Tiles are a decorative and durable floor covering. Although they look fragile, most types of tile can handle a lot of abuse like dropped objects and heavy loads, so cracks and other signs of damage are unusual, especially if the tiles are newer.
If you notice cracks that appear to be growing or are in multiple places, there may be a problem that can’t be fixed simply by filling them with epoxy or removing the broken tile. The best course of action is to contact a foundation repair specialist who can evaluate the flooring and take corrective measures that prevent the fractures from spreading and further damaging your home.
Cracked tiles can indicate house foundation damage
The first step in determining whether you’ve got a cosmetic or foundation issue is to examine the nature and extent of the tile damage. If the cracking is limited to a specific tile or area, it’s possible that:
- Someone in the household dropped a heavy object, creating a fissure that spread beneath the continual pressure of foot traffic.
- The tiles were subjected to an unusually heavy load. Most residential tiles are designed to comply with the breaking strength standards set out in ASTM C648 (which requires each square inch to be able to sustain up to 250 lbs of pressure), so load issues are rarely the cause for cracking, but it can happen.
- The tile quality is inferior. Although flooring and home improvement stores generally carry high-quality products that comply with ASTM and ANSI testing standards, if you purchase them from a private supplier, it’s possible that manufacturing processes were below par.
If the cracks are spreading throughout the property, it hints at a serious underlying problem that may be due to the following:
- Poor drainage: Wet ground conditions and soil movement can cause a foundation to move, shift, or even push upward, creating hairline cracks in tile floors that spread over time. If you notice cracking in other areas of the home, such as the walls, basement drywall, and brick exterior, it’s likely that poor drainage is causing water to enter the foundation and erode it.
- The concrete was not sufficiently cured: When concrete is poured, it must be cured so that all water can evaporate. Once the moisture disappears, the concrete will shrink. If the concrete beneath your floor was not given enough time to cure before construction proceeded, it can cause cracks in your tile floor.
- Improper spacing between joists: As the lowest flooring layer, joists support everything above them, such as the subfloor, tiles, furniture, and your family. If they are spaced too far apart, however, it is difficult for the floor to evenly support all the weight. As a result, the tiles will start to buckle and crack.
- Installation over a control joint: Since concrete is vulnerable to settlement-related cracking, contractors install control joints to make sure that any cracks are controlled. When tiles are laid over them, however, damage may occur.
An experienced contractor will recommend appropriate measures to make the floors even and stabilize your home. Depending on the reason for the cracking in your tile floors, they may install the following:
- Push piers: These piers consist of hollow pipes fitted together and pushed (hence the name) into the ground until they reach load-bearing stratum. After they are anchored in place with pier brackets, they create lift, leveling, and stability for your foundation.
- Micropiles: Micropiles are normally used when ground conditions under or around your home are difficult. They support foundation systems that are deteriorating, have low headroom or limited access, or are surrounded by natural or man-made obstructions.
- Helical piers: Also known as screw piles, helical piers are screwed into the ground using a hydraulic motor. Once in place, they provide a bearing surface that transfers the load from your home to the underlying ground.
If drainage issues are impacting the stability of your foundation, the contractor may recommend one of the following moisture reduction solutions:
- Foundation drains: If your exterior grading is in good condition, a foundation drain can be placed inside or outside the property to correct issues with a wet crawlspace or basement.
- Interior drains: These drains are installed beneath your basement floor slab, so there is no disruption to your landscaping.
- French drains: If a low area in your landscaping is collecting and retaining water, a French drain (also known as a cut-off drain) is a custom solution that may include larger diameter pipes, drain inlet boxes, and trench drains, depending on layout.
Contact a foundation repair specialist today
Because cracked tile floors can be a sign of underlying deterioration, they should be inspected by a foundation repair specialist as soon as possible. Over time, these problems can get worse and threaten the stability of your home.
At Van Matre Construction, LLC, we understand that a flawed foundation is a safety hazard and will respond quickly to inspection requests. We will examine your foundation and the surrounding soil or strata, use decades of experience to diagnose the problem, and give you an honest, no-obligation estimate for repairs. If you live in or around Denver, Boulder, and Lafayette, please call 303-668-2222 or contact us online.