What Is Lippage on Floor Tile?

Can you slide a coin across your tile floor without it stopping? If you’ve noticed uneven heights of tiles, that’s called lippage. Tile lippage simply means uneven heights of adjacent tiles. You see or feel a “lip” sticking out.

Poor installation often causes floor tile lippage, but other factors including inconsistencies from the tile manufacturer can also be to blame. Depending on the tile, location, and your own preferences, a floor with up to 1/8” of lippage may be unnoticeable. Bigger differences, or in places where you simply want a perfectly flat surface, will need lippage repairs.

Tile lippage can look awkward on a backsplash or shower wall, but floor tile lippage can be dangerous. Severe lippage creates a tripping hazard and the problem has the potential to get worse over time due to settling, moisture, or cracked tiles. 

Causes of Floor Tile Lippage

Before you rip out a tile floor and start over, it would be wise to determine the cause of lippage. You certainly would not want to install a brand new tile floor and end up with the same problem!

These are the five most common causes of tile lippage that we see in the Charlotte area.

  • Inconsistent variations in each tile. Some variation is inevitable, but a bad batch may create significant lippage.
  • Uneven subfloor. Concrete, wood, and other subfloors all the potential to cause lippage if installed improperly.
  • Long, narrow tiles that are difficult to lay flat. Rectangular shapes tend to show lippage more than square or polygon tiles. 
  • Grout joints are too narrow or inconsistent. Thicker grout helps set tiles evenly and hide lippage and shifting. Narrow grout is often preferred for aesthetics, but exposes more lippage. 
  • The tile offset pattern exposes height differences in tiles. This refers to how tiles are staggered. A 50% offset, where the edge of one tile is in the middle of the tiles above and below it, can also reveal more lippage because tile edges are often slightly higher than the center.

How to Fix Tile Lippage

We recommend grinding and leveling tiles to fix lippage because the problem is often caused by an underlying issue that’s not going away. Why replace the entire floor when you can simply restore it to new with a perfectly even finish?

Tile lippage repair starts with grinding or honing the tiles so that the edges all lie flush. At that point, you have a fresh tile surface that is like new. We can then polish and seal the tile for the proper gloss or texture. The end result: no more lippage without having to replace the tile.

If you have uneven floor tiles that are driving you crazy, Sandifer’s Stone & Tile Care can help. Contact us now for a free estimate on tile lippage repair service in Charlotte or throughout North Carolina and South Carolina.