The thing with tile is that it doesn’t take much to screw it up. One slightly misplaced tile can end up throwing off the whole project. Tile installation mistakes are hard to cover up and fixing them usually means ripping up the floor and starting over.
Hiring a professional installer is a great idea, especially if you have a complicated pattern or special edging. But locating the right installer may not be as easy as it seems. Did you know that tile installers can have certifications and be members of a national association? Clearly some installers are more qualified than others.
Here are 10 things you should avoid if you want to find a high-quality tile installer.
DON’T take up offers from your handyman, carpenter, or other non-expert.
It’s nice to have someone around who can handle odds and ends of home repair and improvement. But your tile fdoesn't all into this category. Find someone with at least three years of experience installing tile and a proven track record in both floor and wall tile.
DON’T assume big box retail stores have relationships with installers.
Large home centers work with customers like you all day long and may not have their finger on the pulse of current installation methods and those educated in them.. Instead, go to someone who works with contractors, installers, architects, and designers regularly like tile stores or showrooms—they have more experience working directly with qualified installers.
Consider talking to a commercial contractor. The vast majority of tile goes into commercial buildings and if you can talk to a commercial contractor, you’ll get advice from some of the most experienced tile professionals.
Stop by your local Daltile store or sales center and pick the brains of the people who talk with installers and contractors every day.
DON’T assume your installer is licensed, certified, or insured.
Always check to see that your prospective installer is certified, licensed, and has current insurance. Membership in the NTCA (National Tile Contractors Association) is a necessity for a pro-grade job. Also check out whether your prospective installer has training through the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF). The CTEF provides training and assessments for installers and certifies they are equipped with the latest techniques for a growing and changing tile world.
DON’T skip asking the important questions.
You know what they say about enquiring minds. A few well-placed questions can help you find out a lot about prospective installers. Don’t forget to ask key questions:
• How long will the project take?
• How much tile is needed?
• How many people will be working on the project?
• Have you worked on projects like this before (large format tile, wood look, etc.)
DON’T move forward without seeing the installer’s work.
A picture is worth a thousand words. Ask to see pictures of completed work with an eye for quality. Look closely through the portfolio and you’ll be able to tell the work of a good installer from a great installer.
There should be even spacing between tiles and perfectly straight grout lines. Look to see that the layout is balanced and that any cut tiles are the same size even if they are on opposite ends of the room. Pay attention to windows, doors, and corners. These are the trickiest places to work around and should be a good indication of the skill level of the tile installer. Walk away if you see large gaps, too much grout, or any ill-fitting tile.
DON’T forget to learn from others’ experience.
Keep an ear to the ground when checking out a potential installer. Ask for testimonials, search for reviews online. Give special attention to reviews with pictures so you can verify his or her work. Follow up with references and get familiar with the installer’s M.O.
DON’T underestimate the value of organization.
Tile installation requires a lot of organization. An installer has to work efficiently because mortars, adhesives, and grout dry quickly and messiness can cause problems. If you can, try to watch your prospective installer at work or at least see his or her work space.
An organized work site has tiles prepared and stacked. Cuts have already been made and you might even see a map or plan of the pattern. An excellent tile installer makes all cuts and does all cleanup outdoors to keep the dust and mess down inside. Plastic to protect surfaces near the installation or sealing the work area off from the rest of the house indicates a particularly mindful and considerate installer.
DON’T forget to get it in writing.
Once you’ve found a tile installer that meets your expectations, ask for a bid in writing. You might need to ask an architect to draw up the exact specs of your room and the pattern and layout you want. You’ll get a more accurate estimate and show your installer that you’re serious about a job well done.
A good installer isn’t afraid to guarantee his or her work. Get a written guarantee that the work will be free from leaks and other issues. You should expect a guarantee that covers you for about two years.
DON’T buy the tile yourself.
There are a lot of technicalities and ratings that your installer will understand better than you. You don’t want to end up with tile that isn’t suited to your application so let him or her handle the purchase of the tile. Plus, when you let your installer handle the tile, you won’t be responsible for any problems with the materials. It will fall under your installer’s guarantee.
DON’T devalue professionalism.
Even in this increasingly casual and do-it-yourself world, professionalism is still a hallmark of an excellent business. It is important that a prospective installer delivers that bid on time. A simple thing like whether the installer gets involved in the community can say a lot about how your project will be handled. The way they appear, speak, and interact all hint at the experience ahead for you and your project.
Avoid a tile disaster and call in the professionals. With some careful consideration, you can find a stellar tile installer who’ll complete your project with finesse.