Tile Popping – Causes & Solutions


Tile Popping is a phenomenon of floor tiles bulging up. Many reasons can cause this defect. This article deals with the definition of tile popping, identifying its reasons, and suggesting possible preventive and corrective solutions for tile popping.

There are many flooring options available for residential and commercial buildings. The flooring options have a variety of colors, textures, materials, and economy. Among all the options, tile flooring is one of the most popular flooring options for residential and commercial spaces.

Buckled Tile

Tiles are available in various make of clay, concrete, ceramic, etc. Ceramic tiles are mostly used nowadays. The ceramic tiles have three variants- glazed, unglazed, and porcelain.

In continuation, tiles offer a streamlined design and an aesthetic appeal. Moreover, they are conveniently available across the globe, and their installation is not rocket science. 

Furthermore, there are many other advantages of tile flooring. Unlike marble flooring, they don’t require polishing or finishing but offer a similar finished look.

The tile flooring may have defects due to numerous reasons. Some common defects are tile popping or buckling, tile cracking, and tile fading.

What Is Tile Popping?

A common problem with the flooring is the appearance of ceramic tiles popping. A ‘tent-like’ bulge in the floor is caused when floor tiles start to lift from their initially installed position and start pushing other tiles against one another. This causes the other tiles to be pushed against one another.

Pop Up Tile

A ‘pop’ sound is made when tiles become dislodged from the floor and shatter. This is where the term “popping” tiles come from.

While popping, a tile may also shatter. In this case of repair, a new tile will have to be procured and installed. However, if the tile doesn’t shatter, you can use it again to fix the floor. 

Tiles can be a source of potential danger to inhabitants if they become displaced and shatter without prior warning. You can get your toe hurt seriously if you accidentally hit a popped tile.

Therefore, it is beneficial to have an understanding of the various causes and the methods by which you can stop the cracking of your tiles at home.

Why Do Tiles Pop?

There are many reasons for tile popping. One or more reasons may come into play for dislocating the tile from its position.

Hence, knowledge of all the possible causes is necessary to identify the root cause of the defect and subsequently identify the most suitable preventive and corrective actions.

  1. Weather Changes
  2. Poor Workmanship
  3. Wear & Tear
  4. Faulty Tile
  5. Poor Quality Adhesive
  6. Uneven Subfloor
  7. Improper Cleaning of the Tile & Subfloor

1. Weather Change

The exposure of tile to sunshine causes extreme shifts in temperature. Both hot and cold can cause tiles to expand and contract too rapidly. Although ceramic tiles are weather-resistant, they can’t resist immediate temperature changes.

The sudden expansion or contraction results in a lack of adhesion between the tiles and the screed. Over time, an increase in stress build-up will make the tiles more likely to pop.

2. Poor Workmanship

Having a skilled mason is a must for preventing the tile from popping out. An unskilled worker will let many irregularities prevail.

For example, they will not mix cement screed thoroughly; they will let the air pockets develop underneath the tiles and the insufficient gap between the tiles (at least 2 mm).

3. Wear & Tear

With time and use, the bond between the screed and the tile may weaken; hence, the tile becomes loose and eventually pops out.

4. Oversized Tile

When working with large or oversized tiles, a specific troweling technique is necessary to ensure that the tiles form a secure bind with the adhesive. Small-sized tiles are relatively easier to install, hence the lesser possibility of installation errors.

5. Poor Quality Bonding Agent

What if you bring a skilled mason for tile installation and smaller-sized tiles, but the tile still pops? One of the potential reasons may be the bonding agent. The screed used for the tile binding may not be of good quality.

As we know, cement and grout materials have an expiry date. So if your home tiles popped, expired or low-quality bonding agent might be a reason.

6. Uneven Subfloor

A rough and unlevelled subfloor is another potential reason for tile popping. Air pockets may easily develop beneath the tile in such conditions. Also, the tile may not properly fit over the subfloor, causing a weak bond between the tile and the subfloor.

Source: johnbridge.com

7. Improper Cleaning of the Tile & Subfloor

The presence of foreign material on the tile or the subfloor weakens the bond between the tile and the subfloor. Foreign materials like clay, grease, dirt, oil, etc., should be thoroughly cleaned off the tile and the subfloor.

How To Prevent Tile Popping?

Here are a few quick tips to prevent the tiles from popping.

Ensure proper cleaning of the tiles and the subfloor. No deleterious materials should be present.

Before installation, make the subfloor level by properly laying the screed. Also, ensure the roughness of the surface is similar to that of a plastered wall.

Use smaller-sized tiles as they are easier to install. Don’t forget to gently tap the tile with a wooden hammer to fix the tile firmly in its place.

Thoroughly mix the screed and lay it evenly over the surface to ensure proper bonding and minimization of air pockets. Also, check the best-before date of the materials.

Maintain a gap of at least 2 mm between the tile edges.

Employ only skilled and competent workers.

Provide movement joints in a small room across the periphery of the room. The spaces that receive more sunlight or moisture should have more movement joints. Such joints are to be filled with filler material like silicon, urethane, or neoprene.

How To Repair Popped Tile?

Suppose one of the corners of your ceramic tiles is lifting, and the tile is intact. In that case, you can fix this problem by positioning a significant level over the floor where the tiles have separated from the subflooring underneath them.

Maintain a steady downward pressure until you feel resistance, at which point you should gradually ease off the pressure while keeping an eye out for any movement on either side of the bubble.

If the tile is cracked, remove the debris and clean the subfloor. Be careful not to step on the cracked tile, and watch for your fingers for the sharp edges. Place a new tile in its place after applying the screed material evenly across the surface.

Fix the tile firmly into its place by tapping with a wooden hammer. If finding a tile of the same color and texture is difficult, you may have to change the entire floor tiles or fix it with vinyl flooring.

Make sure to not walk on the newly laid tiles for at least 24 hours as movement and vibration can disturb the bonding between the screed and the tile.

Regarding the repair cost, check the defect liability period for your house. It is usually one year from the date of handover. If your house is lesser than a year old, the developer shall replace the popped tiles; else, you will have to bear the repair expenses.

It is better to employ a professional to repair the damaged tiles as poor workmanship can again cause the defect, and you will incur the cost of repair, discomfort, and a safety threat. However, if you are confident enough to do it on your own, you can also do it.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Tile Popping?

Tile popping is the bulging of the tile. The tile gets uplifted, rendering the surface uneven and causing discomfort to walk on it.

What are the reasons for tile popping?

There are many reasons for tile popping, such as extreme and sudden temperature changes, poor workmanship, poor quality of tile or bonding material, uneven subfloor, etc.

Can tile popping be prevented?

Yes. With the best practices mentioned in the article, tile popping can be prevented.

Is it possible to repair popped-up tiles?

Popped-up tiles are repaired using the new tile. However, finding a matching colored and textured tile may be difficult.

Is tile popping DIY stuff?

Anyone can do it, but it is not recommended. Better to employ a professional.

Also Read

How To Remove Stains From Bathroom Tiles

How To Regrout Tiles Over Old Grout


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