Why do tiles peel off the floor and wall?

Wednesday April 14 2021

The method and materials used in laying tiles determines how long they will last. PHOTO/www.gettyimages.com

By Roland D. Nasasira

You would expect your tiles to last a lifetime the moment they are laid either on the floor or on the wall, depending on which part of the house they are used. Unfortunately, it is not always the case.

Take for instance, an example of Andrew Tukamushaba whose house floors at Kasangati were finished with tiles. Less than a year after moving into the house in mid-2018, Tukamushaba recalls reworking a relatively small section of the kitchen floor.

“I did not understand why newly laid tiles would detach from the floor because they looked firmly fitted. When I stepped on the affected area, I could feel a gap between the tiles and the floor,” Tukamushaba says.

“On inspecting the affected area with a tile installer, I discovered that one of the joints within the tiles had an opening and water had found its way under the tiles. It was rapidly spreading under the unaffected areas,” he adds.

Ibrahim Kajjoba, a tiles installer explains that besides feeling a gap underneath your floor tiles, which normally manifests with a hard-to-notice swelling, you can tell that tiles are detaching off the floor when the tile starts shaking especially if there was very little space in the tile joints. As you mop the floor, black water also tends to emerge from underneath such tiles, an indicator that you need to make some renovations.

Besides the above warning signs, Kajjoba opines that there are certain tile types that detach from the floor or wall if they are laid without applying tile adhesive. Just like the mixture of sand and cement holds bricks together, Kajjoba says tile adhesive plays an important role of holding tiles firmly to the floor or wall.


“Tiles detach from floors and walls because of poor quality sand that could have been used during laying. If this bad sand was not mixed with enough cement and tile adhesive, it could also lead to the detachment,” Kajjoba explains.

Before laying tiles or even terrazzo in your house regardless of whether it is storeyed or a bungalow, Kajjoba advises that the floor has to be made wet and a little cement sprinkled on it so that when the tiles are introduced much later, the tile adhesive sticks to the floor.

“Even if your builders cast a second layer of cement mixed with sand without wetting the floor or sprinkling a little cement, the tiles will in future still detach from the floor or the wall. It is one area that is sensitive during house finishing,” Kajjoba advises.

Water and tiles

While laying tiles, Francis Dumba recommends using grout to fill and cover tile joints as the last procedure after using sand and cement and tile adhesive. Dumba explains that grout, if well used, makes it impossible for water or any other liquid to find its way underneath the tiles to cause damage such as that in Tukamushaba’s kitchen.

“The type or quality of grout you use does not matter as long as your builders use the amounts of water recommended by the manufacturer. It is always prescribed on the packaging material,” Dumba advises.

Tile size

According to Kajjoba, all tile sizes can detach from the floor or wall depending on how they were laid. However, those that commonly detach from the floor are the larger ones, similar to those in shopping malls, measuring 60x60 inches because they are large and take up more space, compared to those with a lesser measurement, say of 30x30 inches.

For tiles to attach or stick to the floor or wall, the recommended mixture of sand to cement should be one wheel barrow of lake sand to one bag of cement, (1:1) well mixed with tile adhesive. In most cases, tiles detach from the wall if the mixing ratios of sand to cement were compromised.

Care for tiles

Dumba and Kajjoba advise against letting water stagnate on tiles during daily cleaning or mopping. If the grout within tile joints diminishes over time, it is advisable to have it replaced so that water does not find its way underneath the tiles as you clean or when there is a water pipe leakage, to cause detachment from the floor or wall.