It never occurred to me to write an article about the worst tile grout and caulk job of the year. In fact, it never occurred to me that my penchant for nice caulk and grout lines would cause me to start noticing how poorly some of these jobs are done. I just started seeing so many bad examples…everywhere. It starts to be more sensitive to bad lines and mismatched colors. Now, I find myself looking around at every public restroom, criticizing (silently) my friends' houses, and internally disturbed by the mess I often encounter in restaurants and hotels.
Naturally, I want to invite all of our readers into my world. We hope you notice the same things we do and stir up a hornet's nest of requests and appreciation for good work. We want you to have a healthy hatred of all things lazy, unkempt, and just plain bad . Without further ado, here are the top 10 worst caulk and grout jobs we've seen all year. We plan to update this post regularly as we come across more "hidden gems".
worst tile job wall of shame
- 10. Random stop caulk lines
- 9. Uneven or square tile placement
- 8. Worst of all: Using white caulk on dark marble or tile!
- 7. I just don't know what to call this
- 6. Mismatched wrap-around tile pattern in the shower
- 5. Smearing or excessive caulking
- 4. Re-caulking the shower over the years
- 3. Use Bright White Grout on Off-White Tile or Tub
- 2. Wallpaper caulking
- 1. Grout and tile grout will not expand foam!
- Bonus entry #1: Why bother with grout?
- Bonus entry #2: Pregnant grout!
- Bonus Entry #3: Installing Tile Towel Bars Over Drywall
- Don't make it into our list of the worst grout and caulk jobs!
10. Random stop caulk lines
This job isn't one of the worst tile grout and caulk jobs, but it's on the list anyway. It works because we've seen it many times. This job will just… stop for no reason. It's like the grout guy just ran out of caulk or decided to give up and move on to the next project.
9. Uneven or square tile placement
This is one of the few actual grouting messes we've witnessed serious enough to be included in our Top 10 Worst Grouting and Caulking Jobs "award". We found it absolutely stunning that they had the tiles set up this way. I don't care who you are, there's no reason not to have your tiles set up correctly. This is true even if you replace a broken part or hit some kind of snag. Then again, maybe he works for the government…
Similarly, I can't stand tiles that are out of alignment – or the installer failing to use some form of end decoration.
When you're dealing with corners, your lines need to be straight, otherwise you'll end up with really ugly lines. The effect is doubled if you use dark grout over white tile.
8. Worst of all: Using white caulk on dark marble or tile!
Sometimes it becomes clear that laziness is the cause of a poorly done job. One of the worst grout and caulk jobs we see is using white caulk around dark marble. They used colored caulk elsewhere but switched to white caulk to reinforce the corners. This otherwise beautiful custom countertop sink ruins an otherwise beautiful public restroom. Never use cheap Alex caulk on nice countertops…please.
7. I just don't know what to call this
I never thought I'd see anything like this anywhere. To make matters worse, we found this tile at a South African hotel for over $870 a night! While the rest of the room (and overall hotel experience) was great, the tile work was a tragedy. Mismatched tile, inconsistent grout, and unfinished exterior corners make this possibly the worst tile job we've ever seen.
6. Mismatched wrap-around tile pattern in the shower
This one really just makes up for one of my major annoyances. Since it also involves mismatched caulk, I'm including it. I also count it as two entries. When you come to a corner where the tile is being laid, unless you have a very good reason not to, continue the pattern as the tile entered the corner .
Our photos show the shower in a vacation home we visited recently. You can see how the collage job is collaged to the corner with some black and white collages. Then, for some unexplainable reason, it couldn't continue to exist. Instead, the tiler reset the pattern in some sinister way, overlapping two black tiles.
Why on earth are you doing this? This looks pretty ridiculous. To make it even better, they used bright white grout in the corners. Off white (bone) grout was clearly used on the rest of the shower tile. If you don't have any off-white caulk, it might mean another trip to the store, but now you have to stare at this eyesore forever. It almost makes me want to rip out the tile and fix it myself…almost.
5. Smearing or excessive caulking
In the worst grout and caulk jobs, too much caulk has to be involved. We see this all the time, especially around public urinals. The public toilets at the local football stadium are already terrible. People are constantly in and out in muddy shoes, tracking grass clippings with cleats. How could it be any worse?
How about applying caulk around the urinal to seal it well? That's right, use your thumbs. Why bother getting a straight line or having it neatly contained – there it is. Unless, of course, it's "take your 2-year-old to work" day. There is absolutely no excuse for this disgusting caulk job. I don't care where you are – have self respect.
Even ordinary tile work can be overdone with caulk—especially when it comes to covering up stains or mold. That never works, and it just builds up to often ridiculous levels over time. Take this bathroom nook, for example. It shows the layers of caulk that have been used over the years to cover up obvious mold and cracks.
Another way we look at this is not cleaning up ourselves – like in this public restroom:
4. Re-caulking the shower over the years
I don't know what to say other than to implicitly admit that this photo was taken in my late grandfather's shower. This beautiful piece of art reflects my grandpa's work over the years using one of his two common tools: caulk. Another tool? Duct tape, of course. He used both methods extensively in "solving" countless problems (while creating many more in the future).
This is probably one of the worst grout and caulk jobs I have ever come across. When we moved them back to PA from their Florida home, I had to get up close and personal to clean it up and get the job done right. I don't think I really need to say much. This photo really says it all.
3. Use Bright White Grout on Off-White Tile or Tub
Similar to the double whammy shower above, choose the correct caulk color. Why would you use bright white caulk when the tub and grout aren't bright white? Some people seem to only have the brightest, brightest white on hand for caulking corners. Are they proud of their work and want everyone to see it? Are they trying to invent a new color palette? Does Brilliant White caulk cost much less? Whatever the reason – friends don't let friends caulk with mismatched colors.
See, we're not saying you have to find a fancy caulk color, but there are some whites, bone, tans, and grays that can be used. These standard colors don't even cost much more. If you really want to get fancy, you can opt for matte caulk—an impressive feat I've only seen once or twice in the wild. Match your colors and look like a pro.
2. Wallpaper caulking
I cringe when I see excess caulk on wallpaper. It never occurred to me that caulk would be the go-to tool for repairing peeling wallpaper or bracing mismatched corners. Apparently, some hotels in New York City use this "trick" for rundown corners that need some love. First off, it's rare for wallpaper to look good over time. Second, never combine wallpaper and caulk. Just don't do it.
Another danger involves over-grouting the second layer of tile over the wallpaper to hide the fact that you didn't use a thick enough edge trim. This can also result in a less professional look. It also doesn't help when you don't clean up the lines to give a crisp edge on trim and tile.
1. Grout and tile grout will not expand foam!
While you might think that caulk is the answer to world peace, feeding the hungry, and reining in the U.S. deficit, it's not. It's not glue either. It won't fix waterlogged particleboard or secure anything to anything else. Caulk simply fills small gaps and provides a little waterproof protection to surfaces that are prone to leaks.
Our absolute worst grout and caulk job "award" goes to the next one. I think you'll soon see why. It was filmed in a public restroom at a private multi-million dollar university in Central Florida. University will remain anonymous because I don't want to embarrass all those Gator fans… oops.
If it doesn't look obvious from the photo, it's a 1/2" gap where the gap at the end of the tailgate was caulked. The laminated particle board warped so much that it could no longer sit flat on the tiled wall.
The bathroom work below was equally horrendous. Here, the tilers used a thick layer of grout (or possibly mortar) to hide the fact that the tile was laid over something that should have been removed before installing the new base.
Bonus entry #1: Why bother with grout ?
That’s right—why bother with grout? Just set the tiles and move on. In the bathrooms of this hotel, we found an interesting style we call "ungrouted" or no-grout tiles. Obviously, they came to have a look. Unfortunately, the look gives the impression of being shoddy.
Bonus entry #2: Pregnant grout!
Properly grouting tile requires several things. First, you have to work the grout deep into the joint so that it fills all the available space. You also want the grout to be wet enough to flow evenly and consistently. Second, you need to do a good job of mopping the tiles so that the grout depth is even. Finally, spray some water on the grout after wiping to allow it to dry and set more evenly. If you don't do these things (especially the first two), you may get different results. The uneven and "pregnant" grout you see below comes from uneven spreading and poor penetration.
Bonus Entry #3: Installing Tile Towel Bars Over Drywall
We looked at various articles online detailing how to install glazed ceramic towel bars into drywall. This apparently "obviates the need for positioning studs or using screws". Do you know what else it avoids? No stability or grip strength of any kind if you put more than a few pounds of downward pressure on the tile rod. Since these towel bars are often found next to shower stalls, they can be used as makeshift grab bars (not their design) in case anyone slips and falls in the shower.
You should only mount this type of shower rod to tile walls. This allows you to fully grip the wall from the back and sides of the ceramic stand. Installing it into drywall (by cutting holes) just results in the following (eventually):
Don't make it into our list of the worst grout and caulk jobs!
That's it. It's fun to look at great work, but sometimes bad work is fun too. Let's just hope these worst grout and caulk jobs inspire people to spend an extra few minutes getting the job right the first time. In short: don't make our list! There really is no excuse, and when people start associating you with "quality" craftsmanship, your reputation will improve.
Is there an example of a really bad shoddy? Send it in because we'll be posting more of the worst grout and caulk jobs we've found throughout the year. Any great stories? Leave a comment below.