Do Large Floor Tiles Crack More Easily?

When choosing tiles for your floor, what size is best? Should you go with large or small tiles? Will large floor tiles get damaged more easily than the smaller ones? We asked the experts and here's what we found out.

Large format tiles do not crack more easily than smaller tiles. Tiles in general are durable as long as they are installed properly. But bigger tiles do require more careful installation and the use of the right materials to prevent breaks.

Continue reading so we can tell you more about why large format tiles won't necessarily crack more easily than smaller tiles. We'll also tell you the reasons why large tiles crack and how to prevent tile breaks. This article will also answer if it's better to use bigger tiles than small tiles. Let's get right into it!

close up photo of a large ceramic floor tile on the floor, premium captured photo, Do Large Floor Tiles Crack More Easily?

Are large tiles more likely to crack?

Tiles are a popular choice for flooring materials among homeowners. They are durable and can last a lifetime if installed the right way. They also require very little maintenance for their cleanliness and appearance.

Best of all, tiles make your floors beautiful. You have numerous options to choose from when it comes to style, color, and sizes. The style and color will depend upon your personal preference and how it complements the overall look of your house.

photo of a large ceramic floor tile on the hardware store

But when it comes to choosing the right size, many homeowners are confused. Does tile size matter especially when it comes to durability?

As we've said earlier, tiles are durable and long-lasting. It doesn't matter if they are in a small or large format. This means that larger tiles do not necessarily crack more easily than smaller ones.

Correct Substrate Prevents Broken Tile

However, larger tiles require more careful installation not just because of their size and weight. The bigger the tile is, the more susceptible it is to what happens on the subfloor. That's why you need to give special attention to the substrate.

You need your substrate and underlayment to be stronger, flatter, and leave adequate room for movement. It should be able to support the size and weight of your large tiles. Experts are also very strict when it comes to the flatness of the surface to avoid tiles breaking.

Movement joints are also required to make room for thermal expansion that naturally happens beneath the surface. This is why you need to inform your contractor right away if you plan to use large format tiles in your home so that they can make the necessary preparations.

Why do large format tiles crack?

Just to clarify, large format tiles refer to floor or wall tiles that are bigger than the average 12x12 sized tiles. These tiles can even be as big as 40x120!

But as we've said earlier, they are no more prone to cracking than their smaller counterparts if handled correctly. So, if you see large tiles crack, here are the possible reasons why it happened.

  • Improper installation. There are stringent requirements when it comes to the installation of large format tiles. Make sure you get the services of a trusted contractor who can do this job correctly.
  • Hard impact. Tiles would possibly yield when you drop a particularly heavy item on their surface.
  • Heavy loads. Make sure they are designed for the kind of load that they'll be consistently subjected to. Don't use wall tiles for floor tiles because they don't have the same load capacity.
  • Cracking in the substrate. This can be due to temperature changes on the ground that cause the concrete substrate to expand and contract. If the substrate cracks, the tiles above could also crack.
  • Lack of control joints. These are important as they make allowances for thermal expansion. If there are not enough control joints or when the tiles are incorrectly placed in reference to these joints, cracking could occur since you have little room for movement.

These are the common reasons why large format tiles crack. See, it's not necessarily because of their size, right?

How do you prevent large tiles from breaking?

Now that you know the common reasons why large tiles crack or break, here are some tips from the experts on how to prevent this from happening. After all, you wouldn't want to spend on repair costs, do you?

The key here is in informing your contractor right away that you prefer to use large tiles on your floor. This way, they would know what to do to avoid tile breakage in the future.

Tips for Preventing Large Format Broken Tiles

photo of a man, a floor tile installer installing the large floor tile properly

Here are installation tips from the experts.

Flat Substrate

Allowable flatness variation is only less than ">1/8 inch for every 10 feet or 1/16 inch for every 24 inches of space.

Use self-leveling underlayment on floors, especially on concrete slabs. Use a primer before leveling. Choose a leveler based on the functionality of the floor. If it is a high-traffic area - choose a leveler with high compressive strength.

Mortar Formulated for Large Format Tiles

It should be able to support their weight to prevent sagging. Use ANSI A1 18.15 HT mortars plus look for those with higher flexibility.

Full Mortar Coverage on Substrate and Tile Undersides

Comb the mortars in straight lines instead of going in random directions while covering the substrate. Underneath the large tiles, make sure the mortar is flat.

Add a Crack Isolation Membrane Between the Substrate and Tile

This is a layer of protection for the thermal changes that happen on the subfloor level. It could be in the form of fabric or liquid rubber polymer. It would also help a lot if it comes with waterproofing properties.

Check out this waterproofing crack isolation membrane on Amazon.

Specific Movement Joist Locations

These are critical to determining if your large tiles will break or not. The lack of these joints is the primary cause of broken tiles. Leave room for movement due to thermal expansion due to direct sun exposure and natural shifting of the ground.

Movement joints should be along the perimeters and where there are plane changes. Use a permanently flexible sealant along the joints.

Installed properly, large format tiles can last a lifetime and do not have to crack save of course, when there are accidents that cause them to break or the load upon the tiles is more than their capacity. So, don't be afraid to use them in your house.

Learn more about the importance of movement joists below: 

Are bigger floor tiles better?

photo of a large huge ceramic floor tiles on the store hardware display

Using large format tiles makes the space look bigger than it actually is. There are fewer grout lines that make the floor look less busy and more open.  They suit those who prefer a minimalist and more contemporary look.

Bigger tiles also give your floor a cleaner and more cohesive look. There are fewer distractions from grout lines and more continuity when it comes to their color and design. This enriches the visual texture of your floor.

However, bigger tiles are more challenging to install given their precise requirements for the flatness level and the materials to be used.

It is also not for all room types. You won't achieve balance when you use large tiles in smaller areas of your house such as the bathroom and kitchen sink.

We will not go as far as saying that bigger floor tiles are better. But they do have their advantages that you can optimize to enhance the look of your home.

Final Thoughts

close up photo of a large ceramic floor tile on the floor, premium captured photo

Large format tiles won't necessarily break more easily than smaller tiles but you have to ensure that the right materials are used and proper installation is observed so that they won't crack under pressure.

For more articles about tiles, feel free to visit the following links:

How To Fix Uneven Porcelain Floor Tiles – What To Do?

How To Tile A Mudroom Floor