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Construction Industry/tile underlayment in high rise


QUESTION: I'm considering whether or not to use a ceramic tile underlayment on a 2 level condo on the 22nd floor each with concrete slabs.  The building is located on the beach and can be subject to high winds (if a hurricane or nor'easter came along).  I understand the membrane underlayment is supposed keep the tile from cracking but I'm wondering if the building would move that much to crack the tiles without it.  What do you think?

ANSWER: Hello Andrew,

You are correct - tile underlayment will "reduce" cracking but will not necessarily prevent the tile from cracking.  The movement of a building due to temperature change is rather minor but the underlayment will help.  A high rise building is subject to movement or sway in normal wind conditions which typically will also be absorbed by the underlayment.  A hurricane is another matter.  I live in S.E. Florida - hurricane country - and I have built high rise condos directly on the ocean.  Lucky me - the last few hurricanes have not caused tile cracking.

Ceramic floor tile is generally wall to wall and any movement can be a problem since the tile has little or no room for expansion. The modest extra cost of underlayment could be money well spent if you experience a hurricane or excessively high winds.

I hope this was helpful

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---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Is there anything that could or should be installed along the perimeter of the tiling where it meets the walls to allow for movement/expansion in lieu of the underlayment?


If you are using wood baseboard with a quarter round shoe, extend the tile so it is under the baseboard but not tight against the wall.  Install the baseboard and shoe by nailing into the wall only.  Do not force the baseboard down on the tile - just set it on the tile with no pressure.

If you are installing a tile baseboard, you may use a mastic to adhere the baseboard to the wall but don't put any mastic or mortar on the part of the baseboard tile that touches the floor tile.

I hope this was helpful.

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Roger Zona


I am experienced in all types of construction: residential, industrial and commercial; single family, multi-family, mid-rise and high rise buildings (16 story office building) as well as remodeling, additions and tenant improvements. I can field most any question that relates to general construction. I have consulted with infrastructure (utility) contractors also and have a good general knowledge of underground utility construction for subdivisions and commercial projects.


After college, I began my career in the construction industry. I chose to become an apprentice Architect and 4 yrs later I opened my own architectural design firm. Six years later I moved to Florida to buy & develop land and build. I became a State of Florida Certified General Contractor and operated my business for 45 years. I built all types of residential and commercial buildings including warehouses, shopping centers, high rise apartments and office buildings and developed sites for other contractors. I retired and became a consultant to the construction industry. I maintain my license and continuing education requirements, operate a small construction company and write a weekly newspaper column for the Palm Beach Post (a Cox publication) with the byline "Ask The Contractor". I am the "technical editor" for a publisher of books that relate to home maintenance.

Previously - NAHA Currently - FLCA (Florida Licensed Contractors Assoc.)

Palm Beach Post newspaper - weekly Q & A column Happy Herald monthly real estate publication - monthly column

Michigan State University University of Detroit BS in Engineering

Past/Present Clients
I built a home in Palm Beach for a member of the Pulitzer Family. I was responsible for the completion of a twin hi-rise condominium project for G.E. Credit. I was a partner in the successful development of a P.U.D. (Planned Urban Development) subdivision. I represented the largest home builder from France (Bati Service, S.A.) in the development of a subdivision and the design and construction of the homes.

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