Tile is a finish trade (meaning no one comes behind us and covers our work). Framers, electricians, plumbers, and even drywall contractors, have at least some of their work covered over by the trades that come after them. This doesn’t make their work less important or expert, of course, but it does mean that small miscalculations by their workers can be covered over by the craftsmen who come later.
Tile has no such luxury. Our work is going to be there for you to evaluate every time you take a shower, sweep your floor, or clean behind your stove. And the material we work with is pretty unforgiving. Tile doesn’t bend, adjust or flex to mask a corner that’s out of line or a slight bump in the underlayment. Therefore, tile installers have to be exacting and precise. The good ones are pretty adamant about things being flat before they lay one piece!
It was interesting recently to watch two brothers-in-law working together on a home improvement for the family. Both are highly skilled and exacting in their trades — one a carpenter, and one a tile installer. However, the slight adjustments that the carpenter is used to making with his final trim were driving the tile guy crazy. Whereas the “wood guy” knew that his final product offered a little bit of flex and adaptability; the “tile guy” is accustomed to working with an unforgiving and inflexible end product. Therefore, their approaches to the sub-surface work they were doing were completely different.
In our blog and trade meetings, we talk a lot about the importance of “what’s under your tile” because it really will make the difference in your final outcome. The true expertise for the “wood guy” comes as his last finish nail is recessed, but for the “tile guy” it comes before the first piece of tile is laid.
A fair number of “tile guys” can make a beautiful finish out of an ugly start, but they think the end-look is the only thing that matters. We disagree whole-heartedly because, if the wrong product is used to “flatten” a floor, or even out a wall, then it will show up eventually. We’ve seen tile applied directly to dry wall that lasted through a one-year warranty — and then fell off the shower wall. We’ve seen thinset used to slope a floor — and then tile that began to crack and crunch after the floor was used for a few years.
Tile can cover up poor choices for a while, but with a few years of usage, that corner that was cut or sub-par product that was used will show up in cracking tiles, crunching noises, or even water leaks. Pay for your project only once, by choosing tile professionals who are as skilled at the finish of their trade as they are at the beginning approach.
Selecting a craftsman is an investment in your home or business. Hiring a low-bid tradesperson is an opportunity to spend even more money later. Choose wisely.