Cracking and Crumbling Tile Grout and How to Repair it
Tile is an extremely popular floor covering. It has been around since the days of Rome and the Colosseum. From the different decorative ceramics to the durable concrete tiles, most of today’s homes have some form of Tile in them.
Tile is used in floors and showers or even as backsplash.
Tile is meant to last for a very long time. But sometimes improper installation methods can lead to disastrous premature failure.
In this post, we will talk about the primary reason tile floors fail and why you grout is cracking. We will also reveal the one and only way to repair them and prevent them from cracking in the future.
What is Grout?
Grout is a cementious material made of cement,sand and water. Different pigments are added to reach desired colors.
While basic grout is a sanded cement mixture, all grouts are not the same. There are many different types of grout and different levels of quality.
Some of the more expensive grout may have added polymers and latex to help seal the grout and harden it.
Grout is then pushed into the spaced voids between the grout to fill the gaps and embed the tile.
After 25 years of experience as a Kitchen and Bathroom Remodeler I have used many different types of grout. I have found the best for easy use and durability to be TEC 550 power grout.
Power Grout® has a unique formulation that is stain proof* and provides strong, color consistent joints free of efflorescence, that are resistant to shrinking and cracking.
Power Grout® provides excellent performance in environments such as high traffic and wet conditions, and in residential and commercial applications.
Why Grout Cracks and Crumbles
So now that we have a better understanding of what grout is, lets talk about why it fails.
The number one cause of premature grout cracking and failure is improper tile installation.
There it is.
Unfortunately, if your tile has cracked grout, it means that your tile was installed without some sort of uncoupling membrane to allow it to expand and contract at a different rate than the surface it was installed on.
Different meterials will expand and contract at different rates. Tile, which is made from minerals and sand will expand and contract much less than a wood subfloor. So when the subfloor begins to expand during times of high humidity and heat, it puts great stress on the grout joint causing them to expand further than their capability and cracking begins. Once the cracks begin, there is no turning back. The grout begins to crumble and fail.
Regrouting a floor that is in this shape without addressing the underlying problem will only cause it to fail again, more quickly than the first time.
If the tile is not uncoupled from the surface it is laid on, the grout will fail.
What is an uncoupling membrane and how do you use it?
An uncoupling membrane is exactly what it sounds like. It uncouples the tile installation from the subfloor and provides a buffer to allow the subfloor and tile to expand and contract at different rates. It absorbs some of this movement and diminishes the possibility of cracked grout and tiles.
Uncoupling membranes are installed directly to the subfloor with thin-set tile mortar and the seams are filled with a fabric tape.
An uncoupling membrane is made from plastic and has a fabric on the back to allow for the movement and thas small cells on the top to allow for a martar bed during the tile installation.
The most popular form of an uncoupling membrane on the market today is Schluter Ditra Uncoupling Membrane.
How to Repair Cracked Grout
You are not going to like what I have to say.
If you found yourself on this page, you most likely have cracked grout and you are probably hoping for a quick and cheap fix. I understand, the last thing you want to be dealing with is your tile floor falling apart under your feet.
But unfortunately, there is no quick fix. A re-grout could last a couple months, a couple weeks or just a couple of days. It is only a band-aid. Possibly a re-grout with an epoxy style grout could give you a bit more life, but in order to do it you would need to remove all of the existing grout to ensure you fill with the epoxy. But it will fail too, and it is a total pain to apply.
The only sure way to repair cracking grout in tile floors is to rip the floor out and start over.
You must use an uncoupling membrane under the tile to ensure that there is a buffer to absorb some of the movement that every structure has.
This will mean new tile, as you will not be able to save the used tiles.
I know it is a bummer, and I hate that we are at this point. But it has to be done right or we will be right back in square one soon.
Local Grout and Tile Repair Contractor in Fort Collins Colorado
Now for the shameless plug…
Fort Collins Home Improvement is a local Kitchen and Bathroom Remodeling Contractor that specializes in Tile Installation.
We use uncoupling membranes andother techniques to ensure the longevity of the installation.
We also warranty our workmanship for the lifetime of the product.
Contact us today for a free quote.