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Samantha Dillon
01-06-2017, 07:56 PM
Hi everyone, I've been sent by the nice pro's at Houzz who assured me I could find even more advice at the John Bridge Forums. Any insight would be most appreciated.

We are in the middle of a remodel project (we bought a 1950's cape cod that we're remodeling before we move in) and just had our kitchen tile floor installed yesterday. We went to see the new floor last night and were surprised to see so much lipping, some of which is pretty severe. The tile is 8x36 and we understand some slight lipping may occur. The installer is coming back out tomorrow to re-grout since they accidentally used the wrong grout, and he said he would take a look at the lipping and decide which ones needed to be replaced and which ones are just "a part of having an old house."

Our couple of questions are: Is this normal for a remodel? There was a subfloor (last pic), he installed 1/4" hardieboard over that and then mortar. Is that right? Another quote had come in wanting to use 1/2" board, a layer of modified thinset and unmodified thinset. Is it perhaps the offset? Not really sure what offset was used, it all seems a bit different. Is re-grouting even possible? Lastly, who typically covers the cost of having to go buy more tile to correct the lipped tiles, the homeowner or installer? Thank you! I've included some pictures, below.

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01-06-2017, 08:15 PM

Sorry to say, this is a fail if he simply installed Hardie over the plank subfloor. Additionally, clearly, this installer doesn't know how to install plank tile. I seriously doubt he's any better at standard squares.

This is on him, every last dollar.

01-06-2017, 08:24 PM
Welcome, Samantha. :)

Unfortunately, lippage and the wrong grout are but a small part of your real problems with that floor.

If he actually installed a CBU directly over what I see in your last photo, the only additional work you'll want him to do is remove everything he installed. That includes the tile and the CBU along with all the grout.

Neither James Hardie nor any other other CBU manufacturer, will permit his product to be installed over a sawn board subfloor like that. You must remove and replace with plywood or OSB or at least install a minimum of 1/2-inch plywood over the sawn board subflooring before installing the CBU or other tiling substrate.

Concerning the lippage, it's foolish for him to even suggest it's the result of your "having an old house." As the tile professional, it's incumbent upon him to evaluate the existing conditions and, if he finds them unsuitable, discuss with you the options for correcting them before starting to install any tile.

I hope you've not yet paid for this installation.

My opinion; worth price charged.

01-06-2017, 08:57 PM
That's a horrible installation. I would have installed 1/2" plywood subfloor and an uncoupling underlayment. The tile should have been installed in 33% offset preferably with a lippage Tuning system.

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Samantha Dillon
01-06-2017, 09:32 PM
Thank you for all the insight. Unfortunately, my husband and I purchased the material ourselves and he required 50% payment at start of job so it looks like we're out $3k. He's coming over tomorrow to re-grout the floor (which I've read is not really an option and will cause more issues down the road), at which time we're going to have to have a serious conversation about where we go from here. I hate to be anything but the optimist but I realize we have quite the demo on our hands and likely zero recourse other than small claims court and I don't want to be that person.

In a perfect world I'd hope he'd pay us back our 50% deposit and replace the material but that's likely unrealistic. I think best case scenario we're looking at is getting him to remove it all before he leaves.

I appreciate all this technical insight because it is helping me prepare my conversation for tomorrow.

01-06-2017, 09:38 PM
Any contract with a 'professional' implies that the work is done professionally. That means, according to industry guidelines. None of that happened with this install. Depending on the small claims court rules where you live, if he doesn't willingly either fix it properly to those guidelines, or give you your money back, you should win in small claims court. Note, I'm not a lawyer, but, depending on what he says and is willing to do, you may need one, at least for a consult.

Houston Remodeler
01-06-2017, 09:47 PM
We've installed those not-so-wonderful tiles before. It is possible to get a decent floor with them. Not pool table flat, but certainly within industry standards. Takes some effort as the tiles put up a fight. :tazebro:

Samantha Dillon
01-06-2017, 09:49 PM
Thanks Jim. He's definitely a professional in the sense that he is licensed in the state, but as far as contract, the quote just says "* Install is under warranty for 2 years. Only for situations that occur from install."

Hopefully tomorrow will go well but I can't imagine giving him a second chance at this and losing more material money.

As professional tilers, may I ask, what is reasonable to ask at this point in terms of a solution? Is it reasonable to ask for our deposit back and material costs? Granted I realize the unlikelihood of that request being honored.

We're just at a lost of next step.

Samantha Dillon
01-06-2017, 09:51 PM
Wow, these are all beautiful floors and workmanship! Anyone in southeastern PA? :)

Houston Remodeler
01-06-2017, 09:52 PM
In my fair state of Texas (and most likely yours too) you are required to give the contractor a chance to fix his mistakes. If he cannot, or will not, only then do you have the right to withhold money or sue him.

Have they tested the joists for deflection to see if the floor will support a tile installation? You can use our handy dandy deflecto-lator linked in the dark blue bar above.

We do have resident Pro's in your area.

Samantha Dillon
01-06-2017, 10:02 PM
Thank you, yes, I absolutely hope we can come to a solution together tomorrow.

No deflection testing was done. My husband did note from the basement, looking up, that they had nailed in some reinforcement wood where the subfloor had a few soft spots.

Houston Remodeler
01-06-2017, 10:06 PM
Have the DH head to the basement with a tape measure, paper, and pencil to make notes of the size of the joists, on center spacing of the joists, unsupported span of the joists, and get an idea of the species of the joists. If your house is typical of the 50's the joists should be douglas fir, but a picture will help us. If there is a stamp on any of the joists that would be great info

Samantha Dillon
01-06-2017, 10:13 PM
Thank you so much, Paul. I'll have him do that first thing tomorrow and we'll also use the deflecto calculator. I'll also snap some pictures of the joists. I think you're right, this house has been very standard for a 1950's build.

When we first saw the floor we just figured it was as simple as re-grouting and popping the lipped tiles, but we now realize that's a temporary cosmetic fix and won't fix the long term longevity of the floor and we plan on this being our forever home. We have a new kitchen arriving at the end of the month, including an 11.5' island and I'm worried the tile floor, as is, won't be able to accept that weight and could start cracking/popping.

01-06-2017, 11:17 PM
Even if the deflection is adequate, the problem is that the dimensional wooden planks on the floor are not sufficiently separated from the brittle tile - the planks will just move too much with the seasons. That is why the ply is is much more dimensionally stable, then, the cbu and tile on top should last.

Samantha Dillon
01-07-2017, 07:54 PM
I just wanted to thank everyone for their help and insight last evening, it really helped us to add value to our ongoing discussion with the installer and we hope all will resolve amicably and positively.

To protect ourselves going forward, what is the proper order of operations when using this 1/4" hardie backer?

Is it:
1) subfloor
2) mortar (does it need to be modified/unmodified?)
3) hardie backer
4) medium mortar bed
5) tile offset at less than 30%

Thank you all so much


01-07-2017, 07:59 PM
Pretty well sums it up, as long as your floor structure is adequate as far as deflection.
Modified under and over

01-07-2017, 08:42 PM
2. Please, please, please this time read and follow the manufacturer's installation instructions. ( Under Materials Required you'll find what you need. You can save some money using an un-modified thinset mortar under your Hardibacker panels.

4. If your tiles are flat and your substrate is flat you should not need anything more than a thinset mortar meeting ANSI A118.4.

5. That is the standard industry recommendation. If you find your tiles are sufficiently flat, you may be able to increase that offset without excessive lippage.

My opinion; worth price charged.

Samantha Dillon
01-07-2017, 10:14 PM
Thank you Ryan and CX very much for the helpfulness. We did use the deflector calculator on the forum and we are approved for ceramic tile. This is our tile: It's high definition porcelain but the tile box says, "This tile complies with recommended standard specifications for ceramic tile ANSI A137.1 Standard Grade Porcelain Tile" so it seems as though if we are approved for ceramic tile deflection, we are ok with this particular tile?

CX, yes thank you, we immediately went and looked up that link. One part we didn't quite understand: "Use minimum 5/8 exterior grade plywood or 23/32 OSB with Exposure 1 classification or better, complying with local building codes and ANSI A108.11."

Is this 5/8 grade plywood placed over top the existing planked subfloor (pictured in previous post)? It seems we've read recommendations for putting this plywood over the subfloor before anything else and then others that say just start with your 1st layer of mortar and then hardie backer?

Lastly, is substrate another word for subfloor? Or is this the combination of subfloor, plywood, 1st layer of mortar and hardie backer?

As always, thank you for the peace of mind.

01-07-2017, 10:36 PM
1. Yes.

2. Sorta. What you're reading applies to a single layer subfloor. In your case, where you have an initial layer of sawn boards for your subfloor, the tile industry standards require a second layer of a minimum of nominal 1/2" plywood over the board subfloor before your tile installation substrate. That requirement presumes you have nominal 1" (3/4") T&G boards laid perpendicular to the joists. You don't appear to have that and I'd recommend you install nominal 5/8ths" plywood or thicker on top of your diagonal laid boards, but you'll not find that in the industry standards.

That second layer need not have T&G edges. I recommend you install the second layer in accordance with the recommendations in this good article ( from our (Liberry) to the extend feasible.

3. I think substrate is misused a lot in describing the subfloor layers, including in the article I linked. In your case you are installing a second layer of structural subflooring. Then you will install your tiling substrate, which in your case will be Hardibacker.

My opinion; worth price charged.

01-07-2017, 10:44 PM
Hi Samantha. Your subfloor as it is now consists of the diagonal planks. While those planks do offer strength, they are not dimensionally stable. That's why you need to add a layer of 1/2" exterior glue BC plywood. This layer of plywood gets screwed only to the planks and not all the way through into your floor joists. So you would want to use #8 or 9 deck screws no longer than 1 1/4". Once this plywood layer is installed you need to put down a layer of modified thinset with something like 1/4" x 1/4" square notch trowel and set your 1/4" hardibacker into the wet thinset and screw it down before the thinset dries using hardibacker screws. After all that you will be ready for tile. To set the tile you chose you would probably want to use a medium bed mortar or something like custom's Prolite thinset. To set those tiles you want to use a trowel no smaller than a 3/8" square notch depending how much out of flat your floor is. I had similar planks in my kitchen and I screwed them all down with 3" deck screws to make sure they were snug and then I proceeded with 1/2" plywood then Ditra underlayment and then tile.

Samantha Dillon
01-09-2017, 07:57 AM
Thank you everyone for such helpful, detailed, step by step information. Your knowledge has helped saved the day. I thought I'd share what's ended up happening. On Saturday 2 tile people stopped by the house, one was there for a different reason but he happened to see the floor and just about lost his mind. The second gentleman subs through the actual installer as his bathroom tiler/bathroom remodeler and he was asked by the installer to stop by and look at the floor since he couldn't make it out Saturday. The gentleman walked in, and his first words were "Holy Sh*t." He continued to walk the tile, noting that it's seriously bad when his steel toe boots are catching on every lip, continually repeated, "I'm speechless," "I don't know if any of this can even be salvaged," etc. We really appreciated his honesty (although he did say he and a lot of guys put hardie board right to the subfloor and that the random offsets is how he would've done wood looking tile too to mimic wood [we think we was trying to at least cover for the installer a bit here]), and he said he'd "break the news" to the installer.

Long story short, the installer got in touch with us after that, and just wanted to replace 12-16 tiles based on what his sub told him. We told him no way and that was absolutely not how his sub had left it with us. Even longer story short, we got him to finally come look at the floor yesterday. He initially tried to excuse the bad job, but quickly realized my husband wasn't having it, especially with the knowledge we've gained. In the end, the installer ended up telling us that he had been in over his head on the job and "bit off more than I could chew." He did keep blaming the subfloor but I explained that if the subfloor was an issue it his was responsibility to stop work, notify us, and to properly address it rather than push forward and have it show through on the finish work. In the end, he acknowledged the mistakes and poor work, apologized, and has agreed to refund our money and tomorrow is coming in to rip out the project.

We lost time and some money but your insights have helped save us from a much larger loss, longterm. Thank you

Houston Remodeler
01-09-2017, 08:56 AM

Thanks for the update ! Glad to hear it worked out well for you.

Did you manage to find a skilled and knowledgeable installer yet ? The NTCA has a 'find a contractor' link. There are JBforum Pro's in your area as well.

01-09-2017, 12:47 PM
I recently did a tile job over an old sawn board subfloor and JB-TYW was really helpful to me and I think they have steered you right as always. fwiw I used 1/2" ext glue plywood over my floor as you pictured then membrane (1/4 backer in your case) then my stone tile and it has worked out excellent in my small bath.

I modified the procedure a little bit to fit my particular circumstances because I also did a minor repair or two to my diagonal subfloor and I will offer one piece of additional advice I've not seen recommended. It might be a few extra bucks and your floor looks better than mine did... but after that diagonal subfloor is profusely screwed to the joists have it sanded more or less flat with a floor sander to knock down any high spots or protruding wood. IF this poor install did in fact use mortar to set the 1/4" Hardie it will probably be required to clean it up. The ply will lay really nice with no voids or hollow spots once screwed down if they take that extra step.