The beauty of and longtime satisfaction in ceramic and porcelain tile installations will many times depend on the creativity employed in the design process. Whether the pattern and layout suggestions are provided by the consumer, the architect, the designer, the retailer or even the installer, success comes only when the customer is happy with the final appearance.
With the very popular woodgrain pattern tiles available today, many choices must be made in regards to the tile pattern, color, grout joint offset and grout joint size. Most of these woodgrain tiles are planks that range from 3” up to 9” wide in lengths from 24” to 72”—and beyond.
To aid in determining the grout joint offset, ANSI Specification A108.02-126.96.36.199 offers assistance. It states: “For running bond/brick joint patterns utilizing tiles (square or rectangular) where the side being offset is greater than 18” (nominal dimension), the running bond offset will be a maximum of 33% unless otherwise specified by the tile manufacturer. If an offset greater than 33% is specified, specifier and owner must approve mock-up and lippage.”
This language is of great help to the installer by eliminating 50% offset and its possible lippage, but what about a random grout joint? Almost all wood flooring is installed using a random (no pattern) end joint. Likewise, these tile installations may look more natural if installed randomly rather than in a regimented joint layout.
However, this option presents two challenges. If the planks are running in a random pattern, it is possible that offsets between 33% and 50% could occur and cause excessive lippage. The installer needs to pay strict attention to this possibility and minimize joints in this area. In the accompanying photo, the installer was fortunate that lippage was not a factor. However, if lippage does occur, the installer may have to widen the grout joint to accommodate the resulting lippage.
The other challenge is to be certain the customer knows what pattern they have selected and how it will appear on the floor. Photos of past jobs or a manufacturer’s brochure or website can help them “see” the final look. Installers should never assume they know what the customer wants. Always ask and get the final decision in writing. Not doing so can be extremely costly, as evidenced by a call I received recently.
The installer provided a beautifully installed random joint plank floor. However, this professional installation was rejected by the customer because the random pattern did not meet her expectations—worse yet, her expectations had never been established.
There was nothing wrong with the random pattern installation except the customer (the person paying the bill) would not accept it. She did some research and found that the ANSI Specifications call for a maximum 33% offset, and said her floor needed to follow the standard. This whole mess could have been avoided with clear communication.