Ceramic Tile Installation-- Color Variation

JenRoAugust 17, 2011

We hired a contractor to install our 12" x 12" ceramic tiles. As of yesterday he had the majority of tiles laid out and installed with thinset. My husband and I noticed a somewhat large area of the floor that is significantly lighter than the tiles around it which most likely resulted from a box of tiles from a different dye lot. I asked our contractor to replace them with another box of tiles that more closely matched the rest of the floor. He stated he did nothing wrong and was pulling from 3 different boxes while tiling. He said he will not replace the tiles because it will "degrade the floor strength" and that the color variation will be less noticeable once the grout is applied. Is there any truth to what he is saying or should I request that the lighter colored tiles be replaced?

He is scheduled to start grouting tomorrow morning.

Thank you so much,


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Sophie Wheeler


Color variation is a normal, desirable aspect of tile. Pulling from 2-3 different boxes during install should ensure good color variation throughout the floor. Grout will help the floor to look more cohesive. Only pics can help us to judge if the variation is within normal bounds.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2011 at 8:18PM
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I am assuming here that the installer supplied the tile.

Removal and replacement of ceramic tiles does nothing to degrade floor strength. The installer either is uneducated in his own trade or he blatantly lied to you. In fact, modular ceramic tile grid installations are designed specifically for this type of "repair and replacement" as each tile is segregated or isolated by grout joints. Removal and replacement will only become more time consuming with the addition of the grout. If you want the tiles replaced, do not allow him to grout them in.

Pulling from 3 different boxes is not sufficient enough product culling. It can be sometimes wth a little luck or using a product known to have little to no shade variation, but often it simply isnt enough. If the shade variance is night and day, they need to be replaced unless you wish to live with it. What I like to do is open AT LEAST 3/4 of the boxes to start, making stacks to pull from so they take up less floor space. You can put 5 boxes per pile pulling 1 from each box until to place in the stack. So 10 stacks of 5 boxes each is 50 boxes of tile stacked 1 at a time per box. This gives us sufficient randomization from boxes. All thats required would be for the installer to know to do this, and time. Its the proper way to randomize and cull product for installation.

In fact, if you look at actual installation instructions for ceramic tile, its not only the proper way, but the required way, although some manufacturers are quite vague about it. Some simply refer to blending for any shade variance, using matching dye lots, for aesthetics. The manufacturers need to be more precise with this information telling installers to open at least 75% of the tile and exactly how to blend for more randomness. Also depends on how the installer was taught. I have known installers who refused to read specifications and instructions because they thought how they were taught was correct, and they thought they didnt need any instructions on something they have been installing for 30 years, only to find that how they were taught was partially incorrect.

If you are seeing (a) defined area(s) of multiple tiles where this shade difference ocurred, the installer pulled from less than the needed number of boxes to prevent it, or there is a manufacturing defect. Either way, its not your responsibility.

I recommend being a bit more firm with the installer.

You have issues and the installation must not continue until your concerns are addressed to your satisfaction.

It is the installers responsibility to not install any visibly defective product. Drastic shade variances are visible defects. Its also his responsibility to repair or pay to repair anything he improperly installed.

Remember that this is your home. Not his. He needs to respect your home and you as a customer.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2011 at 12:23PM
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