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Why Do Floor Tiles Pop Up & How to Protect Them?

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Tile is rather different than any type of flooring on the market, as its damage and incidents are nothing like most other styles of flooring. A common one of those many different issues is when the tile pops up from its place. So, why does this happen?

Popped tile could be caused by a variety of factors, including Improper installation, an uneven flooring surface and moisture. To prevent tiles from popping up, use a sturdy underlayment, protect the flooring from potential water damage, and keep the subfloor as even as possible.

Let’s descrLet’s go over each cause in further detail, along with the best way to address it.

Why Floor Tiles Pop Up?

Why Floor Tiles Pop Up?

There are several reasons why tiles pop out from the floor including rather complex ones such as poor installation techniques to more simple ones like uneven subfloor surfaces. Even though it is difficult to determine exactly which reason caused the issue, we can gather all of them into three general groups.

An Improper Installation Process

Tiles are supposed to be installed on top of a layer called underlayment, which is typically made out of plywood or oriented strand board (OSB). But some people don’t use an underlayment, particularly in the case where it is not required by the local building code.

This practice often results in tiles popping out since when you walk on the floor, it flexes down and back up again.


Use an underlayment that is strong enough to carry tiles. If you are laying tiles over carpet, use 5/8 inch plywood as underlayment. For tile over hardwood, use 1/2 inch plywood.

NOTE: Some building codes do not allow carpet or other flooring materials to be installed directly on the subfloor. In this case, you need an additional layer of 1/4 inch cement backerboard before installing the tile.

Uneven subfloor surface

Another reason why tiles pop out is that there are high spots in the underlayment or the subfloor itself. Again, when you walk on these high spots or move your furniture across them, they cause upward pressure against the tiles.


It is best to install tiles over a level subfloor. However, if the floor is not perfectly flat, you can often get rid of high spots by shimming under them with 1/4 inch plywood. This way you are leveling the tile itself not the subfloor since whatever is below (underlayment or finished floor) will still be uneven.

Moisture damage to subfloor or underlayment

The third group of reasons is related to moisture damage which can be caused by a leaky pipe or other problems in the surrounding area. Moisture damages wood over time rendering it weaker and less compressible compared to dry wood, resulting in edges coming up even if installed on a perfectly flat surface.


You need to identify the source of water damage or leak and take care of it. Once this is done, wait until the floor dries up completely before laying tiles. If you are installing tile on top of plywood, you can speed up the process by using a hairdryer or renting a commercial moisture meter that detects high humidity levels in materials.

How to Fix Popped Tiles?

Tiles are generally fitted together by means of a strong adhesive that also fills in any small gaps between adjacent tiles’ edges. When one tile pops up it not only takes with it any grout that may have surrounded it but it leaves behind an unsightly gap in your otherwise finished floor.

Fixing popped tiles yourself requires removing them carefully to access the area underneath before using new adhesive to stick them back down securely.

Step 1: Remove poped Tile

To fix a popped tile, you first need to remove it as carefully as possible without causing any damage to the surrounding floor.

To remove the poped or loose tile slowly pry out from under the edges of the tile with a small chisel and hammer until you can safely get your hands on it. Once you have removed all four sides try using either side of your chisel to gently tap the square edged piece of the broken edge off while applying even downward pressure.

Be careful not to damage any adjacent tiles when removing a popped up floor tile because if you do, you will need to repair the damage before proceeding any further.

TIP: You can use a propane torch or hair dryer on high heat to soften the adhesive underneath the popped tile so it becomes more pliable and easier to remove.

Step 2: Prepare Underneath for New Adhesive

After removing the popped up tile, clean away all remnants of sanded grout from under where the tile was situated so that you have an unobstructed view of the floor. Use a damp cloth if necessary!

Be careful not to get water beneath your tiles while cleaning them off because some adhesives may not be waterproof and the added weight of the water could cause them to pop up too! If you must wet down floors make sure they are completely dried!

TIP: Use a hair dryer set on high heat to quickly evaporate any water droplets before proceeding.

Apply New Adhesive to floor tile.

Step 3: Apply New Adhesive

After letting the floor dry completely, use your putty knife to put down a thin line of adhesive about 1 inch long.

TIP: Use an adhesive that is recommended for tiled floors (not bathtubs or basements) because some adhesives may not adhere to certain types of grout! Typically, that will be non-sanded grout only.

Step 4: Press into Place with Putty Knife & Weight/Rubber Mallet

Press the popped tile back down onto the new adhesive you just laid out by applying even downward pressure on top of it with your putty knife and tapping around its edges with a rubber Mallet if necessary.

TIP: For best results, use a mallet instead of something that will mar the tile such as a hammer.

Step 5: Grout your Tiles

Grout and re-grout your tiles to finish them off and create a uniform look for your newly fixed floor!

If you were unable to remove all of the old adhesive before applying new adhesive or if the popped up tile is in an out-of-the-way area such as under cabinets where it won’t be easily seen you can opt not to re-grout your tiles. This can save time because grouting takes patience!

However, it may leave you with less durability and moisture resistance underfoot! It’s up to you how much work you want to put into your floors.

TIP: If you choose not to re-grout your tiles, make sure any adhesive that remains is as flush as possible with the floor and dry as thoroughly as possible before letting anyone walk on it again.

Step 6: Wait & Enjoy!

Now all you need to do is wait for your adhesive to fully set and dry and then enjoy your brand new, fixed floor!

Now you know what it takes to fix a popped tile in a tiled floor and how easy and relatively quick it can be done by yourself without too much hassle or money!

How to protect floor Tiles from Popping up?

There are many reasons for tiles popping up, but most often it is caused by moisture. The problem can be that the floor is not properly ventilated or water accumulated on the surface of the tiles. If you let this happen without correcting the cause then you need to know that it may lead to serious consequences like shifting of entire construction.

One solution would be installing underfloor heating system, if there is no previous installation of such system in your property or opting for another type of heating or insulating materials.

Although these solutions will resolve the issue, but they come with a price tag attached to them and may not serve your purpose if you already have tiles installed.

We planned these tips for you that will extend life of your tiles and prevent them from popping up.

Clean Your Tiles With Neutral Detergents.

Clean Your Tiles With Neutral Detergents

If you are wondering what is the easiest way to keep your tiles clean then it is by using neutral detergents. Do not use any acid washing materials on tiles as they can erode the surface of tiles over time, make sure you read the label on cleaning product before buying one.

Take Care of Your Tiles at The Right Time

Prevention is always better than cure, so if your area of residence have more rainfall or snowfall then it would be beneficial to inspect conditions of your floor more frequently. Taking care of them before facing damage will save you from headaches later on.

Protect Floor From Direct Sunlight

Direct sunlight damages flooring products every day, so try covering your roof if possible or look for some other ways.

Use Sealant

Sealant is available in different types, if you got tiles which are not glazed then it would be better to use acrylic sealer. Acrylic sealer does not change the colour of tile and can provide protection against staining.

For glazed surfaces you can try using silicon-based sealers like siloxanes which will make your tiles shine even after adding protective layer on them.

If you are too lazy to go through all this trouble then at least make sure that you inspect your Tile floors more often for any damage. If possible try using underfloor heating system which is one of the best ways to protect floor Tiles from Popping up.

Related Questions

What Do I Do If I Dig Out Divots in My Cement Boards?

Don’t worry about this too much, as mistakes happen sometimes. Simply apply some mortar to the area and it should be good to go.

How Do I Pick Out the Right Color Grout?

If you still have the previous bag or bucket of grout available, simply check that. If not, you can always remove a piece of grout and compare with the colors presented either in-store or online with images of the product.

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