12 Reasons why Tiles Get Buckled or Popped-up or Tent

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When choosing flooring for your house, people always look for how can the choosen tiles affect the aesthetic look of the house. Nowadays, tiles flooring is one of the most popular flooring options due to its sleek appearance. Apart from the all good things, tiles need proper installation and care during and after its installation. If you do not give proper attention during while tile installation, the various defects may appear on the tile surface i.e. buckled tiles or pop up tiles, cracking of tiles, faded tiles, etc. Among them, pop up or tenting or buckle tiles is one of the most common tiles defect that has been observed in the floor tiles.

What is Buckled or Popped up or Tented Tiles?

When your floor tiles lift from their originally installed position and start pushing other tiles against one another. Therefore, it creates a ‘tent-like’ bump in your floor. This tile defect is known as buckled tiles.  This defect is also known as pop up tiles or tile tenting.  Buckled tiles defect may appear in all types of tiles, i.e. ceramic tiles, vitrified tiles, porcelain tiles, etc. if proper care not taken. The perfectly flat tiled floor may buckle up in the different season due to temperature variations, improper installation of tiles, etc.

Buckled Tiles
Also Read: Various Defects that usually Occur in House

Reasons for Buckled Tiles or Pop Up Tiles Defect

Buckled tiles or pop up tiles defect may happen due to the following reasons:

01. Improper Cleaning:

  • Improper cleaning of the floor before tile installation, the uniform bonding layer may not get It may result in tiles to get pop up.
Improper Cleaning of Floor

02. Floor Expansion:

Tile is a permeable material hence after some time, it may get swell with high moisture absorption. Due to expansion, the pressure may cause the tiles to pop up and therefore the tiles may get tent, i.e. say buckled.

03. Uneven Subfloor:

  • Uneven subfloor is also one of the reasons for buckled tiles or pop up tiles. The uneven subfloor will not have uniform bonding with adhesive or mortar with tiles and the subfloor. This will lead to tile tenting.

04. Improper Set Tiles:

  • Large or oversized tiles require a certain troweling technique to ensure that they achieve a strong bond with the adhesive. All tiles need a gentle whack with a wooden object when being installed to set them in the adhesive.

05. Not Using Adhesive:

  • The tiles which have been installed without adhesives may also cause tile floor buckling.

06. Incorrect Movement Joints Installation:

  • Incorrect installation of movement joints also leads to buckled tiles. We already written article on movement joints,
 Read here: Expansion Joints in Tiles: Reasons & Consequences!

07. Using Poor Quality Bonding Agent:

  • When the tiles that are fixed with the bonding agent to the floor, the underlying substance will not form a secure bond. Due to slight changes in environmental conditions like a change in temperature or humidity, the bond will lose its grip and the defect of buckled tiles may appear.

08. Using Poor Quality Tile Adhesive:

  • If the area of the floor is directly exposed to sunlight and if poor quality adhesives are used, then there are chances of tile tenting or popping up of tiles. The direct sunlight will be leading to expansion of tiles. Hence if adhesives are not strong, it may pop up and buckle.
Also Read: Tile Grout: Know Its Functions & Types
Using Poor Quality Adhesive

09. Improper Bonding Material:

  • Use the proper bonding material. If a dry powder bonding agent is used, you should check whether it is properly mixed or not otherwise it may result in pop up of tiles.

10. Using Old Tiles:

  • Using old tiles may also cause the tile floor buckling. Old tiles may get brittle. As with passage of time, they lose flexibility and are not able to withstand changes due to temperature variation.

11. Bend Tiles:

The manufactured tiles are already bent. So, if you are using such tiles, there may be chances of tiles to pop up.

Also Read: Do’s and Don’ts while doing Dado Tiles Work

Why Tile Tenting After a Number of Years?

According to the Tile Council of North America (TCNA), tile tenting is a function of three variables:

01. The rate of concrete shrinkage,

02. The shear strength of the thin set, and

03. Any extensive forces applied to the tile layer like heat

  • If the tile is poorly bonded, the tile can tent very quickly. If there is a strong bond, often the grout will compress before the tile will lose its bond.
  • When tile fails with a loud sound, it indicates that a good bond was present. Frequently, either the tile or the concrete will be without thinset residue as if the thinset (mortar with adhesive) was not applied correctly.

In short, every tile installation should allow for movement. Properly designed installations, where expansion and contraction do not create shear forces, should have no problem for the tile to stay well adhered.

The above is a list of a few contributing factors which leads to defect of buckled tiles or pop up tiles or tented tiles. Therefore, you have to consider the workmanship behind the installation, the type of materials you are using, the surface on which you are going to install the tiles, skilled labour, etc.  If all considerations had been taken into account, there should be no reason why the tiles would buckle or pop up. Ultimately, properly laid tiles give beautiful look to your home and also gives safety to the occupants of the house.

Also Read:

Floor or Wall Tiles: Defects and Solutions
Check the Defects in Vitrified Tiles before Buying Them!
Precautions to Avoid Fading of Tiles

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Comments (15)

    1. Dear Sonia Rodry

      Thank you for contacting gharpedia & raising a query!

      Regarding your comment, as per our suggestion, if possible, please send the photos of that particular crumbled area so that we can give exact solution.

      Granite normally does not crumble unless very thin. Please let us know the thickness of your granite stone.

      If your granite floor is crumbled in the minor area, for that you can contact your local contractor to repair it. If more area crumbled than you should consider, redoing the whole work as repairing work not be possible. When you redo, exercise proper care to provide joints, using proper mortar and size and thickness of the stone.

      Further, are there any cracks in your slab or any other part of building, because if it is a large building without expansion joint, it may happen? So please send more details.

      Thank You!
      Gharpedia Team

  1. Hi. My car porch floor is not even. The contractor said that he will leveling the floor again with the tiles so that the floor will fixed. I’m so worried if he fixed the floor just by leveling the tiles.. the tiles will broken one day because of heavy load (car). Do the floor need rendering again with cement or just leveling?thank you.

    1. Dear Syam
      Thank you for contacting gharpedia and raising such a good query.
      Regarding your query, please note that you can never level the floor with tiles when the subbase is not levelled. The thickness of tiles would be hardly 8 to 12mm and mortar would be 25 to 50mm. Hence you cannot level more than 10 to 15mm by adjusting the thickness of mortar. Further, it would also be difficult to adjust floor slope and level of just adjoining tiles or he may use excessive thick cement mortar. In that case, varying mortar thickness may cause cracking in tiles in future. Therefore, it is better to first level the subfloor with the PCC or lean mortar and then install the parking tiles. You may also use paver block in parking area.

      Thanking You
      Gharpedia Team

  2. Tiles popping from vertical surface after one year.Tiles are layed outside.Adhesive is of good quality.Height of installation is 10 feet.Sanjay

  3. Hi
    The vitrified tiles in my living room and kitchen are cracking with a heavy noise. The same tiles have been laid in all rooms of the house. Should we replace them all? Please reply immediately.
    Thanks and regards

    1. Dear Sripriya Vijayaraghavan
      Thank you for contacting gharpedia.

      The reason for tiles cracking with heavy noise is that the mortar bedding might not have applied correctly. Lack of expansion joint may also be one of the reasons for this problem. Therefore, replace the tiles with a new one if you have bought extra tiles of the same pattern otherwise you need to replace all the tiles. For other rooms, you need not replace the tiles as they all are in good condition and not causing a problem. Basically, it is a laying and mortar problem and not of tiles.

      However, if you can provide the following information, we give can give you a conclusive answer:

      1. What is the size of the room?
      2.What is the temperature difference at your location? Temperature variation might be the reason for tiles cracked with heavy noise. (one to expansion – contraction)
      3. What is the size of the tiles?
      4. Is skirting is provided in all the rooms?

      If possible, please send the photos of that particular area where the tiles cracked with heavy noise problem occurred.

      Thanking You
      Gharpedia Team

  4. I have a large lliving room with tile for 30 years. There now seems to be a “rise” in one area of tile as if a root tree or something is swelling under an area of 3×5. (but there are no trees) No tiles are cracked and grout is fine. What could cause this area to rise?

    1. Dear Marilyn Martineau
      Thank you for contacting gharpedia.

      To answer your query, please provide the following information so that we can give you an exact solution:

      1. Which type of tiles are used in the living room i.e. ceramic tiles, mosaic tiles, etc. or any other tiles?
      2. What is the size of the room?
      3. What do you mean by 3 x 5 whether it is 3’ x 5’ or 3m x 5m or any other?
      4. Please send the photos of the particular area where this problem occurred.

      Thanking You
      Gharpedia Team

      1. Reply from Marilyn Martineau

        ceramic tile 12X12

        total living space is 21ftX17ft

        damaged area so far in the living room space is 8ftX 8ft

        Concrete underneath tile is dry so is mortar and tile.  No crack or water or changes in concrete subfloor.  Tile is tenting along mortar lines and lifting.  Slowly advancing across living room tile.

        follow up pictures coming next.

        Solution by Gharpedia

        Dear Marilyn Martineau
        We have received your mail and seen the photos that you have sent.
        The ceramic tiles “rise” or pop up in the area due to the following reasons:
        •Tile can swell with high moisture absorption. Due to expansion, the pressure will cause the tile to pop up.
        •If the area of the floor is directly exposed to sunlight, there are the chances of popping up of tiles because the direct sunlight will result in heat leading to expansion of tiles.
        •If you have used poor quality adhesive.
        To repair this problem,
        1.If you have a budget, then you can replace the tiles with new one. (Entire Room)
        2.If you do not want to replace the tiles which is not necessary too, remove only damaged piece of tiles in a regular surface and cut the tiles form all sides by 2 to 5mm. Then reinstall the tiles using filler or sealant on joints. This can be an economical solution.
        By doing this, you are providing an expansion joint which will help for cases 1 and 2 above. Try to use a better quality adhesive which is available in the market.

        After following all the above steps, if this problem still persists in future, then it simply means that mortar bedding of the entire room has not been done perfectly at the time of tile installation. So, for now, if you don’t want to spend too much money, you can try these above given steps.
        Also, we have written a solution to prevent this problem, please check the following link:
        Thanking You
        Gharpedia Team

        1. Reply from Marilyn Martineau 

          Thank you for your email.

          May I arrange to have you come and look at the floor and how I should proceed?  How long do I wait to repair.  I would like to arrange to have not only the repair but also grout cleaning sealing and or (matching original grout color throughout the house/

          Can you come and give me a estimate of your services.  I am retired and am available most days after 9:30 am.

          Thank you,

          Marilyn Martineau


          Solution by Gharpedia

          Dear Marilyn Martineau

          Thanks for appreciating our service. We regret that we do not provide such services nor is our object to do so. We request you to find some experienced contractor and get it done. However, feel free to contact us anytime for any help and clarification that you may need during execution. If desired we would be available on phone also. And all our advice is free. You are welcome any time.
          With Regards
          Gharpedia Team

    1. Dear Dina Santos
      Thank you for contacting gharpedia.
      To answer your query, we want the following information from your side:
      1. Send the photos of area where tiles are buckled up.
      2. Which type of tiles are used in the in that particular area, i.e. ceramic tiles, vitrified tiles, mosaic tiles, etc.
      3. What is the size of the room?
      4. What is the size of tiles?

      Thanking You
      Gharpedia Team

  5. Gharpedia,

    I have a retail store with a vinyl composition tile. The earth underneath the concrete subfloor used to have a high water table. 15 years ago, sewers were installed in the area and the water drained to a lower level. This has caused pressurization of my tile. Some areas have raised and some lowered. Even if I level the floor with leveler products that slope the floor, I have issues. Is there a more elastic tile you recommend? Is there a particular way to prep the floor for tile that you recommend with these problems I have?

    1. Dear DC

      Thank you for contacting gharpedia.

      First of all, we want to tell you that usually vinyl composition tiles are durable, however, in your case you need to have a proper subfloor. This subfloor should be executed by proper method and skill professional so that this type of problem cannot occur in future.

      Particularly in your case, if you don’t have a proper subfloor, then any type of tiles will not be going to solve your problem.

      We will discuss whether the tile will survive or not later on but before that we want to know the following information from your side so that we can give you exact solution for subfloor and whether to choose tiles or some other materials.

      1. Please send the photos where this problem occurs.

      2. What is the location (City) of your store?

      3. What is the existing subfloor you have in your store?

      4. Which types of soil you have in the surrounding areas?

      5. Near your store, is there any road or paving area?

      6. What is the intensity of rainfall in your area?

      7. What is the temperature difference (day-night) in your locality?

      Thanking You

      Gharpedia Team

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