Do you have a tile floor in your home that creaks and groans and maybe the grout keeps popping loose? Don’t feel bad because you are not alone. One of the most asked questions we get is, “I have a loose tile on my floor, can it be fixed?” Depending upon what caused the tile to come loose the answer can be yes or no.
If something was dropped on the floor and broke a tile, then yes it can be repaired if a few criteria are met. First you need to have spare pieces of tile from the original installation. Since dye lots change from time to time, this makes sure the pattern and color will match. The tile industry changes frequently, and your style may or may not still be produced. The second and most important criteria is the structural integrity of the rest of the floor tile. There is no use fixing one broken piece when the remaining floor is compromised as well from a poor installation.
That brings us to the second answer to the original question of “…can it be fixed?” In 99.9% of the cases our answer is no, the entire floor needs to be replaced. From the symptoms a customer describes to us the ultimate answer always comes down to problems with the original installation. Not enough thin-set mortar coverage underneath each tile, improper or no underlayment was used, or too much deflection from a weak subfloor are just a few examples that will cause the tile to fail. Whether the floor was installed by a hired professional or your second cousin’s uncle Fred, if they cut corners or figured it was ‘good enuf’ you will be the one that pays the price down the road.
We see it all the time in houses new and old, it plagues everyone. The house may have passed the home inspection with flying colors and given glowing reviews about its previous remodels and updates. Until a year or two later and the grout on the tile floor starts coming loose. Many might chalk this up to heavy wear and hard use. Except when tiles are moving and rocking under your feet, barring any recent acts of God, the fault stems from day 1 of the installation.
Ancient Romans were remarkable craftsmen in their time as evidenced by the fact that their tile work is still standing to this day. On any job where we have to tear out an old tile floor, we usually joke that we hope it was put down wrong, so it’ll come up easy. The floors that are installed correctly are a bear to remove and a good testament to the installer’s skill level. So, if you do end up with a tile floor that might ostracize you from the Roman Empire, now you know it might not be able to be patched, but it can be replaced properly with one that will last the test of time.