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cbj8585 05-10-2009 11:29 AM

First Time Contractor Experience Problems

Our bathroom is currently in the process of being totally gutted and remodeled. We have discovered some issues with the tile on the floor that was just installed:

1) Some of the corners of the tile (8x8) are raised and sticking up more in places so some areas are not completley flat and level.

2) Some of the tiles are not completely lined up perfectly. They are off slightly by about 1/8 inch or so. This is noticable if you look at it. Most of the areas are fine.

3) Some of the grout is wider in places and narrower in others.

4) Some of the grout is darker in places and lighter in others.

A few facts about the house and the contractor:

1) this is a 'slab' syle house with no basement. So the house is all one level and built on a concrete slab. The tiles were adhered directly to the slab. The floor may have been slightly uneven in places.
2) The contractor's "right hand man" who appears to be a younger junior apprentice type person installed the tile. My initial impression was that he is not a professional tile installer.

My concerns:

1) Should this contractor have hired a professional tile person to install the tile? and not used is apprentice? I feel that the apprentice did an "amateurish" job and that a professional would have done a better job.

2) The uneven tiles could be due to one or both of 2 things: 1) Shoddy worksmanship or 2) uneven concrete slab. If it was due to an uneven concrete slab then-- should he have applied some kind of a compound to make it even?

3) The apprentice supposedly used spacers inbetween the tile. Clearly he didn't use them properly because the grout is wider in spaces and narrower in others.

So basically I want all of these fixed before the project moves forward which will involve asking the contractor to remove the baseboard and the tile and to re-install the whole thing. He would also have to purchase new tile since the existing tile will probably be destoyed when it is removed. Is this unreasonable?

Should I insist that a professional tile installer do the job and not his "apprentice"? I don't want my bathroom project to be a classroom for this kid to learn how to install tile.

The contractor is going to be pissed and may not do this. How do I handle this? We still haven't paid the third and final payment.

As a seperate issue - the contractor himself installed a new window. We wanted a proper wooden window sill on the outside. He made some flat aluminum "sill" that is inconsistent with the rest of the house. We already asked him to fix that as well so he's already pissed about having to do more work. He never consulted with us on what type of sill we wanted--he just went ahead and did it.

Thank you for your adivce and opinions! This is our first home improvement experience and aren't sure how to handle this.

Bud Cline 05-10-2009 11:58 AM

Most concrete home slabs aren't totally plane. This shows up frequently when installing tile. The concrete surface should have been appraised for such an issue beforehand. Eight inch tiles aren't that big by todays standards and really shouldn't present the problem you have, known as lippage. A simple straight-edge tool would have displayed the problem (in advance) and corrective measures could haver been taken.

Also know that ceramic tiles aren't perfect. They are frequently out-of-square and can display warpages in all directions.

Tile spacers would be great if they didn't make matters of irregular tiles even worse. When a spacer is used and a tile is imperfect, the spacer only serves to keep the imperfection moving in the direction the tile is being laid. Crooked lines and uneven grout spaces can result. Some uneven grout spacing may be normal but shouldn't be too noticeable in the overall scheme of things. A 1/8" variance is A LOT.:)

Uneven grout color can be caused by many things. Sometimes it is simply due to some of the tiles having glaze slopping over their edge in limited areas. Sometimes it can be caused by installing tiles on a contaminated slab. Sometimes it is caused when the installer doesn't first mix the powder while still in its dry form before adding water. Adding too much water to make the installation easier to install can cause grout discolorations. Contaminated water or hard-water creates issues. Using a fan to speed drying time has its issues. Using too much water to clean up the grout at installation time will weakin grout and cause discoloration. Using "mastic adhesive" can cause serious grout discolorations if not allowed to cure and dry properly.

Personally I'd say your contractor has some sole-searching to do if he wants to get paid. Doesn't sound very experienced to me. In any area!:)

Scuba_Dave 05-10-2009 12:25 PM

No-one should accept a 2nd rate tile job
It's probably going to be there a long time

Did you specify a wooden sill on the outside?
If so then it's out his pocket
If not it's out of yours

cbj8585 05-10-2009 01:47 PM

Thank you both for your repsonses!

To answer your questions and clarify:
He never asked us what kind of sill to build. He just went ahead and made that aluminum flat "sill". With such and asthetic judgement, I think he should have stopped and asked us what type of sill we'd like. If he had asked we would have said we wanted a proper wooden sill. He just did it on his own.

As far as the tile:

this was good quality ceramic tile from Italy (not that that necessarity makes a difference). It was $8 per square foot.

As per your description, I understand how imperfections in the tile could cause lippage as you described. What could of caused them to be mis-aligned? it as if a whole row or 2 is misaligned and that spacers (or the seclection of different tiles) could have stopped this.

Also, is it unreasonable to ask for it to be removed and reinstalled at his expense considering that he had his "apprentice" install it and not a professional tile installer? I feel like he tried to save money by doing it this way. This is such a learning experience. I suppose these issues should be addressed beforehand.

Thanks again

Thank you very much

rusty baker 05-10-2009 05:41 PM

He did not do an acceptable job on the tile. He should do it again at his expense.

texas115115 05-10-2009 06:14 PM

Can you post some pics? Would be easier to see your problem.

Bud Cline 05-11-2009 12:58 PM


To answer your questions and clarify:
He never asked us what kind of sill to build. He just went ahead and made that aluminum flat "sill". With such and asthetic judgement, I think he should have stopped and asked us what type of sill we'd like. If he had asked we would have said we wanted a proper wooden sill. He just did it on his own.
Ya know what?

At the very minimum that goof ball should have duplicated what was already done on every other window of the house. To take off unilaterally and muck up something on his own shows definite signs of inexperience and don't-give-a-damnness.

You should get as far away from this guy as you possibly can.


As per your description, I understand how imperfections in the tile could cause lippage as you described. What could of caused them to be mis-aligned? it as if a whole row or 2 is misaligned and that spacers (or the seclection of different tiles) could have stopped this.
Mis-alignment of the tile could be caused by tiles being of different sizes. This does occur frequently, it doesn't matter how much you paid for the tile. These size variations are generally minimal (save slate tile) and the variations generally go unnoticed. Typically a good installer will recognize the variance and fudge the necessary tiles to reduce the variance visibility. You must keep in mind this is an imperfect product installed by hand, installers are not precision machines.

I'm not defending the shoddy workmanship you describe but if part of the problem is that you are somewhat anal or maybe a perfectionist yourself then maybe you should expect slightly less when it comes to something as dubious as a tile installation.:)

Don't misunderstand me - there's nothing wrong with being a perfectionist or anal. I am both, and, have found it to be a handicap at times.:yes:

Did this character come with references?
Did you check them out?
Did you go to see other jobs he had completed?

HABSFAN2006 05-11-2009 02:14 PM

The OP hasn't specified, or posted pictures regarding how much the tiles are lifted or uneven, and I was wondering why some are so quick to deem this a bad install job. Now, while realising that what is acceptable to some, may not be acceptable to others.... is there a general rule or tolerance which must be achieved regarding flatness of tiles?
Would 1/16" be acceptable as a tolerance from tile to tile?
1/8" would be unacceptable, for me, definately... so, if they are that far off, yes he should have to start the tile job over at his cost...
but, if it's around 1/16" from one another, and i walk on this floor barefoot and not trip on it, this would be acceptable for me... beeing a diy'er, I know that the longer period of time you get down on your knees and look at something, the worst it looks...

so, just wondering if there is a decimal tolerance everyone works with?

Please post pictures if possible, and good luck with this project.

Bud Cline 05-11-2009 06:26 PM

Ask and you shall receive:

Daniel Holzman 05-11-2009 08:41 PM

Just as a matter of curiosity, I checked on whether tile installers need to be licensed. Turns out that in most states, they do not. This is interesting, since it goes to the question of whether or not a "professional tile installer" should have set the tiles. If you don't have to be licensed, what does it mean to be a professional? If I charge money, does that make me a professional, like a baseball player is a professional because they are paid to play?

Anyway, if you don't have to be licensed, the only reasonable meaning of professional is "good". So the OP really wants a competent tile installer. Which gets back to the question of what kind of contract he had, i.e. if you select the installer based on low bid, maybe you need to cut the installer more slack than if you pay a higher price?

Bud Cline 05-11-2009 10:34 PM

Very few areas require any kind of licensing. There is no formal universal procedure recognized by the industry to date. Anyone can become a tile installer. Most areas don't even require any kind of inspection of the completed work by local government officials. Consumers are at the mercy of the installer that makes the claims. This is why it is of the utmost importance to GET REFERENCES and then go to the trouble to CHECK THOSE REFERENCES by visiting completed jobs done by the so-called professional installer. If the consumer doesn't do their work how can they expect a supposed "professional" to do his?

For decades installers of all venues have been making the claim that they are "certified" however until just recently there have never been any certifications given by anyone in the industry. It just wasn't available.

As long as people are naive enough to believe what some big box employee or some beggar tells them substandard installations will continue to be the norm.:(

Double A 05-11-2009 10:39 PM

CBJ, what does your contract with this person have to say about all this? Is there a scope of work? Is there a standard cited to which the tile work will conform?

What about the sill? Is there any discussion of exterior trim in the contract?

You do have a contract with this guy, right? Right?

Bud Cline 05-11-2009 10:50 PM

There is no contract, we all know that. The only written documents are the checks the guy has been given.:whistling2:

HABSFAN2006 05-12-2009 06:42 AM


Originally Posted by Bud Cline (Post 272530)

good read, makes sense.
Thanks for the link :thumbsup:

cbj8585 05-12-2009 09:18 PM

Thank you all for responding. I'm glad to hear a few of you learned from this discussion, I certainley have!

I apologize I do not yet have pictures. I will take some and post them. First thing the tile: It's not a bad job under the circumstances. It's a ranch style house on a concrete slab. Once the tile was finished, I mentioned the above imperfections to the contractor and he said that:

The slab isn't completely level. To get it level he would have had to either 1) jackhammer up the floor and re-pour concrete or 2) Add a 1/4 to 1/2 inch of concrete and raise the floor a bit. He is absolutley right that the floor isn't level but never discussed this ahead of time and just carried on with the job and probably hoped we wouldn't notice.

The other reason for the problem (and the most upsetting) is that he used his junior apprentice to install the tile. I'm not trying to throw stones here and I respect someone trying to learn the trade and learn but I think that the experience of a more senior person would have made the tile come out a little better.

Overall its not that bad of a job considering the less than ideal conditions of the uneven concrete slab but I wish we had a more senior person installing and I wish he expressed the condition of the floor ahead of time.

The window: Yes I was pissed he just put up that "sill" without asking first. He said it would be better for water drainage (could be true) but the rest of the windows have sills and sills just plain look better. My impression is that it was just easier for him to skip building a sill.

NEW WINDOW NEWS: Since my last message I noticed 2 new things

1) No caulking or weather stripping inbetween the new outside side molding and the siding of the house!! He said he knew about it and didn't have enough caulk at the time. Thank god it didn't rain!

2) On the top of the window he left in place some piece of flashing that is original to the house (50 years old)! He said that he didn't want to mess with the paneling on the exterior of the house because it is made of a delicate composite material (this is true-it is some cheap paper composite that looks like wood--this was popular for these style homes in the 60's). I insisted that he replace it and he said he would.

I had to make a big phone call to him on yesterday. I couldn't believe I had to mention things like weather stripping and flashing to a professional contractor!

Anyway sorry if I'm ranting.

Thanks again for all your helpful comments. This is great forum.

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