After documenting the world’s worst tiling jobs I couldn’t help but do a related article on the worst grouting and caulking jobs. In fact, it never occurred to me that my penchant for nice caulk and grout lines would cause me to begin noticing just how badly accomplished some of these jobs are. I just started seeing so many bad examples… everywhere. It started steamrolling into an even more heightened sensitivity to bad lines and mismatched colors. Now I find myself staring around at every public restroom, critiquing (silently) my friends’ houses, and feeling internal turmoil at the messes I encounter regularly at restaurants and hotels.
Naturally, I’d want to invite all of our readers into my world. We want you to notice the same things we do and stir up the hornet’s nest of demanding and appreciating a job well done. 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 article periodically as we encounter more “hidden gems”.
The Worst Grout and Caulking Jobs Wall of Shame
- 10. Randomly Stopping Caulk Lines
- 9. Thick or Thin – Pick One!
- 8. The Worst: Using White Caulk on Dark Marble or Tile!
- 7. I’m Just Not Sure What to Call This One
- 6. Mismatching Wraparound Tile Patterns in Showers
- 5. Smeared or Excessive Caulking
- 4. Years and Years of Recaulking the Shower Stall
- 3. Using Brilliant White Caulk on Off-White Tile or Tubs
- 2. Caulking Against Wallpaper
- 1. Caulk and Tile Grout are Not Expanding Foam!
- Bonus Entry #1: Why Bother Using Any Grout?
- Bonus Entry #2: Pregnant Grout!
- Bonus Entry #3: Installing a Ceramic Tile Towel Bar on Drywall
- Don’t Get On Our Worst Grouting and Caulking Jobs List!
10. Randomly Stopping Caulk Lines
This job wasn’t one of the very worst tile grouting and caulking jobs, but it made the list regardless. It made it because we’d seen it so many times. The job would just, for no explicable reason… stop. It’s like the guy grouting just ran out of caulk or decided to give up and move on to the next project.
9. Thick or Thin – Pick One!
This was one of the few actual grouting snafus we witnessed that was bad enough to include in our world’s worst tiling jobs article. We found it absolutely stunning that they let the tile set up this way. I don’t care who you are, there’s simply no excuse for not setting the tile properly. This holds true even when replacing a broken piece or encountering some sort of obstacle. Then again, maybe he works for the government…
Similar to this, I also can’t stand when the tile doesn’t line up—or when the installer fails to use some form of end trim.
And when you deal with corners, your lines need to be straight, or you end up with very poor-looking lines. This goes double if you use dark grout on white tile.
8. The Worst: Using White Caulk on Dark Marble or Tile!
Sometimes it’s just obvious that laziness is behind a job done poorly. One of the worst grouting and caulking jobs we saw involved using white caulk on dark marble surround. They used colored caulk in other locations but switched to white caulk to reinforce the corners. This otherwise-beautiful custom countertop sink ruined an otherwise beautiful public restroom. Don’t ever use cheap Alex caulk on a nice countertop… please.
7. I’m Just Not Sure What to Call This One
It never occurred to me that I would see something like this anywhere. Even worse, we found this tile in a South African hotel costing more than $870 per night! While the rest of the room (and the experience of the hotel overall) was fantastic, this tile job was simply tragic. Mismatched tile, inconsistent grout, and unfinished outside corners made this possibly the worst tile job we’d ever seen.
6. Mismatching Wraparound Tile Patterns in Showers
This one really just makes up a major pet peeve of mine. Since it also involved mismatched caulk, I included it. I also counted it as two entries. When you come to the corner of a tiling job, unless you have a REALLY good reason not to, continue the pattern of the tile as it entered the corner.
Our photo shows a shower stall in a vacation home we recently visited. You can see how the tile job hits the corner with partial black and white tiles. Then, for some inexplicable reason, it fails to continue around. Instead, the tiler resets the pattern in some sort of unholy, doubled-up union of two black tiles.
Why on earth would you do this? It looks absolutely ridiculous. To make it even better, they used bright white grout in the corner. The rest of the shower tile clearly uses an off-white (bone) grout. Getting off-white caulk might mean another trip to the store if you don’t have any, but now you have to stare at this eyesore forever. This almost made me want to tear out the tile and fix it myself… almost.
5. Smeared or Excessive Caulking
Among the worst grouting and caulking jobs has to be anything involving too much caulk. We see this frequently, especially around public urinals. The public bathroom at the local soccer field was already pretty bad. People constantly walk in and out with mud-caked shoes, tracking grass clippings in with their cleats. How could it get any worse?
How about smearing caulk all around the urinal to seal it up good? That’s right, use your thumb. Why bother getting a straight line or keeping it neatly contained—just have at it. Unless, of course, it was “bring your 2-year-old to work” day. There is absolutely no excuse for this type of disgusting caulk job. I don’t care where you are—have some self-respect.
Even regular tile jobs can go overboard with caulking—particularly when covering up stains or mold. This never works, and it only builds up over time to often ridiculous levels. Take this bathroom corner, for example. It shows layers upon layers of caulk used to cover up obvious mold and cracks over the years.
Another way we see this problem is simply failing to clean up after yourself—like in this public restroom:
4. Years and Years of Recaulking the Shower Stall
I don’t know what to say about this except to admit, reservedly, that the photo was taken of my late grandfather’s shower stall. This beautiful work of art reflects the work of years and years of my grandpa using one of his two go-to tools: caulk. The other tool? Duct tape, of course. He used both extensively when “fixing” a myriad of problems (while simultaneously creating several more down the road).
This might be one of the absolute worst grouting and caulking jobs I’ve ever encountered. And I got up close and personal, having to clean it out and do the job properly once we moved them from their Florida home back to Pennsylvania. I don’t think I need to really say more. The photo truly speaks for itself.
3. Using Brilliant White Caulk on Off-White Tile or Tubs
Similar to the double-whammy shower above, choose the correct caulk color. When the tub and grout are not Brilliant White, why would you use Brilliant White caulk? Some people seem to only have the brightest, most brilliant white on hand for caulking corners. Are they so proud of their work, they want everyone to see it? Are they trying to invent a new color palette? Does Brilliant White caulk cost that much less? Whatever the reason—friends don’t let friends caulk in a color that doesn’t match.
Look, we’re not saying you have to locate a fancy color of caulk but have some White, Bone, Tan, and Gray available. Those standard colors don’t even cost more. If you want to get really fancy you can opt for sanded caulk—I’ve only seen that impressive feat once or twice in the wild. Match your colors and look like a Pro.
2. Caulking Against Wallpaper
When I see excessive caulk against wallpaper I cringe. It never occurred to me that caulk would be the go-to tool for fixing peeling wallpaper or shoring up a corner mismatch. Apparently, some New York City hotels use this “trick” for shabby corners that need some lovin’. First off, it’s a rare occasion that wallpaper ever looks good over time. Secondly, never combine wallpaper and caulk. Just don’t do it.
Another peril involves over-grouting a second-layer tile against wallpaper to cover up the fact that you didn’t use thick enough edge trim. This also results in a less-than-professional look. It also doesn’t help when you don’t clean up the lines to present a crisp edge to your trim pieces and tile.
1. Caulk and Tile Grout are Not Expanding Foam!
While you might think that caulk can solve world peace, feed the hungry, and reign in the U.S. deficit, it can’t. It also isn’t glue. It can’t repair waterlogged particleboard or secure anything to anything else. Caulk simply fills in small gaps and provides a bit of water protection for surfaces prone to seepage.
Our absolute worst grouting and caulking jobs “award” goes to this next one. I think you will quickly see why. This was taken in the public restroom of a multi-million dollar private university in Central Florida. The University shall remain unnamed because I don’t want to embarrass all of those Gator fans…oops.
If it’s not apparent from the photo, that’s a 1/2″ gap that’s being filled in by the caulk at the end of the backsplash. The piece of laminated particleboard is so warped that it will no longer lay flat against the tiled wall.
The bathroom job below is similarly horrendous. Here, the tiler used a thick path of grout (or possibly mortar) to cover up the fact that the tile is laid overtop something that should have been removed prior to installing the new base.
Bonus Entry #1: Why Bother Using Any Grout?
That’s right—why bother using any grout at all? Just set the tile and move on. In this hotel bathroom, we spied an interesting style we call “ungrouting” or groutless tile. Apparently, they were going for a look. Unfortunately, that look simply comes across as shoddy work.
Bonus Entry #2: Pregnant Grout!
Properly grouting tile requires several things. First, you have to push the grout deep into the joints so that it fills all of the available space. You also want that grout wet enough to flow evenly and consistently. Secondly, you need to do a good job of wiping down the tile to get a nice even depth to your grout. Lastly, spraying some water on the grout after wiping it down lets it dry and set more evenly. Fail to do these things (particularly the first two) and you can end up with mixed results. The uneven and “pregnant” grout you see below comes from uneven spreading and poor penetration.
Bonus Entry #3: Installing a Ceramic Tile Towel Bar on Drywall
We looked online at all manner of articles detailing how you can install glazed ceramic towel bars into drywall. This apparently “avoids the need for locating studs or using screws”. Do you know what it also avoids? Any sort of stability or gripping strength should you ever apply more than a few pounds of downward pressure on the tile bar. As these towel bars frequently appear next to showers, they can serve as an impromptu grab bar (not their design) for anyone slipping when exiting a shower.
You should only install this type of shower bar into a tile wall. This lets you get ample grip from both the back and sides of the ceramic holder against the wall. Installing it into drywall (via cutting a hole) simply leads to the following (eventually):
Don’t Get On Our Worst Grouting and Caulking Jobs List!
So that’s it. It’s fun to check out great work, but sometimes the bad stuff can be entertaining as well. We just hope these worst grouting and caulking jobs drive people to take that extra few minutes to do the job right the first time. In short: don’t get on our list! There’s really no excuse, and your reputation will go up as people begin to associate you with “quality” workmanship.
Got a really bad example of shoddy workmanship? Send it in as we’ll be posting many more of the worst grouting and caulking jobs we find throughout the year. Got a great story? Leave a comment below.