September 22, 2015 - Tilespect

When your tiled area is not quite right….floor tiling defects?

The floor or wall tiles have been laid and on inspection you have found that there are problems that appear t be some sort of tiling defects. What next?

Key concept;

The quality and performance of your installed tiled floors and/or tiled walls is a combination of;

a) The type and quality of tiles as well as the quality of all of the other materials used.

 b) The quality of workmanship applied by the tiler.

c) The compatibility of the choice of materials with the actual useage.

I am going to discuss some possible scenarios regarding tiling defects I have seen over the years and some tips for going forward. I am not going to recommend specific solutions because the biggest issue is actually to correctly diagnose the problem. What I have learnt is that one must not reach a quick conclusion. Often the answers are based on technical factors which are not immediately understood.

Faulty tiles? or good tiles laid over an uneven surface?What is happening in the joint?

Faulty tiles? or good tiles laid over an uneven surface?What is happening in the joint?

When a job goes wrong and you have wall or floor tiling defects there are several possibilities for allocating blame and unfortunately self-interest can potentially cloud objective analysis. This is why the option of an independent technical analysis is useful;

The possibilities can be summarized as:

1) The tile is to blame,

2) The tiler is to blame


3) The product was not properly specified

The first step is that the problem must be defined. In order to do this a description needs to be found for each type of problem.

There are three classes of defects that I think help in trying to describe the observed problem without listing a cause or blame; This might help you (or not!?!) They are;

i) Observable static conditions ( uneven surfaces, blemishes, , irregular joint sizes, lipping, shading)

ii) Dynamic changes (staining, loss of adhesion, crazing, fracturing, absorption stains, mildew growth)

iii) Performance of tile (excessive wear, loss of slip resistance, cleanability issues )

Problems which may not be visible prior to installation and which are only diagnosed through technical testing should have the involvement of all parties to determine the cause and any possible solutions.

Technical inspection services which exist in most areas can assist to determine the cause.  In most cases a DIY inspection will not be sufficient or may not be acceptable to all parties involved. However it is advantageous to accurately describe the type of problem.  The arguments and counter arguments for the cause of a problem can occur later. I have listed some examples of problems I have observed and the possible lists of causes just to illustrate how complex it can get.

  • Cleanability problem:
    Caused by a manufacturing or finishing defect or; (examples)
    – failure to apply correct sealer (if porcelain) or
    – Build up of difficult to remove substances such as
    tyre rubber,  soap cleaner scum, aluminium scratch marks,
  • Tile Body porosity issues (including efflorescence or “white staining”):
    Caused by a manufacturing defect (rare) or;
    – salt staining (osmosis) due to the use of unwashed sand used in sand-cement substrate
    – adhesive materials or excessive moisture in the building filtering through the tile.

Strictly speaking efflorescence is not a fault but rather it is a response to differential humidity. In most cases it simply disappears with time and regular cleaning.

  • Abnormal Wear rates:
    Caused by a manufacturing defect or; ( examples)
    – exposure to beach sand from foot traffic (highly abrasive) or
    – wear by ongoing construction actitivy or
    – chemical attack (such as hydro-fluoric acid) or
    – innapropriate application of polishing discs or excessively abrasive attempts at cleaning
  • Cracking of floor tiles:
    Caused by a weakness in the glazed ceramic tile or porcelain tile itself (a defect) (ex. firecracks) or; (examples)
    – poor sub-surface preparation resulting in washout or gaps in the cement sub-strate.
    – gaps or bubbles in the underlying adhesive bed
    – tiles were laid on an uneven surface
    – laying on a non-rigid surface such as a suspended plywood floor.
  • Uneven tile surface, raise corners, lipping:
    Caused by installation of bowed, curved or corner warped tiles (should not have been laid in the first place!) or
    – tiling straight over a previously tiled surface without preparation
    – Uneven laying surface due to poor preparation or
    – sand or gravel particles on the laying bed
  • The wall and floor tile joints do not line up as they were supposed to:
    Caused by excessive size variation or (examples);
    – Many floor tiles are designed to accomodate a wider gap, and so are slightly smaller. The tiler failed to apply the correct gap, or the designer incorrectly specified the same gap for wall and floor (note: some tiles can be laid with identical wall & floor joint gaps so this is not a universal rule) or
    – Uneven laying surface
  • Other less common problems can include;
    Uneven discoloration indicating possible non-uniformity of pieces.
    – Uneven surface texture between pieces.
    – Crazing or micro-fracturing of the surface glaze due to differential stress between the glaze versus the body of the tile.
Uneven joint sizes and joint lines which do not line up due to poor surface preparation

Uneven joint sizes and joint lines which do not line up due to poor surface preparation and cutting

Steps to take:

1) Report problem to supplier and request an inspection together to discuss possible causes and action to be taken.

2)  Preserve any unopened cartons for testing if ever required. These are normally leftovers kept for repair jobs to plumbing and wiring later in the life of the building.

3) Laboratory testing of ceramic and porcelain materials can establish if the tile is faulty or not. As well as the factory’s own facilities, independent local testing authorities exist in all markets and can evaluate the tile for each property.

TIP: “Reputable” tile factories have their own technical laboratories and may want to test and analyze the tile samples. They should provide you with a report if requested as part of any resolution process. Tile brands have a genuine interest in avoiding repeat occurrences as well as preserving the goodwill of their brand in the market. In most cases I would allow them the opportunity to first test and then respond to quality complaints followed by a recommended technical solution.

Remember that whenever a complaint about an already installed tiled floor or wall is made, it is only natural for the diagnosis of the issue to be the subject of a detailed scrutiny. Tiling defects and solutions may take some time to resolve unless the causes can be quickly identified and agreed upon. A satisfactory technical solution between the supplier and the end users should be the goal of any process, however this is often entwined together with the commercial and legal realities surrounding each problem. “>


Tile quick Inspection Guide floor tiling defects /