Expansion Joints Required

Expansion Joints Required

About Expansion Joints Required

The ceramic tiles in the cartoon do not look too happy.  They appear to be smashed together, are starting to crack, and are pleading for, “a little more elbow room, please!”  Well that is exactly what would happen if tiles were alive and could talk without movement joints in place.  As “George” states in the cartoon, expansion joints must be installed in all tile and stone installations per method EJ171- Movement Joint Guidelines For Ceramic, Glass, and Stone as published in the latest TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass, and Stone Tile Installation.

Perimeter and field movement joints within a tile installation are essential and required.  A few key guidelines are as follows;

Location and Frequency of Joints

  • Interior- maximum of 25′ in each direction.
  • Exterior- 8′ to 12′ in each direction.  More frequent joint placement may be required depending on materials and environmental conditions.
  • Interior tile work exposed to direct sunlight (heat) or moisture- maximum of 12′ in each direction.
  • Above-ground concrete slab substrate- maximum of 12′ in each direction.
  • Perimeter joints- movement joints are required where tilework abuts restraining surfaces such as perimeter walls, dissimilar floor finishes, curbs, columns, pipes, ceilings, and where changes occur in backing materials, but not at drain strainers.

Joint Width

  • Exterior- Width shall be a minimum 3/8″ for joints 8′ on center and minimum 1/2″ for joints 12′ on center and increased for substantial temperature changes.
  • Interior- Perimeter joints at perimeter walls- not less than 1/4″ and commonly covered by tile trim, cove base, or shoe molding.  Perimeter joints, other than perimeter walls- preferred not less than 1/4″ but never less than 1/8.”  Change of plane- same as grout joint but never less than 1/8.”


  • Suitable sealants include silicone, urethane, and polysulfide.  Use sealants complying with ASTM C920, which designates sealants according to type, grade, class, and uses.

The guidelines stated above are only a few highlights from TCNA EJ171 so refer to the latest TCNA Handbook for the complete version.

Don’t make your tiles unhappy by not placing movement joints within your installation or you may just find that they crack under the pressure!

About the Tilewise Cartoons

TileWise cartoons were developed under Donato Pompo's leadership for Club '84 (Ceramic Tile Action Group).  Club '84 was a non-profit organization of accomplished individuals from all segments of the ceramic tile industry.  The group's mission was to develop and distribute educational aids to educate, train and bring quality awareness to the distributors, specifiers, installers, and consumers of Ceramic Tile.

The TileWise cartoons were created to communicate issuses and concerns in the business of using ceramic tile for all segments of the industry.  The objective was to educate to promote the quality use of ceramic tile.  In each cartoon the screen exaggerates what you shouldn't do or emphasizes an issue or concern, then George the Bucket (named after CTI founder George Lavenberg) says what is correct.  The cartoons ran for twelve years in each issue of the Tile Industry News, a major industry publication, published by the Ceramic Tile Institute until 1999 when it ceased.

Use these cartoons to educate your customers and employees to help avoid potential problems, and to promote a positive image of your company through newsletters, posters or mailings.

We hope you can put these cartoons to good use to help your industry and your business, and we know you will certainly benefit from them if you do.  Good Luck!

The TileWise Cartoons will be displayed and available for your use. Restricted to limited single use. Randy’s cherished wife, Suzanne, is working hard to care for their precious sons, Rudie and Remie. Randy’s sudden illness left them with limited resources. If you can benefit from the use of the TileWise Cartoons, and if you can afford it, a donation to Randy's family would be very much appreciated. Please see form below to pledge whatever amount you would like to donate.

Right click the cartoon of your choice (Restricted to limited single use) and do a "Save Picture As..." to your hardrive.

(over 50 TileWise cartoons for your pleasure, and to use to educate your customers and employees)

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