Is this tile installation acceptable?

cartom1010April 16, 2014

Hi. My contractor hired a sub for our kitchen remodel to do the tile. I am not happy with the edging around the top of the window. The cut side of the tile shows at the edge, and the line is not straight. Additionally, the grout lines are uneven. I am not sure if I am being overly critical, but I would like it re-done. If he had layer it out differently, the rip could have been at the top by the wall instead of showing at the window. Please let me know if I am too picky. Will try to post another photo.

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I can't see very well but I see what you mean it doesn't have a clean, neat appearance. Seems a bit raw. I'm thinking he should have used bullnose to frame the window. The notching out for the corners also seems odd and unfinished looking. Are you planning window treatments? They might cover or distract from those details.

Can you take a shot from further back?

    Bookmark   April 16, 2014 at 2:09AM
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Sophie Wheeler

Why is there even tile there? Seems like an incorrect application. The grout there between the tile and wood is gonna crack, and none of that is waterproof, so why is it even there?

    Bookmark   April 16, 2014 at 7:31AM
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Because the field tiles continue over the wall and are cut/notched to fit around the window corners, that's why he left the cut edges on the wall or "casing" portion of the window trim and use the bullnose on the "jamb". And you are correct, that type of overlap/installation results in the grout line being on the face or casing plane of the window instead of on the inside edge or on the 'jamb" plane of the window wrap.

A solution to hide the cut edge on the jamb and to have the grout line on the jamb face WITH THE TILE USED would have been to picture frame the window with bullnose. Here's an example of that:

Or a liner/trim piece could have been used to make the transition:

It could also have been mitered, but on glazed tile that can sometimes give a too-sharp outside edge.

Picture framing the window would give a different look to the wall than the continuous run of wall field tile that you have. So why one was used over the other, it could have depended on the intended overall design on the wall. If there was no discussion on design or layout, then it's up to the installer to do things as he sees fit.

If the goal was to continue the field tile all the way across the wall with uninterrupted tile and grout lines, that's what was done.

It's not perfect, but it's not horrible.

As snookums wrote, it is a little bit raw.

And as hollysprings wrote, if you get any differential movement at the window, the grout at the outside corner may very well crack. It could have been caulked with a color-matching caulk.

Had the wall been tiled with natural stone, or perhaps with a through-body porcelain, then the wall could have been tiled like it is, but the cut tile edges that make up the inside corners at the window could have been profiled or bullnosed by the installer. That way the filed tile on the wall with the bullnosed cut edge could could overlap strips of tile on the jamb with a flat-sawn edge.

So it's a compromise of sorts between the material used and the design/layout. What you have is not necessarily inappropriate. It simply is what it is, which is "it's one way to do it."

    Bookmark   April 16, 2014 at 11:09AM
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Excellent post, mongoct.

What were your discussions with the installer? They should have known the outcome you see and explained the options and why. It's in everyone's best interest to be proactive. Installation details like that are not in a layperson's frame of reference...until they see it!

Did they caulk or grout the seam? Changes of plane or material are to be caulked to avoid cracking grout joints. There are some grouts that are crack resistant but I'd think would require very minimal movement.

Tilers like to grout there because they don't have to come back another day. Some also say the customer won't like the look of the caulk so they wait to see if it fails first.

P.S. I don't think you are being picky. You have an eye for detail and know a good quality install when you see one.

This post was edited by snookums2 on Wed, Apr 16, 14 at 12:39

    Bookmark   April 16, 2014 at 12:27PM
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Hi. I posted another photo to make it a little more clear. There is a cabinet end next to the tile. There is bullnose wrapping the window on the inside. Regular tile on the wall which extends to the ceiling and on the other side of the window as well. Mostly I want to know if the cuts and grout are acceptable. I would love to hear from any tile professionals.

I am planning on getting a window blind which will be mounted inside the frame of the window at the top. I suppose this will detract from the uneven cuts, but I am still annoyed.

Thanks for your help!

    Bookmark   April 16, 2014 at 3:37PM
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We are wrapping up the final payment, and I want to make sure I understand. I have a couple of other questions for all of you:

1.So it sounds like grout should not be used between 2 different materials, correct? That should be easy to fix even after the fact.

2. Some of you think the bullnose should have been placed on the wall side instead of inside the window. I don't think that is the problem. I have an old shower, and it is tiled just like this window, except it looks clean. I think they did not cut the tiles next to the bullnose, so they got a nice, even seam. I think in my new install, their mistake is they should not have had a cut tile lined up with the bullnose, especially when they met on different planes. Either that or they can't cut their tile straight. Maybe their blade was dull?

    Bookmark   April 16, 2014 at 4:21PM
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Withhold payment until you are clear on things. I have a poor monitor so can't see the detail. It does look kind of jagged or rough cut. Could be an old blade. They should have at least filed the edges smooth. That is an industry guideline or standard.

No your cuts should look straight and clean, not jagged, uneven or with little chips. Joints lined up and consistently even.

It sounds backwards. The bullnose could have covered the cut edges on the inside frame. Did you not want a border around the window? The liner tile example looks good too. At this point that might be your only option for a finished edge, and good if you want something more discreet than a frame.

Cracked grout can be replaced later.

Lots of pros over on john bridge tile forum. And they don't mince words when someone makes their trade look bad. They will tell you and advise what can be done. It's also a very pleasant place.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2014 at 7:06PM
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Thanks for the replies. My intention was to have uninterrupted field tile- all one color with a bullnose to hide the blend in the edge at the window. Mongoct- I was a little confused by what you said. My complaint is that the tile lines are not straight, and the grout lines are uneven. Sounds like the bullnose could have been flipped, but I am not sure that is the problem. If the installer's layout, cutting or grouting technique is sub-par, I will take it up with my contractor. Unfortunately, in this instance, his regular tile person was ill, and he had to call in someone else. Nevertheless, the general is responsible, and I paid him accordingly to be responsible for the job and supervise it.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2014 at 8:09PM
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I would say you have reason to be dissatisfied. All you can do right now is bring it up, see what he says. You know you want it fixed to be the professional job you paid for, so don't pay the balance until this is resolved satisfactorily. If he refuses, a letter from as (construction) attorney explaining things to him works wonders if he knows he's wrong (but not cheap).

Hope he honors his obligation to you to deliver a professional quality job, without too much hassle. He might take one look and say he'll fix it without you having to say a word. Has he seen the work yet?

This post was edited by snookums2 on Wed, Apr 16, 14 at 20:50

    Bookmark   April 16, 2014 at 8:47PM
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That looks like some really cheap tile. The grade of installation is average, but the grade of the material is low. If you paid for a premium tile job, you should be more upset about the material selection than the quality of the work.

If you bought the cheapest tile from Home Depot and had the contractor work with the material provided, you really can't complain about the result. I've worked with cheap tile and stone products. Let me just say that I don't let the customer provide the materials anymore.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 12:18AM
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The tile is the standard ceramic tile from Daltile; it is not cheap tile; it is thicker than the cheap tile at Home Depot. My contractor saw the work and said it wasn't the neatest job he has seen, and he knows I am dissatisfied. He did not offer to fix it, but he probably will if I push it. I want to hear from another installer first, however. I called Daltile and they said the type of grout used can be placed next to wood. They did say they would have suggested using the bullnose on the wall instead of the window wrap, but that with clean cuts and a proper placement of cut tiles, it could have looked good either way.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 1:46AM
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"Mongoct- I was a little confused by what you said. My complaint is that the tile lines are not straight, and the grout lines are uneven."

You are correct, the tile lines are not perfectly straight.

You are correct, the grout lines are not even.

The installation isn't beautiful. But it's not horrible. It's average.

It it the fault of the installer? It could be. If the entire wall is sloppy, if there is grout haze, if there are thinset smears, if a couple of field tiles are wonky, perhaps you had a sloppy installer.

How did the installer cut the tile? Did he score and snap? Or did he use a wet saw? My opinion? S&S is fine when burying the snapped edge at the perimeter of an installation because the snapped edge won't show. If the edge will be visible, as yours are, a wet saw would typically give a cleaner edge, and that's what he should have used.

The only tile that might not cut cleanly might be a handmade tile. Any manufactured tile can be cut cleanly with a proper blade and a properly set up saw.

Did you have a conscientious installer, but the installer was given a lousy substrate to tile over? Could be. But any deficiencies in the work zone should be pointed out when they are discovered. The tiles are probably lugged and self-spacing. If the rest of the work looks good and the lines just look wonky around the window, perhaps when the windows were installed the jambs were pulled and they are not perfectly straight, so he was tiling on an uneven surface, and he simply did his best to tile over a lousy surface. But needs to be pointed out ahead of time.

Or perhaps your installer is simply an average installer. He handled the wall well, but wrapping the window was a challenge for him. Then it's on the GC who hired him.

Could be the man.
Could be the method.
Could be the material.

I can't say where blame should be assigned. All I can do is repeat what I wrote earlier:

Your installation isn't perfect. But it's not horrible. It's average or adequate.

Definitely talk to your contractor, as the contractor, he should know the man, the method, and the material. He's in charge of each portion of the installation. He picked the installer. You can push for the window to be redone. If if you're paying an above average price, you can push for discount since you didn't get an above average installation. Everything pretty much falls back on the GC. That's what the GC does.

Sorry I can't be more definitive, but I'm not there. I can write "yeah it s@cks" but that doesn't do you much good. In my posts I'm simply trying to give you alternative installation methods that could have been used to get a better installation, and I'm trying to offer points of argument so you can have a detailed conversation with your contractor.

Good luck.

Edit to clean up some spelingg erers

This post was edited by mongoct on Thu, Apr 17, 14 at 19:41

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 11:18AM
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I don't know how someone can assume a cheap tile from an online picture like this but there is a lot of blaming the customer (by pros) on this site. You will not find that on JB.

I had rough cuts on an installation. I took some of the tile to the HD to see if they could cut it better. Even though I didn't buy HD tile they helped me out. He had no trouble getting a clean cut. So maybe find someone else at Daltile or a big box to see if they have a problem with the tile.

On your substrate, they are supposed to make sure it is sound first. That includes level and flat. I don't know what can be done if there are issues with a window. I'd guess it depends. Advising would certainly be expected rather than doing a sub par job, giving the homeowner a heads up and the chance to have it corrected if the tiler couldn't handle the problem areas himself. Once they start installing it, they have taken ownership that it is a good foundation.

If he had trouble with the tile or the substrate, why hasn't that been brought up as his excuse? Letting someone know there was a problem after the fact is irresponsible and doesn't cut it. It's your house and you are the one who has to live with it.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 12:46PM
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Looking back at the picture, it looks like the cuts kind of form a frame anyway. So I think there was some poor (or no) planning done, and his usage of bullnose is backwards, not covering the cut edge as it should.

Have them lay out any change on paper first if it involves anything other than redoing the current layout more neatly.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 8:33PM
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It should have been a cleaner cut but more importantly the bullnose should have been on the face so that you would have to look up and close to see the joint.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 9:30PM
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Personally, I think you are being picky.

Mongoct *is* a professional, and one of the most respected professionals on this site for tiling (esp on the bath forum).

I think it looks fine, not anything to withhold payment on, esp if you are asking if it is fine and so you didn't specify and pay for a *perfect* job by contract.

If anything, I think the upper, inner, left corner tile (perpendicular to window), could have been "pushed in" just a little more to close your grout line just a bit.

But, your pulled out picture demonstrates just how picky you are being. It is fine, and really not noticeable by an average looker.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 10:33PM
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Thanks for everyone's help. FYI, he did use a wet saw, new window and new substrate. Seems like average installer doing an unpolished, unimpressive job. Will talk again to GC.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 11:39PM
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Not picky at all. It looks sloppy. Who specifies a "perfect" job? Undefinable as there is no such thing. Your GC recognized the problem. He is there.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 11:45PM
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As mongoct carefully explained, bullnose tiles would have looked better. And caulking instead of grout at the joints.

The closeup brightly-lit photos of the tilework reminds me of the buyer who examined brickwork on their 3,800 sf house from a foot away and declared the presence of any mortar on the face of the brick as a "defect" that must be fixed and insisted on arbitration. (They lost.)

This post was edited by worthy on Fri, Apr 18, 14 at 0:44

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 12:40AM
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