Uneven tile edges, more correctly called lippage, are a problem that arises when one or more tiles have been installed incorrectly.
When this happens, it creates a step from one tile to the next. Whether you are dealing with the wall or floor tiles, lippage is unsightly and dangerous.
If the step between tiles is large enough, lippage is a tripping hazard on the floor and a scrape hazard on the walls.
Fortunately, fixing this uneven tile issue isn’t too difficult so long as you have the proper tools.
Here is a step-by-step process for how to fix uneven tile edges.
Find the problem tiles. Check the whole area to be sure that the issue is lippage and not waviness. Waviness happens when the entire floor or wall is uneven. If that is the issue, you will probably need to have the surface professionally leveled before being entirely retiled.
Section off your problem tiles by masking the surrounding tiles with painter’s tape to protect them.
Remove the offending tiles by chipping out the grout around them. To do this, place a chisel against the grout and gently hammer it to break it up.
Starting at the corner of the tile, wedge the chisel under it to pry it up. Go slowly so as not to break the tile.
Once you remove the tiles, clean the back of them using the chisel. Chip off all thinset or mastic and clean out all the grooves.
Clean in and around where the tiles were removed and peel off the painter’s tape.
Mix your thinset or mastic, adding small amounts of water until it is the consistency of mashed potatoes. Thinset is for floor tiles, and mastic is for wall tiles.
Using a trowel, spread the thin-set or mastic on the back of the tiles. If you have enough space, you can spread it on the wall or floor instead. Make sure the layer is thin and even.
Using tile spacers to make sure the tiles set evenly, place the tiles into position. Once they are in place, use a level to ensure everything is even.
If they are still too high or too low, remove the tiles and either scrape off some of the thin-set or mastic or add more. Do this until the tiles all sit evenly.
Leave the tiles to set for 24 hours before filling the joints with grout. Use a grout float to spread the grout evenly. Wipe off the excess from the surface of the tiles with a clean, damp sponge. Leave the grout to dry for 24-72 hours.
Other Evenness Issues
When it comes to setting tiles, there are a whole host of issues that can lead to them looking uneven. Some of these are easier to fix than others. The three main causes of tile unevenness are lippage, waviness, and bad cutting.
As mentioned in the process for fixing the lippage, another issue that could cause uneven tiles is waviness. Unfortunately, if you are experiencing tile waviness from uneven floors or walls, there is very little to be done for it.
The unevenness may be caused by aged wood warping, or old walls sagging. If your house is newer, then you may have someone come out to even the floors or walls. Keep in mind, though, this can be more trouble than it’s worth.
Unevenly Cut Tiles
While waviness is the hardest issue to fix and lippage (depending on the number of tiles affected) is the easiest, unevenly cut tiles fall somewhere in between. It is plain to see if a tile was cut unevenly; it throws off the whole picture.
There are two main issues with unevenly cut tiles: tiles in the middle that skew all the rest or leave gaps, and tiles at the ends that make for stepped edges.
Fixing any uneven tile in the middle of a floor or wall is a very similar process to leveling them. If one of the tiles is poorly cut and leaves gaps around it, you can simply remove and replace it. If the badly cut tiles affect the rest of the layout, you may have to retile a substantial section.
If the tiles on the ends are not evenly cut, there are two ways of dealing with it. Depending on how uneven they are, you can either cover it with trim or remove and re-cut the end tiles.
What are some ways to finish exposed tile edges?
- Rail moldings
- Metal edging
- Bullnose edge
What are the essential tools for tiling?
- Margin trowel
- Notched trowel
- Grout float
- Tile spacers
- Large bucket
What are some tips for tiling?
- Score tiles for a cleaner break
- Plan and measure all layouts beforehand
- Tile in a pyramid fashion when tiling diagonally
- Seal natural stone before grouting
- Always use tile spacers
- Get 10% more of everything you will need
Lippage, waviness, and unevenly cut tiles are not uncommon issues. They are caused by bad installation or warping over time, but that doesn’t mean you have to live with it.
Fixing lippage is a simple process and remains the same whether you are fixing one tile or ten.
To even out tiles, all you have to do is remove the offending tiles, clean off the old mortar, and put them back with new, even mortar. Tiling comes down to measuring and re-measuring.
Measure out your layout before you start putting them up, measure the tiles before you cut them, and make sure all tiles are level before you leave them to dry.
It is a long process, but doing it right the first time will save you a lot of work in the future. So if you ever need to fix uneven tile edges, now you know how!