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Old 07-16-2009, 09:51 AM   #1
sonya_thomas
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New grout is cracking and popping out . . .

Hello all, a friend who is not a professional tiler, but who has done many week-end warrior jobs, laid a ceramic tile floor in my kitchen one month ago. There are several problems with the grout. First, it dried too light . . . Hydroment "Brick" looks more like Laticrete "Dusty Rose". Very ugly. We have decided to stain the grout, and go in a totally different direction with the color. We have chosen to go with more of a brown/gray. "Fawn" is the exact name of the color stain. Which leads me to my bigger issue/questions . . . There are areas where the grout has cracked and popped out. The tile is 12X12, and there are some joints that completely popped out, while others only partially popped out. The majority of the grout appears sound, but the problem areas are right in the middle of the floor and very noticable. My friend drimmelled out the joints where there were problems, and here are my questions:
1. What would cause only certain joints to crack and pop out? My friend seems to think the grout is faulty. It is hydroment sanded. The tile was laid on a structurally sound sub-floor, and there does not seem to be any movement in the floor or the tiles. My friend has never expererienced this issue before, and is at a loss as to what is causing it.
2. Do you think that we could go back in and re-grout only the cleaned out areas? Would the new grout "stick" to the existing grout? We are hoping to avoid having to drimmel out the entire grout job and re-do it, but we also don't want to re-grout the joints we cleaned out if it is only going to lead to more problems.
3. If we do only re-grout the cleaned out joints, my friend does not want to use the same grout (for fear of it being a faulty product). Would we have to use Hydroment brand, or could we use Laticrete to fill in?
4. Finally, if we do end up filling in with new grout and staining the entire grout job, will the stain completely cover and mask the "old" grout and the "new" grout without there being a visible difference in the two.
Thanks so much for your input/expertise/feedback . . .
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Old 07-16-2009, 10:03 AM   #2
Tool Guy - Kg
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Hi Sonya,

Cracking grout means movement.

We need a few things and should be able to help you. Starting with the floor joists, can you tell us their size (like 2x8 or 2x10) and how long they span between supports? Then tell us how thick the subfloor is that on top of the joists and what it's made from (plywood, OSB, particle board, etc.) Also tell us if there are any other layers on the floor. Then what substrate was used under the tile and how it was installed (like he spread a layer of thinset on the plywood, then installed 1/4" cement board on top of it and fastened it with screws). If there's anything else you think is applicable, please mention that as well.
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Old 07-16-2009, 10:48 AM   #3
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ok, here is what I think I know . . . but please understand, I am not a carpenter nor am I well versed in what you are asking . . .

The tile was laid on particle board that sits atop a subfloor. The joist are 9.5X2 and are set 14.5 inches apart. The joists look to be reinforced at certain intervals with two pieces of wood that make an X.

The thinset was placed directly on the particle board. No cement board was used. I just spoke with my friend, who said that cement board could not be used becuase the particle board was flush with the door leading from the kitchen to outside therefore not allowing for the additional height that cement baord would have introduced. The floor feels very "solid". I do not feel movement, springiness, etc. when I walk on it (unlike another home I own that has noticeable movement when I walk across the floors).

Based on the questions you asked, I fear you may tell me that becuase we did not use cement board, therein lies my problem. If that is the case, I really hope there is a solution that does not involve ripping out the entire job. I have already spend $1000.00 and many hours have been invested, and my budget just won't allow for a redo.

I really hope that the worse case scenario is drimmeling out the grout and re-doing it because the grout is faulty, although I hope we do not have to even go that far . . . living with cracked and popping grout may be my reality (although I am hoping that is not the case . . .)
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Old 07-16-2009, 11:01 AM   #4
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Bummer.

Particle board is your problem. It is not a suitable tiling substrate as it expands quite a bit when exposed to moisture. Even the moisture from the thinset can....and it sure sounds like it did in this case...cause a swelling/movement problem. Speaking of setting material...can you tell us what setting material was used? Was it a thinset that was mixed up just before use...or was it a pre-mixed product that came ready-to-use in a bucket?

The particle board should have been removed and replaced with a cement board, a tiling membrane, or a combination of plywood and one of the former before the first tile was set.

The problem is not with your grout, but with movement under the tile.

Sorry to break it to you.
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Old 07-16-2009, 11:15 AM   #5
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So given that the tile was set directly on particle board (in the middle of a terribly humid heat wave), what is your best recommendation that does not involve ripping out the tile. BTW, the thinset was not pre-mixed. It was mixed on the spot. I was out of town when the job was being done, so I was not here to see the installation, although it would not have mattered becuase I know absolutely nothing about this stuff . . .

Just a bit more info . . . the house is a brick cottage built in the 50's in Nashville, TN. The subfloor appears to be pine boards laid on a diagonal to the floor joists, although I have no idea how thick the subfloor boards are . . .
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Old 07-16-2009, 12:13 PM   #6
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There is no good recommendation other than hope for the best when tile has been installed over particleboard. In all likelihood, the movement will continue to cause problems with further cracking even if the grout is redone over and over. Can you get lucky? It happens sometimes, but isn't something to count on.

If....................
A lower grade thinset was used (doesn't achieve as strong a bond as more spendy thinsets), the tiles are actually porcelain (harder to bond to than ceramic), and they weren't backbuttered (backbuttering promotes a better bond)...
or...
The thinset was allowed to skin over before the tiles were embedded.....
...then it's possible that the tiles might be salvageable for re-installation over a proper substrate. I know that re-doing the project doesn't sound attractive, but it's an idea to save some money while getting the tiles installed properly so that you have a high-quality, long lasting installation.
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Old 07-16-2009, 12:27 PM   #7
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Welcome Sonya.

Sorry about your problem, but it certainly doesn't sound like your friend's contention that the grout is "faulty" is at all accurate. It's quite rare, actually, for a product like that to be defective.

Mr. Goldstein is giving you the straight story on your problem, best we can tell from out here. If you really want a fix for the floor, the particle board is gonna hafta come out. some plywood used to replace it, a tiling substrate installed over that, and then your tile.

If door clearance is a problem, that will need to be dealt with at the door, not by compromising on the necessary subflooring and tiling substrate.

My opinion; worth price charged.
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Old 07-16-2009, 02:20 PM   #8
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just curious . . . if the tile were laid directly on plywood and not particle board, would I be in better shape as far as durability?
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Old 07-16-2009, 02:54 PM   #9
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yup

but that is not for the faint of heart either.

Precautions must be taken there.

Seeing as it's on particle board though . . . it's a bad scene, sorry
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Old 07-16-2009, 02:55 PM   #10
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also

don't mop it . . . water will only speed up the deterioration.

much sympathy
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Old 07-16-2009, 03:28 PM   #11
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Can we see pictures of the installation in general? How large of a area is this?
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Old 07-16-2009, 03:36 PM   #12
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Sonya said:
Quote:
"...I have learned a VERY expensive lesson, which is to not hire friends who are DIYers for jobs that are best left for professionals."
Don't go too hard on yourself, Sonya. I found my way to this forum because a lot of guys who pretend to be "professionals" don't have any idea what they're doing either.
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Old 07-16-2009, 07:17 PM   #13
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one concern / issue is determining what is causing your motion. No doubt your friend has done installs like this before, and they probably have lasted a good long time. Maybe you have more moisture / humidity issues in your basement / crawl space? Maybe you really have some structural flexing going on that they don't, and that's causing the motion, and thus the cracking/popping.

Is it just the traffic areas where footsteps happen that are popping?

That could tell you something about the problem...
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Old 07-16-2009, 07:42 PM   #14
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It will probably say on the thinset bag not to use over particle board. You might have to show that to your friend before they believe it's not the grout.
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Old 07-16-2009, 07:48 PM   #15
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Sonya,

Tiling directly over plywood can be done by the most seasoned of professionals. There are exact procedures that have to be followed for the installation to be a success. Two of those elements are the the thinset and the plywood. The thinset has to conform to ANSI 118.11. The plywood has to be 23/32" nominal CC or better Exposure 1 (exterior glue). If the existing floor your friend tiled over didn't meet those requirements or the thinset didn't conform then I believe the floor is not going to survive. Even though this method can be used you won't find many professionals who willuse this method. The risk is just not worth the reward.

Tough call when friends are involved. But since we're talking about "dear friends" I am going to throw this question out there..."Why would a friend who can see that the job is going south try to blame the "grout"?" If the grout really is to blame why not get the manufacturer's rep in there to take a look. Or better still hire an independent tile consultant to look at the installation. If the independent comes in and says it's the installation, then I guess you'll find out just how "dear" this friend is. I have done jobs of all sorts for friends before. If the job is for the kind of money you are talking about I write down everything I am going to do and when I'm finished we go over everything that was done before I accept payment. If there is mechanical equipment involved I go back and fix anything that goes wrong with my work for a period of one year. I think that's the least a friend would do.

Hopefully you will be able to come to an equitable resolution.

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