Working with a client on an issue regarding tile installation.

In the Atlanta market, what are your thoughts as to what is considered quality workmanship with respect to acceptable tolerances in the widths of joints and straightness of the grout lines? And is there a reliable source for reference?
  14 answers
  • I'm not sure if there is a specified standard with which to base a lawsuit on, but I have my own personal "acceptable tolerances." Basically if you can at all see that the grout lines are not straight, that is not acceptable. With the tile spacers readily available and cheap to buy, there should be no noticeable grout width differences either. How bad are these?

  • The Journal of Light Construction has published a book of standards = I don't recall the exact title, but part of the treason is to adress issues like this

  • Thanks. These are definitely noticeable to the eye. If anyone else has ideas I am looking for alternatives other than my usual sources. I can't seem to find anything that says that grout lines should not vary in width more than "X" or that lines should not deviate from straight more than X inches in Y feet.

  • Southern Trillium LLC Southern Trillium LLC on Dec 10, 2011
    I would like to add something to this discussion. Depending on the type of tile chosen/installed, it is common to see minor variations in the dimensions of the tiles. I point this out because if someone were to use those little spacers to set the gaps, it is easy to end up with a finished installation where the lines are not straight because using exact spacers may possibly compound the variations in dimensions. Even with spacers, the installer needs to verify if the lines are remaining straight and then make any adjustments during installation to keep straight lines.

  • Good call there ST. I installed a tile floor about a month back. Even though the tiles were from the same supplier, the tiles themselves varied in size by up to 1/8 inch. When you have a 1/4 grout line going in, this can really throw things off. I used a laser line to make sure things kept straight. I was quite pleased that even after wrapping them around a kitchen island, I ended up within 1/16 of an inch when things met back up.

  • KMS Woodworks KMS Woodworks on Dec 12, 2011
    It also depends on the tile...I have done a bunch of Saltillio where the grout lines are 1/2 or more, bigger gaps hide mistakes. But in the case of Saltillo its not "mistakes" just variation in tiles ( these are all hand made). Kevin, I have found the Ceramic Tile Institute Of America to have some great are a couple of bulletins I found on their site that may help...of course you can always give them a call for some more specific issues.

  • Harold M Harold M on Dec 12, 2011
    I pop a line and use the plastic X things for spacing. Sometimes you get off a smidge but usually not noticeable. I wouldn't sweat it. If someone says anything about it, you can use my line "Kids are starving in Africa, get a life" HaHa. I also agree with KMS about variation.

  • KMS Woodworks KMS Woodworks on Dec 13, 2011
    another "trick" I have used is to set a "cleat" down a long straight run...basically a very straight board that is screwed to the floor. This sets your first course. Then for consistent spacing the spacers are used, to help prevent tiles from "slipping" I will sometime use blue painters tape the "tension" them against the spacers. You can see the tape in use in this project.

  • Thanks for the info. KMS, the links your provided were helpful.

  • I just set a bathroom floor, and the customer bought seconds. It was a NIGHTMARE..... so the dimension of tile has a huge impact on the final result. And I agree... the larger the grout line, the easier it is to hide small imperfections.

  • Sherrie S Sherrie S on Dec 14, 2011
    Straight Nails; If I were you I would be afraid of what a customer buys because he/she buys whatever sounds right on television or radio and then expects you can make the cheapest product perfect. Just like TV. I always let the contractor tell me what they suggest. Who knows more about the installation? I also have to trust the contractor and have found that this works for all of us.

  • I think I have the publication Nichter referred to..."Residential Construction Performance Guidelines for Professional Builders & Remodelers; Fourth Edition. It is published by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). There is no mention of grout line issues in the flooring section. However, it is discussed in the countertops section: Quote:" 10-5-5: Observation: A tile countertop has uneven grout lines. Performance Guideline: Grout lines should not vary more than 1/16" from the widest to the narrowest. Corrective Measure: The contractor will make corrections as necessary to bring the grout lines into compliance to meet the performance guideline. Discussion: Different tiles require different widths of grout lines. Some tiles are designed to have varied-width grout lines. Irregularly sized tiles will also often result in uneven and variable grout width. "Unquote. No mention of "straightness"... Tim

  • That is a decent one too, more for bidding standards and descriptions in contracts. JLC has their own for performance standards that is only about 3-5 years old. Let's see if I can locate it....

  • kevin, give me a call,,, sold some equipment the other day to an instructor/inspector for the tile institute of america - he's here in town, too !