The difference is in the details!
Question: Are all tile installers the same?
Answer: Absolutely not!
To assume that all tile installers do equal workmanship
would be the same as saying all cars are of equal quality because they have four wheels. Much like
a car, there are many factors that define the quality of an individuals install. The following is a
detailed list of those factors.
An often overlooked and very crucial step to a long lasting install. Much like
the foundation of your home, an ill prepared job will be a likely candidate for premature failure. More
often then not, the homeowner will be unaware of any problems or short cuts taken here as they are covered by the
finished product, e.g. tile and grout. Many items must be taken into consideration here.
1: Is there an existing floor to be removed first? It may be tempting to choose
an estimate that is 10-15% less by installing over an existing floor. Nobody wants to pay more for a project
then necessary. However, without removing the existing floor, there is no way to determine whether the sub-floor is
of sound quality, e.g. rotten plywood from water exposure, nails in plywood missed joist (common cause of squeaky
floor) Just like sweeping dirt under a rug, the problem still exists, but is only temporarily out of
site. A little more time spent here helps ensure a good return on your investment.
2: What type of underlayment/backerboard should be used? Today, manufacturers are
offering an ever increasing amount of styles to choose from. We prefer to use time tested materials such as,
Portland cement, 100% cement board and premium self leveling underlayments depending on the application. Using
these products will do little good if not properly installed and no "it's all going to get covered" does not
improve the quality. It is our opinion that some of the newer alternatives offer a greater benefit
to the tile contractor and very little to the homeowner over the life span of the install, so we choose not to use
3: Don't tile shower floors always get moldy and leak? No, not if all of the
necessary steps are taken during the preparation of the shower base. Our shower pans begin with a pre-pan followed
with pvc liner then the final-pan. The pre-pan is a layer of Portland cement installed to give the pvc liner pitch,
this helps prevents mold by not allowing water collect under the tile. The porpoise of pvc liner is to
carry any water that has penetrated the tile and grout to the drain. The final-pan is what will determine how the
final product will look and perform, e.g. water does not pool in the corners, shower floor is comfortable to
stand on and looks good. Again, there are many area's the tile contractor can cut out to reduce there time and cost
with out the homeowner being aware, until the mold and leaks start, often long after any type of warranty may have
Here is a typical cross view of a shower floor.
The quality and performance of this section relies greatly on the steps covered
in the preparation explained above. Now that the prep work is completed, we will discuss the proper steps to
installing the tile.
1: We need to determine what type of mortar is
required. There are several factors that help us make this decision. Some of the more common factors include,
type of tile, size of tile and how thick the mortar will be. A very good example would be the difference between a
porcelain tile and ceramic tile. These tiles may look simular in appearance, but a lower cost mortar with a
shear bonding strength of 100-150psi for a ceramic bodied tile is acceptable, it will not "stick" as
well to a porcelain bodied tile and set the stage for a pre-mature failure. For a porcelain tile we prefer to
use a mortar with a shear bonding strength of up to 600psi. These mortars with a higher bonding strength cost about
4 times as much as a standard mortar and can greatly influence some tile contractors choice of which product to
use. A thin bed mortar will work well for most tiles 12x12 and smaller. Some of the bigger tiles may require a
medium bed mortar, especially over an uneven surface like concrete.
2: Now that we have selected the appropriate mortar, we must decide where to
start installing the tile. Do we get some spacers start in the corner and go? No, they key to a good looking
finished product is to determine where all of the tile will go prior to cutting in a single piece. By laying out an
the area to be tiled, we are able to make adjustments to avoid less desirable cuts caused by walls that may not be
square or plumb/level. A fair amount of time may be spent adjusting the lay out to accommodate such irregularities
and many tile contractors could see this as a waste of there time, and back it up by stating "YOUR wall
3: We know where the tile will go, now we must execute the install in a
professional manner. There are many small details that can be done to accomplish this, such as marking and
cutting pieces consistently, this helps avoid a stair step look along an out of plumb wall. Be sure
to keep grout joints properly aligned in corners of walls. Using straight lines, rather then spacers
ensures a straight looking floor, no matter how inconsistent the tiles may be, this also prevents a stair step look
or a curved look in the grout joint. Proper alignment where tiles installed diagonally meet in corners of walls.
Below are detailed pictures of these examples having been accomplished.
Tiles correctly aligned and pattern continues to flow in decorative piece threw the
Here, a shower bench with pitch (not level) to direct water toward the drain. By measuring
the cut on both sides of the tile we are able to provide a consistent grout line for a better finished look.
The final stage of a tile install. A Portland cement based grout is most common, with a sanded
texture for wider grout joints and non-sanded for thinner grout joints. As with the prior steps covered on this
page, great care must be taken to provide a high quality finished look.
1: Grout should be mixed according to the manufacturers specification, using clean tap water (well
water may alter the color of grout.) Based on my experience, many people will mix the grout with too
much water. Doing this requires less effort to pack the grout into the joints, but will make the grout weaker,
reducing it's life span and possibly cause the color of the grout to dry a lighter color and/or make the
color inconsistent. By mixing according to specification we can be confident the grout will look and last
as long as intended.
2: Cleaning the grout from the tile surface requires great care as well. Leaving access
water on the surface should be avoided to prevent making the grout weaker and/or in correct finished
color. Shape the grout joints to a consistent size. Shape and clean out corners where tiles meet, access grout
built up in corners will crack out and leave an undesirable look.
Here access grout has been cleaned out of the corner where the tiles meet in the corner as
well as where the tile meets the counter top
While not having a direct impact on the quality of the tile that
is installed, other things to consider are how we care for your home while we work.
1: While doing a very large tear out may be hard to contain all
of the dust, there are steps we can take to minimize the dust, e.g. covering return air vents, use a vacumm
to clean up instead of broom, close or cover door openings etc.
2: Cutting and mixing materials outside of your home, or working
in an unfinished portion of your home that has been isolated from the rest.
3: Maintain a tidy worksite after work is
completed every day.
4: Taking care of existing finished products in your home. I
can't imagine anyone would be happy with a new floor if we trashed your cabinets and walls while working.
This is simply avoided by paying attention to our surroundings.