10 Reasons Why Your Wall and Floor Tiles Crack

Seeing cracks on your walls? Here are possible reasons for them.

Cracks on wall and floor tiles are unsightly, often annoying and can be sharp. While some of these cracks are superficial, it is important to be aware of the potential underlying problems such as serious as structural issues. A crack could also be just a minor problem that can be easily fixed, such as using inferior tiles, but identifying the causes and reasons for these cracked wall and floor tiles will save you from worrying unnecessarily when you get to the heart of the problem.

What Are the Main Causes of Cracked Wall and Floor Tiles?

Whether it’s a hairline crack or a deep groove, your wall and floor tiles deserve immediate attention. Knowing what caused the cracks will not only put your mind at ease but could also save you money and heartache in the long run, and that’s where a thorough, detailed building inspection comes in. Here at Exceptional Building Inspections in Newcastle, we see these problems all the time, so we know how to spot them before it’s too late. Here is our list of 10 of the most common reasons tiles crack or break:


1.  Impacts

A sharp, hard blow is the likely culprit, if a crack is concentrated in just one area, possibly extending across a single tile. Sometimes, the crack is accompanied by chipping where the object hit the tile. These cracks are often seen in kitchens, where pots, pans, cans and other heavy objects get dropped frequently, causing tiles to break.

Tiles around doorways also receive these kinds of cracks, because items sometimes get dropped whilst opening the door. These cracks are generally found near the periphery of the floor where the door is located.

Heavy loads

2.  Heavy loads

Most ceramic tiles undergo testing according to Australian Standard AS 4459.4. This makes sure that the tiles can withstand a breaking strength of at least 1100N (112.17kg).  While a 100-kilogram refrigerator won’t break tiles with its dead weight, dropping it whilst moving could cause the landed tiles to crack.  

Improperly spaced joists

3.  Improperly spaced joists

Tiles are rigid – the less movement there is around them, the better. Houses generally have joists that hold everything up above the subfloor, including tiles, people and the contents of the house. If these wood beams are spaced too far apart, they will allow for floor movement which places a bending force on tiles that don’t want to bend, which causes the tiles to break.

Joist spacing should conform with the National Construction Code. Added underlayment structures also help control flex, preventing tiles from cracking.

Cracked concrete substrate

4.  Cracked concrete substrate

Concrete driveways, basement floors or bathroom walls with long cracks running through them is not uncommon. At Exceptional Building Inspections in Newcastle, we recognise that this is especially true if the concrete is several years old. When the concrete substrate cracks, the tiles above it will move and crack as well.

This is characterised by long and continuous cracks that run across multiple tiles and it requires the installation of a crack isolation membrane before replacing the old tiles. This membrane cushions the tiles from the concrete substrate, allowing them to move separately. In addition, it absorbs the stresses caused by movements and helps reduce the risk of future breakages.

Badly cured concrete substrate

5.  Badly cured concrete substrate

Newly poured concrete needs to be cured and dried properly before installing tiles. This process takes at least 28 days to guarantee the integrity of the concrete substrate and allow the concrete to achieve at least a 90%, significantly reducing its shrinkage. Installing wall and floor tiles on concrete that was not cured properly could cause them to exhibit hairline cracks that will eventually chip off or break. Problems such as these will be found if present when a building inspection is carried out. In the Newcastle area of NSW, Exceptional Building Inspections can help. Just click here to go to our home page.

Control joint expansion

6.  Control joint expansion

Control joints are planned cracks in concrete that allow natural expansion due to temperature changes and shrinkage through drying. They create a weakened spot in the concrete to regulate or direct the concrete when cracks will occur.

Tiles placed on these control joints are guaranteed to crack as the concrete moves and expands. A good inspector will be able to recognise this and recommend the best course of action to take.

Incorrect tile adhesive

7.  Incorrect tile adhesive

When the wrong type of adhesive is used to install tiles, it could result in the tiles not sticking to the wall or floor properly because the adhesive is not strong enough to hold them in place, making the tiles prone to cracking and breaking.

Water ingress

8.  Water ingress

Sometimes, moisture can seep behind walls or underneath floors, weakening the tiles and causing them to swell until they eventually crack. It is recommended to seek advice from an expert building inspector to locate any leaks or ingress points, as this could cause costly structural damage. Waterproofing the walls and floors properly can also save you a lot of money.

Low-quality tiles

9.  Low-quality tiles

Any time you see a cracked tile, you might just think it is due to the low quality of the tile itself, but this is less common than you would think. The best way to know you have purchased high quality tiles, apart from making sure you buy them from well known retailers, is to check they are compliant to Australian standard AS 4459.4 and other relevant standards, as well as the National Construction Code.

Major mould growth

10.      Major mould growth

Moisture and mould go hand in hand and some types of mould can be toxic when ingested or inhaled, causing rashes, vomiting, shortness of breath, amongst other things. When it continues to grow, mould can find its way under the tiles and cause them to lift and crack as well. So, be vigilant when it comes to mould growing on your wall and floor tiles.

Building Inspections Done Right

At Exceptional Building Inspections, we conduct thorough building and pest inspections. You can be sure that we’ll be able to identify every hairline crack on your building walls and floor tiles. We never rush a job. Instead, we take our time to make sure we don’t miss anything.

Our services include:

  • Pre-purchase building inspections and reports
  • Maintenance inspections and reports
  • Expert witness inspections and reports
  • Insurance inspections and reports
  • pool and spa certification
  • timber pest inspections and reports
  • real estate drug testing (methamphetamine residue).

If you would like to find out more or arrange an inspection, please call us on (02) 4950 4197 or 0412 188 199 soon and we can get the ball rolling.