Flooring and Carpeting water under tiles in bathroom and hallway, cement type, installation failures

Flooring and Carpeting /water under tiles in bathroom and hallway


Expert: John Michaels — 1/15/2011


QUESTION: MY insurance company is saying they will not cover damages caused by water under my tile. They are claiming that if the tiles had been installed properly,water would not have traveled under them and done the damage to begin with. I have laminate in another room that was also damaged due to the water traveling under the tiles. They are saying if I can get an engineer to say that they are or were installed properly and that the water could indeed pass under them they may cover it. Thank you for any input or suggestions. Barry

ANSWER: Hi Barry;Thanks for your question. First, your insurance company has not, in my opinion, given you correct information. Depending upon what type of adhesive was used to install your tiles, what trowel size was used by the installer to spread adhesive, what type of underlayment was used directly under your tiles, the source of the water, and the flow of the water, even if correctly installed, water could collect under your tiles and laminate floor. If the installer used a correct adhesive that was water based, the water could seep into the adhesive and cause the installation to fail, since a water based adhesive will absorb moisture. A solvent based adhesive can also be damaged by water. The trowel used to spread the adhesive has teeth, so if you lift a tile, you will see high and low ridges made by the trowel. If water collects in the lower portion of the ridges, even if the correct trowel size was used. If the underlayment is a cement type backerboard, water will destroy it. If the underlayment is plywood, water will cause it to swell and possibly rot. If the underlayment is a concrete subfloor, concrete is absorbent and always moves, so moisture will be absorbed into the concrete. Moisture is the greatest cause of all types of floor covering installation failures.

Laminate should not be cleaned with water, so water under a laminate can permanently damage the laminate planks. If your laminate is installed in the floating method (an underlayment topped with a moisture barrier, topped with the laminate planks, water can easilly collect under the laminate planks. If the laminate is glued directly to an underlayment, then the same adhesive and trowel issues as the tiles, becomes evident.

If the source of the moisture allowed the water to penetrate into the walls and then flow under your floor coverings, even if properly installed, the water can penetrate under your floor coverings. Water will seek its own level, so areas where you see moisture, may not be near the actual souce of the water.

I would suggest that you contact a floor covering inspection service who can visit your installation, do a proper inspection, and issue a certified report if the findings are that your floor coverings are installed correctly and address any other moisture issues they may find.

You don’t indicate where you are located, but if you are located in the U.S. or Canada, such an inspection would probably cost in the upper $200 to mid $300 range. That type of fee appears to be something that your insurance company would reimburse you, if the findings are that your floor coverings are installed correctly. If you are located in the U.S. or Canada, I might suggest you contact MBD Floor Covering Inspection Service. 1-973-334-9747 mbdinspectfloors.com. They have over 900 inspectors scattered throughout their service area which is every city and town in all 50 States, in all the Provinces of Canada, Northern Mexico, and the Caribbean.

I would also suggest that you contact your attorney to review your policy and check into other legal issues that would pertain to your problems. Usually, an insurance company would not put the onus on a policyholder to hire an engineer. They would provide and pay for that service and submit to you a report indicating that your floor coverings are or are not installed properly. If you disagree with their findings, you can always contract on your own, but since they have refused to honor your claims, I would suggest that you have NO FURTHER VERBAL CONVERSATIONS WITH THEM, since should the matter become a legal issue, usually verbal conversations are hearsay evidence that is not acceptable in a U.S. Court of Law. Everything should be in writing and certified mail, with a return receipt request. I am NOT an attorney, so I can’t give you any legal advice. Again, I would suggest that you contract on your own for a floor covering inspection, and seek competent legal advice.

If you have any other questions, please feel free to get back to me.


John Michaels

QUESTION: Just adding some information I missed. Tiles are over terrazo,and grey thinset with an additive was used.The additive was a liquid bonding agent that was mixed in. ( not sure of the name. looked like skim milk ) The floor was etched prior to the install as well.I am not sure of trowel size. 3/8 or 1/2 maybe. tiles are 18 inch.The leak was from a drain pipe and we are unsure of time it was going on. Did not notice until the laminate was starting to curl on the edges.


Hi, again, Barry;All of the needed information, including your additional information in your follow-up question, should be documented in writing, in my opinion, in a certified report made by a certified floor covering inspection service, such as the one I suggested you contact, MBD, in my original answer to you. However, I do suggest that you obtain legal advice to see if your attorney agrees with my suggestion that you contract on your own for such an inspection, so your attorney can send the proper legal information to your insurance company, along with a copy of the inspector’s report. Understand that, without seeing your flooring and water damage, I am guessing that your floor covering was installed correctly, and that the water damage needs to be properly remediated to protect your investments, and that your insurance company is responsible for your costs. Hopefully, such a proper, certified inspection will conclude the installation was done correctly, however the longer you wait, the more damage may occur, since moisture is a prime cause of floor covering installation failures.

P.S. I read your remarks in response to my first answer to you after I sent you this response to your follow-up question. You mention you are in Florida. I just wanted to let you know that MBD has 17 inspectors scattered throughout Florida so they could assist you. Also, where in Florida are you located? The reason I ask is that I know that MBD is holding an inspector’s seminar in S. E. Florida next week, so I’m sure they would be able to respond to your inspection needs quite promptly, HOWEVER, please don’t construe my suggestion of using MBD as ‘pushing’ you to use them. I just know that they have done numerous qualified inspections for inquiries I have received in the past and suggested those people contact MBD. You certainly are free to use any certified floor covering inspection service you desire. I just am making a suggestion based on past history.

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