Kitchen Tile Troubles – On the House

Kitchen Tile Troubles

By on April 17, 2014
curling tile floor


I am writing to you in hopes of resolving a problem that I have been faced with for the past few months. I do hope you will be able to respond by mail since the overseas delivery of my newspaper is not always dependable.

I am leasing a split-level house in West Germany that was built in 1985. The kitchen is on the ground floor (above the basement) and has large square “tiles” for flooring. In recent months, the tiles have started to come unglued. I believe that the tiles are some type of PVC flooring but I am not positive. The edges of the tile are beginning to curl up. I have looked under the tile and found that the adhesive used in installation is no longer bonding the tile to the floor. Also, gaps have occurred at the edges of some of the tiles (up to an eighth of an inch).

I don’t know whether this would have any bearing on the problem but this kitchen sits above an unheated basement. The basement room does have a high level of humidity because of the heating system that is located there.

Here in Germany, landlords do not pay for house repairs – tenants do. And I am really frustrated. Help!



We’ll call this one “The Case of the Incredible Shrinking (and Curling) Floor”. To coin a phrase – you hit the nail right on the head – a cold basement with a hot furnace and we’re willing to bet that there’s no floor insulation either.First, it will be important to eliminate the real cause of the damage to prevent a recurrence once the floor tiles have been repaired. This is done by reducing the transmission of moist air that is currently traveling from the basement to the kitchen via the floor. All you have to do is fill the basement-ceiling cavity (below the kitchen floor) with spun glass insulation. Use the paper-backed type and make sure the paper side is placed up toward the kitchen. Both the insulation and its backing will absorb a substantial amount of the moisture giving natural air circulation a chance to evaporate the moisture at the insulation level instead of the finish floor covering level. Also, the addition of the insulation will make that area above a more comfortable and energy efficient place to live. Insulation netting is stapled to the floor-framing members (below the insulation) to hold the material in place.

To repair the curling tiles they must be made soft and pliable. Heating them does this. Although a hair dryer does work, we prefer to use a clothes iron to a bath towel. Once the tile is soft, re-affix the curled edges to the floor with a generous portion of Dap Tub and Tile Caulk (a great all purpose glue). Once the edges have been rejoined, wipe off the excess adhesive with a damp towel. Finally, cover the repaired seam with wax paper and a heavy object to hold everything in place. The wax paper will prevent the heavy object from sticking to the glued seam.

Our guess is the tiles that have an eighth-inch gap have shrunk. Under the conditions mentioned we aren’t surprised. Here, the tiles will have to be replaced. Removing them will be easier if they are heated first. However, if replacement tiles aren’t available, or too expensive, then fill the joint with ceramic tile grout (in a matching color). This will keep food and debris from getting into the joints, and help to hide the unsightly gap.

Germany or not, a landlord that isn’t willing to pay for sensible repairs that improve the life, value and condition of the property is, in our opinion, a slum-lord. Move – and stick them with an empty property. Remember good old American supply vs. demand.

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