Should you follow the recommended tile installation details?

So you purchased ceramic tile and you’re ready to put it down on your floor. You’ve even taken the time to do a dry-layout to visualize exactly how you want the tile to lineup once installed. You’ve decided to do a running bond pattern (think of the commonly installed wall bricks or pavers).

But then you briefly glance at the recommended tile manufacturer installation details and realize they don’t match your pattern intention! They recommend an overlap of 33% when installed in a staggered brick-joint patter. So do you follow the look you want or the recommended installation advice?

Here’s a short video displaying 3 common tile installation patterns.

This is the exact question we recently received from one of our customers here in Laurel Maryland.

“Good Morning,

a question for you regarding installation…..

I was reviewing the tile data sheet and noticed the below note on tile pattern and grout joint thickness.

My original intent was 50% stagger and 1/8” grout, but I have changed to 33% overlap.  I’m OK with that, but was wondering if it is really necessary.

Regarding grout thickness, I would like to hold the thinner 1/8” grout line,  but the note recommends 3/16”.  Is 1/8” OK ?


Although this may sound like a simple straight-forward question, we don’t believe this is a ‘yes‘ or ‘no‘ answer. Let me explain.

We are always very careful about the advice we give people. And what I mean by that, is we take the time (because we actually care about the outcome of your project) to truly understand what the customer or tile contractor is trying to accomplish. We spend a significant amount of time throughout the year attending tile workshops, training, talking to our customers, and even visiting a few job sites. We do all of this just so we can provide better, more specific and relevant advice. Having said that, ultimately it is up to you (your decision) on how to proceed with any of your tile installations.

Honestly, we have groups of customers that prefer to do things their own way, others who follow the recommended advice, and yet others who somehow do a bit of both! Any of these approaches may work in some cases and maybe not in others. Things are never perfect in the construction-remodeling industry as we all know.

It’s important to note that in any of these cases, or which ever way you decide to go, we strongly recommend having a good understanding of what to expect. You must understand the consequences that can result from choosing one tile installation method over another.

The Answer

Let me give you the not-so-long answer we sent back to our customer. Then, I will elaborate a bit more on our response in order to provide you with a bit more context so you can make a well-informed decision.

Good morning Bob,

as I mentioned before, all the advice we give is based on the Tile Council of North America & NTCA standards. With the tile you are getting (which is TRUE EDGE, meaning rectified), yes you can do an 1/8″ spacing, but I would NOT do anything less than 1/8″.

As for the offset, the reason the TCNA recommends 33% overlap on large format tiles (anything over 15″ on one side) is because you can end up with lippage which can be a trip hazard/liability! Minimal warpage occurs especially on large format tiles due to the manufacturing process itself. Porcelain tiles are heated in kilns at temperatures over 2,000°  Fahrenheit that cause warpage (therefore never perfectly flat).

Having said that, people perform a running bond installation with large format tiles all the time, it’s just not something we recommend for the reasons mentioned above. If you choose to do a 50% offset, make sure you have a near perfect flat subfloor to limit the possibility of lippage and pay close attention to lippage between tiles when performing the actual installation.

Hope this helps Bob. Stay warm, it’s snowing like crazy here… right in the beginning of Spring!

We are members of the NTCA (National Tile Contractors Association)

Let me also refer you to this helpful/instructional video from the NTCA:

Do you have questions? Reach out!

Lastly, if you are still confused or have questions regarding buying tile or installations, feel free to reach out to us! We love to help others if possible. You can always be certain we’ll provide help to the best of our knowledge.

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