Was my Ceramic Tile Damaged Due to Water Loss? And Why did the Insurance Company Deny the Claim?


I 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?


ANSWER -  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.

10 thoughts on “Was my Ceramic Tile Damaged Due to Water Loss? And Why did the Insurance Company Deny the Claim?

  1. Donato Pompo says:

    Follow-up Question from Guest: Thank you for your reply. There was indeed a water loss event and the Insurance Company acknowledges that. They are paying to replace the kitchen cabinets.

    Are you saying most insurance companies will honor the claim for ceramic tile if there is any type of water loss in the affected area (i.e. cabinets) or only if tile area is ‘damaged’ in the owner’s opinion after such an event that damaged cabinets, regardless of “faulty” installation?

    One other question. I asked if their inspector ruled out the possibility that a heavy object could have been dropped on a single tile that I have that is cracked in two places (unaware of this prior to water loss but this is a vacation rental unit and I have no idea what could have happened as I am rarely there).

    The Insurance Company said their expert only looked to determine if there was water damage from the water heater event and ruled that out.

    The single tile is cracked diagonally on two opposite corners, edge to edge, with a chip along the crack on the surface, at the edge. This is the same individual tile the remediation company said had water coming up through a crack 15 feet from the water heater. I can provide some quality photos of that tile if it would help.

    The insurance company said I could open a separate claim to see if there was “direct damage” to the tile. What are “signs” that a single tile might have sustained Direct damage (impact) vs cracks from faulty installation? I hate to waste my time on another claim if they are going to come back with “faulty installation” again.

    I am trying to decide if I should pursue this further on the water damage claim, file a separate claim for direct damage or throw the towel in.

    • Donato Pompo says:

      The cracked tile is likely due to the tile not being installed correctly in that there are voids under the tile, and because of that when the tile is subjected to some heavy point load from rolling heavy equipment over it or perhaps dropping something heavy the tile cracks because it isn’t adequately supported.

      If the tile was damaged during the restoration process because the restoration company is bringing in equipment, then normally the insurance covers that as that is considered resultant damages from the water loss. If the tiles sound hollow because of the way the tile was installed, then that is pre-existing damage that the insurance will not cover. If the tiles tented up as a result of the water loss, then again that is resultant damages from the water loss that the insurance companies would normally cover.

      Although if there is no clear evidence that there are resultant damages, and the damages there show evidence of being pre-existing, then they normally will not cover it.

      • Alan Warrick says:

        I know this is old but it should be discussed as there are different types of subfloors and building codes for tile surfaces in dwellings. In a condo at least in my area it is required to put a sound supression material such as cork or membrane to meet code. This material can many times cause issue as the water can cause the tile to debond and mold growth can occour on certain debris / materials. Keep in mind im not saying concrete /thinset but just dirt, dust, sediment concrete. Also residences such as mobile homes can have plywood or osb sub floor which becomes a issue to dry or remediate.

        • Donato Pompo says:

          True enough sometimes the underlying substrates can have resultant damages from the water loss event. Plywood is very resistant to maintaining its strength after being subjected to moisture according to APA. Although if the water is a category 3 (sewage) then it can be contaminated and require replacement. Cork as a sound attenuation material is basically waterproof as well as some of the other types. So each situation has to be evaluated on the relevant merits.

  2. Christal Jolly says:

    I had a similar water loss. The roof failed after a sever storm and water ran down through the walls and used the tile. I stood on the tile and water came up through the grout now the tiles are hollow. They are replacing the kitchen cabinets and ceiling. They are balking at the floor replacement (it’s through the entire living area of the house, approximately 1600 sq ft). They sent an engineer and although the majority of the hollow tiles are where the water is, she found 3 other random hollow tiles in 2 other rooms. I have video of the water coming up through the tiles and out from under the wall and flooding the tile. Do I have a case to fight them on this?

    • Donato Pompo says:

      Having tiles sound hollow when tapped on doesn’t necessarily mean there are voids under the tile or that the tile isn’t bonded. Hollow sounding tile is technically not a defect, although it can be a symptom of a defect.

      If you stand on the tile and water oozes out that suggests that the tile isn’t fully bonded or has voids under them.

      Insurance companies will normally provide coverage if there is evidence that there was resultant damages to the tile because of the water loss event. If there is evidence that the damages to the tile are pre-existing the insurance will not cover it.

      If the tiles tented up as a result of the water loss, then that is resultant damages from the water loss that the insurance companies would normally cover.

      Although if there is no clear evidence that there are resultant damages from the water loss, and if there is evidence of there being pre-existing damages, then the insurance normally will not cover it.

      We are normally hired to investigate situations like yours to do an objective investigation to determine if there are resultant damages or not.

    • Donato Pompo says:

      CTaSC can perform unbiased and objective investigations of tile or stone installations that have been subjected to a water loss incident that you think resulted in damages to your tile or stone installation.

      CTaSC has inspectors located near most major markets in USA and Canada, and some in other countries around the world.

      To provide an estimated cost we need to know the location where the tile or stone is installed and to establish the scope of work that will be involved. We need to know what kind of damages resulted, what type of tile or stone, what areas of the home or business is the installation, and how many square feet or square meters are involved?

      Generally speaking if we have a CTaSC inspector who is within two hours of the location the cost to perform the inspection can cost $3,000 USD more or less. To request an inspection or a quote for an inspection, provide us with the respective information by filling out our form at https://ctasc.com/ctasc-services/litigation-and-insurance-claims-investigation-services/.

  3. Sameer says:

    We had a water leak from the fridge causing a heavy leak for about 3 days. The water went all around the main floor and tricked down from the main floor tiles to the basement. How do I ensure that the subfloor is completely dry and there will be no mould growth in the future?

    • Donato Pompo says:

      Ceramic tile is normally resistant to moisture, particularly ceramic porcelain tiles that are impervious. It is often used in showers, swimming pools, and in outdoor environments.

      Normally tile is installed with and over cementitious materials which have a high alkalinity, which isn’t an environment that promotes the growth of mold. Mold will not develop unless moisture comes into contact with organic material under the right temperature conditions.

      Whether there can be any resultant damages depends on how the tile was installed, what are the underlying layers and how were they installed. Wood subfloors should have a cleavage moisture barrier membrane over it. There should be movement joints in the tile assemblies at the perimeters, transitions and within the field of tile.

      Regardless of how the tile was installed, if there is resultant damages from the water loss event then the insurance will pay for that. They will not pay for pre-existing damages that may or may not be present.

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