TIL: Improperly Installed Tile Floors Can Explode!

in til •  3 years ago 

We are the first people to live in our house, although we only rent it.  The woman who had it built did so with the intention of it being a retirement home, the house she intends to die in.  She used it very occasionally for parties and holidays, but for the most part it's sat completely empty. We aren't even sure anyone's ever even stayed here over night before we moved in, as the beds that were here when we first viewed the place had the plastic from the store on them still. The house has been here less than five years, making it an extremely new structure.  It's been an interesting experience living in a house no one else has lived in before.  The landlord made sure to let us know the circumstances, just in case any major problems arose with the house.

For the most part, no major problems have come about.  We had a slight self caused issue with the water pump awhile back, which ended up just needing a cheap, quick fix.  We blew a fuse a few months back, but it too wasn't a major problem.  They've asked about roof leaks, but we only really get those during extreme rain storms.  Today though, a problem arose, rather explosively I might add.

The house was built by like 20 mexicans with one leading them, the guy that eventually did the driveway a month or so after we moved in.  The entire thing, like many structures in Mexico, is built out of cement with metal for the doors and front of the house.  The whole floor is tile, all the same kind save for the bathrooms, which all have different tiling.  

After the initial glamour of the house and the view wore off a little, we began to notice little imperfections in the house here and there.  Simple things that made certain parts of the house just a little less nice. For example, 2 out of the three showers are tiled incorrectly so that when you are done showering, excess water pools in a puddle, leaving a dirty stain when it dries.  In our main bathroom, the shower can go from sparkling white to looking like it hadn't been cleaned in a month after just one shower. There should be a section of counter between the stove and the wall, to avoid hotspots, and there aren't. I only use the far right burners for boiling, as they go too hot and I tend to burn food easier on those burners, regardless of setting. 

The house really also doesn't make sense for the people who built it.  The woman that had it built, intended to be gardening the hillside herself, when she can hardly walk around the property in her current state. The house has extremely high ceilings for Mexico, and honestly in general.  All of the bedrooms have one shelf, and it's high even for John.  The family who owns this house is extremely short.  The counters are tall, even for me and I'm taller than most Mexican women I interact with. Little things like this were things they've never noticed because they haven't stayed here, more than maybe a night at most. This house is a lot of work in many ways, especially if you're intending to farm the hillside as we are. More than she can handle, unless she just intends to hire locals to do it all for her. 

None of these things are obviously deal breakers.  They've honestly given me things to think about for when I eventually build my own dream home.  I now know of little features I like, so I can consider them to make my dream home more practical, while still being beautiful. It's interesting to be the one living for the first time in a house, especially one with the features of ours. It's really an incredible place to live regardless of little design flaws. The point here is that the house is not super well done or perfect by any means.  It's got it's quarks, but that's part of any house from my understanding.  I've never lived in a house that didn't have some sort of thing that needed fixed or changed.  I've lived in a lot of old houses and there was almost always something that squeaked or leaked. 

When this happened, we had just woke up and were starting the day.  John had just asked me to get him a coke, making a joke about over ripe limes needing to be used, in tacos and cuba libres (although we weren't interested in Barcardi that time of day). All the sudden we here a series of loud pangs and pops coming from our bedroom.  We rush to the door to notice the tile floor bowing, the noises were tiles separating from the floor, as well as the cracking of the mortar between them. 

One of them was floating, not attached to the floor anymore. He removed that one then three more, accidentally breaking one of them. There are several more on the floor that are disturbed and move slightly when you walk on them. There are cracks in the concrete below from the curing process. As houses age, they adjust and shift with time, sometimes showing the evidence in a crack or something of that nature.  I once lived in a house that was twisted, so much so you felt like you were leaning sideways as you walked up the stairs, which you technically were.  This is an extremely old and neglected example, though. Houses adjust, sometimes in big ways. 

Upon doing some research, we found that the people who built the house probably didn't allow the concrete to cure enough before they tiled the place.  Concrete off gasses for quite awhile, it supposedly takes a house foundation 2 years before it's fully done curing. It's obvious they did not wait this long. We are also fairly certain that the builder did not put an expansion gap between the tile and the wall, something he probably hadn't considered.  He's smart but simple and doesn't always think things out.  This wasn't his house and he considers this house wasteful,  so it's just not what he's used to doing.   As things move and adjust, crazy things like floors exploding happen. 

This is partially because Mexicans love to get these sorts of things done quickly so long as they have the funds to.  I've seen amazing feats of Mexican's building and restoring structures all over Acapulco, generally hand mixing the concrete.  The concrete for this house was hand mixed. I admire this about Mexico, but it does lead to some interesting quarks in living quarters.  Mexico has a maintenance culture, so they intend to fix those things as they come.  Most apartments will have quarks, and a handy maintenance guy to fix them for you. 

What we will have to do is just re-tile the floor correctly, when we have the time and funds to do so.  John has childhood experience with tiling, starting from 11 years old, so he should be able to handle it, when the time comes.  Living in Mexico has been a learning experience, as I didn't even know floors could explode like that until today. Here I was worrying about cracking or staining a tile, and the floor explodes. Our theory for the fact that it hasn't happened elsewhere is that the front of the house, the main tiled area, was directly exposed to the hot sun more so than our room. This allows for quicker curing process, with less catastrophes. 

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It's always what's below the tile that's the culprit. Tiles directly on cement typically fail. Same with parquet floor squares. They'll also pop up like your tiles did.

I don't see the usual cement adhesive under these as well. Those tiles also don't look like porcelain and are possibly not even meant for floor use. I can't tell from the picture alone what you've got but there is a range of tiles; they are classified according to their PEI rating. Tiles on the floor should ideally be rated a 4. If you put a membrane underneath the tiles they should hold properly.

And boom some great advice, this is why I love the internet! Post a story about an unfortunate situation, and someone just offers you great advice on how to stop it from happening again!

Thx a bunch, pretty much the same conclusions John came to; seems as if the they the tiles in place and grouted between them...

Most floors expand and contract due to temperature and moisture. It's general practice to leave 1/2" or so around the outside edge for expansion. This is why we have base trim... to cover that gap.

Indeed, was Johns immidiate conclusion, along with many other flaws, was kind of a perfect storm event.

We have this epidemic in Panama also.

There was a small earthquake last night, that's what probably caused it.

Wow thats a pretty crazy story, I would be really surprised if all of the sudden my floor started exploding like that!