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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

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Tile damage at the soft joint


My colleague and I have an issue at a Ferrari Dealership mechanic shop. We think the issue is the use of car jack with small hard wheels on tile at a soft joint by one lift, where most of the damage is.

I have a picture of a tech using a floor jack to lift the car up to get the car lift out from underneath since the cars are so low to the ground on the lift next to the lift in question. This joint under where the tech is using a floor jack is an epoxy grout joint, not soft. At this location there is no damage. 

On the lift next to that is where the soft joint occurs (in red), and where the damage is. This would line up if they used the floor jack on that car lift. The soft joint that has damage runs the whole width of the room and there is no damage on the other side of the room at this soft joint.

This floor has anti-fracture membrane with soft joints every 15 ft., high-performance, fiber-reinforced large-and-heavy thin-set tile mortar, epoxy grout with custom caulk. I used my keys and sounded the tile at the damaged soft joint, and it is not hollow.  We do have some damage near the floor drain that runs in the middle of the floor, and all of these are at soft joints as well.  

Is there any TCNA technical data that we can show Ferrari that explains that a soft joint is not as strong as a joint that is grouted with epoxy or that point load on tiles at a soft joint is less than a joint grouted with cement/epoxy grout? In your opinion, what can be done moving forward to prevent future damage if we repair the broken tiles?

If we repair the damaged tiles, customer wants to ensure that this will not happen again and what we would do differently or how can they prevent in the future. I am looking for your professional opinion why you think this is happening.


Refer to the TCNA Handbook 2022 Edition, Method EJ171, page 436. There it tells us that sealants in traffic areas must be a minimum Shore A hardness of 25 or greater. What type of movement joint material was used for this project? Silicone, which is common for our tile industry?

If so, there’s a possibility that the relative pliability of silicone (similar density to a rubber band – Shore A 25 hardness) could have resulted in the damage from equipment shown in your photos.

I’ve used two-part urethane sealants in exterior and some industrial installations, due to their greater hardness, durability in stressful conditions, and speed of cure.

Additionally, I have used polysulfide sealants in industrial food processing plants, because of the heavy use of forklifts and machinery on smaller wheels on top of quarry tile and acid brick floors. These sealants also met the needs for a material that allows for the movement of a tile installation in a wet and heavily used environment.

I found this great short article that can help explain the benefit of polysulfide sealants. Although the article is written for the concrete industry, the concept still can have application for tile as well.

Visit this link: https://adobe.ly/3uj9TNG

These types of sealants are typically installed flush with the finished tile surface instead of with a concave joint, in order to protect the tile edges at the movement joint.  

If there is a specifier, i.e. architect or engineer, who designed this installation and specified the soft joint material, they may be able to assist with the analysis and solution, as well.

In addition, the manufacturers of the tile or grout and material used in the soft joint may have internal testing on this. You might want to call their corporate help lines. 

Given the discussions you are having with your customer, you may want to contact an expert consultant recognized by the tile industry.

Please take a look at the list of NTCA’s Recognized Tile Industry Consultants on our website at this link: https://www.tile-assn.com/page/recconsultants

All of these persons are highly knowledgeable and qualified to assess situations, have access to or conduct their own lab testing of all types when needed, and prepare the professional grade reports you may need. Some work regionally or nationally and are available to travel to personally assess installations and interview parties associated with the installation. Most, if not all, are available to consult electronically to begin the consultation process. Many of these persons also help shape the recognized tile industry standards, methods and best practices and are leaders in the tile industry.

I suggest reviewing the CVs and services of these consultants:

  • James Woelfel of James Woelfel and Associates
  • Donato Pompo of CTaSC
  • Tom Cravillion of Cravillion Tile & Stone
  • Dave Gobis, Ceramic Tile Consultant
  • Todd Duhe of InspecTile Consulting
  • Kent Klaser of Klaser Consulting, Inc.
  • Martin Brookes of Tile Inspection Services
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