When you have tile, you may feel like your flooring is invincible – it’s hard-wearing surface can seem like it’s immune to damage. Many homeowners choose tile because they believe it requires less maintenance than other flooring options. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. If your grout is not sealed or if it hasn’t been resealed within the past 5 years, water can seep through. This can be damaging to the tile and, eventually, the subfloor. Preventing water damage is most easily done by regular cleaning and maintenance from a tile and grout cleaning service.
Read on to get the lowdown on keeping your grout and tile water free of damage and what to do if it already has damage:
How Can My Grout and Tile Get Water Damaged?
In most instances, water damage happens slowly, quietly, without you noticing until you have a serious problem on your hands – usually from a slow leak in a pipe, appliance, or excessive condensation from windows, doors, and appliances. Grout and caulking that is in poor condition—cracked, missing, or has a loose, sandy feeling— might allow water to seep under the tiles.
This can cause tiles to lift, crack, and even foster mildew growth under the tile, damaging subflooring over time. This can happen without you realizing it, until tiles come loose or crack from instability underneath. Wet subflooring from water damage can cause its own host of troubles; this includes offering an open invitation to pests that feast on rotting wood, such termites and carpenter ants.
Other times, you’ll know you have a situation that will have the potential for flooring damage – flooding from a storm, appliance failure, or major plumbing problem can cause problems to tile floors. This is more likely with unsealed, worn, or damaged grout. This situation can be especially problematic due to the nature of flood waters being potentially contaminated with disease-causing bacteria, which can grow while trapped in saturated grout and under tile.
How Can I Prevent Water Damage from Happening?
As with most things around the home, proper maintenance, and routine inspections can catch problems before they happen— or at least before they get too severe. Here are a few things you can do to prevent, or at least minimize, water damage:
- Keep tabs on your grout sealing situation – especially if it has been a year or more since it has been sealed. Look for chipped sealant – areas where you can see the grout color through the sealer, a filmy look to the sealant even when clean, or uneven coloring of the grout.
- Check tiles occasionally for hollow sounds when tapped, particularly in areas where plumbing or appliances are nearby. Tap each tile with your knuckles or a penny and listen for any differences. A hollow sound indicates a separation of the tile from the mortar below, usually due to water damage.
Inspect appliances, especially as they get older. A leaking washing machine or dishwasher can mean major water damage, so keeping an eye on hoses and replacing them as they age is a good plan.
- Pay attention to any possible plumbing problems. Pinhole leaks can become major problems over time, so on occasion, check the pipes under the sink, around the toilet, water heater, and water softener for any unusual moisture.
- Keep your grout clean. Allowing excess mold growth, cleaner build up, and even dirt from regular wear to set in to grout will break down your grout. Having grout professionally cleaned will maintain its’ integrity and keep it from prematurely breaking down, allowing moisture to find its’ way through.
- Keep grout dry. Oklahoma summers often have humidity so thick, you might feel like you can see it. Your bathroom is already a damp place; it can be a haven for mold and mildew, which can lead to premature grout breakdown.
What Do I Do if I Do Have Possible Grout Damage?
Now that you know what to look for and have visually inspected your grout, it’s possible you’ll find some grout that’s damaged or worn. If you feel your grout may be worn or damaged— or if it has been sealed, but it’s been a while— so the sealant is breaking down, the best thing to do is call a professional. Schedule a FREE in-home estimate with Scrubby Corp today!