Glass tile water fountain is leaking, tiles loose


Glass Tile Water fountain leaking - I have a water fountain with glass tile installed over it that is leaking and some tiles have come loose. What would cause it to leak and the tiles to come loose? How can we fix it?


ANSWER - Chances are when the tile was installed it was not installed per industry standards and it has several compounding defects. Generally speaking when there is a problem it is not due to one single factor, but due to compounding defects.

Keep in mind that most installers do not learn their trade from a college or trade school, but rather learn on the job, so quite often they are not familiar with industry standards or the complexity of high risk applications such as a water fountain that needs to be properly waterproofed.

When there are failures we commonly find the installers do not properly prepare their substrates. The fountain has to be treated like a shower pan for waterproofing. We generally find the membrane isn't properly installed. We find that the installers don't back butter their tiles with the thin-set to ensure they get 95% to 100% attachment or/and that they don't properly key the thin-set into the back of the tile to ensure an adequate attachment. Often there are not adequate expansion joints (movement joints) installed in the building and they may not be properly designed or installed correctly. There are other factors too.

The only way to determine the extent of the problem and how to remediate it is to perform an intrusive inspection (destructive). It is important to determine if the problem is an anomally or is it wide spread.

To avoid these problems a specific and detailed installation specification should be prepared that should include a quality control plan that should be in place to make sure the water fountain is properly constructed. Glass tile is very impervious and much harder to bond, so the proper adhesives and installation methods have to be specified and followed.

All high risk applications such as water fountains, exterior decks, exterior veneers, showers, swimming pools, spas, and other exterior or wet applications should have a much higher standard-of-care for the installation and for quality control to ensure there isn't a failure that could result in thousands of dollars of damages. Ceramic Tile and Stone installations are ideal for exterior and wet applications, but they need to be installed correctly.

For more details, go to Forensic Investigations and Quality Control Services.

2 thoughts on “Glass tile water fountain is leaking, tiles loose

  1. Robert Bunda says:

    My water fountain (12 foot pentagon) has its glass tiles pulling away after 8 years. I’m reluctant to hire the same pool company that did the original installation, since I believe they did not properly prepare the substrate in the first place.

    What do you recommend?

    • Donato Pompo says:

      The first thing you have to do is determine what has caused the tiles to debond. The second thing is to determine if the problem is isolated and repairable or is it a systemic problem that will justify a full replacement.

      You need to understand the cause of the debonding in order to determine how to fix it or to help ensure that it will not reoccur after a repair or replacement.

      It isn’t always practical to hire a forensic expert such as CTaSC to investigate the cause of the problem and then to prescribe how to fix or repair it.

      So you need to make sure whomever you hire goes through a thorough process and follows the installation manufacturer’s directions in using their products.

      We do have a free download on our website in the Ask The Expert section called Installation Guidelines that are recommendations for the homeowner in selecting an installer and steps to help ensure the installer follows industry standards and manufacturer’s directions.

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