Jennifer M
Jennifer M
  • Hometalker
  • Virginia Beach, VA
Asked on Mar 2, 2012

my new home is 4 months old and the caulk and grout are already cracking. Is this normal?

KMS WoodworksHandyANDY - Handyman & All Repairs, LLCNichter's Home Services Corp
+23

Answered

It's cracking around the edges of the tile in the kitchen and bath.
26 answers
  • Jennifer, My comment will be a general observation as opposed to a specific answer which none of us would be comfortable giving without seeing it firsthand. It could be normal... but it could also be signs of something else happening, depending on the severity, location, etc... Wood-framed structures are constantly moving and shifting with the weather, temperature, humidity, etc... The different materials used have a tendency to respond to these changes at different rates. In other words, they tend to shrink and expand differently. This gets to be interesting when those two different materials are attached to each other. If their differences are extreme enough, something has to give. We see the results of this as cracked groutlines, cracked drywall, squeaking floors, etc... Grout is generally mortar-based, which gives it qualities similar to its cousin... concrete.....porous and somewhat inflexible. An "admix" can be added to the grout when it is mixed to improve on these qualities. Epoxy grout is much less porous and more flexible. As such, grout should/can be used between similiar surfaces; for example, between two pieces of tile that are properly adhered to the correct substrate material. Caulk is much more flexible and is the correct product to use between two different materials; for example, between the tile surround and the tub in the bathroom; in the kitchen, between the tile and the counter-top..or counter-top splash. Grout-caulk is available to use in tile applications that actually matches the color of the grout. So, to answer your question, the answer is usually yes...some cracking is normal. But again, without seeing it, I doubt anyone can give you a definitive answer.

  • KMS Woodworks
    on Mar 2, 2012

    Tim has covered the basics...In my experience the most common areas (new homes and old) for cracks are when the plane changes...ie: counter to backsplash...tub rim to wall...floor to baseboard. Cracks within the "field" of a tiled area often point to a poorly set individual tile (lack of adhesion and tile flex) or to more wholesale type of issues such as substrate flex, lack of or insufficient or poorly installed backer. If it is just a bad tile or two this can be repaired fairly easy...if the problem lies deeper then that is a much bigger can of worms.

  • Laura G
    on Mar 2, 2012

    Ugh, if that is the case KMS, that stinks, especially because the house is so new.

  • Like Hewitt said, some cracking is normal due to the settling of a new building. The question is how much is cracking? Is it just in small areas or is it all over the place?

  • Jennifer M
    on Mar 2, 2012

    The cracks are tiny but all along the plane changes and corners of the shower and where the pieces of marble come together around the sink. some of the grout between the tiles is crumbling along the cracks.

  • FloorNerd
    on Mar 2, 2012

    They probably use cheap-o stuff. Your house is only 4 months old? Yeah your house wouldnt be settlng yet it takes longer for any house to start settling unless they build it over crappy land which they should know not to do.

  • FloorNerd
    on Mar 2, 2012

    And if it's caulk that is around wet eara's not silicone then that's another problem.

  • SawHorse.net
    on Mar 3, 2012

    That is typical and to be expected. What we do on all of our jobs so our clients do not experience this effect is to use a grout caulk. This caulk available from the manufacturer of the grout and should be applied where all of the different planes meet. Since grout is water based and shrinks over time and the materials all expand and contract at different rates, a material such as caulk can help absorb this movement while preserving the intended look of the design.

  • Grout is nothing more then a higher quality of Portland cement with a color added to it. And like any other cement it is brittle. Any time a plane change is encountered cracking will always occur if the wall was not properly taped and spackled before the tile went up. This reinforces the corners allowing for greater strength. Quite often then not when the installer uses cement backer board and does not tape the joints with fiberglass tape and a coat of thinset used as the spackle, its just a matter of time before the tiles crack. Simply using a grout scraper remove the stuff on the corners and use a high end matching color grout caulk that can be purchased any any good quality tile store. This material will flex and bend resisting the cracking that your now seeing.

  • KMS Woodworks
    on Mar 3, 2012

    Grout cracks in the field may be due to a rapid cure...I like to mist or sponge grout to ad its proper cure. For plane changes I use the "tile labs" caulk that is available in "grout colors". They even have "sanded" caulk to match sanded grout. For the corners get a grout "saw" and clean out the trouble areas..then apply some matching caulk.

  • Pat G
    on Mar 3, 2012

    the manufacturers inability to make a caulking product that doesn't have to be dug out and replaced every 6 to 9 months continues to drive me crazy... common response by renovators, painters, etc... "settling issues." I now use an old fashion product (and sometimes hard to find) called "rope putty" to fill in the gaps as deep as possible with any type of thin object I can and then apply a thin layer of the caulk. The rope putty stays soft, and is easy to paint.

  • KMS Woodworks
    on Mar 3, 2012

    Backer rod...is easy to find and pretty cheap...its a poly foam in long pencil like rolls.

  • FloorNerd
    on Mar 3, 2012

    Jennifer, upload a photo

  • FloorNerd
    on Mar 3, 2012

    Of your issued caulking and what tiles you have. We can go on and on with what you can use but if not the right grout in there we can tell you serten tile required serten grout and or caulking, silicone ect.

  • Matt has it....use a grout caulk in the corners...you can prob get it at the local Depot to match your existing grout. It's pretty common in showers...especially in the corners and could be caused by a whole bunch of things which the others have mentioned including too much water in the grout mix. Contact your builder and have him come out to take a look at it...you may have a one year warranty in your market. Pat - rope putty? do you mean the foam backer rod or something else? Never heard of rope putty. I'm assuming something else as you wouldn't paint backer rod. What is it and where'd you get it?

  • Jennifer M
    on Mar 4, 2012

    Thanks for all your advice. I plan to go to the builder - we do have a one year warranty- but I wanted to educate myself first since I fully expect to hear " Well, that's just the house settling and we can't do anything about it, blah, blah" Since we have four doors that either don't close or don't latch now, I guess the house IS settling but that doesn't mean it's ok just live with it!

  • Sounds like a good plan there Jennifer. Let us know how things go with the builder! Good luck!

  • Based on your description, the grout job needs to be re-done. Sounds to me like there as too much water added tot he grout mix, causing it to shrink as it cured.

  • Jennifer M
    on Mar 27, 2012

    How about this- we discovered a stain on the kitchen ceiling under the shower last week. The builder's plumber couldn't find any obvious problem so they used grout caulk around the bottom of the shower and told me to let water sit all week end to see if it leaked again. (I though they re-grouted but discovered it was caulk when I tried to clean the rust stains caused by the water sitting four days and the caulk began peeling away!!!!) There isn't any more obvious leaking but the stain is damp. I'm not convinced that even if the caulk stopped the leak that it is a good remedy-what happens when it comes off? I didn't think the grout was moisture proof anyway. How is it ok to cover up cracking grout with caulk in a brand new house? Sorry, I'm getting frustrated trying to make these people do things right when I'm not an expert. Any idea how water might be leaking very slowly under a new shower?

  • KMS Woodworks
    on Mar 27, 2012

    What type of shower pan do you have? If the pan is acrylic or some solid material then you most likely have a fitting leak. If the shower base is concrete or tile then there could be a fitting leak or a membrane leak (provided a membrane was used) . can you post some pics? Caulk and grout are NOT considered water proof things. They are used to limit the "loading" of a sound design.

  • Jennifer M
    on Mar 27, 2012

    the bottom of the shower is tile and I think a membrane was placed under it...

  • Jennifer...bet you can't remember when you had this much fun.... Water leaks are a pain even under the best of circumstances.. The leak could be from a number of sources in the bathroom; leaking supply lines, leaking drain lines, leaking shower, leaking water closet (toilet) seal...and to make things more complicated, it doesn't even have to be bathroom related.... Once between the floors, water can run several feet, depending on the joist layout and other factors. What may appear to be a leak under a specific fixture, may in fact be from a nearby source. There are a number of factors that can change when the leak is actually detected on a ceiling as well...It is easy to jump on cracking grout in a shower pan, when it may be something else. Did anyone do anything to the shower before the leak appeared? I assume the plumber came after the leak? Custom built shower pans installed by professionals are built in such a way that they expect moisture to get behind/under the tile and as such are designed to funnel this moisture safely into a proper shower drain fixture. A rubber membrane on the pan and a waterproof membrane behind the tile are two of the components of this system designed to handle the water in a shower. As Kevin (KMS) alluded to, properly sealed tile and grout will limit and sometimes eliminate at times the job this waterproof system that you can't see has to do. Given enough time and enough patience, there are ways to narrow down what is leaking...but not necessarily pinpoint it. If the caulk did stop the leak, it is important to understand that fixed the symptom by plugging the hole upstream.....but it didn't necessarily fix the real problem...in that you have a leak in the dam downstream (membrane/fitting leak). The next time that grout lets more water through for whatever reason, it will more than likely leak again. In a similar situation, I would troubleshoot as best I could to see if we could narrow it down. It may mean cutting out some of the kitchen ceiling so they can get a good look at it.

  • Jennifer M
    on Mar 27, 2012

    My thought exactly (plugging the leak up stream) so the tile guy was here and apparently the caulk isn't supposed to be submerged in water umm, which doesn't make much sense in putting in the shower floor (???) - I think they are going to have to suck it up and open the ceiling and see what is going on. Then we'll go back to the fun of re-grouting the tile...

  • If this is not a drain fitting leak, they will have to re-do that shower to get the membrane done right. This should NOT depend on caulk!!!

  • Nichter's right as always! Sounds like they messed up the shower pan...not a fun or cheap repair.

  • KMS Woodworks
    on Mar 28, 2012

    It is also important to "bed" the membrane with some slope. Starting with a flat plywood floor a sloped surface is constructed to set the membrane. This link shows some pics of the process. http://www.ontariotile.com/preslope.html

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