Have you heard of top layer peeling from ceramic tiles?


Peeling Ceramic Tile? - The top layer is peeling from my ceramic tiles. Have you ever heard of this problem?


ANSWER - If there is something peeling from your ceramic tile, then there must have been a sealer applied to it. The glaze on a glazed ceramic tile will chip off, but not peel off. On unglazed tiles, sealers will peel if there is excessive moisture coming up from under the tile. On glazed tiles the peeling could be that the sealer was applied too heavily and it peeled off the impervious surface or they used the wrong kind of sealer or there was a contaminate on the tile that did not allow the sealer to attach adequately.

There are sealer strippers that can be applied to remove any existing sealer so you can reapply correctly. Check in Cleaners and Sealers in the Resource column under Expert Answers for names of manufacturers. Good Luck!

26 thoughts on “Have you heard of top layer peeling from ceramic tiles?

  1. Sue Ellen Mathers says:

    My contractor put painters tape on a piece of bullnose porcelain tile to hold it in place while drying and when he pulled off the tape, the finish came right off. What would cause this?

    • Donato Pompo says:

      Whether it is a throughbody (unglazed) tile or a glazed (glass-like coating) tile they are high fired in a kiln and the finish should not come off.

      The only thing I can think of that would cause that if it is alike a handmade Talavera type Mexican glazed tile that wasn’t high-fired or there was a decal design on it that isn’t high-fired. Or if it was one of the new wood-look porcelain tiles, I have seen where the finish has come off too easy in a couple of cases, which is a manufacturing problem.

    • Donato Pompo says:

      If you have a porcelain tile ink jet wood look alike plank floor and the wood layer is peeling and you haven’t abused the floor, then I would file a claim with the manufacturer of the tile.

  2. Tanya Lee says:

    I have the same problem in my newly purchased home. Previous owners did a master bath redo and the colors from the tile not only rubs off, but the color is being tracked onto the bedroom carpet and making a permanent stain. I cannot get a refund, as I did not have the work done. All I want to know is what would be the best kind of sealer to use to prevent further color loss?

    • Donato Pompo says:

      If the color is bleeding off or rubbing off of the tile, then it must be an unglazed concrete tile or a Mexican paver tile that was stained with something that is solvable in water. That is not normal.

      There are surface sealers that can be applied over some tiles but it requires stripping it if you need to repair or re-seal it later. You could use a wax coating over the tile that keeps water out of it, but then that requires ongoing maintenance to maintain it. You have to do a trial by error on tiles out of the way to see what will work best for you.

  3. Amy says:

    Our contractor did not seal our tile in the shower floor and now the pattern is all peeled off. Can I paint the shower floor until I can have it replaced. He will not respond to me to make this right!

    • Donato Pompo says:

      Sealing a tile isn’t mandatory. It can help maintain the tile so it is easier to clean. It should not cause anything to peel off. Most ceramic tiles are fired in a kiln at 2,000 degrees F more or less, so glazed patterns should not peel off.

      Maybe the sealer is peeling off? Need to know more about what kind of tile it is and what exactly is peeling off.

    • Stephanie says:

      I have just noticed that the tile in my kitchen is chipping (maybe flaking?), tiny pieces like the top layer is being removed. I read what you wrote about the glazes, but mine is a completely different color where the chips are. I do use a steam mop to clean the floors. Steam shouldn’t really affect tile though, should it?

      • Donato Pompo says:

        You probably have a red body glazed ceramic tile that might have a higher absorption. It has a glass-like glaze coating over the tile body. These tiles have a greater propensity to chip when something is dropped on them. There isn’t much you can do about it other than maybe getting some epoxy paint that matches the glaze to cover the contrasting color of the tile body.

  4. Tammy says:

    We have black tile (round about size of a quarter) and black grout on our bathroom shower. It looks like the tile must of had a sealer on it and it is now coming off. We want to know what we can use first to clean it and then what to use to strip it down and what to use to reseal it with that will not leave a residue on the black tile and grout.

    • Donato Pompo says:

      If in fact it is a sealer that is peeling off, then you should try to determine who is the manufacturer of the sealer and find out from them what to use to remove it. If you don’t know who the manufacturer is then go to a tile store who should offer general sealer strippers. Although make sure you test it out in an inconspicuous spot to make sure you are satisfied with the results.

      If the tile is a glazed tile or an impervious porcelain tile then you don’t have to seal it. If you do seal those tiles use a penetrating sealer designed for those products.

      The cleaner you used depends on what substances you are trying to clean off. Generally speaking a neutral based detergent for tile works best and you should buy it at a tile store.

  5. Tina says:

    I had a tile shower installed. We bought mosaic tile from Lowe’s and the paint is fading and flaking off of the tiles. We spent alot of money on this tile and I need to know what to do to save the rest of my tile. It is a beautiful shower and I don’t want the tile ruined. HELP!

    • Donato Pompo says:

      Mosaic tiles are not painted. There are unglazed porcelain mosaic tiles, glazed porcelain tiles (fired on glass-like coating), natural stone mosaics that might be sealed and polished, and glass tile mosaics.

      I’m guessing it is probably a natural stone mosaic that is spalling and maybe the sealer is wearing off or maybe it needs a deep cleaning.

      • Tina says:

        The tile is brand new. It’s not even gotten very dirty yet. I’m afraid to use a harsh cleaner. What would you advise to clean it with? Is there a particular sealer we should try?

        • Donato Pompo says:

          If the tile is new and flaking off then you ought to go to where you purchased the tile and complain. Of course maybe the problem is due to how it was installed or what application it was installed in.

          You can’t determine how to clean and seal a tile until you know what type of tile you have. Go to the tile supplier and ask for a product data sheet on the tile that should tell you what type of tile it is and it might give you maintenance recommendations.

  6. Karin R says:

    I rent an apartment and the title closest to the toilet and sink is essentially peeling off. I was using a lot of sunscreen spray and bug spray in that area over the last few years.
    I put a bathmat over it about 2 years ago. The color of the title is gray, but it looks like there was a glaze applied to it. This is only effecting titles in that area and really only 2 tiles. Is there a way for me to glue the glaze back on (it’s lifted, but still there)? These don’t appear to be peel and stick tiles. Any type of glue you would recommend? Thanks!

    • Donato Pompo says:

      A glazed ceramic tile has a glass-like coating over the surface of the clay body tile that is fired in a kiln at over 1200 degrees F.

      It sounds like you probably have a vinyl type of product that has peeled or degraded in some way. Without see it and knowing what type of product the floor finish is or what the substrate beneath it is, there is no way to provide a recommendation. It might not be repairable. You might need to find replacement tiles and remove the old tile and install the new tile.

      • Tamara Ausland says:

        Hello Kind Sir. We have a Porcelain type tile in a bathroom where I work. The top coat is flaking off (clear flakes like sheets of sugar) not discoloring tile below just causing dulling. . The floor guy that cleans and “shines” the floors said it was due to the air freshener being used. Ironically, it’s only mostly in the walk way- to sink, toilet door. Have you ever heard of a thing? I have done floors as well and I’m going more for; not prepped properly, applied heavy or not correct wax/seal. Your

        • Donato Pompo says:

          Chances are it is a sealer coating that has pealed off of the impervious porcelain tile. Or it could be some residuals from some other event. The only way to tell is to do a chemical analysis and that is not likely practical considering the cost.

          There are products like goof-off or goo-gone that you can experiment with to see if you can remove it safely.

  7. Larry says:

    I installed tile in my kitchen had some grout get on it & dried the only way I could get it off was to scrap it what can I do to get the gloss to stick in these places Thank you

    • Donato Pompo says:

      If you scraped the grout or grout haze off of the tile you might have damaged the tile surface. If so there isn’t much you can do about it. Applying a sealer to it isn’t likely going to help.

  8. Madelon says:

    Hello, I am hoping you can solve the dilemma I have. We had new tile installed after a house fire where we lost everything. I pointed out to our installed that many parts of the tile not only looked different but those areas also felt different. They felt as if they were rough in texture compared to the others that felt smooth. You can physically see the differences as well. I think the glaze is missing. The company sent an inspector and he said the tile was damaged and hr tried everything to fix it. He couldn’t and said he would send samples to the corporate office. We never heard back from them. The contractor said that he reached out to them and that they said it was normal. It’s NOT normal. Dirt sticks to these rough spots. I truly believe that my contractor, installer and the company are trying to pass the buck. What do you think it is? And how should I go about holding them accountable?

    • Donato Pompo says:

      If the entire house burnt down I would think that there was a lot of heat generated from the fire. Ceramic tiles are very durable and are fired in kilns that get up to 2,000 degrees F. It is possible that the glaze was damaged by the fire. Through laboratory testing that could be confirmed.

      Normally insurance companies are obligated to repair or replace any resultant damages caused by the incident. If they can’t repair then they have to pay you to replace it with something similar. Normally the insurance company will cover resultant damages as long as they are convinced there are resultant damages.

      As forensic investigators we can investigate and test the tiles and provide an opinion and if necessary arrange for the laboratory testing, but that gets expensive. You can also retain a public adjuster as an advocate to represent you in convincing the insurance company that you have a legitimate claim. The public adjuster works on a commission basis where I hear they get about 30% of the claim. I have seen some public adjusters who seem to be more interested in increasing the value of the claim rather than acknowledging the truth.

      • Madelon says:

        I must not have explained my situation very well. We lost everything in the fire, so the tile we had was destroyed and replaced with a brand new tile. It’s the new tile that looks so awful.

        • Donato Pompo says:

          If you are unhappy with the replaced tile, then you have to determine if the supplier misrepresented what the tile would be or if you had false expectations.

          You have to be able to prove that their literature or display or salesperson misrepresented the product. Typically supplier’s terms and conditions are that once you install the product then that constitutes acceptance. You argue that in litigation, but that takes money to hire an attorney and go through that process.

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