Bathroom tiles are not only functional; they can also improve upon the room’s overall aesthetics. High-end stylish tile can create a gorgeous atmosphere in any bathroom. Glossy tiles can add a sense of luxury, while matte tile can convey subtle richness and craftsmanship.
However, tiles are susceptible to damage and must be treated with care. Cracked tiles are a common problem with bathroom floors. Hard impacts are a common cause of these cracks, but far from the only cause.
Broken bathroom tile is a hazard for your feet, as well as unsightly.
A strong impact is the leading cause of damaged bathroom tile. Other factors such as improper installation, extreme temperature changes, low-quality tile, and damaged substrate can also lead to your tiles cracking.
In this article, we will be discussing the main factors that can cause your tiles to break, what you can do to prevent them, and what you can do to repair your tile if any of these happen to you.
Cracked Bathroom Tile Causes
Below are the primary reasons why your bathroom tile gets cracked. As we know, prevention is better than cure, and understanding the causes of a particular problem can help you avoid it in the future.
Hard Impacts and Too Much Weight
While tiles are generally solid and durable, a substantial impact from a hard and heavy object will likely damage a tile. This damage can range from a visible dent, or divot, to hairline cracks, to a complete shattering of the tile or tiles.
Avoid this by placing heavy items in the bathroom on a stable surface away from the edges.
Exposing your tile to unusually heavy loads can also cause cracking. This is rare, but usually happens when the tile has been improperly installed, which is our next section…
Excessive weight can cause damage to tiles, but this alone isn’t usually enough. Sometimes a subtler underlying issue is the cause. Incorrect installation of the tile will severely affect its overall durability. Tiles that are not properly installed are susceptible to damage and can break or crack easily. Proper tile installation is integral to ensuring the longevity of your flooring.
Use of the Wrong Adhesive
Other than tile selection, choosing the correct adhesive is the most important part of tile installation. Make sure to use an adhesive with the flexibility to allow a certain degree of ‘give’ between the rigid tile and substrate. Using an equally rigid adhesive can cause the tile to fracture over time.
Also, make sure to apply the adhesive properly and cover the entire back of the tile evenly. Any gaps in the application of adhesive can turn into weak spots.
Not only does the tile and adhesive be of high quality and properly applied, but the underneath section must also be up to snuff. Damaged or cracked substrate can lead to stability issues whenever it expands and contracts. In addition, the uneven support underneath the tiles can eventually cause them to break.
Improper Control Joint Installation
For bathrooms featuring concrete floors, the control joints must be designed to offer room for other materials to expand and contract. Without this feature, tiles won’t have enough elbow room to accommodate slight movements caused by expansions and contractions.
In some cases, the temperature can be another significant factor that causes bathroom tiles to crack. Extreme temperature changes can damage tiles that are not designed for such situations. This factor tends to build up over time and doesn’t just appear instantly.
Make sure to select tiles that are designed to handle temperatures just a little bit beyond the high and low temps you expect them to be exposed to.
Low quality tile may crack even if perfectly installed and you treat it well; try to avoid it!
You are probably not a tile expert, and identifying high quality tile may be challenging.
- Buy tiles that have a warranty
- Buy from a retailer that has a forgiving return policy
- Consider buying from a national retailer that would not tolerate poor quality products that regularly cause them difficulty
- Choose tile that meets the American National Standards Institute specifications
How Can You Prevent Tiles from Cracking?
The best way to prevent tiles from cracking, whether in the bathroom or other parts of the house, is to incorporate an anti-fracture membrane. So what is an anti-fracture membrane? This is a material installed in between the concrete floor and tile. It is flexible and can expand and contract to mitigate the stress or pressure on the tile.
Here are other tips that you can implement to reduce the risk of your tiles cracking in the bathroom:
- Buy high-quality tiles that are durable and highly resistant to extreme temperatures. Remember that ceramic tiles can crack when exposed to extreme heat over time.
- We highly recommend using the crack isolation membrane or anti-fracture membrane to add flexibility to the tiles.
- Always use the correct adhesive for the subfloor and tiles.
- It is imperative to use the appropriate materials when installing tiles.
- Making the subfloor thicker will prevent the subfloor from bending too much; excess bending places immense pressure on the tiles causing them to break.
- Joists or beams that are too far apart can also cause the subfloor to flex and bend when stepped on. If the beams have significant space between them, try inserting a block of wood to make the gaps smaller
- Finally, we recommend hiring a licensed, bonded, professional contractor to install your tiles
Is It Possible to Repair Cracked Tiles?
Cracked tiles can be “repaired”. These repairs may last for years, or may simply be a band aid until you have the tile replaced.
Keep in mind that repaired tiles will likely not look as good as new if inspected closely.
Please review the following techniques depending on just how cracked your tile is.
Repair Tips for Minor Cracks on Tiles
The good news is that hairline fractures on tiles are easy to fix. Here is our guide on how you can repair minor cracks on your tiles.
What you will need:
- Clear epoxy
- Paint that matches the color of your tile.
Once you have the items listed above, we can begin repairing those minor cracks on your tile. Here is the step by step guide on how to approach this task:
- Clean the tile thoroughly with soap and water, or with tile cleaner
- Let the cracked area dry properly after cleaning. You can speed up the process by using a hairdryer.
- Once the tile is completely dry, you can apply the clear epoxy to the crack. Make sure the epoxy penetrates the crack. Level it off to the tile’s surface and let it dry. Epoxy tends to dry fast, so you won’t wait too long.
- Use a sharp scraping tool like a Stanley knife to remove excess epoxy. Do so carefully.
- Optional: Apply a layer of paint to cover the epoxy. There is a good chance that the crack, without paint, will be barely noticeable.
Repair Tips for Large Cracks on Tiles
Larger cracks on tiles are much more difficult to fix. Therefore, we highly recommend simply replacing the broken tile.
- Important: Use a grout scraper to remove all the grout around the damaged tile
- Lay a thick towel over the cracked tile and, in a controlled manner, smash the tile using a hammer in the center. With the grout removed and the tile shattered, it will be significantly easier to remove it.
- Clean the surface.
- Prepare your tile adhesive and apply it thoroughly to the floor. Make sure it is evenly spread to ensure level tiles and to prevent air pockets from forming.
- Take your new replacement tile and carefully set it into position. Press on it gently and make sure it is lined up properly with the pre-existing surrounding tiles. Let the adhesive dry.
- Finally, apply new grout in the gaps.
Tiles can break for several reasons, including improper installation, powerful impacts, poor quality tiles, uneven or damaged subfloor, and improper adhesive application. Hairline fractures can still be remedied with a simply DIY project, but tiles with large cracks need to be replaced. Hopefully, this article has given you an idea of how to prevent your bathroom tiles from cracking as well as fixes available.