Should I be ok with this tile job?

kendravicknairAugust 6, 2014

We recently built a home and had pebble tile installed in the master shower and as a back splash up the vanity wall. The stripe in the shower looks great. But the pebble tile everywhere else just looks very sloppy to me. Lots of sandy grout left on the pebbles, some large drips of grout and plaster, I think, left stuck to the pebbles.

Also, in the stripe in the shower, they didn't cut the pebbles, but on the vanity wall there is a very ugly cut that was just grouted/caulked over.

This is our first experience with tile installation, so we aren't really sure how picky to be. We had someone come out to look at it and he spent about 1-2 hours attempting to clean off the excess grout and sand with an acid. It really doesn't look much better. I don't know what else to do, but for the amount of money we spent on the pebbles, I feel like they should look a lot better than they do.

Here are some pictures. The first picture is the stripe, the part that we are happy with. The others are of the rest of the pebble.

Also, the back walls of the shower had many holes where grout was missing. We probably showered in it for a week before we noticed, so I'm wondering if water could have gotten behind the tile. They fixed one side, but neglected to fix the other side. I took a picture of that also.

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kendravicknair

photo 1

    Bookmark   August 6, 2014 at 9:49PM
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kendravicknair

photo 2

    Bookmark   August 6, 2014 at 9:50PM
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kendravicknair

photo 3

    Bookmark   August 6, 2014 at 9:51PM
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kendravicknair

photo 4

    Bookmark   August 6, 2014 at 9:53PM
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kendravicknair

This one shows where the pebble was cut and then the edge filled with caulk.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2014 at 9:57PM
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kendravicknair

This one is of the missing grout in the corner. That is actually the corner near the ceiling. Not sure why it rotated the photo sideways.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2014 at 9:59PM
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suzanne_sl

Bumping this up to see if anyone knows about how pebbles are supposed to look.

In your last photo, what's missing is caulk, not grout. Caulk is used anywhere your wall changes plane, e.g. the wall meets another wall, or the ceiling, or the floor.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2014 at 11:04AM
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jrueter

Yes, the caulking between wall and floor is an obvious problem. And yes, water probably got back there, but there should be a water barrier behind the tile. If there is that water won't be a problem, but you will still want it sealed up, otherwise the seam will catch soap and other gunk over time.

But as far as the pebbles go, I don't think it is disastrous. They could have probably cleaned it up a little - certainly the little clumps - but IMHO the beauty of the pebbles is the natural variations and lack of perfection. The round pebbles are inherently harder to grout because of the uneven surface.

The poor pebble installations I have seen (in pictures) you can see the seams between sheets of pebbles. I can't see any seams in your photos, and the visible seams would bother me much more than the relatively tiny grout issues.

Only you can decide if it is an installation you can't live with.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2014 at 12:48PM
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jellytoast

The round pebbles are not so difficult to grout that it's impossible to do a neat job. IMHO, that is a sloppy grout job and goes beyond "tiny issues." Lack of perfection and natural variations are acceptable with the stones, not the grout. Laziness, in a hurry, inexperience, or flat out just don't care ... who knows, but it does not look like a professional grout job and definitely could have been done much better.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2014 at 10:08PM
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kendravicknair

I tend to agree that this was laziness. The pebble stripe in the shower is done very well. Clearly one of the installers was capable of doing a good job. Either he handed it off to someone who didn't know what they were doing or he just thought it was taking way too long to do it right.

But what can be done about it? Is this unacceptable enough to have them tear it out? Obviously cleaning it with acid was useless. We saw some videos on YouTube of people cleaning up sloppy grout with a drill and a nylon cup brush. Anyone have experience with this? And that doesn't fix the cut pebbles.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2014 at 5:40PM
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jellytoast

I certainly wouldn't want it left that way. I don't care how good the installation is, a sloppy grout job can ruin it. The responsible party should not be "handing off" portions of the job to workers who are too inexperienced to do them correctly. If they have already tried to clean it up and failed, what is their next step? Surely they aren't okay with just leaving it this way?

The drill with a nylon brush might help to get rid of the bits of grout that were left on the stones themselves (those that look like sand), but will it do anything to smooth the overall roughness of the grout job? I have no experience with that, but it seems unlikely. It really bugs me that workers would walk away from a job that involves CEMENT before it is completed satisfactorily. It certainly isn't going to get easier to work with once it has dried!!!

"This is our first experience with tile installation, so we aren't really sure how picky to be."

You aren't being too picky with your complaints, but how picky were you in selecting your installers? Whether or not you get resolution depends, I suppose, on who you hired. Was it an individual? A bigger company? Licensed? References?

I would call whoever is responsible for this and ask them how they intend to resolve it. Hopefully they are still awaiting their final payment which will give them an incentive to get over there sooner rather than later.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2014 at 6:04PM
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kendravicknair

Unfortunately we didn't choose the installers. They were picked by our builder (who for the most part was great). Same company also did our hardwood floors and we are having some significant issues there also. And also unfortunately, everything is paid for.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2014 at 6:09PM
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jellytoast

Have you spoken to the builder about resolving this? Is the rest of the job completed? If I were in your shoes, I would speak to the builder about getting someone else in there to fix this problem. I would request that the pebble areas be removed, reinstalled, and regrouted by a knowlegeable licensed tile contractor. If he doesn't want to make it right, I would get estimates myself for repairing that portion of the job and then request a refund of that amount. If he doesn't want to do either of those things, I would then start looking at other avenues for resolution ... contacting the state licensing board to see if they can assist you with a resolution, filing a complaint, giving him poor reviews (including pictures), etc. Frankly, your builder should be ashamed of himself.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2014 at 7:07PM
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snookums2

It looks like two different people worked on this. The stripe looks great, as you know. The rest needs to be redone. Your builder needs to address that and should be able to see for himself. You're lucky the one area is done well for undeniable comparison. A lot of these people try to pass off the work hoping the customer doesn't know better, won't notice or won't confront them. But you do know better, so bring it up. You paid them a lot of money to take care of this project for you. The outcome is not your fault, just their problem to resolve. Don't let them blow you off.

One thing that stood out to me was the pebbles on the stripe seem much closer together. There appear to be very wide joints in the other photos. Done from sheets, I don't know why there would be that much difference.

The missing grout can cause damage to the house. A lot of people weren't paying attention to this job

Contact your builder asap. You are entitled to the good job you paid for.

And good luck! Hope he's reasonable to deal with.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2014 at 9:27PM
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kendravicknair

Another question about the shower. How long after a shower should we expect to find wet places in the shower? The dark spot where the floor meets the wall is still wet to the touch after 15 hours. Is that normal? There are a few other places like that.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2014 at 10:28PM
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kendravicknair

This is the area under the bench. Dark spots are still wet. We have zero experience with tile. So we have no idea what to expect. We are going to talk with the builder & the owner of the company that installed the tile tomorrow & we want to make sure to address all the issues.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2014 at 10:31PM
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jellytoast

"One thing that stood out to me was the pebbles on the stripe seem much closer together. There appear to be very wide joints in the other photos. Done from sheets, I don't know why there would be that much difference."

Had the grout been cleaned off of the other stones better, more surface of the stones would be revealed and they would appear closer together.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2014 at 11:36PM
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kendravicknair

Met with the builder and the owner of the company that installed the tile. He said he is going to come back with them and have them clean it again. He said he is sure they can get the excess grout off, that they were just being lazy and didn't want to take the time to do it right. (I could say that about the whole job!)

So I guess we aren't at the tear it all out point yet. I would rather not go through that anyway, so I'm hopeful that it will look a lot better this time.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2014 at 7:16PM
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jellytoast

Hmmmm ... too lazy to do it correctly and he's going to send those same lazy people back to fix it? If they were too lazy to clean up wet grout, they are really going to enjoy trying to clean up the dry stuff.

If they are using acid, better be sure they don't etch the surrounding tile. I am doubtful that they can get that grout smooth at this point, but maybe they are miracle workers. What's he going to do with that caulked corner with the cut stones?

    Bookmark   August 13, 2014 at 10:27PM
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torontotim

You asked a couple times about wet spots, and expressed concern about water getting behind the tile through the missing grout etc.

First off, grout isn't water proof - it's porous and will allow moisture through.

So - what method of water proofing did they do under the tile? None of your cosmetic issues matter at all relative to the waterproofing under the tile.

Did they just tile over cement board underlay? Did they use Kerdi or another waterproofing fabric membrane? Did they use a brush-on liquid waterproofing membrane?

If the shower is built right with the correct sloped bed, drain system and waterproofing, then the tile is purely cosmetic. But if it's not built right, then it doesn't matter much about messy grout because your shower is likely going to leak and need to be redone in 5 years anyhow.

Sorry to be blunt, but I'd like to encourage you to ask your builder the right questions given its your first tiled shower. Any pics of the installation?

    Bookmark   August 18, 2014 at 11:48PM
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navychic

I wouldn't be happy.

And I agree with Toronto Tim, if it looks like that where you can see it, what on earth does it look like where it really matters?

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 1:42PM
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kendravicknair

Just a quick update: They finally came back today for a second attempt at cleaning up the grout. The company owner was here to supervise and when he saw that it wasn't really looking any better, he agreed to tear it out and redo it. Should be happening in a couple weeks.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2014 at 4:59PM
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enduring

Oh boy, I am so glad you have a chance at getting this done to your satisfaction. Keep us posted. I am happy you updated.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2014 at 10:14PM
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zookeeper93

Thanks for the update and glad you are going to get the job you paid for in the beginning. Post your new pics!

    Bookmark   October 1, 2014 at 9:51PM
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