Disappointed with tile work in bathroom

Michael Morley
July 7, 2019

We selected the the tile in the first picture and the display and pictures always showed it placed horizontally that’s why I was surprised to see that the tiler installed in vertically. To make matters worse he didn’t stagger the layout and didn’t space it evenly in one wall which left an awkward cut in the corner to make up for the space. I’m unhappy with the outcome and I’m being told that i just have to deal with it. If I want it redone the entire project needs to be ripped out and it will cost me $3000 more to have it redone. I was never asked which direction the tile should go and I never even gave it a second thought since I’d only seen it laid horizontally. If I not happy with the outcome do I have any recourse Or do I just have to deal with it?

Comments (40)

  • PRO

    You know what they say about the word ASSUME (makes an ass out of U and ME)

    If you don't go over these details with your installer, then assumptions are made. How do you know the actual installer ever saw that pictures. Call them back and have them rip it out if you like, but you're going to pay additional if you didn't go over these requests in advance.

    BTW this installer isn't professional. Tile would have been centered on your valves in the shower or had the grout line run through the center of the valves..

  • live_wire_oak

    If it’s not in your contract, and you didn’t give him a diagram instructing him, and weren’t there to discuss the pattern with him, then you can’t assume that he can read your mind. If you want it redone, it is on you. The only recourse that you might possibly have if is they built the shower incorrectly. What waterproofing system did they use? Do you have any pictures of the in progress build before the tile? Who did the prep work before the tiler showed up? Or did the tiler do it all?

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  • Michael Morley

    Thanks everyone for taking the time to write. It never even crossed my mind that anyone would lay the tile the direction he did. This was the first time. An expensive lesson. I do agree that corners were cut as far as layout and alignment. Are there any options as far as that goes? What a huge waste of time and money!!!

  • Michael Morley

    Tile was on top of cement board to those asking about prep

  • PRO
    Kristin Petro Interiors, Inc.

    An installer whose default is vertical stacked? Houzz is giving me heartburn this weekend.

  • cineus

    How did you pay for this job? A deposit, full up front?
    Have you paid after you saw the job he has done?
    You may not have any recourse for the direction of the tile, but the workmanship is another issue.
    Did you get references, look at any of this persons work?
    This is not a professional job.
    If you have these issues fixed, I wouldn’t trust the current installer to do it. He didn’t do it right the first time, so can’t expect it to be done right the second.

  • Helen

    I am not a pro but I am pretty sure that cement board is not waterproof and there needs to be additional waterproof OVER the cement board and that ties in with the water proofing of the shower floor.

    Did they perform a 24 hour flood test? Is the shower floor sloped properly?

    I recently finished a gut remodel including two bathrooms and learned enough from these forums to be a bit terrified and very cautious about how my shower was going to be built. I still had to ultimately trust in the professionalism of the people my designer and GC hired and their oversight but at least this forum gave me the ability to ask semi-intelligent questions so that I knew that they were applying a Redguard system - about flood tests - about sloping shower floors - about how water proofing seams had to meet and I tried to take pictures even though I was living off site. Fingers crossed - the shower floor is dry (drains) and I haven't landed in the floor below me :-).

    ETA - And intended for people who come to this thread later on and perhaps the OP if the shower needs to be done over, all of the tile layers had diagrams/pictures showing exactly how the tile was going to be laid down to the placement of each tile. These were taped to the walls of the bathrooms and kitchen so no one could claim they had missed seeing them. One other nightmare I learned from this forum is that poor tile layers don't bother to cull through tiles where variation is part of the aesthetic so that instead of having variegated marble tiles scattered beautifully around, they will clump the colors together. I have basketweave Calacatta marble tile floors on bathroom and shower floors and so there are brown and gray and cream tiles and I shudder to think of what it would look like if they had installed all of the gray in one area of the floor :-).

  • roccouple

    I think it’s pretty bizarre to lay a tile with that aspect ratio vertically. I’m not an installer or pro but id assume horizontal immediately. It looks very bad In my opinion. I’m sorry you are going through this!

  • scottie mom

    If he had laid them horizontally, you would have had even more awkward slivers, since it appears that your shower is just a bit wider than the tile. It‘s not a good choice of material here, and a skilled installer would have told you that. An expensive lesson indeed, but perhaps a lucky one, since it appears there is no waterproofing in this shower. Ripping it out now will cost less than ripping out a moldy mess that’s been hidden from view. Good luck.

  • PRO
    Joseph Corlett, LLC

    It's a tear-out anyway. No waterproofing and not even taped corners.

  • Joy

    Geez, poor tile installer. He was hired for a job, finished it, and now you want to be involved in the process? Did you go over anything with him? How the shower was being built, waterproofing, pattern layout of tile? Yes, probably not a pro at his job, but he did what you asked, tiled a shower. Sorry, this is on you, quit looking for a way to relinquish your responsibility. Someone has to fill Sophie’s shoes. sigh

  • AJCN

    OP, ask the installer what materials and methods he used for the waterproofing.

    Not a pro here. There are several acceptable methods for waterproofing a shower; there's not just one way, but the tile pro is supposed to adhere to industry standards and manufacture's instructions. Ask him what he used and how it was installed. One thing I know is whatever boards are used (cement, hydroban, etc.) they need to be attached a certain way with the appropriate fasteners, taped and sealed, so that they don't move and crack your tile as your house breaths. Floor has to slope to drain. There are different ways and materials to achieve that. Ask him what he did.

  • chiflipper

    No waterproofing...proof the installer isn't a Pro. The whole thing is a tear out and do over. If you had spent thirty minutes reading shower advice (using the search bar) this could have been prevented.

    Note: "cement board" will not disintegrate when immersed in water, HOWEVER, it will allow water to pass through it. This "capillary action" will cause wood studs to rot and mold to grow behind it.

  • PRO
    Glo European Windows & Doors

    That is so disappointing, I'm so sorry. Very strange that the tiler didn't ask you prior to. I can see how you would have assumed it was going to be laid horizontally, since the shower step tiles were laid horizontal. Still, that should have been a detailed conversation.

    I will say that vertical stacked shower tiles is done frequently and lends itself to be a much more modern design. Like, this:

    Generally, with the size and movement of your tile, when they are laid vertically the tiles are still staggered, like this:

    Like mentioned, he is not a professional for all the reasons other have listed above. Unfortunately, it seems you are left with the bill since it was never discussed or put into writing prior to and then he went against your wishes. Seems like a lot of expensive assumptions were made here. I would weigh whether or not the additional $3k is worth a total redo with another more experienced tiler. I would lean towards yes, but it's not my money.

    At the very least I would leave as many bad reviews as possible online/google/etc. so others will avoid hiring him.

  • catliesl

    Sorry you're experiencing this aggravation. I had a tile job ripped out immediately after installation many years ago, and I still remember the frustration. Glad I did it, though, because I'm sure that looking at the problem areas would have enraged me daily for eternity. In your case, that extra line of grout in the inner corner looks like a nightmare. It's hard enough to keep just one corner grout line clean.

  • GreenDesigns

    A real tile professional would be about double your 3K expense for your ”unhandy guy”. Live and learn. Now you get to pay the 6K+ a 2K tearout and disposal, plus the wall prep that needed to happen, and all on top off the 3K for the jackleg.

  • Michael Morley

    Thanks everyone. I was thinking it was me being picky. I should have firmed up the direction of the tile. I’ve been involved and around every day. This happened to be the one day I didn’t stop by until later. Like many have said it’s an expensive lesson learned. Thanks again for your input.

  • chiflipper

    Janet, 8k in labor for an approx. 3X5 shower (walls and pan) is the going rate for a Pro tiler...MUCH more in certain urban areas (LA, Boston, NYC, San Francisco, Seattle).

  • SusanInMaryland

    I would have flipped my lid if a tiler had installed the tile vertically like that without asking first. Has the person never seen rectangular tile before?! I appreciate this post because I'm having my shower tiled next month and I will definitely make sure the tiler and I are on the same page.

  • Mrs. S

    This isn't Michael's fault for not specifying how the tile is to be installed! Boy, when this shower leaks, the direction of the tile is the least concern. It is only one bit of evidence of how bad the contractor is. The installer is a hack. He has to demo it, and explain how he's going to do the whole thing over again according to code. Waterproof!!!! This is in your HOUSE, and could leak! I would hold his feet to the fire. Is he licensed?

    I would contact the contractor's licensing board.

  • PRO
    Dragonfly Tile & Stone Works, Inc.

    So here's what you do. And this will be long. You meet with the installer and explain that you have multiple concerns. Tell him you expected when he presented himself as a professional, that he was going to perform this work in accordance with industry and manufacturer standards (as well as any local codes). Explain that you are concerned that his prep, prior to tile installation, is not in accordance with standards. If he disagrees, ask him to provide you with the standards he followed (TCNA Guidelines, ANSI Specifications, material manufacturer specifications for use in showers, including the Durock). Also explain that you expected if there was any question about the layout of the tile, he would have asked you first as the layout is not what you wanted. Further, the small sliver tiles are unacceptable (and they ARE unacceptable and also not in accordance with workmanship guidelines by TCNA). Ask him to tear it out, buy you new tile, and document and perform the re-do work in accordance to the standards. Regardless of his answer, follow up with a written recap of your expectations and his response. If he refuses to re-do the work, fire him without pay (and request a refund for what you have paid). Then hire a professional to do the job. Here's the thing, and I know this is long, but very important: The only way to reduce the unprofessional jobs is for the consumer to not ACCEPT the unprofessional jobs. There are thousands of us in the industry who are professionals and perform high quality work. We talk and we share stories like yours as examples of what gets in the way of the profession. We call them "tile fails" and there is even an industry site for sharing these (you should see the comments), and no, I'm not sharing yours. There is no job we loathe more than tearing out failed work and re-doing it properly. As for the cost. Someone mentioned 6k for labor. That's not unusual but it is location dependent. I'd guess 8K here. A 6k shower is not $80/sf in labor. There is a good amount of $ in proper prep & setting, and finishing materials, to start. Many of us do not charge by the square ft. We charge what we know will be a fair price for our labor and materials and level of craftsmanship. $70-78/hour for a pro is not unreasonable in our area. They do after all have insurance, taxes overhead, etc. and the right for a wage commensurate with their experience and craft. A helper or apprentice may be used at a lower rate for certain aspects of the job under supervision of the pro. Showers are more than floors, for example. Large format is more than a standard size tile installation. An upstairs bath or condo unit is more than main floor. You get the idea. There are variables. Tear out might be a day and 1/2 at $500/day. Don't forget disposal would be extra if no receptacle is on site. As for the comment above "jeez poor tile installer", no, not poor tile installer. Tile installer is responsible for confirming tile pattern before install. And the "sorry this is on you...relinquishing your responsibility", no, you didn't relinquish your responsibility anywhere but in the hiring process in that you hired someone who did not have the experience or credentials to do a professional job. Sorry you're dealing with this.

  • cpartist

    I agree with Dragonfly. You are not responsible.

    However your shower is a complete tear out. Not because the tile was laid wrong but because you have no waterproofing!

    Get it fixed properly with it waterproofed.

  • AJCN

    Oh my gosh. There are 2 botched no-waterproofing tile disaster threads going at once right now.

    Have a sit down meeting with the contractor. Before meeting, read up on proper waterproofing. Have the meeting Follow what Dragonfly said Take notes and document meeting!

    I just typed this on the other thread.....

    In my state, you have to give the contractor 1 chance to fix things before firing them (or they can sue you and will probably win). In my state there are 3 main things you have to do: 1) give a chance to fix; 2) make work site available; 3) don't interfere with the work.

    Check the construction laws in your state. If you don't have time to check before your meeting, just to be safe, give him a chance to fix things. After he fails again you can fire him. Or maybe he'll just quit. Document your meeting like this (believe me, the judge took this eveidence very seriously, and it's a big reason why we got 2x our money back). Document like this:

    -- Have your meeting, take notes, like I said above.

    -- If he quits, document that in an email saying something like this: "Dear so and so, Thank you for meeting with us yesterday to discuss how you propose fixing the waterproofing and tiling problems in our shower. We were hoping you would choose to proceed with the repairs and continue the project. We're disappointed that you decided to quit the project instead of attempting to remedy the situtation. Good luck in your future endeavors. Sincerely so and so." Then send a demand letter asking for a refund, saying something like this: "Dear so and so. We were hoping you would choose to continue our bathroom remodeling project. Instead, since you have decided to quit, you have breached the contract between your company and ourselves. Please refund us in the amount of $xxx, which is the amount of deposit and draw money that we have paid you so far. In addition, we now have to re-purchase tile and other materials in the amount of $xxx. The total refund we are requesting is $xxx. Sincerely, so and so." (make a copy, send it certified, return receipt and keep the receipt that comes back to you).

    -- If he says he will attempt to fix it, let him. Document that agreement in an email saying something like: "Dear so and so, Thank you for meeting with us yesterday to discuss how you propose fixing the waterproofing problems in our shower. We were pleased that you decided to do x, y, z as an attempt to fix the waterproofing and tiling problems. We look forward to proceeding with the project. See you on Thursday at 8. Sincerely, so and so"

    -- Then after he fails again and it's still a hot mess, document that with an email saying something like this: ""Dear so and so, Thank you trying to fix the waterproofing and tiling problems in our shower project, as we agreed you would do at out July 8th meeting. We appreciate your attempt to fix the problems your first work crew created. Unfortunately, the shower is still not waterproofed properly. Since this was your second attempt, we have lost confidence that your work crew is capable of building our shower to industry standards and manufacturer's instructions. We have decided to go in a different direction, and hire a new contractor to proceed with the project. Our contract with you is terminated. Good luck in your future endeavors. Sincerely so and so."

    Then send a demand letter asking for a refund, saying something like this: "Dear so and so. We were hoping you would able to fix the waterproofing and tiling problems in our shower. Since both of your attempts failed, we have to hire a new contractor. Please refund us in the amount of $xxx, which is the amount of deposit and draw money that we have paid you so far. In addition, we now have to re-purchase tile and other materials in the amount of $xxx. The total refund we are requesting is $xxx. Sincerely, so and so." (make a copy, send it certified, return receipt and keep the receipt that comes back to you).

    Save any and all email or text replies you receive.

    Good luck with you meeting.

  • PRO
    Dragonfly Tile & Stone Works, Inc.

    There are multiple methods to properly install a shower. I just want to caution everyone in the waterproofing posse to be careful with advice as some will tout a specific method (or look for it) and there are several. Take for example, the topical liquid (like red guard). Not even a favorite of most experienced Pros. But no, proper waterproofing, which is only ONE aspect of a proper shower build, was not done here. And yes, the tile was not laid correctly, even if the pattern was correct. (No slivers allowed).

  • AJCN

    As a homeowner I agree that we should never tell a contractor what to choose specifically such as “I demand you use the Wedi (it Kerdi or Hydronan boards, etc) system.” That’s just asking for trouble and it’s disrespectful to the professional It helps if the homeowner has a least some knowledge of the process so they are not asking dumb questions about every little thing. I saved my questions for big important things such as “Can you explain why these huge tiles on my shower ceiling are never going to fall down on my head?”

    OP, What happened to me is somewhat different, but read this to see why documentation is soooo important. My GC quit, then sued me, saying we breached the contract because I asked them to fix the wrong waterproofing (like forcing them to quit?). Document everything. We didn’t sue anybody, just figured we lost that money forever, but when quit-GC sued us, we had to respond and we won because of documentation.


  • PRO
    Dragonfly Tile & Stone Works, Inc.

    It's all about hiring correctly in the first place, and yes, it helps to be informed to ask good questions. A real pro has no problem explaining a process and asking the homeowner the appropriate questions and involving them in design.

  • Janet House

    does anyone know how i can find out what the construction laws are in texas? it seems like a free for all here. i hope i'm wrong though.

  • AJCN

    I have them somewhere on my computer. But I have to find them. Give me a bit and I'll post. If you've got an issue going on that you are trying to resolve, probably best to start a new post. .

  • AJCN

    Texas Property Code, Title 4, Chapter 27. I'm not a lawyer, but I had to read practically the whole property code to win against my quit-GC who sued me.

    You can download it from the law library. https://www.sll.texas.gov/about-us/about-the-library/

    You can call them and the librarian will help you find it, or they can email the whole property code to you.

  • Janet House

    @AJCN, thank you!

  • AJCN

    Lisa, probably that is true, but I am still wanting to hear from the OP on how the meeting went with the contractor. So, OP, if you are still there, I hope your meeting went well. Let us know what he said about the waterproofing.

  • lindahambleton

    Let us know op

  • Mrs. S

    Back to the OP's problem!!!

  • AJCN

    Agreed. I would like to return to the OPs situation if he'll have us.

  • Michael Morley

    Thank you to everyone who productively contributed to this post. It was my goal to gather some opinions and also see if there was a resolution. It was my first time here after landing on the site while looking for a resolution and ideas. I’m disappointed that this post went the way it did as you scroll through. That was not the intent or goal. I did find out that waterproofing and materials were used in addition to the cement board. Nice the project is completed I’ll post pictures as an update which some have requested.
    Thanks everyone and I hope you have a great day.

  • wacokid

    MM , very professional. I'm sure you learned the hard way, like I have many times, more than you ever wanted to know about tile. The sad part for the forum is the posters causing the problems refuse to "learn" anything and these type of DD's threads just keep happening. Good luck and post the pics.

  • Michael Morley

    Ok great news. The tile wound up looking great and once the grout was completed I’m very happy. Once all the fixtures are in I will post pictures. I’m relieved and grateful for all the advice and info. Please stop with the back and forth. I’d really appreciate it.

    Thanks everyone!!!!! Phew

  • karrilouwho

    Michael, so glad you're happy with how it turned out! We deliberately oriented our tile vertically and we love it too.

  • Joy

    What great news! So happy everything turned out in your favor. I do apologize for my terse comment, but with this forum, I hope that people will turn to it to find answers before signing on to do a remodel/renovation or research the process that they are hiring someone to do. There is good advice from pros and people who have gone through the process. Sometimes we “minions” get caught up in the fray. I guess your posting pushed a button with me, another possible bad bathroom tile job. I do apologize. So happy that everything turned out good and to your satisfaction.

  • Janet House

    Did they leave the tile as it was or redo it?

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