An Introduction To Movement Joints

Ceramic and stone tiles can be subjected to a variety of strains and stresses caused by movement in the tiled surface, leading to tiles bulging, cracking or becoming detached from the substrate.

Movement joints compensate for the movement of tiles which extends down through the tiles, the bed and screed layer below.

Without them the shear stress builds up between the tile and the screed, causing debonding, bulging and cracking. Therefore these stress-relieving joints are an essential part of any tiling installation, and should be incorporated at the design stage.

Movement joints create a tile field which moves independently from those around it, and should be included at set distances in floor and wall tiles, in accordance with recommendations from the British Standards Institution (BSI). BS 5385 says the maximum tile field should be no more than ten metres in each direction for floors - but in practice, depending on the individual application, it tends to be between five and eight metres for floors, and every three to four-point-five metres on walls.

Installing the appropriate movement joints in line with those recommendations, will prevent tiles from cracking, bulging and debonding. And by "appropriate," that means one which can do what is being asked of it.

There are different widths of pre-formed movement joints, and the correct width and material - brass, aluminium, stainless steel or PVC - must be specified to take thermal movement into account.

The amount of movement that can be absorbed - and therefore the degree of protection given by the joint - depends on the size of the profile and the compressible material used. Pre-formed surface joints will usually accommodate movement up to 20% of the movement zone width.

A 10mm joint will extend and compress by approximately 2mm. One of Schlüter's stress relieving movement joints, the Schlüter-DILEX-KS, has a movement zone of 11mm, will accommodate up to 2.5mm of tile movement. Because there are specific movement joints for specific types of application, most tiling failures are caused by using joints that aren't suitable for what is being demanded of them. There are many situations, each with their own technically engineered solution in the form of the correct joint.
 
Very often the problem can be caused by using the wrong joint - one that is not able to meet the requirements that are demanded of it.

Generally aluminium is ideal for commercial use; with brass and stainless steel needed for heavy duty commercial and industrial projects such as warehouses,  production facilities and  airports, and where the tiled surface is cleaned by a scrubbing machine, or where there are rolling loads such as pallet trucks and metal-rimmed trolleys. Stainless steel is also ideal in places like laboratories and food processing plants where chemicals are used. PVC can be used for residential and medium duty commercial applications including offices and swimming pools, and areas subject to light mechanical loading such as showrooms and car dealerships.

Many calls to Schlüter's technical support service refer to application problems, where no joint or the wrong joint has been used.

Other callers seek advice before the work is carried out - and we would say that it's in everyone's best interests to ensure that ceramic and stone tiles are installed with the correct movement joints.

Prevention is always better than the cure  which is why Schlüter is always happy to advise on the requirements of individual projects, as well as delivering a variety of training courses on the use of movement joints.



   
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