Have you ever seen something that just did not seem right? If a counterfeit $100 bill is viewed alone, it may (or may not) look legitimate, but when viewed next to an authentic bill, differences are seen that make it undesirable and, in this case, worthless. Similarly in the tile industry, occasionally, viewed tilework just does not look the way it should.

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards do not speak directly to the quality required for a completed tile installation. The closest requirements relating to the appearance of the final finish are listed under ANSI A108.02-4.3 Workmanship, layout, cutting, and fitting are as follows. 

Section 4.3.2 Smooth cut edges. Install tile without jagged or flaked edges.

Section 4.3.3 Fitting tiles: Where tile edges will be covered by trim, escutcheons, or other similar devices, fit tiles closely enough for edges to be covered. Provide a minimum of 1/8 in. (3 mm) gap from penetrations, objects, or protrusions for expansion and contraction.

In the absence of ANSI standards or Tile Council of North America (TCNA) Handbook guidance, industry best practices and a sizable dose of common sense may be the best guide to provide the end user and others who view completed tilework in the public arena with a pleasing and long-lasting tile installation.

While it is easy to dissect the work of others, this tile installation around a floor drain is a classic example of work that should have been rejected, torn out, and redone—correctly. 

Unacceptable Cuts Around a Drain

This drain located in the men’s restroom of a restaurant is an example of work performed by someone who lacked the skill and knowledge to do the job correctly. Photo: Scott Carothers.

As is unfortunately seen in the above image from the men’s restroom in a nice restaurant, a combination of shoddy work along with a lack of skill and experience, provide cuts around the drain collar that are inexcusable. The work in the balance of the room was not bad, but the tile placer on this job evidently did not have a measuring tape or at least a pencil to mark the cuts on the left and right sides of the drain grate. 

Although the tile has not cracked (yet) from the sharp inside corner cuts, best practices suggest that the corners should have been drilled first with cuts made accordingly. It is evident that the cut on the 12:00 edge was made by numerous cuts to a pencil line, revealing several unsightly overcuts. The cuts on the opposite side of the drain also leave a lot to be desired. 

Loosely using the 1/8in. (3 mm) gap provided in A108.02 Section 4.3.3 would have been worthwhile and provided the much-needed grout joint size consistency.

All tile installers, the good ones, and the not so good ones, need to constantly raise the bar of quality in the installation of tile. If not, the tile industry gets yet another black eye in the court of public opinion.