Is 1/16 grout line too ambitious for an amateur? [Archive] - Ceramic Tile Advice Forums - John Bridge Ceramic Tile


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06-07-2012, 06:20 AM

Someone commented on another thread that doing a 1/16 grout line is insane for an amateur. Is it? Why? My husband is about to tile our basement's living-room space, and we are contemplating 1/16th (because we really want it to look more like hardwood than tile with obvious grout lines). We bought the hardwood-looking tile directly from Olympia, the one called Legno. It's 6"x24". They said that the tile could handle 1/16th, it'll just be harder to install. (so i guess it's rectified)
My husband has tiled with his dad for his dad's house (12x12 or 16x16 floor tiles, and kitchen counter in small tiles. Probably somewhere between 1/8-1/4 grout lines), and our kitchen backsplash. That's the extent of his tiling experience. But he is a perfectionist. Oh, and he'll be tiling directly on the concrete basement floor. New (3 year old) house. no moisture problems (at least, we think).

I measured 8 tiles from one box. all exactly the same width (well, one of them might have been a 1/64th off, but it was hard to tell. i'm not even sure if it was). Will test another box later. I have heard of the rule of your mimimum being 3 times the difference in size. But since the manufacturer told me 1/16th is okay, i would hope they are right!!

1) Is 1/16 too hard to do unless you're an pro/expert?
2) Is 3/32 a wierd grout line size? I've never heard anyone talk about it, although Lowe's website does sell tile spacers that size. that might be a better compromise than 1/8th, which we really don't want.

Thank you!

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06-07-2012, 07:00 AM
Yes, it is.
It depends on how level the surface is, how large the tiles are, what experience you have, and the tools used.

The bigger the tile and the smaller the grout lines = lippage problems.

If that is his first tile job, it will difficult.

06-07-2012, 07:19 AM
Like Bob said, I have installed similar tile (6x24) "wood look". It has a degree of
warpage allowed per piece. Installed on a basement slab that is probably NOT
perfectly flat ( I didn't say level ) Anyone would have a tough time keeping a 1/6" grout joint and lippage under control. Good news, it's YOUR house. You can decide the amount or degree of lippage you can tolerate. Find a great grout match - widen the grout lines. Just my thoughts.

06-07-2012, 09:12 AM
Agreed, 1/16 takes skill on rectified tiles, risky on standard tiles, and crazy on big-box store tile - wider lines are always easier. My new favorite for thin lines is the purple Tavy 3/32" spacer. Bigger than 1/16, less than an 1/8th.

Houston Remodeler
06-07-2012, 10:29 AM
After checking the slab / substrate for flatness, check into the LASH ( system or TLS ( for keeping the tiles level with each other and minimizing lippage. LASH is available from Home Burrito, TLS from one of our advertisers.

The thickness of the LASH strap is right close to 1/16" or less. The TLS straps are 1/32 or so. The overriding factor of course is the quality of your tiles; how square they are, how evenly sized they are, if they are warped, pillowed or shaped like Doritos.

06-07-2012, 02:36 PM
A rectified tile IMO is where you are gonna have problems. Last wood look tile I set had a soft edge or slightly chamfered edge if you will. Makes it much more forgiving than a rectified edge. JMO

Tool Guy - Kg
06-07-2012, 09:40 PM
I agree with the others and Ben has a terrific point about the square edges of rectified tiles amplifying any lippage.

You need to start out by assessing your slab and assessing your tiles:-For your slab, lay a long straightedge on your floor (ideally, a 10'er). Drag it around the floor every which way and measure the largest gap you have under any part of it. And report back to what you have.

-Next, look at how flat (or not) your tiles are. Put two tiles together with the top faces touching each other and hold that sandwich up to the light. Are they flat to each other across the entire tile, or is there a gap at the ends? When it comes down to it, super tight grout lines need very flat tiles that are installed flat to each other. If the tiles are funky or if you can't make up for a wavy substrate, you will have lippage that visually looks poor and feels poor to walk on. Even with shoes, you can feel it under foot. So start with an assessment of what you have. Then consider that wider grout lines hides lippage while tight grout amplifies lippage...especially if they are square edged rectified tiles. Finally, don't forget to pick a grout color that matches the tile to help obscure the grout lines :)

06-08-2012, 01:14 AM
The LASH system is also a good option but your floor still needs to be level/flat
or at least start from the highest point of the room and know what you're doing.

A another option and cleaver will be work with 4 tiles already glued/set at the corners at the time using a epoxy, I heard that one clever guy did and showed me, he ended with almost perfect flat tiles.

06-08-2012, 11:40 AM
Thank you for all of the advice!

I will check the tiles for warppage tonight. Also, I was planning on checking how flat the floor is, so i'll try to do that soon as well. Unfortunately hubby only has a 4' level :( I guess I'll start with that and see how it goes, in case it's miraculously flat (I know he has not been meaning to get a larger one, even though we maybe should). I know most people say to use a 10'. the largest one that Home Depot has (at least, the Canadian one, online) is 78" or 6.5'... not sure that there's much point in spending the money for it since it's still not 10'. I don't suppose there's an adaptation to the 1/8" over 10' rule for 4'...

06-08-2012, 12:27 PM
Amanda just use a 10ft piece of metal and put the level on that. Probably the best one would be a "L" shaped piece (if you look at it from the side). You may be able to use wood but most wood has a crown and is not as straight and flat as the "L" shaped piece of metal you will find at the big box store. If my description of that piece of metal confuses you take a look at the mudding walls video in the liberry (first video). He basically does what im suggesting to you. I think it will work the same in your situation.

06-08-2012, 04:58 PM
How far apart are you going to stagger the pattern? I'd lay a few on the floor and stagger them 1/3 or 1/4 the length. If you stagger them half way, it will usually show more lippage than you'll like, unless the tiles are real flat. If a 6 1/2 ft straight edge is all you can find, use it.

06-08-2012, 06:05 PM
just going to reiterate what the other said.

but it doesn't matter if your floor is perfectly flat if your tile are cupped.
and it doesn't matter how good your tile is if your floor isn't flat.

no, Confucius didn't say that. :D

we set a lot of plank tile down here in Florida and I can tell you that you
need a flat slab, good plank tile, good medium bed thinset, correct off set
of tile and a good skill of setting tile.


06-23-2012, 02:52 PM
Okay, so here is what I've found:

1) I checked the floor using a 6ft straight edge. We have a few spots that are 1/4" off (and a few more that are 3/16th off). Some are less than 1/16th over 1', and some are at 1/16 over a foot.

2) Putting two tiles together, the ends always touch, and looking at the narrow end (they're 6"x24"), the narrow end meets perfectly all along. Looking at the long sides, they do meet at the ends, and about half of the length of the tile meets perfectly, but some of them do have a slight gap in some places (more than a hairline gap, but not even 1/16), and again, never at the ends.

3) I don't know if the tiles are rectified or not, but the tile company did tell me that I can use a 1/16 grout line with them. Looking at them, the edges do have a bit of a bevel around the top, it's not a completely straight cut.

Does that help shed any light on what our options are? (am still considering 1/16 or 3/32. hubby wants to do 1/16, but if everyone strongly advises against it, we'll resign ourselves to 3/32. assuming that's even feasible! still think 1/16th would look better though. we couldn't get a perfect match of grout. the one we're thinking of is a bit darker).

06-25-2012, 01:06 AM
Unless you guys are very patient, I'd go with 1/8" grout line. I know you said you didn't want that, but it would most likely be a trade off. Either you go with 1/8" and keep everything straight, or go with 1/16" and risk having some problems.

The LASH or TLS can help keep everything flat, but I think you'll still have to do some filling/grinding on the parts that are out of plane the worst.

Given your (suspected) skill level, I think trying to do 1/6" grout line is going to be asking for trouble.

06-25-2012, 07:22 AM
Amanda, along with the surface and tile flatness issue, your tiles must be rectified and very well rectified for you to be successful with a 1/16th" grout joint. From your description it sounds like your tiles are not.

Stand a dozen or so of the tiles up on their edges in a horizontal stack and check the difference in size with an accurate straight edge. The current industry standard requires a grout joint width of three times the difference in size from largest to smallest tile in your layout. To use a 1/16th" grout joint, you need the size difference to be essentially zero. If you have even a 32nd of an inch variance, for example, your grout joint must be at least 3/32nds" to make a good looking installation.

Check the size difference carefully, and check all your tiles before you commit to that narrow grout joint.

For some of us a 1/8th" joint can be challenging. :)

My opinion; worth price charged.