Tile installers face many challenges on the jobsite. The floor is really wavy or the concrete is covered with drywall mud, paint overspray, and some kind of sticky stuff. These are real time issues and the question arises: should I move ahead and just get it done? Of course, the answer is no. Don’t proceed until the problems are corrected. 

Here is the scenario: The general contractor calls and tells you the job is good to go. Be there tomorrow first thing in the morning. Oh, and by the way, this project is three weeks behind schedule, so you need to be in turbo mode.  

When you get to the bathroom where cement backer board is specified on the shower walls, you realize the studs are going to be a problem. As seen in the photo, the studs on the plumbing wall were moved to accommodate the water supply lines and are spaced at 20-3/4”. What should you do? Cover it and hope no one will notice? Remember the GC told you this job needs to be done yesterday. You want to do the right thing and tell him the stud spacing problem. He replies, it will not be a problem, just get it done. 

The correct answer which will back up your concerns comes from ANSI A108.11, “Interior Installation of Cementitious Backer Units.” Section 4.0.4 states, “Framing members shall be spaced a maximum of 16 in. (406 mm) on center.” Beyond this, all backer board manufacturers require that their board is installed on walls at a maximum of 16” on center. Both ANSI and the manufacturer are telling you what it should be, but you are given 20-3/4” and you are losing time.  

Under pressure, you make the decision to go ahead and cover it, set tile, and get out of there in three days. The GC is happy, and who will know? You are off to the next job. 

Fast forward six months and you get a call from the GC telling you to go to Mrs. Jones’ house, because “you” have a problem. The GC, who is now suffering from selective amnesia, tells you he never told you to go over the wide stud spacing to get the job done. 

Mrs. Jones is not happy that her new shower has two broken wall tiles with cracked grout which has fallen out. You now have to tear out the bad work, put in a couple of wood studs (which should have been there originally), patch in the backer board and liquid waterproofing, buy new tile, set it and grout it. You are out of $100 in materials plus your time. Wow, that was a really profitable job, wasn’t it? 

The moral of the story? Stand up for doing it the right way the first time and get paid for it. Think about it before you make a snap decision and lose your shirt in the process.