QUESTIONI have a 500 sq ft studio condo with a 17 year old ceramic tile floor. It is ceramic / thinset on a concrete slab. After a Hot Water Heater Burst, the Restoration Company said the water migrated 10-15 feet under the tile. I am concerned about compromised grout / mold. The Insurance Company sent out a Flooring “Expert” that said it was a faulty installation because there are hollow sounds under tile throughout the unit. They won’t cover anything because they claim faulty installation. The reason they are stating is that the perimeter tiles are hard grouted which caused shear forces, thus the hollow sounds and some cracked tiles over the years. The expert did not address loose grout in the area affected by water or state whether or not the grout was affected by the water. He did not lift or remove any tiles. Should I retain my own expert?
ANSWERANSWER - If the tile was installed correctly, it should not be harmed by a flood caused by a water heater failure. There is no way the water could have migrated 10-15 feet below the tile and slab surface.
If the tile was not installed per industry standards, then it is possible that the tiles could have been damaged to some degree from the water loss event. Although some insurance companies might deny a claim due to the installation had not been originally installed correctly, it is more common that the insurance company will honor a claim if there is resultant damages due to the water loss event regardless if the tile installation had originally been installed correctly or not.
The key is whether there is evidence of resultant damages from the water loss event. If the evidence shows that the damages you have are pre-existing damages then they will not cover those damages.
If you didn't have movement joints at the perimeter of the room, or throughout the tile installation per the standards, and you have a porous ceramic tile body, and if the bond to the concrete substrate isn't good enough to restrain the tile when it wants to move, then it could cause tiles to become hollow sounding and become debonded. When tiles are subjected to moisture they expand, and if there are no movement joints to mitigate that stress it can cause damages to the tile.