Repairs to Granite Countertop

The granite apron cut tiles fell off and I was called out to replace them.  There are many possible reasons why these tiles fell off.  The mortar underneath the skirt cuts was soft and degraded easily by just pushing on it with a chisel.  This was either defective mortar or mortar that had too much moisture in it when it was installed.  The apron cuts should have been dried off completely after being cut on the wet saw; these cuts could have contained too much moisture when originally installed.  And lastly, the thinset glue used to apply the tile could have been old, too dry, or defective as well. 

The red tape is just to hold the tiles up temporarily while they dry, and the red spacers are there to hold open the grout joints.

Top Secret Way to Keep Your Tiled Bathroom Walls Clean

The solidifiers in bar soap lead to heavy duty soap scum buildup on the tiles and grout joints in bathrooms.  A very simple way to reduce your cleaning labor is to switch from bar soap to clear, colorless liquid body soap. 

Evidence of Leaking Shower

I was called out to clean this shower and I stopped dead in my tracks.  This shower displays all the classic signs of water leakage leading to damage. 

I noticed the sheetrock and paint damage immediately adjacent to the shower curb, classic indicators of water wicking upwards out of the shower pan.  When the weep holes are blocked in the subdrain, hydrostatic pressure takes the path of least resistance.   This water path travels through the curb and shows up visibly in the areas most susceptible to water damage, in this case, the sheetrock walls and paint.   You can read more about this dilemma and solutions here.

Here you see another indicator of water buildup below the surface of the tile. On the right-hand side of the curb you can see the tile trim pieces are separating outward from the field tiles, causing the grout joint to widen.  Many people with leaking showers expect to see pools of water as evidence of the leak.  However, in most cases the water damage is happening below the surface of the tile and mortar, causing swelling to the wood structure of the curb.

Vintage-Look Bathroom

The homeowner asked if this solid surface Carrera marble vanity top needed to be sealed. Based on the fact that this guest bathroom is rarely used, we recommended that it be sealed with a solvent-based product once a year.

Beautiful basketweave Carrera marble.  It is not recommended that you put this inside a shower on the shower pan floor.  This is due to the fact that Carrera marble especially is soft, and super porous and will show dark water stains for quite some time before drying out.

This particular designer selects tubs with open areas on the face of the tub so that they can be tiled.

In this shower the top trim to the bathroom wainscoting acts as a point of interest by wrapping around into the shower.

Overall shot of the bathroom floor.

Why You Don’t Hire Workers From the Big Box Store

I was called out to a shower damaged by an electrician. He was working on the back side of the wall to install a subpanel. Using a reciprocating saw blade, he had cut into the wall all the way through the mortarboard and tile on the other side. He had damaged four large tiles.

Unfortunately, I had to work over a refinished, painted tub surface. Great caution must be undertaken to protect the tub finish because it is as fragile as an automobile finish. I used a half-inch thick lightweight fiber mortarboard to protect the surface directly below the repair.

I also covered the vulnerable edge of the tub with a moving blanket.

When I removed the four tiles, I discovered multiple deficiencies for an area that is subjected to extreme moisture. First of all, the tile did not stick very well to the mortar board. I suspect that they used a very inexpensive, non-modified thinset. Second, as you can see from the grid on the mortar board visible in this picture, quarter-inch thick mortar board was used instead of the required half-inch thick board made for wet installations.

Additionally, the mortar board should be screwed every six inches on the perimeter. As you can see, there’s a much wider, open span between screws. Not surprisingly, the grout in this vertical joint, had cracked out due to movement. While installing screws where they belong, the mortar board visibly cinched up ¼-inch tighter to the studs below.

Also, all of the open seams in this installation were not covered with mesh seam tape.  I also strongly suspect there was no waterproof membrane placed behind the board, and obviously there is no waterproof coating on the front of the board.  One of these two waterproofing options are required in this installation to make it watertight.

Of course, as required, I installed mesh seam tape. The seam tape is then covered with a fine coat of thinset. This further ensures the installation against movement and prevents the grout and tile from cracking.  When the tile and grout cracks, this could lead to water leaks into sensitive areas of the bathroom, walls, and adjacent rooms.

Tricky Kitchen Backsplash Installation


It’s quite common for me to get calls from people with 6” granite backsplashes in their kitchens who want them removed.  They find a tile that they prefer as a backsplash.  Typically when I remove the granite there can be damage underneath; I charge by the hour to fix these areas because I’m not sure before we get started what damage will be done during the removal of the granite.  I take great care not to damage the underlying material, but because I don’t know what kind of glue was used or what the underlaying surface is, sometimes damage is inevitable.

Marble and glass mosaic backsplash with staggered tiles.  The homeowner is planning on painting the cabinets to better match the tile.

This particular brand of tile had two different materials, glass and stone, on the net.  The glass had a pillowed edge, and the marble was thicker and had a rectified edge.  Combining these different thicknesses together on the same sheet gives the finished installation a very textured look.  Homeowners should be aware of this before choosing a tile with these features because some tiles will stick out more than others.

Also in this picture you can see the outlines of the actual 1 sq ft sheets.  I did my best to set the sheets close together, but they were not properly interlocking sheets so they required extra labor to cut apart the sheets to make them interlock correctly.  Even after doing this you can still see where the edges of the sheets are.  I recommend testing out two sheets of tile before you buy them to make sure they interlock correctly.  The homeowner purchased these tiles off the internet and could not see how they fit together before buying them.  I do not recommend buying tile from online sources for this reason.

Most netted tile does not come with trim pieces.  What I do is pull off pieces that are consistent in width and run them perpendicular to the field to create a visual stop and a finished look.

Changing Your Mind on Grout Color

The homeowner originally chose a dark brown grout when this floor was installed eight years ago, but always wished that she had chosen a color that matched the tile better.  We showed her color samples and she chose Sandstone as the new grout color.

Tedius but rewarding work.

Not all grout colorants are created equal.  It’s important that you choose an epoxy-based colorant for durability.  It’s also important that the grout joints be very clean in order for the colorant to adhere and bond.

The new grout color matches both the field tiles and the accent dots.

Netted Carrara Marble Kitchen Backsplash

This Turkish Carrara marble tile was purchased by the homeowner from a big box store.  Keep in mind that when you purchase tile from a big box store, expect many imperfections and purchase extra, especially when the tiles are mounted on a net.  The other reason to purchase more tile is because of the wide variation in natural stone shading.  Also, due to the liberal return policy of the big box stores you could be getting back someone else’s returned product.
 Fortunately before I bid this job I read reviews on the tile from the retailer’s website.  The tile pieces had chips on the corners and edges, they were different thicknesses, there were superficial scratches and many shade variations.  Some of the sheets actually had different spacing for the grout joints.

We decided to lay all the sheets of tile out in order to spot any massive shade variations.  In this situation I did find four very dark sheets.  Because the homeowner had not purchased enough extra tile, we used these dark sheets in the area to the left of the refridgerator, where it was separated from the rest of the kitchen so it would be less noticeable.

We topped the open edges with a marble trim piece called a “stop”.  One of the nice features of this finished installation is how the light reflects off the tile when you walk past it: it actually sparkles!

Click on this picture to enlarge it and see the interesting variations in this marble.

Kitchen Grout Cleaning


In the kitchen, the grimiest, greasiest grout is usually next to the stove.  In this area we had to pre-soak the grout joints for quite a bit of time, then use a very hot industrial steamer to remove the grime.



Basketweave Kitchen Backsplash

The homeowner selected a long subway-style tile.  The first thing I did when I arrived on the job was to check the wall with a long straight-edge.  With larger format tiles it’s very important to make sure the wall is flat.  When you stagger a tile, you’re then taking the 10″ length and doubling it to 20″.  If there is a lot of variation in the wall, lippage will occur in the final installation.  Each of these tiles had an intentional warp to them, which gave it a textural basketweave look.


There was no trim available for this tile.  As you can see on the left edge we trimmed it with mitered metal edging.

In this window return area we decided not to put metal trim at the outside corner because we didn’t want to disrupt the flow of the layout.  Each pair of tiles were kerf mitered at the outside edge to make a tight corner.

Here is a closeup of the Calacutta marble accent tiles.