Neuse Tile Service

Tile installation and service tips from professional installers


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Long-lasting, beautiful investment in tile

Many of us are seeing more than usual of the inside of our homes lately, and we’re coming to really appreciate surfaces that are easy to clean, durable, and nice to look at.  When your home includes properly installed tile you know you’ve provided your family a hygienic space that will hold up well over time.

As described in a recent piece on WhyTile.com, long-lasting installations are a direct correlation to the skill of the installer, the use of the right components in the assembly,  and the integrity of the company behind the work. If any of those pieces are missing, problems may result. With tile, issues of technique (like uneven grout joints) may be immediately apparent; concerns with product might show up with use (like a base-level grout put in a commercial kitchen or interior tiles used outdoors); but the biggest worries are the ones that take time to present themselves (like deterioration of a structure from water that works its way under the surface tile and through a gap in poorly done waterproofing).

In order to ensure your investment in tile is a good one, look for a company that provides all three components — skilled installers (check their certifications), knowledgeable estimators who specify quality products (do they participate in industry training & associations), and proven business credentials.

Carefully choosing your contractor on the front-end of your investment can save you a lot of headache, time, and money on the back-end.

#QualifiedLabor #NTCAFiveStar #NeuseTile


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The long-term impact of good prep

If your New Year’s exercise program started off with a solid plan and workout gear that was well-suited to your routine, then you might have made it into February with some success. But, if you made up a plan as you went, then January probably didn’t bring much change in your health.

Jewel box 2In the same way, starting off with a good plan and quality materials can help ensure a beautiful and long-lasting tile installation. However, when initial corners are cut due to ignorance or cost-cutting, the final finishes will suffer or fail –either immediately or over time. Tile is meant to be a permanent finish, so it has to begin with the proper foundation.

When a job goes to the lowest bidder, it’s usually because something has been left out or a specification wasn’t followed, and the easiest thing to hide from an end user are the steps needed to get an area ready for tile. Before a tile installation should begin, the surface needs to be solid (no deflection or de-lamination), free of previous residue, dry, and within the flatness tolerances to install the chosen tile. If slope to a drain or zero-entry is needed, then often additional surface prep methods have to be used. A good tile contractor will know when to use a membrane, cement backer board, mud beds, or other required installation materials. Much depends on the existing surface, the budget, the application desired, the material to be used, and the skill of the installer to perform a quality, long-lasting installation.

One solution just won’t work in every application, and the tile installer who only has one tool in his box probably hasn’t been tested over time. Be sure to ask why he’s recommending the particular system to be used, and ask him or her to show you the method details and/ or standards involved.

We’ve had projects where we’ve been told to skip the preparatory steps needed in order to save some money, but that’s just not in our DNA. The long-term success of our installations depends on starting off correctly, so we’re pretty passionate about good prep. After all, don’t we all want our ‘outfit’ to look as good as possible?

#QualifiedLabor


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The many layers of a tile sandwich

The common denominator in our installations is that the products on the top layer are rigid — they don’t flex or bend. And the factors beyond that are as varied as all the possible sandwich combinations in a New York deli.

Each project is as different as the location to be tiled, the material, the substrate, and the customer’s preferences. We enjoy the challenge of making sure we’ve selected the proper tile installation method and products to accommodate your surface, your application, your needs for the space, and the material you’d like us to install. porch floor wall.jpg

Some of the things we’ll be factoring into our estimates (and our conversations) are:

  • Floor deflection (the up and down movement of a floor should not exceed L/360 for tile and L/720 for natural stone)
  • Floor preparation (remove any existing adhesives, flatten problem areas by bringing substrate into required tolerances, scarify if needed)
  • Needed coverage (required mortar contact on the back of tile in a dry area 80%; wet area 95%)
  • Grout color and its impact on setting materials as well as end results (highly contrasting grouts can present a visual framing on some sheeted materials)
  • Sealant needed prior to installation to protect the material from any staining during the grouting process (natural stones must be sealed prior to grout due to their susceptibility to staining)
  • The size of the material to be installed (any tile more than 15” in any one direction is considered ‘large format’ and requires different mortars and substrate tolerances
  • Composition of the tile itself (stone, glass, metal, sheeted mosaics, and accents with combinations of these –all require different setting materials, blades, tools, and care)
  • Trowel and spacer type and size (tile, mortar, pattern, installer preference all factor in here)
  • Movement joint locations and treatment (to allow for the movement that occurs as structures expand and contract)
  • Pattern selected and its impact on installation waste factor as well as installation difficulty
  • Job location – what it takes to get our heavy materials into the area, what hours we can work, how much protection of adjoining areas we’ll need to do, etc.
  • Wet area/ interior or exterior/ angle of lighting/ long-term use & traffic in the area
  • Base surface to be used (mud-set, backer board, membrane, etc.)

Those in our industry who tell you they can give you a ‘quick’ price per square foot for tile installation are either clairvoyant walking encyclopedias of construction, or they haven’t thought about all the factors that make up a long-lasting and beautiful tile installation. Most of the time, the best and most accurate things come to those who put some experience and careful consideration into all the options available. #ExperienceMatters #NTCAfivestar


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Do-it-yourself ‘damage’?

There was an interesting article in a recent industry publication that detailed the results of an ImproveNet survey of homeowners who had chosen to do home improvement projects on their own –without initially hiring professionals. A surprising 63 percent of the 2000 people surveyed regretted taking on the project without the help of a professional, and 33 percent had to hire a contractor to either finish the job or re-do it completely.

It was particularly interesting to us that “installing tile tops the list of most regretted jobs.” The 30-second clips on home improvement television shows have done a great job of expanding the idea of using tile, but they’ve also made it look incredibly easy. And it just isn’t. Sure, it can be done with a strong investment of time learning techniques, acquiring special tools, and garnering lots of patience, but the time it would take a professional pales in comparison to the time and effort that a novice has to extend.

Almost half of the respondents in the survey said their projects took longer than expected or were more physically difficult than they anticipated. Almost that many also said it was more technically difficult than they imagined, and nearly a quarter said it was more expensive than they had calculated. Interestingly, almost 10 percent said they did actual damage to their homes in the process, and nearly that many said they damaged themselves in some way!

Sadly, more than half of respondents said they were disappointed in how their project turned out – some saying it just didn’t look good, didn’t function as intended, or just didn’t hold up well over time.

We absolutely love that home improvement television has made it more popular to make changes in our homes, and we are thrilled that tile is showing up in all kinds of unexpected places. We also hope that with the continuing popularity of remodeling will come great respect for the professionals who have the craftsmanship, knowledge, and expertise to do home improvement projects well. #QualifiedLabor

Resource: Qualified Remodeler, May 2019, by Lew Sichelman


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Why does it take so long to get an estimate?

In this day of instant gratification, the construction estimating process may seem to be lagging behind. Since we do this every day, we thought we’d take a minute to explain the behind-the-scenes work that goes into every proposal we put together.

First, we don’t price our work by the square foot. Pricing that way assumes that every tile project is virtually the same; and they’re NOT. There is more time and labor involved with certain tiles, particular setting materials (for different kinds and sizes of tile), and specific features like accents, niches, benches, patterns, and shower floors. What we do is a craft, a skill, and often an art so pricing it like a cookie-cutter commodity wouldn’t make sense.

Second, we want to provide an accurate quote. We’re not tiling ‘ballparks’, and you can’t budget based on numbers thrown into the wind. So, we ask a lot of questions, get photos and measurements, often meet on site, and spend substantial time gathering information about your project.

We want to fully understand your design intent, so we have calculated the right quantities of each mausing handbook.jpgterial, have discussed potential ‘gotcha’ areas, and know that your selections will work together to provide the finished installation you’re seeking. When there’s a design professional or contractor involved, we sometimes have to wait on them to get back to us with answers to clarification questions.  And, if it’s a project that involves architectural drawings and specifications, then we often need to get answers through Requests for Information which we send to the contractor who, in turn, sends to the Architect or Designer. Just gathering all the information we need can take time.

We also want to provide the tile and labor for you so that we can warranty both and relieve you of the handling responsibilities. That means we’ll pursue good pricing on the product you’ve chosen, and sometimes we have to do some research to get that.

Third, we want to do your installation with the right method so it will be both long-lasting and beautiful. In order to determine the techniques, setting materials, and tools, we need specifics on the material to be installed (glass, porcelain, stone, mesh-mounted, paper-faced, large-format, etc.). We also need to know about the structure where the tile will be installed (concrete, wood, wet area, substrate, structural support, etc.) so that any needed preparatory work can be included. Tile doesn’t flex or bend, so we need to be sure that what we’re adhering to is appropriate to handle our materials.

Fourth, we’re blessed to be pretty busy. That means our repeat contractors are sending us a steady stream of projects to discuss and price; other people may also have called before you did. We want every one of our customers to get the attention they deserve, so we need to work our process thoroughly and steadily while being sensitive to contractor deadlines and ever-changing schedules.

There are certainly improvements we can make to our systems, software, and processes, and we are working diligently to provide the best information and service to all our customers. Doing so means we don’t provide cookie-cutter, ballpark, or instantaneous estimates. We do provide thorough, accurate, and honest pricing for our customers so that we’ll continue to be here for the long-haul. We appreciate you and hope that you contacted us because you wanted a quality tile installation! As we work together to get accurate details on the front-end, we are better able to ensure a complete and satisfactory experience for everyone involved.

Thanks so much for your patience and for choosing Neuse Tile Service for all these years!

 

 


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New technology, old tile ‘know-how’

We’re sometimes accused of being ‘old school’ in some of our methods. It’s true that we don’t believe something new is better just because it’s new, but we also know that those who only have a hammer in their tool box will think everything looks like a nail.

Technology and innovation are great things for the tile industry, and we’re enthusiastic about advances in the science and tools of our trade. However, we greet those new things from a place of knowledge in the fundamentals. Sometimes the newest applications are a great way to handle anticipated installation issues, and sometimes when things aren’t ‘cookie-cutter,’ an “old-school” method is the best way to go. LOCKER RM SHOWERS comp.JPG

In our industry, membranes and pre-formed materials are the latest and “greatest.” We’ve used them, appreciate them, and value their merit in the right circumstance. We also know that sometimes they’re over-engineered solutions to basic installations which will result in higher costs without greater lasting value for our customers.

Neuse Tile’s goal for its 55 years has been to provide long-lasting and beautiful tile installations for our customers. We believe we’re still here because we do that repeatedly at a fair price and with respect for our employees and our clients.

Our industry will continue to change and evolve, and we look forward to the technology of tomorrow. We face that future with a full repertoire of methods to provide you the best tile installation for your particular circumstance.

We’re one of only 58 NTCA Five-Star Tile Contractors in the nation because of our knowledge, our craftsmanship, and our business practices. Your home and business deserve that credibility.


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Tile won’t flex for a bad install

We spend a lot of time talking to folks who’ve run into problems with their current installer or contractor. That’s probably because we’ve been in the area for a long time and, we believe, because we have a reputation for helping solve tile-related concerns.

Unfortunately, the answer is often “tear it out and start over,” so we’d really prefer to talk with customers before they ever run into these issues. If we get that opportunity, we suggest they ask some important questions of anyone they are considering hiring to install a lasting and inflexible finish like tile:

  • What TCNA method they will use?
    (Tile Council of North America Handbook is an industry-recognized guide to assist in clarifying and standardizing installation specifications for tile.)
  • If their tile installers are Certified by the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation?
  • Where will the movement joints be located and what will they be made of?
  • What is the span of your joists? (Can your floor carry the weight of tile? How will your substrate and its support structure respond to the tile application?)
  • What level of service and product warranty can you expect on the installation?
  • Will you need a vapor barrier? What about crack isolation? Is additional waterproofing necessary?
  • What setting materials will be used for your installation? What experience does the installer have with these products? What are their advantages?
  • How does your installer keep up with the latest industry advances? What associations do they participate in?
  • Will they provide a written proposal on the work to be done?
  • Are they a Five-Star Contractor?

Tile won’t bend to make up for a bad installation.


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Shedding light on a tile problem

A long-time friend called today to ask for our insight on her tile installed by someone her contractor hired (not us). She was happy when the installer finished and got the edge trim corrected, but when her under-cabinet lights were mounted new problems appeared.

The growing use of accent lighting and handmade tiles exacerbates an issue that needs to be addressed before the first tile is installed. Die release lines on ceramic mosaics, scored tiles, and uneven edges on tile will cast distinctive shadows when highlighted by direct overhead lighting –-even if the tile is installed meeting acceptable standards. In this case, the tile installation had some issues that made the situation worse, so her contractor is having everything taken out and re-done.

elli splash

Under cabinet lights require prior planning by all involved.

This time, he needs to 1) make sure the surface to be tiled is totally smooth and flat or specify a mortar bed installation; 2) discuss the tile selection with the homeowner and explain the potential issues that the tile chosen could produce; 3) make sure the finished lighting is in place and functioning prior to the tile installation so any shadows can be immediately addressed; 4) and discuss a pattern change or widening the grout joints to allow for more gradual variation as shadows are cast over the tile.

The tile installer will, of course, need to perform his craft carefully, properly adhere and  ‘beat-in’ the tile, and perhaps present a mock-up to get prior approval. Like so many issues in construction, this one could have been prevented by:

  1. using professionals in the selection process who are knowledgeable about potential “gotcha’s”;
  2. using high-quality materials produced by known manufacturers (not necessarily high-priced);
  3. using experienced and qualified installers who can help identify issues before they become problems.

We know our friend will love her new kitchen after the removal and replacement is completed, but her 72-day renovation has now been prolonged another week. When she gets ready to do the bathroom, she says she’ll call us first 🙂

#NotAsEasyAsItLooksOnTV


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The tile year in pictures

As we welcome a new year, we’re looking forward to increased opportunities and reflecting on a year of wonderfully creative tile installations. Thanks to the contractors, designers, and homeowners who included us on your projects!!!!! Here are just a few for your viewing pleasure:


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Doing the right thing for the long-term

It’s been a personally challenging year for many of us in the Neuse Tile family, and we’d like to take this opportunity to say how much we appreciate your business, your loyalty, your kindness, and your encouragement. wreath on door

We’ve been blessed once again with miles of tile that needed our installation expertise and with gifted artisans who deliver on each and every project. From estimating, to scheduling, to supervision and installation, the intricacies of each tile project are unique and varied. It truly takes a team with technical know-how, craftsmanship, and flexibility to meet the many expectations we face each week, and we are grateful for every member of our group!

Of course, we are especially appreciative of the contractor friends and homeowners who have trusted us with their tile needs this year! It is significant to us that we’re in our 53rd year of business, and we believe our longevity is, in large part, due to a commitment to do the right thing with a view toward the long-term. We plan to keep that up!

We lean into 2018 excited about how our industry is growing together and looking forward to continued opportunities to bring quality tile installations to the Triangle.  Let us know how we can be of help to you!