Damp quarry tiles in kitchen

28 Feb 2008
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United Kingdom
just moved in victorian terrace house where kitchen floor at the back of the house was covered with lino. When we removed lino we discovered quarry tiles covered in some places with what looks like levelling compound. The floor is considerably uneven and damp! I know that we have to put down some damp-proofing before considering new flooring but can someone tell me what to do? membrane or liquid damp-proofing?on top of existing tiles or should we remove the tiles first! thanks for any advice.
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what to do

the straight fwd answer is dig it out and put a new concrete floor in. this is a big job but doable as diy'er (hard graft i'm afraid though) and it should be done through building control on a building notice (which is easy to sort) to gain a completion cert for when selling on.

for other options it's more difficult to say if it's worth the short "temp" fix or not. much depends upon on how "solid" the floor is (are the tiles going anywhere ie loose) and how level it is.

if its reasonably level then a dpm on top before the finish floor covering (ie laminate, carpet) would stop the damp causing early failure of the covering.

if its not that level then a liquid dpm and self leveller would make do. the problem with this approach is that the performance of the liquid dpm is dependent upon the base (ie tiles) being "solid" enough not to move and cause the dpm to crack. the depth of leveller is not enough to prevent cracking unless the sub base is firm.

given you've just moved in i would go for dpm sheet if you can, perhaps with laminate and thick-ish (~4mm) underlay (not foam). this will at least give you a few yrs to consider long term options.
ccyto - are the existing tiles worth saving? Could be your tiles are the original 'unglazed' quarry tiles (terra-cotta) often found in situations similar to yours. Because they aren't glazed they allow moisture through from below, not a problem if they're allowed to 'breathe'; covered with lino/compound etc. prevents the moisture from escaping so creating damp (or often very wet) areas (remember they were never meant to be covered). If the tiles are in decent nick and you can live with the uneven surface (old house = character = nothing straight, flush, plumb = character) why not try them un-covered (the damp evidence will go) for a while? The uneveness is probably due to the sub-floor - I've seen these made from crushed rubble, or ash, or sand, or earth, or shell.

If you want a dead-flat floor you'll have to dig it up and start again, but I say "old house - accept the character".
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thank you for the answer, I will dig the floor out as we are planning to put in a new kitchen so don't want to take the risk of messing it.

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