Unfortunately, failures of tile installations do occur. Although they are limited to less than 0.1% of all tiles installed, the cost of failure can be high and consequential damage enormous.

According to Steve Joubert (Chief Executive Officer) and Drom van Tonder (Chief Operating Officer) at Stiles, past experience shows that the main causes of tile failure are any one or combination of the following:

• Differential movement not catered for in the system
• Selection of inappropriate products for the conditions
• Poor workmanship on site

1. Differential movement
One of the most common causes of failure is the build-up of stresses caused by the cumulative effect of differential dimensional changes to a point high enough to cause delamination along the weakest plane. This could occur between the tiles and fixative, within the fixative itself, or between the fixative and backing material.

2. Irreversible moisture expansion of tiles
This is expansion associated with the absorption of moisture in such a manner that only elevated temperatures reverse the expansion. (Basically, the tiles grow and do not return to their original size.).

3. Size changes of backing materials
Cementitious materials such as mortars and concretes are subject to initial drying shrinkages which are irreversible, and as with ceramics, occur over a period. An interval, usually at least 28 days, should be allowed between placing the substrate/rendering and the commencement of tiling.

4. Thermal movements
Differential movement is caused by any difference in temperature between the tile face and the underlying substrate.

5. Creep movement
Concrete and masonry under sustained loading deform with time. This creep, as the movement is called, causes columns and walls to shorten, and beams and suspended slabs to permanently deflect.

6. Selection of inappropriate products
Choosing the incorrect type of tile for the service conditions can be disastrous. Careful consideration must be given to the expected performance of the tile in terms of traffic requirements.

7. Poor workmanship
This is common in South Africa – there is no formal registration of properly trained tiling artisans in this country.

8. Suspended slab applications
Special precautions must be taken as this installation is prone to increased movement.

9. External applications
All external installations will be exposed to building movement, thermal expansion, and contraction, as well as inclement weather and must be protected from weather and too-rapid drying while the adhesive sets.

10. Tile panel movement joints & perimeter joints
The lack of, or poorly constructed, intermediate tile panel movement joints and perimeter joints in a tile installation is a major cause of tile failure.

Many tile failures can be avoided. Contact your tile representative for further technical advice and expertise.

For more information, please contact Stiles:
Tel: +27 21 510 8310
Email: websales@stiles.co.za
Website: www.stiles.co.za

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