If my tiles sound hollow, should I have them replaced?


I've been reading your comments on voids in tile in order to secure and education prior to approaching my new home builder.

Thanks for the wealth of information you have provided to all.

I have a new home that has about 1,200 square feet of simulated wood ceramic tile planks. Prior to closing on the home, the construction manager had many tiles replaced due to voids. My initial thoughts were I have a great construction manager who is being proactive.

While having furniture delivered to the home prior to our moving in, I had unpacked dining room table chairs and when placing the chair bases on the floor I heard hollow sounds or voids in a specific area.

I hit these areas with my knuckles and the hollow sound was very noticeable. I hit my knuckles on other areas and all I heard was a thud as if I were hitting my knuckles on concrete.

After spending several hours reading much information on voids in newly laid tiles I decided to get a golf ball and drop it on all of the tiles throughout the house. I did this in a very methodical manner dropping the ball on 3 spots of each tile as they are 3" long. In about 12 areas there were tiles that made the "void" noise that we are now familiar with. The golf ball also bounce back less than 1/2 of height the ball would bounce if the tiles had no voids.

The question I have is this. After reading for hours, it seems to me the tiles should be removed.

The owner of the tile company, a large business in the Dallas Fort Worth area, when notified cried foul since they had already replaced tiles with voids. They came back out while I was not present and confirmed the tiles indeed had voids across large areas. The tile company sent one of their subs, while I was out of town, and my wife let them in the new home. The only work that was done was drilling of holes in the grout and in certain areas of the tiles.

I'm leaving Nevada and heading home today and the tile company is to return tomorrow, Monday, May 21, 2018. I suspect all they want to do is inject epoxy into these areas and pass that off as the repair.

I'm of the opinion this is not an acceptable repair and leaves it open to the strong likelihood that I will have tile problems in the future.

I'm of the opinion these tiles should be replaced.


ANSWER - Tile having a hollow sound is not considered a defect in itself.  It can be a symptom of a defect.  There are many reasons why a tile can sound hollow.  It could be how it was installed or it could be the underlying conditions beneath those tiles.  Generally speaking with certain portions of a tile sound hollow and other portions do not, it could be due to voids under the tile, but that isn’t always  the case.

If in fact you do have excessive voids under the tile it depends on to what degree whether it is against industry standards.  What the standards states is not more than 20% of the back of the tile surface area can have voids, and no void can be larger than 2 square inches (size of a golf ball).

Injecting epoxy or other flow-able liquids into grout joints to fill voids under the tile isn't covered by the industry standards.  In the fast, when I have seen this done, it wasn't very effective.   Recently we removed tiles that were injected with a product called Fix-a-Floor.  It actually worked well.  So it not only depends on what product you used, but more important in how it was used to remediate the problem.


2 thoughts on “If my tiles sound hollow, should I have them replaced?

  1. John Pallini says:

    In the site you detail that “…according to industry standards having hollow sounding tile is not a defect in itself…”

    Could you let me know the specific standard you are referring to or where I can find reference to it? I’m trying to explain to a homeowner that the fact that there is a small area of a tile which has a hollow sound “is” an indication that there is a void of thinset between tile and subfloor, but as more than 85% of the tile is bonded, the hollow spot is “not” an indication of defective installation.
    Thanks for your assistance!

    • Donato Pompo says:

      There is no standard that states that a hollow sound of a tile is a defect. Although a hollow sound of a certain type or degree could be a symptom of a problem, it doesn’t mean it is a problem in all cases.

      The 2019 TCNA Handbook on page 22 under considerations when using membranes states that tiles installed onto membranes can cause a hollow sound.

      The NSI-MIA Dimension Stone Manual Version 8 2016 Horizontal section page 14-1 states that hollow sounds is not a reliable test and that there are other reasons why there are hollow sounds from a properly bonded tile and they list some.

      ANSI A108.5 states that for residential interior applications it is acceptable to have only 80% contact between the thin-set and the tile, with full tile support of edges and corners. For interior wet areas and exterior areas you must achieve 9%% contact with full support along edges and corners. There should be no voids greater than 2 square inches (the size of a golf ball). Dry interior commercial areas should achieve 95% coverage too due to the higher use and traffic.

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