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Q&A: Tiling tales

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Q&A: Tiling tales

Eloise writes: 
Q: My aunt loves your column and reads it religiously. She suggested I ask your advice.
We built a small home for my parents-in-law a couple of years ago in a plot-and-plan complex in Bainsvallei, Wellington.
The process began on June 1, 2014 – a cash sale – and was supposed to take a few months. We took occupation in November 2015, after too many issues to mention.
Anyway, as per the letter sent to the National Home Builders Registration Council, the latest problem is the floor tiles are lifting after 18 months. What is the solution, and do we have any recourse? The whole letter is too long to publish and Eloise has since sent me photos and a note:
We are still waiting for the builder and tiler to come to have a look. When they get a chance. The man from the NHBRC actually replied to me and said, “should there be structural damage or sagging, it will show”, and then I can contact their complaints department. 
However, if it is a tiling product issue, we can’t. He did not explain what I would see if the problem was structural.
A: Regular readers will know I am not a flag-bearer for the NHBRC, as I believe you get little cover for the money you pay in and it has become another point for the collection of money to be wasted by the government on supporting a body which achieves little.
As to the tiling problem and the possibility of structural damage/sagging, here’s what you should look for: Is there an an increasing gap between the skirting boards and the tiles? Are the tiles cracking or is it just the joints? As for sagging, does water puddle when the floors are washed? You can also try putting a marble down to see if it rolls.
In your first letter you mention groundwater problems when the houses were built. If this was not attended to properly or the floors were not laid on a proper damp-proof-course, this could cause the tiles to pop. 
You also need to check for soft expansion joints in the tiles to allow some movement on the joints. Also check for tiles which are not lifting, yet sound hollow. This you do by tapping them with something solid – you will notice a difference in the pitch as you move from tile to tile.
If the tiles were not properly bedded in a good adhesive they will pop as temperatures rise, causing air expansion underneath, worsened if moisture is present. 
Chase the contractor and tiler to come and inspect – not when they have a chance.
As the NHBRC say, they will not cover you for bad tiling or materials but will if there has been some movement/failure of the surface bed you might have a claim. Do not agree to them sticking tiles down until you have proof of what is causing them to lift.
If you have a question for Don, please send it to don@macalister.co.za or SMS only to 082 446 3859. Find Don on FB: facebook.com/thehandymac 
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