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jogan 01-13-2010 09:39 PM

Tile Flooring Problem
We have been in our current home for a little over 18 months. It is a single story on slab with tile flooring in the main areas of the house. The tile size is 18" square slate (I believe).

A few days ago one of the tiles located near the kitchen area started making a popping sound and very small pieces of the tile came off. This continued for several minutes. The tile when walked on appears to be slightly down (from level) in some areas of the 18" sq size.

The above possibly is a sign that moisture is present unter the tile. The popping occurred one other time the next day and then stopped. The tiles on most sides also appear to be slight down (from level) when walked on.

I am not sure the proper way to proceed ie have a foundation company come and look at - I asked at a tile retailer and was told that a foundation company could drill a hole in the grout (about 1/4" width) and put some type of tool down the hole to determine if moisture is present.

I will assume that moisture is present and that several of the tiles will need to be taken up. My question is if something can be done to the existing slab to not only get rid of the moisture but also keep the moisture problem from occurring in the future.

I look forward to your help.

JazMan 01-13-2010 11:51 PM

You may have a moisture problem, but that is not the only problem with the installation. Your slab & floor is under stress because there is movement and I'll bet you do not have expansion space around the perimeter or in the field.

I'd have to know all the details, but you can start by removing the baseboard moldings and verify that there is no space there. Several other things may also be wrong, but start there.


jogan 01-14-2010 05:32 AM

Tile Flooring Problem
The house is 9-10 years old and the tile was put down when the house was built. The same builder built 12-13 houses in our community and all of them have tile floors that cover all but the bedrooms and are single story. Is it possible to have a house built by a reputable builder and have no problems for 10 years with no changes in the climate and have the problem you mention suddenly appear?

JazMan 01-14-2010 08:19 PM

Absolutely. The problem is not going to happen right away. 5-10 years is very common, sometimes it takes 20 years or longer. Your problem is minor as compared to many others I've seen and consulted on.

The condition is known as 'tenting'. Often most of the floor 'gives' at one time creating a noise that sounds like every dish in your house was dropped from the ceiling at once. Sometime a few tiles fly and hit the ceiling. Other times the entire floor bows up while maintaining it's position, but the center is 18-24" off the subfloor. "Tenting"

Although your builder may be a good guy, chances are he knows little about how tiles are supposed to be set. Most tile setters do not leave the proper expansion spaces, and almost never install expansion joints in the field when indicated. Just too much trouble and sometimes detracts from the appearance. Plus the builder will not pay for the extra work...probably.


jogan 01-14-2010 10:23 PM

Tile Floor Problem
Thank You for your response. If we assume that tenting of the tile has occurred what is required to overcome the problem? The first step is to find a tile setter familiar with tile tenting and proper joint spacing?

Although the problem is in a very small area at this time, it is very possible that if not corrected the problem will continue to occur in other areas of the floor? Can movement joint be installed without pulling the entire floor up?

Is it possible for a tile setter familiar with tenting to determine where the movement joint are located if they were installed?

Thanks in advance for your assistance.

Bud Cline 01-16-2010 10:42 AM


The above possibly is a sign that moisture is present unter the tile. The popping occurred one other time the next day and then stopped. The tiles on most sides also appear to be slight down (from level) when walked on.

Your problem IS NOT moisture.


Although the problem is in a very small area at this time, it is very possible that if not corrected the problem will continue to occur in other areas of the floor? Can movement joint be installed without pulling the entire floor up?

IF your floor is "tenting" (and it is) it is likely the stresses have already had an effect on the larger area of the tiles. The first thing to do is as Jaz said, remove the baseboards and verify the tile is grouted fully and firmly to the walls. If so, there's your problem.

The grout around the perimeter of the entire room must be removed. At that point the source of the stresses has been eliminated. Then, each tile can be "sounded" for bond. Any tile that isn't bonded will report a hollow sound and should be removed and reinstalled. Those hollow tiles may come out without breaking and can be reused.

Here's the next problem because this is slate tile (if it is).

Slate is naturally formed in layers for the most part. Various slates from around the world have different characteristics but suffice it to say it is formed in layers over millions of years. Once stresses on the individual tiles begin, the stress-relief could come in the form of delaminating the layers within the individual tiles. If this has occurred then sounding the tiles may give you a false report. A firmly bonded tile may sound hollow when tested. This means the tiles will likely be destroyed during an attempt at removal.

In any event, we need a little more info. I can tell you that forever the rule has been to allow a 1/4" gap/space around the perimeter of a tile installation to prevent tenting and to allow for some slight expansion of the tile installation. If this wasn't done, this is an "installer error" and the installer would be ultimately responsible. Good luck with that!:)

jogan 01-16-2010 11:34 AM

Tile Floor Problem
Thanks for your response. Have contacted a tile install company and individual I spoke with said he was familiar with problem and will come out and take up an relay loose tile or replace what can not be relaid. Original tile installer when house was built 9 or 10 years ago is dead. Will have base boards removed and make sure the grout if present is removed.

A possible problem is that the tile area - approx 1200 sq ft is in living, dining and kitchen area and was installed and then kitchen counter(s) were put over the tile. Might be able to pull out drawers or doors on counters and get in below to check.

Thaks again.

Bud Cline 01-16-2010 12:23 PM

The cabinets on top of the tile presents a special problem. Twelve hundred square feet isn't anything to laugh at if it is facing destruction.

One thing that may be considered is the possibility of installing "soft-joints".

In the areas immediately in front of the cabinets you might be able to single out a grout line that parallels the cabinets full length and remove the grout along that line. Then go back with a grout-matching caulk instead of rigid grout. This would allow for some expansion movement for the field of the floor and at the same time allow the grout to remain tight to the walls behind the cabinets where you can't get to it.

Ten year old grout will be hard to match after living and cleaning on it for that long but a mismatched grout line is better than an exploding floor I would think.:)

jogan 01-16-2010 01:41 PM

Tile Floor Problem
Thanks, a couple of questions -

1 - what kind of caulk?

2 - what is a suggested way to remove the grout

Thanks in advance

Bud Cline 01-17-2010 12:47 PM


1 - what kind of caulk?
There are several manufacturers of grout-color matching caulk. All the home centers sell a few of the more popular colors but other colors can be special ordered. It comes in both "sanded" and "unsanded".


2 - what is a suggested way to remove the grout
The grout can be removed by hand using a grout saw available at home centers. It can also be removed using a special bit with a rotary tool. Those are the safest ways to do it.

A little more aggressive way is to use a grinder with a diamond blade but you run the risk of ruining some tile edges.

Your tileguy will be familiar with how to best remove grout.:)

jogan 01-20-2010 01:46 PM

Tile Floor Problem
Thanks for your reply re the type of caulk and type tool to remove existing grout.

Caulk is available in several different type ie latex, silicone, etc. Is there a specific type that is recommened?

I have been told that there is a tool that will remove the grout - I am considering removing the grout line in a 20 or 30 ft run. Possibly that was the tool you mention.

I have talked with several tile retailers and installers and so far have not found anyone familiar at all with "tenting" of tile. Obviously I want to find someone that is familiar with and has repaired before. One installer I spoke with said that it is not possible to remove a tile for reuse and that you would need to use a jack hammer to remove tiles.

Can you suggest to me how to find someone in Houston TX area familiar with tile "tenting"?

Thanks in advance.

Bud Cline 01-20-2010 04:56 PM

As far as the caulks go...either latex caulk or siliconized caulk works fine. I DO NOT suggest you use 100% silicone caulk, stay away from that stuff entirely.

"Tenting" is a well known term in the industry. I always have to laugh when I hear a distressed DIY'er has shopped an everyday day term in the industry and none of the professionals he talks with has ever heard the term. It is AMAZING.

I'll tell you what you do. Go to and you will get all the advice you need. The owner of that website is John Bridge and he resides in the Houston area. Everyone in the tile industry knows him or knows of him. John is one of the most knowledgeable tile guys in the entire country. Email or Private Message John directly, tell him I sent you, and he will surely know of a top notch guy in your area and I can assure you this guy (whomever he is) will know about "tenting" and know what to do about it.

Good Luck.:)

jogan 01-21-2010 07:30 AM

Tile Floor Problem
Thanks for your suggestions. I have signed up for John's forum and left a message re the problem I am having - possibly I put in wrong thread or main subject but will continue to check and change if I do not get a response. I coluld not find how to contact John ie sending an email etc. Maybe I just did not look long enough.

One last question. There seems to be a continuation of the tenting problem that extends from the original area - goes under a couch, rug etc. Would you suggest that I remove some of the grout by each tile with a hand grout remover or drill several holes in the grout line on one or more sides of the tenting tile?

Thanks in advance - Your comments have been very helpful.

Bud Cline 01-21-2010 07:20 PM

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