Neuse Tile Service

Tile installation and service tips from professional installers


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Parading the possibilities of last-minute construction

Subway tile with styleThe Parade of Homes sometimes brings out our hidden talents as 2nd story men, parking attendants, and temporary tile magicians. Every year, local home builders showcase their talents, and those of their subcontractors, as they open newly ‘completed’ projects to the public for 3 weekends of touring.

The dates aren’t a surprise, but construction schedules compress, and changes happen, so it always seems there’s a rush to meet the deadline for upcoming Parade entries. WHandmade tile on vent hoode do love working with our builders, so we go to great lengths to help them meet their goals.

We’ve gone up and down a ladder to grout a second-story floor while hardwoods were being finished downstairs, joined other trades to jam 50 work trucks in one cul-de-sac, and worked late nights redoing more than one design because of actual site conditions. And, we’re certain other trade contractors have plenty of similar stories.

So,Bath tile feature in honor of this year’s Parade, we’re sharing these photos to celebrate the impossible achieved on so many beautiful projects again this year! Go out and visit some Parade homes and feel free to offer a cup of coffee to any tired-looking contractors you see on-site.  🙂


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Hiring a tile installer

Every week we get calls from folks who have hired a tile layer who has or is causing them heartburn. Sometimes the job is current and sometimes it’s weeks or months later. Either way, the consumer is dealing with an installation that is less than the best that our industry can offer.

We love to help people, but we’d love it even more if people’s experiences with tile installers were positive and long-lasting from the start.  We have some tips for hiring a tile installer on our website, and we’re working with a group of industry leaders to come up with a list of general questions that customers might ask a potential tile installer. We thought we’d put them out for you to give us some feedback on what we have so far:

  • Will they document their commitment to quality?
  • Are their methods & standards verified by the TCNA Handbook?
  • How will they control site conditions?
  • How will they properly prepare the surface before tiling?
  • Where will movement occur (expansion/contraction)?
  • Will they provide references of similar, successful installations?
  • What is their warranty on labor and setting materials?
  • Do they participate in industry conferences and continuing education?
  • How are their employees trained and kept up-to-date on products and methods?

We like to say that “Tile won’t bend to make up for a bad installation” so it’s essential that you hire your tile contractor carefully. We certainly hope asking the right questions will help consumers be more informed BEFORE they hire their next installer. Let us know if you think of other things we should add to our list.


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Why pay for tile twice?

We often write about coming in behind tile placers who have done residential jobs poorly or left homeowners with failed installations, but this happens on the commercial side as well. One of our local contractors recently called us in to evaluate and tear out SCHMALZ STEPS compressed the tiled steps in a commercial building.

The tile installer they hired initially had little experience installing tile on steps, and their finished work showed it. The  building owner was not satisfied, and the contractor called us to correct the problems. We completely re-worked the steps, and they look great now since we used the proper adhesives, planned the layout before setting any tile, and finished it all with Schluter’s Trep-E stair nosing profiles.

But, why do things have to be done twice?

General contractors feel tremendous pressure to produce the lowest bid when vying for projects, and, to get there, they feel they must take proposals from low-cost providers. The end result is sometimes adequate, and sometimes, as in this case, more expensive. The cost of increased supervision, project delays, multiple change orders, and potentially unsatisfied customers is real. If only we could get those making the ultimate decisions on selecting a contractor to understand that Quality Should Not Be Cheap. The low bid contractor or tile installer should be the first bid thrown out because someone has missed something or cut a corner that will be costly later on.

Knowledge and craftsmanship are costly to obtain, and it’s fair to ask the end user to pay for that high-quality work. Long-lasting, beautiful tile installations with no hassles, no headaches, and no callbacks should be the expectation, and a ‘Schmuck in a Truck’ can’t get there with his low-ball price.

 


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Determining the value of your bath remodel

When weighing the decision to remodel your bathroom or kitchen, it helps to know what your return on investment might be. Bathrooms and kitchens are still high on the list according to the annual Cost Vs. Value report in Hanley Wood’s January issue of Remodeling Magazine.

The report is broken down by region of the country, average project cost, and return on investment recouped at sale of the home. While we always think the best reason to remodel your space is so that you can enjoy it, we do think this year’s numbers show some interesting upticks in the market.

For instance, in the category of bathroom remodel between $5000 and $25,000, the average renovation in the South Atlantic region costs $16,534. Of that, $11,639 is recouped at sale of the home, showing a strong 70.4% return.

A minor kitchen remodel costing between $5000 and $25,000 recoups a whopping 86% at sale. (The average South Atlantic cost is $18,907, with $16,425 recouped in value at sale.)

For a bathroom addition or higher-end bathroom remodel in the $25-100,000 range, the average cost runs around $46,000 with $28,000 (or 60%) recouped at sale of the home. For a major kitchen remodel costing between $25-100,000, the average cost is $56,901 with $36,438 recouped at sale (64%).

As you think about updating your tile or hiring a remodeling contractor, the trends in this report are a good indicator of the long-term value of your investment. The report also gives you a good idea of the average cost of a project in our area of the country. As Remodeling Magazine says, it helps potential clients see the reality of pricing from local professionals rather than “the oft exaggerated world of TV repair shows.”

[Just FYI – many of those shows get to their total project cost numbers by convincing local home improvement professionals to deeply discount or contribute their services and materials in exchange for the advertising benefit of a few seconds of national TV exposure.]

Data for the Hanley Wood report was collected from professional remodelers and builders and encompasses all project costs (permits, sweat equity, etc. that might be excluded from other reports that roll-in DIY numbers).


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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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Miles of Tile for all our great customers

It’s a new year, and we’re hoping for a good one!  As we’ve been doing our end-of-year analysis and new-year planning, we are reminded of those who make our existence possible – OUR CUSTOMERS!

We’d like to say ‘Thank You’ to all who have given us the opportunity to participate in your projects. The miles of tile we’ve installed in the Triangle area wouldn’t have happened without the thousands of homeowners and builders who have trusted us with their installations.

(Our great installers and their consistent good work are a big part of that, too, of course, but we’re focusing on customers today.)

Some of our builder and remodeler friends have stayed busy through the downturn, and, because their business has been built with a reliable team, they stayed true to their high-quality subcontractors. Others have found us more recently because they needed reliable, quality tile installations done at a fair price.

So, in an effort to say thanks and help promote their great work (with positive Google searches), we’ve added some contractor credits to our website photos. They’ve kept us going in 2014 (and in previous ones), and we appreciate them! Check out their beautiful work (highlighting the tile, of course) at www.NeuseTile.com. We’ve labeled photos with a lot of contractor names and are adding to the info. every day.

Also, as we were reviewing our data, we realized that several of our contractor customers have been working with us for almost 20 years, so we’d like to give a special thanks to: Jay at Beaman Building & Realty, Mark at Massengill Builders, Jim and Dan at J.L. Williams Construction, Mark and team at Prime Building Company, Walt at Dillon Construction, and to Kemp Harris Inc. You guys have lived through the ups and downs with us, and we greatly appreciate your loyalty and your good work!!!

Here’s hoping 2015 will be a good year for all our local contractors and for those of us who are part of their teams! We’d love to add to our list and help make sure the area’s quality level remains high. If you have a builder friend who is tired of headaches and no-shows from his current tile guy, tell him or her to give us a call. We’d like to keep adding to the miles of tile we’ve installed for the area’s great contractors. And, if you want a recommendation for a general contractor for your next project, give us a call.


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Fewer construction workers will lead to greater problems

Our family business is on its 2nd generation of owners but we’re also on our 2nd generation of tile installers. And, since most of them are over 35, we’re starting to think about who comes next.

And we’re a little concerned.

Ours is an artistically rewarding business with practical and beautiful finished work. The trends and materials are ever changing, so the trade can be one of growth and opportunity. A good tile installer can provide for his family and find daily rewards in a job well done. We are, however, still part of the construction industry, and we’re finding that’s not a popular career choice these days.

The recent recession hit the trades particularly hard, and many experienced workers had to find other means of making a living. Statistics show that these departures, baby boomer retirements, and a decreasing number of workers entering the construction fields are likely to bring significant shortages.

For consumers, this will mean longer waits for quality work and higher prices to get knowledgeable craftsmen. We’re trying to be proactive and recently had a good visit with two of Franklin County’s Career and Technical education professionals. They’re helping us think through ways we can reach out to local young people as they’re making career decisions. While we are optimistic, we realize the looming problem is bigger than our limited capacity. To that end, we’d like to share some suggestions made by Angie Hicks of famed “Angie’s List,”

She addressed the coming shortage of skilled trade workers in a recent column, and made several good suggestions:
1) “Let’s agree not to take the trades for granted. Some observers and service company owners believe a general devaluing of skilled labor – a societal stigma, even – is one reason for the shortage.

2) Look around where you live. Do vocational education opportunities exist? Is that an issue you might get involved in? Do you have a skill set you could pass on to the next generation?

3) Perhaps you can encourage a young person or someone making a career change to consider the trades. Don’t assume that working with one’s hands pays less or is less satisfying than other work.”

We agree, Angie! It will take all of us working together to make sure we can find, as she says, “skilled hands and heads to solve our home maintenance and improvement challenges. Where would we be without them?”