Get tips on how to fix problems with a tile floor that is cracking and losing its grout. Learn what needs to be done before you can put a new floor over the existing tile floor.
LESLIE: Officer Shawn in Virginia, who listens to The Money Pit on WFHG, has a tiling question. However, it says you’re on duty. So what are you doing calling us?
SHAWN: I called you, probably, three weeks ago when I was not on duty. (laughing) I just received a return phone call.
TOM: Well, it must be an emergency now. (laughing) So, lights and sirens are on. We’re going to race to a solution. Tell us what’s going on with the tile.
SHAWN: I bought the house and it was built in 2000 and I purchased it in about 2003.
SHAWN: They had intended to stay there and they were willing to live with the corners that they cut. They put the tiles down in a large area to cover a dining room and a kitchen area and did not use any concrete board. A lot of the tiles are breaking and, in addition to that, he had his wife put the grout down and she left the spacers in place when she did so and …
TOM: Oh, no.
SHAWN: … covered (inaudible) grout.
LESLIE: Oh. That’s just a huge mess.
SHAWN: (overlapping voices) But now the grout is falling out in a lot of places.
TOM: Shawn, this is a big, stinking mess. You can’t fix it.
SHAWN: I don’t think so.
TOM: No. You’ve got to start again, man. First of all, let’s address the many problems that you have recited in this short 20 seconds. First of all, the reason the tile’s breaking up and is cracking and loose is because the floor underneath it is not stable enough. When …
LESLIE: And when there’s movement, it’s causing everything to crack and move around it. So the tile’s cracking, the grout is crowding because it’s not sturdy underneath.
TOM: Tiles don’t bend and that’s the good thing because they’re really strong. But they won’t bend. If there’s any flex in that floor, they’re going to loosen up and they’re going to crack. So you are going to have to remove this tile. You possibly could go over it, but I would recommend removing it and putting down a mud floor and starting again. Of course, when you do put the new tile down, if you’re going to use spacers (laughing), never, ever leave the spacers in place …
SHAWN: I know.
TOM: … and grout over them. Well, you know, do-it-yourself …
LESLIE: But they made a pretty cross pattern …
LESLIE: … where everything met.
TOM: And every time she took them out, the tiles moved. (chuckling) So she didn’t know that she wasn’t supposed to glue those spacers in place. But that’s what’s happening here. You know, there’s a couple of things that might make this a little bit easier, Shawn. If you want … do you want to replace it with tile? I mean, do you like the tile?
SHAWN: We’re probably going to do hardwood throughout.
TOM: Well, there are, actually, easy ways to do hardwood today. First of all, there’s engineered hardwood, which stands up really well to dampness or moisture, if you’re going to have that as a concern. Engineered hardwood is basically like a fancy plywood, but with a solid hardwood surface. And what’s cool about is that they lock together and they kind of float on the surface. And actually … you know, frankly, it’s possible that you could lay an engineered hardwood even on top of the tile even though the tile’s a bit messed up. As long as it’s fairly flat.
LESLIE: As long as you don’t mind losing that thickness in your …
TOM: (overlapping voices) Yeah, that height.
LESLIE: … height of the room.
LESLIE: You know, make sure you’re not going to …
SHAWN: But we would probably … it’s an … it’s a Cape Cod style house and it’s very open, from the front door all the way to the back. It incorporates the kitchen, the living room, the dining room. It’s a large square footage area. And what we’ll probably do is hardwood the entire area and then put in a different, more ornate staircase.
LESLIE: Yeah, but you know what? By doing that, you’re improving the resale value of your house. Because it makes it more beautiful and if you put in an engineered hardwood it’s very durable. And if you go with a flooring product by, say, somebody like Armstrong, it comes with a 30-year residential warranty. So it stands up and it makes great pedigree for if you ever go to sell the house.
TOM: Alright, Shawn. I think that what you should do is investigate the original tile installer and arrest them, okay?
SHAWN: (chuckling) He was a good man. They were just cutting corners. (laughing) I’ll give them a break on this one.
TOM: Alright, Shawn.
LESLIE: Gonna let him off with a warning.
TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.