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Tile installed in homes and businesses continues to get larger and larger. Tile 15”, 24” and larger make up the majority of tile installed today and these tile are considered large format, which is defined as tile 15 inches or longer on any side including plank shaped tile. This popular design trend is pushing the boundaries of tile installation with increased importance on crack prevention. Larger tiles need a flatter floor.  The beauty and elegance of a wood plank tile or the very popular 12-inch by 24-inch floor tile can easily become a disappointing disaster in short order if the subfloor is not prepared correctly during the installation process.

By making sure the proper steps to surface preparation are taken, homeowners can avoid the headache and expense of repairing or replacing damaged tile. While it’s impossible to completely avoid cracks in the event of significant structural movement, they can be controlled by applying products that mitigate the effects of movement and other stressful factors. Custom Building Products, the leading provider of flooring preparation products and tile and stone installation systems, recommends the following for surface preparation before installing tile on any project. Homeowners working with an installation contractor for their tile should always discuss crack prevention with their tile pro during the bidding phase.

* Tiling over a wood subfloor: The two most common solutions are the use of cementitious backerboards or a lighter weight crack preventing mat alternative such as RedGard Uncoupling Mat. A combination crack isolation, waterproofing and vapor management membrane, RedGard Uncoupling Mat bonds with the surface while allowing the tile assembly to safely adjust and shift in response to movement. In addition, tile isn’t designed to flex so any “bounciness” in the floor should be fixed prior to tile installation. For further information, refer to CUSTOM’s Technical White Paper on utilizing uncoupling membranes for tile installations.

* Tiling over concrete on grade: Consider a liquid-applied membrane like RedGard Crack Prevention and Waterproofing Membrane to mitigate small cracks in the subfloor. Installed using a paint roller or trowel, RedGard Crack Prevention and Waterproofing Membrane is a seamless heavy duty material designed for interior and exterior areas. Liquid-applied membranes are also effective for waterproofing and crack isolation in large and exterior tile installations.

*Specialized underlayments such as Crack Buster Pro Crack Prevention Mat Underlayment and EasyMat Tile & Stone Underlayment may also be used to reduce crack transmission. Crack Buster Pro is a self-bonding, fabric reinforced, asphaltic membrane that isolates ceramic and natural stone tile from cracks in the substrate and is perfect for larger commercial jobs. EasyMat is an easy to install versatile mat underlayment that combines sound attenuation properties as well as crack isolation making it perfect for multi-story dwellings.

* Protect corners, expansion joints, changes in plane and other areas in tile installations susceptible to cracking by applying Commercial 100% Silicone Sealant. A permanently flexible material ideal for floors where they meet walls and doors as well as for tubs, showers, sinks, pools, and other wet or submerged applications, Commercial 100% Silicone Sealant is offered in 40 colors to coordinate with tile and grout.

Remember, these subloor underlayments are designed to preserve the integrity of the tile surface and can’t stops cracks from happening in the subfloor below.  More information on tile crack prevention products, best-practices and tips is available from Custom Building Products through Facebook and our mobile app.

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