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Tile Is Bulging and Loose

Julie Christensen

Vinyl or ceramic tiles are easy to clean and maintain, making them a common choice for flooring, showers and baths, as well as kitchen backsplashes. Tiles require careful installation and occasional maintenance, though, to keep them looking new. Bulging or loose tiles require immediate attention. Ignored, the problem may spread to surrounding tiles.


Wipe up standing water on tile floors immediately.

The most common cause of loose or bulging tile is water that has seeped behind the tiles due to cracked or unsealed grout, causing the drywall to rot and expand. Tiles may also become loose if the tile setter did not apply enough thinset or tile adhesive. An unstable or rotted subfloor may cause tiles to loosen and bulge, as well. Vinyl tiles may bulge or become loose if the floor gets very wet, allowing water to seep underneath and soften the adhesive. Sometimes, age alone will cause tiles to become loose.


Before loose or bulging tile can be repaired, the underlying problem must be addressed. Rotting or moldy drywall and subfloors must be removed and replaced with stable materials. Reinstall the tile once the floor or drywall is clean then dry and grout according to the manufacturer's directions. Fixing loose vinyl tiles is a bit less complicated. Simply spread a sheet of aluminum foil over the loose or bulging area and press it with a warm iron. The iron melts the glue to reactivate it. Place a pile of books over the tile for several hours to hold it in place.


Tile problems can be prevented with proper installation and maintenance. Tiles must be installed over a stable backer board surface, with a sufficient amount of properly mixed thinset. Grout keeps moisture out but requires yearly sealing to prevent cracking and peeling. Replace cracked and peeling grout before damage occurs.


Some tile problems are caused by soil that contracts and expands in response to changes in moisture. Repairing the grout and adhesives will not solve this problem. Hire a contractor to install a floating subfloor if you suspect the problem is due to soil issues. Vinyl tile is often a better option on expansive soils than ceramic tile because it has some give and usually does not require a floating floor. Mudjacking temporarily lifts a sinking floor but is not a permanent fix.