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Old 02-12-2018, 09:53 PM   #1
KAtx
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Bad contractor work ruined entire first floor: fix or redo?

Hi there,

I'm a first-time homeowner facing what seems to unfortunately be a common problem: poorly-done renovation work by tile contractors who probably shouldn't be taking tile jobs.

Some backstory: we moved into our first home in December. My mother, who has been in the real estate/development business for over 40 years, noticed that I wasn't crazy about having carpet on half of my first floor and offered to take care of floor renovations. We selected wood-like tile that looked nice and did everything from selecting contractors to supposedly monitoring the installation and paid for the entire thing as a housewarming gift. I trusted her expertise as every home she's ever owned or worked on has looked fine and lovely, but somewhere along the way something went horribly wrong and she hired really bad contractors (who I learned were her painter friends-- definitely not tile experts).

Bad sign #1: The first and only time I visited the home during the renovation period, I witnessed the contractors sawing tile in my open-to-the-second-floor living room. They did not cover vents (the heater was on!), light fixtures, appliances or anything. We ended up having to throw away many fixtures. It took me a month to get most of the dust off of everything. They did not haul away the old tile and simply dumped it in the garage, creating another dust mess.

Bad sign #2: Not long after moving in we noticed that some of the tiles moved when stepped on. Not good. The tile was less than a month old and already moving and cracking.

Bad sign #3: All of our furniture now wobbles. The floor is not level at all. When asked about it, I was told by the head contractor (the only guy in the group who spoke a word of English) "well, your house wasn't level to begin with" and "long board tile is harder to install" (as if that's my fault that they didn't level it?). Even brief research tells me it was the contractors' job to level the ground before placing tile, so based on them whining about how uneven the space below the tile was, I'm guessing they did not do any leveling.

Bad sign #4: The tiles are obviously not parallel to the walls. The closer to the walls, the more obvious it gets. Some of these side tile pieces are basically cut into a triangle shape because they were trying to fill a gap that was not parallel to the wall.

Bad sign #5: Hollow tiles. There are several per room that I can clearly hear just by walking around in heels.

Bad sign #6: The tiles are not level, so wearing heels now comes with tripping on tile. I peeked under a cabinet and some of the cabinet bottoms rest right on top of the tile, while others gradually go down into a 1cm gap.

This was probably 1000+ square foot of tile (our entire first floor); I'm afraid to ask my mother how much it cost, but she is trying to convince me to keep it. She even had the contractors come back and fix a few hollow tiles (not surprisingly, they made it worse-- tiles that were previously level but hollow are now solid and too high/low). The contractors are no longer allowed in the home.

They also put the same tile in an upstairs bathroom and laundry room. While at least the tile seems level, I'm wondering if special care is needed with rooms that will get wet. Looking at the materials they left behind, I can see they only used mortar, grout, and HardieBacker (upstairs only and not downstairs).

So my question for the pros here is: how bad is this job on a scale from 1 to 10? Is there any hope of salvaging any of it, or should we just completely rip it back out and restart? If for whatever reason my mother refuses to pay to fix this mess, what can we expect to pay out of our own pockets to reinstall 1k-ish square feet of wood-like tile in central Texas? ("live and learn", as they say...)

Attached pictures: I included one photo of a view from the second floor. The rest are pictures of cracks around lifting tile, interestingly-cut edges and corners, an example of them trying to cut a tile thin to hide the fact that the tile is not parallel to the wall (before running out of space and just leaving a hole), wacky leveling/grout, and uneven edges. The last picture shows the grout work done connecting the tile with a bathtub, which is already cracking.
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Old 02-12-2018, 10:09 PM   #2
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Old 02-12-2018, 11:19 PM   #3
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Welcome to the forum. Lots of very experienced people in here on how to install, how not to install and what to do on situations like yours.
How in the world would you fix these issues with out removing them? Sounds like you already know the answer. Just got to decide if the expense, work, and possible family issues is worth getting it right and not looking daily at something your not happy with.
Also if you ever sell the house what about the resale value of the work thats been done. That should catch some attention
If you decide to make it right then read up, ask lots of questions and keep a careful eye on the installers work. If you have a issue with their work try to have the answer in writing to show them from some form of code book or installation guidelines. That way any disagreements can hopefully be cut short.
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Old 02-12-2018, 11:34 PM   #4
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Quote:
Welcome to the forum. Lots of very experienced people in here on how to install, how not to install and what to do on situations like yours.
How in the world would you fix these issues with out removing them? Sounds like you already know the answer. Just got to decide if the expense, work, and possible family issues is worth getting it right and not looking daily at something your not happy with.
Also if you ever sell the house what about the resale value of the work thats been done. That should catch some attention
If you decide to make it right then read up, ask lots of questions and keep a careful eye on the installers work. If you have a issue with their work try to have the answer in writing to show them from some form of code book or installation guidelines. That way any disagreements can hopefully be cut short.
I appreciate the response! The carpet/tile we removed, though not my taste, was high quality-- so this certainly put a big ding in the value of the home.

The recommendations I received from my mother and another contractor found via positive Yelp reviews were to keep the floor as a whole and only remove/redo the pieces that seem to have issues. I was quoted at $900 per day to fix things tile by tile.

I've also heard different opinions on whether the tile can be re-used once removed or if I need to use completely new pieces (old contractor re-used tiles he attempted to fix, $900 second opinion guy said that we'd need to buy new materials as we fix it tile-by-tile).

Is it even possible to fix extensive leveling and cracking issues? Noticing that it wasn't even parallel with the walls was the final straw that made me think there's no hope for this tile, but folks offline keep trying to convince me it can be saved...

In the event of a total redo, what are some things we should be sure to look for to ensure our house isn't trashed again?
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Old 02-13-2018, 12:14 AM   #5
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Excuse me while I cough. <Hack, hack, hack>

Just from your pictures we can't tell if it's salvageable. You would need to mark with tape all the tile that need replacing and determine if it's more costly to replace just those tile, or the whole thing.

Keep in mind that when tile are not in plane with adjacent tile, it may require the removal of two or three tile to get everything right.

Grouting against the wall is a no-no, but is easily fixed without removing tile.

Are the tile laid out of square with the walls, or are the walls out of square?

My guess is, you'll spend more for repair than replacement, and the dust will be horrendous no matter which route you go.
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Old 02-13-2018, 05:17 AM   #6
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$900 a day to replace tiles? I'm your guy.

Looks like some fine work from Hose A, Hose B and Hose C.
So what does Mom say about her poor choice in contractors and would she want that kind of work in her house?

Bite the bullet and rip it out. You will just be chasing problems in the future.
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Old 02-13-2018, 06:38 AM   #7
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#1 already cleaned up and done so check that problem off as solved. At least until repairs start.
#2 How many tiles are loose or cracked, roughly how many per day can your $900 guy fix. The approximate total cost on the tiles your aware of at this time need to be figured out. Keep in mind your going to miss a few and I suspect your going to have some more go bad.
#3 How are you going to get the floor FLAT with out removing the existing tiles. (Level might be unrealistic for your home or just a bad choice or words)
#4 In most of the homes I have worked on everything is not square. In tile work you have to arrange the tile layout to the best average of square appearance you can. Or have the more crooked tiles in less obvious areas or perhaps where they will be somewhat hidden by furniture. To some degree the tile / wall parallel issue may remain.
#5 see number 2
#6 see number 3

How much you mom paid is not a relevant issue to fixing the problems you now have. That ship has sailed. Your looking for the cost of the next cruise.

Underlayment are made for water issues such as showers and wet areas. Its installed before the tile is. If you have rooms upstairs that will get wet and be a issue then your going to have to remove the tile and start over.

No idea on the scale of the work on the job except that its not good.

Seems to me you need to call several contractors and get several estimates. Keep in mind that bad mouthing the past contractor can cause you issues with the new ones. You just need to point out the problems with the WORK of the past contractor and say its not acceptable. Explain your requirements that;
furnitures should be setting on a flat floor and not rocking. (Floor flattened with floor leveler)
No trip hazards due to bad lipage. (Use of tile lipage system or a darn good installer)
No loose tiles. (Proper mixed thinset applied with the correct trowels in a timely manner)
Wet areas be water proof. (Water proof membranes installed correctly)

Ask each contractor how they intend to make sure these are not issues on the next attempt. Once you have a contractor(s) picked out with the correct answers you look at their price and decide. Then make sure your inspecting the work several times a day if need be to insure your getting the quality of install you desire.
You can read the label or install instruction of the products to see if its done right. You can also access forums such as this or use how to books to get a idea on correct methods.
Keep in mind that knowing the correct methods is going to be a requirement for the contractor. Having the skills and experience to do it is what the contractor is for. Your knowing the correct methods just keeps everyone honest and allows you to perhaps select a better qualified installer.
You just have to write the check



I suspect at $900 a day a LOT of new tile can be laid.
The time spent to carefully remove the old tile.
Carefully remove the thin set from the back of the tile.
Carefully remove the thin set from the floor right up to the edges of the adjacent tile without damaging the adjacent tile.
Then see if the new tile levels up with no lipping on all the adjunct tile or if some of them have to come up.
Lots of expense there.
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Old 02-13-2018, 03:48 PM   #8
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Another issue that may be major is whether you can find more tile from the same lot. Sometimes, they are quite consistent, sometimes, there are significant differences in appearance (gloss, texture, color, and maybe even sizing) between one batch and another. IOW, you might stick some new tile down, but they may stick out like a sore thumb.

The bigger the tile, the flatter the industry specs are for how flat the floor must be. For a tile that size, it's quite tight. If the prep is done right, laying the tiles is much easier. I didn't notice the offsets, but on a tile that long, industry wants no more than a 30% offset between tile unless you're REALLY lucky, and the tile is absolutely flat (happens, but not often - most have some bow to them).
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Old 02-13-2018, 06:30 PM   #9
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I appreciate the additional feedback. I'll be sure to turn the observations from this install into a checklist in the likely event that we do a full removal/redo.

It sounds like removing and replacing the floor with existing materials is doable but will take quite awhile (very few tiles are level with their surrounding tiles at all) and be expensive. I haven't looked into multiple quotes yet, but the $900/day guy said it would take 30 minutes per tile. We've found at least 20 tiles with critical issues (hollow sound when tapped, cracking edges) so far, so that's probably a good two days of work there without even including the tiles surrounding the cracked/broken ones in my count.

More questions for experts based on comments here:

Quote:
Grouting against the wall is a no-no, but is easily fixed without removing tile.
In many places grout was used to fill gaps between tile and the wall (see new photos attached). Should we make sure to fix this as well? (I'm not sure what normal edge grout looks like as this part is usually under a baseboard)

And is it bad that the gap between the tile and the bathtub was also grouted? (not caulk or sealant but grout)

Quote:
Underlayment are made for water issues such as showers and wet areas. Its installed before the tile is. If you have rooms upstairs that will get wet and be a issue then your going to have to remove the tile and start over.
Is Hardieback under the tile considered sufficient underlayment? This is the only material that was placed under the tile in the bathroom and laundry room. To my knowledge, nothing was used in the kitchen or downstairs bathroom. I also know nothing was applied to the top of the tile after grouting (the grout was not sealed).

Bonus new photos attached showing some of the tiles AFTER the original installer came back and "fixed" them. I tried to circle the wonky grout lines. The grout is smeared up to the wall inconsistently. Another photo is of the same tile as the circled one from a different angle to show a card placed on top.
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Old 02-13-2018, 06:42 PM   #10
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Tile expands, needs room to do so. Thus no grout allowed around the edges.
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Old 02-13-2018, 06:48 PM   #11
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Bathroom floors and kitchen floors usually do not get all that wet, compared to the floor of a shower. So normally not a big issue.
However, quite often we are required to put a water proof underlayment such as schluter Ditra under the tile in handicap bathrooms. The floors will get extremely wet from overspray and splashing by the caregiver. The handicap person is often in a shower chair or some such and will exit the shower dripping wet and will dry off on the bathroom floor, not in the shower.
If your floors are getting that kind of use then a water proof membrane might be a good idea.
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Old 02-13-2018, 07:58 PM   #12
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I wouldn't trust the rest of them that you haven't identified as messed up.

Edges should not be grouted at all. Yes you should get it fixed. If it's a plane change that will be visible like at the tub it gets color matched caulk.

Hardi backer is sufficient underlayment but it is not waterproof. You don't need to waterproof the floor in a bathroom or kitchen. Ditra with kerdi is waterproof. Ditra alone would be nearly waterproof except at the seams and would be more than adequate for bath and kitchen floors.

There is certainly some lippage from installer error going on but those tiles also look pretty bowed and several have a 50% offset which is going to give some large variation in height.

I don't know that I'd ever be happy with that floor although a lot of the wonkyness on the edges will be hidden by base...


Quote:
I appreciate the additional feedback. I'll be sure to turn the observations from this install into a checklist in the likely event that we do a full removal/redo.

It sounds like removing and replacing the floor with existing materials is doable but will take quite awhile (very few tiles are level with their surrounding tiles at all) and be expensive. I haven't looked into multiple quotes yet, but the $900/day guy said it would take 30 minutes per tile. We've found at least 20 tiles with critical issues (hollow sound when tapped, cracking edges) so far, so that's probably a good two days of work there without even including the tiles surrounding the cracked/broken ones in my count.

More questions for experts based on comments here:

Quote:
Grouting against the wall is a no-no, but is easily fixed without removing tile.
In many places grout was used to fill gaps between tile and the wall (see new photos attached). Should we make sure to fix this as well? (I'm not sure what normal edge grout looks like as this part is usually under a baseboard)

And is it bad that the gap between the tile and the bathtub was also grouted? (not caulk or sealant but grout)

Quote:
Underlayment are made for water issues such as showers and wet areas. Its installed before the tile is. If you have rooms upstairs that will get wet and be a issue then your going to have to remove the tile and start over.
Is Hardieback under the tile considered sufficient underlayment? This is the only material that was placed under the tile in the bathroom and laundry room. To my knowledge, nothing was used in the kitchen or downstairs bathroom. I also know nothing was applied to the top of the tile after grouting (the grout was not sealed).

Bonus new photos attached showing some of the tiles AFTER the original installer came back and "fixed" them. I tried to circle the wonky grout lines. The grout is smeared up to the wall inconsistently. Another photo is of the same tile as the circled one from a different angle to show a card placed on top.
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Old 02-13-2018, 08:23 PM   #13
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One other major consideration is whether the HardieBacker was installed properly by itself. First, it MUST be installed on thinset, then, the right amount and spacing of screws (or galvanized nails) must be used, followed up by using alkali resistant mesh tape on the seams. Failing to do that will normally lead to failures down the road. Any cbu installed directly to the floor, or if they used construction adhesive verses thinset will likely fail.
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