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Telltale Signs Of A Bad Tile Job [And How To Fix It]

When renovating a home, you want to make choices that make you proud. One way to do that is by having tile installed. Whether it's tile flooring or walls, it's rarely a bad look. However, what happens if the tile job looks bad? If you'd like to know how to tell, we have some answers!

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There are various ways to identify if the installer didn't do a good job. However, some of the signs aren't as obvious as others. Some installers may try to hide signs of a bad attempt. In any case, here are some areas to look for:

  • Excessive lippage of tiles
  • Loose tiles and popping corners
  • Tiles butted up to the doorjamb
  • Grouting looks sloppy or uneven
  • The tiles look crooked

Tile flooring or walls look lovely when they do it right. It's an expensive investment, but it can be worth it if appearances matter to you. If you feel like the installer did a bad job, we'll discuss the next steps you should take. To learn more on this topic, keep reading.

Placing brown ceramic tiles in the for the living room floor, Telltale Signs Of A Bad Tile Job [And How To Fix It]

Signs Of A Bad Tile Job

You can expect to spend thousands of dollars to install tile in your home; it's not a cheap investment. For this reason, you'd want results that justify the cost. But how can you tell a poor job apart from a good one? 

There are various ways to identify it. But some are tougher to spot than others. Let's start with the noticeable mistakes.

Worker properly placing tiles for the living room

Excessive Lippage Of Tiles

Start by taking a good look at the tiles from an angle. Do they flow seamlessly? If they do not, you'll see the edges pop up slightly. 

What you are witnessing is a term professionals call tile lippage. If the edge of one tile is higher than the adjacent one, your floors will be uneven. It's not a problem for physically abled folks, but it can be a problem for anyone who uses walkers, canes, etc. 

People can trip and fall over these small edges that seem like no big deal. In any case, you have to determine whether it's an excess amount of lippage. There's an industry-accepted amount to it. No floor is perfectly even. In addition, the quality of the tiles also plays a part in this area. 

If your tiles look similar to the image above, there's excessive lippage. Therefore, you can consider it a bad tile job. 

How To Fix Excessive Lippage

Excessive lippage is a problem you don't want to have. You have two options to fix it. You can sand the lippage down until the tiles are even. However, this solution might make the tiles look worse. 

It will generally work for natural stone tiles. The professional will also need to repolish the tile if it has a polished finish. Tiles made out of porcelain will not be able to handle the grinding. 

So, taking the time to sand it down wouldn't be worth it in some cases. The other option is to strip the surface down. You or another installer will have to start from scratch again. This is the only way to get results that look good. 

Tiler placing gray tiles for the living room floor

For a detailed explanation of lippage, here's a YouTube video to help:

Loose Tiles And Popping Corners

Now it's time to test how well these tiles perform. Walk around the area for a few minutes. Of course, you want to take note of any spots that feel wobbly. 

Maybe the corner of one tile will pop up as you walk by. What you're witnessing here are loose tiles. How can that be? After all, you'd expect them to use an adhesive to set them in place. 

Professionals will use thin-set mortar to adhere the tiles to the surface. If they don't apply it correctly, the tile won't cling to the thin-set. Removing the tile will show this to be the case. 

Click here to see this thin-set mortar on Amazon.

How To Fix Loose Tiles

If only a few tiles are loose, you can remove them and put them back in place yourself. However, you'll have to be careful when removing the tile. In some cases, half of it will adhere to the floor. 

You may break it after attempting to pry it off the floor/wall. It should come off easy if none of the thin-set stuck to the tile. After removing the tile, you'll need to scrape the old thin-set off the surface. 

Then, butter the underside of the tile. Set it in place and wait for it to dry. Here's a video demonstrating the signs to look for:

Tiles Butted Up To The Doorjamb

Head over to the doorjambs next. How would you describe the tile near the doorjamb? The correct way to install tile in this area is by tucking it in. 

If it's butted up to the doorjamb, the installer didn't do enough to accommodate this area. Most professionals will take the tile and line it up.

They'll make the cuts necessary on the tile and doorjamb. This way, there are no ugly gaps in the area. The openings are apparent if they butted it up against the doorjamb. 

Here's a video demonstrating the correct way to install flooring around this area:

Grouting Looks Sloppy Or Uneven

One mistake is easy to miss and that is the grout lines. On the surface, it won't look bad, but if you take a closer look, the mistakes start to become noticeable. Follow the grout lines on the tiles. Some may appear thicker, while others may be thinner. 

This error shouldn't happen if they use tile spacers. Some areas might even have an excess amount of grout. 

You can fix this by removing the excess. However, this solution assumes the tile job is decent enough to keep. Start by dipping a toothbrush into vinegar. 

Then, start brushing along the excess you want to remove. This method should make the grouting look neater. We'll include a video to demonstrate what we're referencing:

Tile And Grout Selection

There's an issue with uneven grouting. Sometimes, it may not be the installer's fault. Your choice in the matter also weighs in on this error. 

Perhaps you chose to install handmade tiles. Sometimes, handmade tiles can be a bad decision, as they are not going to come in the same size. Put a tape measure next to them, and the irregularities will become clear. 

The grout choice also plays a part. Pairing dark grouting with light-colored tiles will only make the grouting stick out like a sore thumb. The dark grouting will amplify the mistakes no matter how small they are. 

To fix this problem, you'd need to remove the old grout. Then, choose a shade that would complement the tile you're installing.

The Tiles Look Crooked

Blue seams of white tiles

This mistake is a result of the previous one. Quality installers pay attention to detail; they rarely neglect using spacers before and during the grouting process.

Spacers are how you get a straight and even finish. Unfortunately, this is one of the costlier mistakes. There's no way to fix the crookedness without stripping it all down—you'll have to pay another installer to do the work.

Does A Floor Have To Be Perfectly Level For Tile?

Tiler placing gray tiles for the bathroom floor

When installation costs are through the roof, you'd probably expect perfection. Of course, that's assuming you hire a quality tile installer. Now we have some idea of the mistakes to look for. 

However, it raises a question—do floors have to be perfectly level for tile? Not exactly. But, there are some requirements to meet if you want tile flooring. 

If you don't meet the requirements, it's risky. Tiles will become more prone to cracking. In any case, the floors don't need to be perfectly level. Tiles need a flat surface for proper installation. 

Level and flat are two terms with different meanings in this industry. If your floor is not flat, you'll need to use a self-leveling compound.

Professionals suggest the surface needs to be flat within 1/8" in 10' measured from the high points of the floor. Once your flooring meets this requirement, it's ready for tile installation. 

In Closing

Placing brown ceramic tiles in the for the living room floor

Installing tiles is a job that requires time and skill. It can make any room stand out more. However, that's if the installer does it correctly. Did any of these telltale signs apply to your situation? We hope not! 

Before you go, do you have other tile concerns? Do you want to learn more about the grouting aspect of tiling? To learn more on this topic, check out:

Should Grout Match Tile Or Contrast?

Do you need a guide on installing tiles around a window without trim? For more information, check out:

How To Tile Around A Window Without Trim