Moroccan Tile Backsplash Uneven Spacing

sapphireriverFebruary 12, 2014

I had a moroccan tile backsplash installed on Monday. It is this tile on 12x12 mesh backed sheets from Overstock. The spacing between the tile is very uneven and very wide in some areas. He showed several sheets of the tile laid together on the floor before he installed them and asked if the spacing was okay. The spacing was a little uneven, but not a lot so I said it was okay. Now that it's installed, there are some areas with really wide grout lines that stand out a lot that weren't like what he showed me before he installed the tile. You can see it in the middle of the photo below. I asked about it and the tile installer said it was because the tile wasn't laid out evenly on the mesh backing.

I read through the reviews on Overstock and some people were talking about their installers using spacers while installing the tile. I didn't see him use any. Should he have? Is it the fault of the sheets of tiles not matching up well that there are some really large grout lines? Could he have fixed this during the installation? Also while reading the reviews, people talked about it taking a long time for their installers to put up. My installer had it all up on the wall, but not grouted, in four hours. It was 36 sq ft of tile that was installed. Did I get a rush job?

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The picture of the tile on overstock does actually appear to have uneven spacing. Maybe it wasn't his fault?

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 12:51PM
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What color grout are you planning on using? I think the difference in spacing is really obvious right now because the dark shadow between each tile really contrasts with the tile color.

Very pretty tile!

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 2:08PM
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I have seen this quite a bit on the bathroom forum, and he should have cut those tiles out of the mesh. Then he could have used spacers to make it look great because it looks like there is room to slide up the tiles in the couple of really uneven places.

Also I think he was a quality professional he would have brought to your attention as he was putting up tile. It takes two seconds to cut a tile out of mesh. He was being lazy. You may be able to pick out those couple of tiles to slide them up. There are some threads with a tile pro on the bath forum now that discuss this.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 2:12PM
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If you pick them out and slide them up, won't it just make bigger spaces between that tile and the one below it? (I don't think he was being lazy - the tile isn't individual tile, it's mesh-backed tile. I'm sure his install price would have been much different for individual tile).

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 2:35PM
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Thank you for all the replies. The picture is of the backsplash with grout. I chose dark gray grout. The main guy left after setting all the tile and his helper did all the grout work after he left.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 2:51PM
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Hopefully you won't notice it after awhile. Little things like that drive me crazy though. Unfortunately the dark grout makes it stand out even more. A lighter grout would have hidden the issue a lot better.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 2:56PM
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Yes, a lighter grout probably would've hidden the problem better, but unfortunately I didn't realize that there was going to be a problem with the tile being unevenly spaced until they got here to install it and I had already chosen and bought the grout.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 3:01PM
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Before I say that I'd go nuts looking at that.. can you post a pic of the offending area from further back?

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 4:08PM
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Here is the same area from further back.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 4:28PM
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We got that same tile at Home Depot and had it installed a couple years ago. We didn't have that problem.

Our contractor told us that as soon as the backing got wet, it started to dissolve. They ended up setting a lot of it individually. Ours is white grout and I don't notice any major gaps.

This post was edited by 1929Spanish on Wed, Feb 12, 14 at 17:25

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 5:24PM
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I agree with sjhockey fan ... the installer would have been there for days cutting all those individual tiles off the backing and then re-setting them. The installer did show the uneven spacing to the OP ahead of time and and got the okay to install it! The problem wasn't likely glaringly apparent until after the contrasting grout was added. I think where the installer erred was in not recommending that the OP use a light colored grout which would have hid a multitude of sins.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 5:38PM
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Unfortunately, a lot of the difference in a $80 a square foot tile and a $20 a square foot tile isn't always apparent to the eye at first glance. Sometimes, a bargain is lower costs because there is lower quality control, or the colors aren't true, or because it's much thinner. Sometimes the differences are subtle, and sometimes glaring.

I think that the solution to this issue (beyond ripping it all out and buying much more expensive tile) is to use an epoxy grout colorant that is very close to the tile color. The spacing issue will be camouflaged much better and will be hardly noticeable.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 6:18PM
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The installer would only have needed to cut out the worst offenders. He would not have been there for days on end. If he took pride in his work he would have spoken up if it looked different on the wall.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 6:21PM
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Elraes Miller

Not uncommon with a lot of mesh backed tiles to slide around when being laid. The mesh stretches and can pose the problem you are showing. Your tile guy could have resolved this while installing, even if it was mesh that needed to be cut in those areas.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 6:37PM
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I believe the installer pointed out before he even installed it that the tiles were crooked on the mesh, and the homeowner said it was fine.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 6:50PM
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I believe the homeowner said the tile looked different when it was in the wall compared to the floor.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 7:08PM
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In the mock up I was shown before it was installed, the difference in the spacing looked very small. Once it was installed there were very large spaces like I show in the middle of the photo in my initial post that weren't there in what I was initially shown. I was okay with a little uneven, not a wide, obvious line.

This post was edited by annica on Wed, Feb 12, 14 at 19:18

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 7:16PM
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How much does it bother you?

In my opinion, a proper tile installer would have made sure that the spacing is even, regardless of whether the tiles are on a mesh, need spacers, or whatever. In my parents' house a master tiler installed tiles without any spacers or mesh backing. They look perfect. In my house, especially the bathroom, every space between tiles is of a different width. Quite frankly, it had never occurred to me that anybody would install tiles with uneven grout lines. Now I know better, and if I ever get tile work done, I'll make sure that spaces are even.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 7:22PM
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Annica- I hope you can get it fixed because it is a great looking tile. You may pop over to the bath forum and look for the tile pro, MongoCT. He give great advice and is very detailed.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 8:17PM
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That's the same tile I'm going to use for my backsplash, only in blue! I will definitely discuss this issue with our installer before ours goes in.

I think yours looks lovely overall, and in the picture from a distance, I don't see the spacing issues so much. It may be worth giving it a day or two and see what you think before doing anything drastic.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 8:32PM
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Sophie Wheeler

Hand setting all of that tile i stead of 12x12 sheets would command a hefty upcharge. No tile installer is going to offer premium services at the same rate as a basic install. Just like no discount tile is ever the same as the expensive tile it's trying to knock off.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 9:00PM
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Here's an example from my backsplash with white grout.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 9:03PM
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i think it look great. i did two arabesque tiles in my house, the larger ones were individual and the smaller ones on a mesh. None are perfectly spaced but I don't notice it until I study it; it also doesn't really bother me. I also have contrasting grout. enjoy your kitchen; it look lovely:)

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 10:39PM
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Speaking from experience (a list of about 5 things that annoyed or disappointed me when the kitchen was done) I'd suggest you live with it for at least a couple of weeks.
If you can't live it, Then, try the grout color as suggested.
And if in a month or so you really can't live with it, you'll have at least tried an "intervention" and will have differentiated between 'not exactly what I hoped for' and' I really can't bear this mistake a minute more'
I would also like to share an insight I had into my own "needs" and "wants." I realized I did not have the time,money,patience or personality to get every thing right. I tried, I really did. The kitchen is attractive and functional. Is it perfect? No. If I spent the time supervising, commenting on, making every imperfection perfect I would have never gotten out in the garden all summer, I would have missed work time and I am sure I wouldn't have been one iota happier. That said, I did spend 500 bucks correcting a mistake that would have p'od me everytime I saw it. It was worth it.
So drink a glass of wine every evening before you stand gazing at the tile too long. Keep moving along on the work. You'll know what you need to do when the time comes.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2014 at 3:02AM
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I agree with idabean. However, in the meantime, I would inform the tiler of your concern.

With respect to what is reasonable to expect: I understand that a job that requires more labor will cost more; however, I'm amazed that some people will not explain that they can't deliver a proper job at the price they state. Or in other words, that they define "proper" job differently.
An example: We hired someone to paint our windows "on the outside including window sill." I expected that he would open the windows and paint the whole window sill, not literally keep the windows closed and paint half the sill. Needless to say, the windows were painted shut and required considerable time to make operable. Are you kidding me?

    Bookmark   February 13, 2014 at 9:54AM
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robo (z6a)

My tiler isn't an artiste by any means, but he knows enough to cut out the really misplaced tiles and set them by hand, or smoosh them around a bit if they detach from the backing. I have a similarly busy and budget tile on my bathroom floor and he did that for me. There are still some irregularities but not too many.

I think there's a whole world between meticulously hand setting everything and slapping up sheets of tile without any regard whatsoever to how they're set. That said because he showed it to you and got your ok before installation -- I'm not sure what a reasonable recourse is.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2014 at 10:36AM
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Agree with robo, iowa and nosoccer. There is no excuse for such sloppy work and there are ways to deal with tiling problems like this that arise. If not, responsible people stop the job and advise.

This same tile has been installed well in other member homes. While he recognized a problem, apparently a fairly common one, he was slack in solving it. He should never have simply installed with those big gaps. If they slipped later from gravity, he still should have corrected prior to grouting. I think even the high end ones can slip around and be difficult to install. It's just ignorant to do what he did. No matter he (casually) pointed out some slippage before installing. This is serious irresponsibility.

He now needs to remove the bad tiles and install aligned ones appropriately. Not fully addressing and handling the issue of some crooked tiles at the time has created more difficult work for himself to correct now. No way you should have to live with this. How much money is involved in this backsplash project?

Tile work is not an easy job that requires no real expertise. They are paid well and need to be trained and know the difference between a good job and not. Substance abuse is not uncommon in the trades and crazy stuff like this makes it look like something like that could be going on, imo.

This sort of thing is part of a tiling professional's job to scope the project and problem solve any issues. Unless you hired someone who is not selling themselves as a professional, at professional rates, you are not expecting too much of them. Who gets easy problem free jobs. Anyone should know better than to stick the customer with an outcome like this.

John Bridge tile forum are pros. See what they advise. They've seen it all over there.

I hope this is resolved for you soon.

This post was edited by snookums2 on Thu, Feb 13, 14 at 12:45

    Bookmark   February 13, 2014 at 12:41PM
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Whoa, now we're accusing the tiler of being drunk or on drugs? Wow.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2014 at 1:19PM
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Wow, if that guy was drunk or on drugs, I wonder what you'd think my tile guys or painter were on. He probably just thought that it was good enough.

I'm digressing a bit (a fair bit), but here's another story: I bought a condo where some completely incompetent (or drugged?) person had just installed wall-to-wall carpet. It hadn't been stretched, and they had tried to hold it in place with the baseboard. I had a carpet guy look at it who didn't want to do the job because he didn't think it could be done properly. Well, the new tenant was coming from abroad and needed to move in. I basically had to arm wrestle him to give it a go. In the end, he did a super job and admitted that it was actually better than what he had expected --- still not up to his standards, but I assured him that I have pretty high standards and was perfectly happy. As was the tenant.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2014 at 1:39PM
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Oh stop people. I wasn't literally accusing him of being drunk just who would do something like that especially on this style of tile - and with dark grout to boot - and not think anything of it. Good enough. Really? It demonstrates very poor judgment in a number of ways. Basically just saying this kind of thing is ridiculous from someone who is supposed to be a pro and it shows someone who is not exercising good sound judgment. I wasn't there to "accuse" this person of actually being drunk or hung over. But considering such possibilities is prudent when people are working in your home. SA is a known problem in the trades. And I smelled beer drinking going on with my failing tile job. Also had someone stoned on the job doing ridiculous and lazy things. So don't be thinking it is rare. People need to be proactive when letting people in their homes, not be turning off their thinking caps.

If it looks okay to you then that's fine for your house. Defend him. Have no reservations hiring him. But that really is not acceptable or professional workmanship (or handling of the situation) and the (un-picky) OP knows this and is not happy with it.

I hope she is able to get it fixed.

Ps. NSM, yes, I would have to wonder if your window painter was drunk or something, lol.

This post was edited by snookums2 on Thu, Feb 13, 14 at 15:05

    Bookmark   February 13, 2014 at 2:41PM
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To clarify: I certainly was not defending this tiler. In fact, I was basically agreeing with you when I suggested that he may have thought, "hey, it's good enough." I didn't think it's good enough, especially since he was aware that there was an issue with the irregularities. Moreover, I also agreed that this kind of attitude is unprofessional.

That's what I was trying to illustrate with the story of the carpet guy who was reluctant to do a job that may not have been up to his very high standards. We discussed what was feasible, what may not work, and in the end, both of us were very happy with the results.

And, no, my painter was not drunk. Unfortunately. If he had been, I could have sent him home or carefully supervised him. He wasn't even stupid. He just didn't care. Even the boss agreed that I should be able to open the windows, but apparently thought a half painted window sill was "good enough."

    Bookmark   February 13, 2014 at 3:38PM
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While in this case I did somewhat defend the installer, I personally wouldn't be happy with the uneven spacing of the tile if it was in my house. My defense of him was only in the fact that he did point out the uneven spacing to the homeowner and she indicated that she was okay with it. He really should have told her that the dark grout was only going to make matters worse. Poor communication between parties, IMHO.

We don't know if the tiles slipped during installation or if the contrasting grout just served to highlight the already uneven spacing and make it look worse. Not everyone is a master craftsman and customers really should be aware of this fact. There are all levels of installation out there, from near-perfect to blow-and-go and everything in between. Simply hiring an installer is not a guarantee that you are going to get a top-notch installation. It's unfortunate, but it's true. If you haven't checked references or seen examples of an installer's work, it's a crap shoot.

It seems to me that the blame can get spread around here ... the manufacturer's quality control as it was agreed that the tiles were spaced unevenly before they were installed, the tile installer for not communicating better to the customer, and the customer for indicating that the uneven spacing was okay.

Snookums, you ask who would do something like that with this sort of tile? Well for one, the manufacturer! Maybe their quality control people were drunk or high because they certainly deserve some of the blame. :-)

I certainly don't disagree that the OP should contact her installer and see what he can do to remedy the situation. I do hope she gets it resolved to her satisfaction.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2014 at 3:58PM
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Annica - I agree that you should contact the main guy & see if they can do anything. Possibly they have experience with grout colorant. One of the brands can be custom color mixed to match. I did some research about the grout colorant & got the impression that it's not a DIY job.
I honestly don't think it looks so bad-not enough that anyone else would notice, except maybe the TKO. I've never checked out other people's grout lines.
I do always notice whether the grout is clean in a hotel bathroom.
Edit: hotel bathroom FLOOR

This post was edited by romy718 on Thu, Feb 13, 14 at 17:23

    Bookmark   February 13, 2014 at 4:13PM
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JT (who I usually agree with :), I meant what tile pro with any sense of pride and responsibility to the customer would deliver a skewed job like that. Don't know anything about manufacturing difficulties or how they might have screwed up or if it's just the nature of that beast. Made in China? Could be the rice wine over there, lol. But the job rested in his hands at this point. And I wouldn't call $14sf cheap tile, from a consumer pov. Most people wouldn't spend that much on tile.

I disagree that she okayed it. I don't think he communicated very well on the problem, which is his job to do. What she saw was slightly off. What he saw as he was working was very off. I think getting the job finished - his hours and work schedule - was most important to him, not the work itself. He did not care. And he had her "okay" in his back pocket to let him off the hook. But who knows maybe he is just stupid. He did point it out.

Unfortunately true you can never really know what level of skill, professionalism or caring you have hired until you are experiencing problems or up to your eyeballs in them.

This post was edited by snookums2 on Thu, Feb 13, 14 at 17:05

    Bookmark   February 13, 2014 at 4:45PM
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Snookums, agreed. Everyone deserves a beautiful job that they can be proud of. I am a big proponent of the trades communicating their knowledge to the customer regarding issues that the customer might not be aware of. Either he was too inexperienced to know that the finished product was going to have issues, or he didn't do enough to communicate his knowledge to the customer. And I do think that a true professional would have come back to look over the work after it was grouted.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2014 at 5:42PM
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" ... I've never checked out other people's grout lines."

LOL, romy. That's something I never do in RL, only on GW. :-)

    Bookmark   February 13, 2014 at 5:57PM
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I think that's the point! Usually, we don't check out people's grout lines (or whatever). So basically the question becomes whether this jumps out at people, especially the home owner. I know that DH or DS would not notice, but they also don't notice when I get a hair cut and dye my hair red (maybe they'd notice green spikes after a few days) while DD and her friends will notice and comment on the slightest trim and subtlest of highlights.

So, no these grout lines aren't bad (way, way better than any grout lines in my house), but "is it good enough" for the OP, especially considering this in the context of the rest of the kitchen?

    Bookmark   February 14, 2014 at 11:45AM
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a lot of finger pointing but still no good arguments either way.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2014 at 12:20PM
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Finally checked back in to see the distance shot. I could totally live with it. Agreed with the comment "not exactly what I hoped for" but from this shot I'd live with it for awhile and if it made me nuts the grout colorant is a good idea.

I love your range hood, btw!

    Bookmark   February 14, 2014 at 4:54PM
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I'd live with it a little. My BS is getting redone. I have MOP in sheets which are not exactly perfect, but I have grout that blends so I'm ok with that. I can't find this shape anywhere else, and likely not anywhere near the price i paid, and I'm not willing to pay for them to all be pulled and individually set.

So why redo it? The sheets are not installed right, so the pattern is messed up. I notice, and -that's- what bothers me. Plus where the gaps between sheets were filled in (gaps that shouldn't be there if properly installed) the tiles are very crooked. Not just off spacing, actually partially rotated crooked.

You'll be amazed at what details you obsessed over just don't register on a day to day basis. See how you feel in a few weeks, if you even remember it bothered you once you put it out of your mind. In a few weeks your answer will be clear as day.

(Insert glass of wine icon here, if we ever get one, I'm already one glass in)

    Bookmark   February 14, 2014 at 6:18PM
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Thank you everyone. I think at this point I'm just going to live with it. Hang something over the oven to cover most of the worst area. If it's still annoying me, I may try to recolor the grout something lighter. I do wish the installer had explained how very uneven and wide some of the grout lines would be once it was installed, but at this point what is done is done. Lesson learned. Next tile job I have done, I'll be a lot more particular. And I doubt I'll hire him again.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2014 at 9:03PM
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I don't know if you get a TV show by Mike Holmes in the U.S., but we get it here in Ontario. He is the fussiest GC EVER! On one of his shows, he demonstrated how tiles on mesh backings are a problem at install. The mesh backing stretches and contorts when it comes in contact with the adhesive (think of it like gauze when it gets wet).
At the end of applying EACH sheet, he painter-tapes the tiles to each other. Even if the spacing was perfect before being put on the b/s, just the weight of it "hanging" can make it slip and screw up the spacing.
For the tiles that are obviously off, he cuts it/them out and applies them individually with the proper spacing. Then it/they are also painter-taped to the surrounding tiles to prevent slipping.
I think any installer with any pride in his work would do the same. It doesn't mean the whole job is laid as individual tiles, but a few may have to be. The whole idea of hiring an installer is for his professional expertise. Otherwise, you can screw it up yourself for free.
I think OP should contact the installer and at least try to come to some sort of satisfaction, whether it be removing the offending tiles and reapplying them properly, recoloring the grout or $ reimbursement. Just remember, the longer the tiles are there, the more they "cure" and any fixes may be more difficult.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2014 at 12:25AM
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Canuck you are spot on. That's the type of work that's required for a job like that. I've read about the tape trick on JB. Charge more for the extra work but don't install sub par. She could have returned it. Maybe he was inexperienced but he should have at least known it would have looked bad and advised or declined accordingly. Otherwise he should still be apprenticing. No one wants their backsplash to look bad, be skewed. How silly. We can do that ourselves.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2014 at 1:56AM
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I could live with this in, say, a shower, which is a bit more hidden from view and is possibly behind a door . . . but in the kitchen, no. The kitchen is too important, too visible to everyone. I'd want this redone.

Without having any real knowledge about laying tile, I do suspect this arabesque tile is complicated to lay -- more complicated than, say, a simple square or subway.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2014 at 12:38PM
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Had the tile been purchased at a tile store it could have been returned when the flaws were pointed out. It surely must have been seconds due to the irregularities, which a site like Overstock would not necessarily disclose.

According to the OP the installer did the right thing: "He showed several sheets of the tile laid together on the floor before he installed them and asked if the spacing was okay. The spacing was a little uneven, but not a lot so I said it was okay. Now that it's installed, there are some areas with really wide grout lines that stand out a lot that weren't like what he showed me before he installed the tile."

Had the installer provided the tile, it would be on him to make it good. However, the OP provided the tile, which was not purchased from a tile store but from an online discounter that also sells towels.

Should he have told her she wouldn't be happy with the job because of the spacing? Perhaps, but that is telling a client that her tile is no good.

It's one thing to adjust sheets of square tile and another to adjust sheets of lanterns. Had he suggested this, it would have necessitated an upcharge -- again the OP would not have been pleased at all. I can imagine that post.

Bottom line: she bought the tile, didn't have a lucky purchase, and didn't know to try to return it. He pointed out irregularities -- he could not have seen every one in the boxes. She okayed it. He did the right thing and she could never have anticipated that after it was up some pieces would be so off.

It's a shame because it's a focal point. But it's also a pretty backsplash and most people would not notice. I think it's practical to live with it. Few of us have totally perfect kitchens.

But if it still bothers the OP before everything is completely finished, and it won't break the budget, rip it out and replace it.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2014 at 2:15PM
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