Are there standards for tile installation workmanship?

QUESTION

Had shower tile work in my home. Seeking remedy with builder for poor workmanship and want to know if there are basic tile installation standards for quality installation? I have some toes bulging from the wall 1/16 inch or more, gaping at mitered corners and a lopsided niche. Help please! Thank you

ANSWER

ANSWER - Yes there are industry standards for workmanship.  ANSI A108 .08-2013 4.0 General requirements for tile installations provides many of the workmanship requirements for the installation of tiles.

Walls cannot be out of plumb, or the required plane, more than 1/4" in 10 feet or 1/16" in 12 inches for tiles less than 15" in facial dimensions.  Tiles that are 15" or larger cannot be out of plumb, or the required plane, more than 1/8" in 10 feet or 1/16" in 24 inches.  

It states what the allowable tile lippage is for tiles with various grout joint widths.  It has a section 4.3 on Workmanship, cutting, fitting, and grout joint size, and sections on other aspects of a tile installation.

Consumers should make sure their tile installers and their helpers are ITS Verified through the University of Ceramic Tile and Stone at www.CTaSC.com.   This is an online course they can take that will verify that they know and understand the industry standards.  Of course that doesn't teach them how to install tile properly.  Consumers should ask for photos and references from their installers to make sure they will perform quality work.

19 thoughts on “Are there standards for tile installation workmanship?

  1. Ronnie Prudhomme says:

    I recently had tile work done ( kitchen back splash) and have many problems with the work. I am looking for standards to determine what the problems are. The company I hired claim the work is OK but I cannot agree with this. The glass tile are 4×12 and are laid in a running bond with overlay at 50%. I feel that this tile should have been laid with a 30% overlay and the problem with lippage would not be as great. Can you help me with this?

    • Donato Pompo says:

      ANSI A108.02-2019 says that any tile with an edge larger than 15 inches should not have an off-set greater than 33%. Even though your tile is only 12 inches long at a 50% off-set it will tend to show maximum warpage that will generally increase the tile lippage in those spots. Glass tiles tend to have more warpage than ceramic tiles particularly if it is a cast glass.

      Lippage on wall tiles with a grout joint between 1/16″ and 1/8″ wide can’t have more lippage than 1/32″ (thickness of a typical credit card) PLUS the inherent warpage in the tile. So if the warpage is 1/32″ you add that to the 1/32″ allowable lippage so in that case the lippage can’t be over 1/16″.

      Review a copy of the glass tile manufacturer’s brochure and data sheet and see tolerances they commit to and look at their photos to see if they install it at a 50% off-set and if it looks similar to your installation.

      • Jeff Beyder says:

        Mr. Pompo,

        Are there standards which cover how far off the wall a tile can be installed to assure plumpness? Wall tile 10×16 at 8 ft. height sticks out 1/4 to 3/4 over the 8 foot height of the shower!!

        • Donato Pompo says:

          If I understand your question correctly, you are asking if there are standards on how thick can the thin-set can be between the back of the tile and its substrate within a 8 foot span in order to make the shower wall plumb.

          The answer is no there are no specific standards in that respect. There are standards for different types of thin-set mortar on how thick the thin-set can be which ranges from 1/4″ to 3/4″ depending on the thin-set. And that they are not intended to be used in truing or leveling underlying substrates of the work of others.

          There are standards that say the substrate surface cannot vary out-of-plane more than 1/8″ in 10 feet for tiles that have one side that is 15″ wide or larger. Or 1/4″ in 10 feet if the tile is less than 15″ wide.

  2. Michael Sloane says:

    I am have a new home built, and I am not happy with the quality of the tile installation. Compared to past tile work I have had done on earlier homes and remodels, the tile work for our kitchen back splash is cosmetically ugly, in my opinion. I am curious if there are any industry standards regarding the placement of the tile, or is this all strictly subjective?

    Below are links to photos of some of the work I am not happy with. Do I have a legitimate complaint on any of this, or is this representative of industry standard workmanship.

    Photo 1: Here is a photo showing corner detail in our kitchen. This looks terrible to me.
    https://drive.google.com/open?id=1GL-vlfV-_0TCP4WjlQh23thcBljZnwpb

    Photo 2: Here is a photo showing uneven grout lines and uneven tile placement. Is this acceptable?
    https://drive.google.com/open?id=10gn7I06Uf86GOfaM8_wisklxus9HwFeV

    Photo 3: Here is a photo of the “Fix” that the tile contractor did when I complained about the corner job in Photo 1. This looks to me like a hack, trying to hide the poor workmanship. Am I off-base?
    https://drive.google.com/open?id=12QNH64Ycym5mGZBUFtslxj8EQratQ-jY

    • Donato Pompo says:

      Regarding Photo 1, the ANSI A108.02 standards state that usually no cuts smaller than half the size of the tile should be made unless it is unavoidable. In this cause it was avoidable if the installer had laid the tile out in advance and adjusted for it.

      Regarding Photo 2 doesn’t look terrible from what I can see. You have a subway tile with a slight cushion edge with some tile warpage so you might get some variation in the grout joint width. The installer could have avoided some of the variation where the tile didn’t align up to the adjacent tile.

      Regarding Photo 3 where he put a quarter round trim along vertical wall transition doesn’t look good. Its not grouted so maybe if it were grouted it might help or not. I see what looks like an excessively wide joint at the top of the right wall and if that is the case that is not considered acceptable. Whether it was avoidable or not depends on the squareness of the ceiling and whether you want to adjust the tile to compensate for it.

      • B says:

        Hey Donato – I am having the same issue in Photo 1. Our building code does not require compliance with A108.02 as it does not involve safety, but rather workmanship. If they do not fix the issue, is there any recourse beyond leaving bad reviews for the builder and installer?

        • Donato Pompo says:

          If it isn’t practical to hire an expert forensic investigator like CTaSC to use our report as leverage, or to hire an attorney to write a letter or to litigate the matter. Then most states have licensing boards. You can file a complaint with them. Or you can go to small claims court. Get a copy of the standards and quantitatively document the defects to use as evidence in court.

          Of course that is assuming that you are correct that the workmanship doesn’t meet the industry standards.

  3. Joan says:

    Hello, we are also having a new home built and we were not happy with the ‘mitered’ corners on the backsplash Schluter strips (Photo 1). They agreed to redo the strips and instead did rounded corners; however, they replaced with strips that are wider than before and are not flush with the tile thickness (Photo 2, 3). The grout joint is also wider now, and the installer says this is why the grout looks darker (the grout has lightened a little with drying time but is still darker than elsewhere). We do not like the wider grout joint or the thickness of the strip, but he claims this is good work. We pointed to the Schluter website and the instructions on matching tile thickness and having uniform joint widths, but he and the building manager said they are just suggestions, not requirements. Furthermore, during the repair, the tiler chipped the corner off the granite countertop and tried to fill in the space with grout (Photo 4). The builder is trying to see whether the chip could be filled with resin, but we are skeptical it will look good because it is a larger chunk that is missing and we would rather the slab be replaced. Could you please clarify what the standards really are? Thanks for your help.
    Photo 1: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1HoTxaE_1KrTMZEUGVDxUaDZHhKvM3ki4/view?usp=sharing
    Photo 2: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1jtSOBl4B3VB0woP3ucFi7zvMmV8rwxds/view?usp=sharing
    Photo 3: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1yMwIfCoaCSeukAn7aicLE-prW6gmlud-/view?usp=sharing
    Photo 4: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1E1h_-waZtV2oKtxD2D_wD_xxEKY1WJYI/view?usp=sharing

    • Donato Pompo says:

      The Schluter metal trim profile around the perimeter of the tile does look sloppy and not professional. The profile should not be higher than the tile surface.
      Industry standards do say that it is acceptable to repair granite counter tops as long as the repair doesn’t become noticeable.

    • Donato Pompo says:

      I see that they look to be a 6 inch marble Hexagon tile. The ungrouted tiles tend to accentuate the variation in grout joint width.

      The variation in grout joint width might have something to do with how much the the tile varies in size. The ANSI A108.02 standard states that the grout joint width should be at least 3 times the actual variation of facial dimensions.

      There isn’t a specific standard for what is the acceptable tolerance for grout joint width variation, but I have submitted to the ANSI A108 committee that it should be the same as the standard for movement joint widths which is
      +/ – 25% from the intended grout joint width.

      That means the grout joint should not vary more than 1/4th of the specified grout joint width both in terms of 1/4th smaller or 1/4th larger.

  4. Elizabeth says:

    Hello There
    Iam buying a new built house and the perimeter of the tile instaled on the walls of the bath tub and in the floor by the Chimney does not have Schluter metal trim. I am claiming that is not finish status and the builder refuse to fixed it because he has already get the C of O from the city.
    Is there any standart that I can bring up to builder to make them complete the work?

    • Donato Pompo says:

      The industry standards don’t require that ceramic tile trim is used. There are some building codes that require cove base for commercial areas for sanitary reasons.

      Other countries typically don’t use the trim that we often use in USA such a surface bullnose, quarter round and coves. Although metal or plastic profile trims are used a lot when a tile doesn’t come with trim or if you don’t want to spend the extra money for tile trim, but not everyone likes that look.

      Personally I prefer leaving the exposed edge of the ceramic tile even if the color of the body is a little different. I will even grind the edges of a field tile to round it out even when the body of the tile is a different color. So it is up to the individual on what they prefer.

      The tile installer should have clarified if he was going to use trim or not and should have given you a choice; unless this is a development of homes and the developer specified that the installer install the tile the way that he did.

  5. Jackie says:

    Hello I am wondering if someone could look at these pictures and tell me if this is factory standard? I am told by my contractor it was laid to factory standards.

    • Donato Pompo says:

      There isn’t any way that you can look at photos of a tile to determine whether it meets industry standards or not. Depending on the type of issue it would require laboratory testing or an on-site inspection.

  6. Karen says:

    We are having our walk in shower retiled. They are putting tile on the wall now. I noticed that the backer board has gaps and not taped at seams. Also, the wall tile is 12 × 24 inch and they are using “spot” Application so it goes on even. It is causing huge air gap between tile and backer board. Should we be concerned for shower wall installed this way?

    • Donato Pompo says:

      Industry standards and the manufacturer’s directions for the backer board is that you install the backer boards in staggered rows. There should be a 1/8″ gap that is filled with the thin-set with an alkaline resistant tape applied over the joint.

      Industry standards clearly state that spot bonding is not allowed for bonding tile. The ANSI A108 standards state that the thin-set contact between the tile and its substrate should be 95% contact with no voids larger than 2 square inches (size of golf ball).

      If you reduce the adhesion by 50% then the bond strength of the tile has been reduced by 50%. Have excessive voids in the back of the tile allows water to collect and can lead to efflorescence staining

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