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dumbunusedid 10-16-2008 11:37 PM

Emergency Pebble Tile Fiasco - Can this be salvaged?
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We are having our home redone after Katrina (finally - long story on the delay). In one of the bathrooms, we really wanted to put in pebble tile for flooring. We sent instructions and materials to the general contractor who then had one of their contractors (who supposedly had experience with pebble tile) set the tile. I am staying 300 miles away during this restoration but was sent a picture of the progress. YIKES! At first I thought it was just an occasional area where seams were not handled properly. I had them stop before grouting until I could drive down, take a better look and "fix" the seam issue. I figured I would pop an occasional pebble and swap them out to obscure the lines (i.e., hide the problem). Upon further inspection, the problems are more severe. There are areas where the thinset is almost higher than the tile so there will be no room for grout to start with. Meanwhile, there are other areas where there is little to no thinset or at least the pebbles themselves are not embedded in thinset at all (you can pop the pebble and it is being held down by the mesh glue only). I have attached a couple of pictures. One shows a closeup of the too thick and too thin thinset right next to each other. The other is a broader picture to show that this is not an isolated area. This is all over the installation. Granted, this is only an 8' x 6' area but that is still almost 50 sq ft of :censored:.

One option is to tear it all out and start over from scratch. Another $300 plus for tile, another $20 thinset... and LOTS of labor to get that floor back to a starting spot. I would probably just lay it myself this time. The contractors are waiting on the tile floor to be finished to proceed further on other tasks so we are under some tight time constraints.

Does anyone know if this is something that could be salvaged? I am willing to accept something less than perfect - heck, I was willing to manually pop pebbles and clean up lines. I just do not know if I can do anything about areas where the pebbles are not already embedded in thinset or if there is a way to clean out the excess thinset between the pebbles.

Any advice/suggestions/pity would be greatly appreciated.


RippySkippy 10-17-2008 07:21 AM

I looks like a sloppy install...and I too would be concerned with the lack of some places it looks like there's hardly any on the backer board at all...that can't be good.

Given the observations, I'd turn this over to the GC and let him work it out with the tile dude. If you start poking and prying, it's possible the tile dude will say something like "well I was gonna fix it...but the HO mucked it up, I'm outta here." Is there any warranty on the work that will be done? If so...let them continue, and at the first sign of failure, exercise the warranty. Personally I wouldn't wait for it to fail...and would discusss this with the GC ASAP.

Get the GC in your concern to him, and let him have a go at it. Regardless, you shouldn't be out a penny to make this right.

dumbunusedid 10-17-2008 01:36 PM

Thanks Rippy. We went out with some pictures this morning to some local tile shops to see if they had any installers with experience with the pebble tile to see if they had any ideas before we met with the GC. We are meeting with him this afternoon to discuss the matter in detail. We were hoping to find "the" tile guy that knew all about this stuff to give us his thoughts/ideas before we met with the contractor. There is no one around here that has sold the pebble tile where they installed it as flooring except in a shower and that is even rare. We are meeting with the GC without the tile guy (I should say, the contractor dude that they asked to lay the tile).

Bud Cline 10-17-2008 07:29 PM

I looked at this situation earlier and decided to stay away. Then came the invitation to get involved, so here I am.:)

It's really hard to say what should be done without being there but I'm thinking the floor is salvageable. The biggest concern is the loose stones but they can be re-attached. The next issue is the abundance of thinset in some areas. I think that thinset can be cleaned and carved and sawn away. The next thing I see is the obvious square pattern of the sheets of stone but I think that will simply disappear when the floor is grouted.

The question is: "Who's going to clean up that mess?"

I honestly think fixing it is the lessor of the evils unless you have deep pockets and just want to trash it all and start over.

At any rate the GC should make it good and maybe the original guy isn't the guy to fix it if he is going to have an attitude about it.:)

dumbunusedid 10-17-2008 09:51 PM

Thank you Mr. Cline. Sorry to put you on the spot.:) We have found you to have a good balance between what is ideal and what is realistic.

We are going to give GC a chance to make this right. We'll let you all know how this turns out. Wish us luck!

Bud Cline 10-17-2008 10:05 PM

Good luck for sure. I would be curious to know how this comes out.

I am assuming your preference would be to save the job before spending more money to re-do it. I think there may be a good chance it can work out.:)

Keep in mind that there will be plenty of grout to hide some (not all) of the high thinset. Digging down in the bad areas about 1/3 of the stone thickness may be all that is necessary.

I wasn't "on the spot" but something like this could go either way.:)


Marvin Gardens 10-17-2008 11:35 PM

Bottom line here is that you are in charge. If this is not acceptable follow the chain of commend. Go to the GC who you hired to do the job. He hired the tile clown who moonlights at McDonald's as Ronald McDonald.

Tell the GC you are not going to pay any money till that is fixed. That will get his attention.

Because of this look carefully over everything else this clown did. He may have been real sloppy in other areas, in fact you can count on it.

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