Why are tiles loose?

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There is usually one primary reason that ceramic, porcelain, or natural stone tiles become loose and that is poor workmanship.

Tile are bonded to their substrates with varying types of adhesives, the most common are known as dry-set cement mortars which are often called “thin-set” mortars. The only reason that a tile will lose its bond with the substrate is a detachment of the mortar from either the tile’s backside, the substrate, or a combination of both. There may be some who will argue that a failure was caused by a defective installation product, either the cement mortar or even the tile itself, but in those cases it is usually found that poor workmanship was involved.
 
There are industry standard specifications and installation methods that provide specific and detailed guidelines on methods and products to use for just about every tile and stone application imaginable. In these standards are very specific requirements for how to properly choose the correct adhesive mortars and pair them with the correct installation methods. They also provide minimum requirements that must be met to properly bond a tile to its substrate. For example, the average contact (or coverage) area for dry areas is 80% and for wet areas is 95%.  It is also required that the mortar coverage be evenly distributed to support edges and corners.
 
The primary causes of tiles losing their bond is improper preparation combined with improper mortar application and coverage. Some installers even deploy a method called spot bonding which is where they use four to five large dabs of mortar at the tile’s corners and in the center, which leaves a majority of the tile and substrate untouched with mortar. There are other reasons that tiles can come loose, another common cause is a lack of providing proper movement joints. When movement joints are not placed into an assembly, the thermal expansion and contraction that takes place can literally force tiles to debond.
 
We provide forensic investigation services to determine why tiles are failing and provide repair or replacement recommendations so that once repaired, the assembly will perform as intended indefinitely.