Why is my ceramic tile making a Crackling Noise when I step on it?


My house was built in 1956. I have owned it since 2012. There is ceramic tile on the floor in the second floor bath. It is the original tile with no signs of repair or cracks in the tile or grout. There is an area about 15x15 inches that makes a crackling noise when you step on it. It is not near the tub or the sink and not a place where it get wet (at least not from the top). It only makes the noise when it is stepped on.

Since this has only occurred in the last 4 weeks, something has changed. I have never had ceramic tile before so I have no idea. I can live with the noise but don't want to ignore it if it will become a larger problem. Could it be water leaking underneath the tile? Any suggestions/ideas will be GREATLY appreciated.
Thank you!


ANSWER - I assume that the crackling noise that you are hearing can also be considered a squeaking sound that some say they hear on tile floors over wood sub-floors.

Because you say that the tile floor in question is on the second floor, I am going to assume that the tile is installed over a wood sub-floor.  There may be a cement backer board or a mortar bed between the tile and the wood sub-floor or it could be that the tile is bonded directly to the plywood sub-floor or over a wood underlayment.

Since the crackling or squeaky sound you are hearing when you step on those tiles is over a relatively small area, and that it recently started making the sound, there are a couple of reasons of what is causing that condition.

One reason the tiles could be making noise when you step on them is that the tile might have debonded in that spot, so when you walk on those tiles they move and make that sound.  The reason it may have debonded might be because you don't have movement joints at the perimeter of tile installation where it transitions to the walls or in other locations where there should be a movement joint.

Movement joints are grout joints filled with a resilient sealant that is normally a silicone sealant.  Tiles can expand as they are subjected to moisture in the form of humidity or water, or if they are subjected to temperature changes or if the tile floor has excessive deflection.  So that is why you have movement joints to mitigate the anticipated movements that the tile floor can be subjected to.  If the tiles expand and are constrained, then the tiles can be subjected to stress that is greater than what they can resist, which then can cause the tiles to debond.

Another reason why tiles could be making noise when you step on them, is if they are installed over a wood substrate.  If the underlying plywood is degrading either from moisture or excessive deflection, then the layers of the plywood can come loose causing the noise.  Or if the plywood was installed without 1/8" gaps between sheets, then if the plywood is subjected to moisture it can expand and buckle up that can cause the tile to debond.

The only way to determine what has caused the tiles to make noise when you step on them, is to remove the tiles and evaluate the underlying conditions.  Since there is no visual damage, I would just keep an eye on it and see if you notice any moisture or cracking later on, and then if necessary do some exploratory inspections.

41 thoughts on “Why is my ceramic tile making a Crackling Noise when I step on it?

  1. Gary Taylor says:

    I am having a similar problem in a downstairs 1000 square foot area of my house. We have Super Salltillo , Pillow edged tiles , present when we purchased the home 23 years ago. Within the past 8 months are so there are 3 to 4 small areas with one or two tiles that are making the crunching sound when stepped on. I also notice the grout is wearing away from the edges of seveal of the tiles. My question to you , is would it be risky to attempt to remove/lift those tiles and then return them to the same spot with the proper cement? We have a concrete slab floor and I have no idea about the installation since we purchased the house in its existing state.

  2. Donato Pompo says:

    Since the Super Saltillo tiles are installed over a concrete slab there is no plywood that could be making the noise. It could be the tile is loose or internally the tile has some weak spots.
    Some Saltillo tiles are known for having what we call lime-pops. This is where the lime they add to the clay during the manufacturing process isn’t mixed well enough and it leaves little spots of lime near the surface of the tile. When the lime gets wet it expands and causes spalling or deterioration of that spot on the tile.

    If the tile is well bonded to the concrete slab it won’t come up in one piece. You can remove the damaged tile to determine what has caused the problem and then get a new tile to match to install. That is not a problem for a experienced tile installer.

    You can replace the grout, but at first it will look different from the original grout because the color will be different to some degree and it will be new grout next to dirty grout. Eventually the grout color will blend in as typically people will allow the grout to get dirty and appear darker.

  3. Michael Millner says:

    Use a grout removal saw and scrape the grout out from around the tile. Regrout the tile or tiles that are making the noise and regrout. If that doesn’t work, then you have to lift the tile or tiles and replace the tile in the areas. If that doesn’t work, then there’s a problem with the underlayment. Hope this helps!

  4. Anna Rumsey says:

    We have an older house, we remodeled the kitchen and had ceramic wood-look plank tiles put down for the floor. They replaced the subfloor and used cement board. In front of the refrigerator– we have cracked tile now and some movement. Also very imperceptible movement/give in hallway. Also, some of the tiles seem to be uneven, sticking up more than others– they all started out flat. Contractor mentioned we might need a “drop seal” for the foundation. Any thoughts? I cannot afford to replace this floor again and am still waiting to do my living room in the same tile that flows into the kitchen to make house look bigger with one type of flooring. We previously had linoleum in kitchen, have carpet in living room.

    • Donato Pompo says:

      Tile should not crack or move if the floor substrate was properly prepared and the tile was properly installed.

      Wood plank tiles are normally impervious porcelain tiles. So if they are sticking up then either they have come loose or when it was installed the installer might have excessive lippage where one edge of two adjacent tiles is higher or lower than the adjacent tile.

      For tile to crack could be caused by a number conditions. There could be voids underneath. The wood subfloor might have too much deflection and or it was installed incorrectly. The only way to figure out what is wrong so you can determine how to fix it is to remove tile and look for the evidence. This normally requires a tile expert such as http://www.CTaSC.com although it isn’t always practical to hire someone with our level of expertise.

      The tile installer should be responsible for repairing the situation. I don’t know what he means by a “drop seal” unless he is suggesting it is a vapor barrier that goes on the ground under the floor. But a porcelain tile being subjected to moisture vapor shouldn’t have caused the problem you are experiencing. Unfortunately there is no easy solution other than having an expert perform a forensic inspection to determine the problem and the solution.

  5. Nermin Massoud says:

    I just had a remodeling job in my house that included my upstairs bathroom.
    We installed porcelain floor 24×24
    The tiles along my bathtub are all making crackling/ squeezing noises.
    Now I’m very concerned about my brand new bathroom
    What should I do?

    • Donato Pompo says:

      Sometimes the wood sub-floor will make squeaking sounds if it wasn’t screwed down tightly or it had unstable spots. If there was a membrane installed under the tile it could be making the noise if it has some voids. It might not cause damages to the tile. To fix it you might need to remove the tiles and re-install tiles in those spots. If there are excessive voids, I have seen were a product called Fix-a-Floor can be used to try to fill the voids, but it isn’t a guarantee that it will solve the problem.

  6. Josh says:

    Our house was built in 2000 single story slab foundation. The tile is making crackling and popping sounds when stepped on in several areas. The tile was laid on a slip sheet (building paper I believe). The tile is in great shape and would prefer not to rip it up. is there a way to remedy this problem without removing tile?

    • Donato Pompo says:

      Installing tile over building paper is not considered an industry approved installation method. For awhile back around 2000 home builders were installing over building paper that they called a slip sheet or cleavage membrane to act as a crack isolation membrane. There were a number of different types of failures due to this installation method and we don’t see it being done any more.

      The cracking and popping sounds could be due to the tile being installed over the building paper that allows the tile to slightly move due to voids under the paper. It could be due to voids in the adhesive. I could be due to not having movement joints at the perimeters at restraining surfaces and the tile being a more absorbing tile that will have a propensity to expand when subject to heat or moisture, or more likely it is a combination of one or more of those conditions. If you have voids under the tile, I have seen were a product called Fix-a-Floor can be used to try to fill the voids, but it isn’t a guarantee that it will solve the problem.

  7. Laura Jelinske says:

    We just bought a condo built in 2005. We have been noticing snapping sounds when walking over certain tiles. How do you fix this and can it get worse?

  8. Donato Pompo says:

    The cracking and popping sounds could be due to the tile being installed over the building paper that allows the tile to slightly move due to voids under the paper. It could be due to voids in the adhesive. I could be due to not having movement joints at the perimeters at restraining surfaces and the tile being a more absorbing tile that will have a propensity to expand when subject to heat or moisture, or more likely it is a combination of one or more of those conditions. If you have voids under the tile, I have seen were a product called Fix-a-Floor can be used to try to fill the voids, but it isn’t a guarantee that it will solve the problem.

    No way of knowing for sure if it will get worst, but more likely it will. Only way to determine what the problem is and how to fix it is by having an expert remove a few tiles under variation conditions and evaluating the conditions.

  9. CHris says:

    Hey there,

    I installed a 24”x48” format tile in my kitchen. The same tile runs in my foyer where the stairs are . I put underlay down over the old subfloor which was in okay condition then I had put down ditra . Afterwords I installed the tile, about 2 months went by and I had my stairs carpeted and I started putting up baseboard Afterwords. While installing baseboard I had noticed the tile bordering the stairs had slight lippage against the one next to it, so when installing the baseboard I ran it at the height of the tile slightly higher then the two. I then caulked the 1/32” gap between the tile and baseboard that is closest to the stairs . When doing so I did push down hard on the baseboard to get the gap as minimal as possible on the one tile . About a week later I noticed a individual ticking sound when I step on the tile , it comes and goes . I used the best thinset on the market I made sure it was the proper kind to lay the ditra and tile down , and I’m stumped as to why there is a ticking sound when I step on it , I had one other tile do the same thing where I hadn’t to caulk under the baseboard .

    • Donato Pompo says:

      The ticking sound is likely the tile moving slightly. It could be because the wood subfloor has a weak spot. It could be because there is a slight gap between the wood subfloor and the wood underlayment. It could because the Ditra isn’t bonded completely in that spot. The only way to fix it is to remove the tile and Ditra and then verify if the substrate still clicks. If not the apply more Ditra and make sure it is bonded fully and then make sure the tile is fully bonded to the Ditra.

  10. Sobia says:

    I have a problem where it’s a sharp bang like a electric shock, no wires go under the tile floor, I’ve noticed a hairline crack I the tiles where we extended the house,the only thing I could think of is the builders put some water type resistant boards as a flooring than boards in that area, test house has wooden floor boards so I think it’s because the underfloor may be expanding causing this loud band?

    • Donato Pompo says:

      That description sounds like water pipes that might be attached under the floor if in fact you have a crawl space under the floor. Check and see if when the water is turned from a sprinkler system or washing machine if that is when you hear the noise. I have seen where water pipes that are not well secured can bang against the underlying floor. I can’t think of anything else that can cause a loud bang.

      As far as the crack goes, if the material or underlying subfloor changed at the transition from the old to the house extension that can cause a differential movement and stress that can cause cracks. Industry standards state that all transitions of different materials should be separated by a resilient movement joint.

  11. Jon Gray says:

    I have 36×9 wood porcelain tiles running the majority of my main floor. Home was new 4 years ago and recently started having a good squeak and popping sound around 3-4 of the tiles that are in direct sunlight. 3/4 subfloor on 16″ center joists with a metal mess wire substrate that was floated. What could be causing the popping and creaking? Have noticed 1-2 tiles in various places popping sound as well. The sounds also comes and goes in severity.

    • Donato Pompo says:

      A mortar bed over metal lath over a 3/4″ subfloor over 16″ oc joists should be a stable installation.

      Chances are that those popping tiles are not fully bonded and are moving. You could be lacking movement joints at the perimeters and every 20 to 25 feet in the field of tile that can cause tiles to tent and thus debond and move when you step on them.

      These types of long plank tiles tend to have warpage so when they installed the tile perhaps they didn’t get full thin-set contact. You can tape on the tile where it is moving or popping and see if you get a hollow or different sound on those tiles compared to others that don’t move. If you do get a hollow sound it might mean it isn’t bonded at those spots.

      The only way to know for sure is to remove one of these tiles if you have extra tile to replace it. If it isn’t bonded then you can easily fix it by replacing the tile. Make sure you have movement joints (caulked joints with an ASTM C920 sealant) at the perimeters where the tile is butted up to a restraining surface.

      • Jon Gray says:

        I should have also mentioned that in the scenario I mentioned above on the 36×9 tiles it is hard to recreate the creaks and cracks by stepping on the same tile every time. Usually within a 2ft x 2ft area if stepped anywhere within this area it makes the creaks and cracks. Could subfloor be an issue for a home this new?

        Thanks for your time.

        • Donato Pompo says:

          Older plywood subfloors have been known to internally delaminated and when tile is installed over them they can create a squeaking sound. The installers should be checking for this condition before they cover up the subfloor and nail down any loose spots.

          You said they installed metal lath first and floated over it, assuming you meant a minimum 3/4″ thick mortar bed over the metal lath per the standards TCNA F145-19. I assumed the subfloor would have been stabilized by the nailing or screwing in the metal lath and the 3/4″ mortar bed would further stabilize the floor.

          If the installer simply put down the metal lath and then only bonded the tile over the metal lath with thin-set, then that could result in too much deflection within the floor that could be cause of the squeaking floor.

          • Jon Gray says:

            I recently inspected the floor from underneath and found that they used a 23/32 tongue and groove subfloor both nailed and glued on 16″ OC 12″ joists, everything looks brand new, no signs of water, wear, etc. I even put a level up to the subfloor and joists underneath and everything looks great under the affected area. The tile installer used metal lath stapled to the subfloor with at best 1/4″ mortar bed with thin adhesive per visual inspection at a removed air register. On these 9×36 porcelain tile wood planks I have an area that now creaks, squeaks, and pops across 2-4 tiles limited to this area only, and noise stops immediate outside of this area. No movement joints exist and I do get a full 4 seasons with drastic climate change. This is in a 4 year old house and I am wondering if this is the subfloor or tile? Also if this is fixable in this place or do I have to start over as this tile is in about 1200 sq running a major portion of the house. Once again I am extremely grateful for your consideration.



          • Donato Pompo says:

            I guess you are saying that the floor joist are spaced both 16″ on center and 12″ on center, which is odd that there is a combination. Regardless, that spacing is good either way. You said they installed metal lath first and floated only 1/4″ mortar over it, which is not close to the industry standard of a minimum 3/4″ thick mortar bed over the metal lath per TCNA F145-19. So the floor might not meet the maximum deflection standard that it shall not exceed L/360 deflection (length divided by 360. No easy way to determine if it does or doesn’t that is why they have minimum design requirements. The rule of thumb is if you put a full glass of water on the floor and jump up and down the water should not spill, but that is a qualitative test and not a quantitative test.

            The creaks, squeaks and pops are either due to the plywood subfloor having weak spots or the tile isn’t fully supported in those areas between the tile and the mortar bed, or you have too much deflection in the floor at those spots.

            The only way to determine what is causing it is by removing the tile. If it is deflection you can add some bracing between floor joists. If substrate still moves after removing the tile maybe screwing it down in few spots will help. If it is a lack of thin-set support then replace the tile to ensure full thin-set support.

  12. Jerry says:

    I too have a crackling porcelain tile floor. I have a wood plank looking porcelain tile throughout my entire downstairs. There are expansion joints (caulk sealant) that divide the floor into four quadrants. The floor is on a crawlspace with floor joists at 16″ O.C. The subfloor is 23/32″ tongue-in-groove OSB. Above the subfloor is cement board (not sure of thickness) that is set in thinset and screwed down.
    The area I am having a problem with is in the kitchen, in the general area of the refrigerator. The subfloor in my house was not real level so the installer built up the area with grout over the top of the cement board (maybe 1/2″ to 1″ thick). After drying, the porcelain tile was set in thinset.
    Note that the kitchen area used to have porcelain tile before remodeling. That floor was very springy but didn’t have any tile issues. I decided to add a beam with columns midspan of the floor joists so I wouldn’t have deflection and a springy floor. Now the floor is solid.
    The crackling noise happens at random. It seems like once it has been walked on and the crackling is done, then it is typically done for the day. It kind of happens in spurts and it seems like when there is a change in weather, it starts to act up. With the crawlspace open to the exterior (crawlspace vents), it is exposed to the outside weather. I live in Alabama where the weather is typically humid. I’m wondering if I were to close off the crawlspace and make it a controlled environment, if the crackling might go away.
    Please let me know what you think of my situation and if there is a fix without tearing out the tile, I would love to know what to do. Thanks.

    • Donato Pompo says:

      16″ o.c. floor joists with the 23/32″ T&G and backer board on that should be sturdy. The OBS should have been installed in a staggered off-set pattern between sheets of plywood with 1/8″ gaps to allow for expansion. The backer board should have been installed over and perpendicular to the plywood and they should have been off-set from each sheet and should have had a gap in the joint that was filled an tapped.

      Crackling tile sounds suggest that either the backer board isn’t attached well to the OSB or the patching mortar then applied over the backer board is not well bonded, or there are excessive voids under the tile. And/or there were not movement joints installed at the perimeter of the area to mitigate any expansion and contraction from temperature and humidity variations.

      So I don’t think closing off your crawl space will help. I would remove one or two of the crackling tiles and see what the underlying condition is that is causing the sound. Then reinstall the replacement tiles correctly and make sure you have adequate movement joints.

  13. John R Myers JR says:

    I just did a small bathroom in my house with porcelain tile 12×12. I put a 1/2 in sub down then 1/8 in rock board there are a few tiles next to the tub and toilet that makes noise and moves now. I don’t think I left much space between the tub. Each tile has an 1/8th gap. Any suggestions.

    • Donato Pompo says:

      I’m not sure what rock board is? I hope not gypsum sheet rock. I will assume it is some type of tile backer board.

      Normally you should have a 3/4″ tongue and groove plywood subfloor and the panels should be off-set to each other and there should be a 1/8″ gap between each board to allow for movement. The tile backer board sheets on top of the plywood should be set perpendicular to the sheets of plywood and they should be stagger to each other. Their joints should be gaped, filled with thin-set and taped. Otherwise you can get some squeaking noises.

      If the tiles did not get full adhesive contact to the back of the tile it can allow movement that causes a noise. If the sheets of plywood and backer board were not properly screwed or nailed every 7″ that can allow there to be movement that can cause a noise.

      The only thing you can do is remove the noisy tiles and make screw down the backer board better and when you replace the tile make sure you get full contact with no voids behind the tile when you adhere it.

  14. Lauren says:

    I just recently had wood plank porcelain tile laid in my great room. The installer laid it over the foundation using mud and then grouted it. Just before it was grouted, I noticed the floor making a cracking sound in 2 to 3 areas when it was walked on. I asked him about it before he put down the grout and was told that, because of the unevenness of my foundation, he had to use less mud in some areas to get the tile level but that it was proper installation and that the tiles would still be strong and sturdy. Fast forward 3 days from finish of the installation, I accidentally dropped something on one of the tiles in that area. It broke clean through and it looks to be completely hollow underneath the tile, no mud in the center of the tile at all. Is this normal installation and will my tiles hold up over time or will I continue to have problems with it?

    • Donato Pompo says:

      No this is not a normal installation. The floor should not have made a cracking sound if it was installed over a concrete foundation.

      The mortar bed should have been continuous to level or slope the floor to the intended plane.

      The adhesive should have been apply to achieve at least 80% contact between the tile and the substrate with full contact around edges and corners. The allowable 20% voids has to be dispersed and not concentrated anywhere.

      When there are excessive voids under the tile if something heavy is dropped on it or something heavy rolled over it, it will have a propensity to crack as the one that did when you dropped something.

  15. Maria digi says:

    Hi we’ve had our kitchen floor done in 24/24 porcelain tiles.. since we had loud poping noises and crunch noises when walking on few tiles . We did the old methods of wire mesh cement underneath.. we are afraid of these loud noises.. haven’t noticed any lose grout as of yet . we probably thinking the granite in kitchen might be putting strain on floor.. also had granite table made to match.. any ideas why?

    • Donato Pompo says:

      You stated that you installed the tile in the old method of wire mesh cement underneath. I assume you might mean you nailed a metal lath to a plywood subfloor covered with building paper and then applied the thin-set over it as you bonded the tile. If that is the case then maybe the metal lath wasn’t fasten correctly? Maybe there are voids in the mortar over the metal lath that are collapsing? Maybe the plywood is degraded and portions has collapsed? Maybe there is excessive deflection in the floor? Maybe there are excessive voids in the thin-set mortar adhesive under the tile? Maybe you butted the tile to the walls at the tile perimeters and there are not movement joints and the unmitigated stress has caused some tiles to come loose.

      Or maybe you you put down building paper over a wood subfloor and placed the wire reinforcing fabric within the center of a 1″ thick or thicker mortar bed and then bonded the tile to it. Some of the potential deficiencies could apply to this installation method as well.

      The only way to determine what is causing the popping and crunching noises is to forensically remove some tiles under various conditions to look for the evidence of what caused the noises.

  16. Chris Lyons says:

    My beautiful porcelain kitchen floor was laid over concrete 17 years ago. The shared kitchen wall next door had a leak, and water came into our condo. My floor started to show calcium deposits along the grout, and some water was appearing through the grouting when I stepped on it. The leak is fixed next door, and now there is a crackling noise when I walk across the floor. The tile company said they could replace some of the tiles and re-glue them and re-grout the entire floor. I have about 9 extra tiles, and they have discontinued them. The plumber said to replace the whole floor or I would have more problems with calcium coming back between the tiles. I love the floor; however, would it be safer to replace some tiles or replace the whole floor? The tiles still look new! Who is correct???

    • Donato Pompo says:

      Porcelain tiles are very dense and technical impervious at 0.5% absorption. If they are submerged in water it should not hurt the tile. Although if the tile wasn’t installed correctly the flood could result in damages to the tile.

      If when you stepped on a tile water came up through the grout joint that would indicate that tile became unbonded. The cracking noise could be an indication that some tiles are loose or the substrate below them might be unstable particularly if the tile was bonded over plywood that got damaged.

      The efflorescence calcium staining is likely from the flood and you should be able to clean it off. Once there isn’t any water under the tile then the efflorescence should not return.

      If all the tiles are loose then you might have to replace the floor. If only a few are loose then you can just replace those. I would try to repair it and if that doesn’t work then replace the floor.

      If you do replace the floor make sure you keep an eye on the installer to make sure he installs everything per industry standards and per the product manufacturer directions. Most installer haven’t had any formal training for installing tile; they just learn on the job. So they often don’t know the standards.

  17. Elsie says:

    Hi, I also have a problem of crackling and expanding porcelain tiles upstairs. My house was built in. 2015 and the we used polystyrene slab. Could that be the reason for the tiles to expand? This happens in one room on two rows of tile from wall to wall. The room has no bathroom in it.

    • Donato Pompo says:

      I’m not sure whether you are saying you installed the tile over a polystyrene (foam) substrate or that it was a polystyrene concrete which is a light weight concrete mixed with resin.

      High density Polystyrene foam is impervious, so it would protect the tile from moisture. I would expect that the polystyrene concrete is not porous would perhaps act as a vapor barrier. Moisture can cause a porous ceramic tile to expand and if there are not adequate movement joints; particularly at the perimeters of the room it can cause tiles to debond and tent up if the tiles are not bonded well. Although Porcelain ceramic tiles are impervious with an absorption less than 0.5% absorption.

      Chances are the tiles are butted to the perimeter walls and with either moisture or temperature expansion or with excessive deflection in the substrate that it caused the tiles to debond and tent up.

      To fix you need to install movement joints of 1/4″ +/- at the perimeters and every 20-25 feet in each direction. When in direct sunlight they need to be installed every 8-12 feet.

  18. Wendy says:

    I have ceramic tiles in kitchen/dining room over a concrete floor, laid in 2005. Couple of weeks ago there was a really loud cracking sound [I thought something had fallen off the wall or a window had cracked] after this there was a tile that I could feel a little movement and small grating sound on.. This happened twice more than one night woken up by three really loud cracks and there’s now a large patch of tiles that feels like it’s moving under foot. When I step on one tile, a plant on a cabinet about 2 meters away vibrates. No visible cracks on tile surface or grout. I’m guessing I will need to pull up the whole area?

    • Donato Pompo says:

      Based on your description it appears that the tiles have expanded and that there were no resilient movement joints at the perimeters of the room or else where to mitigate the movement and stress so the tiles debonded.

      Sometimes you can remove the loose tiles and replace them with a high strength thin-set mortar adhesive, but then add a movement joint at the perimeters and every 20 to 25 feet in each direction.

  19. Robert says:

    We had new ceramic tiles installed one year ago and it started to make a popping/cracking sound on 5-6 tiles. Now the weather is cooler as of November and the popping sound doesn’t happen anymore. Will the sound return in the springtime when the weather warms up. If it only happens for a few months is it worth ripping out a few tiles to inspect or fix.

    • Donato Pompo says:

      With warmer weather the temperature of the tiles increase that causes the tiles to expand. If you don’t have movement joints installed at the perimeters, transitions, and every 20 to 25 feet within the interior tiled areas then it can cause tiles to debond.

      Chances are that the popping/cracking sound is the tile debonding and moving. Eventually the grout around the tiles are likely to crack. You will need to replace those tiles and install movement joints filled with a traffic grade ASTM C920 sealant (caulking) such as a silicone or polyurethane sealant.

  20. Caitlin Nugent says:

    Hi Donato,
    I have read almost all of these, you seam very knowledgeable, hoping you can advise me as well. We have a 1964 house and have lived here 3+ years. Flooring is all original. My living quarters are below grade. The floors on this level are polished concrete except for some small portions of the bathrooms, walls are CMU with some drywall. The crunching was noticeable out of the blue for the first time this morning across the whole 48″ x 60″ area of our bathroom, between tub and toilet. Tile is the 6″ x 6″ unglazed quarry tile I believe, with thick grout lines. We are planning re tiling at some point, but before we start ripping up, should we consult basement specialist, could there be a leak or is this caused by the weather being a rollercoaster. There is also a small area about 15 ft from here outside the other bathroom with salt stains on the concrete floor that have stayed the same for 3 years. I wouldn’t be so baffled if it was a small area, but it was so out of the blue and wall to wall, like the floor evenly dropped out overnight. Thanks in advance for your time;)

    • Donato Pompo says:

      One you point out are symptoms of a problem, but it doesn’t identify the problem. In order to remediate the problem you need to know what caused the problem.

      There are many possibilities on what has caused the tiles to make that crunching noise. Maybe you do have excessive moisture coming up from the basement floor? Maybe there was a bond breaker on the concrete floor that compromised the bond strength of the tile. Maybe you don’t have movement joints to mitigate the expected expansion and contraction of the tile. A quarry tile normally has 3% or greater absorption so it will expand when subject to moisture or heat. Generally speaking when there is failure it isn’t due to one deficiency, but rather it is due to multiple compound deficiencies.

      To determine what the deficiencies are you need destructively remove some tiles under various conditions and forensically test and evaluate the underlying conditions. This requires someone who has the experience to recognize a defect and who is knowledgeable on industry standards. This service is not affordable or practical for all cases. Sometimes you have to trouble shoot it the best you can and ask questions on this free CTaSC Ask the Expert site.

  21. Mark says:

    Hey DP!
    Thanks for all the amazing info.
    We just had tiles installed in the kitchen on a concrete base that had tiles on it. The old tiles were removed, and the new tiles were placed after the cement was clear of former bond. Thing is, we didn’t have the new tiles installed under the kitchen cabinets to save money on having to remove the kitchen cabinets. Now, after a month, there are a couple of creaky, squeaky spots. Question: Are we looking at repairs down the road? Should we redo this area now? Did we make a mistake by not taking the tiles all the way to the edge of the wall and wood floors that are in the dining room? Ugh. Crossing our fingers.

    • Donato Pompo says:

      The squeaky floors should not have anything to do of whether you replaced the tiles under the cabinets. Normally installing over concrete substrates you should not get any squeaking or creaking noises unless the tiles are loose do to maybe lack of movement joints at the perimeters at restraining walls.

      It is more likely to have squeaking floors over a wood subfloor. Normally this is due to the plywood substrate either not being fastened down properly or if the plywood was degraded and not structurally sound. If that is the case the only way to fix it is to remove the tiles and replace that portion of the wood subfloor or fasten the plywood floor better.

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