What is Tile Lippage?

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My floor tile has lippage where tiles are not flush with each other.

Lippage is defined as a condition where one edge of a tile is higher than an adjacent tile, giving the finished surface an uneven appearance. Lippage can be in any natural stone or manufactured tile installation on walls, floors, ceilings, and virtually any surface that can be tiled. Most tile materials are made and designed to be flush with one another giving a nice even, flat surface. There are some tiles, finishes, and designs that are intended to be installed uneven, but they are less common.
 
There are industry tolerances that dictate an acceptable amount of lippage which can vary on several factors.  Natural stone flooring generally has the strictest tolerance of 1/32-inch between tile units. Ceramic and porcelain tile flooring is typically between 1/32-inch and 1/16-inch depending on the width of the grout joint and size of the tile. In general, if the grout joint is less than ¼-inch thick the acceptable lippage is 1/32-inch and if the grout joint is ¼-inch or greater the acceptable lippage is 1/16-inch. Tile warpage will also affect the amount of acceptable lippage, but most tiles manufactured are produced with very little and often difficult to measure warpage.
 
There are also conditions that can accentuate lippage and make an acceptable amount appear as if its unacceptable. The most common condition that can highlight the lippage is when light is shining from a low angle to the finished surface which creates shadows where the uneven tile units are. This condition is often found when ceiling lights are installed close to a tiled wall or even bright natural light shining in through large windows or glass doors on a tiled floor.
 
So, what are the options when a tile installation is installed with lippage? If the installation is natural stone, there are refinishing options that can grind and then re-hone or polish the finish to make an extremely mirror like flat floor. Ceramic and porcelain tile installations with lippage are hard to repair as tiles often have to be removed and replaced. The best thing to do is to reach out to us so we can give guidance over the phone or send one of our inspectors out to assess and document the installation which is often required when recourse is desired from the installing contractor.