Challenges of Setting Long Lengths of Tile

I was called out to inspect various tile and grout issues on this job and write a technical report for the general contractor, as his current tile contractor had abandoned the job.

The tile on this wall looks rippled.  There is lippage on this installation.   “Lippage” is defined in the ANSI (American National Standards Institute) standard A108.02, Section 4.3.7: “Lippage refers to differences in elevation between edges of adjacent tile modules.”  In other words, it refers to tiles that are out of plane with each other by more than a dime’s thickness.

This is not the fault of the installer; the actual tiles are curved in the center, and when you stagger them above and below each other the curve is accentuated by the natural crown of the tile.  Lippage occurs on stagger-set installations because the ends of the tile are flatter, and adjacent to the center crown of the tiles above and below it.

Also, lippage tends to be a common problem when installing plank-length floor tiles as well.  Examples of this would be 6×24″, 6×36″, and 6×48″ sizes, usually finished to look like wood.

One way to lessen the lippage is to stagger set in thirds.  This photo shows a stagger set in halves.  Lippage occurs with a stagger set layout in thirds, but it will be greatly reduced.

Technical Consultations Save You Money

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Recently I was called out to a job to inspect a bathroom and write a technical report on my findings.  The homeowner had just purchased the house and the tile work in the master shower was installed as a pre-condition of the sale.  The real estate agent involved in the transaction hired a contractor/handyperson he worked with on a previous job to install the tile.  Shortly after the homeowner moved in and began using the shower the bottom row of tile started bulging out from the wall.  This wall was opposite the pipe wall so it was the area most exposed to water.

This shower is the only shower for the home.  The other bathroom in the house has a tub with a very short tile backsplash.  The hall bath is not intended for showers; it does not have a shower head.

When I arrived to inspect the master shower, the bottom row of 3 x 6 inches ceramic tiles were indeed bulging out from the wall of the shower.

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Using a screw driver with about 6 ounces of pressure, I easily popped two tiles off the wall.

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There was a very thin coat of a red substance lightly coated onto the sheetrock.  This red substance was not bonded to the sheetrock and easily peeled off to reveal moist and degraded drywall underneath.  Most alarming: the sheetrock used in the shower did not have the paper top color, whether purple or mint green, which indicates water resistant sheetrock.  This sheetrock appeared to be just plain, non water resistant dry wall. 

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Also, the tiles had what looked like beads of clear silicon drizzled on the backs of them rather than the proper tile setter’s adhesive or thin set toweled to the wall or tile.

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The only way to solve this problem is to totally tear out of the shower.  This involves removing the shower door, the finished plumbing and all tile and sheetrock.  Then the shower needs to be completely re-installed correctly.  Because of this improper installation, the second renovation will be more expensive than the original installation due to adding tear-out, removal of shower door and removal of the finished plumbing fixtures.

With my technical report in hand, this homeowner can go back to her real estate agent and press the agent for reimbursement of all expenses relating to repairing the shower.   Also, the real estate agent can take this report to the contractor/handyperson who installed the shower and request a settlement for all expenses incurred for the improper installation.