Why is my tile floor and making crunchy and popping sounds and why is the grout coming out?


I had my kitchen remodeled with the floor tiled first on a wooden subfloor and cabinets installed the following day. This was in 2011.The grout has come off in different places and I can hear a crunchy noise when I step on a tile at one location. At another location I can hear a popping sound. What is causing this problem and how should I get it fixed. Two years ago, the grout came off at another location in the kitchen and two tiles were replaced by the same contractor. This problem seems to be continuing.


ANSWER - I am assuming that the ceramic tile was bonded directly to the wood subfloor.  There are acceptable methods for installing ceramic tile over wood substrates in interior dry applications.  It is always considered better to install over a mortar bed or over one of the approved tile backer boards.

To install over a wood substrate the floor needs to be structurally sound and not have any deflection greater than L/360.  That configuration can be done with joists placed 24" on center although 16" on center is better.  The subfloor must be a plywood exterior-glue tongue and grooved with a minimum thickness of 23/32" and with 1/8" gap between sheets.  Then on top of that you have to install a plywood underlayment with a minimum thickness of 19/32" and with 1/8" gap between sheets.  Then you can bond the tile to the plywood underlayment with an ANSI A118.11 motified thin-set mortar adhesive. 

I suspect that if your floor is making noises when you walk over it that the wood substrates were not properly fastened.   The noises could be an indication that you have too much deflection in the floor and that the tile bond coat is not bonded as well as it should be.

The grout coming out is an indication that the floor is not structurally stable enough and has excessive deflection.   Chances are the substrate configuration and installation wasn't done correctly.

The only way to verify what the problems are and to determine how to fix them is to remove various tiles with various conditions to determine what materials were used and how they were installed.

6 thoughts on “Why is my tile floor and making crunchy and popping sounds and why is the grout coming out?

  1. Christopher Campbell says:

    I, also have a newly laid ceramic tile floor in my second floor bathroom. The tile makes scrunching noises in over half of the floor and the grout is crumbling in many of the joints. I also think the double wax ring on the toilet has failed as evidenced by the blistering paint in the ceiling board and recessed light, below. Please give me your thoughts.

    • Donato Pompo says:

      Sounds are subjective that can be perceived differently by different people. So it is hard to say if a crunching sound is a squeaking sound or what.

      As stated above, if the floor is installed over a wood substrate and not placed in a staggered pattern with gaps and not fastened properly floors with ceramic tile installed over them can squeak. If the floor has too much deflection that grout can crack among other things.

      On the other hand, if tiles are not bonded well, then tiles and grout can crack and make a noise as they crack.

      If the paint is blistering then that could be a symptom of a water leak. The question to determine is where is the water coming from. It could be from the toilet flange leaking under the tiles and migrating to the wall. Or it could be water on the surface of the tile for one reason or another that migrates into the wall. Or it could be water coming from somewhere else within the wall cavity and migrating to that portion of the wall. You have to investigate and look for evidence that will lead you to the water source. Stop the water source and you have fixed the problem.

  2. Carl says:

    This morning around 5am I heard a sound like stones been thrown on my first floor living room. Its a concrete slab laid with 2″x2″ tiles. At one point I thought the conctete slab was giving away. I walked in that area and further sounds like stones being thrown n felt vibration. This eas on the first 3 rows of tiles from the window. Went n checked ground floor no damages. As I eas not aware, I observed a slight lift between the 1st row n 2nd row of tiles n slight dust between. What is the solution pls.

    • Donato Pompo says:

      I’m assuming you mean 2 foot x 2 foot tiles and not 2 inch x 2 inch tiles based on your description of the situation.

      Chances are that they tile installation doesn’t have any movement joints (expansion joints) at the perimeters and within the field of tile. When the tile expands from the temperature going up or from being subject to moisture it will expand. If there are not resilient movement joints t mitigate the stress the tiles can debond. The noise is the tile releasing. If that is the case then I would expect those tiles to be loose or move or sound hollow.

      To fix it you would need to cut out the grout and remove those tiles as they should come up easy. Clean the concrete slab and re-install the tiles. Take a grout joint adjacent to the area in both directions and remove the grout and then fill the joint with an ASTM C920 silicone or urethane traffic grade sealant. This doesn’t mean it will fully fix the problem depending on the extent of the damages, but it might work or buy you some time.

  3. Erika Pernecky says:

    We redid our bathroom on a slab with tile and the floor is making a crunching sound. What can we do to stop it?

    • Donato Pompo says:

      As described in the previous answers to comments, you need to remove the tile to determine whether it is the tile that is loose causing the crunching sound or is it a membrane under the tile on the concrete slab that has delaminated. Either way you need to remove and replace the tile.

      That doesn’t explain what caused the problem Chances are you don’t have movement joints (open or filled caulked joints) at the perimeters of the tile installation where it abuts are restraining surface. You might also be missing having movement joints within the field of tile every 20 to 25 feet in each direct or 8 to 12 feet when exposed to direct sunlight.

      Or it might be that the tile was never adequately installed. So first step is remove the tile and see what are the underlying conditions.

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