Do You Need to Remove Tile After Flood Water Invades?

Do you have to remove tile after flood water has invited itself into your home?

To be clear, we are not talking about your waterline breaking and flooding out your house.* We are talking about a hurricane, too much water from upstream if you live on a river, or some other natural disaster running contaminated water through your house.

The short answer is YES!

There is no getting around it–it is heartbreaking, especially if you installed it yourself. You’ve agonized over the color choices, the size, and how it should be laid out. Most important: it is done! You just don’t want to do it again.

There are a couple, albeit small, positives–we’re really trying here. First, do you have any pieces you wish you could go back and fix? This is your chance! Second, flood insurance is footing the bill this time. If not, go back and talk to your adjuster. A restoration company with Category 3 flooding experience can assist you with this.

It still sucks, but why do we have to do this in the first place? It seems like a hard surface that can just be cleaned!

Let’s string the logic from a couple previous blog posts together. First, flood consists of water contaminated with gas, oil, and feces. Second, when you’re applying mortar you are using a grooved trowel at a 45 degree angle before setting the tile in place.**

New information: tile may be non porous***, but grout and mortar are porous.

A sample at Floor and Decor of 18" tile on mortar.

A sample at Floor and Decor of 18″ tile on mortar.

The air pockets pictured collect all the water the mortar can soak up since grout and mortar is porous. This is why it is necessary to remove tile after flood waters make themselves "at home".

The air pockets pictured collect all the water the mortar can soak up since grout and mortar is porous. This is why it is necessary to remove tile after flood waters make themselves “at home”.

As you can see in the picture above these grooves allow air bubbles to be caught in the mortar. Imagine flood water seeping in the porous grout and mortar. It is even worse if the flood sits around in your house for days before the water recedes. Where does it go? Inside all of those air pockets and sits there. It infests whatever it can.

Can you see the glistening mortar? That's flood water. After three months it is still there. This is why tile needs to be removed after a flood.

Can you see the glistening mortar? That’s flood water. After three months it is still there.

The Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) Standard 17.3.2, 17.3.2.1, 17.3.2.2, 17.3.3, 17.4.6, 17.4.10 recommend flooring materials (including tiles, woods, etc.), need to be removed and replaced due to the contaminated Category 3 water. This should be done because porous materials cannot be adequately dried nor cleaned. Additionally, if a structure’s flooring substrates (the slab or subfloor) are not properly cleaned and dried out then the new replacement materials may not be able to be/or remain installed correctly. Last, some of the contaminated water may eventually leak, leach or spread out back into walls, framing or other materials.^ Want to know more? This is the restoration industry perspective.

It’s bad enough to find standing water under the tile months later, but how about when you find another layer of flooring under the tile?

Surprise! A layer of sheet vinyl flooring is hidden beneath the layer of satillo tile. Multiple layers of flooring ALL have to go after a flood. Also, do you see the water seeping out at the edges... one month AFTER the floodwaters left?

Surprise! A layer of sheet vinyl flooring is hidden beneath the layer of satillo tile. Multiple layers of flooring ALL have to go after a flood. Also, do you see the water seeping out at the edges… one month AFTER the floodwaters left?

It is not uncommon to find old sheet vinyl, VCT tiles, hardwood, or other things buried underneath the top layer of tile. Some installers just go right over the old stuff. You didn’t want to see it anymore anyway, right? The problem lies in the additional layer is not only more areas for contaminated water to seep into, but they also act as barriers to getting your home dry!

One more thing… Some of these old materials have glue or mastic that was never removed correctly. It is another moisture trap, but they do make removal a little faster–remember the part about not going in/staying in correctly?

Multiple layers or not, it is absolutely disgusting when you think about it.

It’s even more disgusting when you’re ripping it out with a demolition hammer (we highly recommend our Bosch) and smelling it. Each piece coming out greets you with a “fresh” waft of toilet in need of flushing. Even if the smell has died down over a few months I dare you to pop one off, inhale (keeping your mask on), and tell me it smells like roses.

Now that you have that visual in your head here’s my question for all of the MLS listings I see flooded out by Hurricane Harvey:

Why is it every listing says it is dried out, gutted, and ready for rebuild, but they all still have tile flooring?

Exhibit #1: Courtesy of the MLS. The fan suggests perhaps the house is not so dried out and there there is still moisture not only in the tile, but also the gypsum board (black boards behind the studs) which is seeping into the studs and baseplates around the walls.

Exhibit #1: Courtesy of the MLS. The fan suggests perhaps the house is not so dried out and there there is still moisture not only in the tile, but also the gypsum board (black boards behind the studs) which is seeping into the studs and baseplates around the walls.

Exhibit #1: Courtesy of the MLS. This kitchen tile needs removal because it is soaked with contaminated flood water.

Exhibit #2: Courtesy of the MLS.

Even worse than just tile--the lower half of this kitchen needs to go. If you wanted to know how high the water got here, look no further! I don't even want to think about what is behind those cabinets four months later...

Even worse than just tile–the lower half of this kitchen needs to go. You can see the drywall is taken out up to the 4′ mark in the hallway behind. If you wanted to know how high the water got here, look no further! I don’t even want to think about what is behind those cabinets four months later…

Is it truly gutted, cleaned, dried, and ready for a rebuild if you still have to take more out?

NO!

 

*Water from a burst pipe may or may not need tile removal. It depends on the circumstances and how long it sits.

**Fourth, the tile did not go under the old cabinets. What is the likelihood the new layout will match? My gut feeling says not likely. So it’s coming out anyway…

Fifth, the new tile should go all the way to the wall and install the cabinets on top. Then if you want to change the footprint later it is no big deal. Your dishwasher will go in a lot easier too. Once you install the surrounding cabinets on tile and then place the countertop on top everything is about half an inch taller. This is a significant amount of space to slide the dishwasher into place!

***Not all tiles are impervious to water. For instance, satillo tile is porous

^ANSI/IICRC S500-2015 standard and reference guide for professional water damage restoration (4th ed.). (2015). Las Vegas, NV., NV: IICRC. Standards have been summarized/ paraphrased.

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2 Responses

  1. Aunt Lisa says:

    Still mourning the loss of my fabulous wood-look tile…pictured above with glistening mortar. New dry house has sterile builder’s grade bland white tile. 🙁
    At least it’s dry, yes, but just DARN…sigh…

    • Margaret says:

      I’ve tried to come up with a good reply for days. There just isn’t one. It’s the right thing to do, but it is heartbreaking. It just sucks.