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

QUESTION

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

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.

2 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.

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