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My Floor Tile Is Cracking – What Should I Do?

Crack and Lines in Concrete Tiles
source: Flickr: shaire productions

Tile is a very popular material for floors, both for its durability as well as its appealing look. However, like any surface, it can only bear so much. In the event of a crack in your tile floor, the first thing to do is locate the cause. If you attempt to repair the crack without solving the underlying problem, any repair you do may only be temporary and the cracks can return or increase.

Reasons for Cracking

There are three types of reasons for cracked tile: Impact, subfloor issues or natural reasons. If your floor cracked after receiving a blunt shock from a heavy object the only thing to do is replace the damaged tiles. If the cracking is a result of subfloor issues, such as a cracked subfloor or high screw heads, these will have to be dealt with in addition to the cracked tile. Lastly, natural circumstances such as pressure changes or aging can also cause cracks. If the tiles are on your patio, a common cause for cracking is freezing temperatures. In areas with cold winters like New York, porous tile, like tera cotta, can freeze and expand, eventually leading to cracking.

Replacing Tiles

If the cracking occurred in only a small number of tiles, and/or the floor is in a location where aesthetics don’t matter to you, the easiest, most inexpensive solution is patching up the crack on your own. However, as mentioned above, it’s important to understand why the crack occurred in order to prevent future damage. If you cannot figure out why the floor is cracking or you need to repair the subfloor, contact a professional tile contractor.

If you need to replace a tile, one of the most difficult things is finding a match. Because many manufacturers discontinue old patterns and colors as new ones are introduced, locating an exact match can be impossible. Search your garage or basement to see if you have any extra tiles left-over from the installation. If you can’t find any, contact local tile dealers and see if they have a match. In addition to matching the tile you’ll want to match the grout. Even if the tile is a perfect match, a slightly different grout color will make the repair conspicuous. If the crack is the shower it’s important to replace it as soon as possible. If left untreated it could lead to leaking and a plumber will have to be contacted.

How to Prevent Cracks

If you’re planning to have new tile floors installed, there are a number of precautions you can take to prevent cracking in the future. For a concrete subfloor, the most effective thing to do is add steel reinforcing bars to the concrete slab. This will prevent cracks in the concrete from forming which lead to cracks in the tile. If you’re laying tile over wood subfloors, make sure the wood resists sagging and bending. If not, the tile, which is extremely brittle, can crack when walked on above a sagging subfloor.

While tile is an extremely durable material, cracking can occasionally occur. If your tile is cracking contact a reliable tile expert to help you determine the cause of the cracking and inform you of your options.

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