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Unread 09-07-2019, 10:54 AM   #1
progman
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cracking due to bad batch of grout?

I have a lot of grout cracking, to the point of small pieces of grout breaking off. The job was done by a local flooring company with their own installers. The tile was 1 year old when I noticed this, and my guy said the first thing they want to try is replacing the grout because they have had this problem before. He said it could be a bad batch of grout (TEC Power Grout, 1/4 inch). I'm skeptical about the bad grout. I noticed the cracking seems to be directly related to how much traffic in that area - higher traffic equals more cracking.

This is a 16x24 porcelain tile with a strata-mat membrane. The sub floor is 3/4 OSB plywood on 2x10 at 16 inch center. The max span is 12 feet and it looks like the OSB was glued and nailed (this is a crawl space so I went and looked).

Opinions?
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Unread 09-07-2019, 11:23 AM   #2
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Could be the grout but usually, it isn't. It's usually movement somewhere. If the subfloor meets the requirements then it's probably somewhere in the installation. Underlayment-to-subfloor or tile-to-underlayment.

You might try tapping on the tiles and see if they sound hollow. If they're hollow then they're loose.
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Unread 09-07-2019, 01:35 PM   #3
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Another thing that can cause grout to fail is lack of movement accommodation. That can include no perimeter space, large field, and bright sun exposure. Not as common might be HVAC ducts with no insulation in contact with the floor.

Do the floor panels haveT&G along the long edges? Many do, but not all
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Unread 09-07-2019, 02:32 PM   #4
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We did the tap check. They all are firmly attached. I don't know if the OSB has the T&G. I agree it has to be a movement issue. The tile all has 1/4 round on the edges so the left plenty of gap around the perimeter. No direct sun on the tile. I have this same tile in the Kitchen, Master Bath, and Laundry. It's the same in all 3 locations - more traffic = more grout cracks.
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Unread 09-07-2019, 04:00 PM   #5
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Any cement based product, if not properly stored or used within the recommended USE BY date, is potentially defective. The packaging isn't perfect, and over time, that could be shorter if the package is damaged, moisture will intrude which literally can cause the cement in the product to cure. Most of them have a one year shelf life listed. It could still look okay when opened, as it might not be hard as a rock (it could be, but then would be obviously bad), but have cured into fine grains of concrete and aggregate. If that's the case, the grout would be quite soft and you could easily dig it out. The same thing could happen with any cement based product, including the thinset. If the tile seem solid, that may not be an issue.

Does the cracking seem to be along lines, or random? Does it occur at regular intervals, like 4 or 8'?

I'd consider pulling a piece of that quarter-round and verify that they didn't grout it to the wall underneath.
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Unread 09-08-2019, 05:25 AM   #6
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The original grout was not soft, he used one of those vibrating cutters to get it out.

On the cracking along lines or 4'/8' intervals: It is true that if you stand in front of my refrigerator, you are standing in the same joist bay if you stand in front of my sink. Both of those spots have high traffic and both areas were cracked a lot. The location between those two points was not cracked or very lightly cracked. Now it is also true that about 4' feet over (different joist bay) is the area where main food prep and stove is located and this area was also highly cracked.

I am positive the grout does not go to the walls under the 1/4 round.

I checked my joist set-up on the deflectometer, and it shows my joist arrangement is acceptable. However, it appears the sheathing is not acceptable since it is only 3/4 OSB (I need to confirm the OSB thickness)?
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Unread 09-08-2019, 08:51 AM   #7
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Jamie, if you have nominal 3/4" OSB, it meets the minimum standards for all tile installation substrates of which I'm aware. But if your edges are not center-matched (T&G), that could still result in your cracking problem if blocking was not installed under every between-joist seam in the subflooring (highly doubtful).

My opinion; worth price charged.
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Unread 09-08-2019, 01:41 PM   #8
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Thanks CX. Do you know the standard for doubling under the joints? I have access underneath and it is not to hard to stiffen these areas.
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Unread 09-08-2019, 04:10 PM   #9
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If they used square edge material for the floor sheathing, adding more joists, assuming they are already adequate, isn't necessary.

Deflection has two parts:
- along the joists
- in between the joists - 3/4" material is sufficient for ceramic if the long edges are supported.

A point load on a panel's edge, when it isn't supported by a T&G joint means those two edges can deflect separately. If that's the case and you have access from underneath, you'd want to install blocking along all of those long edges that would then keep each piece from bending separately from the sheet next to it.
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Unread 09-09-2019, 01:37 PM   #10
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Thanks Jim! For the blocking underneath the unsupported edges of the OSB - I am thinking at least 1/2" plywood (good grade), at least 12" overlap on both sides of edge, both screwed and glued?
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Unread 09-09-2019, 05:32 PM   #11
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You can use a cleat, but maybe easier would be to run 2x material between the joists.
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Unread 09-09-2019, 05:36 PM   #12
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2x_ blocking should be used, installed from below, spanning the seam in each joist bay. I normally use 2x4 or 2x6 for this type of blocking when installed before the subfloor, you just want enough to stiffen the seam. (Structural blocking wants to be the same dimension material as the floor joists, but this isn't structural work per say). I've even laid 2x4s 'flat' to allow more room for attachment. Not ply, never ply for me. From below, you can check the seams with a utility or putty knife, you may find it's already T&G. If you do add blocking, be careful when nailing, that's reason enough to use bigger 2x material, no one wants to bust out a tile with an 8d!!
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Unread 09-10-2019, 05:27 AM   #13
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Thanks Jim and Matt! I will venture underneath and pull some insulation back to check what I really have.
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