The Importance of Quality Craftsmanship

Want a tile installation that will look great years from now? Follow these tips from in-demand professional installer Jim Hartman.

There you are, gazing with pride at the beautiful tile or stone you have just had installed. Now fast forward one year, or perhaps five. Is it still just as beautiful? With an installation that is structurally sound from the outset, followed by proper care and maintenance, your answer can be a resounding “yes!”

There are two primary considerations when installing tile:

  • You want the result to be visually appealing.
  • You want the job to be structurally sound.

You can tell right away whether your installation is visually appealing, but whether it is structurally sound may not be readily apparent until years down the line.

Signs of a structurally unsound job include cracks in the tile, hollow floors, and grout that falls out.

The Best Preventive Measure…

Unless you are qualified to install tile, your best preventive measure is to hire a knowledgeable and experienced contractor. A quality professional installer knows how to prevent many common problems from occurring. But keep in mind that there are run-of-the-mill installers and then there are professional installers. If you are shopping price only, you may find yourself regretting it down the road, and you may actually end up paying more in the long run.

The following are measures that should be taken to prevent potential problems:

Hollow Tiles/Lack of Adhesion: Correct subsurface preparation for the slab is vital and includes making sure there is no paint or drywall mud on the slab which can cause a lack of adhesion between slab and tile. Any paint or drywall mud must be mechanically removed by either scraping or sanding the floor. If this is not done the paint or drywall will cause the tile to go hollow or even raise up off of the floor.

Cracking: A crack suppression membrane or uncoupling mat should be used to keep the tile from cracking when and if the concrete slab cracks. The most popular methods to accomplish this are:

  • Paint-on crack-supression membrane. This is a flexible coating applied between the slab and thinset that bonds the tile to the floor. The flexibility of this product helps absorb movement from the slab to prevent it from cracking the tile. It is an economical way to protect your floor from cracking but has limitations to how much movement it can absorb.
  • An uncoupling mat. This is a plastic mat with a waffle-like texture that is thinset to the slab. The tile is then stuck to the mat. Thinset fills the spaces in the mat and leaves the tile sitting on little posts with room in between them. This absorbs movement in the slab and keeps it from passing through to the tile. Use of an uncoupling mat is more expensive but can absorb more movement than the crack suppression membrane.

Mismatched Tiles: There is nothing worse than having your tile crack two years down the line and having to find replacement tile to match. Every run of tile has different tolerances both for size and for shade variance. You have to be extremely lucky to find tile that will match. Buying extra tiles at your initial purchase may cost more up front, but it will save you a lot of hassle and disappointment down the line should any tiles need to be replaced.

The bottom line is, a quality installation employing proven techniques and precautions will result in a floor that you will be happy with for many years.

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Serving the Palm Springs / Coachella Valley area in Southern California, Jim Hartman, owner of FloorEver, believes that “the least costly way to do something is once.” He and his crew have installed over a million square feet of flooring over the past twenty-four years. In addition, they have ten years of flooring restoration experience. You can visit them at www.floorever.net.