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7 Reasons Why Your Grout Cracks & 7 Solutions

Posted by Hammond Knoll on Jul 21, 2021 12:00:00 AM

Tile, natural stone, and grout are indestructible, right?

Yes, in most cases that is absolutely true.

Ceramic and porcelain tiles are extremely durable and nearly impossible to crack.  It would take something very heavy to be dropped on it to cause damage.

Natural stone such as granite, marble, slate, and travertine (to name a few), are a bit softer. They can scratch easily if something is drug across the floor, or be scratched by anything acidic being spilled on the surface – especially if it hasn’t been sealed.  

Natural stone can take quite a bit of abuse, however, if something heavy is dropped on it, it will crack or chip.

Grout can also be as hardy as heck.

BUT. (Why does there always have to be a “but”?!)

GROUT CRACKS. 

It happens. It cracks, it crumbles, it chips.

The causes are due to one of these seven reasons.

Here’s what you need to know.

Problem #1: General Foot Traffic

This is the simplest problem to have. 

Over time, a well-used tile floor or counter will show signs of grout chipping, crumbling, or cracking.  This typically occurs in master bathrooms, hallways, and kitchens (both on the counter and floor).

The Fix

It’s a fairly easy fix. 

The grout needs to be removed in the areas where it’s cracking, and then re-grouted using the same color, if there’s still some hanging around the house. Or, if you’re lucky enough to know the brand and color of the grout, it can be ordered or possibly picked up at your local hardware store.

If you are at strike two with the ability to match the grout, you still get one more pitch.  

It can be grouted with a close matching color and then all of the grout can be re-colored.  

This is where the professionals come in to make that floor look new again. (Hint: HK can do this!)

It’s a HOMERUN BABY! 🙌

Check out this before and after regrouting and recoloring:

Problem #2: Water

The water affects the bathroom areas surrounding the toilet, shower, or bathtub.  

It happens anywhere water pools and stands for a period of time – such as the daily shower when someone gets out and drips water on the floor without a bath mat or wiping it up with a towel.  Over time, the water and minerals from the water slowly eat the grout, causing it to chip and crumble.

The Fix

 Another simple fix! To find out what to do, refer to the fix under problem #1.

Problem #3: It's a New Grout

If the grout is new – under about 28-days old – it may give the appearance that it’s shrinking or the consistency doesn’t look right. This could be because the grout was not mixed correctly or it was “bad” grout at the time it was installed.  

The Fix

As annoying as it is to have to tear out the new grout, at least ⅔ of it (and alllll of the loosened grout) needs to come out. It will then need to be re-grouted. (Don’t use the same box of grout that was used prior!)  

Another tough project that’s best left to a professional to fix.

Problem #4: A Settling House

Homes settle. 

Homeowners see it all the time: ceilings crack, seams in the drywall pop, and grout cracks, both on the wall and floor. Not only does the grout crack, but the tiles also loosen from the floor and/or wall.

 

The Fix

The tile(s) will need to be re-installed. At times, a flexible silicone will be used to allow for the tile to have more flexibility which will keep it from coming loose from the floor. The area will then need to be re-grouted. 

Most homeowners opt to have a professional tackle this fix. (Hmmm...wonder where you could find reputable, trusted pros to help you out…? 😉 )

Problem #5: The Installation

Sometimes, tile isn’t installed properly because the installer didn’t use enough thinset to hold the tile in place. 

In some rare cases, the thinset has gone bad. (Usually, this occurs when the thinset is not stored properly or stored for waaaay too long.) These tiles will pop, just like they do with the settling house.  

In some cases, the wrong grout type may have been used for the application. Once the tile starts to come loose, so does the grout.

The Fix

For tiles that have popped out completely, the grout and thinset will need to be scraped, sanded, and removed.  

The tile can then be re-installed and the floor re-grouted. (Again, don’t use the same thinset container that was used before!) 

Or a bonus – if the tile is loose, a small hole can be drilled in the grout lines around the tile and injected with a thinset, followed by placing something heavy on top until the tile dries. 

Problem #6: The Housekeeper

Or the homeowner that insists on using harsh, acidic household cleaners such as vinegar, bathroom cleaners, or some tile and grout cleaners. Even Barkeepers Friend is acidic!

When these cleaners are used on the grout or natural stone, they eat away the grout and etch (AKA scratch) the stone, causing an unsightly mess.

The Fix

Obviously, the first solution is to toss out the cleaner!  

Other than that, the grout can be cleaned and a light grout coating applied to the top. 

It’s very rare that the grout needs to be removed.  

Prior to the regrouting, the stone will need to be polished using a multi-step process to remove the scratches and bring back the original shine.  

The grouting can be done by the homeowner, however we highly recommend hiring a restoration expert to restore the stone. (Pssst...HK has several on-call. 👋 )

Problem #7: Underlayment or Backer Board

It’s not often we run across this problem, however, on very rare occasions, an underlayment or backer board is not secured to the floor properly.  

The boards pop up, causing the section of tile and grout to be knocked loose. If this happens in a shower, often water will leak to the floorboards beneath the underlayment causing mildew and/or water damage.

I know! It’s a bad scene. But we do have a fix for you.

The Fix

#7 is the worst scenario because the entire section needs to be removed.

If there’s water or mold damage beneath the underlayment, that floor or wall will need to be replaced. In a best-case scenario, just the one piece of underlayment would need to be removed, the tile replaced, and the area regrouted.

Don’t Panic – There’s Help Available

All in all, tile, natural stone, and grout are dependable, low-maintenance materials for counters, floors, and walls.  They add style and beauty to any home or business.

The good news is that all of the above can be fixed. 

Depending on the problem and the fix that needs to happen, it may seem costly.  HOWEVER, remember that it’s not nearly as expensive as replacement.

We would love to hear from you! If you have a question in regards to your grout, tile, or natural stone. Send us a message or request a quote here.

Keep your tile, grout, and stone looking great with these tips: https://blog.hammondknoll.com/tile-grout-stone-maintenance

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