Neuse Tile Service

Tile installation and service tips from professional installers


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CTEF highlights one of our own

Juan Sauceda, our lead superintendent, is the featured Certified Tile Installer in the current blog by Ceramic Tile Education Foundation! He’s been with our team since 2002, and we love the artistry and craftsmanship he brings to every project. Neuse Tile Service's Juan Sauceda CTI#64, with a poster depicting many projects that he has either overseen or installed.

Take a few minutes to read about Juan and his credentials. He’ll take great care of your next project!  https://www.ceramictilefoundation.org/blog/certification-greater-efficiency-setting-tile


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Slam-dunk tile in UNC locker room

Take a break from Thanksgiving family dynamics and enjoy these photos of our recent tile installations in the UNC men’s basketball locker room at the Dean E. Smith Center in Chapel Hill. Mud bed floors flowing to 12 different drains, large-format glass in an expansive area, polished stone, 2×2 mosaics, large-format porcelain in multiple sizes, and honed decorative stone made this one a technical treat. Thanks to Vision Contractors and the facility managers and coaches for adding us to the team for this special, world-class project!


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What do you need to know about tile?

This is the 2nd blog from our magazine interview installment:

What do you wish people knew about tile?

   Television shows might make you think that installing tile is an easy weekend project, but we see first-hand the failures that result from using less-than-qualified tile people.

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. Obvious poor cuts and bad layouts aside, what’s under the tile is even more important. If the wrong product is used to “flatten” a floor, it will show up eventually as the tile begins to crack or crunch as you walk on it. And, when you add water to the equation in a bathroom, the need to choose a qualified installer is even more essential.

In a year’s time, far more water runs across the tile in your shower than over the roof of your home, so the people you hire to do your tile (and your roof 😉 should really know what they’re doing. Proper tile installation is actually pretty complicated (with its precision layout, intricate cuts, specialized tools, variety of setting materials, water management issues, and the hundreds of methods), so we make sure our folks are up-to-date and well-trained. {And, as an aside, we don’t believe that our tile training makes someone good at carpet or vinyl installation. We just don’t understand why general ‘flooring’ contractors would say the same crews could install all kinds of materials…}

Look for a certified TILE contractor next time you’re considering a tile installation. The money you invest in getting it done right will be money you don’t have to spend getting it re-done later.


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Tile trade from start to ‘finish’

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.


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The Tile Market is On the Grow: Insights from Crossville’s Chairman Emeritus

Tile is outpacing the growth of alternative products in the floor covering industry. This interview with the ‘godfather of ceramic tile in the US’ gives some insight into the attributes that are sending tile to the top of the list for remodeling and commercial concerns: versatility, style, ‘green’ attributes, durability, and ease of maintenance.

Elevate Your Space

The tile market is on the rise in the United States, according to a recent report by John Baugh at Stifel Nicolaus. Svend Hovmand, Chairman Emeritus of Crossville, Inc., has some insight on what’s sparking this double-digit increase during an interview with FloorDaily.net.

Tile already tops the market in Europe, South America and other countries. The ever-increasing rise of popularity in the US is naturally occurring thanks to several key factors.

Tile is versatile. Today’s remodeling market is relatively strong. Tile is a premium material selection that fits into remodeling budgets to provide the versatile, high-end style and durability today’s consumers demand.

Tile is evolving in style and appearance. Tile of today is more beautiful and authentic than ever before. Thanks to advancing technologies, the looks and colors that can be achieved are immense, offering fresh new options for a range of styles.

Tile is green. Sometimes industry pros…

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What’s UNDER tile makes it last … or NOT

When we talk about tile’s durability, I often think of the image of a solitary tile shower stall on the second story of an area home that withstood the devastation of a 1988 tornado. That blue 4×4 tile seemed to stand out defiantly in a neighborhood ransacked by nature’s power.

The property damage and loss of life that night were devastating, but, 24 years later, thinking of that shower reminds me of all our craft used to be. Tile was the substantial, durable, and standard bathroom material. The color choices might have been few, but the installation was meant to last.

Today tile is a designer product, a limitless ‘feature’, and often an ‘upgrade,’ and yet we spend many of our hours tearing out our competitor’s poor installations and tiling them as they should have been done the first time. It isn’t the fashion or even the function of the tile itself that’s made the difference in durability. It’s what’s under the tile – what you can’t see.

Stephanie Samulski does a great job explaining the change in tile installation methods and the consequences in the Tile Council of North America’s 2012 Handbook. Here’s an excerpt from Stephanie’s article:

In the earlier days of tile setting, “there were only a few methods of installing tile – bonded mortar beds and unbonded mortar beds. For several reasons, the resulting installations were likely to be problem-free, and indeed, many of them are still around today.

  • First, mortar beds were, simply stated, good. They helped tile installations withstand building movement and the installer created the substrate, for a nice flat finish.
  • Second, because mortar bed methods had been in use for hundreds of years, the knowledge and understanding of how to properly execute them was high.
  • Third, there was a culture of tile setters, a fraternity of sorts, of the tradesmen who knew how to turn a pile of sand and a couple bags of cement into substrate, setting material, and grout. Anyone who could do this was, by necessity, thoroughly trained, and the industry benefited from this built-in training and quality control mechanism.

    2012handbook.png

    Tile Installation guide 2012

Fast forward to today. Even though mortar bed methods are still recognized as the best choice for many scenarios, most jobs are being specified with thin-bed installation methods because these thinner, lighter installations are faster and less expensive to install. They are also less expensive to design for: floors don’t need to be recessed, lighter duty framing materials can be used, and the installation is 75 percent lighter than if a mortar bed were specified. This has allowed tile installations to be more affordable and more readily available.

But what else happens when a labor-intensive, highly skilled method of installation is almost completely supplanted by methods that don’t require years of training? The built-in competency requirement diminishes. Outside of a few state licensing programs, very little is in place to make sure a tile contractor knows industry standards and best practices and has good installers. The consistent uptick in tile consumption over the last fifty years attracted workers and business owners who recognized a growth industry with very few obstacles to getting started, and many good companies and installers entered the trade, but at the same time less-skilled workers and less-qualified business owners set up shop as tile contractors too.

The perception popularized by television shows, internet blogs, YouTube, and the like – that tile setting is so easy you can do it yourself – is a fallacy that oversimplifies the craft. While materials exist now that make it look easy and allow nearly everyone to attach tiles to a floor or wall, knowing the right materials for the project and installing them properly to last the life of the building is, in some ways, even more difficult today than it was when only mortar beds were used. With all the improvements to setting materials through the years and the changes to how buildings are constructed, tile setting has gone from a skill-centric trade to a knowledge-centric trade. Knowing what will work over the life of the building requires real expertise.”

As the TCNA Handbook states, “Because tile is a permanent finish, the lowest bid should not be the driving factor, but rather who is the most qualified to perform the scope of the work specified.”


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Why is my tile cracking?

     Properly installed tile doesn’t do much moving on its own, so when a tiled surface is cracking, there’s often an underlying problem. A recent article by Katelyn Simpson of the Tile Council of North America gives us some insight:
     In an installation over a concrete subfloor, reflective cracks can result from movement or cracking of the concrete. Concrete continues to shrink long after it’s first poured, and “it causes many shear and compressive forces on the thin-set, tile, and grout. If the shear force exceeds the strength of the bond, the tile may de-bond from the floor. This is also called tenting.”
To help prevent the problem?
       Allow concrete to cure so that any cracks that form can be filled and any distortion of the slab can be ground down. A cure time of 14 to 28 days may be sufficient depending on the thin-set adhesive to be used. Crack isolation or anti-fracture membranes can also be of help. These membranes bond to the concrete subfloor, and then the tile is installed with thin-set over top of the membrane. This can reduce any concrete movement from being transferred to the tile.
     The addition of movement joints can also diminish the stress that occurs between the concrete substrate and the tile. Of course, all floor tile installations should make allowances for movement.
     In an installation over wood, a possible cause for cracked tile is excessive deflection (lack of rigidity or excessive ‘bounce’). Typically, the grout will crack first, and in severe cases, the tile can crack as the compressive and tensile forces bear on the installation.
To help prevent the problem?
     Appropriate joist spacing can minimize deflection. This information from the TCNA information page sheds more light:
            “Traditionally, the accepted minimum requirement for floor rigidity is L/360 – before the tile underlayment is installed. The L/360 standard means that the floor should not deflect more than the “span” divided by 360. If the span of the joists is 10 feet (between supports), then the deflection should not be more than 1/3″ between the center and the end. Frequently, there is misunderstanding regarding deflection between joists. For example, while joist manufacturers regularly meet the standard L/360 criteria for code construction with 24″ on center systems, these floors often have deflection between the joists exceeding L/360.
      Recent research has shown tile to fail under some conditions, when the floor is more rigid than L/360 – in fact failures at L/600 have been observed. It is for this reason that recommendations for floor rigidity are not based on deflection measurements but on empirically established methods found to work over normal code construction.”
Neuse Tile‘s staff can provide consulting and repair services if you have a problem with cracked tile.