Tiling works: Poor finishing and solutions

For many new homeowners, they have no idea that good finishing is an important part in a renovation works.  The reason is because they have no idea what is good finishing in the first place! Today, I am going to talk about poor tile finishing and solutions to it.

In Singapore, I would say that our tiling works are mostly quite poorly done as compared to other parts of the world, e.g. the European and the Australian.  At times, there are exceptional cases but its really rare.  There are many reasons for the poor finishing:

  1. The tilers did not do a good job.  Meaning poor working or the “bo chap” attitude.  They always have the excuse that works done by hand cannot be perfect.  Yes, its true that 100% perfection cannot be achieved (only machine can do it).  But I think they are they are using this reason to find excuse for themselves when a job is done poorly.  There is a difference between good job and being perfect.  Most homeowners are actually looking forward to a good job rather than 100% perfect.
  2. The Interior Designer (ID) or the project coordinators (some interior design companies uses them) did not monitor the renovation project properly.  If the ID “bo chap”, the workers also “bo chap” (meaning if the ID do not care, so will the workers).
  3. The tilers in Singapore does not apply the best tiling technics being practiced around the world.

Examples of poor tile finishing.




Excess plaster and stains on tile not cleaned off


Cracked mosaic tiles


Net backing that holds the mosaic tiles protruding out


Excess cutting of one black tile

  • All the above bad tiling works could have been prevented if the tilers are careful and focus in the finishing.
  • For professional tilers, these kind of finishing works are just unacceptable.
  • For example, why does the tiler still install the mosaic tiles when its already crack?


  1. The ID should do regular checks on the workers to ensure that the tiling works is done properly.  Do inform your ID (before the signing of contract) that you are very particular on finishing works to make sure that your ID is on his toes.  Examples, tiles installed should be clean (removing all excess cement or plaster on the tile surface) before they are dry.  This is the basic of tiling works and not the works of final cleaning.  Can you imagine how much cleaning work need to be done when the cement or white plaster is already dried up?  In the end, the person doing the final cleaning will blame the tilers for not doing the proper initial cleaning and the tilers will say that the cleaners are supposed to do the cleaning.  End of the day, the homeowners who paid these people their salary gets all the “shit” left by the so call “professional”.  As homeowners, you should not be managing the tilers or the cleaners.  The only person you should handle in order to ensure that everything is properly done up is the ID you employed.  Preempt your ID about your requirement about the end result (no crack tiles installed, all tiles cleaned and corner grout lines are done up as nicely as they can).  If the ID cannot achieve your expectation, you would have already given him enough time to back off the deal (thats if you preempt your ID before the contract is signed).  To all the homeowners, I would like to clarify that there is no 100% perfect tiling workings.  If its done up till 80-90% of your expectation, I think the overall end result should be good enough.
  2. Corner grout lines are usually the problematic ones.  Its true that its difficult to achieve good finishing along the connecting corners.  The corner grout lines are usually unevenly applied or the tiles are not cut properly resulting in undesirable finishing.  In Europe and Australia, the tilers overcome the problem by finishing the corners with silicone sealant.  Currently, this practice is not being applied in Singapore.  You can request it from your ID or contractors.  It will greatly enhanced the finishing works and make the tiling works feel “complete”.  Below is an example of how I do it using silicone sealant that I bought from a local hardware store.  Its not done perfectly, but what I am trying to say here is that its possible.

SealantTiles59-5 SealantTiles61-6

Silicone Sealant that I bought from a DIY store

SealantTiles57-4 SealantTiles63-7

Before and after silicon applied

The perfect example from Australia


Silicon at all corners

SealantTiles2-2 SealantTiles1-1

The Australian has shown that its possible to get good tile finishing.  This kind of good tile finishing is a common sight in Australia.  What I am trying to say here is that its possible.  Its not a ridiculous request but a realistic one.  Don’t we Singaporean wish that our home look as good as the Australians’?  Singapore renovation contractors and ID companies should really learn from them.  I really hope that some ID companies can adopt the Australian tiling finishing, so that they can improve the quality and standard of Singapore renovation industry.

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8 Responses to “Tiling works: Poor finishing and solutions”

  1. Paul

    Jul 16. 2013

    The real reason for poor tiling in Singapore, (and poor workmanship in general), is that they employ unskilled, untrained workers from Bangladesh etc to do these jobs. Nobody cares if it is done right, the only that matters is that it must be dirt cheap, then quickly sell it off at a high profit and let the buyer worry about the problems that will arise.
    It is sheer greed paired with “bo chap” attitude. The results can also be seen in public buildings like MRT stations, National library, etc. Everywhere behind the impressive facade lurks the ugly truth of shoddy work.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Jeanne Foo

    May 02. 2014

    Hi Vincent

    I am interested in this article of yours about Tiling works: poor finishing and solutions. I cannot see the photographs. Will you be kind enough to email me the article wt the photographs embedded?


    Reply to this comment
  3. Vincent

    May 02. 2014

    Hi Jennine, I have updated the photos.


    Reply to this comment
  4. Gisella

    Nov 24. 2014

    Can u recommend a good tiler who can do selling of grout? All my black grout lines turned white after one wash and my contractor refused to rectify.

    Reply to this comment
    • Gisella

      Nov 24. 2014

      Sorry I meant sealing of grout. ie.colourseal

      Reply to this comment
      • Vincent

        Nov 24. 2014

        Hi Gisella, you can find handyman (via google) to do for you. Things to note: Are you willing to fork out around $200 to do the colour grout? The current market price for doing such minor stuff will be around $150-$200 for a day of labour and around $20 for material cost. Even after rectifying, there is a possibility that the colour will not stay. Anyway, the colour grout should be done during tiling process and not after tiling is completed. You should really clarify with your contractor again.

        Reply to this comment
  5. Lowbudget

    Jan 25. 2016


    Do you have any contacts for reliable tilers just for laying of tiles which doesn’t cost an arm and a leg? Please help me

    Reply to this comment
    • Vincent

      Apr 10. 2016

      I dont give tiler’s contact because tiling is a very complicated work. It definitely cost a lot. Work satisfaction level is different for every individual. I cannot guarantee that you will be satisfied with the tiling work. Therefore I prefer not to share tilers’ contact.

      Reply to this comment

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