Will Ceramic Tile crack in cabins that are not heated during the winter months in cold climates?


Hi! We are considering having the tub surround tiled in our cabin bathroom, in Manitoba, Canada. We don't plan to visit very often in the winter, so the cabin will not be heated during that season, and temperatures can go quite low (-40C). If we use ceramic tile, how much of a chance would there be for cracking? The building will be insulated, but again, not heated.
Thank you for your time!


ANSWER - If the ceramic tile is installed correctly it can be used in cold environments without cracking as long as it isn't subjected to moisture during freeze thaw conditions.   Some tiles like porcelain ceramic tile are impervious, so they are not affected by moisture in freeze thaw environments.

It would be recommended to select a porcelain tile for the cabin and make sure it is installed correctly per industry standards.   You can have special tile electric floor warming wiring installed under the ceramic tile as you install the tile that will allow you to warm your floors with a thermostat.  You can adjust the thermostat to different levels of comfort and efficiencies, and put it on a vacation setting when you are gone for long periods.

8 thoughts on “Will Ceramic Tile crack in cabins that are not heated during the winter months in cold climates?

  1. Donato Pompo says:

    For cold climates that have freezing weather, it is recommended that you use polymer modified or latex modified mortars, which are more dense and resistant to moisture. This includes mortar beds, thin-set adhesive mortars and grout mortars.

    Moisture that freezes when inside the tile or grout does the most damage. So if you have an impervious tile and low absorption mortars then they are more resistant to damage. Of course it is important that the tile is installed correctly with movement joints to help mitigate any stress they might be subjected to due to the temperature and moisture conditions.

    • Donato Pompo says:

      It depends on the type of tile they are. If they are impervious porcelain tiles then they should be ok. If they are absorbing tiles then that could be a problem. The moisture that is absorbed into the tiles will freeze in freezing weather. That will cause the moisture to expand and can cause the tile to spall or degrade. The joints should be grouted with an epoxy grout that will not absorb moisture for the same reason as above.

    • Donato Pompo says:

      You have to test the tile per ASTM C373 and if the absorption result is 0.5% or less then by definition it is impervious. If the tile doesn’t readily absorb a drop of water that you place on it and it stays there awhile then it is likely a vitreous or impervious tile.

    • Donato Pompo says:

      I would test both sides. For the tile to be considered impervious then the body of the tile needs to be impervious. If there is a glazed surface then it too should be impervious and not absorb water.

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