While i am no expert in these matters this does seem to be a tricky one. It is expected that subway tiles are placed horizontally (as you stated in your post), however if it was not specifically mentioned to your contractor then they used their own initiative (and went vertical). This being the case no-one is really at fault (you expected him to know, but he did not get specific directions on the orientation). I guess the first question is how much would it cost to redo this work, and possibly suggest a compromise where you spring for the materials and your contractor does the work (both at your own cost). You should of course let them know that you are not happy with the outcome of the work as it stands, and a lot will depend on your relationship with your contractor (and if they hope to get more work from you). If they agree then get it done and put it behind you, but if not then its probably not worth making a big deal out of it unless it will bother you for years to come (some people dont really mind these kind of things and others just have to get them fixed). Hope this helps and this is just my humble opinion. Maybe post some pics and get the general opinion about how they look...who knows people may prefer them that way.
@Kellen Canfield If he is mid rehab just let it go, especially if he is a quality contractor overall, you want a long term relationship with him, and he is doing a good job otherwise on this project. You just know now going forward to be very specific with installation descriptions.
We do flips here in CT and even when we are local to our contractors and/or employees these things still happen. Be lucky that a mistake was made and will not cost you any money. Most mistakes do.
Did you say "I expected it to be horizontal."?
Don't forget to lead with the positives about the job thus far, whatever they may be: quality, timeline is good, etc. and thank them for all the positives then say something along the lines of "Maybe this is my mistake for not spec'ing it but I assumed it'd be ran horizontally". I'll bet he's hoping you won't say anything but once you do he'll say "sorry, my tile guy got creative, I'll fix it". That's how these things have worked out for me nearly every time I run into this type of situation.
I've never seen subway ran that way (doesn't mean it's wrong and some buyers may like it) but I don't think it's very common. Subway tile is pretty cheap and I usually pay a flat $300 for backsplash labor, so, if the GC won't change it on their dime, ask them to split the cost as the poster above suggested. If that's a no, then you have to decide what it's worth to you in cash and/or relationship if you want to fight the GC on it. Let us know what happens but definitely say something if it's bothering you. I honestly don't hate it and many times am surprised when something like that happens and I stress over it and either no one notices, cares or they even compliment it as different and interesting...happens often.
You can talk to him (quickly) and see if he's willing to correct it, either for free or for a discounted price.
It doesn't look awful. However, it's not "correct" because even an amateur would expect that tile to be installed horizontally, not vertically. What is he thinking?!? It's like building a brick house and installing all the bricks on end!
If you didn't explicitly say "I want it horizontal", then it's up for interpretation. I don't recall any building code stating "subway tile will be installed horizontally". I've actually seen it installed diagonally too. Gave the kitchen a very different look altogether. Google "vertical subway tile" and you'll have lots of kitchens and bathrooms with it.
I'd say, ask him if he can re-install it horizontally, if that's the look you really want but don't fight with him over it. It's not worth losing a good contractor over this.
@Kellen Canfield it might be that vertical is in right now in that area. It happens, I see vertical all the time now. It is definitely something that needs to be on paper these days with all the hgtv shows changing what's normal.
It looks pretty good and will probably look even better once grouted. If you don't like it change it now before they grout.
Nicely saying I thought it would be horizontal is probably a good approach like mentioned above, then how hard is it to change it. I think if you want it changed just pay to get it changed. They'll have the cost to demo back out too and re prepping the thin set isn't going to be fun so it's not going to be a simple fix. Maybe he'll offer to eat the markup or something.
I remember having a brick fireplace painted and they painted it bright red, very odd looking, our normal spec was grey but we didn't do a full scope as it was just a minor rehab, paint and carpet.
Our fault totally and we paid to have it fixed even though no one would have ever used that color (I know that's a cheap mistake in comparison). Ive had the opposite happen where we had subway tile installed and the designer verbally asked for it vertical. It got installed horizontal even though the designer was annoyed I asked her if she wrote it into the spec and it wasn't so I didn't even say anything to the contractor. They probably would have changed it for me free, but I was enforcing some systems to prevent this stuff in the future and it helped everyone understand the importance of a written scope and spec. without upsetting anyone too bad.
It's fine, Kellan. I've seen it done this way, but then again, I've seen pretty much everything. It'll look better once he gets the grout in. And if this is the biggest RE problem you faced today, you're a lucky man. Chalk it up to experience and go on.
I would discuss and have him redo it! Talk to him asap before he grouts!
You are to blame for not being clear about your wishes. And he's also to blame for not asking how you want the tile installed.
On the bright side, it doesn't look bad. In fact, it looks rather nice with the granite which is gorgeous. Thankfully, he didn't install it in a diagonal, herringbone or stacked pattern.
I would mention it to him so he knows in the future not to take such initiative. But first, I'd decide if it's worth removing. If an investment, I wouldn't bother to incur the additional cost or time. If your own house, and time and cost aren't an issue, you'll want it redone because it'll bug you.
If you leave it, consider having him install around the window, all the way to the soffit. It should help make the wall look taller.
You mentioned that you are managing the remodel from another state. It could be that your contractor is following local trends by going vertical. I know that my tile distributor injects a lot of their personal styles on pros through their design center. Personally, I kind of like it and I don't know that it detracts from the kitchen. I think a buyer or renter that runs from your property over that has bigger issues. On another note, as a contractor and investor, I make sure that I always nail down specifics on materials, part numbers, installation, etc. It avoids a lot of controversy and wasted time later. I might suggest you create a template on the computer to use a small a build schedule. I'll try to attach an example that I've used in the past. If you would like the entire document, PM me your email and I'm happy to share.
It is you who failed to conveyed the specifics on directionality. Unless it is stated in the contract signed by both you and contractor with sketches. Then you have a legit cause. You can ask them to split the cost for the trouble.
These little things are not real problems. I think sometimes we respond emotionally when you can take a step back and realize this will work perfectly for the end buyer. I say let it go and in the future be more specific in what you want done. Just my $0.02. Good luck.
There is no excuse for him at the very least asking you which direction. He may have the talent to install but certainly not the design sense.
I guess I am OCD about these things because I get crazy when I see crown mold upside down or stuff like this. When I ask a trim guy what Cyma Recta is and he think its a proctologist term I know I need someone else to do my crown.
I agree with what @Troy S. says though. Just explain it like that and see where it goes. I don't think its all on you and I am in construction myself. Its almost like saying if you didn't tell them to not hang the door upside down then its on you if they do. You as a client should expect a certain level of professionalism from the people who you pay. Subway tile is traditionally horizontal. So before they did it vertically they should have cleared it with you first.
Best of Luck.
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