Buckled or Heaving Floor Tile


Do you know anyone that has experienced buckled floor tile? Most everyone does. This is one time of the year when Floridians can leave their perfectly good and flat tile floors. Go out for a walk and return to a floor with loose pieces, a raised section, or even missing pieces.

There are a number of causes and they span the entire year, but we see quite a few floors which have “bucked up” this time of year. When temperatures drop and the humidity drops with it, all of our homes actually get smaller. If a tile floor was installed over a sub-standard underlayment such as the old “crack paper” or if the tile was hard grouted to the base instead of being caulked to the base, when the heat is turned on and the humidity leaves the home, incredible pressure is placed on the tile. If it is being pushed from all sides, physics tells us that if the pressure is strong enough, something will have to give. When the tile “gives” or looses bond with the substrate, the noise can be almost deafening. The sound has been compared to a gunshot and the resulting movement can be quite violent.

I have personally seen many examples of this phenomenon. One was a very nice Condo on the beach here in Naples and the main floor was 36” x 36” Black Galaxy granite. Upon their return, the owners found the main granite floor was arched in the center and raised up about 4”. The furniture had slid down the incline and was jumbled along the walls. Another had a mystery involved. These homeowners heard the “gunshot”, went into the room and besides raised or buckled tile, one piece was missing. They were quite perplexed and concerned about their missing tile. They called me to give them an estimate for repairing the damage and while I was in their home, I located their missing tile. It seems that they had looked everywhere but up. The tile was firmly implanted in the ceiling! My own home has a quality underlayment under the stone and it has a Western exposure in the afternoon. Late afternoons put some direct sun on an area of floor right next to the glass doors. If you are real quiet, you can hear the “snap, crackle, pop” of everything moving as the heat of the sun moves across the floor. A quality underlayment has resulted in no loose stone and not even a hairline crack in the grout.

Proper installation techniques can eliminate this problem, but existing installations are subject to “tenting tiles”, so what can you do if this happens to you?

Some homeowners will opt to replace the floors and have new tile installed using proper techniques. Others will just reinstall the raised tiles without correcting the problem that caused the situation, and others might realize that in addition to the tile that came completely loose, the entire surrounding area has lost bond with the substrate. In some cases, the surrounding loose areas can be injected in various spots with a special adhesive. This does not correct the underlying cause of the problem, but it gets them through.

This problem can be the result of thermal shock when a floor is heated or cooled then the reverse happens quickly or along a line. An example of this is the west facing lanai on one of our cold days. The floor cools to the ambient temperature and stays there as long as it is in the shade. As the sun gets higher in the sky you can follow the sun/shade line across the floor. The sun heats only the portion it shines directly on and there is a great difference in temperature at the line. Depending on the angle, usually we find those “tents” about midway across the floor. Another scenario is on a hot summer day when the floor heats to above 120 degrees in the direct sun and all of a sudden there is one of our afternoon gully-washing rains which drops a large volume of 70 degree water on the super heated floor. The resulting contraction can cause catastrophic results.

Yesterday, I was called to one of our local beach front condominiums when the manager called and said he had an emergency. I arrived at the site about 30 minutes later to find that their marble lobby floor had “exploded”. It can happen anywhere, anytime.

It can happen any time of the year and it can happen in new and existing construction. You can take all the precautions and you just never know. We have the expertise to look at the problem, find the cause and offer one or more of the various solutions. We do the small repair all the way up to the removal and replacement of the entire floor. Give me a call 239-784-2438.

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