Why is my Glazed Porcelain Tile Chipping and Pitting?


Why is my Glazed Porcelain Tile Chipping and Pitting? Two weeks ago I had porcelain wood look tile laid throughout my home. After the contractor left I had to do an acid wash to clean it however, it came out nice. Now it is chipping on the sides of the tile and pitting. What could be causing this? Some tiles are not flush, a little lippage, but not chipping. The contractor will be returning to resolve the issue, but he doesn't seem to know why it is happening as well. Please help.


ANSWER - You indicate that the wood looking glazed porcelain floor tile has some chipped edges and is pitting.  You say that some of the tile edges has lippage (offset higher or lower from the tile next to it), but those edges are not chipping.
Normally a glazed porcelain tile has a relatively durable glaze and is chip resistant.  Since the chipping isn't occurring at the edges with lippage, it makes me wonder if those chips were present when the tile was installed?  Check to see if any chips are filled with grout which would indicate they were chipped when installed.

The tile won't chip unless it is subjected to some type of force such as dropping something heavy or sharp on the tile surface.  I have seen where some types of floor vacuums can impact the floor causing chips.  Although it seems more likely the tile has been abused in some way to cause chips, there are tests that can be performed on the tile to determine how chip resistant it is.  If the hardness between the body of the tile and the glaze is greater than 2 calibrations per the MOHs' hardness scale then it is supposedly more susceptible to chipping.

The good news is that tiles can be replaced.  As long as you have some of the same tile that you have kept as attic stock or can buy more of it in the same shade lot, then you can replace the tile.  Often the replaced grout joint might not match well at first because the original grout is maybe dirty or the new grout is from a different manufacturing lot or the conditions in which the grout is installed are different that will make it appear different.  Eventually after maintaining the floor for awhile the grout blends in.  Good luck.

28 thoughts on “Why is my Glazed Porcelain Tile Chipping and Pitting?

  1. Richard Carrera says:

    Hi Donato, I recently had put glazed tiles that look like wood in my house. Unfortunately it is very easy to scratch and chip. Is there a protection or varnish I can use to prevent it from chipping or scratching.

  2. Donato Pompo says:

    I’m surprised that the wood looking glazed tile is scratching. These tiles are typically glazed porcelain tiles that are very hard and durable.

    Even porcelain tiles can chip if something is heavy and/or sharp enough, or if the tile edge is unsupported by the grout or adjacent material. These tiles can wear or scratch if something hard enough is dragged across it or if something like a wheel on a chair let rolls back and forth over the same spot.

    You could apply a clear wax based coating over the tile that might prevent the scratching in the tile surface. Although that would cause more effort in maintaining the floor. If the problem is isolated like in front of a desk where a roller chair sits, you can put a plastic floor protector down.

    • Pamela says:

      Well Donato you are obviously wrong since all of us are having chipping and pitting problems. Something is terribly wrong with the manufacturing process.
      I know that have not dropped anything, we are in our 50’s and no children around.

      • Donato Pompo says:

        There manufacturing standards for ceramic tile including porcelain tile that is type of ceramic tile. If you think the tiles are defective you can have them tested per ANSI A137.1 or ANSI A137.3 to verify that they are defective.

        Historically a Mohs test would be performed to determine the hardness of the surface of the tile versus the hardness of the back of the tile. A difference of more than 2 levels of hardness would indicate that the tile would have a propensity to chip.

        Of course how the tile is installed will affect whether it has a propensity to chip. Areas of voids under a tile will have a greater tendency to ship that areas fully supported by the thin-set mortar adhesive.

  3. Patricia says:

    I had the same issue with glazed porcelain chipping in a few spots while the contractors crew was working and I think maybe they dropped their tools. Would putting a sealer help make the floor a little stronger?Note: We did use power tec grout (needs no sealer).

  4. Donato Pompo says:

    Putting a sealer over a tile floor will not make the tile stronger. Porcelain tile is one of the most durable tiles because it is so dense. More than likely the tiles were chipped because something sharp and heavy was dropped on them. If they were chipped prior to installing the tile there might be some grout filling the chip. Either way, the installer should be responsible for replacing and tiles they damage or tiles that they should not have installed if they already had chips in them.

  5. Ellen says:

    Has the way porcelain tile is made changed recently? It seems our older porcelain is colored through….when I look at the back of a tile there is color. A good thing as chips and scratches do not show as much.

    We have been looking at porcelain tiles in stores for a different room. They do not appear to be colored all the way through. The wood look ones (as well as others) appear to have a top layer that is printed on. You can see it when looking at the side of a tile. I would expect these would show chips and scratches quite a bit.

    Is this the case or am I just not seeing the full picture?

    • Donato Pompo says:

      The original porcelain floor tiles were unglazed or what they call through-body tiles; meaning it is the same material from top to bottom. Porcelain is a more dense and durable material, but unglazed tiles have a limit in what you can do with them design wise from a manufacturing point of view.

      Porcelain tile manufacturing became practical and common and they started making glazed porcelain tiles. It became popular to have the porcelain body color be white or beige with the lighter glazed colors. A selling point was that if the tile chipped the white body would not accentuate the chip. It became a negative to have a red body tile for that opposite reason.

      Today manufacturers try to match the body color to the glaze to a degree. Of course glazed porcelain tiles do not have a propensity to chip unless it is abused. Today there are all sorts of hybrid glazed/unglazed tiles and with the inkjet technology they can emulate almost anything such as the wood or stone look.

      They still produce the unglazed porcelain tiles but they refer to them as through-body or color-body porcelain tiles. They also come polished like a stone too.

  6. Kathy says:

    Agree with Ellen. At a large flooring store the wood look porcelain tiles looked like a regular ceramic tile with a red clay body. They apparently chip very easily according to what I saw and the chips showed a different color. Given that I see no advantage to this kind of porcelain.

    • Donato Pompo says:

      They do make red body porcelain tiles or vitreous tiles that are very resistant to chipping. There are also red body wall tiles that are not likely to every be subjected to abuse that would cause chipping. If a tile chips, whether it is red or white body, it will be noticeable.

  7. L Mathis says:

    We are starting to install wood look porcelain tile. After the first small section was installed and the grout lines cleaned and then grouted, when the cleaning of the grout was done, the “wood print” came off the tile along the grout lines on some of the tiles. is there a way to prevent this from continuing to happen?

  8. Cherie Steinberg says:

    I used porcelain tiles as a counter top. The chipping now is insane. On the corners…Is there anything i can do to protect it from chipping and scratching???? I had no idea this might happen. Very sad my contactor did not mention it!!!!

    • Donato Pompo says:

      Normally porcelain tiles do not have a propensity to chip unless they were not installed correctly.

      If the tiles were installed where there is excessive tile lippage (the edge of two adjacent tiles are higher or lower than the other) that could lead to chipping as pots are slid across the tile.

      If the tile was not installed with the edges of the tile being fully supported by the adhesive that could lead to chipping.

      Then of course if the tile is abused in some way it will chip as well.

      Not much you can do about it now other than replace tiles or touch them up with an epoxy grout colorant.

  9. Tina says:

    My white glazed porcelain tile is wearing off in the center of the tiles. Thoughts are that the installer dragged the metal level bars over it regularly as he monitored the levelness of the tiles. Could that have been what caused it? Other thoughts are that the tile ASTM C1027 abrasion resistance is hampered.

    • Donato Pompo says:

      It is highly unlikely that dragging a straight edge over the tile during the installation of the tile would cause the tile to wear at its center surface. Either the tile glaze is very weak or tile has been subjected to excessive wear. The only way to determine if the glaze is weak is to test the tile surface per ASTM C1027. I would also look for evidence of high traffic conditions. If it is a pivot point from turning into a door way or another portion of the course that could cause it. if someone used too abrasive of a pad to clean the tile and used too much force in applying the cleaning pad that could cause pre-mature wear.

  10. Jennifer says:

    I have the same issue, brand new porcelain wood looking tile has white chip marks close to grout areas. We don’t want to replace the tiles because have put radiant heat down. Is there a good product to touch up white scuffs or chips? Then seal it to protect it.. Thanks

    • Donato Pompo says:

      It is not normal to have a porcelain tile have chips along the edge. If the installer installed them that way he should have replaced them. If it happen after the installation it could be because there is excessive lippage and things going over the tile might be impacting the edge.

      You could try using a grout colorant that is an epoxy type of paint that matches grout colors. But you can pick out a color that blends with the tile and touch up those white spots.

  11. Mona says:

    Hi Donato, I’ve seen a strange issue with my porcelain tiles installed on kitchen floor. After cleaning they appear to have square grid like pattern that seems to stay dirty. This grid is exactly same as the pattern these tiles have underneath them on the backside. It makes me wonder if the tiles are being damaged or getting porous to display the underneath pattern in some way? Hae you seen this before? Any suggestions?

  12. Donato Pompo says:

    If the pattern you see on the surface of the tile is a match to the pattern on the bottom of the tile it suggests the tile might be defective. Knowing how dry-pressed tiles are manufactured I don’t see how the grid on the bottom of the tile could reflect on the surface of the tile, unless if the tile is a thinner tile and it was over pressed during the manufacturing hypothetically speaking. But that really seems unlikely.

    Or maybe other tiles were stacked on the face of the tiles that left some sort of imprint that gave it a different texture that has a propensity to pick up dirt. That too is a hypothetical speculation.

    Once the tile is clean, you could try sealing the tile with a penetrating sealer that you wipe off immediately after applying. It will act as a bond breaker so dirt doesn’t tent to attach to it.

  13. Dee Ann France says:

    I have wood look porcelain tile floors… have lots of little chips along edges and some bigger chips in some tiles, what is this cause of this?

    • Donato Pompo says:

      Porcelain tiles are one of the most durable tiles as they are very dense, although any tile can chip under the wrong conditions.

      Chances are that you have tile lippage where one edge of two adjacent tiles is higher or lower than the adjacent edge. So if the edge of the tile is sticking up it will have a propensity to get hit and chip.

      Tiles are not manufactured perfectly. It is inherent in tile to have various size variations. Sometimes if the substrate isn’t prepared flat enough it can contribute to tile lippage. Sometimes if the tile has a lot of warpage it can contribute to tile lippage. There are industry standard tolerances for tiles.

      There are standards in the industry for what is acceptable tile lippage. For grout joints that are 1/4″ wide or less you are allowed up to 1/32″ lippage plus the actual allowable warpage in the tile. That is about the thickness of a credit card. Most tiles are allowed to have up to 1/32″ of warpage, so generally speaking the installation could have up to 1/16″ allowable lippage. Anything over that is typically excessive, and for good rectified tiles it should be less than that.

  14. Lisa Lowery says:

    Hi Donato
    I’ve been looking for shinny porcelain tile for my den, kitchen and vestibule . I had no idea of the issues that may face with it. I want white with a hint of grey,, but since reading your blog I feel like I need Porcelain Tile 101. Can you recommend something for me?

    • Donato Pompo says:

      As with all things in life there are trade-offs with pros and cons. Porcelain tile is the most durable and most stain resistant ceramic tile. There are glazed porcelain tiles that generally are more stain resistant, but the throughbody porcelain tiles are technically impervious so they are resistant to staining.

      The smoother and higher gloss the tile has the less slip resistant it will be. Textured tiles are more slip resistant but they require more maintenance because they will tend to more readily pick up dirt and require more effort in cleaning. There are some new slip resistant porcelain tiles that don’t tend to pick up dirt.

      In terms of color it is really based on your personal preferences. Although lighter tiles will tend to show dirt more, but they reflect light better to give a larger feel to the room.

      Larger size tiles make smaller rooms seem larger, plus there is less grout to have to maintain.

      Best bet is to go to a local tile distributor showroom and look at all of the options.

  15. Sheila Baker says:

    My porcelain veer tile is chipped and leaving light spots. mom uses a walker. I was told there would not be damage from this. what type of grout colorant is best to use to hide these scratches? the veneer must be mm in thickness.

    • Donato Pompo says:

      For a porcelain tile to chip it must be hit hard. If there is tile lippage, where one tile edge is higher or lower than the adjacent tile edge, that makes the tile edge vulnerable to chipping.

      If it is chipping in the middle of the tile, then something sharp and heavy is being dropped on it. A walker is not likely to cause an impact to the tile surface.

      Use a grout colorant that blends in with the tile so it doesn’t stand out. Grout colorants are normally epoxy based paints so they should perform well. Test it out first to make sure you are satisfied with the results.

  16. Tania Tufau says:

    I have a question. A couple of months ago we installed tiles to floor and walls of a bathroom of a new build. The client has recently noted that there was a loud bang in the middle of the night and a break (about the size of a coin) has appeared int he middle of a wall tile. There is no hairline cracking to the edge of the tile and it is a full sized 600x600mm tile, i.e. not a cut tile. Tiles have been installed with Mapei Keraflex adhesive on correctly prepped walls. Is this a tile defect? We have never come across this before…

    • Donato Pompo says:

      Generally speaking when there is a problem it is never due to a single deficiency, but rather it is normally due to multiple compounding deficiencies.

      It sounds odd that there was a break in the middle of the tile that I assume was some sort of crack. Normally when someone hears a noise in the middle of the night it is due to a tile debonding because it expanded and that force was greater than the strength of the adhesive to restrain the tile and the tile or a portion of the tile debonds and tents up.

      When this happens it is normally because several compounding factors such as no movement joints were installed in the tile assembly per TCNA EJ171, particularly at perimeter walls, that the tile is going through temperature and/or moisture fluctuations, and that the tile might not have been bonded as well as it should for various reasons. It is unlikely that the tile is defective, but you can verify that by having it tested for breaking strength.

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