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Need opinion and advice on sloppy glass subway tile backsplash install

5 years ago

We recently used a big-box home improvement store for a glass backsplash install. When the installer arrived, he expressed surprise that he was supposed to install glass subway tile and said he wasn’t told by his boss. Nonetheless, he proceeded to do the work, grumbling and complaining the whole time that working with glass tile was difficult. Other than that, he seemed to be a generally pleasant and otherwise quiet worker.

He cut the subway tiles by hand. The backsplash was only about 25% completed at the end of the first day and the installer kept telling us that he needed to finish by the second day because he had another job scheduled afterwards. Again, he complained that he would’ve finished more of the installation if he had known ahead that he was installing glass tiles.

After he left, we got a better look at his work thus far and immediately could see that not only were the hand-cut tiles jagged, but the grout lines were somewhat haphazard. The grout spacing was strangely non-existent or extremely thin in some places, but clearly wider in other sections.

More perplexingly, where the tile actually meets the countertop, in some places there’s some grout, but in the area behind the sink and faucet, the tile sits directly on the counter. No grout, no silicone.

I called the owner of the contractor’s company and explained my concerns with the uneven spacing and grout lines, the jagged tile cuts, and the fact that his worker did not seem prepared to install glass subway tiles. The owner reassured me that the installer was his best worker and to let him finish the job and wait for the finished project to see if it looks much better upon completion.

The second day, the installer brought a tile-cutting machine which did allow him to work much faster and apparently with more accuracy. The grout lines for the rest of the installation were much better, but it was obvious he was rushing the job in order to finish that day, which he did.

Upon closer inspection of the rest of the installation, my husband and I found multiple instances of sloppiness, missing grout, and a couple of chipped tiles. We also noticed that the worker must have washed his tools in our brand new sink because there were small grout chips and other detritus that had to be scrubbed and wiped out of the basins. In fact, that night, our new pipes clogged up completely. To our shock, our plumber found “tile-related debris” as the cause. The installer’s company reimbursed us for the plumbing costs.

Sorry for all the extraneous details, but it’s in support of our impression that this was not an acceptable backsplash job. We notified the big-box store and they said the contractor must remedy everything. Unfortunately, the contractor insists that the very same installer be the one to come back out to fix his mistakes. We’re really uncomfortable with this arrangement but the big-box store said there’s nothing they can do about who the contractor wants to send out.

So this brings me to my 3 questions:

1. Does glass subway tile just sit directly on top of the countertop? The installer told us we had to put silicone along the front bottom of the tile. Does any caulking go under the bottom of the countertop-level tile? If so, OMG that might mean a more extensive re-do of the backsplash.

2. Are spacers used to install subway tile backsplashes? The installer was literally just slapping the tiles onto the wall, working as quickly as he could. He never asked us about what we preferred for spacing.

3. Since we really don’t want to deal with this installation contractor anymore due to lack of confidence in their work, would it be unreasonable to request a partial refund of our money from the big-box store so we can hire another contractor to do the necessary repairs?

Apologies, again, for the long post. I would really super-appreciate any advice or opinions. I've never had a backsplash installed before so I didn't know what to expect other than basic craftsmanship, not necessarily perfection. Please help... Thank you Houzzers!

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