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Unread 01-28-2020, 11:04 PM   #1
subunit
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Is this tile installation safe/durable?

Hello! I find myself in need of disinterested second opinion on a bathroom tiling job we had done recently on an 1930s lathe and plaster house. The contractor we used was recommended by my inlaws, and the previous jobs I saw looked fine to me, at least on the basis of my limited knowledge from reading a book on ceramic and stone tiling. However, I don't think he was actually on site when the bathroom was done, and whoever was doing the work was plainly unable to cope with the quoted work (demoing the existing tile over plaster in the bathroom and retiling from the lathe). My impression of what would be done (I only have partial understanding of the shared language of inlaws and contractor) was something like masonry board laid over the lathe, or replastering it, as required, followed by retiling of the whole bathroom.

The first attached photo shows the scene when we checked in on the day the bathroom was being tiled. As you can see, the tilesetter elected to install the new tile directly on the older (waist-height) tile and the underlying plaster (exposed above). It was not clear that the plaster had been prepared in any particular way for tile adhesive, there was no waterproof membrane behind the tile in the shower stall, and it appeared that general purpose tile adhesive had been used. There is a noticeable slope in the tile away from the border between the old tile and the old plaster behind it.

Initially I figured it would probably be ok, but there were so many other problems with this particular contractor's work that I ended up thinking he probably doesn't really know whether this is a safe or durable tile installation. The thickness of the adhesive over the plaster top of the wall seemed alarming to me (second photo- measured something like 1 and a quarter or 1 and a half inch thick) and I began to think about the weight the adhesive was putting on the painted plaster beneath. It seems plausible to me that the adhesive could slough off with the paint or plaster, putting weight on the grout joint at the "hump" and causing the tiles to fall off the wall. Is that at all likely?

Also, given that the adhesive used in the shower stall was likely not any special cementite waterproof stuff, are we likely to eventually end up with water penetrating the adhesive and working its way into the plaster?

Thanks for your time!!
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Unread 01-29-2020, 07:59 AM   #2
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nope
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Unread 01-29-2020, 08:21 AM   #3
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It's not the job of the tile, mortar, and grout to waterproof the shower. While there are instances when tile over tile is accepted, it relies on a rock-solid existing install for that to work. If the plaster was questionable, nothing about what you are describing will make it less questionable now. The side photo showing a large build-up of mortar under the tile almost certainly exceeds the thickness maximum stated on the bag or Technical Data Sheet for the mortar. It's not designed to be a leveling compound, it's designed to be an adhesive. As your gut is telling you, the right answer is to tear everything down to the studs and do it properly.
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Unread 01-29-2020, 03:13 PM   #4
subunit
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Quote:
It's not the job of the tile, mortar, and grout to waterproof the shower. While there are instances when tile over tile is accepted, it relies on a rock-solid existing install for that to work. If the plaster was questionable, nothing about what you are describing will make it less questionable now. The side photo showing a large build-up of mortar under the tile almost certainly exceeds the thickness maximum stated on the bag or Technical Data Sheet for the mortar. It's not designed to be a leveling compound, it's designed to be an adhesive. As your gut is telling you, the right answer is to tear everything down to the studs and do it properly.
Thanks for the reply! I believe the plaster was stable before tiling, but it does seem like adding so much additional weight to it could cause the installation to fail, especially given the lack of waterproofing.

Your comment about the use of adhesive as levelling compound made me suspicious of the kitchen floor tile installation the same contractor did. I assumed that code was adhered to in this case, with the laying of a proper subfloor for tile, given the additional thickness of the new floor. However, I just went and chipped away some of the adhesive and found that it seems he simply used about an inch of adhesive directly over the original hardwood (see pic). In your opinion is this installation also likely to fail?

If you have an idea about the speed or extent to which these problems result in failures it would also help, as it will likely take us some time to rectify the problems and if there is an imminent safety issue (tiles are likely to collapse into the shower while my kid is in there etc) I would certainly like to know. Thanks for the advice!
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Unread 01-29-2020, 03:23 PM   #5
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over an inch of thinset mortar ON TOP of hardwood flooring???

this is beyond a botch job....

Do you have any pictures of the mortar he has been using? Is it possible that is not hardwood flooring and that is not thinset mortar, but something like "drypack"?
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Unread 01-29-2020, 04:38 PM   #6
subunit
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over an inch of thinset mortar ON TOP of hardwood flooring???

this is beyond a botch job....

Do you have any pictures of the mortar he has been using? Is it possible that is not hardwood flooring and that is not thinset mortar, but something like "drypack"?
The only adhesive/mortar I saw around during the project was bog standard general purpose tile adhesive. I found a picture from the kitchen tiling, it's quite unclear but now that I'm looking carefully I think what they may have done is strip down to the original hardwood (it had a few layers of ancient linoleum on top), put some wire lathe down, and then build up with adhesive. The depth of the wood layer under the adhesive is the correct position for the original hardwood floor, and you can see it extends out into the stairway step on the left there, so I don't think there's an additional subfloor on top. Not 100% on this though.
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Unread 01-29-2020, 04:39 PM   #7
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Alex ... you keep using he term "adhesive". To me that is pre-mixed goop that comes out of a bucket. Much like Liquid Nails or caulk. Thinset and drypack come from bags, it is dry powder, and gets mixed with water. Like speed says ... any chance you have a picture of the container the adhesive came in?
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Unread 01-29-2020, 04:48 PM   #8
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Alex ... you keep using he term "adhesive". To me that is pre-mixed goop that comes out of a bucket. Much like Liquid Nails or caulk. Thinset and drypack come from bags, it is dry powder, and gets mixed with water. Like speed says ... any chance you have a picture of the container the adhesive came in?
I'm gonna dig around to see if I can locate any. My memory of the pile of materials isn't super clear, but most of what I remember seeing was buckets of goop and not bags of powder. I'll post again if I find anything.'

edit: if you have an idea how I might be able to determine if the stuff is drypack or something else from scraping a sample of it, I'll do that too. Thinking about it, it would seem to make way more sense for them to lay some type of dry pack mortar to level the kitchen floor, I don't know if that's properly done over hardwood with some metal lathe, though.
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Unread 01-29-2020, 06:02 PM   #9
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Adhesive is a term used internationally for mortar. The OP is from Canada.

I'm thinking the original wall tile wainscot is mud walls maybe. It's difficult to understand what's going on with the floor until we know more about how it was constructed. If it's a mud floor then the build up isn't alarming.
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Unread 01-29-2020, 07:53 PM   #10
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Love the green board for the shower curb.
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Unread 01-29-2020, 08:11 PM   #11
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Yeah, more pictures of the curb might tell us a lot.
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Unread 01-29-2020, 10:11 PM   #12
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Quote:
I'm thinking the original wall tile wainscot is mud walls maybe.
Could be, I did notice that there was a gap between whatever was backing this original tile and the plaster above it, fwiw. As the two layers aren't continuous, I'm worried about the weight of the adhesive/mortar on the plaster and the potential for it to slough off.

Quote:
It's difficult to understand what's going on with the floor until we know more about how it was constructed. If it's a mud floor then the build up isn't alarming.
I think it is some type of mud. I spoke to my wife (who was the one who dropped in while the work was being done- we were not yet moved in) who indicated that the mud is applied over the 1/4" subfloor I wasn't able to pull up myself, which sits over a layer of ancient linoleum applied to the original hardwood. I think code is a half inch. That might explain the crack that I recently noticed under the fridge (pic).. pretty sure that wasn't there when they finished, as my wife was pissed about a bunch of chipped tiles and other problems and had them redo anything with a defect on the floor.

Quote:
Yeah, more pictures of the curb might tell us a lot.
Alas, those were the only ones taken, as by the time I'd been able to identify some problems in the ones my wife took and get up to the house, they'd tiled up the room. Kind of got the impression of a fast one gettin done. What's the issue with the green board for the curb? It wasn't even supposed to be there, so I've no idea what's going on with it.

I am having a guy who I am somewhat more confident in look at the tile installs tomorrow or the next day, so I do appreciate any and all comments that can inform that discussion.
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Unread 01-30-2020, 12:08 AM   #13
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I can't tell if the green board is installed on the curb or if it's there protecting the curb in case something is dropped. Green board should not be installed on the curb.
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Unread 01-30-2020, 05:35 AM   #14
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It looks like the floor joints were intended to line up with one another and the 2 rows not to the shower curb are clearly off.
I hope it all works out for you.
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Unread 01-30-2020, 07:33 AM   #15
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That picture above is finished work???
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