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Question DetailsAsked on 10/4/2016

We are having our bathroom remodeled and the subway tiles on the walls do not line up? What could be the problem?

The grout lines on 2 walls line up perfectly but the 3rd wall is about 1/8 of an inch off as the tiles go up the wall,

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2 Answers

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VERY common problem - assuming all the tiles are from same batch, so same size. This can happen when you go around a corner and the corner is not plumb, or the countertop or floor you are basing the tiles on is not level as it makes turns.


If the wall corner is not plumb and you place the tiles up tight against an out-of-plumb intersecting wall, either the vertical grout lines will be straight and continuous but out of vertical and the bottom and top edges of the wall tile will "walk" up or down hill (be out of level) - or the other possibility is you lay the tiles level but place them tight against an out-of-plumb corner, so each tile row hits the adjacent wall a bit longer or shorter on the run - so the vertical grout lines in successive rows do not line up, stair-stepping off to or in from the side, depending on whether the wall corner tilts away from or towards the wall being laid. If you have only minor stair-stepping, slightly wider grout joints can accomodate that - but will be evident to the eye, at least when looking straight at it.


Solution - truing-up the walls during the rough carpentry, or if using "mud and mesh" mudcoat backing for the tile vary the mud coat thickness up the wall to bring it into plumb (if only out a bit).


Best initial practice after drywall is already up (or if remodeling and drywall is not coming out) is to first run level stringline around the room to put all the countertop or backsplash pieces on a level - that gets your tile rows level. Then you normally work the short or least visible wall first (assuming it is the fairly plumb one) and run the tile tight to the adjacent wall drywall, making sure it is plumb - but if the next wall to be done is out of plumb some of the tiles will be cut to fit - running full tile usually at the "out" location - top or bottom of wall as applicable, then cuts narrower and narrower down or up the wall to fit the adjacent wall. Then the next wall of tile is run to that tile, coming up tight to the first wall tile, making the second-laid tiles full tiles at the corner, the first-laid wall tiles will be a bit shy of full tiles and partly hidden behind the second-laid tiles.


Of course, which is the "hidden edge" is somewhat of an art. Some tile layers, to minimize the narrower appearance of the tiles in the corner, run the first wall tiles to a plumb line on the wall which will line up just behind the face of the adjacent wall tile, leaving a gap in the corner which is filled with thinset when the second wall is laid. This brings the edges of the tiles on the two walls almost to a meet in the corner just at their face edges, with the void behind thinsetted full. Others use less care and just bring the two walls together however they fit and just grout or caulk the corner seam, narrower or wider at top or bottom depending on how the wall is out of plumb - though if much out of plumb that can make for a really goofy looking grout line in the corner.

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If the problem is that the countertop or backsplash that the wall tile or tile backsplash is "resting on" is out of level, then short of releveling it, to get the wall/backsplash grout lines level and vertical, you have to do tile cuts on all but one of the tiles (at the lowest end) along the top of the counter/backsplash to make the first grout line up (at the top of the first row) level.


If the bottom of the wall is bullnose or quarterroun or such, then the "cut" grout line up would actually be the top of the first full row of normal tile, so in that case actually the cut would normally be made on the first row of normal tile coming down to the top of the bottom trim piece. Again, some level the bottom trim piece and make a varying width grout or caulk line between it and the floor or back edge of countertop/backsplash. At the floor this does not look too bad if very out of level - can look bad at countertop level.


If putting in new backsplash over the countertop but under the wall tile, you can also trim the backsplash to a taper to make the top level even if the countertop is not - but that looks pretty obvious, usually more so than cuts to a tile row.


Either way - depending on whether countertop (or floor if going down to floor) or wall is out of level/plumb, you will end up with a cut tile edge at the misaligned contact - which is generally hidden in the corner or at the floor/base to minimize the effect of the first/last row or column of tiles being of varying width.


If a tilelayer (contractor) is doing this and you have that sort of realingment - he has some rework to do - at no cost to you.

Answered 2 years ago by LCD

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Answered 2 years ago by Member Services




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