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Old 02-13-2019, 01:30 PM   #1
walley_world
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Grout Cracking- Subfloor issues?

We recently had our house renovated and choose to use 8 X 48 ceramic tiles throughout a large portion of the house. Our Contractor used the old sub-floor "decking" and installed felt over the decking, then plywood, and finished off with cement board. We are beginning to see grout failures and upon inspection the the tiles have the grout failures deflect when weight is place upon them. This is almost 100% isolated to one particular area where the decking subfloor ends and a concrete subfloor begins.

In conversations prior to installation I specifically asked if laying the tile over these two different types of subfloors would be an issue, and if a joint was necessary and was told no. Fast forward to today and the contractor is not wanting to fix this on his dime as he is trying to say that he had cautioned us that the tiles would be a problem, which he did not. (his contract states that he will "Provide and install all necessary subflooring as necessary to facilitate a level and smooth surface for the installation of tile flooring in the house. Tile flooring locations shown on XXX design documents. Contractor acknowledges that tile selection pieces will be as large as 8 X 48 as previously relayed.")

I guess the first question I have is to you guys is this standard practice to lay tile across two different subfloor types? Is there some industry standard/guideline that I can point him to reinforce my belief that this was handled incorrectly? The flooring was installed in August 2018, so it has only been a few months.

I am also seeing a couple of other planks in another area that feel like they are deflecting.

Short of ripping out the whole floor and going with a different floor (which I can't afford), do you have any advice on how to address the issue with the area where tile is laying over two different subfloor types.

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Old 02-13-2019, 02:55 PM   #2
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Welcome, JS.

It'll help if you'll attach your photos as jpgs from storage on your computer so they appear in your post for folks to see and remain a permanent part of your thread.

Am I correct that there is a wood framed section abutting a concrete slab on grade section of subfloor there?

In any case, he hasn't got a leg to stand on. If he's been in business more than an hour and a half, he knows that the moment he began setting tile on that floor he owned it. The court would consider him to be the "knowledgeable professional" and require him to show that the substrate was adequate for a ceramic tile installation and that he followed ceramic tile industry standards and product manufacturer's recommendations in completing the installation.

At a minimum he failed to comply with EJ171 Movement Joint Guidelines For Ceramic, Glass, And Stone. There is a copy of that in the back of the TCNA Handbook, a copy of which I'm sure he has, being in the tile industry and all.

The type of joint you have there between those types of subflooring he'll find defined at A108.01-3.7 in his copy of ANSI A108, which I'm sure he has, him being in the tile industry and all
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...the contractor is not wanting to fix this on his dime as he is trying to say that he had cautioned us that the tiles would be a problem, which he did not.
It would actually help you case if he would put that in writing, thus demonstrating that he was aware that your subfloor would be a problem before he elected to install the tiles. Again, he's presumed to be the knowledgeable professional, not you. If he told you the substrate was inadequate and installed the tiles anyway, he clearly knew he was liable for the outcome.

I'd need more information about how the subfloors were prepared for tile to go any further with the evaluation. More photos would also likely be helpful.

My opinion; worth price charged.
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Old 02-13-2019, 03:57 PM   #3
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Normally, you don't put felt between plywood layers. Do you know if he offset the sheets when installing the second layer?

Did he use thinset UNDER the cbu? Every manufacturer requires it.
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Old 02-14-2019, 08:52 AM   #4
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Thanks for the information I really appreciate it.

CX ,

you are correct that it is wood framed abutting a concrete slab. I have attached the only photo I can find that shows the top layer of the subfloor, which probably isn't too useful.

Jadnashua,

I believe that the cement board was offset from the plywood layer. I assume cbu is cement board? Assuming this is the case I do not believe that there is a thinset layer between the plywood and the cement board. To confirm your statement this is typically a standard that should be followed?

To muddy the water this was a part of a whole home renovation caused by a natural disaster. The Contractor built up on the raised "decking subfloor" and added the felt then the plywood. The tile subcontractor laid the cement board and tile. I am meeting with him today to start the dialogue and ultimately fear this will escalate into a painful process involving letters and lawyers....
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Old 02-14-2019, 08:59 AM   #5
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From that picture, he didn't mud the CBU seams, and to my eyes it doesn't appear he used the correct fastener schedule (the screws seem too far apart). Find out what brand/model of CBU used and look up the fastening schedule.
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Old 02-14-2019, 09:21 AM   #6
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JS, putting thinset mortar under the CBU panels is a product manufacturer's requirement and as such trumps any and all other standards. It's also apparent that your installer did not fill and tape the CBU joints prior to tiling, another product manufacturer's requirement. I can't tell from your photo what type of fastener was used nor can I tell for certain whether the required fastener schedule was followed. But the lack of thinset mortar under the panels alone is enough to call for a re-do.

Following product manufacturers' installation instructions is also a requirement of your local building code. It need not even be written into your contract to be binding. You have a written contract with the contractor, yes?

[Edit] Dan sneeked his post in there while I was making coffee and typing.

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Old 02-14-2019, 11:09 AM   #7
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Fasteners too far apart....no taped joints......and idk about any of you guys, but i always have thinset evidence beyond my tile line where i stop for the day (cleanded up obviously. But still evidence).....i see no trowel marks. And that leveling system i have found to create voids under tiles if your not extreamly thuro with the application of thinset/trowel size/mix consistency/and!...backbuttering. Voids equal movement.
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Old 02-14-2019, 02:01 PM   #8
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1/3 overlap! that's a plus anyhow
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Old 02-14-2019, 02:06 PM   #9
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Thanks for all of your help! I'll update tomorrow after our meeting.
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Old 02-14-2019, 06:31 PM   #10
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The CBU (cement backer unit) should not have 4 corners lining up, nor should a seam line up with the substrate beneath it. If you have two layers of ply, the same thing. IOW, they should be offset. The guy didn't follow (any of?) the manufacturer's installation instructions from what we can see, but we can't see it all.
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Old 02-19-2019, 08:42 AM   #11
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You've gotten some helpful advice here. If there is a floor vent for heat, you may be able to take out the vent cover and look to see if there is any evidence of mortar between the plywood and cement board layer. You also may be able to see how good the coverage is of the mortar on the back of the tile. As was pointed out previously, it's almost impossible that the mortar was correctly applied beneath the tile from the picture you've posted.
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