Advice on what went wrong with this tile?

Petra2012May 15, 2014

I posted this on the "Building a Home" forum too, but figured there might be more tile advice on the Bathrooms forum, even though it's a fireplace....

We finally moved into our ICF home a few months back. Just 2 weeks ago, we made a decision on the fireplace (finally!) and it was tiled with honed vein cut travertine. As you can see from the pictures, it's very tall (20' ceilings) and at the top there are still a lot of "spots" remaining on the tile.

Initially, the ENTIRE fireplace looked like this upon application. (The tiles did not look like this new in the box). However, after grouting everything, the "spotty" look disappeared and it turned out great, except for about 2 feet at the very top. We keep wondering if it could be moisture at the top and it's just not getting as much air circulation to dry, but as time goes on and there are no changes, that does not appear to be a correct theory. It has been over 2 weeks now.

Any advice on what these marks are, and what the cause could be? Thanks in advance for any and all comments re: this.

p.s. I will post a few more pictures in a reply post since I can only post one at a time

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close-up pic

    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 11:01AM
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One more

    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 11:02AM
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They most likely used mastic instead of thinset. Did you happen to take any pictures of the in progress, or the products that they used?

    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 1:22PM
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Also, yes, you're correct in thinking it's moisture. Tall rooms with inadequate air flow often have "dead spots" where condensation can occur, especially if there happens to be a spot where the insulation isn't thick enough.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 1:24PM
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That is really weird. Is there a rain cap on the top of the chimney? Could water somehow be getting in between the liner and the stack?

    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 4:34PM
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I found out that they used bersa bond thinset.

No, it's not even a "real" chimney - it's a concrete wall and one of those ethanol-alcohol burning fireplaces so there's nothing above it other than regular roof, just an illusion.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 4:57PM
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Alcohol produces a lot of moisture when burned. If you don't have a whole house ventilation system in a very tight house, you can have other issues with moisture rearing it's head. Do you have a fresh air intake on your HVAC?

    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 5:01PM
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Versabond comes in gray and white. For travertine it's my understanding that white thinset should be used since with gray thinset there is the possibility of bleed through. That might be what is happening to your tile.

Do your tile guys have any ideas about what is going on?

    Bookmark   May 16, 2014 at 12:06AM
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Looks like they didn't shuffle the tile boxes before installation. Rookie mistake.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2014 at 6:38AM
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Would they have just blobbed the thinset on in spots before installing each tile? Because of the uniform spotting, it almost looks "man-made". The thinset you say was used was probably VersaBond by Custom Building Products.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2014 at 12:22PM
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Was the tile 'Spot Set' ?

    Bookmark   May 16, 2014 at 10:39PM
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Am I imagining things or do I see the same spots (although much fainter) all the way down in your last picture?

At first I was guessing that it's moisture. On an episode of 'The Block', they had the same spots show up on the granite tiles they used in the bathroom. They disappeared as it dried. I am assuming that with little air flow way up there, that it's taking longer to dry out. However, if there ARE still spots (though faint) on all the other tiles, that's not a good thing!

    Bookmark   May 17, 2014 at 12:15AM
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I'd get on a ladder and take a Bernz-O-Matic to those tile (okay a heat gun for you wussies) and see if intense heat could dry the tile.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2014 at 3:51PM
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