were irregular.
The above noted items would be consistent after time with tile disbonding and cracking.

The manufacturer is offering to pay 1/2 materials and labor to correct this problem "as a gesture of goodwill". My contractor wants me to hire an attorney to send a letter requesting that they pay for everything because he is convinced that he has done nothing wrong.

Can someone with lots of tile laying experience please advise me of what they would do if this was their floor?


Bob Mariani 03-17-2009 04:10 PM

You are lucky the manufacturer will pay any since if these conditions do exist it verifies the contractor installed it all incorrectly. In almost every case the installer did not first verify that the subfloor was sufficient (1 1/8" minimum) and all the above items are done correctly. with so many faults with the installation you would expect the tiles to fail. You should demand the contractor fix this at his cost and check here for details on what needs to be done, since it seems this is not professionally done from the start.

JazMan 03-17-2009 09:02 PM

The handyman is a hack, he has no clue how tiles should be set. He made several mistakes including his choice of using a mastic on a floor installation. No real tilesetter would ever ever do that.

The only thing wrong with mastic is that anyone would chose one to install floor tiles. However, the manufacturers' are not giving good advise when they claim you can use mastic on floors, especially todays larger tiles.

In the end it is mostly the handyman's fault. Where did you find this guy? Why didn't you hire a licensed tile guy?

BTW, in reference to Bob's implying that 1 1/8" subflooring is needed under a CBU is not correct. The reference to 1 1/8" of sub is when you set tile direct to plywood, which is a very bad idea.


Bob Mariani 03-18-2009 06:35 AM

My limited understanding of ANSI A108.01 paragraph 3.4 suggests that properly installed 5/8" T&G over joists 16"oc only requires 1/2" layer of CBU. But the poster claims using 1/4" CBU...Am I reading this incorrectly? Is this "minimum" less than satisfactory? I think it is since the tiles are cracking. Cement backer boards offer compressive strength - which means you can stack a lot of weight on them - but they lack the structural strength of plywood. CBU manufacturers state that the boards have no structural strength. Since these tiles are cracking I am assuming (maybe incorrectly?) that the subfloor and or joists size/span/spacing are something that should also be considered.
I would not, nor did I suggest setting tile on the plywood, since my comments also stated that the CBU was installed incorrectly. I feel that the subfloor should be part of the picture with this type of failure. And I do not understand where you disagree that 1 1/8" sub floor is a minimum for larger tiles.

ccarlisle 03-18-2009 08:19 AM

I don't know what thickness Hardi backerboard was used - the poster doesn't say - but I hope it was at least 11mm thick as our metric protocols up here suggest. I hope the subfloor was at least 16mm thick (or 5/8th") because that is what they need for tiling over plywood subfloors with CBU.

Now if the underlayment was also plywood, then then minimum thickness (for two layers of plywood) is 10/8th" - or 1 1/4". Suitably layed out and gapped of course.

But nowhere is mastic suggested in these situations. He should have used modified thinset.

IMO the installer is at fault; now whether you have any luck taking legal action against him depends on a lot of things, like having a contract. Did he give you his deflection findings? it is the job of any professional to outline his suggestions, his chosen method (with standards) and any alternatives he might know of. Most of that will be found on the contract.

If it was only a handshake, then you asked him, in fact, to do the best he could do - and that may not be sufficient for a decent job. Now you're relying on his reputation and his word - neither or which are provable nor actionable.

Mojomama 03-18-2009 11:07 AM

Tiles cracking, popping, grout falling out - more info
My subfloor is 1/2" plywood with 1/4" overlay of luan, then 1/4" cement backer board which was applied to the luan with a 1/4" thick layer of the mastic, then the backer board was screwed down with screws every 6", then another 1/4" of mastic and then my tiles.

Also, is it necessary to leave 1/8" between the concrete backer boards (and then mesh tape these joints) and around the perimeter walls?

Am I to understand that my contractor is the problem here and the whole floor needs removed and re-done??

Should I take the Mastic company's offer and be happy??

Bob Mariani 03-18-2009 11:49 AM

Yes a gap around the perimeter is required. 1/2" plywood is insufficient for this floor. Too much deflection between the joists caused the tiles to crack. I would take the manufacturer's offer for sure since it is free money and they did not contribute to this faulty installation. The floor needs to be redone and made stronger. I would add 3/4" exterior grade plywood then 1/4" CBU or better job would be to use Ditra membrane. Also remove the 1/4" luan. Be sure to hire a qualified professional tile setter unless you enjoy repeating this process soon.

Mojomama 03-19-2009 08:34 AM

1/8" gap between CBU sheets?
Thanks for all your help with this!

ccarlisle 03-19-2009 08:50 AM

Know what? perhaps the only thing the installer did right was to screw every six inches...that's fine - provided he knew what to screw into, where to screw and what type of screw to use. But I wouldn't bet on it.

Unfortunately, another installer gets away with full payment for an empty job...and even though you gain a few bucks, you're still holding the bag. make sure you get cash, not a voucher for more tile.

If you're still feeling charitable towards this clown, give him the address for this site so he can learn the way not to screw anyone else.:laughing:

Oh, and tell him it makes more sense for you to sue him so that he can sue the manufacturer - but that you'll settle for half labour+materials.

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