Neuse Tile Service

Tile installation and service tips from professional installers


Leaks in tile showers and construction integrity

A local resident called us last week to talk about replacing the shower bottom in his 1 ½ year-old home. He said he has a pan leak in his second-story shower, and, since his one-year warranty “is up” he is sure his original contractor won’t help him.

We encouraged him to go back to his builder and strongly urge the contractor, his plumber, and his tile person to work together to resolve the issue. It may take some time and persuasion, but properly prepared tile showers are not supposed to leak after 1, 3, 5 or even 10 years!

We’ve been doing business in the Triangle for a long time, and it used to be very rare to get a call about a shower pan leak. In the mid-90s we did start getting a lot of calls about tile falling off shower walls because one production builder had come to town and was adhering tile onto drywall in showers (it will start falling off in less than 2 years). However, even then, shower bottom leaks were uncommon.

Now though, we get at least two calls a week from homeowners who have a water spot on the downstairs ceiling right below their master shower, or who have discovered rotten wood or water damage in their crawl space under a shower that’s been leaking for a while. Most of the time, these leaks are not in houses built in the 1970s, 1980s, or even the 1990s. These are very often houses built within the past 5-7 years.

From the number we’ve torn out and re-done, we can tell you that most of the leaks are at the corners of the curb where the pan is not installed properly, from a nail that someone has driven through the edge of the shower pan (it takes about 5 years for the nail head to rust away and the water to work its way through that resulting hole) or from a seat or half-wall that was not properly wrapped with a waterproofing membrane.

We could go on and on about how we feel about this kind of workmanship, and about what has happened to the construction industry in the past 10 years, and about why these problems are more prevalent, but the point is that there is a great deal of tile being installed in the Triangle area, and a good bit of it is being done in a way that will create future problems.

It might look fine on the surface (there are some talented tile placers in our area), but that doesn’t mean there’s any subsurface integrity. We know that this will eventually cause a dislike of tile showers, but the real problem is lack of education: installers who just don’t know any better (or don’t care); builders who don’t understand the importance of hiring a quality tile subcontractor; and homeowners who wouldn’t know that there’s a future problem lurking under the beautiful surface.

We support our industry’s efforts to educate tile installers, and we are doing better at getting more Certified Tile Installers in our area – that’s a great thing! However, we seem to be having difficulty educating the area’s construction industry. The recent recession put such pressure on builders’ profit margins, that they’ve cut every expenditure possible. Paying for knowledgeable, professional trades people has been a first place for many of them to cut back. And that’s probably why we get so many calls on leaking shower pans in relatively new homes.

We could just embrace the faults of others and advertise our ability to fix mistakes of people who should know better. However, we really would prefer to raise the expectation of homeowners and contractors by encouraging them to ask about a tile installers’ credentials, expertise, and methods.

You cannot hire someone in any construction trade based solely on price, and, in our business, you can’t even hire just based on photos of past work. You need to hire based on integrity: the integrity of an installer who is trained and Certified in the craft; the integrity of the installation materials being used properly, and the integrity of a company which will stand behind its work for years to come.

Will it cost more to work with us than with the guy who put a magnetic sign on his truck yesterday? Yes. Insurance, taxes, training, staff, classes, marketing, and professionalism aren’t free, and we have to recover our costs so that we can stay in business. However, paying for your installation once (done the right way) will still be cheaper than paying a low price for it now and paying to re-do it in 5-7 years. Make your money count for the long-term!

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What is a Five-Star Tile Contractor?

The National Tile Contractor’s Association recognizes an elite group of tile installation companies and classifies them as “Five Star Contractors”. What does that mean to you and your tile job? NTCA5starcontractor

By hiring Neuse Tile Service or another Five-Star contractor you can count on a company that:

  • Actively participates in educational and training programs;
  • Has a track record of success in tile & stone installations;
  • Is recommended by suppliers and peers in the tile industry;
  • Is committed to quality tile & stone installations;
  • Operates with sound business practices;
  • Has an active, operating safety program;
  • Applies ‘best practices’ on every job;
  • Is nationally recognized as a tile professional and leader in the industry;
  • Is an active member of the National Tile Contractors Association (since 1984 for Neuse Tile).

Who you choose to install your tile matters — now and in the future. When you want it to last, choose a Five-Star Contractor.

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Why can’t you match my stone?

Marble striations

StoneWorld magazine photo.

We’ve been asked to address a problem with a small crack running through the marble in an entrance area. While the underlying problem is movement in the concrete slab under the tile (installed by others), an additional issue is matching the stone.

Natural stones like marble are just that — natural. The chances of duplicating the colors and veining in marble after several years are like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack. As you can see in this photo, marble is cut in quarries (this one 490+ feet deep so far) which produce tons of material each year. This material is shipped over the world, and tracing it back to a particular point of origin is often an impossibility.

While we can order samples, and try to get close, it’s doubtful that we’ll be able to keep the consistent look of the original installation. So, does the customer learn to live with the crack, accept an area of marble that isn’t the same color as the original, or remove the entire area and replace it with a new material?

Here’s the caution from us: When natural stone is used in an installation, it is imperative that extra material be ordered and stored as ‘attic stock.’ Make sure you ask your installer to order extra materials, and be sure you store them in a safe place so they’ll be available should you ever need them to preserve your installation.


Is your tile cleaner ruining your grout?

The best tile installation can be ruined over time by using the wrong cleaner.

We got high praise from the owner, the contractor, and the architect when we completed a local medical facility several years ago. However, when the owner contacted us recently, they weren’t so pleased with the look of their installation,enzymatic cleaner damage

It seems the epoxy grout we had installed (as per the specifications) was deteriorating, leaving gaps and very unsightly grout joints throughout the project. The grout we used at that time was a new brand to the market, but was approved by all authorities for a commercial installation.

When we went to evaluate the current situation for the customer, we observed that the areas closest to the walls and out of the normal traffic pattern were in-tact, and the grout still looked good. However, the area where routine cleaning had taken place were the areas of greatest deterioration.

We suggested the building owner find out what kind of cleaner the maintenance crew has been using. You see, a newer type of “no rinse” cleaner is often used in commercial applications. These enzymatic cleaners accelerate the breakdown of products such as sugars, fats, proteins, and body fluids. And, because they are left on the floors overnight, the byproduct of the breakdown is acidic and cumulative. After days, and weeks of using this type of cleaner, a highly acidic solution develops that rapidly deteriorates grouts.

There are some newer grouts that have been developed to withstand these harsh cleaners, but these must be specified prior to tile installation and most manufacturers still will not warranty their products against ‘no rinse’ cleaners.

Keep your new tile installation looking good by cleaning it with the proper product. We give our customers maintenance instructions, and always recommend a pH-neutral cleaner be used on tile and grout. Vinegar, bleach, “no rinse”, and acidic cleaners used over time are damaging to grout – of any kind.

It matters who installs your tile – and it matters how you maintain it!

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What’s the difference in tile, porcelain, and stone?

We specialize in the installation of products that don’t bend or flex, but not all the materials we work with are the same. When you’re deciding between hard surface materials for your floor or wall, consider these main categories:

Ceramic tile – typically white or red clay fired with a glaze on top; a man-made product requiring very little maintenance.

Porcelain tile – extremely fine powdered clay that is pressed under enormous pressure and heat; harder and more dense than ceramic; often the colored bisque matches the surface glaze. Virtually maintenance free and most are a good choice for outdoor installations.

Natural stone – quarried from the earth; no two pieces ever look the same. Requires periodic maintenance and sealing; and matching one mining lot to another is extremely difficult.

In addition to color, size, and type of tile, you’ll want to consider the tile’s texture, coefficient of friction (slipperiness when wet), potential exposure to temperature changes, and the flatness of the current substrate (larger tiles require flatter subfloors). Local tile distributors can help as you choose the best product for your project.

And, of course, choosing a certified tile installer or a Five-Star Contractor will ensure that the installation is as durable as the material itself.

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Tile has lowest impact per foot – when installed properly

It’s Spring, and we’re enjoying getting outside after a very cold and wet winter. So, we thought it would be a good time to talk about the positive environmental impact of choosing tile for your project.

Ceramic tile has the lowest 60-year environmental impact per square foot across all categories that evaluate how the manufacture and use of a product will affect the well being of humans and our environment. This is made clear when comparing tile’s Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) alongside other materials.

Similar to a nutrition label for foods, EPDs for tile are now available for use by architects and specifiers seeking to satisfy green building project requirements such as those set by LEED and other green building standards. EPDs are reader friendly, comprehensive disclosure statements detailing the environmental impacts of tile made in North America. “In providing summarized data related to tile manufacturing and use – from the raw material extraction process to disposal of tile at the end of its life – the EPD focuses on the green building community’s top concerns, including energy and resource consumption and emissions to air, land and water,” according to Bill Griese, Green Initiative Manager for the Tile Council of North America (TCNA).

The North American EPD was developed by TCNA and its participating members to respond to marketplace demands for transparency in construction materials and to give the design community the documentation they need.

“With the vast majority of tile produced in North America covered by the EPD, virtually all North American-made ceramic tile can contribute toward LEED and various other provisions in green standards, making it a powerful and useful tool for specifiers concerned with sustainable construction,” according to an article Griese wrote in TILE magazine, Jan/Feb. 2015.

The data aggregated to produce the EPD was provided by manufacturers: Arto, Crossville, Dal-Tile Corp., Florida Tile, Florim USA, Interceramic, Ironrock, Porcelanite Lamosa, Quarry Tile Co., StonePeak Ceramics, and Vitromex de Norteamerica. And, of course, all these manufacturers will tell you that tile is only truly Green if it’s installed by a qualified contractor who will make sure its installation is long-lasting!!

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Low price won’t turn clay & powder into tile artistry

“Without the tile installer, the tile and installation materials are nothing more than boxes of baked clay and bags of powder; the installer has everything to do with how the tiled floors and walls will look and how well they will hold up over time. Yet, there is very little – in most cases, nothing – to ensure that tiles will be laid straight, even and flat, or that they will not come unbonded or have other installation-related issues. Often, and especially on commercial projects, the first and sometimes only, consideration is the tile contractor’s price, and the lowest bidder is awarded the job,” says Stephanie Samulski, Project Manager at The Tile Council of North America.

“When it comes to hand-crafted work, there is, by necessity, more to the selection process than checking the price tag,” Samulski continued in a recent TILE magazine article. “When a brand new hospital or casino has to repair leaking shower units or cracked tiles, wing-by-wing or floor-by-floor, by rotating areas closed off for business, it’s not a stretch to say that the general contractor’s, architect’s, and building owner’s reputations and profit margins are literally in the tile installer’s hands.”

We couldn’t agree more, Stephanie!! As a former installer and current industry leader, Stephanie helps champion qualified contractors at all levels. She has been involved in the development of Qualified Labor language added to Master Spec and available for architects and specifiers to use in their projects. And she has participated in the curriculum development for the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation’s (CTEF) certification programs.

With those designations available from CTEF and the National Tile Contractors Associations Five-Star Contractor program, you can choose a tile installer, like Neuse Tile, that is fully capable of turning boxes of baked clay and bags of powder into long-lasting, useable art.


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