Does lack of expansion joints cause tiles to debond or tent?


We have a house built in 1999 and the tiles have just popped, the insurance will not pay on a claim saying no expansion joints, but the building inspector said no moisture in slab and he cannot see any expansion joints, our tiler said you cannot see expansion joints as they are grouted same as rest of the floor, please can you let us know what year that expansion joints had to be put in a large area (first full floor of house, covering most rooms). We bought the property in 2013 and had a property inspection done, and there was no mention of bad installation of the floor tiles (being no expansion joints), this surface was fully on show when inspected (not hidden). Please advise if this is bad workmanship and not to regulations back in 1999.


ANSWER - Expansion joints are a type of movement joint.  Movement joints are meant to mitigate expected expansion and contraction movements within the tile assembly cased by temperature variations, moisture variations or from dynamic structural movements.   Without movement joints then the stress that the tile is subjected to isn't being mitigated.

So yes, the lack of movement joints can contribute to tile debonding and tenting; particularly if the tile isn't bonded well to its substrate.

Expansion joints are noticeable, and they are not filled with grout as the rest of the floor.  Movement joints are filled with a resilient sealant (caulking) that meets ASTM C920 and installed  over a foam backer rod or bond breaker tape per the sealant manufacturers' directions and per TCNA EJ171 standard.  The resilient joints will mitigate the movement and resultant stress.

Requiring movement joints at the perimeter and transitions of the tile installation and within the filed of tile is not a new requirement.  It has been required for at least over 25 years.

Normally with water loss incidents where the tile is subjected to a flood, the insurance company will pay claims if the tile was damaged as a result of the flood, and not pre-existing damages, regardless of whether or not the tile was installed correctly per industry standards.

2 thoughts on “Does lack of expansion joints cause tiles to debond or tent?

  1. Stefan Bradley says:

    It makes sense that expansion joints are used to mitigate expansion and contractions. My uncle wants to become a construction worker and wanted to know how to inspect an expansion joint. I think that there may be some companies that are capable of inspecting the joints professionally.

    • Donato Pompo says:

      As in all skills it takes knowledge, experience, and practice to become proficient. Your uncle should take the UofCTS Tile installer online course to learn about tile installations, standards, and expansion or movement joints. Go to for purchasing the course.

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