Review of QEP tile levelers for diy

suzanne_slJune 12, 2014

We're in the midst of tiling our tub surround with 12 x 24 tiles and I thought I'd share how the QEP tile levelers from Home Depot are working out.

I spent a lot of time researching tile leveling systems and ended up with the ones from Home Depot because they were the only ones that made sense economically for a one-off use. One of the big criticisms was that they killed your thumbs after a while, but in a 5' tub alcove installation this wasn't an issue. If I were in the business of doing this sort of tiling, I'd go with one of the fancier systems, but for this application I am more than satisfied with the performance and ease of use of the QEP. When we took out the spacers and the wedges this morning (which was easy), everything was level and perfect looking except for a couple of small areas on the edge tile where we didn't use the levelers. By the time we get the grout in, I'm pretty sure no one will notice the imperfections but us. [Note: if you want a 1/16" space between your tiles you don't need spacers, just the levelers. We needed a 3/16" space for these tiles, so we used a spacer along with the levelers. Works just fine.]

FYI: In this photo we have 2 ledger boards. Those big tiles are really heavy! The bottom one is because it's recommended to do that and put the lowest tile on last so everything up above is perfectly level. It's so level, you can pin a star on us! The second ledger board is because we're putting a mosaic tile in there and there's no way it would support those big tiles above it. Those finish areas are today's job. The green on the wall is Hydro Ban for waterproofing. When we took the ledger boards off, we screwed the screws back in and painted over them with more Hydro Ban - currently waiting for it to dry so we can finish the job. We used little nails at the bottom and sides of the finish tiles on the edge because they slide down the wall without support - yes, we tried it. Those holes got Hydro Banned too.

Here is a link that might be useful: QEP spacer clips-Part A

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We often use blue painters tape to hold the sliding tiles in place and save the extra holes in the waterproofing.

Good Job

    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 3:29PM
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I have about 400 sq/ft of tile. I purchased the Tuscan Leveling System. Works well.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 8:58AM
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This is great to hear. It looks fantastic. Those big tiles are hard to use. I used a more expensive leveling system on my floor with a screw cap devise. I wasn't thrilled with it but it did ok. I thought that I could do better on the wall without the system because the spacers were so hard to break off, I didn't want the risk. I wished I would have gone to HD to look at their system. I have lippage fairly evenly spaced throughout my beautiful shower :( My shower still looks lovely but the flaws are there. It is really noticeable with the overhead shower light is on, casting shadows on the lippage.

Thanks to my carpenter, my walls are very straight. My tiles are FLAT. I used an offset pattern at approx 1/3. So I think the lippage was all my fault. I used Laticrete 254 Platinum, which works like frosting, I loved it.

Fortunately I got all the tiles plumb and level in all directions and the shower doors were installed perfectly square. The tiles are just so big it was hard for me to work with them.

Lesson learned.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 9:47AM
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Thanks for the review!
We also bought Tuscan Leveling System kit and it worked very well for getting rid of lippage and for speeding up the installation process. We used 12"x24" porcelain tiles on walls. We plan to use this kit again for our master bath remodeling.

The only disadvantage of TLS is its high cost..

    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 10:52AM
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If I ever do another bathroom (that's tiled floor to ceiling) I would 'mud' the walls. For all the work I went through to even out the studs, I think metal lath and mortar is easier - the walls would be dead flat. So there's no need for a leveling system.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 11:02AM
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I dunno, Geoffrey. Those big tiles tend to move. We didn't use the levelers on the bottom row (after we took out the ledger board) at the margin with the one above it. We had to go back and look frequently to make sure the tiles were still pounded flat to the wall, especially in the red area. They tended to pooch out here and there on the way to drying enough to stick exactly where they belonged. I'm guessing this is a combination of factors including the weight of the tile, the stiffness of the thinset, the fact that it's pinned at the one end, and the sucking of the hills and valleys in the thinset on the back. Whatever it was, it needed continued attention for a time to the ones already finished to make sure they stayed finished. I'm guessing the pros know how to do it better.

As far as the need for a leveling system, the pros on the John Bridge site pooh-pooh such things because, well, they're pros. For us non-pros, the levelers made our project turn out much better.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 12:20PM
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I actually found lots of good reviews from pros on John Bridge site on leveling systems. And I asked their advice on what system to buy for our project.

For heavy tiles on walls we screw a wooden plank to studs to support the bottom row of tiles (if there is nothing underneath to support them) until the mortar is cured. And use masking tape to hold mosaic pieces, smaller tiles, etc. in place. This plus regular spacers work fine. Leveling cups help to keep the entire tiled area in one plane.

With our backsplash project, there was a short fragment of the drywall behind the sink that was really wavy. The leveling cups were not enough to get rid of lippage there. The rest of the drywall wasn't perfectly even, but the result was great with TLS. We worked with large tiles before and I can tell that using leveling system does help.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 12:59PM
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Yes, lots of us "Pros" at JB Forums use the leveling systems pretty regularly. "Houston Remodeler" and I used the HD one's recently on 4'x4' tiles and they were great...and inexpensive. Currently, the "MLT" system is the Gold Standard, but a bit pricier.

Understand that the leveling systems are not a "cure-All." Your floors and walls must be pretty flat to begin with. What the systems allow you to do is "tweak" that last 5%.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2014 at 11:58AM
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I'd go Raimondi:

Here is a link that might be useful: Raimondi

    Bookmark   June 14, 2014 at 3:38PM
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Trebruchet, you tile stuff fairly often, don't you? In that case, the Raimondi system makes perfect sense. For those of us who tiled a small floor 7 years ago and a backsplash nearly 3 years ago and a tub enclosure last week, the economics are different. I bought a package of 96 QEP clips and a package of wedges for $21. The Raimondi starter kit with 100 clips and wedges and the tension pliers cost $87. Over at Bedrosian, they had a system that looks sort of like the Tuscon system except it has round blue caps that screw down. It looked great and the pros that come through there are evidently buying them up as fast as Bedrosian can supply them. For us episodic DIYers though, it's good to know that the QEP systems works well on a small project basis at a cost that makes sense for a one-off use.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2014 at 11:39AM
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