What Should You do for Fixing Popping Floor Tile

Ahh.. Tile Popping…

Those who has old houses might have encountered this problem in their lifetime; suddenly an explosion are heard from one of your room and when you see, the tile is popping. Or when you walk, you notice that your step causing hollow feedback under the tile.

Tile popping is the most common problem in the house. It makes the owners frustrated. The popping is caused by trapped air inside the tile, which in certain weather condition, receive additional force to blow out.

Because of this reason, some deduce that small dimension tile are more prone to popping and when the next time they building houses, they opt for larger dimension tile. This solves the problem at some level.. It is not explode but still feel hollow.

So how to perfectly prevent the popping floor?

The Reasons of Popping

To answer those question, we will take a step back to see various reason of why do tiles popped? Apparently there are two main reasons; bad craftsmanship and weather. The craftsmanship problems are:

The sub floor is not level

If the contractors overall quality is low. The preparation of flooring (screeding) might be bad and very rough. If floor tilers / installers are provided with this situation. There is a chance that they are lazy and just install the tiles. This can be easily prevented by make sure that screeding process are made by top quality materials and workers. The desirable roughness is like wall plaster.

Worker didn’t clean the sub floor properly before installation

If the first problem caused by other workers, this problem is caused by the installers. The experienced and high quality installers know that the sub floor must be clean before installing the tiles. Usually they have a helper to do that for them.

However if the installer are working in hurry (maybe because they are paid based on volume, rather than hourly), they might disregard some cleanliness.

Worker using bad quality adhesive or wrong mortar mixtures

Tiles are placed with mortars (mixture of cement and sands). Bad quality of sands (i.e. lots of mud content) usually increase the chance of popping. Or if the worker use pre-mixed mortars (factory produced), they have wrong water content to mix. This is a matter of installer’s lack of experience.

The tile was not “blowed” with rubber hammer thoroughly.

On larger dimension of tile, there is a chance that the tile are unevenly pressured. It can caused air bubbles, and by the time the mortars are dried, these air bubbles will loosen the bonding. Larger dimension might solve popping problems because it might be too heavy to pop, but it doesn’t solve the fundamental issue if it is not properly installed.

Too small gap between tiles.

This is the very common issue for owners who want ceramic tile to look like marbles. On marbles it seems the gap is very small, and concealed. So they want to do it the same with ceramics.

I tell you now that you can handle ceramic tiles like marble tiles. It is two different materials with different material properties. Ceramics need more gap to breathe and have chance to expand / swell. Homogeneous tiles need at least 3 mm of gap between tiles. Ceramic tiles need more.

Unfavorable Weather

If all points before are caused by human errors and less experience, there is one absolute force that cannot be prevented; the weather.

If the area of the floor is directly exposed to sunlight, there are the chances of popping up of tiles because the direct sunlight will result in heat leading to expansion of tiles. Hence if adhesives are not strong, it may pop up and buckled tiles.

High Moisture area is also a common reason for tiles to popping. Because the tiles have risk to be swelled and pop up.

So, How to Prevent?

For bad craftsmanship, it is simple; use experience installer and high quality materials.

Floors are one of most important part of the home and will be highly inconvenient if on short term are broken and have to be fixed. So flooring works must be taken seriously.

But, flooring works are commenced on near end of the project. So the spirit and the resource are likely have been depleted. Some will tend to down-specs (change tiles and mortars to less expensive options) for economising reason. This is a bad move.

The other important factor is the installer. In Sunggiardi Construction, floor installer is regarded as one of highest class workers. Before we trust workers to install floor, they must have long hours as stone mason, and at first, we will test them on service area. With this policy, we qualify that only high quality worker do the flooring work.

For environment factor like heat and humidity, this factor usually affect outdoor area. Ceramic tiles are less durable on the outdoor, so there is no fix or prevention if you still want to use ceramic tiles on the outside.

However, we recommend you to use other materials such as natural stones (andesite, granite, or marbles).

If it already Happened, How to Fix it?

We must tell you hard truth; tile popping is like cancer. Once you have it, it have chance to spread, even if you solve the problems on the origin. On the popping floor situation. Usually, if you knock the surrounding tile, it will give you hollow feedback. So, even if you change only the popping tiles, in 3-12 months, the popping might be occurred again in the area.

When our clients have tile popping problems, we usually recommend them to change the whole floor in the area.

Other reason is that usually there is not enough spare tile to change the floor. So the replacement floor will have different colour.