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what is tile lippage and is it acceptable?

Lippage is a term referring to where tiles have some edges and corners higher or lower than others. There are several causes for lippage ranging from bad workmanship through poor substrate to poor tile quality. In this article we advise how to tell the cause of lippage what can be done to prevent it.

28 November

Lippage is the industry term for floor tiles which have some edges and corners higher or lower than others, creating an uneven surface. The challenge is determining whether the lippage is due to bad workmanship, poor quality substrate, naturally occurring differences in the calibration of the tiles or the finish of tiles.

Generally, tile fixers take pride in their work and projects are completed to a high standard. Both tilers and potential customers enjoy the situation where a tiler is recommended by an existing customer as they have completed an installation to a standard where the customer is happy to recommend their services, indeed you may have seen the completed project yourself and asked for the name of the tiler.

A professional tiler will always discuss with you the environment they require to complete the job. This should include any issues which will affect the installation such as the quality of the surface required to tile onto and the type of tiles being fixed.

You should agree with the tiler, and they should write into to the contract, the requirements for completing the job. For example, if the tiler suggests they need the floor levelling and you agree to have it done before they start work, don’t be surprised if some of the tiles are uneven with lippage because you didn’t get the floor levelled properly. Conversely, if the tiler says the floor is OK and some tiles aren’t flat and even, then you have a case to request he puts things right.

Some natural stone tiles, especially commercial ‘second’ grade products, are uncalibrated and will be uneven in thickness. This may cause the tiler an issue when fixing and lead to lippage particularly if the tiles are large format and laid in a brick bond pattern. At StoneStore, we only offer 1st grade products to avoid the lippage issues caused by calibration issues.

Antiqued stone tiles such as StoneStore’s Jaipur limestone, have been tumbled and brushed to give the completed installation the impression of aged tiles. Tiles are given a honed surface finish before being placed in a tumbling machine. The tiles are placed on a rack within a cradle, smaller stones and pebbles are put into the machine, and the rack is rotated. As the rack rotates the stones and pebbles bash against tiles creating the tumbled finish. The tiles are placed on the rack vertically on edge, rather than horizontally flat, therefore the edges get most of the bashing giving the tiles their characteristic aged look.

During the tumbling process the edges will become unbalanced an unequal in thickness, which is normal and gives the tiles their distinctive finish. As a result, it’s advisable to lay tumbled stone tiles in a brickbond pattern overlapping tiles by a minimum of 15cm. This will avoid unacceptable lippage enhancing the desirability of the completed installation.