Cracked tile, Grout Cracking [Archive] - Ceramic Tile Advice Forums - John Bridge Ceramic Tile


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05-11-2015, 09:20 AM
Hi Everyone,

My husband and I paid for the tile in our tub surround to be redone a month ago. We had new backer board put in and everything. We noticed right away that some of the tiles were not level but the contractor would not fix them all. Almost a month later, the grout is now cracking in several areas, it is also varying colors throughout the job. How can we go about fixing this? Can we re-grout over the cracked area? Or do we need to rip it all and re-do it? At this point we do not want the original installer back and I've done countertops so I'm thinking of taking a stab at it myself. Any ideas on why this is happening? I wanted to post links to pics but the forum won't allow it.

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Tiger Mountain Tile Inc
05-11-2015, 09:38 AM
Hi Andie and welcome :yo:

Photos would go a long way in trying to know what's going on. You should see a paperclip attachment above or you can use the Manage Attachments button below to upload photos to our server.

05-11-2015, 09:44 AM
Ah ok I've got some photos here. The cracks as of now are just hairline, but the grout seems to be very flaky when touched. I'm honestly scared to even get anything wet and wipe it down.

The grout lines are uneven in a lot of areas as well so that is also a concern, plus I just don't think it looks that great but what do I know.

Tiger Mountain Tile Inc
05-11-2015, 09:50 AM
Photos make a big, big difference. :) I was picturing grout and tile cracked in the middle of the wall.

The places where grout is prone to crack is in the areas of your photo- the corner and the gap by the tub. That's why there isn't supposed to be grout in those areas but rather a flexible sealant.

If you poke at the corner and the grout line around the tub are those two areas flexible or is it definitely a cement-type product in those areas?

05-11-2015, 09:54 AM
No it is hard and sandy. It's grout.

Tiger Mountain Tile Inc
05-11-2015, 10:05 AM
Those areas will have to be scratched out and filled with caulking. If you know the make and color of your grout you can order a matching 100% silicone caulk that will match your grout somewhat closely.

The spot on the top of the niche is the netting from the mosaic showing through. That should also be cut back and refilled with grout.

Unfortunately there's no easy fix for the variable grout spacing. :(

05-11-2015, 10:11 AM
Do you know the cost of having someone do that repair for us? Will the variable grout spacing be an issue? Is that normal? I have never seen such uneven spacing in any jobs before.

05-11-2015, 12:06 PM
The differences in grout joint width could also be from the variation in tile sizes. When tiles vary even as little as 1/16", that has to be made up somewhere, and it will likely be at the grout joint.

If there were several places spread out over the shower that bothered me that much, I'd just re-do the whole thing. If you start spot-removing tile for that purpose, you're likely to damage the waterproofing, and that alone would be more trouble than it's worth.

If there's not any waterproofing, then you have another issue. Unless the joint width variations were terribly egregious, I'd probably just live with it. :)

The grout at the tub/tile joint is a big no-no. That should be removed and caulked, as well as any changes in plane such as where two walls meet, and all corners of your niche.

05-11-2015, 02:14 PM
At the tub juncture, you could also just remove the grout and put nothing in its place but I'd need to know more about how the area was waterproofed before encouraging that. I'm very anti-caulk and avoid it when and wherever possible. :)

05-11-2015, 02:19 PM
All I know is that they used some cement backer board? Then he rolled on some black stuff. I don't know what it was but I would think my toddler would be really good at splashing water into an open crack. I don't mind the caulk as long as it matches somewhat.

05-12-2015, 03:16 PM
Also would the installer putting mud over the backer board cause any issue? He installed a shower niche and the edges went over the studs so he had to mud around it to make it smooth. It wasn't level. Also is sealant supposed to be put over tile after it is grouted? We are basically fighting to try and get some of our money back so we can have someone else fix the job and do it right and I'm looking at the invoice itemization and it lists sealant but I don't know if that is for over the backer board or if that was to go over the tiles. Thanks everyone.

05-12-2015, 06:17 PM
Welcome, Andie. :)

1. I'd need a photo to understand what you're telling us there.

2. Under no circumstance would you wanna caulk over the grout.

3. Sealant is more correctly a term for a caulk-like material. Anything you would apply over the finished tile and grout would be called a sealer.

4. Your child splashing water into a crack in the grout should have absolutely no deleterious effect upon a properly waterproofed shower wall.

My opinion; worth price charged.

05-12-2015, 06:25 PM
Hi CX,

The below links give pictures of what I am talking about. Our installer said mud had to be used to even the wall out, but it looks like no waterproofing was applied over the mud. I am wondering if this will cause any issues down the road. My understanding is the black portion is the waterproofing sealant that went over the cement backer board. It would seem the correct thing to do would to be to apply the sealant over the mud once it had dried.

05-12-2015, 06:29 PM
Andie, please attach those photos using the paper clip icon above the Reply dialog box so they'll appear in your post and remain a permanent part of your thread rather than disappearing when your third party storage site changes the urls.

05-12-2015, 06:33 PM
Here you go. Thanks.


05-12-2015, 06:38 PM
Looks like he applied a moisture barrier over the cement board and then did some minor leveling (floating) with thinset. I don't have an issue with what I see in those two pics. It's more of a moisture barrier than I've torn out in a long time. Grouting at the tub should never be done. That will come out nearly every time.

05-12-2015, 06:54 PM
I was hoping that's what I saw, too, Davy, but what do you make of that bucket we see sitting in the tub? Fairing out that wall with mastic wouldn't make me quite so warm and fuzzy if that's what's in that bucket.

Maybe it's really thinset mortar, though.

05-12-2015, 07:41 PM
I'll bet the back bulges out 1/2" or so to allow for the flange on that recessed box. I usually cut the face of the board back a little with a chisel to allow the flange of the box to sit flush with the wall.

I don't know the brand of the box used there, but I think Innovis Recess-it box instructions suggest installing the box the way it's done here and the use of mastic to fair it out a foot or two all the way around, so that there's a gradual hump there leading up to the flange.

I've tried that method, it doesn't work. ;)

05-12-2015, 09:47 PM
I appreciate everyone's help and valued advice so far. Should any kind of sealer be used on the outside of the tile after an installation?

Before the shower was grouted we had the installer replace a tile because it was off level. In the process he chipped the tile next to it and never bothered to replace that one either. Now it is grouted and completely set in. The chips are not large but there are hairline cracks that extend outward. It is in the middle of the shower where a lot of water will flow. Could this cause any problems down the road?


05-12-2015, 10:04 PM
Andie, if your shower is properly constructed it should function just fine before any tile or grout are installed.

While you shouldn't hafta accept or pay for poor workmanship in the tile installation, it matters not at all to the functionality of the shower.

My opinion; worth price charged.

05-13-2015, 05:50 AM
I really appreciate all of your help. Does the tile need to be sealed with anything? We were charged for sealer but nothing was ever applied after the grout dried. Thanks again, we really needed this advice to ease our concerns.

05-13-2015, 06:41 AM
One last question, no liner was ever installed behind the backer board however we were charged for one. Does liner refer to some other material in relation to an install?

05-13-2015, 06:42 AM
Tile, grout, sealants and sealers do not function as your waterproofing system. That dark blue "paint" that he put on is what keeps the water from getting inside the walls. From the pictures, it looks like he may have done that correctly, but there are lots of details that we don't have, such as whether he reinforced the corners with fabric, how thick the membrane was, etc.

But as Davy said, lots of people don't do it at all, and that's no good. So your tub surround, so far, has pretty decent odds of being functional but again, that depends on whether your contractor did the waterproofing correctly. It's a good sign that he did the whole thing.

As to sealers and sealants:
SealANT is typically caulk (properly silicone, not latex, acrylic, or "siliconized", but true silicone), and it is applied in the corners and where the tile meets the tub. It is flexible, so that when the tile expands and contracts from the changes in temperature, it won't crack like grout would, nor does it "fail to yield" on the tile like grout would and thereby it prevents possible chipping or buckling of the tile as it expands toward the tub. It's there to keep water out of cracks and crevices, but it is NOT part of the waterproofing system.

SealER is used on grout and is pretty much cosmetic. It seals the pores and makes it much harder for mildew to get its nasty little roots in there and establish a foothold. Sealer makes it easier to keep clean. Sealers are also used on porous stone tiles for the same purpose. If you have a glazed tile, you do not need to seal it. The newer urethane, acrylic or epoxy grouts do not need to be sealed. You should find out what kind of grout you have (it might be on your invoice) before deciding whether you need to seal it. Sealer is NOT part of the waterproofing system.

Those chips and cracks in your tile are ugly and shoddy workmanship, but they do not affect the functioning of your tub surround. One of the pros here may have some advice on how to hide the damage, but if your waterproofing system is correct and intact, you take a big chance of ruining it by removing a tile, especially if it's been set for a while. It's your call, based on what you can get out of the contractor, your willingness to gamble, etc. Just thought you should understand the risk of popping off tiles on a liquid surface-applied waterproof membrane like that one. since he already popped a tile, you might already have a perforated membrane. He might be the only one that knows (if even he does).

05-13-2015, 08:19 AM
We see that we were billed for a liner and mastic w/r, the mastic w/r seems to be what was used for waterproofing. Does anyone have any idea what the liner would have been based on the pictures provided earlier? There are no part #'s in the estimate/invoice.

Also would sealant ever be mixed in with the grout? I watched the installer put the grout up and rinse it away with a sponge but nothing was ever applied afterwards.

05-13-2015, 11:57 AM
Not sure what you mean by "mastic w/r". :scratch:

There are additives for grout that are advertised to seal the grout as well. Custom's Stain Block is one of them that I've used a couple of times. In both cases I've had no complaints from the customer after several years, for what it's worth. Obviously, I can't say for sure if one was used in your case.

05-13-2015, 04:06 PM
Like Kevin said, without knowing what sealer was used, it's hard for us to know if it was applied properly. All the sealers I've ever used are applied to the grout after the grout hardens and dries. But like Kevin said, there are new products that are added to the grout that claims to seal grout. Do you know what sealer was used?

Kelly, I did notice the mastic bucket but was hoping that he mixed thinset in an old bucket like we all do. I hope real thinset was used. :)

Tiger Mountain Tile Inc
05-13-2015, 08:33 PM
Andie, the bill is likely for sealer rather than sealant. If it's for sealant (caulking) you obviously don't have any and should not be charged for it. If it's itemized as sealer and it's towards the end of the invoice it's probably a charge for grout sealer.

You might try to take a spray bottle and spray a small amount of water on a grout joint and see if the water runs off or soaks in immediately.

If they left the trash on site then you might see if there's a bottle of grout additive around.

The term "liner" may be in reference to the accent strip that runs horizontally around the walls. If you don't see that itemized on the bill then that's likely what he's referring to.