View Full Version : Yikes! butted porcelain floor tile

06-02-2009, 08:38 AM
What can I do about 'fixing' what might be a problem. The tileman asked if I wanted a thick grout line or butted. Well, my 17"x17" porcelain bathroom floor tiles are butted so close- not even 1/16"spacers will fit for any grout. None of the thinset from placing them on the floor have come up between the tiles. When I was watching him, it didn't look like there was much material being used between the hardybacker and thinset. The new floor is not completely level either. I stopped the job, am stepping back and trying to figure out what to do, if I can. Any recommendations are greatly appreciated!

Engineer Ben
06-02-2009, 08:53 AM
You may not have a problem. Are the edges square cut or slightly rounded on your tile?

I installed a subway tile pattern in my showers with no joints. Be sure he uses fine grout (unsanded) and you will still pack grout in the narrow margins. Very fine lines are more common on nicer tile material.

06-02-2009, 09:42 AM
The larger the tile, the harder it is to make the floor flat and the harder it is to have thinner grout lines. If there is any space, you can force unsanded grout in there, but it is more work to actually get it packed down in that small gap. But, with that large of a tile, it is tough to get 100% coverage when using a small notch for the thinset. If you tap on any tile, do they sound hollow? That will give you an idea if you got good coverage. If not, you may have problems. When the cbu was installed, did he put thinset UNDER it? Did he tape the seams? Did you run the calculation to see if the floor was even suitable for a successful tile installation? You also need a (small) ungrouted gap around the edge of the room for expansion. If the room is quite large, or gets direct sunlight from large windows, it may also require an expansion joint(s) in the field to prevent failure. Some tile are not very flat. If yours are cupped or warped, a small grout line will not be able to hide these defects; in that case, larger grout lines are your friend - they will hide imperfections. But, if they are flat, the finished floor should be flat without lippage between tile. There is an industry standard for that. How bad is the height differences you have?

Check out www.johnbridge.com (http://www.johnbridge.com) for tiling help.

Some tile have lugs or spacers and are designed to be butted together - the lugs then allow a space for grout. Intentionally butting tile together without those built-in spacers may lead to major problems. If they are rectified (i.e., carefully sized, square, etc.), and you butt them together, you may find it impossible to get any grout in the gap. A well rectified tile can be set with a very small grout line - something in the order of 1/32" or so, but you must have a gap. Grout helps tie the tile together, hides minor imperfections, and prevents crud from accumulating in that maybe microscopic gap when absent. Installing tile without grout is asking for an unhygenic, potentially smelly mess long-term.

06-02-2009, 02:56 PM
thanks for all the feedback- The floor was well prepared- including hardybacker on the floor. There are gaps at the walls and there are only 3-4 tiles in a row into it comes to a wall. I don't seem to hear any hollow sound- hopefully never will. The top edge of the tile is slightly beveled. A friend of mine suggested taking a handheld tile saw and cutting right along the seams in order to open them for grout. I am afraid of chipping. Anyone have experience with this kind of cutting being successful?

Engineer Ben
06-02-2009, 03:18 PM
If your tiles are beveled then your grout joints will look larger. I've had to knock down grout with a grout rake before. It's a pain the butt. You would need to do this if you had way too much mortar, not too little, when the mortar is sticking above the tile.

If you're not happy with it you're going to tear up the tiles, scrape off the mortar and start again. If it's a fresh install you could probably salvage the tiles.

06-02-2009, 06:20 PM
A friend of mine suggested taking a handheld tile saw and cutting right along the seams in order to open them for grout. I am afraid of chipping. Anyone have experience with this kind of cutting being successful?

No; a grout saw will not save this installation. If the tiles are butted with no gap as you described, nothing will. With rectified tile as large as yours, most if not all installers would insist on a 1/16" gap. If there is insufficient thinset coverage, the sooner you try to pull the tile up the more likely you are to salvage them. Did the "installer" wet the hardi as he went?

Can you post a pic of the installation?


06-06-2009, 08:10 AM
The one thing you would NOT want to happen is for the thinset to come up between the tiles.