Contractor installed subway tile with wrong pattern!
mollyladd
July 19, 2014 in Design Dilemma
I feel soooo stupid! My contractor just today finished grouting my new tub surround. I wanted . classic running bond subway tile walls around my tub. I saw the tiles on the wall for 2 days and couldn't figure out why the grout lines looked so big. It finally hit me- the tiles are stacked! How can I tell him this after I have seen it for 2 days?
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hayleydaniels
Just call him and say that you thought something looked off but weren't sure what is was, and now you figured it out. Whether he'll charge you to fix it is questionable....
2 Likes   Thanked by mollyladd    July 19, 2014 at 9:33PM
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makaloco
Hayley is right, you have to get him to redo it. And don't feel bad! It took me several days to realize that the cabinetmaker forgot a row of drawers. I think sometimes we're just overwhelmed by the newness of it all.
2 Likes   Thanked by mollyladd    July 19, 2014 at 9:41PM
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mollyladd
Thanks for your comments hayleydaniels and makaloco, I thought he knew what I wanted because its the usual way it is laid out. I have been at work while he worked on it and when I got home (after midnite) and saw it without grout, I just thought it looked strange because it wasn't finished. Now I don't even know if he knows how to do it. He is supposed to put penny-rounds on the floor and I know how that can go wrong. I am nervous............
0 Likes   July 19, 2014 at 9:56PM
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makaloco
Maybe your best approach is to show him photos of how you want the installation to look. For the subway tiles, print out a few Houzz photos and say, "Everybody else's is like this so I assumed mine would be." For the penny rounds, show him a good floor photo of the look you're aiming for.
3 Likes   Thanked by mollyladd    July 19, 2014 at 10:24PM
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soberg
I find it strange that he didn't ask, AND assumed you'd want the less standard stacked layout. Running bond is what gets used 98% of the time with subway tile, and in fact is the actual layout in a subway.
3 Likes   Thanked by mollyladd    July 20, 2014 at 2:05AM
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mollyladd
Thank you soberg I'm wondering why he didn't ask me too. It makes me think he doesn't know what subway tile looks like and that seems odd to me. He has had his own home improvement business for years. I'm trying to prepare myself for the possible long delay and extra expense that will be involved. Which could have been avoided if only I had noticed it sooner!
1 Like   July 20, 2014 at 6:19AM
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Kivi
No question he should have asked about the layout, and because of that he bears much of the responsibility for the screwup. However, to hold him entirely responsible is not reasonable either since you also were not crystal clear about what you wanted. Yes subway tile is "typically" laid in a particular fashion, but when you rely on that as guidance you are not always going to get what you want. I learned long ago that you have to be very very clear about such things otherwise you are introducing an element of chance that will sometimes go against you.
2 Likes   Thanked by mollyladd    July 20, 2014 at 7:58AM
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PRO
Deborah Butler, Brickwood Builders
Whoever did the tile design is responsible for communicating to the contractor what is desired. It is generally done with a hand created sketch noting size and location of everything. Assuming is not a substitute for communicating.
0 Likes   Thanked by mollyladd    July 20, 2014 at 8:13AM
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mollyladd
Thanks for the opinions Kivi and Deborah. I do think I am largely to blame for this situation. I am just sick about it and hoping that I can work something out with him. Do contractors generally rip out and reinstall things correctly after a mistake has been made? I plan on having to pay for it.
2 Likes   July 20, 2014 at 11:44AM
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Sophie Wheeler
Ripping it out now could compromise the waterproofing behind the tile, depending on what type of waterproofing was used. Do you know what system he used?
0 Likes   July 20, 2014 at 11:52AM
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crowley48
Mollyladd, if it was his mistake he should rip it out and do over at his own cost. If it was your mistake, well, try to work something out. Just my humble opinion.

My builder put the Listello in my hall bath incorrectly. I had specified three rows of vertices Listello and they installed one row of horizontal. While the one row looked very nice and they did a good job, it was incorrect. And I was unhappy because we'd already done the other two baths in horizontal ( tho different tile and Listello) and I didn't want all the baths done the same.
The builder ripped it out and now it's beautiful. Of course, it was his mistake.

Only you can decide who goofed, you or the contractor or a combo of both. But if he's a decent contractor, he should work to please you. :)
0 Likes   Thanked by mollyladd    July 20, 2014 at 11:57AM
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Sophie Wheeler
Walking past the install in progress for three days without saying anything puts the responsibiliy squarely on the OP for the redo.
2 Likes   July 20, 2014 at 12:02PM
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Deborah Butler, Brickwood Builders
If this is a tub/shower then I agree that to attempt to remove the tile would compromise the waterproofing. It would be a last resort and the fix would be to rip out to the studs and build back properly. Would be very expensive.
1 Like   Thanked by mollyladd    July 20, 2014 at 1:38PM
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ASVInteriors
I have seen subway tile stacked and while it is unconventional it looks very good... Can you have the rest of the bathroom tiled the same way? How much has been done?
0 Likes   Thanked by mollyladd    July 20, 2014 at 1:40PM
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mollyladd
Here's some pictures
0 Likes   July 20, 2014 at 1:45PM
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ASVInteriors
Like the design, but not so sure of the quality. I see what he has tried to do with the vertical tiles and edges to match up the horizontal lines but don't really like this thin and thick grout line. He should have spoken to you about that. Secondly why has he not used a profile or Schluter edge for the niche. Thirdly the niche has been tiled off center to the tiles. This could have been accommodated with forethought.
4 Likes   Thanked by mollyladd    July 20, 2014 at 1:51PM
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bungalowmo
To me...I see a 50/50 fault going on here.

You didn't tell him & he didn't ask. After a couple days, he could only assume that he was doing what you wanted since you made no comment.

Now...it's all about $$. If this design is making you nuts, but you don't have the $ to redo it...you might be stuck with it.
0 Likes   Thanked by mollyladd    July 20, 2014 at 2:14PM
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boundsgreener
I don't think the stack is necessarily bad (which could save you lots of $$$), but the niche is really poorly done, as ASV pointed out, and I think the vertical tiles make the stacks look bad, too. Here's a picture of how a stack - with a properly done niche! - can look really nice: http://www.modwalls.com/lush3x6vapor.aspx (you might have to click on the photo of the shower as I think this link is to the general page).

Definitely oversee him when he does the penny rounds! If they go on wonky and misaligned it'll be a total nightmare.
2 Likes   Thanked by mollyladd    July 20, 2014 at 2:30PM
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Kivi
You face some tough decisions here. On one hand I agree with AVS that I don't hate the stacked look, however, I really dislike the quality of the tile work. The varied, and overly wide grout joints, the poorly done niche, the lippage between some tiles, missing edge trim, and lack of a better planned layout suggest very strongly that this is not the work of a tile pro. I would be very suspicious about the waterproofing layer based on the tile work. I think you have much greater concerns about the quality...than about your original concerns about the layout.
Personally I would not be willing to pay in full for a job done in this manner, and I would be tearing it out because I would be constantly tormented by the crappy workmanship.
6 Likes   Thanked by mollyladd    July 20, 2014 at 4:12PM
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PRO
Linda
To assume something is to make an A$$ out of U and ME.

Until you have worked with a contractor long enough to have complete confidence in their understanding of your desires and their ESP abilities, you must take responsibility for making your wishes clear. The contractor needs to take responsibility for identifying potential issues and discussing them with you while you are available to make the needed decisions.

I've had to have a few very in-depth conversations with my partner's brother over tile layouts. He is a great tile guy in most cases, but I like to do my own measuring and understand the layout before anything is started. One particular project was a mudroom and powder room floor where if the layout started with full tiles in one place, the other area was left with a very small fill-in row which wasn't acceptable to me. I insisted, he shook his head and told me I didn't understand; I told him that I just couldn't accept his layout. After it was finished, he did admit that my layout worked well.
0 Likes   Thanked by mollyladd    July 20, 2014 at 5:41PM
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TMK Remodeling
Perhaps offer a 50/50 split since there is some degree of shared responsibility. Ask what he would charge to redo it then offer to pay half.

My tile setter uses adhesive rather than thin set mortar when doing subway tiled shower stalls over a cement board substrate. We have had a couple of instances where we needed repairs done (those darn plumbers!) and the tile came off rather easily. You may find that if adhesive was used rather than mortar then it won't compromise the cement board to remove it.

Make sure the subway tiles butt together. There should be a pencil line grout joint not the thick grout lines shown in the photos above by mollydad.
0 Likes   Thanked by mollyladd    July 20, 2014 at 6:36PM
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Kivi
@tmk. Adhesive should not be used to bond tile to shower walls. The fact that you can easily remove a tile is a clear indication of how the adhesive fails when used in a wet environment ( shower). Adhesives have a dramatic loss of bonding strength when used in wet areas, and it is for this very reason that ANSI states that adhesives are only rated for intermittent water exposure. Shower tiles should be installed with thinset...not adhesive.
0 Likes   Thanked by mollyladd    July 20, 2014 at 8:05PM
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Sophie Wheeler
Mastic should NEVER EVER be used in a wet location. Those tiles that ''come off easily'' do so because he used the incorrect product. Mastic cures by dehydration, not chemical reaction like thinset. That means that when it gets wet, it re-emulsifies and the bond is weakened. When it's in a constantly wet environment, nasty gross mold behind the tile is a result.
0 Likes   Thanked by mollyladd    July 20, 2014 at 8:05PM
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Kivi
Molly, I know you said you were thinking of having it ripped out and redone. However, you are going to need to have a discussion with your guy about the workmanship. If he did this work for some crazy cheap price, and that explains the not so great workmanship, you may need to decide if this is the right person to have on the job for the work going forward. If you had every expectation of a professional job, then I think you know that you did not get one. Do not let them convince you that this is normal good quality workmanship. It is not, for many reasons.

It was asked earlier...do you know how the shower was waterproofed? Also, do you know what was used for the wall underneath the tile? Cement board?....something else?? Did you take pictures at that stage?
0 Likes   Thanked by mollyladd    July 21, 2014 at 5:01AM
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PRO
Decorative Philosophy
2 overly used words of advice when working with anyone:
A picture is worth a thousand words.
Hindsight is 20/20.
We suggest either learning to love it and finding a new contractor. I know how disappointed you must be. We have all made mistakes like this.
Have a talk with the person, perhaps you can work something out.
ALSO Read what Kivi said above.
0 Likes   Thanked by mollyladd    July 21, 2014 at 5:13AM
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soberg
We've seen many examples on Houzz where even "simple" tile installations really need a designer or very experienced and tasteful tile installer to get the job planned right. Of all the choices that faced your installer, I can't see that he did a single one right. A careful homeowner would have the tile design pre-done and sketched out - either a kitchen designer or even a salesperson from the tile store can do a great job at this. The focus is field layout, centering, minimizing cut tiles, having finished edges, and putting anything that is both awkward and unavoidable in the least visible place. And a competent installer would have ASKED ahead of time about how to lay out. The fact that he did not speaks to his inexperience and sorry to say, incompetence for independent tile installation.

If the overall job were done well and the ONLY issue was running bond vs. stacked, then it might be a tough call. But with details like the niche done so badly, IMO the whole thing deserves to be ripped out at his expense. I'd check to see that he is licensed for this work - in many states, unlicensed contractors need not be paid for their work and this would be a great time to consider activating that clause.
0 Likes   Thanked by mollyladd    July 21, 2014 at 4:34PM
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mollyladd
Thanks to all of you for taking the time to respond to me...........I feel like the biggest fool in the world, I have way bigger problems than the tile pattern! You were so right Kivi, turns out he didn't even use cementboard on one of the walls and no waterproofing anywhere, there are so many things wrong it would take me all night to list them.
I fired him this morning and feel like this person was very deceptive. My only bathroom is unusable and I'm just going to have to find someone else as soon as possible.
You all have been very kind to me and I appreciate all the comments and concern!
0 Likes   July 21, 2014 at 9:44PM
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Kivi
Molly, clearly you did the tight thing by firing him. Good for you! On the bright side, this is the time to deal with all the things that were done wrong.... before any water leaking/ damage starts. Visit some of your local tile shops, or call a local design person ( if you want some help with the overall design, and possibly oversight of the new installation). Those folks will generally know who the really good tile installers are in your area.
I know it is very disheartening to feel that you have been deceived like this. I feel for you.
You may already realize this but your current shower will need to be ripped out down to the studs. Hopefully the shower plumbing was all done properly and can be reused. Since we don't know what you used for a shower base...that may or may not need to be taken out also.
1 Like   Thanked by mollyladd    July 22, 2014 at 12:37AM
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mollyladd
Kivi- I am grateful to you for your comments and suggestions. I do realize that the whole thing will have to come right down. I'm in a "start over" spot now. I think I'll go to one of the local shops as you mentioned and see if they can help me out. I hadn't thought of that. I realize now how really naive and irresponsible I was with this project. Thanks to you and the others out there who responded, I have much better knowledge of my role in overseeing this.
To you and everyone who commented, I am truly grateful for your help!
0 Likes   July 22, 2014 at 8:33AM
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Kevin Strader
Our contractor laid out our kitchen floor in two different designs and we looked at it and OK'ed it before he started the actual installation. Your contractor should have asked, but, after not saying anything for three days . . . But, it's your bath, so tear it out and get it done exactly like you want.
0 Likes   July 22, 2014 at 8:50AM
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