Even with a perfect tile installation, some light distortion caused by the natural variation in the tile’s surface is inevitable. Lighting can take the smallest variance and cast a large shadow. The severity of the shadow is determined by the angle of the light. Obviously the most critical view is seen when the light source washes straight down or across the surface of the tile, making lightning placement a critical aspect on every project.
The above photograph shows the effect of overhead lighting panels mounted next to the wall resulting in “wall wash”. This harsh lighting technique creates harsh shadows that accentuate any irregularities in the surface of the tile.
This photo shows the dramatic visual improvement achieved simply by moving the overhead lighting just one ceiling panel (24″) from the wall. The same irregularities in the tile are present, but the lighting makes them unnoticable.
effects of bad light placement when installing tile
The photograph on the left shows the effect of overhead lighting panels mounted next to the wall resulting in “wall wash”. This harsh lighting technique creates dramatic shadows that accentuate any irregularities in the surface of the tile.
The photo on the right shows the dramatic visual improvement achieved simply by moving the overhead lighting just one ceiling panel (24″) from the wall tile.
The wall, tile, fluorescent fixtures and camera angle are exactly the same in both photographs. The only difference is the placement of the lighting fixtures.
how to address wall wash lighting in your tile installation
If wall wash lighting is specified or is already in place, it should be at least 12 inches out from the wall in which the tile will be installed. If the lighting is already in place and is less than 12 inches away from the wall, this should be addressed with the client prior to installing the tile. It needs to be made clear that lighting may affect the final appearance, giving the perception that the lippage is outside of the specification when it may be fine.
Issues with Natural Lighting in your tile installation
Natural lighting can have the same impact on a tile project, so window and door placement must also be taken into consideration. The angle of natural sunlight can magnify naturally occurring, acceptable variations in ceramic tile as much, if not more than, artificial lighting. The harshness of this affect can vary based on the time of day and the sun’s position in the sky. All of these things should be taken into account while planning your tile project.