Are you wondering if white subway tile dye lots can be different? I can assure you from personal experience that YES it is not only possible but it happened to me!
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White Subway Tile Dye Lot Color Variations
If someone would have told me to watch out for dye lot color variations in white subway tile I would have been very surprised. Not anymore! Last month we started the long overdue bathroom remodel. This was literally the last room of the original house that was still intact.
A little back story on my obsession with the tile I ordered for the new bathroom. Two years ago I left my twenty-three year career as a Childrenswear Designer to follow my passion for Interior Design. As I prepared for the transition I went to as many industry events in NYC as I could. Several of those were at Tilebar. I fell in love with all the updated designs and especially loved all the collaborations they did with my favorite designers. Over the past two years, I have ordered samples knowing that when I was ready I was going to purchase from them. After attending the Maria Killiam color workshop I was convinced that white subway tile is classic and timeless. With this new knowledge, I set out to choose the perfect subway tile for this project.
Pro Tip: White Subway Tile Is Classic And TimelessNicole
The Tile Selection
After ordering many samples I decided on the Basic White 4×12 Ceramic Subway Tile, Polished. The edge would be finished with the 4×12 Basic White Ceramic Bullnose Subway Tile. I was super excited to finally be using their tile. The flooring for the project also came from Tilebar. I ordered the Level Black 1″ Hexagon Matte Porcelain Tile for inside the shower and the Paige Antracite 10″ Hexagon Matte Cement Look Porcelain Tile for the bathroom area. You can see all the tiles below.
As I transitioned into Interior Design I intentionally stayed clear of Bathrooms and Kitchens. Don’t get me wrong I love designing them from a pretty standpoint like picking the finishes but I do not enjoy all the minutia that is involved in the process. There are a lot of components and places to “F” up to be quite frank. I am petrified of making a mistake that can cost into the thousands of dollars to fix. That said I’ve made a conscious decision to stay clear. Ask me to help to make selections I’m your gal but start to finish all details included and I’ll pass. Just not something that floats my boat.
So here’s how the mismatch tile situation went down. After the bathroom was gutted, prepped, and then sheetrocked it was time for the tile. The floor was done first and then it was time for the walls.
Inspect Your Tile
The tile installer showed me a few tiles that were not flat. Since I am new at this (the last bathroom I did was fifteen years ago) I thought ok maybe this is a special subway tile that is not just flat. Again I had done this post with Tilebar on all the subway tile options that were not boring. What the installer failed to mention and I guess realize is there were literally a few tiles that were like that.
You can see the uneven tiles at the bottom of this photo.
You may be wondering why didn’t you stop this then. So here is the thing. My eye is not trained to see these things YET. Yes, it is clear as day in this photo NOW but during the process, up close and with the lighting it was NOT.
Box Dye Lots
The other thing the installer did prior to installing was he checked the white subway tile dye lots on the boxes. We ordered ten boxes so he wanted to make sure they were all the same. Apparently, he thought they were. This is what the lot number will look like if you are checking yourself. You want to make sure the White Subway Tile Dye Lot is the same on every box.
By the time we realized the issue these were the only two boxes left. The rest had already been thrown out so I’m trusting the tile guy really checked them all.
Lay out the Tile
The other thing the tile guy did was he laid out the tile on the floor before installing them on the wall. Now this my friends are great however the difference in the white subway tile dye lot is so slight I doubt you will see it here either. To the untrained eye, it is not that noticeable. Even after the back wall was installed which you can see here we didn’t notice.
You can see how close the tile installer was when working. In person the color variation is not as noticeable as it is in photos which is so annoying!
After this experience, I would recommend checking your tiles in multiple lighting locations. When the space you are working in is in the renovation process the lighting can be a bulb or a hanging fixture that is not yet installed. Trust me this does have an effect on how things look in your space. White subway tile dye lot color variations are so slight it’s hard to spot.
The Moment of Truth
This is the exact moment we realized the white subway tile dye lot issue. I will never forget the moment the contractor came back to finish the job. Long story short my husband had a separate tile installer from the contractor. During the tile work, the contractor was not on the job for a few days. When he returned he asked me why the tile was different colors. That was it!!!! The moment I would NEVER be able to unsee the fact that I had tile from two white subway tile dye lots!!!
I WAS DEVASTATED.
First off I felt like exactly what I was afraid of when it came to bathroom designing came true. A very costly mistake was made. It was my fault for not checking all the tiles myself but you don’t know what you don’t know. Clearly, I did not know all of what I shared in this post so far.
<h3 class=”script”> The Dilemma </h3>
Once it was brought to my attention I immediately called Tilebar. My rep directed me to email customer service. Here is the thing about subway tile… IT IS SUPER CHEAP. My entire order of white subway tile (trade discount applied) with the bullnose was about $350 with tax and shipping. The labor on the other hand not so cheap! The solution from Tilebar was to replace my order of tile. They would NOT refund my order or pay for any of the labor costs since on their website they have this disclaimer under the Install tab. They said if the issue was caught at the dry-fitting stage they would have done more but since it was grouted they would not. Honestly, I have read sometimes you don’t see the issue until the grouting stage.
Read The Disclaimer
- We always recommend dry-fitting your pattern first to think about your cuts in advance and to make sure you like the pattern. This will also help you choose which pieces go where, which is especially helpful with tiles that have a lot of variation.
- To avoid affecting the color of the tile, white thinset such as Bostik PM is highly recommended for all installations. For faster installation, use a rapid curing thinset such as Bostik Single-Flex Fast Set.
- Apply as much adhesive as can be covered within 10-15 minutes.
- Grout joint should be a minimum of 1/16”; and not butt set.
- The optimal trowel size is a 9″ Trowel – 1/8″ square notch.
In the end, Tilebar refunded 10% of my order which was about $70 and they sent me a new batch of the tile plus 2 extra boxes. They also sent replacement bullnose tiles. We had to wait about 2 weeks for the new order because it was now out of stock. Probably because I had all the sloppy leftovers in the first order with the white subway tile dye lot variations.
After much debate, we decided to not rip out the entire job and have it redone. If Tilebar would have covered some of the cost for the labor we definitely would have done it but they did not.
Lesson Learned: White Subway Tile Dye Lot Colors Variations Is A Thing
We had a separate project that required tile so we made the decision to ignore the color variations and move on. Now IF this was a CLIENT job we 100% would have ripped the entire shower tile out. Remember doing that would stop the job, damage existing materials, and cause a domino effect of issues. Basically moving backward in the job.
Once we received the new batch of tile we made sure the new installer knew about the color variation issue. He was awesome and thoughly check all the tile. He may have been a little scared too because he knew we would be examining this job for sure.
Above is the image of the second bathroom project. As you can see this is what the first install should have looked like! But sad to say even with the second project we had an issue. Now the new bullnose tile was from a separate lot! I can’t!!! The tile installer called me down to look and sure enough, it was slight BUT different.
You can see the bullnose tile is grayer than the bright white 4×12 subway tiles.
Again I was PISSED, ANNOYED, and FRUSTRATED with Tilebar.
Not sure who is in their quality control department but in my experience they need to check for white subway tile dye lot color variation issues more closely. I called Tilebar customer service while driving to Floor Decor for a solution. There was NO time to wait on a solution from Tilebar so I had to find one on my own. The customer service rep instructed me to email photos of the new issue to [email protected] I did this later in the day and was refunded the cost of the bullnose tile which was $60.
The End Result
So the new options were to use the 4×12 tile and then add a pencil finish piece at the side. Floor Decor has many options available in the store. I highly recommend buying from them if you want to avoid being frustrated and have no time to wait for shipping. The back and forth when you order online can be quite the process. I picked up three options because I live by the motto buy it and return what you don’t need. I would rather overbuy and return than not have what I need on the job.
Here are the three choices I looked at for the edge detail.
The first ceramic pencil option is what we chose. I did love the matte black pencil option as well but have mixed metals going on in the design also I didn’t want to add black up the wall as a focal point. I wanted to keep it to the floor which BTW came out amazing! We purchased the classic black and white pattern from floor decor and created this border design. The contractor literally said to me “Please No More Pictures!”. Of course, I did NOT listen because if there is one thing I’ve learned it’s that contractors need a visual of what you want. They are not mind readers and trust me have no clue what you are thinking especially if you are a creative.
Pro Tip: Contractors need to see pictures for a visual of what you want!nicole
How The White Subway Tile Dye Lot Should Have Looked
This is the second new bathroom which everyone loves! My husband made the comment why didn’t I do that floor upstairs. To which I replied because this is the second bathroom I did. The more you do something the better you get. As Seth Godin says it’s all about The Practice: Shipping Creative Work. This was my practice. That book is on my list BTW.
So in the end we are super happy with the second bathroom. We used solid white and black tile around the multi to create the border design. As for the main bathroom, we are going to ignore the fact that the white subway tile dye lot we received had color variations.
The Extra Tile
We used the leftover replacement tile in the backsplash of the kitchen here.
We also used the leftover black large hex tile plus added one more box (from the same dye lot) here.
Check out that cool edge detail where the tile transitions into the wood. I have always wanted to do that look. I should add the flooring tile from Tilebar for the bathroom project was beautiful and there were no issues.
Overall this has been one big learning lesson that I am grateful to have experienced in my own project and not a client project. I do feel more confident now in bathroom design but I still only want to choose the finishes and materials. I do not want to be involved with the ordering, installation, or issues that come up through the process. That’s just not my jam. I’m more of the design and all things pretty kind of gal. I will help you with ideas, concept, and inspiration even where to shop and purchase but them I’m OUT.
Valuable Lessons Learned
This post had been on my mind for some time now and I’m glad to have finally documented the experience. I would have LOVED for Tilebar to refund my entire order OR cover part of the labor cost but they did not. I learned a lot through this process and realize more than anything how important it is to rely on yourself if you want to grow. When we first remodeled Willow House I relied heavily on family and was afraid to make a mistake and be judged. Some of my family LOVE to judge and point out your mistakes. They can be very much glass half full. That said as I age (today I turned 46!) I’m learning daily not to care what others think because honestly, it’s none of my business.
Hopefully, this valuable information will help someone else avoid the same issues we had with our white subway tile dye lot.
I hope you have an amazing holiday season full of Unicorns & Rainbows!
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