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posting some pics of job halfway done, I find myself somewhat questioning if the work done by my contractor is up to the quality standards, also looking for comments on the overall tile choice and design.

Would be really happy if professionals take a look and give feedback!

Specifically curious to find if seeing orange kerdi in between tiles on the accent wall is a concern? Does that mean that he applied thin-set only to the back of the tile and didn't spread a layer on the wall before putting tile in place? I wasn't around when he was doing it, so I don't know at the moment.

Also, do the corners look correctly done? Looks like there's no space for the group where the accent wall tile meets the side wall tile?

Thank you for looking!

Overall look

Corner done right?

No thin set in between tiles?

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  • I do t like the corner, but its too late now. A decent contractor would gave discussed options for corners etc. Commented Sep 30, 2023 at 3:12
  • What does the opposite corner look like?
    – Huesmann
    Commented Sep 30, 2023 at 13:16
  • I don't like the corner either. You usually try to avoid small slivers of tile, anywhere. It looks like the gaps at the top is wider than the gap at the bottom. That being the case, I would have tried to put a whole tile at the top, and then shaved off the edge of tiles as you went down to allow for the smaller spacing between the second column of tiles and the other wall. But without seeing the other corner, I can't say for sure if this is the right approach.
    – SteveSh
    Commented Sep 30, 2023 at 20:16

1 Answer 1

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The Tile Council of North America (TCNA) publishes the TCNA Handbook, which is the most important reference for tile work in the US at least, but probably much more broadly. If you don't know much about tile and you're looking to hire somebody for tile work, citing the TCNA Handbook's quality standards in your agreement with the contractor is a smart move to set standards without knowing much yourself (as long as you're using low contrast grout--for high contrast grout you should figure out some tighter constraints on grout line width variation with the contractor). If he's unfamiliar with the TCNA Handbook, then you probably shouldn't expect too much from him. The Kerdi people do have classes teaching their system and certifying installers, though, so maybe there are some installers in the Kerdi niche who don't know the TCNA Handbook. I vaguely recall learning that people taking those Kerdi classes actually get a TCNA Handbook as part of the class, but I don't recall the source of that knowledge, so who knows?

On seeing the Kerdi-board at all of the grout lines, my first instinct was to be impressed by the cleanness (grout will hide the orange). No thinset squeezing through, as such spots need scraping so that the thinset doesn't disrupt the grout's surface. Upon reflection, though, it also indicates that the tiler is applying thinset only to the tiles. So long as he's combing it on with an appropriately sized square-notch trowel, it's fine I suppose. I'd rather see the thinset combed on the wall and back-buttered on each tile during installation. The important thing is that he's getting 95% coverage, though:

TCNA Handbook mortar coverage

The handbook only recommends back-buttering for natural stone (which is why I included that section even though it doesn't apply to your tile). I'm being picky. He'll probably achieve smaller lippage (the lip of a tile sticking up more than an adjacent tile's edge) by defying my expectations.

Apart from quality standards like grout line widths, lippage tolerances, etc., the TCNA Handbook provides a bunch of different designs for architects to cut and paste into their designs. I can't say for sure, but I've never seen an exception to the rule that these designs each reference an expansion joints section called EJ171. For indoor tile (without the extreme temperature variations you'd find outdoors), EJ171 specifies a minimum gap of 1/8" at the change of plane of the corner joint from your second photo:

TCNA Handbook interior change of plane

If yours was glass tile, then I might worry some (glass tile expands more with temperature and it also cracks pretty easily), but with ceramic tile my instinct is to lay off. You're probably in the small minority of people complaining about the corners being too tight, where I expect that the typical pattern is complaints about the corner caulking being too fat as it covers the objectionable corner.

There is a legitimate gripe about that tile sliver in the corner, though. When that corner is finally caulked, there's going to be a teeny little bit of tile surface between the vertical grout line on the left wall and the caulk's edge, and with two parallel lines that close together your eye will notice tiny variations in the width of that teeny little bit of tile surface. A pro should have planned ahead and anticipated the problem. Unless you intervened somehow to make that happen. Customer interventions sometimes cause that sort of thing, so I'm cautious about assigning blame.

The bottom of that wall niche looks really nice with how the top edge of the tile hit it, but it looks like you might have another sliver along the niche top. That's a downside of those prefabricated niches, where the tile size can interface poorly with the niche dimensions. But maybe I'm planning the funeral prematurely, and it'll turn out great.

The importance of consistent grout line widths is predicated on the color contrast between the tile and grout. High contrast will highlight variations in grout line widths. Low contrast will de-emphasize variation in grout line widths. If you want high contrast grout, then one virtue of the orange Kerdi-board showing through right now is that its contrast is giving you a preview of what contrasting grout would look like. For high contrast grout, there exist rectified tiles which have machined edges so each tile has the exact same dimensions. This allows for thin contrasting grout lines with little variation in width. As the tile sizes get more sloppy, though, grout lines must grow in width to hide the variations which can be noticeable even under perfect workmanship. If you want contrasting grout, then it's important to include that constraint in your negotiations with your contractor. If he installs the tile anticipating matching grout and you decide halfway through that you want contrasting grout, then both you and he probably aren't going to like each other very well when you finally part ways.

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  • Wow, great article.
    – jay613
    Commented Sep 30, 2023 at 10:03
  • @jay613, right? My DIY manual for hiring a tiling contractor. But I think the message comes through that DIY tile people should borrow or buy a handbook and stay away from contrasting grout.
    – popham
    Commented Sep 30, 2023 at 10:26
  • Wait, my bad. You don't trowel lines on a back butter. youtube.com/watch?v=Wzesvejp5sQ - They didn't 'back butter' they just did it backwards.
    – Mazura
    Commented Sep 30, 2023 at 12:50
  • @Mazura, see youtube.com/watch?v=Wzesvejp5sQ&t=80s. This tile job does not involve large format tile, and there's no tile installed on the OP's shower floor yet. The TCNA Handbook is the document that any tiler (Sal DiBlasi, not that sales guy of yours) would cite if you asked him "why?" I already included a screenshot of the relevant 'graph from the TCNA Handbook.
    – popham
    Commented Sep 30, 2023 at 21:31

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