Bad tile job or just ugly?

BearsPool

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Hello all, we are remodeling our pool and they laid the spa tile today. I had originally brought up to our builder that I was concerned the 6x6 tile we chose wouldn’t fit the top of the spa wall as the top seemed to be wider than a 6x6 when we would “test” lay different tiles on top of it before demo occurred. He set the tile up there and said, no, it fits perfect. And it appeared to. Cut to today when they finished the tile and we think it looks awful. There are 1 inch plus grout lines on each side of the tile on the top wall. It also appears that there are a couple of uneven tiles. When asked about this, he says it’s totally normal, standard bullnose (he never mentioned this before) and that there are no uneven tiles! We do not think it looks normal at all and I’m here looking for some perspective and some ideas on how to fix it. The waterline tile also comes in. 2x2. Maybe this would fit better with less grout lines or at least have less ugly grout lines? We also have some beautiful glass accent tile but my husband says you only do that on the spa when it’s raised up more? Thanks in advance for any advice.
 

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Dirk

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Geez Louise. The cr-p that contractors will pull, and the bs they'll come up with to cover it. OK, I'm no tile expert, but this is just a bad tile job. It looks to be performed by someone of little experience, or ability, or aesthetic sense. There are several ways to achieve a tile bullnose. They all have one thing in common. The bullnose is tile, not grout! That looks ridiculous!


Daltile Festiva 4-1/4 x 4-1/4 Bullnose Outcorner Glazed Wall Tile  Conventional Cap - Regal Floor Coverings
All About Bullnose Tile | Bullnose Tile Trim
Daltile DS832KY


What makes a tile job look nice and professional, or not, is the consistency of the width of the grout and a minimum of tiles that are cut. It's not usually possible to have no cut tiles, but an artist will hide or disguise or otherwise obscure tiles of unequal dimension as much as possible. Or in some cases, when that's just not possible, to make the cut tiles a feature, and/or balance them out somehow. If you ignore the ridiculous wide grout, your guy did a C+ job (not the worst, but not the best). From a distance, the grout lines appear to be the same width. Up close, the widths are not that great from one end of a grout line to the other end of the same line. But by having those crazy wide grout lines, he obliterated that basic rule for grout, and that's what is making this tile job look so bad. There do not appear to be a lot of tiles that aren't all 6x6, so that's decent. But then he couldn't figure out how to maintain those rules of thumb because of the odd width, so chose the worst possible solution.

Out it comes, and either cut the tile to take up that odd width, or install a true bullnose tile and make that work. The good(ish) news is that you've caught this in time and it will be relatively easy for this to get redone at this stage (at their expense). If he pushes back, dare him to find and show you any other example of a bull nose tile job that looks like that!

That's my opinion, anyway. And no, it's not just you, it's not normal looking, at all.
 
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Dirk

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Here's an example of a tile job with a rounded edge. But it's also an example of another C+ job, based on the varying widths of the grout lines (some are wider than others). Like all construction practices, true craftsmanship is a thing of the past. Most people would look at this tile job and find it acceptable. The inconsistent grout lines are not terribly obvious. No reasonable person would think that of yours.

Screen Shot 2022-07-28 at 1.20.06 AM.png
 
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ajw22

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Well your tile guy is a craftsman at shaping grout. He must have played with Playdough as a kid.

Those wide grout lines on the tile edges are not going to last. Grout is softer then tile and water over the spillover will erode the grout. The tile should come to the edge, not the grout. Grout fills in recesses and should not be the primary surface.
 

BearsPool

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Thank you for your replies. They came back out this morning to offer some solutions. One is to have the glass accent tile on top. My husband doesn’t like this idea and the installers seemed concerned about how to do the spillover. Another option is to cut the 6x6 in half and put a strip of the glass accent tiles down the middle. I thought this idea could work, but then I saw the sample they made and now I’m not too sure. The cuts to the tile are, in my opinion, terrible. It looks like I did it myself! They are chipped on both sides, and they told me this is normal and just the way it is with tile. The other option is that this tile comes in a 6x6 bullnose but I’m having trouble thinking of a way to do it where they still wouldn’t have to make cuts in the tile on top since it looks so bad. Any suggestions?

Also what do you think of the way the glass accent tile was installed? Is it normally installed on a thick layer of gray mortar like that or whatever that is? And there are a few odd gaps and slight misalignments. Is this normal and acceptable or just poor workmanship? Sorry it says the pic of the mortar or whatever is too large to post and I don’t know how to make it smaller but perhaps you can see what I’m talking about from the other pictures.
 

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Dirk

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Well your tile guy is a craftsman at shaping grout.
Ha! I had a similar thought. How the heck did he get it to look like that?! But Allen is absolutely right, it wouldn't have stayed looking like that for very long, even if you did like the kookie grout. OK, well, we're past that. Glad they're working to make this right.

Sorry, I don't have enough tile know-how to answer today's questions. I wouldn't like that rough cut either, but I can't say for sure that that's the best that can be done or not. There's no way to recreate the nice smooth glazed factory edge, that much is true. But all jaggy like that? Huh. When I see something like that while wood working, the culprit is a not-sharp-enough saw blade. Tile cutting blades are expensive, so maybe theirs is old and is not up to snuff. And it's possible the tile itself is such that it exacerbates the problem (its quality, or the thickness of the glaze, something like that). I do like the look of the glass down the middle. That's what I meant by finding a creative way to cut the tile, making the cuts a feature instead of a flaw. So they're on the right track there. I'm wondering who you could take that tile to that has a brand new blade on their cutter, to see if it's possible to get a better looking cut. Then you could march back to your crew and demand they change out their blade. Is it worth your time and money to call other tile contractors, or tile shops, and just pay them to cut one of your tiles on their cutter (after asking if theirs is a relatively new blade)? A proof of concept dealio. That idea is out there, but I've done crazier pursuits to get what I want! Or you could take the sample to a good local tile shop, explain the problem, and get their opinion about the quality of the cut. Maybe one with a good show room, so you could compare for yourself what tile cuts are supposed to look like. Or maybe they could help suggest a better solution. Basically, you need more qualified eyes on this.

Regarding the correct way to set glass tiles, sorry, that's out of my wheelhouse. Hopefully others will know. @kimkats, don't you have some experience in how glass tile is supposed to look? Or you could ask that question at the tile shop, too.
 

Toxophilite

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Cuts in tile look better where they terminate. Mating edges of cut tile will always look cut to fit, because they don't have the round-off of the tile which normally fills with grout and smooth-flows to grout line. No matter what they use, it will have to have a cut line at the edge or a bullnose tile down to wall tile. It would not be uncommon to see the cut side of top and cut side of wall terminate together to form a "v", and then that is the grout line. Not as pretty as bullnose, but commonly done and looks better than the tile having an overhang to mate with wall tile. Then, heavier textured tiles won't produce a good looking looking cut line no matter.
 

BearsPool

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Well everyone, bad news! After the foreman left and we were able to get a closer look from inside the pool at the overall tile job we found more problems from uneven tiles to weird cuts and gaps and staggared accent tile that goes completely straight! I am starting to think these guys just aren’t capable of the work? I don’t know, what do you guys think? Some of it is downright laughable and I wish I’d seen it before the workers were here but they were conveniently hovered over the accent tiles so it obscured my view. But now that I’ve seen it I can’t unsee it! And worse, I’m not sure what to do if they’re just not skilled enough to do the work. Our contract is “all inclusive” so I’m not sure if I can just pay them for the demo and try to hire someone else to finish the job (who, I have no idea!) Any advice or tile install referral is appreciated!
 

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.ben

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They probably have multiple tile crews assuming the company is a decent size. I would ask for another crew if you feel these guys can’t do the work properly. Give your builder a chance to fix the issues before you start thinking about hiring someone else.
 
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BearsPool

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They probably have multiple tile crews assuming the company is a decent size. I would ask for another crew if you feel these guys can’t do the work properly. Give your builder a chance to fix the issues before you start thinking about hiring someone else.
Yes we are trying to work with them and we did ask if they had a more experienced tile crew that could come out. That only seemed to offend him and he said his guy has 25 years of experience! Then he basically proceeded to say everything they had done was standard and that we are being difficult. We are still waiting for him to come and see the issues for himself. Of course he now says he is out of town and won’t return until Monday…
 

kimkats

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the culprit is a not-sharp-enough saw blade.
That is EXCATLY what I thought when she said that! Are they using a wet saw or a scoring tool then snapping it?
I do like the look of the glass down the middle.
As do I but the grout lines are still bigger than they should be.
Give your builder a chance to fix the issues before you start thinking about hiring someone else.
You almost have to let him try. I will speak on this more in a minute.
and he said his guy has 25 years of experience!
sigh..................most of the time it is "over 30 yrs of experience" but yeah they all saw that when the job is not good :(

So here is your "job" for this mess-Get EVERYTHING in writing. Email or text will work. IF he insists on face to face talking then do a follow up email/text................."On July 28, 2022 we spoke about xxx and it was decided YYYY" kind of thing.
 

Dirk

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Did I understand correctly? The builder commenting "it's fine, it's standard" hasn't actually been onsite to see for himself? If that's true, that's unacceptable.

I won't go into all the details just yet, just three points: (1) the good news is you're in California, an anti-contractor/pro-consumer state if there ever was one, (2) follow Kim's advice about communicating in writing, and (3) yes, you do have to give them the opportunity to correct any deficiencies, but you also have the right to reject substandard work. Of course, who decides what is substandard is a matter of opinion!

First step is to get the responsible party onsite to inspect the work, in person, and to address your complaints. Have a witness present, preferably one that is not married or related to you, and try to work out the issues. Have your witness take notes. Then we'll go from there. Don't give him any more money for now.

That said, it's hard to determine from your pictures what exactly you're unhappy about. Not saying there are not issues, or that they aren't legit, I'm just not sure of what you're trying to depict. I do definitely see some shoddy work. No matter, we can go over that. Maybe one pic at a time? Or maybe you can figure out how to annotate the images so you can point to the area of concern, and add a caption that explains it. Then our experts can weigh in.
 

Dirk

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and he said his guy has 25 years of experience!
Kim and I joke about this regularly, kinda tracking how often we hear this line. To me, that's a red flag. My first thought after hearing it is always "Oh, you mean he's been doing it wrong for 25 years and nobody noticed?" You can become an expert at something in a month or never figure it out no matter how long you've been at it. It's a meaningless statement. I've seen enough to conclude your tile guy is just not very good at laying tile. Or if he ever was, he no longer cares about his work.
 
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Dirk

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Ha, this is the first (one only) tile job I ever did. So I'll admit it's not that easy to get the grout lines perfectly even. But I taught myself how to do this in an hour. It's not exactly rocket surgery! If this was my work after 25 years of practice?!? I sure wouldn't be bragging about how long I've been doing it!

IMG_5996.JPG
 
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BearsPool

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Did I understand correctly? The builder commenting "it's fine, it's standard" hasn't actually been onsite to see for himself? If that's true, that's unacceptable.

I won't go into all the details just yet, just three points: (1) the good news is you're in California, an anti-contractor/pro-consumer state if there ever was one, (2) follow Kim's advice about communicating in writing, and (3) yes, you do have to give them the opportunity to correct any deficiencies, but you also have the right to reject substandard work. Of course, who decides what is substandard is a matter of opinion!

First step is to get the responsible party onsite to inspect the work, in person, and to address your complaints. Have a witness present, preferably one that is not married or related to you, and try to work out the issues. Have your witness take notes. Then we'll go from there. Don't give him any more money for now.

That said, it's hard to determine from your pictures what exactly you're unhappy about. Not saying there are not issues, or that they aren't legit, I'm just not sure of what you're trying to depict. I do definitely see some shoddy work. No matter, we can go over that. Maybe one pic at a time? Or maybe you can figure out how to annotate the images so you can point to the area of concern, and add a caption that explains it. Then our experts can weigh in.
Yes, you heard that right! Thank you for the advice.

As for the pictures, I know it is hard to see and when I did close ups they were too big to upload for some reason and I’m not sure how to annotate on the pic. But basically on the scalloped steps and scalloped reef step the 2-line 1x2 accent tile goes from staggared like it should be to the colors being stacked directly on top of each other. The same color in some cases, which just makes it even worse.

Then on the straight steps, you can see where many of the pieces meet because there’s just a little extra space there between them. There are also some sections on the straight steps that are laid uneven and don’t match up well with the piece next to it. I think these pictures really don’t do it justice though and I agree it is hard to see that part.
 

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BearsPool

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That is EXCATLY what I thought when she said that! Are they using a wet saw or a scoring tool then snapping it?

As do I but the grout lines are still bigger than they should be.

You almost have to let him try. I will speak on this more in a minute.

sigh..................most of the time it is "over 30 yrs of experience" but yeah they all saw that when the job is not good :(

So here is your "job" for this mess-Get EVERYTHING in writing. Email or text will work. IF he insists on face to face talking then do a follow up email/text................."On July 28, 2022 we spoke about xxx and it was decided YYYY" kind of thing.
Thank you, and I also agree that those grout lines seem too large as well.
 

Dirk

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Yes, you heard that right! Thank you for the advice.

As for the pictures, I know it is hard to see and when I did close ups they were too big to upload for some reason and I’m not sure how to annotate on the pic. But basically on the scalloped steps and scalloped reef step the 2-line 1x2 accent tile goes from staggared like it should be to the colors being stacked directly on top of each other. The same color in some cases, which just makes it even worse.

Then on the straight steps, you can see where many of the pieces meet because there’s just a little extra space there between them. There are also some sections on the straight steps that are laid uneven and don’t match up well with the piece next to it. I think these pictures really don’t do it justice though and I agree it is hard to see that part.
Best case scenario is for your contractor to finish the job, with a minimum of animosity from either party. Which means you will likely have to negotiate some sort of compromise. Keep this in mind if you have to "give up" some of your issues. I'm not saying you're not right about the shoddy work, but you might have to adjust your expectations, or deal with a p'd-off contractor, delays, lack of quality control, etc. If your pool project goes south over tile, no one wins.

A lot of what you're calling out is obvious because there is no plaster/pebble in place, and you are observing the tile from within a dry pool and close up. The plaster/pebble is going to obscure many of these issues. And then once full of water, it will be near impossible to see anything askew from any distance, let alone standing on the deck. If you examined just about any pool dry, you'd likely see far worse. Again, that's not an excuse for bad work, but it's a reality you might have to accept to avoid the stress of the alternatives. So if you have to pick your battles, focus on the areas that are out of the water, or would be inches from your eyes, like the spa, or its spillover, or the tile above the waterline.

No one but you will ever notice or care about the tile under water. And even if you're a perfectionist like me, you'll likely forget about all those little glitches in short order after the pool is full.

But if you can't accept any faults at all, then I'll stick by ya and explain how to go after this guy. Just know that's not a guarantee that the end result of that effort will be as imagined.
 

BearsPool

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Best case scenario is for your contractor to finish the job, with a minimum of animosity from either party. Which means you will likely have to negotiate some sort of compromise. Keep this in mind if you have to "give up" some of your issues. I'm not saying you're not right about the shoddy work, but you might have to adjust your expectations, or deal with a p'd-off contractor, delays, lack of quality control, etc. If your pool project goes south over tile, no one wins.

A lot of what you're calling out is obvious because there is no plaster/pebble in place, and you are observing the tile from within a dry pool and close up. The plaster/pebble is going to obscure many of these issues. And then once full of water, it will be near impossible to see anything askew from any distance, let alone standing on the deck. If you examined just about any pool dry, you'd likely see far worse. Again, that's not an excuse for bad work, but it's a reality you might have to accept to avoid the stress of the alternatives. So if you have to pick your battles, focus on the areas that are out of the water, or would be inches from your eyes, like the spa, or its spillover, or the tile above the waterline.

No one but you will ever notice or care about the tile under water. And even if you're a perfectionist like me, you'll likely forget about all those little glitches in short order after the pool is full.

But if you can't accept any faults at all, then I'll stick by ya and explain how to go after this guy. Just know that's not a guarantee that the end result of that effort will be as imagined.
I agree that the gaps between the sheets on the straight steps will be less noticeable once plaster is on so I’m not too worried about that but I really cannot stand the way the tile goes from being staggered to being stacked directly on top of each other in the same tile line on the rounded steps! That’s just too sloppy for me and I believe that I will be able to see and notice it since the tile has that reflective, iridescent quality and we are going with Aqua Cool Stonescape so it is very light blue water color.
The other thing is that if this “25 year experience “ guy can’t cut the 6x6 for the spa top without having the sides all chipped like the sample he left (and he says that’s the best anyone can do because I specifically asked) then I just don’t know how it’s going to come out but I guess we have to let him try. I’m just afraid if we let him redo it, then have a bunch of chipped tiles and are still unhappy but they think it’s perfectly acceptable and then I just end up having to live with it. Is it so much to ask that they have the proper tools to cut tile with? I’m pretty sure he was using some kind of little hand saw hand-held type of thing and they didn’t even have the hose over there so if he was using water I’m not sure from where.
 

Dirk

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I agree that the gaps between the sheets on the straight steps will be less noticeable once plaster is on so I’m not too worried about that but I really cannot stand the way the tile goes from being staggered to being stacked directly on top of each other in the same tile line on the rounded steps! That’s just too sloppy for me and I believe that I will be able to see and notice it since the tile has that reflective, iridescent quality and we are going with Aqua Cool Stonescape so it is very light blue water color.
Sorry, I meant to address that. That's happening because of the curve. The inside row is shorter than the outside row, so left unchecked, the "frequency" of the tiles will have to meet together somewhere. This is the difference between someone that cares about his work and someone that doesn't. The work-around for that is to vary the end-to-end grout gap for each row, such that the outside row has a larger grout gap between its tiles. So you can't have a perfect stagger AND identical grout lines. You have to compromise one or the other. Well, you can, but it would mean cutting each tile of the inner row a very small amount. That'd be rough, but doable with some skill, I think. Or maybe slipping in a 3/4 tile every so often, to keep the tiles from lining up. There are a few ways to do it. He might complain about those other solutions, but they're possible. Of the many possible layout solutions, he chose the easiest one (shocker).

The other thing is that if this “25 year experience “ guy can’t cut the 6x6 for the spa top without having the sides all chipped like the sample he left (and he says that’s the best anyone can do because I specifically asked) then I just don’t know how it’s going to come out but I guess we have to let him try. I’m just afraid if we let him redo it, then have a bunch of chipped tiles and are still unhappy but they think it’s perfectly acceptable and then I just end up having to live with it. Is it so much to ask that they have the proper tools to cut tile with? I’m pretty sure he was using some kind of little hand saw hand-held type of thing and they didn’t even have the hose over there so if he was using water I’m not sure from where.
If he's not using a table saw with water (I think a diamond blade is the best), then you've definitely got the wrong tile guy. There are many different kinds, but they're big. Something like this:
7inch Tile saw w/ sliding table Diamondback


If he's able to hold it in his hand, then that's a hand saw and not appropriate for your particular job. It might work on some types of tile, but obviously isn't working on the kind you've chosen. So no, it is not too much to ask that your tile guy be using the right tools.

Remember, I suggested you take your cut sample to a tile store and ask them to weigh in on this issue. If they say that cut is the best that can be done, then you'll know. But if they say it's bogus, then you'll have some professional-backed "ammo" to discuss with the builder when you have your meeting.

Your tile guy reminds me of the pool guy that installed some of my equipment. I watched him work, and while I knew little about pool gear at the time, I certainly knew what good electrical work looked like, and his wasn't it! I could tell, he was lazy and just burned out. While "doing it for 25 years" might get you an incredible craftsman, it just as likely will get you a guy that was done 10 years ago, but can't make a living any other way, so begrudgingly plods along. Sorry, I'm projecting, and a bit jaded when it comes to contractors, but I used to be licensed, and good at what I did, and I get peeved when I hear of guys that just don't want to do the work, but still want to get paid for it. :rant: === END OF RANT ===
 

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