Qualified labor—those tile installers who provide and exemplify high-quality work on every job—does exist and is flourishing. Unfortunately, the mediocre installers often get the spotlight due to their substandard installation practices at a super-cheap price.
The Tile Council of North America (TCNA) Handbook explains why choosing qualified labor is important: “Because tile is a permanent finish, the lowest bid should not be the driving factor, but rather who is the most qualified to perform the scope of the work specified.”
Many tile projects can provide installation challenges that require the talent and expertise of better installers. As seen in the attached photo, the installer was presented with a unique situation in a new hotel which should have been addressed and eliminated by the architect or design professional.
The floor surface in the hallway leading from the hotel rooms is 9 in. higher than the adjacent lobby, which necessitated a ramp that met ADA guidelines. Unfortunately, the beginning of the downward-sloping ramp (shown in the red oval) did not begin at the end of the hallway wall; rather, it was 22 in. short, which required the installer to incorporate some creative cuts in order to make the transition without any tile lippage.
There is no specific language in the ANSI Specification that addresses this situation. It does however provide guidance for ramps in A108.01 section 126.96.36.199 which states, “Changes in level greater than 1/2 in. shall be accomplished by means of a ramp. The least possible slope shall be used for any ramp. The maximum slope of a ramp in new construction shall be 1:12.” This means that for every 12 in. of horizontal dimension, the vertical may only rise 1 in. On this job, the ramp extended 9 ft. and rose 9 in. which meets this requirement.
This well-done transition required the installer to incorporate six wedge-shaped cuts of various sizes within the 12- by 24-in. space. Each cut changes the direction of the slope while still addressing the next tile, with no lippage. This installation needed great tile skills and patience along with a dose of geometry to make all the parts of this puzzle fit together properly.
While this situation should not have occurred, it is proof that good work does exist and talented tile people are doing it every day. Kudos to this installer for making the best of a bad design and putting their expertise to use.