Cracked floor tiles

Pier & Beam Problems: Do Cracked Floor Tiles Mean Foundation Issues?

Well, dang . . . you’ve got some cracked floor tiles or cracking grout (or both) in your pier and beam home. So you’re worried about these unsightly floors, but you’re also worried about what caused this problem . . . oh man, do you have a foundation issue too??

Anchor Foundation Repair Bryan College Station

At Anchor Foundation Repair, we don’t fix things that don’t need fixin’, and we don’t try to sell you stuff you don’t need. After 35+ years in business, that’s what’s best for our Brazos Valley community including pier and beam homeowners like you. We’re here to help guide you through any foundation issues with your home, and that includes talking through problems like this.

In this article, we discuss common reasons tiles can crack and whether this issue is caused by crawl space foundation problems. Then we review the top signs of foundation settlement in pier and beam homes and whether cracked tile is one of them. We finish with do’s and don’ts when you’re considering, repairing, or replacing tile in your crawl space home.

Top Causes of Cracked Floor Tiles In Crawl Space Homes

There are a few causes for cracked floor tiles in your pier and beam or crawl space home. Here’s a quick list for you:

  • Poor workmanship (bad prep and/or subpar materials),
  • Uneven floor surfaces often found in old elevated foundation homes,
  • Extreme impact,
  • Deteriorating subfloor due to wood rot or termites
  • Weather changes – especially extreme cold, or
  • A shifting foundation.

Is Cracked Floor Tile a Sign of Pier & Beam Foundation Issues?

cracked tile can be caused by other things besides foundation problems
This one looks like an impact crack to me . . .

Based on the list above, yes foundation movement CAN be one of the causes of cracked or failing floor tiles. Foundation settlement and problems will present as a combination of signs around your home, it will never be just one symptom like cracked tiles and that’s it. 

Once you are aware of a cracked tile problem, you need to determine the primary cause of the issue. There are five other issues in the list above besides a shifting foundation and there could be several contributing factors to consider. By finding the main source causing your tile problem, you’ll better be able to plan a solution.

For foundation issues to be the cause of cracked tiles in your crawl space home, you would also be seeing other signs around your home that are foundation-related issues.

If the only problem you see in your home is cracked tiles, then one of the other causes is more likely. 

Cracked Tile Due to Extreme Cold Temperatures

Recently, we had some frigid winter temperatures. Crawl space homes are vulnerable to cold creeping in from underneath due to the nature of an elevated foundation. These spaces are often not insulated at all. 

cracked tile in a pier and beam home
Grout problems

Most of the time, it’s not an issue because we live in a warmer climate here in Central Texas, but every once in a while . . . 

A major cold snap can cause the mortar underneath tiles to fail, creating this issue. Even just a little cold coupled with humidity can easily cause problems for tiles, mortar, and grout in crawl space homes.

Tile is frankly not the best flooring choice for remodeling efforts in elevated pier and beam style homes due to these conditions. It’s one of the unintended results that come from trying to put newer finishes on older homes. Unfortunately, many homeowners don’t realize this when making renovations and the consequences don’t arise until that one cold spell comes along.

Avoiding Cracked Floor Tiles In Your Crawl Space Home

How can you avoid cracked tile floors in a crawl space home then? Well, you might not like the first one on the list but . . .

  • Don’t choose tile for crawl space homes (try luxury vinyl plank or sheet vinyl instead).
  • If you must do tile, keep it to smaller areas only (i.e. bathrooms, laundry, small kitchens).
  • ALWAYS prep the surface thoroughly by:
    • Repairing any damaged subfloor first,
    • Using cement backer board to minimize stress to tile and grout,
    • Using flexible-type mortar and grout (links are just examples, not endorsements or recommendations)
    • Consider smaller tile sizes that will have more give in the tile structure, and
cracked tile and foundation problems

BEFORE putting down tile, you should also make sure you don’t have any existing foundation issues or structural deficiencies with your floors like inadequate sill beam support or not enough floor joists

Any signs that your floor is bouncy, rattling, or too shaky will mean your floor tiles’ mortar and grout will be stressed when you walk across them. A floor that is flexing underfoot will pop your new tiles off in no time.

Top Signs Your Crawl Space Foundation Has Problems

Sometimes crawl space foundations experience settlement (i.e. sinking/moving) from expansive clay soils. Sometimes crawl space foundations were built according to past (and now deemed insufficient) standards that don’t hold up over time. Sometimes the wood material under your home begins to deteriorate

In any of these situations, you end up with similar feelings of instability in your foundation that need repair and refortification.

Whether you have tile down on your floors already or not, these are the top signs of foundation issues in a crawl space home:

  • Diagonal cracks in drywall,
  • Doors sticking, rubbing, or not locking/latching properly,
  • Bouncy, loose, rattling floors or floors with highs and lows

signs of foundation issues in a pier and beam home
This home has diagonal cracks, door problems, and (trust me) floors with highs and lows too.

Again, cracked tiles could be a result of those bouncy loose floor problems but you would likely be having drywall cracks and door issues as well. It’s never just one sign with foundation problems.

Do You Think You Have a Pier & Beam Foundation Problem?

tile issues in a pier and beam home

Now you know that cracked tile is not necessarily an indication of foundation issues. Do you feel like you have other signs around your home that point to foundation problems and maybe some other stuff you’re not sure about too?

At Anchor Foundation Repair, we know that homeowners worry when they have foundation problems. You don’t know what to do or who to trust. Not only are you concerned about your home’s safety and stability, but you’re also worried about choosing the right contractor to take care of your precious pier and beam.

We’ve put together The Complete Picture Guide to Pier and Beam Foundation Problem Signs to help you interpret and understand the home symptoms that might be worrying you.