Glass Tile chipping and cracking

mud

LifeTime Supporter
Mar 31, 2010
73
My build was finished last summer and we had Oceanside glass tile installed around the outside of our spillover spa. We knew there would be some maintenance issues with this tile in terms of removing calcium build-up so we were expecting that. What we weren't expecting is tiles to be cracking and chipping along a line of what appears to be calcium that is leaching or running down the outside of the spa from the bottom of the coping, which is concrete. The calcium cleans off easy enough but off course continues to come back. This is also a safety issue because of course I'm getting glass fragments that are falling in the pool.

We've also had 2 tiles fall off at the top near the spillover.

Is this an install problem, tile problem, or was a concrete coping on top of glass tile a bad idea?

Here is a picture of the spa right after pool was completed. I'll add another picture of the cracked tile when I get a chance.

 

mud

LifeTime Supporter
Mar 31, 2010
73
Exactly. I don't understand why the tiling is cracking but whatever is running down the side of the spa is white and the tile is cracking along that line.
 

JasonLion

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May 7, 2007
37,879
Silver Spring, MD
That sounds like a water leak behind the tile causing swelling of the grout and/or underlying concrete, which puts pressure on the tile, which can crack it. As the water slowly comes out from behind it can carry along dissolved minerals when are left behind as the water evaporates. The most likely root cause is water getting splashed up under the coping when the jets are running or people are in the spa, which then slowly migrates to behind the tile. It should be possible to seal the coping and stop the problem. Doing so may be easy or complex depending on where exactly the leak actually is and how the coping was originally sealed to the top of the wall.
 

PoolGuyNJ

TFP Expert
May 20, 2007
3,192
South Central NJ
It's likely a two fold issue:

Glass tile is a MAJOR PITA to install correctly. There is no room for error.

Glass tiles tend to be cheaply made. They chip and crack.

I am as ANTI-GLASS ANYTHING near or in a pool as you can get.

As beautiful as it can be, and yours is very sharp looking, IMHO, it should be banned for the risks presented far outweigh an positives.

The coping has nothing to do with it except as a leachate source.

Scott
 

mud

LifeTime Supporter
Mar 31, 2010
73
Thanks for responding Jason and Scott. I'm going to talk to my PB and also the glass company to see what, if anything, can be done. Only 2 options in my mind are to replace glass tile that is directly over pool with waterline tile or to replace all glass tile with waterline tile. I'm not confident of a permanent fix unless they find a leak of some sort that Jason suggests. I can find no evidence of a leak though. Tile is dry where it is cracking.

Here is a picture. I've recently cleaned the tile so no white whatchamacallit at the moment.

 

mud

LifeTime Supporter
Mar 31, 2010
73
The crack in the picture is the worst spot but there are 2 others. The rest of the glass and coping is fine so I don't think spa is settling.
 

duraleigh

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Apr 1, 2007
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Sebring, Florida
Since that crack goes through several tiles and appears to be a continuous crack, I would have to guess, like Shane1, it is coming from movement of the spa and not defective tiles or poor installation of individual tiles.

In other words, I would have think the structure has settled/moved based on what I see in that picture.
 

solarboy

Well-known member
Aug 1, 2010
337
Europe
Looks like a crack in the shell to me, allowing water to come through from inside the pool until it hits the tiles/grout where it is lifting them off the shell and leaching out through the grout lines bringing concrete salts with it. If you tap it it might even sound hollow. I imagine there is probably a crack inside too.
 

mud

LifeTime Supporter
Mar 31, 2010
73
I don't see any other evidence of movement. Waterline tile in the spa is fine, plaster is fine, coping is fine. We'll see what the PB says.

If it is settling, what are the options? I imagine with other materials along the outside of the spa like stone or regular tiles, you wouldn't see this much damage with settling.
 

G-MAN

New member
Apr 25, 2009
3
I do not know where you are located but in PA, we would have installed an expansion joint between the concrete deck and the base of the spa to alleviate any pressure from possible settlement or movement. I agree with others, this is a structural crack in the shell; not uncommon with raised spas in general. There is no sure-fire way to fix the crack permanently, so you have to find a way to make it work; take off the tile in the immediate area. Clean up the crack and seal it with a polyurethane caulk. When putting the new tile back on, line up the grout joints and/or cut the tiles so that they do not bridge the crack. Re-grout the tile but avoid the space over the crack. This will have to be caulked instead of grouted to allow for movement. This will not look perfect but, with patience, can be done so that it looks descent and limits the chance of future failure.
 

mud

LifeTime Supporter
Mar 31, 2010
73
Really appreciate all the input you guys are giving me. PB had a look today and is going to have his tile guy come out and remove the tiles around the crack to see what he finds. I know these glass tiles can't be cut so only other choice would be to see if we can get square tiles of same style/color. We'll see what they find.
 

mud

LifeTime Supporter
Mar 31, 2010
73
No updates yet. We have had lots of rain in Northern California and so PB's tile guy has not had a chance to come out yet. I'm sure he's backed up at this point.
 

mud

LifeTime Supporter
Mar 31, 2010
73
Tile guy removed the tile around the crack pictured above and found no cracks in the underlying shell. He replaced the tiles but there still is no root cause as to what is causing the cracking. Every cracked tile I've seen has a white residue that has leached out from the shell or concrete and seems to be reacting with the glass tile, causing it to crack. I have been brushing off this white residue at least once a week to hopefully prevent new cracks from forming but this is something I shouldn't have to do.

Has anybody else with glass tile seen this problem? Pretty sure PB and tile guy have no clue how to solve this problem but I'll continue to push for some solution. I think PB needs to get in touch with the glass manufacturer.