Full Tile Installation
Exceeding expectations

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.

 

Preparation

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 them.

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 expired.

Here is a typical cross view of a shower floor.

showerfloor

 

 

 

Installing tile

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 caused this."

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 corner

detail2


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.

detail3


 

Grout

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

detail4 


 

Other

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.