Neuse Tile Service

Tile installation and service tips from professional installers


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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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Top 10 List for a Quality Tile Installation

The Ceramic Tile Education Foundation has put together a Top 10 List of requirements for a quality tile installation. Make sure your installer considers (and understands) all these factors for your upcoming installation. OR, skip to the bottom of the list and ask Neuse Tile to oversee numbers 10-2 for you ;).

10. Adequate Cure Time: Allow an installation to cure sufficiently before exposing it to moisture, traffic, temperature changes or overlaying products. The amount of time required will vary based on site conditions and the specific materials being used.

9.  Controlled Site Conditions:  Jobsite conditions can have a serious impact on the success or failure of a tile installation. Many products used in tile installations require that the temperature be maintained within a specific range and duration. Be certain to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines to ensure a long-lasting installation.

8.  Crack Isolation Membrane: Cracks in concrete and other areas of movement should be treated with a crack isolation membrane to help eliminate cracked tiles. Check with the membrane manufacturer for specific use and application recommendations.

7.  Premium Materials: The use of premium quality bonding materials is money well spent. Tile Industry experts agree this is one of the easiest insurance policies for preventing installation problems. All types of setting materials are available in various performance grades to meet the requirements of the job. Contact the setting material manufacturer for products with the specific product characteristics and performance levels necessary for success

6.  Flat Surfaces: In order to provide a flat ceramic or stone tile installation, carpenters, masons, concrete installers and other trades must meet the tile industry standards for flatness tolerances. If substandard surfaces are encountered, they must be corrected before the tile installation begins.

5.  Rigid Surface: Ceramic tile installations require a stiff or rigid surface. In some cases, installations, including natural stone, may require additional subflooring, wall studs or bracing. Contractors should follow the applicable recommendations of the TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation, the ANSI, American National Specifications for the Installation of Ceramic Tile as well as the recommendations of the manufacturer whose products are being used in the project.

4.  Correct Methods and Materials: Not all installation methods and/or materials are suitable for all applications. Be certain that your contractor will use the TCNA Handbook method rated for the intended application or a method that is recommended, fully specified, and warranted by the product manufacturer. Research manufacturers’ websites to determine suitability, application recommendations and product warranty information. Review the manufacturer’s product data sheets and recommendations for the tile, backer board, bonding materials, membranes and grout which will be used on the job. Just because a product is available doesn’t mean that it is appropriate for a given installation.

3.  Mortar Coverage: Tile industry standards require minimum mortar coverage of 80% in dry areas and 95% in wet (showers) or exterior areas. This refers to the contact area of the bonding material (thin-bed mortars, large and heavy tile mortars or epoxy adhesives) with both the back of the tile and the surface being tiled.

2.  Movement Accommodation Joints: All tile installations, both residential and commercial, will move with temperature and humidity variations. To accommodate this expansion and contraction activity, the use of expansion joints per the TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation method EJ171 must be incorporated into the tile work. Be certain that all parties involved in the project including the architect, the specifier, the designer, the salesperson and the tile installer know and understand the critical use and placement of expansion joints.

1.  Skilled Installers: Only well-trained and experienced tile installers can produce installations of the highest quality which provide long lasting beauty and functionality. In order to differentiate this quality oriented tile installer from others in the field, consider hiring a CTEF Certified Tile Installer (CTI). CTIs have proven that they have the knowledge and skills which meet industry standards and best practices. Click here to go to the CTI overview page.


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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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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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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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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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Tile installation by the book(s)

It takes more than a tool bucket to be a successful tile contractor; you’ve got to use the right reference books as well!

Many contractors, architects, designers, specifiers and industry partners are familiar with the Tile Council of North America Handbook for Ceramic, Glass, and Stone Tile Installation (TCNA Handbook) and the American National Standard Specifications for Installation of Ceramic Tile (ANSI Book).

The TCNA Handbook is “a guide to assist in clarifying and standardizing installation specifications for tile,” while the ANSI book is a compilation of voluntary standards that “define the installation of ceramic tile as well as the test methods and physical properties for ceramic tile installation materials.” Each is representative of the consensus efforts of national as well as regional organizations and individuals who volunteer their time to serve on each committee. Both of these publications are widely used throughout the industry.

Less widely used, but equally relevant is the National Tile Contractors Association’s Reference Manual. While the NTCA Reference Manual also focuses on tile installation and its many facets, it’s written for the benefit of professional tile installation contracting firms and individuals who are committed to installation excellence and the best interest of the industry.

Its purpose is “to identify recurring challenges to successful installations of tile and stone, recognize potential problems, and to gain consensus from industry experts on offering solutions.”  In this respect, the Reference Manual is different from both the TCNA Handbook and the ANSI Book,  because it takes things several steps further and details information for issues before, during and after the installations are performed.

This publication is valuable “feet on the ground” information about tile installation. It’s produced by the National Tile Contractors Association Technical Committee (comprised of highly skilled and experienced members providing perspectives and expertise from all segments of the tile industry).

Great effort has been given to provide consensus answers to issues tile contractors, manufacturers and distributors face daily. This unique compilation, its explanation of problems, causes and the listing of their cures is invaluable to the installation trade. The proper use of this manual will save its user the cost of an annual NTCA membership several times over. The education it provides represents sincere efforts by those on the committee who have “been there and experienced that,” and have the desire to see others in our industry avoid the pitfalls that often occur without this knowledge.

We encourage our peers in the industry to get this valuable reference tool and to apply it correctly as the problem preventer it is designed to be. Successful tile installations are the goal for all of us!