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Unread 10-25-2021, 12:27 PM   #1
midwest girl
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Help - new slate tile coming loose

I had some 4x12 slate tile installed several weeks ago. Yesterday, I noticed that a couple of the small cut tiles along and edge of the floor were loose. After a little further inspection, there appears to be an even bigger issues - see first photo below.

It appeared to me (as a layperson with no tiling experience) that he laid all the full tiles and then went back and installed the cut tiles - and the thin set mortar (Versabond) skimmed over.

I decided to move the paper covering the rest of the tiles - and started noticing some additional issues. The grout lines are VERY INCONSISTENT- I understand that with slate sometimes the lines have to be adjusted some. I purchased nicer slate tile - very consistent size. I also purchased 20% extra tile to allow for breakage/bad tiles + herringbone pattern. I used the same slate tile in another bathroom (installed by same contractor) the first week of April.

There is quite a bit of lippage - very different than in the other bathroom.

The tile hasn’t been grouted - and I can see the floor in some places (no mortar) - there are other places where the mortar fills the entire grout line. There are corners that don’t meet, etc.

But - the biggest issue is that another tile was completely loose - and this is in the middle of the floor (photo below).


While the other bathroom isn’t perfect (example - I was told that my door jambs would be undercut so the tile would slide underneath them - that did not happen - so there are spots that look a little messy which could have been avoided), it looks as if it was completed by a different person.

I think I know the answers to these Qs but I need to ask them anyway . . .

Do I have to find someone to remove all of the tiles and start over?

Would the issues with grout line sizes/lippage/etc become less noticeable after the floor has been grouted? I didn’t exam the other floor closely prior to when it was grouted 24 hours later - so, I’m wondering if I would have noticed similar issues with that floor if I had done so before he grouted it.

If I don’t find a bunch of other loose tiles, will I be able to have these loose tiles simply reinstalled (after someone removes the existing mortar)?

Thanks,

Dani
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Unread 10-25-2021, 12:31 PM   #2
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I just noticed that the grout lines look okay in the first photo (that’s where he started tiling -by closet door). It looks like he rushed to finish job and started spreading mortar thinner or something because it looks like there is full mortar on the floor in the first photo + the spacing/layout of the tiles looks much better in first photo.


I wish I’d never started renovating my house. I am so stressed - and it greatly affects my health. We didn’t hire the cheapest person. We received referrals from two of my SO’s law partners. We asked for copies of insurance. We checked on licenses. I asked MANY questions.

And I did a TON of research so I would know the right questions to ask.

I give up.
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Unread 10-25-2021, 01:28 PM   #3
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As evidenced by your pictures, it's pretty obvious that there was no adhesion to the back of the slate and, as you said, the Versabond probably was skimming over before he set them. If the one's you've shown is any indication, I think the other tile is highly suspect as far as a good bond goes.

He should have mixed the morter a bit on the "loose" side if it was to be sitting there for a while. He should have also "skimmed" the back of the tile. Think of it like putting some duct tape back-to-back.

Truthfully, I don't see this as lasting long term. Sorry.....
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Unread 10-25-2021, 02:06 PM   #4
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Hi Dani,

I'd be for removing the entire installation and starting over with someone new. Sorry.
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Unread 10-25-2021, 02:20 PM   #5
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Have to agree with Laz, Dani. Appears the installer probably spread out more mortar than he could cover with tile before the mortar skinned over. Could also be that the backs of the tile were dirty and he failed to clean them before setting. Or a combination of skinned over mortar and dirty tiles. It is also reasonable to assume there are more adjacent to those you've found that are not bonded well. As well, see all those ridges in the mortar? Those should be nearly non existent.

While grout will hide a lot of things it won't hide everything. It may disguise some of the inconsistent grout joints but won't fix lippage issues. Given your tile choice, natural slate, some lippage is to be expected and accepted, unless it's really egregious. But since that slate is stone, and as such each piece had to be machine cut by the manufacturer, I would think they are pretty uniform in length and width. If so, then so too should be the grout joints.

Unfortunately, even exhaustive vetting doesn't assure a competent person will do the job correctly. I would invite him back to correct the deficiencies, and he's more apt to do so if you've not yet paid him in full.
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Unread 10-25-2021, 02:31 PM   #6
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Two big issues here:
- especially on a larger tile like this, it's almost mandatory to back butter or burn in a coating of thinset to the back side of the tile before laying it in place
- industry standards call for 100% of the edges and at least 90% of the back of the tile to be covered/supported by thinset. This was NOT done, as evidenced by still being able to see the ridges from the trowel. Especially with a larger tile, you have to move it back and forth a fair amount to spread the thinset into one even layer to cover the full backside of the tile which supplies both adhesion and support.

A couple of other more minor observations:
- you need to spread the mortar in parallel lines, not sweeping arcs to make it easier for air to escape when setting the tile in place otherwise, it gets trapped and makes the tile a little more buoyant, making it harder to embed it properly.
- didn't notice if there was a gap around the edges of the install, but that needs to be there....typically covered by the baseboard
- lippage on ungauged tile will always be somewhat of a pain...ground and honed or polished is more consistent in thickness, and can be nearly perfect
- since this was natural stone, over a wooden subfloor, industry guidelines call for TWO layers of subflooring. If that was not done, and a cement board doesn't qualify, but may be called for, the whole install is even more suspect.
- grouting can bridge the different elevations of any uneven tile and help, but some natural stone tile will have some and when they are not flat, a larger grout line so that the transition between tiles can be masked better. IOW, on some tile, a small grout line just won't work at all.
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Unread 10-25-2021, 02:47 PM   #7
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4x12 inches is not what I'd call a particularly large tile, Jim. And the mortar coverage requirement for interior dry areas is only an average of 80 percent. Still, the actual bonded coverage shown in her photos is essentially zero. Your point about the troweling is certainly well taken, but if you don't compress the ridges at all, I'm not sure it matters much, eh?

I think I gotta agree with post #4. No easy fix there.

My opinion; worth price charged.
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Unread 10-25-2021, 04:40 PM   #8
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In one of the classes I took, they gave us clear glass tile so it was easy to see what kind of coverage we were getting in our sample board...using the normal trowel for that sized tile (and these were much smaller than what you have), it took a surprising number of back and forth motions with the tile to flatten all of the ridges. Some of that is the consistency of the mortar, but a lot of that is just that on a rigid surface, you just can't apply a huge amount of pressure psi to it, as it gets distributed across the surface.

Ideally, though, you'd want 100% coverage, but that's not likely to happen very often on anything other than say a small mosaic tile. The industry accepts less, and that's what they use when testing for reliability.

I'm a big fan of slant-notched trowels...they still gauge the mortar out as needed, but because of the slant to the notches, they fall over onto themselves making for a nearly flat surface, so there's less need to spread them out. Keep in mind with say a square-notched trowel...you have essentially NO thinset in between the ridges...a V-notch is better, and a slant-notch is better still. So, if you didn't move the tile back and forth, at best, you'd have 50% coverage, which is way below the minimum specified. A V-notch, if you don't embed the tile well, could have quite a bit less as you might just be resting on the peaks with little collapse.
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Unread 10-25-2021, 06:10 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim
So, if you didn't move the tile back and forth, at best, you'd have 50% coverage,
That would be true if the ridges didn't collapse at all. But unless you've mixed the mortar extra-dry, the ridges will collapse. To what degree depends on the pressure exerted on the tile, and on how fluid the mortar is.
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Unread 10-25-2021, 06:40 PM   #10
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Well, as I stated in my original post - I was pretty sure that I knew the answers to my questions.

The actual tiles are very consistent in size and thickness. There is a little lippage in the other bathroom - but not much.

I’ve attached some photos below of the other bathroom floor - the grout lines are MUCH more consistent than in this one. The lines vary a bit - but once it was grouted, I stopped noticing it. I knew that there could be issues with slate - but I thought I minimized it by spending extra money and purchasing gauged slate - from Brazil instead of China - so the tiles would be consistent.

I was a bit upset re: the first installation because we specifically discussed that the door jambs would be undercut in order to slide the tile underneath vs. trying to cut around stuff. Plus, I was told that they would seal the tiles before grouting - but they didn’t. They left quite a bit of grout on the tiles - I’ve spent quite a bit time trying to remove as much grout as possible - but there’s still some on there. Luckily, many tiles were honed so no clefts for the grout to get stuck to.

I finally just gave up.

Someone asked about whether space was left around the edges - he definitely left space - maybe too much in some areas. The new baseboards haven’t been installed in this bathroom yet (I guess they were waiting to do it when they did the master bathroom) + the board and batten hasn’t been installed on the walls either. I assume that will help hide most of the areas where he left more space than necessary along the perimeter.

Question - I was confused about why he filled the space between the tile edges and wall with grout - making a connection between the dry wall and tile - but maybe it’s supposed to be that way?



I am now very concerned about a few things:

1. Whether a second layer of plywood was installed prior to laying the cbu. I am about 99% sure that it wasn’t for the previous bathroom. I also don’t know if there is thin set underneath the cbu. My SO seems to think that the master bathroom floor is okay because there used to be a heavy jacuzzi tub in there. He thinks that the floor must have been reinforced for that tub. I, on the other hand, am suspect as to whether either of the two floors have the required second layer of wood subfloor.

Unfortunately, I didn’t learn about the requirement for a second layer of subfloor OR that thin set should have been used UNDER the cbu until AFTER the slate had been installed on both floors. I brought it up to my SO - just add it to the list of me being “picky” (along with questioning why (i) there wasn’t a pre-slope in shower pan, and (ii) mastic was used to install my white marble tile on walls with RedGard when I have three bags of white thin set mortar sitting in my garage).

2. As soon as I found the first loose tile, I felt sick to my stomach. It was apparent that the tiles had not been properly moved “back and forth” in order to collapse the ridges and bond the tile. It also appeared clear that the tiles had not been “burned” on the back with thin set prior to being set on the floor.

Also - the slate tiles were covered with some dust (assume it’s dust from the actual slate being cut?). I specifically asked if we needed to do something about cleaning them off before he came to install them. He told me that I didn’t need to “waste my time” cleaning off the tiles. He told me that he would take care of the dust before setting them. Based upon how the tiles looked after he set them, it was obvious that he didn’t wipe the top - so, makes me question if/how he addressed the bottom.

3. I am now worried about the other bathroom floor. After reading some posts on JBF, I decided to try a little knocking . . . I wasn’t able to check many tiles before I heard my SO’s voice through the closed door - “What in the world are you doing in there??!?!?” It was a little after 1:00 a.m. - OOPS!



Some of the tiles I checked sounded okay - some of them sounded okay in some spots but not in others. And one tile appears to not be bonded to the floor - I think it’s only being held by grout (it’s located next to the wall where it doesn’t receive much foot traffic - if any). There are some cracks developing in the grout along the sides of the tile.

The finished floor has had quite a bit of foot traffic - we’ve been staying in the bedroom attached to this bathroom while waiting for our master bathroom renovation to be finished for the past SIX months.

I guess there is one bright side - he should have completed the floor in my laundry room/mud room months ago - with the same slate tiles - but just hadn’t gotten around to doing it yet. One less floor to rip out.
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Unread 10-25-2021, 06:53 PM   #11
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FYI - I have not paid him all of the money - about 40% (my SO agreed to 40% before I was involved - I don’t know what’s “typical” to do for these projects).

Also - I don’t think that he’d be willing to come back and address this voluntarily. When he was questioned about using mastic on the marble (after I just specifically asked about the white thin set mortar right before he started installing the tile that day), he chose to pack up stuff and leave instead of removing the tiles (only one wall had been done at that point). So, I can only imagine his response re: ripping up two floors!

He also took four doors (entry to master bathroom/water closet/master bedroom closet) with him, plus other materials that I personally purchased.

I need to review the applicable statute that covers renovations to see exactly what’s required re: allowing him a chance to address issues in order to determine if it’s still applicable since he told us that he’s finished working on the project (because asking him to remove the marble tile and reinstall it with white thin set mortar was “being picky” and would cause him to lose money on the project - so, I either had to accept the tile as installed - or he was leaving).
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Unread 10-25-2021, 08:27 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dani
Question - I was confused about why he filled the space between the tile edges and wall with grout - making a connection between the dry wall and tile - but maybe it’s supposed to be that way?
Filling that space with grout completely defeats the whole purpose of leaving the perimeter gap in the first place, Dani.

If you'd add a geographic location to your User Profile, another member may be able to better answer some questions about how things are traditionally handled there.

The removal of your doors and other material from your jobsite would generally constitutes theft and that is generally handled the same way all over the country.

Have you a written contract for any or all of this work?
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Unread 10-25-2021, 11:32 PM   #13
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The removal of your doors and other material from your jobsite would generally constitutes theft
I'd like know why he thought it okay to remove your personal property as well. Sounds a bit shady.
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Unread 10-26-2021, 12:52 AM   #14
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AT 4x12", that's 48 sqin. If you don't move the tile around, my guess is that you'd likely not apply more than 20# of pressure to the tile by hand, and probably less...that's less than 7 oz/sqin...i.e., not much.

Yes, thinset is normally not mixed super stiff like cold peanut butter, but more like mayonnaise, but it doesn't actually flow without at least some pressure! That slate might weigh about 3#, so that would add to whatever pressure you might apply when pushing down, but you get lots more even spreading if you slide it back and forth some. If you just set the tile down, you're not going to get good coverage. It needs intimate contact for when it cures to create a good bond. If you do a good job of burning a layer of thinset on the back, that would just mix any remaining dust in, and likely not be an issue, otherwise, it could weaken the bond if not removed first.

When you pay a supposed professional to perform work in your home, you expect they'll perform the work to at least the minimum industry standards. That includes installing everything according to the manufacturer's instructions of the products utilized, too. EVERY cement board manufacturer requires their panel to be bedded in thinset, so not doing it would fail that basic tenant of good workmanship. That thinset is not primarily intended to bond the cbu to the floor, but to ensure that it is 100% supported without voids. The fasteners, properly installed, hold it down, the thinset holds it up. The proper spacing of the fasteners helps to ensure the board is embedded in the thinset since a screw can apply lots of local pressure, and when they're the specified spacing, that completes the job. Skimp on fasteners, you can have a problem. Not tape the seams, you can have a problem.
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Unread 10-26-2021, 10:11 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CX
Filling that space with grout completely defeats the whole purpose of leaving the perimeter gap in the first place, Dani
That’s exactly why I was confused- if the gap is to allow space for movement, why would someone fill the gap with grout?

Quote:
Originally Posted by CX
The removal of your doors and other material from your job site would generally constitute theft
Theft statutes are basically drafted the same way in every state - the only difference is where a jurisdiction decides to draw the line between misdemeanor theft or felony theft. In my jurisdiction, the line is at $1,000. I haven’t priced out replacing the doors, but my guess is that when adding the doors + materials, the total will exceed $1,000.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kman
I’d like to know why he thought it was okay to remove your personal property as well. Sounds a bit shady.
I completely agree. I was surprised when I noticed the doors were no longer in my garage.

Quote:
Originally Posted by CX
Have you a written contract for any or all of this work?
I have a very basic contract that covers:

- the items included in the scope of work
- who was responsible for procuring which materials
- the price for the work

I wanted to draft a more comprehensive contract for the work - however, my SO thought that my contract might cause a contractor to pass on the job (if it included too many provisions) - the contracts I draft tend to be extremely thorough - my practice focuses on large commercial development. I have to be thorough in order to adequately protect my clients.

I will admit that sometimes this carries over when drafting/reviewing contracts in non-work situations (example, reviewing a residential lease for a house my nephew wanted to rent with his buddies in college - although my added provisions saved him from being liable for unpaid rent when one of his friends decided to drop out of school and stop making rent payments).

After doing a little legal research, I felt comfortable because the important items (in addition to the scope of work/price/materials provided that were specified in the contract) are addressed in the statutes.

The statutes in my state that cover home renovations provide various protections for homeowners regarding this type of work. Also, the consumer protection act in my jurisdiction provides additional protections. One example is that “all work must be performed in a good and workmanlike manner.” This language of the statute has been interpreted by the courts to require a contractor to comply with all applicable laws/codes/regulations + manufacturer’s requirements + accepted industry standards. Also, contractors are required to be licensed for many trades.

My ex husband is a prosecutor - he gave me the contact info for a good friend of his who is a detective in the city where I live - his friend told him to tell me to call if I want to file a report re: the removed property.
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