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Unread 02-02-2011, 07:04 PM   #1
TileGuyHelp
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Help! Unsolvable Leak in Ceramic Tile Floor!

Good evening,

I am making this post after many many months of being unable to solve a ceramic tile floor leak. I have had many professionals to my house, and they all disagree with each other. This is frustrating and I am seeking your assistance.

Here are the facts:

I live in Pompano Beach, Florida, and I have a two bedroom house. I bought the house two years ago. About one year ago, I had the carpet and tile flooring removed and replaced (by a reputable flooring company) with 24" x 24" high gloss ceramic (possibly porcelain) tile with 1/16" grout line in the living room, and hardwood floors in the bedrooms. The tile was affixed directly to the concrete slab with what appears to be thinset.

Everything was fine until about 5 months ago I noticed a small circle (3 inches by 3 inches) of water right above one of the grout lines of the tile. If the water was wiped away, it would come back slowly within a few hours. At first, the water appeared to come up more during the hot day (when the A/C was off) and less at night, when it was colder and the A/C was on (i'm not sure if I was imagining this).

Over time, little puddles of water started to develop over different areas where the tile is (a 500 square foot area). However, nothing seemed to affect the hardwood floors. Now, some of the tile where the leaks were have begun to disband from the thinset, and can be lifted right up with extreme ease. There was lots of water underneath the tiles that have popped up, but the water since dried up upon being completely exposed to the atmosphere. Water can still be seen weeping out beneath the tiles that are still affixed to the thinset into the areas where the tiles popped up and are no longer there. In other areas, water is still slowly seeping up through the grout lines of the tile. The water that comes up eventually hardens into a white powdery residue (efflorescence?).

Assuming that this leak has nothing to do with the water supply or drain lines in the house (which were apparently tested), what could be causing the floor to slowly leak?
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Unread 02-02-2011, 07:12 PM   #2
Davestone
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I never install tile directly to concrete because of shrinkage and cracking of slabs.This however has nothing to do with your problem.

There has to be a plumbing leak or vent from the a/c,whether or not it was tested,it has to be.

They didn't run the fridge water supply under the tile did they?
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Unread 02-02-2011, 07:19 PM   #3
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A/C drain line, fridge water line and the plumbing were all tested multiple times. What else could the problem be?
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Unread 02-02-2011, 07:46 PM   #4
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Welcome, Jim.

Despite your confidence that the plumbing has been adequately tested, I gotta agree with the others that there is a leak in/under the slab.

I would recommend you take Mrs. Jim on a little vacation for a few days. Before you leave, disconnect the water supply to the house. Don't shut it off, disconnect the pipe.

Check for your wet spots when you return and before you re-connect the water line.

You could also employ a leak detection company (have a number of'em hereabouts) that would come to your house, disconnect all your fixtures, plug alla lines, and pressurize the system to see first if there is a leak, and then what line is leaking. Some of'em are pretty effective.

Takin' Mrs. Jim off on a nice vacation might cost a little more, but might be more fun, too.

Absent a plumbing problem, the only thing I know of that could cause the problem is hydrostatic pressure under the slab. That should, however, manifest in more than one area of the foundation.

Fact that you perceive a change during the times when the AC is on and off seems reasonable. If this problem involves very little water, it could simply evaporate faster when the AC is running.

I'm still betting on a plumbing leak. Do you know if your below grade water supply lines in the house are copper?

My opinion; worth price charged.
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Unread 02-02-2011, 07:46 PM   #5
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any chance you test the moisture content of the wood floor. What I am thinking is that is possibly vapor coming up through the slab. That the wood can wick away the water vapor and release it over the entire area of the wood floor. Where as the tile blocks the vapor and because it is a large tile it cuts down the area of grout that the vapor can escape through. If this whats happening then you have some high hydrostatic pressure and need to figure out if its an improperly installed slab or more drainage.
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Unread 02-02-2011, 07:55 PM   #6
TileGuyHelp
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Hey there! Thank you for your quick response! I believe that all supply lines in the house are copper, and all drain lines are PVC.

A leak detector came out to the house a while back, and couldn't find a pressure decrease in the supply line. A plumber came to the house as well and could not find a drain line issue.

I have read on the Internet that unexplained leaks could be caused by condensation issues, or water vapor coming up through the slab that is unable to escape because of the ceramic tile, eventually coming up through the grout lines. Thoughts?

The weird part of all of this is that when a tile that is leaking finally pops up, the water that was under the tile evaporates, and does not come up through the slab in that location. Rather, I only see water weeping from the surrounding tiles, etc, as well as from the grout lines of other tiles.
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Unread 02-02-2011, 08:01 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TileGuyHelp
What else could the problem be?
if it was near a window and its was the rainy season i would say you could have a window leak. tons of homes in Florida had windows improperly installed and the rain on the outside sill stucco would let it leak in, under the window, under the window marble sill and then down behind the drywall. but with this you would notice your wood base swelling and water in that area.

also if the days are humid and windows are open I have seem moisture form all over the tile re temping themselves after a cold period.

is the area around your home low and wet ?

and as the others say and broken pipe under the slab cant be ruled out.
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Unread 02-02-2011, 08:02 PM   #8
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The water vapor you are talking about is caused by high hydrostatic pressure that cx talked about.
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Unread 02-02-2011, 08:06 PM   #9
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Water vapor emissions and hydrostatic pressure are two different issues, Wapa.
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Unread 02-02-2011, 08:06 PM   #10
TileGuyHelp
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The area around my home is not more low and wet then my neighbors. South Florida is generally low and wet though. My house appears to be a bit higher than my neighbors.

What would cause this hydrostatic pressure you speak of underneath the slab?
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Unread 02-02-2011, 08:07 PM   #11
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well thanks cx you learn something new everyday.

/me goes off to read more so he can figure it out.
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Unread 02-02-2011, 08:31 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim
What would cause this hydrostatic pressure you speak of underneath the slab?
Being low and wet, Jim.

We're talking liquid water trying to find equilibrium and that equilibrium being a level that is above, or very nearly above the grade of your slab.

Generally the result of poor site selection (OK, OK, you're in Florida, you're limited), poor site preparation, foundation too low in grade, poor restoration of grade after construction, inappropriate landscaping, etc.

My opinion; worth price charged.
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Unread 02-02-2011, 08:34 PM   #13
TileGuyHelp
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To cover all my bases, let's assume that they come back out and cannot find a leak, and that the problem is condensation, hydrostatic pressure or water vapor (anything else?).

If I have to replace my tile floor. How do I fix the problem before I retile?
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Unread 02-02-2011, 08:46 PM   #14
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We are in the dry season now,i live next to the Everglades and it is dry here.I can't imagine natural water doing this this time of year.
But i know sprinkler systems are frequently run under slabs and driveways.Is the sprinkler system on a well? This would explain the problem of city water pressure not going down.In fact is there a well point anywhere outside?

And i don't think any waterproofing tile system would stop an underground water problem like you have.It would just come up through the wood part of the floor i imagine.

Also, is there any demolition going on nearby,blasting, like roadwork,or condo prep for a high rise?
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Unread 02-03-2011, 06:57 AM   #15
TileGuyHelp
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LOL, I didn't know there was a dry season in South Florida! There is no well system on my property, only city water. There is also no construction or high rises being built anywhere near the property. I also had the sprinkler system off for a number of months, and the leak still occured.
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