QUESTIONI have had my hot water heater bust and flood my home. The tile was under water and show evidence of the water being underneath the tile. What is to be expected? Has the tile life been shortened? Will I get hollow tiles that want to pop loose now that there is trapped water underneath the tile?
ANSWERANSWER - If the tile was installed correctly, it should not be damaged by being submerged in water. Although quite often tiles are not installed correctly, and there can be resultant damages from a flood.
Whether it is ceramic tile (porcelain tile is a type of ceramic tile) or natural stone, the water doesn't harm the tile itself. The grout and adhesives are normally made to be suitable for submerged applications.
Some natural stone might get a slight yellow rust stain as the stone dries which is caused by the ferrous oxide mineral in the stone. This can normally be removed by have the stone restored by a professional stone restoration company.
Warm temperatures do cause tiles to expand to some degree and cold temperatures cause it to contract. The heat from the water heater should dissipate relatively fast as tile is very conductive relative to temperature. The temperature of the water in the water heater will drop dramatically as cold water is added to the tank to refill what is going out, and it won't have enough time in the tank to heat up.
If the tile was installed without any movement joints (expansion joints) and the tiles were butted up against the perimeter walls, then the tile can expand and debond in some spots, which is called tenting.
If the tile was bonded directly to a wood subfloor, the wood could warp and cause damages to the tile.
Depending on the configuration of the tile assembly it is possible that during the drying process that white efflorescence staining can occur in the grout joints and in the natural stone or in porous unglazed ceramic tile. This can easily be cleaned off and should stop once the tile assembly is completely dry.