The quality of the tile work you see on the surface is only as good as what is underneath. This seems to be a simple statement, but if the appropriate prep work is not completed the final appearance may not be acceptable.

On most jobs the substrate (whether it be wall or floor) is supposed to be “tile ready.” But as most of us know, they are not. The key to a successful installation includes reviewing the jobsite conditions prior to starting work to determine what needs to be done and who will pay to make it right. At this point, be sure you have a signed change order in hand from the general contractor, project manager or homeowner before proceeding. This way, at the end of the job the installer gets paid for all the extra work that has been done.

Many times tile is specified to be installed on walls made of concrete block. Even if the block mason did a really good job, the wall may have high and low spots that need attention. If the mason was not as skilled, the prep work can be increased significantly. Either way, the surface must be flattened in order to produce a quality tile installation. With the vast array of patch products on the market, correcting these problems can be easily accomplished in a relatively short period of time. And once the surface is flat, installing the tile is much easier.

Another factor which can turn what appears to be an acceptable wall tile installation over concrete block into one that is not acceptable is known as “wall wash lighting.” This occurs when the light fixtures are placed directly along the wall or very close to the wall. The light shining across the wall surface can create shadows on any part of the wall that is not completely flat. As seen in the photo, the lighting casts a shadow on the tiles that are not in line with the ones around it. This situation is not acceptable and most times will require the work to be removed and replaced.

Remember these tips:

  1. Find out what needs to be fixed.
  2. Submit your price for the work in a written change order and get approval.
  3. Fix the surface.
  4. Install the tile and get paid for all that you provide.
  5. If wall wash lighting is specified, submit a written request to the architect asking the light fixtures be moved away from the wall at least 24".