Tile & Shower Failures: A closer look a spot setting tile. Why this is a bad idea.

Discussion in 'Shower & Bathtub Forum & Blog' started by johnfrwhipple, Jan 30, 2014.

  1. johnfrwhipple

    johnfrwhipple Bathroom Design & Build - North Vancouver, B.C.

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    A great question to ask your tile pro is "Do you spot set your tile installations or use a trowel?"

    Simple question, but one that can shed a lot of light onto the quality of their work. Many pro's use this method of tiling but its a method for speed - not quality.

    I'll dig up some nice images of spot setting tile and try and outline all the reasons why you should ban this practice in your shower renovation.

    [​IMG]

    "Spot bonding is only appropriate when used either for mechanically anchoring stone slabs or in tile applications using an epoxy adhesive for a ventilated wall system." - Source http://www.tileletter.com

    Imagine looking at this in your new shower renovation. This picture from Australia and shows how a poorly installed tile can show the moisture through the spot setting thin-set. Always ensure this method is not followed in your shower and bathroom builds. Perhaps outside the shower or large feature walls in a living room this might fly and save some time. But in a wet environment it should never be allowed.


    JW - "When it's perfect. It's Good Enough."

    www.No-Curb.com - my blog site on Barrier Free, No Curb, No Dam and Hobless Showers
    (604) 506-6792 jfrwhipple@gmail.com
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2014
  2. Natup

    Natup New Member

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    Hi John. Hope you are well. Not to hijack your thread (which is timely by the way) but I could use your review of my thread: "Master Tiler or MasterCraft tiler, tile adhesion issues?" You might be the only one to get the Mastercraft pun.

    Hal
    Toronto, On
  3. johnfrwhipple

    johnfrwhipple Bathroom Design & Build - North Vancouver, B.C.

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    Coach Better - Tile Better - Inspire - Educate

    Hal I replied to your question.

    Online there is much advice from many people. I'm pretty much a hot head here online and it makes me so angry to see reckless advice given out. When this advice is paired with a sales angle the information makes me want to blow my top.

    Two nights back I went to the Windsor Soccer Academy and had the pleasure of listening to an inspiration speech from our Vancouver White Caps ex coach. He mentioned many things but what stood out was his talks about "Lazy Coaching".

    He urged us coaches to word things better - coach better - inspire better.

    I find much of the online advice I read - partially there. Almost good.

    I can rant and rant about why this guy is a hack - I can be negative - or I can coach better. Show people why they should train better - specify better. As a bathroom builder I have repaired many jobs that look like the photo's in this discussion. Regardless of who says it's OK - spot setting is wrong and has no place in your home's wet environments or floors.

    Don't listen to me? Listen to industry experts. And John Bridge is not one of those men. This fellow actually promotes the Spot Setting method from what I can see and read. Our friend Jim here also recommends this approach because he found a rule that says it's OK somewhere. Forget about my view, John Bridge's view or Jim's - look what other men and women have to say. Read the trade journal magazines and see what professional tile detectives say.

    "Spot-bonding also reduces the bond strength of the tile and its attachment to the substrate, making it more susceptible to stress and causing debonding under certain conditions." - Source http://www.tileletter.com
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2014
  4. johnfrwhipple

    johnfrwhipple Bathroom Design & Build - North Vancouver, B.C.

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    Last edited: Feb 1, 2014
  5. johnfrwhipple

    johnfrwhipple Bathroom Design & Build - North Vancouver, B.C.

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    Hollow Sounding Tile: Where they Spot Set? Oh No !!!

    If you tap your tile install and in places it sounds hollow you can guess a few things.

    The tile install is crap.

    The tile installer spot set the tile.

    The tile install will collect water.

    The tile install will fail in time.

    Knowing that the goal is 100% coverage on the tile edges and corners and 95% in the middle (wet areas, floors and exteriors) banning spot setting is key to a good tile installation.

    The article above was written for Tile Letter magazine. need more proof?

    Here is another.....

    Hollow-sounding tiles may signal installation problems

    Hollow-sounding tiles may signal installation problems
    July 29, 2013 by Lesley Goddin
    By Donato Pompo, Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants
  6. johnfrwhipple

    johnfrwhipple Bathroom Design & Build - North Vancouver, B.C.

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    Video Showcase: Spot Setting Tile Failure

    Pictures help. Videos even better. Here is a simple video that shows how little thin-set an installer can use when using the five spot method. make sure you understand that this practice is not endorsed by the TCNA or the TTMAC.

    Any tile pro that uses this type of installation approach is a "TILE HACK"

    [video=youtube_share;mvKMmwFmf9Y]http://youtu.be/mvKMmwFmf9Y[/video]
  7. johnfrwhipple

    johnfrwhipple Bathroom Design & Build - North Vancouver, B.C.

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    Quotes from John Bridge & others on "Spot Setting Tile"

    Here are a few links to some choice quotes from the self proclaimed "Expert Tile Witness" on "Spot Setting Tile" and some post from some others.

    "To make it short, I use the spotting method exclusively when setting large tiles on walls, and all my showers are Kerdi showers." - John Bridge 11/10/2007 Source John Bridge Tile Forum

    Such horrible advice. I wonder if he includes this garbage advice in his E-Books?

    "I was reading through John's book, and he mentioned spot setting stone. Is all the stone or larger tiles set this way, or just the first few to get a true flat plane?" - Scottish Tile and Stone 2/1/2006 Source John Bridge Tile Forum

    Looks like I just answered my own question above. What can happen when you spot set the lower courses first? You can get water collecting at the bottom of your shower and this can read as wet stone. I have a duplicate discussion on Houzz on this subject and there is a photo of Kerdi Shower showing moisture at the bottom. Full Kerdi Shower failing!!! Why - I suspect drywall or spot setting as the reason...

    Now on a forum full of expert tile men this discussion called "Dark Spots Showing Up in Granite Install" - why is it that none suggest that "Spot Setting Tile" might be the reason this tile install has failed? The proof is out there. The TCNA does not allow it. So why not say so. Could it be because the forum is named after a man who spot sets tile? My money is on that reason and no other....

    Here on this discussion called "Nightmare Limestone Spot Set Tile" John Bridge makes a helpful post (NOT) that the problem was not the spot setting but the choice in thin-set colour. Thank God that's clear.... OMG this is what happens when you walk down a road and put it all on the line. John Bridge has recommended spot setting tile - it's in his book! So how can he do a take back now?

    "...First of all, they should have used white thinset. And they probably should have pre-sealed the stone. I don't think there is a cure now." - John Bridge 6-20-2013 - Source John Bridge Tile Forum

    Picture John Bridge is talking about below
    [​IMG]
    Source: Nightmare Limestone Spot Set Tile

    I wonder if in John Bridge's books he mentions the colour of thin-set for spot setting? Jim do you know?

    This is the good part. The poster of the discussion comes back to say that White thin-set was used not grey and no one else makes a comment. That's not very friendly but what can you do? If you call john Bridge out as a hack - then you get banned!!!

    "Thanks for your answers guys, They did use white thin-set, but you can see from the picture that the limestone is so porous any slight difference in colour sucks right through and the rest dries out . We have used limestone on many other jobs without any problems at all." - Chris 6-20-2013 Source John Bridge Tile Forum

    Pretty safe to say that there are many people screwing up their shower builds following this spot setting tile advice. Our local Kerdi Expert Jim here on Terry's forum seams hesitate to defend his tile ideal John Bridge. I'm sure he is digging deep into his data base of answers for some kind of Cut and Paste reply. While we wait for Jim to come to John's rescue here I'll keep proving my point with trade journal publications and photo's of failed spot set shower installations.

    This method of installation is not part of local building codes. So if the men that use it are not breaking local code - just the recommendations from the TCNA and the TTMAC.
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2014
  8. MikeQ

    MikeQ New Member

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    No doubt, spot setting is less than ideal even in a dry environment. But it is easier, saves time, materials and money and, did I mention, it's easier.

    Mr. Bridge may not be an industry expert but he certainly has enough experience by now to know what he can get away with to save himself a little work. Personally, I wouldn't hire him but I am picky, I probably wouldn't hire half of the so called "tile setters" out there. I'm sure he finds plenty of people that are happy with his work.

    As a complete amateur, I purchased his book "Tile Your World" and his Kerdi shower e-book before undertaking the tiling of my bathroom and installing a new tile shower. While it was certainly a decent introduction to tiling (and I can't say either book endorsed the spot set method), I learned a lot more on forums like this than anything specific I learned in his books which I found to be disorganized, repetitive and lacking in many important details. In hindsight I would have saved a lot of time by focusing on the knowledge contributed by professionals and advanced amateurs on these forums without spending the time to read those books. There are a few nuggets in "Tile Your World" but they were written by tile industry experts, not by Mr. Bridge himself. These "guest articles" highlight the huge gulf of knowledge that exists between a true expert who is intellectually curious and is interested in furthering his craft and someone who believes he already knows everything he needs to know. It creates the impression that he wrote the books more as a feather in his cap than as a serious attempt to produce a state of the art learning aid. This might have been acceptable had the book intended to focus more on tile style and design but that is actually the most offensive part of the book. It is filled with color photos (presumably of his work) that are presented in the most unattractive collage style layout, the non-existent border of each photo blurring into the adjacent photos. Because almost every photo is of bland beige tiles that look like various shades of baby diarrhea (that I thought went out of style by the mid 1980's) the overall effect of trying to make sense of these color images is exactly like being forced to view somebody else's confusing nightmares represented as a series of collages. I am being truthful here to an extent that can only be appreciated if you have actually held the book in your hands. It really is that bad. The nightmare of trying to tell where one photo ends and the next begins is only heightened by the poor quality of the photos, blurry, grainy and apparently uncorrected for color or exposure. It's hard to imagine that these photos were seriously considered for publication and the manner in which they were published only compounds the problem.

    I could over-look the failed graphics if the content was cohesive, orderly and knowledgeable but it is far from any of these things, aside from a few short guest articles. He glosses over important subjects in which he appears to have a lack of real understanding and little to contribute. One example of this is the very short and superficial section on post grouting tile cleaning. He lists, in order of strength, a number of different types of acids that can be used with suggested dilutions, vinegar first. Now, I am a complete tile amateur, only having taken an interest in the last couple of years, but it seems to me that vinegar is only listed at the weak end of the acid spectrum because it typically comes diluted to 5% acidity. He instructs to further dilute it 1:1 but then adds it can also be used full strength without elaborating on when this might be desirable, how it can be applied, rinsed, neutralized, or how the grout can best be protected from it's negative effects. In contrast, he says you can use muriatic acid diluted 10:1 but he doesn't recommend it because it's too aggressive. But he adds you should pre-wet the surface with water first (presumably to reduce the absorption of acid by the grout lines). Would this be desirable when using vinegar as well? As a beginner, this important section on acid cleaning raises more questions than it answers. I am left wondering if a more diluted mixture of muriatic acid would perform similar to vinegar, why he doesn't mention pre-wetting the grout before using vinegar full-strength and when one might want to use one acid over another. The subject is treated in a very "wishy-washy" manner and the distinct impression is created that the author doesn't have any in-depth understanding of the action of different types of acids, different dilutions or dwell times and application techniques for various scenarios either.

    Perhaps his lack of detail on acid cleaning could be explained away by saying this book was designed to be a superficial introduction to tiling for beginners. But what subject could be more important to a beginner than cleaning it all up at the end without ruining the grout? He doesn't hesitate to include in-depth details about building an entire mud shower from scratch. This lack of common sense and balance strengthens the perception that the author was more interested in showing off than creating a useful book for beginners. And the same unhelpful, self-aggrandizing attitude seems pervasive at the tile forum he runs. When I ask a question here I feel like people are genuinely more interested in helping me out (as opposed to showing the world what an 'expert' they are). I quit asking project questions over there because I got tired of the attitude and having to bump my thread just to get feedback on the most simplest question.
  9. johnfrwhipple

    johnfrwhipple Bathroom Design & Build - North Vancouver, B.C.

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    Over there they are careful on how Goggle crawls the discussions. New topics are split. Poor reviews of beloved materials "Disappear" and all sorts of nonsense. Years ago I got banned from the site after posting a discussion called "How do I permanently delete my John Bridge Account". Apparently you can get banned but not have your words or images removed. Lucky for me I deleted most of my graphics before posting the discussion on deleting my account.

    Here on Terry's forum you will soon meet Jim. He works for the John Bridge Forum and Schluter posting links back to Schluter.com and JohnBrdige.com. You will find him full of info but be careful - the man does not work in the industry with his hands, back and tools. Only his fingers - typing away testimonials and the like.

    It's a mixed bunch here. Lots of plumbing pros. Lots of tile Joes. And A handful of true pro's.

    Careful who's advice sinks home.

    Spot setting tile is a joke. Easy yes. Old men need easy work. Light work. I think John Bridge wrote his book in his 60's did he not? I believe he is pushing 70 now....

    In this discussion @ www.johnbridge.com you can see the fellow using the spot setting technique. I wonder where he learned this? I wonder why no one tells him he is wrong?

    Posted By RayC325

    "Ok, started tilin' tonight. I am using the "5 spot" method so I am not having much pookey smooshing thru the joints..I did use 1/8" joints so I ended up in the corner with about a 3 1/2" cut and hope that will look OK.
    How's it look so far? Goin up the walls tomorrow..Thanks"

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Source: http://www.johnbridge.com/vbulletin/showthread.php?p=443158&highlight=pookey#post443158

    It's a little late but we could answer Ray's post this way...


    Well Ray - it looks like you #$%$#ed up. Why did you use a 5 Spot method to set the tile in the first point. Are you trying to leave areas that can collect water? Do you want an uneven appearance in your shower wall once wet? Just wondering.....
    Last edited: May 8, 2014
  10. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

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    Some tile should never be spot set (moisture sensitive stone, most glazed tile, any bisque tile, any that are translucent, etc.). That method is never to be used on a floor. A good through-body porcelain tile (unless maybe if it is glazed) is not likely to show any moisture effects. A surface membrane, properly applied, isn't going to fail if you use that method on the walls (fail, as in leak). If you prep the walls properly, there should be no need (i.e., like get the wall plumb and flat like you are supposed to first). But, sometimes, you have to work with what you have. I would not do it on anything other than a surface applied membrane, and then, only if the tile was suitable, and the wall was not prepped well.

    There are good reasons for the industry guidelines on thinset coverage in wet areas (well, it applies anywhere there may be a load, wet or dry, but the specs are somewhat different) - it will cover all tile under all circumstances. Not all tile are created equal, and not all jobsites give you the luxury of doing all the prep that should be done.

    Just like John has used a medium bed mortar to level his floor during setting or leveled his uncoupling membrane after installation...it can be done, doesn't follow the guidelines, but he knows he can do it if the floor isn't to far out of whack. John has pointed out to me more than once, that is the difference between a pro and someone like myself that reads, understands, and tells people what the guidelines call for, but that obviously, doesn't apply to him.
  11. RedShoecounterbalance

    RedShoecounterbalance Stay away from ladders

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    Jim " if " and I quote if you are indeed implying here that a solid porcelain or glazed ceramic etc... tile is ok to spot set on a fleece membrane shower wall you are silly. Even more silly if said wall was not prepped well( which i can assume is a typo?) please clarify?



    Jim, Have you accounted for deflection and a heavy set person leaning or falling against said wall???.....

    Jim, Have you ever tore a shower apart to find a flood of water rushing out ? where water has built up behind the bottom course of tile where it has been trapped by a tile set to far out using the spot method? effectively leaving a nice 1/2-1 inch area for water to fall/trickle via gravity and settle down there slowly leaching out at the change of plane?..... is this not making any sense to you?


    I.E. Say? in a rental home where 5 people a day use said spot setted shower? ...... But thats just my opinion based on actual hands on in the field shower removal and demolition" surely different than your experience with all your builds.


    How many showers again have you torn apart and built, its really hard to follow your misleading recitals here??? refresh our memory please? and clarify what you meant here ? please

    XO -Redshoe
  12. MikeQ

    MikeQ New Member

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    The good news in the case of the spot set natural stone in the tile project referenced by John is that the guys wife was not happy with the stone a few weeks after he set it and he was planning on ripping it all out.

    The bad news is that he was asking the JB forum 'experts' if he could just carefully pry the large format stone tiles off the Kerdi membrane so he could apply different tiles without having to replace the Kerdi. Of course that was a few years ago and he still hasn't received an answer. I wonder what he ended up doing.
  13. RedShoecounterbalance

    RedShoecounterbalance Stay away from ladders

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    image.jpg here is a core sample from a properly set porcelain tile, modified thinset, hydroban, cement board. It might be hard to get this sample from a spot set assembly? Or not, since you can see the spot to drill.. John can you sign off on this core sample ??
  14. eurob

    eurob master tile and stone installer

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    :)Approved , RSCB .:)

    More core samples -- after 7 days of submerged testing -- ..... Laminam 3.5mm -- porcelain tile -- ,modified mortar -- Ultralight -- , cement board -- Durock --.

    Sample of Laminam with one step method over CBU 004.jpg
  15. RedShoecounterbalance

    RedShoecounterbalance Stay away from ladders

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    Very nice roberto !!! To simplify all this for a homeowner or lehman thats reading.... You should find a sample like this throughout your shower wall, no matter where you take sample from ( apply common sense here, not in corners!!)
  16. johnfrwhipple

    johnfrwhipple Bathroom Design & Build - North Vancouver, B.C.

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    Core Samples !!! Why didn't I think of that? Love it. What where you looking for?

    Looks like you installed a nice even layer of Hydro Ban. What is that layer's thickness? Looks like 37 mil..... ;) + or - 4 mil


    Roberto - what's your take on those thin tiles? They scare me.
    Last edited: May 8, 2014
  17. johnfrwhipple

    johnfrwhipple Bathroom Design & Build - North Vancouver, B.C.

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    Five years ago. 11 pages of back and forth and then he asks a hard question and no one wants to warn him....
  18. MikeQ

    MikeQ New Member

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    Except asking whether you can carefully peel tiles set weeks ago off the Kerdi membrane without damaging it does not qualify as a hard question.
  19. johnfrwhipple

    johnfrwhipple Bathroom Design & Build - North Vancouver, B.C.

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    Look at who was helping the guy.

    Our local expert Jim here could easily go post some info on that thread. But the answer would not promote or sell Kerdi....

    Never rock the boat on the JB forum. You might get banned !!! Especially do not dis a product that is featured in a promoted ebook. On a "Sticky Thread"..... God forbid you let people know the short comings of a product.....
  20. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

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    Why dig up a 5-year old thread...nothing current to attack?
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