QUESTIONTile falling off of Building Exterior Veneer (facade) - We have a 3-story office building where several tiles have fallen off over the last year. What could be causing this and what can we do to prevent more from falling off?
ANSWERANSWER - Tiles whether ceramic tiles or natural stone or cement tiles should not fall off of the building. There are tile exterior facades (veneers) that go back 1000 of years and are still performing well today. Tile when installed correctly is a great exterior veneer that not only looks great and prestigious, but should last the life of the building. Having tiles fall off are obviously a great life-threatening safety issue, and it can compromise the performance of the building if it leads to leaks.
Chances are when the exterior veneer 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 an exterior veneer. When there are failures we commonly find the installers do not properly prepare their substrates to make sure they get an adequate attachment to it. 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 anomaly or is it wide spread where more tiles are likely to fall and create a major safety hazard.
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 exterior veneers are properly installed. All high risk applications such as exterior veneers (facades), exterior decks, showers, swimming pools 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 on CTaSC forensic investigations and quality control services visit our website at www.CTaSC.com.