Tile flooring is one of the most durable flooring materials that homeowners can use in their homes. A tiled floor can last 10-20 years if properly installed and even longer, if it is well maintained. Tile flooring is favored by homeowners because they are resistant to stains and require very little maintenance. Plus, they come in a variety of options, sizes, shapes, and textures.
Additionally, since they don’t encourage dirt, pollen, dust or bacteria to cling to their surfaces, tile flooring can help to improve indoor air quality. However, most homeowners expect that after years of use, their tile floors should begin to show signs of aging. What most don’t realize is that the durability of tile flooring can be impaired by trouble from a completely unexpected source.
Although homeowners know that the floor of their home is overlaid on the foundation of the building, Stringer Property Management team says many fail to make the connection between proper foundation care and premature failure of tile flooring. The longevity of your tile flooring may depend on how well you look after the foundation of your home, because the floor and foundation are intrinsically linked.
Negative events in the foundation can reverberate upwards and manifest themselves as damage to the flooring. Even if a homeowner is taking adequate care of their tile flooring, they may still end up with damaged floors if the foundation below is not in the best shape.
What are the likely ways that the home’s foundation can damage its tile flooring?
Naturally, tiled floors and all types of flooring will be affected by movements of the foundation. But this is particularly noticeable with tile flooring because tile is rigid and does not expand. Conversely, the foundation or concrete slab beneath the tile flooring will expand and contract according to temperature changes. The outcome of this difference in behavior can be:
Tiled floors generally mimic the level of the surface below them. If the underlying slab or foundation moves upward, the floor will do the same. The flooring will also show signs of dipping if the slab or foundation settles. Such movements will often cause the tiles to crack. This is particularly noticeable when the concrete slab moves at differing rates across different areas of the structure.
Cracking due to improperly sized tile joints
Generally, concrete floor slabs are apt to move, even when they are properly cured. These movements are mostly contractions and expansions due to temperature changes. The grout-filled spaces between the tiles in the flooring are meant to compensate for these movements. They ensure that tiles don’t crack when the slab moves. If the spaces between tiles are too small, they may fracture as the subfloor shifts.
Excessive moisture from the floor slab is probably the subtlest way that a foundation affects the flooring. Water is a central part of the process of making concrete. However, after the concrete is poured, most of the water in it must escape, in order for the concrete to bond and become strong. Concrete slabs must reach a certain level of dryness before flooring material is installed over them. If this is not allowed to happen, this may result in the following:
Flooring adhesive failure
Most adhesives used in flooring are moisture-sensitive. If the slab over which the tile flooring is installed still retains a lot of its moisture, the result may be that the tile flooring will malfunction due to adhesive failure.
Flaking or chipped grout
As the water in an improperly cured floor slabs moves upwards, it carries with it water-soluble minerals that eventually get trapped in the grout when the water evaporates. These minerals appear as a whitish residue on the surface of the grout, and can result in flaking and chipping.
What to do about the problem
The above shows how a home’s tile flooring and its foundation are intimately connected. What affects the foundation invariably shapes the flooring, although the reverse is not always true. One of the most visible signs of problems with a home’s foundations is the appearance of cracks in its flooring. This is why care for the home’s flooring should include proper foundation maintenance.
In order to ensure the longevity of tile flooring, the state of the subfloor beneath the flooring must be taken into account, before and after the installation of the flooring. Installing beautiful tile flooring over a malfunctioning foundation is like painting a weakened plaster-wall over. Every ounce of effort that goes into the project will be wasted.
And the interesting thing is that foundation care is not difficult; it only requires attention to details and timely interventions. By simply scheduling routine inspection of their foundation, homeowners can save themselves the heartache of foundation problems. And if they do it often enough, they may be able to spare themselves the unnecessary expense of damaged tile flooring.