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  1. #1
    Donald Uher's Avatar
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    Default Inspection showed tile floor cracks

    Went into contract with a 2=story house in Austin this week. It was built in May 2009 by a decent builder. Inspection showed hairline cracks in parts of about 8 tiles (18 inch builder grade floor tiles). And one tile had a crack completely across it larger than a hairline. The cracks were mostly in random spots, no two tiles in a row with cracks. Foundation is slab. The exterior of foundation and brick was in good shape, no cracks in brick or mortar. Inspectors comments were "There does not appear to be any structural failure... I did notice slight floor slope in kitchen... This may be indicative of shifting and settling. If this concerns you, I recommend an SE analyze foundation for further information."

    I am not sure how serious this is? What should I request the seller to do? How much money for repair damages would be reasonable in lieu of doing repairs? Overall, I got a good deal on the house and like it otherwise. The ground in this area appears to be very good, flat, without the clay look I had in Dallas. One thing I am also considering is to have the builders warranty on foundation transferred to me (for a fee) if possible?

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Inspection showed tile floor cracks

    You could ask the inspector to explain the comment. How much slope, how much per foot.

    John Kogel, RHI, BC HI Lic #47455
    www.allsafehome.ca

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Inspection showed tile floor cracks

    in Austin . . . was built in May 2009 by a decent builder
    Unlikely, there are few decent builders in Texas. Step 1 of the problem.

    18 inch builder grade floor tiles
    Step 2 of the problem.

    I did notice slight floor slope in kitchen...
    Notice, as in intuit, or notice as in verify with leveling instrument? Inept inspector. Step 3 of the problem.

    What should I request the seller to do? How much money for repair damages would be reasonable in lieu of doing repairs?
    Resale contracts in Texas assume the house to be in as-is condition. While negotiations abound, that is the purview of a real estate agent. You either don't have a good one that is capable of addressing these issues, or you are not using an agent for the purchase. Bad or no agent. Step 4 of the problem.

    The ground in this area appears to be very good, flat, without the clay look I had in Dallas.
    The clay is there, it is just being presented to you differently (with hills) than in Dallas, and there is only about 50% as much of the expansive type. Unrealistic and uniformed expectations. Step 5 of the problem.

    Tile cracking can be caused by many different things:
    1. Defective tiles. Not unusual in builder grade crap.
    2. Poorly-adhered tiles. Not unusual in a state where tile setters and nearly everyone else involved in the home building process (including the builders) is unlicensed, unregulated, and from the monkey-see-monkey-do-fly-by-night trade school.
    3. Tiles telegraphing concrete slab shrinkage cracks. Also not unusual where tile setters have either not heard of or do not choose to use isolation membranes to prevent this problem.
    4. Foundation issues. This usually results in in-line cracking patterns which you did not report.

    There is, of course, one other possibility.

    5. A Dallas Republican moving to liberal Austin. The very ground will quiver in disgust.

    Last edited by Aaron Miller; 10-19-2012 at 09:21 AM.
    Texas Inspector
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  4. #4
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    Default Re: Inspection showed tile floor cracks

    I don't know about those Texas slabs because many (most) are post-tensioned, but that should help hold it all together, but here in Florida (and likely anyplace which uses slab on ground without post-tension) ... concrete does two things:
    1) it gets hard; 2) it cracks.

    Given that it cracks (there are two types of concrete slabs, those which are cracked and those which have not crack YET) I have found that the cracks typically are from areas of the perimeter where settlement forces meet - such as if the slab is rectangular it will more likely crack near the center of the long dimension and the crack may be roughly perpendicular to the edge; if the slab is a 'L' shape it will more like crack at the inside corner of the 'L' at approximately a 45 degree angle; if the slab is a 'U' shape there are basically two 'L' shapes together and the cracks will be from the inside corners at roughly 45 degrees.

    Depending on the shape of the slab there may be other likely cracks - are the cracks in your tile approximately lined up if you were to look at them from one of the above perspectives?

    Garage floors, on the other hand, seem to crack radially from the center out.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  5. #5
    Donald Uher's Avatar
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    Default Re: Inspection showed tile floor cracks

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    Depending on the shape of the slab there may be other likely cracks - are the cracks in your tile approximately lined up if you were to look at them from one of the above perspectives?

    Garage floors, on the other hand, seem to crack radially from the center out.
    The garage floor had no visible cracks.

    The foundation is about square, I would say. Kitchen is behind the garage, on the left back center area. Master bathroom in right center also had tile, but no cracks except a small line in grout of one tile.


  6. #6
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    Default Re: Inspection showed tile floor cracks

    Quote Originally Posted by Donald Uher View Post
    The garage floor had no visible cracks.

    The foundation is about square, I would say. Kitchen is behind the garage, on the left back center area. Master bathroom in right center also had tile, but no cracks except a small line in grout of one tile.
    I'm guessing that if you have carpeted areas and was to pull the carpet back from all edges a few feet or so that you would see similar cracking relative to the cracks in the tile. I'm guessing the cracks are there, you just don't see them because cracks do not show through carpet or wood floors like they do through tile floors.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
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    Default Re: Inspection showed tile floor cracks

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    I'm guessing that if you have carpeted areas and was to pull the carpet back from all edges a few feet or so that you would see similar cracking relative to the cracks in the tile. I'm guessing the cracks are there, you just don't see them because cracks do not show through carpet or wood floors like they do through tile floors.
    JP: No need to guess. The cracks are there. They always are.

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    Default Re: Inspection showed tile floor cracks

    "This may be indicative of shifting and settling. If this concerns you..."

    Now that's funny! I may have to use that line in a report just for the humor value!

    END GLOBAL WHINING

  9. #9
    Donald Uher's Avatar
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    Default Re: Inspection showed tile floor cracks

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    I'm guessing that if you have carpeted areas and was to pull the carpet back from all edges a few feet or so that you would see similar cracking relative to the cracks in the tile.
    Thanks for response Jerry. I took a another look at house today. I counted about 12 tiles in kitchen with hairline cracks. None in the front half of the house big entrance hallway except for one 4 inch one by the door. I took a look at the foundation outside in vicinity parallel to where the tile cracks were. I did find a hairline crack in both sides of the foundation. I failed to notice that the first time I looked at it. I can't believe inspector missed that. Anyway, looks like I will terminate within my option period.


  10. #10
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    Default Re: Inspection showed tile floor cracks

    Quote Originally Posted by Donald Uher View Post
    I can't believe inspector missed that.
    Hairline cracks are easy to miss ... or dismiss without other evidence that ties the bigger picture together.

    Doing a home inspection is difficult because the inspector is trying to look at everything, both closely and from a distance ('bigger picture' look), in doing so it is easy to overlook things which, when viewed later, cause that 'How on earth did I not see that.' feeling.

    Have you done the golf ball test yet? Drop a golf ball onto the tile in various areas, if you hear good solid 'thunk' sounds that means the tile is fully bonded to the slab; however, if you hear 'tink' sounds (okay, 'tink' if not what you will hear, but you will certainly be able to tell the difference between the sounds) then that tile is not fully bonded to the slab, i.e., the tile is 'loose'.

    You can also use a wood pole with a rubber chair/table leg on the end (don't want to break any more tiles, do you?) and bounce that on the tile. You will be able to hear the difference in the sound between fully bonded and not fully bonded tiles. The more 'not fully bonded' tiles you find, the greater the chance for more broken tiles with no known cause (placing furniture on a 'not fully bonded' tile could stress the tile and cause it to crack).

    With fully bonded tiles, when the slab cracks the fully bonded tile will crack with the slab. Small cracks will 'run out' through the tile and become larger cracks (kind of like that small crack in the corner of a car windshield which continues to grow up and across the windshield).

    Its a 50/50 chance that broken tile is telling you something is wrong or just telling you that, yes, the slab is cracked and is cracking the tile which is fully bonded to it, and that the slab is cracked because (as I said before) ... concrete cracks. Remember, concrete does two things: 1) it gets hard; 2) it cracks.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Inspection showed tile floor cracks

    As Aaron and Jerry have clearly pointed out, concrete has inherent issues. There will always be some amount of cracking.
    I would point out a couple things. If you aren't seeing heaving, settling or other obvious movement, then concrete conditions are probably Ok overall. Because 18" tiles cracked doesn't in itself make me worry. 18" tiles always crack. I try so hard to dissuade clients from using such large tiles. Unless they are installed just right, on just the right type of subsurface they will crack. Even if the installation is perfect they still may crack.
    The reality is that houses move and large tiles like that usually don't hold up well to that, at least not around here.

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  12. #12
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    Default Re: Inspection showed tile floor cracks

    Quote Originally Posted by Markus Keller View Post
    18" tiles always crack. I try so hard to dissuade clients from using such large tiles. Unless they are installed just right, on just the right type of subsurface they will crack. Even if the installation is perfect they still may crack.
    Markus,

    Sorry, but I have to disagree with that. If the substrate does not move, even a 36" tile will not crack is laid properly.

    I had 18" tiles in a house and not a single tile cracked. The house was an older home and all settling had taken place so there was no movement. I laid these tiles myself, then swore that I'd never lay tiles that large again because special care needs to be taken to ensure that either the floor is perfectly flat or at least close enough to perfectly flat that you can start out at the high point and work out from there slightly increasing the thickness of the thin set as you lay the tiles.

    I also had 24" tiles in a house and not a single tile cracked. As stated above *I* did not lay those 24" tiles, all *I* did was write the check. No way was *I* going to install those large tiles.

    I've also laid backsplashes with the tiles on the diamond, swore that I'd never do that again, then did it again in our current house. Way too many tiles to cut diagonally compared to the number of uncut tiles (when doing a backsplash).

    The reality is that houses move and large tiles like that usually don't hold up well to that, at least not around here.
    I agree that houses move, but how they move depends on the soil. Up there, it seems to be a problem, down here in the places I've been it was not, not after initial settlement (initial settlement meaning the first year and even within the next few years), after that the soil should be compacted as much as it is going to and will be stable - unless you have expansive soils, which are an entirely different matter.

    I've never like the idea of building a house on expansive soil the creating a "raft" foundation with post tension cables in it so that the foundation stays together yet "floats" up and down with the expansive soil. I'd prefer pilings to extend down beyond the expansive soil to create a stable foundation for the structure, let the soil move up and down below the house, keep the house basically still in one place. Although that might be a bit of a cost factor in some areas.

    My point is that, if the house is stable, and one had the means and wherewithal, one could lay a 12 foot by 12 foot marble slab on the concrete slab and the marble would not crack - all things being done correctly and the slab does not move or crack.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Inspection showed tile floor cracks

    even a 36" tile will not crack is laid properly.
    A rare occurence here.

    Texas Inspector
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    What the plainspoken man lacks in subtlety, he makes up in clarity.

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