Moisture Issues with Porcelain Tile and Concrete Slab

Discussion in 'Floor Preparation' started by MCameau, Jan 1, 2018.

  1. MCameau

    MCameau Member

    Good morning and Happy New Year. I'm a new member in desperate need of advice, as I feel like I can no longer trust professionals to set me on the right path. In 2016, we hired a brick and mortar tile store to install Italian porcelain wood-look tile in our home, built in 1989. (note, we've since noticed how much thicker it is versus porcelain tile made in the USA). We've owned the home for 16 years and had Spanish ceramic tile installed when we moved in, and it's still holding up well. We've had 2 bathrooms redone, in both porcelain and ceramic tile. The house had original carpet in the formal rooms and 3 bedrooms that we removed 16 years ago and installed laminate flooring ourselves. We decided to "upgrade" and replace the laminate
    with the Italian porcelain tile. It was beautiful, until a few months later, we started to see efflorescence, then wet walls, then water actually coming through the grout. After calling our insurance company, getting French drains, new irrigation system, inspection upon inspection, and finally a foundation company wanting to install sump pumps, then a geo engineer testing for high water table (came back negative), then a tile inspector who told us to just regrout with efflorescence free grout, or take up the tile and use a higher end thin set and make sure the tiles are back-buttered (I don't think our original installers did that)...we took up part of a room and immediately found water just sitting between the thin set. I've since learned that the porcelain is so dense it doesn't allow the concrete to breathe and our issue all along has been condensation. The tile company says they aren't responsible for moisture issues and I fear suing is going to be more hassle than it's worth. It's mind boggling because many of our neighbors have installed porcelain without issue (or perhaps they aren't seeing it). We've taped plastic to the floor and there's no evidence of moisture, however, when we lay a loose piece of porcelain tile on the concrete, right next to a piece of our 16 year old ceramic tile, we see evidence of moisture on the porcelain. Not on the plastic, and not on the ceramic. We are in talks with a rep from Ardex about adding a waterproofing system but he's said it's not a guarantee. At this point I think we are going to take up all the porcelain floors and go with ceramic, since it's more porous. My question is: those of you who have installed porcelain tile, have you run into a similar situation? Would using an exterior grade thin set prevent the moisture build up between a concrete slab and the tile? I've gotten mixed opinions apply applying "red sealant" before installing tile. I have gotten SO many professional opinions, all different and a lot of them to be proven wrong; I'm just getting ready to test as much as possible on my own, based on all the research I've done, before laying down the whole house. I want to be done with all of the "trial and error". It has become a financial drain and I cannot afford any more mistakes. Any advice you can share would be gratefully received. I'm enclosing some pictures.

    IMG_3376.jpg IMG_3475.jpg IMG_3476.jpg IMG_3478.jpg IMG_3515.jpg IMG_3487.jpg
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 1, 2018
  2. Tom Potter

    Tom Potter I Support TFP

    That's alot of water to be seeping through. Is your slab on, below, or above grade? Is there any water pipes in the slab, nearby walls?
    That just seems like a lot of water to be coming right from the slab itself. Is it one spot or all of it?
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2018
  3. MCameau

    MCameau Member

    Hi Tom, all the pipes are in the attic, we repiped 10 years ago. Slab is above grade. And it's ONLY where that tile was set. The main family room, kitchen and laundry room are ceramic tile. one bathroom is ceramic, another is a porcelain made by Florida tile. No moisture or residue anywhere else but that Italian tile. We've done a full year of testing, french drains, new gutters, you name it. This tile placed loose on the slab will show beads of condensation when you lift it...it's mind-boggling.
     
  4. MCameau

    MCameau Member

    we also did leak detection, irrigation testing, high-water table testing...you name it. I have an Ardex rep on the case, he said that our slab will NEVER be 100% dry or free of moisture, and a simple "taped plastic" test would determine if we had a moisture problem. Plastic that is directly on the slab has been dry for weeks, yet we have moisture coming up through the grout lines when the tile was installed.
     
  5. Mike Antonetti

    Mike Antonetti I Support TFP Senior Member

    I say horseshit to everyone you got opinions from. Probably a shower leaking. Just ripped up tile other day where mold was underneath. They could try to Tell me something like a shower or toilet didn’t leak.

    Just found your post. Absolutely no reason for one tile to “produce” moisture verses another dissipating it.

    Where you at? We can’t tour your home 3d style on the Net here.

    So, pressure test supply lines won’t show a shower leak.
     
  6. MCameau

    MCameau Member

    I was told that porcelain tile absorbs.5% of moisture while ceramic allows for 7%. We did leak testing, had the town come out to inspect the meters...we definitely see more moisture through the grout when the humidity is higher. located in Orlando, FL.
     
  7. Mike Antonetti

    Mike Antonetti I Support TFP Senior Member

    Those numbers are true but still the water is appearing from a source. It could escape through the grout if Portland based but it’s excessive and cause must be found.

    Showers around here are basically drainfields. Water is soaked in through floor grout joints taking waste with it, pulled through the mud bed and dissipates throughout the surrounding area. Methods are repulsive.
     
  8. MCameau

    MCameau Member

    What would be the method to detect it's a shower leak? Thank you for your input.
     
  9. Mike Antonetti

    Mike Antonetti I Support TFP Senior Member

    Sometimes remove base, inspection camera, various ways or known weak pints. Escutcheons/covers on showers to gain access for scopes. Plus other investigative work. Water will find its way.
     
  10. MCameau

    MCameau Member

    We did one for the sewer lines initially, one of the first tests we did. Nothing came up. None of the leak detection companies mentioned anything about shower drains. We'll look into it.
     
  11. Mike Antonetti

    Mike Antonetti I Support TFP Senior Member

    Could also be the shower enclosure not containing waste water either plumbing lines in walls or shower water penetrating tile.
     
  12. MCameau

    MCameau Member

    There is no smell so yes likely not waste water. Both bathrooms were completely renovated, in fact the whole house has been over the past 16 years. The flooring was the last thing to be updated. the other view is that we have a vapor barrier break in the slab, and all off the options to "repair" it are not guaranteed and are very expensive. either way, for the moisture to only appear where the new tile was installed is troubling. We had wood laminate in those rooms for fifteen years and there was no evidence of moisture when we pulled them up. However, (and I'm sorry I think I left this info out), the tile installers noticed the moisture when they were setting the tile, but they told us that the slab would "breathe" and that it was likely a landscaping/drainage issue. We didn't know any better and they continued to install the tile. And apparently I have no recourse. I am working with another installer and we are going to test different flooring and see if we get results. But i will look into the shower issue and try to rule that out. Thank you again for sharing your thoughts.
     
  13. Mike Antonetti

    Mike Antonetti I Support TFP Senior Member

    I run into issues where the pitch outside the home is sometimes backwards. Or it is higher than the slab/finish floor inside home.

    Here how is vapor barrier supposed to stop water when concrete is poured. The water will wick sideways since there’s no barrier blocking the side.
     

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  14. MCameau

    MCameau Member

    Our house was built in 1989 and some of the inspectors thought that we likely had a vapor barrier break somewhere. Apparently we have a "floating slab" where our "floor" slab is on footers and we have "filler" between that and the main slab (apologies if I'm not explaining that correctly, but that's how I understand it). Our footers run really deep; we've dug around the house to determine that. Some opinions are that we just have some cracks allowing moisture to get through.
     
  15. Florida Floor guy

    Florida Floor guy Pro Member

    Is there a shower especially tile shower anywhere near that area? If so I would be willing to bet it leaks. As a matter of fact there is a really good chance of a tile shower leaking. I think most tile showers leak because so many installers grout the freaking corners and they crack and surly if they did that it's not waterproofed well. Wherever the water is coming from it seems to be a lot and I don't think you should put any type of floor down without fixing the actual problem first.
     
    • Agree Agree x 1
  16. MCameau

    MCameau Member

    We met with a flooring specialist yesterday and it seems our issue is likely the installation. There is no evidence of slower leaks and the moisture isn't anywhere near the bathroom. I found this thread from another post, this i pretty close to our situation: Porcelain tiles and moisture issues
     
  17. Mike Antonetti

    Mike Antonetti I Support TFP Senior Member

    I don’t think there’s two slabs, just a stem wall and isolated 4” slab from stem wall. Not your typical monolithic pour.

    Not much info as to layout, just small area pics. The tile installers who said you had a moisture issue did not know quantity, measurement of moisture in slab or flow rate.

    The “underworld” with its vast cavities like the ocean depths create a world of its own. Highways and voids water may travel long distances. Insects can travel.
     
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2018
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