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Old 06-14-2018, 12:35 PM   #1
retiler
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Exterior tiles falling off sides of steps

We have had a problem with exterior tiles falling off the sides of our front steps. This has let in water and the tiles on the steps have now started detaching. Is there a product such as a metal brace or perhaps simply concrete screws that could be used to firmly attach the tiles to the sides of the steps so that the water barrier remains in tact in order to prevent other tiles from falling off?
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Old 06-14-2018, 01:01 PM   #2
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pull them all off and relay them properly
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Old 06-14-2018, 01:48 PM   #3
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Thank you Jim for replying!

Yes, we intend to relay them, it is just that we want to have some more insurance that they will be attached permanently and forever. They were originally attached properly though through time they became exposed and then detached. It would be fantastic if we could simply attach them and then hammer drill in some concrete screws to make sure that they would never detach again. With concrete screws I do not think it would be possible for the tiles to detach. As long as the side tiles stay on, the rest of the tiles would have a tight water barrier and they would never detach either. Having this as a permanent and long-lasting fix would be such a great relief for us.
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Old 06-14-2018, 02:19 PM   #4
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Without knowing what the tiles are install on or how they were installed it's hard to say what the best route would be. Tile and grout isn't waterproof so I don't quite follow how you're creating a watertight barrier by mechanically fastening tile to the sides of your steps. Pics would help.
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Old 06-14-2018, 03:53 PM   #5
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What are the steps made of?

As said, neither tile nor grout are waterproof, so some water is expected to get beneath them. Excellent workmanship and proper materials is required, especially if you are in an area with freeze/thaw cycles. If there's tile on the treads of the steps, that can be problematic, too, since you really don't want water pooling there, and often, the steps are level without any slope that would allow things to drain.
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Old 06-14-2018, 04:10 PM   #6
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Here are some pics!
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Old 06-14-2018, 04:13 PM   #7
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We are in an super cold environment, so there is a large amount of freeze thaw cycles. My recent insight is that if we could create a water tight barrier, then we might be able to stop the tiles from falling off. There is some disagreement on this point. Could anyone help out? Could these tiles be retiled such that they are permanently attached?
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Old 06-14-2018, 04:24 PM   #8
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I would start by tapping on the other tiles to see if they are hollow sounding. If so, remove them all and start over.
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Old 06-14-2018, 04:30 PM   #9
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Thank you Davy and everyone!

This is just so frustrating!
I chiselled a few off that had an unsafe overhang to them.
I was talking to my neighbor who had the same product and they removed theirs and went with stone steps. They told me that tile was simply a bad choice for our extreme weather conditions.

The tiles that are on now are very firmly attached. Yet, as soon as the thin set gets wet the tiles no longer have any adhesion.

I want to get this solved, though I am not sure whether a complete redo is necessary. If we could simply retile the problem ones, then that would be great.

If anyone had suggestions for how I could extract myself from this mess it would be extremely welcomed if they could provide me such suggestions.
My best thought so far was to try and retile with a water tight barrier (if possible). Option 2 would be to go try for a precast concrete stair product.
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Old 06-14-2018, 04:40 PM   #10
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jad, these are slate tiles.

Is retiling a viable long-term option?
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Old 06-14-2018, 04:51 PM   #11
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Slate can have bonding problems depending on the thinset used. Water alone won't break the bond of thinset, it's used to bond tiles to the bottom of pools all the time. Usually water with cold temps will cause them to expand and break bond. Also, the metal hand rail support coming down thru the tiles don't help. Any pulling on the rail puts pressure on the tiles.

Did you tap on the stair tiles? Use a screw driver handle. Do they sound hollow?
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Old 06-14-2018, 05:03 PM   #12
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Davy, thank you for pressing on the question of hollow sounds on tapping.

Most of the tiles I tapped had a very solid sound when I tapped them. Some of the others did have a hollowish sound. I went around on the weekend and I removed any of the tiles that were loose or did not have clean edges. The ones that are on there now would not budge when I tried to chisel them.
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Old 06-14-2018, 07:11 PM   #13
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If anyone has any suggestions I would be grateful for any advice.

One option if tiling is not thought a viable long term fix is precast concrete.
This sounds like such a fast and easy option. They can just truck in your steps and quickly install them. Anyone have an idea on cost for a 7 step with a 6 1/2 foot width and 7 inch risers?

Another thing that I am not sure about is whether there might be some sort of a tile or other material that I could put down that was 6 feet wide. I do not understand why the only option that I seem to be seeing is 2 inch stone 6 feet in width. Having all of these pieces of 12" tile raises the risk that they will simply fall off. I would love to have an eighth of an inch tile/ or other covering that could be put down as a single step.
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Old 06-14-2018, 09:03 PM   #14
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Part of the problem I can see is that a majority of the tiles missing weren't installed properly. It sure looks like they were spot bonded. I could be wrong but it looks that way to me. Freeze/thaw cycles definitely pose challenges. Hard to say whether this install could be salvaged without actually seeing it in person.
Did the tiles you removed have thinset on the back or did it all stay on the steps?
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Old 06-14-2018, 09:05 PM   #15
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There are porcelain tile that are as large as almost 10' long or so, but they are not cheap or easy to handle. But, you can often get the factory to cut them to size for you. A thinset meeting A118.15 specs, properly installed should handle freeze thaw cycles IF the whole thing is installed properly. It is important to have expansion joints on any changes of plane, or thermal expansion can shatter either the tile (if it's weak) or the thinset bond. There are engineered joints, but the more common way is to leave a gap then once cured, fill with a color matched silicon (well, often, using foam backer rod then silicon is more reliable). The use of something like Ditra Drain may help some, but you might want to talk to Schluter's tech support. The handrails, posts are a potential issue as the metal expands/contracts at a much different rate than the concrete or tile. There are a lot of differences in the quality and suitability of slate. Some is nearly impervious and very strong, some is fairly soft and flakey. They all will expand and contract differently than the steps, partly from the thermal mass, and partly because they are physically different materials. The recommended thinset for freeze/thaw cycles has a bit more flexibility and resistance, but any would require a high quality installation with full coverage to prevent moisture from pooling in any voids that can then expand when frozen.

A precast, concrete set of steps that size installed is likely to cost in the order of $4K or so, depending on your area and local labor costs.
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