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Unread 10-10-2021, 09:07 AM   #1
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Creaking tile: why?

Two questions, please:

1. Why would tiles suddenly start to creak after 13 years of quiet?
-- If the installation was faulty, wouldn't the problem have appeared much earlier? Why now?

2. Is it worth trying those glues pumped into holes in the grout, or will that make the job harder for the pro I have to call in when the glue doesn't work and the tiles are cracked because I didn't fix them promptly?
-- If it's worth trying one of those glues, which would you recommend?

-- House was built 13 years ago, and we're the only ones to live in it. Slab foundation. No structural or foundation problems. (Yet.)
-- Tiles are 17" square with 1/4" grout.
-- Tiles are same in kitchen and bathroom. Problem tiles are in kitchen only. Problem tiles are between stove and corner of island. Island has sink and dishwasher. Never a leak under sink. Two or three times a little water in front of the dishwasher, about five feet from problem tiles. (I'm wondering if leaks can get through grout to dissolve the adhesive under the tiles.)
-- Doubt it matters but just in case: about a month ago I pulled out the refrigerator (large, 26 cubic feet) to fix a drainage problem. Some water, maybe a quarter cup, would be found in front of the fridge in the morning. No water since fixing the fridge. The problem tiles are about five feet from the fridge.

Thanks in advance for all advice.
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Unread 10-10-2021, 09:19 AM   #2
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Welcome to the forum, Steve.

This is very early in the conversation, so I’m going out on a limb a bit: Are the tiles and/or grout tight up against the walls…or is there a gap? If you’ve got base molding on top of the tiles, you might need to remove a small piece to see. Also, are there any issues with drainage or gutters outside the house that could be causing your slab to be wet on any sort of routine basis?

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Unread 10-10-2021, 09:20 AM   #3
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Welcome, Steve.

1. Most likely cause would be the beginnings of what is referred to as "tenting," where the tile installation has become larger than the substrate, especially if an adequate movement accommodation joint was not provided at the perimeter of the tile installation and/or in the field of a large tile installation.

If you tap on the tiles in the "creaking" area, I expect you'll find some that sound hollow. And if you were to remove the grout around those tiles, I expect they will lift off the concrete with ease.

Why after 13 years? Because that's how long it took. And that's certainly not a record. Some recorded tenting failures wait 30 years or more. Some of it depends upon the bonding mortar that was used and the sufficiency of the mortar coverage.

Or I could be completely wrong.

2. Probably not.

Check for the hollow sounding and/or loose tiles and let us know what you find.

My opinion; worth price charged.

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Unread 10-10-2021, 10:05 AM   #4
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When you lift the tiles, check to see how well the original installer cleaned the slab. Many times we see paint overspray on the slab. Thinset mortar doesn't bond very well to enamel paint on a slab. This paint is a lot of work to remove and is often skipped. You also could have a slab crack running through that area.

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Unread 10-10-2021, 01:14 PM   #5
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Any direct sunlight in that area?

The top ten reasons to procrastinate:

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Unread 10-11-2021, 10:08 AM   #6
Dave Gobis
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What CX said. Not an unusual timeline from my perspective and I have been answering those calls a few decades.
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Unread 10-11-2021, 12:41 PM   #7
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Cement grows interlocking fine crystals when it cures. Those are relatively fragile. They have some flexibility, but not a huge amount, so that's one reason why there are deflection limitations that must be upheld. But thermal expansion/contraction if excessive, or if the tile is constrained, you'll start to break those crystals. Think of bending a steel coat hanger back and forth...for awhile, it bends, but eventually, it will break...the crystals that are holding your tile in place are more fragile and can't handle as much movement if their elastic limit is exceeded, slowly breaking more and more of them until things break totally loose. That can take some time, depending on the conditions. That's also one reason why you need expansion accommodation at least in the perimeter, and maybe in the field, depending on the size of the field and the thermal stresses on it (sun, heating ducts, etc.).
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