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Can Excess Lippage Be Fixed?

Have you ever walked across a tile or stone floor and found it to be extremely uncomfortable? If you have you can be sure you've experienced a bad case of excessive lippage.

On Tuesday we explained that lippage is the difference in elevation between tiles, and excessive lippage can occur when tile is installed incorrectly or if your subfloor is uneven to begin with. A variance in the height of your tiles causes the floor to be uncomfortable to walk on and is aesthetically noticeable as well. It doesn't take a professional eye to notice when a tile floor has been improperly installed.

The problem with excessive lippage is that it is extremely challenging to fix once your tile floor has been installed. There's not a whole lot you can do outside of having the entire floor redone. Sometimes you're able to get away with filling the spaces between your tiles with a bit of extra grout, but your ability to do so is dependent on how extreme the lippage is.

Keep in mind that not all lippage is detrimental. In fact, most tile floors have at least some, and there are industry standards that allow for a bit of lippage. This is all dependent on how wide your grout joint widths are. For instance, if your grout joint width is 1/4 of an inch or wider, 1/6 of an inch of lippage is allowed. Anything thinner than that allows for lippage that is 1/32 of an inch. Don't suddenly assume that any amount of lippage is a terrible flaw on the installer's part.

So, the long and short of this Floor Tip Thursday question is that, yes, excessive lippage can be fixed, just not easily. You can either learn to live with the flaw or spend the extra money to have the floor redone. We realize that this is not the most pleasant answer to read, but we have to be honest.

Now, while fixing your floor post-installation is difficult, you can avoid the issue as much as possible with a little pre-installation work.

1. Ask your contractor about his plans for preventing excessive lippage. See if he or she has a backup plan in case they run into issues.

2. Ensure that your contractor uses a leveling kit to see if the substrate is even before beginning the installation.

3. See if your contractor has a preference between techniques for installing your floor and how big of a price difference there is. Sometimes there are better techniques available for installing a tile floor, though they will likely cost a bit extra. All things considered, however, it's better to pay more now rather than paying to fix the issue later.

4. Figure out if even tiles or even floor transitions are more important to you. Sometimes the best route for a tile installation is to lay down a thicker base below the tiles. Unfortunately, this can mean that you have a tiny step up from one floor to another, which is not ideal for everyone.

5. Be nice to your contractor. No, not because they might sabotage your floor if you aren't, but because you want to keep the lines of communication wide open between the two of you. If the contractor starts the job and runs into an issue, they will need to inform you about it. Sharing that information and his or her plans for fixing it will be much more pleasant if he or she knows you won't start blaming them for something that might not even be their fault.

6. This one goes without saying, but do your research about the contractor you'd like to hire before you sign anything. See what other people say about his or her tile work specifically (we all have our specialties).

Happy Flooring!

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