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Posted: 4/12/2006 9:28:38 AM EST
We have a soaking tub that is surrounded by tile. Unfortunately, there is only between 1/2-1" of space on either side of the tub (between the tub and tile wall). In the back of the tub, there is only 1/8-1/2". The tub sits in a boxed off section where there is also tile applied.

These small spaces create a skinny crack that water can get into. Because the cracks are so skinny, it's impossible to get a towel down in there (especially the back side) to clean up.

I talked with our tile guy about just filling that with grout so at least we'd be able to dry any water that gets splashed in the crack. He said that grout wouldn't stick there and movement of the tub when it gets filled up would crack it.

I'm not crazy about just filling it with caulk, but that might be the only option.

Does anybody have any idea on what to do with that area to keep it dry and make clean up easier?

Thanks,

Corey
Link Posted: 4/12/2006 9:34:22 AM EST
[Last Edit: 4/12/2006 9:36:32 AM EST by jmarkma]
Thats an interesting problem. If your tub has movement it must not have been set in cement, so your tile guy is right about the cracking. Only thing I could think of is to build a cap, made of tile, around 3 sides of the tub with caulk between the cap and tub and a wood frame around the wall supporting the cap.

BTW I am no expert on this, just thought I would offer a little help with the brainstorming.
Link Posted: 4/12/2006 9:35:50 AM EST
[Last Edit: 4/12/2006 9:36:03 AM EST by mjohn3006]
Nothing 87 gallons of Caulk won't fix.
Link Posted: 4/12/2006 9:36:25 AM EST
pics would help.
Link Posted: 4/12/2006 9:37:09 AM EST

Originally Posted By Raven_Fire:
pics would help.



+1
Link Posted: 4/12/2006 9:40:40 AM EST
What I think your talking about is you have a box that is tiled and the tub is sunken into it like a top mount sink. Then you have walls close to the edge on at least 2 sides.

1 inch of caulk is going to be ugly.

If what I describe is correct how about paper towels to soak up the water. Just let it wick up.
Link Posted: 4/12/2006 9:50:13 AM EST
A good trim guy can fix you up. He can trim it out with some of the waterproof moulding, and leave it flush so a small bead of caulk will seal it.

Depending on size, it may even be possible to build the crack up to just below flushn and cap with pieces of tile that are cut to fit. Then caulk as usual.

As mentioned, pics would help.
Link Posted: 4/12/2006 9:54:27 AM EST
I'll try and get pics up tonight.

Thanks!

Corey
Link Posted: 4/12/2006 10:19:11 AM EST

Originally Posted By Corey:
I'll try and get pics up tonight.

Thanks!

Corey


Plumber here, I can envision what you are talking about but will wait for the pics.
Link Posted: 4/12/2006 10:24:30 AM EST
Hey everyone, thanks!

Can someone just tell me we're going to be able to fix this withing having it detract from the hundreds of dollars worth of tile we have around the tub?

We're at the tail end of building our first home and this is the last major issue (I think, hope, etc.) that we need to deal with. Tell me it will all work out so I don't have to worry about it anymore, 'kay?



Corey
Link Posted: 4/12/2006 6:01:32 PM EST
I just got a new harddrive and lost my MS photo editor software in the process. I can't put these up on AR15.com because the pics are too big and I lack the computer saavy to reduce the size.

Can someone walk me through the reduction process (I use to reduce them to 25% size). Either that or I can email them to interested professionals offering advice.

Thanks,

Corey

PS I will be logging off shortly and won't be back until tomorrow a.m. Thanks for all your help everyone! I've always said that AR15.com is the place to go for any question. Not only will you get it answered, but the response will be from a professional in that field. Ya'll are great. Thanks again.
Link Posted: 4/12/2006 6:04:59 PM EST
i have a big soaking tub and it has the same large caulk thing.

as your tile guy said, you need it there for the movement
Link Posted: 4/12/2006 6:12:23 PM EST

Originally Posted By NoVaGator:
i have a big soaking tub and it has the same large caulk thing.

as your tile guy said, you need it there for the movement



You've gotta see my pictures, though. This doesn't seem right.



Corey
Link Posted: 4/13/2006 3:01:18 AM EST

Originally Posted By Corey:
I just got a new harddrive and lost my MS photo editor software in the process. I can't put these up on AR15.com because the pics are too big and I lack the computer saavy to reduce the size.

Can someone walk me through the reduction process (I use to reduce them to 25% size). Either that or I can email them to interested professionals offering advice.

Thanks,

Corey

PS I will be logging off shortly and won't be back until tomorrow a.m. Thanks for all your help everyone! I've always said that AR15.com is the place to go for any question. Not only will you get it answered, but the response will be from a professional in that field. Ya'll are great. Thanks again.



Set up a photobucket account. It may take longer to upload the large photos but it automaticaly resizes when you do.
Link Posted: 4/13/2006 4:37:07 AM EST
Okay, I managed to resize them on a different computer using the Windows photo editor (I have to find that on my PC...).

Here they are.









After looking at them again, I think that maybe the back and right sides could be dealt with by filling the crack with caulk. But what do you guys think?

Thanks!

Corey
Link Posted: 4/13/2006 4:55:56 AM EST
OMFG!!
I'd kill (well beat the snot out of them) the sub and the Gen Contractor!

I think 1/4 round tile with caulk would fix it , and might not look too ugly
Link Posted: 4/13/2006 4:58:58 AM EST
[Last Edit: 4/13/2006 5:01:29 AM EST by ZitiForBreakfast]
They make tile that is kind of like baseboard trim. Get some of that, grout it in, then run a bead..You'll be all set.

+1 on kicking the guy in the head who did that work.



Link Posted: 4/13/2006 5:00:49 AM EST

Originally Posted By Corey:
I just got a new harddrive and lost my MS photo editor software in the process. I can't put these up on AR15.com because the pics are too big and I lack the computer saavy to reduce the size.

Can someone walk me through the reduction process (I use to reduce them to 25% size). Either that or I can email them to interested professionals offering advice.

Thanks,

Corey

PS I will be logging off shortly and won't be back until tomorrow a.m. Thanks for all your help everyone! I've always said that AR15.com is the place to go for any question. Not only will you get it answered, but the response will be from a professional in that field. Ya'll are great. Thanks again.

MS Paint, its under accessories on the start menu, use the stretch/skew option to reduce both axis to 25%.

Kharn
Link Posted: 4/13/2006 5:09:08 AM EST
[Last Edit: 4/13/2006 5:09:47 AM EST by Corey]
Okay, specifically what did they (tile guys and/or plumbers) do wrong? I need to know so I can talk about it with our GC.

And there IS tile set on the horizontal area around where the tub sits. You just can't really see it because of the bad picture on the left side and the small crack on the back/right.

Corey

EDIT: The tub we picked out was a tight fit for the area. What can we do to fix it now?
Link Posted: 4/13/2006 5:09:14 AM EST
For filing cracks with caulk, they have something called "rod backer". It is just hround foam available in different daimeters. Fet the 1/2 inch and fill the crack to below flush, then put a nice caulk bead on top. Movement is not a problem.

Go look at tile trim that is available. 1/4 round, rope, and several other styles available.

You can also screw some thin Backer boaed ripped to 3 or 4 inches to just above the tub (not touching) then use bullnose or edge tiles to go from wall to just above tub (not touching). Grout. Then when grout is set, caulk tile to tub. Will looked builr in and professional, not like something you will see at Motel6.

Your tileguy and builder suck, BTW. That install is not correct.
Link Posted: 4/13/2006 5:10:54 AM EST

Originally Posted By ar-wrench:
For filing cracks with caulk, they have something called "rod backer". It is just hround foam available in different daimeters. Fet the 1/2 inch and fill the crack to below flush, then put a nice caulk bead on top. Movement is not a problem.

Go look at tile trim that is available. 1/4 round, rope, and several other styles available.

You can also screw some thin Backer boaed ripped to 3 or 4 inches to just above the tub (not touching) then use bullnose or edge tiles to go from wall to just above tub (not touching). Grout. Then when grout is set, caulk tile to tub. Will looked builr in and professional, not like something you will see at Motel6.

Your tileguy and builder suck, BTW. That install is not correct.



What is correct install?

I need info to fix it.

Thanks,

Corey
Link Posted: 4/13/2006 5:11:35 AM EST
[Last Edit: 4/13/2006 5:12:21 AM EST by ZitiForBreakfast]

Originally Posted By Corey:
Okay, specifically what did they (tile guys and/or plumbers) do wrong? I need to know so I can talk about it with our GC.

And there IS tile set on the horizontal area around where the tub sits. You just can't really see it because of the bad picture on the left side and the small crack on the back/right.

Corey

EDIT: The tub we picked out was a tight fit for the area. What can we do to fix it now?



I think they measured all wrong and didn't count for something. The tub doesn't look like a tight fit.

The BEST fix would be to start all over again, get in thicker backer board, retile, then run a fine bead of caulk.
Link Posted: 4/13/2006 5:13:09 AM EST

Originally Posted By ZitiForBreakfast:

Originally Posted By Corey:
Okay, specifically what did they (tile guys and/or plumbers) do wrong? I need to know so I can talk about it with our GC.

And there IS tile set on the horizontal area around where the tub sits. You just can't really see it because of the bad picture on the left side and the small crack on the back/right.

Corey

EDIT: The tub we picked out was a tight fit for the area. What can we do to fix it now?



I think they measured all wrong and didn't count for something. The tub doesn't look like a tight fit.

The BEST fix would be to start all over again, get in thicker backer board, retile, then run a fine bead of caulk.



So the tile should come down from the wall and sit on top of the tub?

Corey
Link Posted: 4/13/2006 5:16:10 AM EST

Originally Posted By Corey:

Originally Posted By ZitiForBreakfast:

Originally Posted By Corey:
Okay, specifically what did they (tile guys and/or plumbers) do wrong? I need to know so I can talk about it with our GC.

And there IS tile set on the horizontal area around where the tub sits. You just can't really see it because of the bad picture on the left side and the small crack on the back/right.

Corey

EDIT: The tub we picked out was a tight fit for the area. What can we do to fix it now?



I think they measured all wrong and didn't count for something. The tub doesn't look like a tight fit.

The BEST fix would be to start all over again, get in thicker backer board, retile, then run a fine bead of caulk.



So the tile should come down from the wall and sit on top of the tub?

Corey



Not really..No. But you could. The front of the tub and the back of the tub are the sides that are furthest out. Those sides could use thicker backer board. The side of the tub looks pretty tigh where some trim tile and caulk would be best.

Or just have them trim tile the whole tub and you'll be good to go.

Link Posted: 4/13/2006 5:25:57 AM EST
After looking at the pics again, I'd recommend calling the builder and have him send his demo man over, tear out tile (and tub if necessary) and redo the whole thing.

If he is clueless on installing this kind of tub, contact the tub manufacturer and have them send a rep to instruct on the proper installation.

If you paid retail, have them make it right, not some half-assed fix you would see in a cobbled together rental house.
Link Posted: 4/13/2006 5:28:23 AM EST

Originally Posted By ar-wrench:
After looking at the pics again, I'd recommend calling the builder and have him send his demo man over, tear out tile (and tub if necessary) and redo the whole thing.

If he is clueless on installing this kind of tub, contact the tub manufacturer and have them send a rep to instruct on the proper installation.

If you paid retail, have them make it right, not some half-assed fix you would see in a cobbled together rental house.



Yup.

I think that is best.

Link Posted: 4/13/2006 5:29:32 AM EST
Post these pics and your problem Here John Bridge Tile Forum

These guys are pros, they helped me do 750 sq ft of tile, including a tub similar to yours.
Link Posted: 4/13/2006 5:43:23 AM EST
[Last Edit: 4/13/2006 5:43:57 AM EST by Corey]

Originally Posted By ar-wrench:
Post these pics and your problem Here John Bridge Tile Forum

These guys are pros, they helped me do 750 sq ft of tile, including a tub similar to yours.



Thread on www.johnbridge.com

Thanks!



Corey

EDITED to ask -- so how should the tile look? I need to know so I can tell my builder how to fix it.
Link Posted: 4/13/2006 5:53:55 AM EST
[Last Edit: 4/13/2006 5:54:33 AM EST by ar-wrench]
I would ask the pros over on John Bridges site. They set tile for a living, so you won't get any real answers till this evening.

I have usually seen those tubs mounted a good distance from the wall or on a pedistal with a flat area around the tub, all tiled for the water control problem.

And, your pics aren't working, you might try hosting them at tinypic.com

HTH
Link Posted: 4/13/2006 5:57:19 AM EST
i don't think they did it wrong....

that tub is designed for "deck mount" (or something like that) and your space is just too small.

it was spec'd wrong, but the installers did the job right given what they had to install.
Link Posted: 4/13/2006 6:08:31 AM EST

Originally Posted By NoVaGator:
i don't think they did it wrong....

that tub is designed for "deck mount" (or something like that) and your space is just too small.

it was spec'd wrong, but the installers did the job right given what they had to install.



So to fix it or make it workable, what should I do?

Corey
Link Posted: 4/13/2006 6:13:48 AM EST

Originally Posted By Corey:

Originally Posted By NoVaGator:
i don't think they did it wrong....

that tub is designed for "deck mount" (or something like that) and your space is just too small.

it was spec'd wrong, but the installers did the job right given what they had to install.



So to fix it or make it workable, what should I do?

Corey



get a smaller tub or a bigger area to put it in, i guess.

the gaps on the side look *tolerable* but the back gap is too small to manage.

Link Posted: 4/13/2006 6:15:25 AM EST

IMHO, have it redone. If I had to do it (I do not tile for a living, but set tile in my own property) I would :

1. Adjust the opening the tub sits in to allow 4 to 6" around the tub, then tile to the tub. (this involves moving 1 wall)

2. Get a smaller tub that fits the opening properly

3. Rip tile out, build walls up, then retile so tile overlaps tub minimun 3/8 inch (or so). Caulk tub/tile interface so as not to crack.

You will not be happu with an inch of caulk.
Link Posted: 4/13/2006 6:16:19 AM EST

Originally Posted By NoVaGator:

get a smaller tub or a bigger area to put it in, i guess.

the gaps on the side look *tolerable* but the back gap is too small to manage.




I think I'm going to have them pull the tub out a little bit. That way they can get a bead of caulk around the edge of the tub.

That work for everyone?

Corey
Link Posted: 4/13/2006 6:18:47 AM EST

Originally Posted By Corey:

Originally Posted By NoVaGator:

get a smaller tub or a bigger area to put it in, i guess.

the gaps on the side look *tolerable* but the back gap is too small to manage.




I think I'm going to have them pull the tub out a little bit. That way they can get a bead of caulk around the edge of the tub.

That work for everyone?

Corey



i would want to see at least 2 inches around each side.
Link Posted: 4/13/2006 6:20:45 AM EST

Originally Posted By ar-wrench:
IMHO, have it redone. If I had to do it (I do not tile for a living, but set tile in my own property) I would :

1. Adjust the opening the tub sits in to allow 4 to 6" around the tub, then tile to the tub. (this involves moving 1 wall)

2. Get a smaller tub that fits the opening properly

3. Rip tile out, build walls up, then retile so tile overlaps tub minimun 3/8 inch (or so). Caulk tub/tile interface so as not to crack.

You will not be happu with an inch of caulk.



#1 is not possible.

#2 might not be possible. The tub is payed for.

#3 is probably going to be the best solution. Shit, someone is going to have to pay for this and I hope it ain't me....

Pulling it out a bit won't be acceptable? What is the minimum "accepted" gap that should be around a tub like this?

Corey
Link Posted: 4/13/2006 6:21:42 AM EST

Originally Posted By NoVaGator:

i would want to see at least 2 inches around each side.



Shoot. That ain't gonna happen.

I am not a happy camper right now.



Corey
Link Posted: 4/13/2006 6:23:35 AM EST
Before you get pissed at any contractor...

Did you spec the tub or was it just part of the bid? If you spec'ed out the tub, somebody probably should have warned you how it may look after installation.

Did the plumber know the surround would be tiled?

Regardless of who was at fault, you have a problem that needs attention, thought I'd ask if you were the one who wanted this tub to avoid an embarrassment on your part.

BRB
Link Posted: 4/13/2006 6:25:02 AM EST

Originally Posted By Corey:

Originally Posted By NoVaGator:

get a smaller tub or a bigger area to put it in, i guess.

the gaps on the side look *tolerable* but the back gap is too small to manage.




I think I'm going to have them pull the tub out a little bit. That way they can get a bead of caulk around the edge of the tub.

That work for everyone?

Corey


I wouldn't rip the tub out, not neccessary
Link Posted: 4/13/2006 6:26:57 AM EST

Originally Posted By NoVaGator:
i don't think they did it wrong....

that tub is designed for "deck mount" (or something like that) and your space is just too small.

it was spec'd wrong, but the installers did the job right given what they had to install.


+1
Link Posted: 4/13/2006 6:28:56 AM EST

Originally Posted By NoVaGator:
i have a big soaking tub and it has the same large caulk thing.

as your tile guy said, you need it there for the movement


If the tub is set in a base of sandmix it wouldn't move.
Link Posted: 4/13/2006 6:31:52 AM EST
The apron needs to be wide enough for cleaning and maintenance. Running and maintaining a caulk seal around the back of the tub with only 2" is a bitch, not enough room to get the gun in there, and finish off the caulk seal. It can be done, but it is a pain. I would like to see 4 to 6" like I said. Also, that gives you "sponge width" for cleaning and drying.

If the tub is not properly sealed, you will have wood rot and mold growing that will be very expensive to fix later. If this is upstairs, multiply damage by 4.

To "move the tub out a little" will be the same as "move a lot". The tub is probably sitting on a plywood deck cut out for the tub. To move it, the tub has to come out, deck removed and another cut to fit. Then new frame built (or old one modified), and deck put in. Then reinstall tub, and tile.

There should be concrete backer board under ALL your tile in wet areas, if not, look for failure 5 or 6 years down the road if in daily use.
Link Posted: 4/13/2006 6:33:15 AM EST

Originally Posted By Orygunman:
Before you get pissed at any contractor...

Did you spec the tub or was it just part of the bid? If you spec'ed out the tub, somebody probably should have warned you how it may look after installation.

Did the plumber know the surround would be tiled?

Regardless of who was at fault, you have a problem that needs attention, thought I'd ask if you were the one who wanted this tub to avoid an embarrassment on your part.

BRB



I agree. And I'm not going to go off on anyone without having a good reason. That isn't my style.

We had custom plans drawn which had space for a soaker tub. Our builder has a "standard" tub that he used. We upgraded a bit and went with bit a better tub. The plumbing store we bought it from never told us it was a different size. I don't know if we'd have the same problems with the builders tub, but guess we would. I believe the tub is the same dimensions as the builders regular tub.

The plumbers dropped the tub in on a drywall deck not knowing that we were going to be tiling around it. The plumbers pulled the tub out and let it sit in the bedroom.

The tile guy we work with was on site on a number of occassions to look at the area, measure it for tile, etc. They then tiled the top leaving the front open so the plumbers could install the tub.

Plumbers just installed the tub and this is what we were left with.

Somewhere there's been a serious disconnect. We've never built a house before. Our builder has let us walk into other situations in this project where, because he wasn't exercising enough oversight or giving us any direction, we should've known something but didn't.

Any advice (even about who I should be bitching to) is appreciated.

Thanks for mentioning this Orygunman. Very good point.

Corey
Link Posted: 4/13/2006 6:33:52 AM EST

Originally Posted By ar-wrench:
After looking at the pics again, I'd recommend calling the builder and have him send his demo man over, tear out tile (and tub if necessary) and redo the whole thing.

If he is clueless on installing this kind of tub, contact the tub manufacturer and have them send a rep to instruct on the proper installation.

If you paid retail, have them make it right, not some half-assed fix you would see in a cobbled together rental house.


From the looks of the pictures, the tub is installed correctly but it is a little too big for this type of installation. That tub is a deck-mount.
Link Posted: 4/13/2006 6:36:36 AM EST
[Last Edit: 4/13/2006 6:39:58 AM EST by Corey]
Here's some more information responding to suggestions/questions.

I'll check at lunch to see if they can slide the tub forward at all.

I'm guessing the current gaps as:

- left side approx. 1"
- back approx. 1/4" but it varies
- left side approx. 1/2"

Corey

EDIT: One more thing. The plumbers secured the tub by blowing in Great Stuff type sealant around the bottom (where the bottom of the tub sits above the floor by a few inches) creating a "bed" for it to sit in. They then left it filled up 1/4 way with water so it set in there. I don't know if this is good, bad or indifferent.

I appreciate people saying that the tub is installed correctly for the type of tub it is. Taking that as a given, what can be done to fix it with the current tub and walls? (The walls are not moving.)

EDIT #2: There is concrete board behind the tile.
Link Posted: 4/13/2006 6:41:25 AM EST

Originally Posted By Corey:

Originally Posted By Orygunman:
Before you get pissed at any contractor...

Did you spec the tub or was it just part of the bid? If you spec'ed out the tub, somebody probably should have warned you how it may look after installation.

Did the plumber know the surround would be tiled?

Regardless of who was at fault, you have a problem that needs attention, thought I'd ask if you were the one who wanted this tub to avoid an embarrassment on your part.

BRB



I agree. And I'm not going to go off on anyone without having a good reason. That isn't my style.

We had custom plans drawn which had space for a soaker tub. Our builder has a "standard" tub that he used. We upgraded a bit and went with bit a better tub. The plumbing store we bought it from never told us it was a different size. I don't know if we'd have the same problems with the builders tub, but guess we would. I believe the tub is the same dimensions as the builders regular tub.

The plumbers dropped the tub in on a drywall deck not knowing that we were going to be tiling around it. The plumbers pulled the tub out and let it sit in the bedroom.

The tile guy we work with was on site on a number of occassions to look at the area, measure it for tile, etc. They then tiled the top leaving the front open so the plumbers could install the tub.

Plumbers just installed the tub and this is what we were left with.

Somewhere there's been a serious disconnect. We've never built a house before. Our builder has let us walk into other situations in this project where, because he wasn't exercising enough oversight or giving us any direction, we should've known something but didn't.

Any advice (even about who I should be bitching to) is appreciated.

Thanks for mentioning this Orygunman. Very good point.

Corey


Dude, I've been plumbing for 15 yrs. and have seen this same scenario before many times because the customer wanted a diferent tub, tubs come in a variety of sizes. We can only install what the customer or builder asks us to. Been there, done that. I've warned customers before of things and they never listen, only to bitch about it later. Not saying this is what you are doing, just letting you know what I've experienced before.
Link Posted: 4/13/2006 6:43:45 AM EST
[Last Edit: 4/13/2006 6:45:29 AM EST by Corey]

Originally Posted By Orygunman:

Dude, I've been plumbing for 15 yrs. and have seen this same scenario before many times because the customer wanted a diferent tub, tubs come in a variety of sizes. We can only install what the customer or builder asks us to. Been there, done that. I've warned customers before of things and they never listen, only to bitch about it later. Not saying this is what you are doing, just letting you know what I've experienced before.



Roger that.

This is not the first time that our builder has let us step on our dicks. The lack of direction that we've had on certain aspects of this build has been terrible (and cost us money).

Now, back to fixing it?

I really appreciate getting your professional advice. Thank you.

Corey

EDITED to add that I'm not sure that the builders tub would have fit this opening. I really need to measure the opening to make sure it meets with the plans. Maybe it doesn't. But nobody in this process has told us we need to be concerned about this. Everyone comes in and does their own thing regardless of how it works with other aspects of the job. And it should be our builders job to stay on top of this, right?
Link Posted: 4/13/2006 6:46:27 AM EST
I am sorry, but the folks saying it is a correct install is the same as a doctor claiming the operastion was a success, but the patient died.

The end product is NFG .

At this point, toss the ball to the builder, that is what you paid him $20,000 or so for. It is his problem, tell him to fix it, And you won't be happy till it is right.

Hopefully you still have some of his money.
Link Posted: 4/13/2006 6:50:12 AM EST
They blew Great Stuff under the tub? I thought sand was the standard?
Or at least thats what Dad had put under all of our tubs when our house was under construction.

Kharn
Link Posted: 4/13/2006 6:59:15 AM EST

Originally Posted By Kharn:
They blew Great Stuff under the tub? I thought sand was the standard?
Or at least thats what Dad had put under all of our tubs when our house was under construction.

Kharn



Great stuff and installing tile on sheetrock is what the cheepie track house builders do. It is done, but it is nowhere near a first class job.

The tub should be set on sand mix , it is more work, that is why you see "concrete in a can" used instead. Check the installation instructions, it doesn't say anything about foam.
Link Posted: 4/13/2006 7:02:35 AM EST
Here's what I would do, if it were me.

If you want the tub moved 1/4" one way or the other, I guess you could do that but it's not necessary, unless that 1/4" is really bothering you, within a 1/4" isn't that bad. I've seen far worse installs.

As far as leaving water in the tub, good idea on the plumberts part, as the weight of water helps hold the tub inplace while the sandmix sets-up.

Remove the tile from the walls. The first row of tile on the wall needs to have a base tile that has a bullnose at the bottom, where it would set flush or a little above the rim of the tub. The base or deck could be built up with cement backer board and grout up to the rim of the tub, to give the base tile something to adhere to besides just air. The gap needs to be filled. This would be the best thing to do, IMO. I would not accept filling the gap with caulking or silicone.

You are correct that the tub the builder was going to use woul;d have probably been the same way. Ask him how they normally finish this off with tile. I fhis answer is they normlaly fill the gap with caulking, not acceptable, IMO.
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