“I had no idea tile work was so technical and such a process” my recent client said to me.
“It’s fine everyone says that!” I said, shaking my head.
It’s true, most people have no idea about the thought, the labor, the planning, that goes into high end tile work. Often times, I feel people will compare the tile guy to the framer, the sheet rocker, the electrician, the plumber… It’s all the same, right?
Tile installation is leaps and bounds different than any of the other trades that are involved in building houses for MANY reasons, and in today’s blog post I’m going to attempt to differentiate my trade from all the rest and explain why the tile guy, at one time, (and maybe this is even making a comeback) was the KING of the jobsite.
1. There are so many different applications for tile it is nauseating. Most of the time I tell people that I’m a tile guy, they automatically come back with, “Oh, I have a floor at home that’s awful” or some other flooring related tile comment. Flooring is one small portion of what you can put tile on. Walls, showers, fire places, outside, inside, back splashes, kitchens, bathrooms and they all have different installation practices that we must be knowledgeable about. Look through this site...No two jobs are the same! A 400-page TCNA manual is our bible for installation and a frame of reference for you on the amount of knowledge necessary to get a lifetime install. Now compare this to a sheet rocker…Not downplaying what they do, but hey, put this sheet rock up and finish it. Pretty straight forward in comparison. When you have a customer, who wants a custom shower, not only do we have to build a custom plumbing fixture that takes 1100 inches of water per person, per year, from the shower head and directs it to the drain…without a leak inside the finished home…but we also must be experts at adapting different material to the space. Which leads me into my next point…
2. The plethora of different materials, all with different expectations. Ok, framer, take this WOOD and frame this WOODEN house. Again, not downplaying the other trades but wood basically costs what it costs. Whereas every tile is different. They have Porcelain, Natural stone, glass…all different sizes and prices which take different levels of preparation and oh, you want that glass in your shower, you’ll have to buy an extremely expensive thin set! Oh, you bought a cheap porcelain, well now your tile installer gets to wrestle with getting it to set flat. The WORLD of different patterns as well that all take a different amount of effort and time. A 1” hexagon set to a pattern inside a shower pan is a whole different ball game than a 12”x12” porcelain straight set on a floor. It’s ALL DIFFERENT so pricing varies from one job to the next and justifying the added cost to your customer can be a nightmare. Whereas a sheet rocker, painter or framer can make up a square foot price and go from there. Any tile guy who works by the square foot is crazy because of the variety of different tile and what it takes to put it in. One quote can vary so much from the other because of things like, is the other guy using the hand book method or is he a fly by night type, a basic, builder grade, ‘looks good from my house’, type…Yes, your friends project cost X to tile with Y tile, which is completely different from the tile you chose and where you want to put it! Not to mention the possibility that your friend’s installer was of the unscrupulous brand mentioned earlier…
3. The number of different tools and set up time it takes to build with tile. Setting a floor with 12”x12” tile is the baseline, easiest thing for a tile guy…takes basic tools and you can do high volume in a day, BUT NO ONE CHOSES SMALL TILE! We recently installed a 3’x2’ tile…enormous tile. Let’s bust out the $3000 dollar saw! Not to mention you can’t efficiently go to two different jobs in a day like say, the electrician can. The electrician grabs his tool belt and different tools and can move from job to job without any issue in one day. Every job the tile guy goes to there is at least a one hour of set up time. Four buckets of water to fill up, saw set up, lay out…It’s not even worth it because by the time you move from one job to the next, you chew up half the day. So generally, when you set up a job…. you stay till that job is done! We bill mostly by the day even if we only work 5 hours, because we are generally stuck at that job. You’re not going to pick up and move to another job because the actual act of setting up again is daunting and you don’t get anything done. Not to mention separating your brain from one technical project, to a totally different complicated project.
4. We depend on the conscientiousness and competence of the other trades. All the guys at the beginning of a project have it easy! Anything that doesn’t turn out right, ah, let the next guy fix it. Hopefully, a good builder/general contractor will catch them slipping and require them to make it right…but more times than not they don’t catch it and keep the project moving to meet a deadline! The tile guy is always the last guy in when not only most of the money has been spent on other things, but also, we must fix all the work other less fastidious/aware/critical/discriminating trades have done. The framer leaves a stud that’s proud or not plumb, the tile guy will fix it. The sheet rocker doesn’t finish the walls correctly or leaves a bump or finishes the corners leaving a bunch of buildup…. The tile guy fixes it. The plumber puts the drain in the wrong place, can’t the tile guy fix it? The painter gets paint all over the floor where tile is going…. Don’t worry the tile guy will use a day, rent a machine, and grind it all off! The tile supplier cheapens out their process and makes a warped tile, guess what, the tile guy will make it right! The concrete crew leaves a wavy floor with dips and dives and the customer wants tile on the surface, well the tile guy will have to spend time flattening the floor and break the news of the unexpected expense to the homeowner! Every trade that kicks the can down the road or doesn't do their work to a high level...the tile guy takes care of it. It’s a harsh existence so with our system we use our plumber who we know is competent, we do our own framing because tile guy flat/plumb/square is different than framer flat/plumb/square. It really speaks to the degradation of the trades in the USA that “every man for himself” attitude. Of course, homeowners have no conceptualization of how each trade working together is so vital to a beautiful, high end finished product. So, ultimately having a tile guy that is well rounded in ALL trades is what differentiates us from the electrician who only must worry about one aspect of the building process.
In closing I hope you can think of your local tile guy as the special entity that he really is. (if you have a good one) Not only is he a finish guy, who must have that eye for the details, but he also has to be a rock hard, strong minded worker who produces. Not every trade has to combine those traits…
I’m so hard on builders, general contractors and the like because they are ultimately the end all be all. The buck stops with them. If they don’t pay attention to the framer and hold them to a high standard, it trickles down to us. If they don’t hire competent sheet rockers and painters, it trickles down to us. Oops, the trim guy dropped his hammer on your tile floor, we must replace it, for example.
This post leaves me feeling vented and feeling good because I know my own importance on a job site. Everyone else can kick the can down the road, but the buck always stops with the tile guy. Our work sells houses and draws the eye. We really are the king of the job site. As I mentioned earlier, we’re part builder, part artist.
So, when you’re hiring your next tile guy… understand he or she is not like all the rest of the trades. We are the ultimate producers and you aren’t paying for the persons’ labor, but you are paying for their eye, their painstaking, scrupulous finishing touch. Tile is permanent, it’s not fixable, replaceable, paintable…It’s meant to last forever…You don’t like a paint color, change it…you don’t like a fixture…take it out put a new one in…. you don’t like a light switch, change it! You don’t like your shower…. have fun living with it or paying an exorbitant cost to take it out and replace it. So, spend the extra money, spend time planning and plotting…and make sure you buy something you can see yourself living with for an extended period. Also, make sure you hire someone you trust, with credentials an extensive portfolio, and someone who stays on top of current trends and installation practices. You’ll be glad you did.
At Hamilton Tile, we are
CTI CERTIFIED TILE INSTALLERS
WE USE THE HAND BOOK METHOD
WE HAVE 20+ YEARS OF EXPERIENCE
JASON IS A TRADE SCHOOL GRADUATE
WE HAVE AN EXTENSIVE PORTFOLIO
WE GIVE DETAILED PROPOSALS EXPLANING THE SCOPE OF THE WORK
WE GIVE SECOND TO NONE CONSULATION SESSIONS
WE THINK 10 STEPS AHEAD AND 20 YEARS IN THE FUTURE.