© 2019 HamiltonTileGA.com

Tile to carpet transition, different heights. Our solution!

When remodeling a bathroom, very often the tile will be significantly higher than the outside carpet into the bedroom. No one wants a toe stubber right there but luckily we have a solution that works unbelievably well. Today I’m spreading the good will be giving you our hard earned trade secrets!

Enjoy the video and if you could please like and subscribe to my YouTube channel, I would greatly appreciate it!

Marietta, GA pro tile pebble floor installation. What's the DIFFERENCE?!

In this vlog post I go over how we install tile pebble floors and why. We do it a little differently than most but it’s what we have to do to get a professional grade finish! I want you to know, we’ll go the extra mile on your project.

For an extremely informative article on tile pebbles check out the DIY Tile Guy’s blog! There’s a lot of good information on this subject to be found there.

https://www.diytileguy.com/pebble-tile-flooring/

Check out the video and be sure to like and subscribe to my YouTube channel.

You’re getting a back splash: A comprehensive guide.

This blog, “A Tile Guy’s Journey” has been more of a “vlog” lately, so I’ve decided to put out an article that is sure to help you, if you’re thinking about a new back splash. This will be your comprehensive guide!

Back splashes are the centerpiece of a homeowner’s kitchen. They are a functional, piece of art and an expression of your personality. Functional, by being a hard surface that is easily cleaned around a busy area. Art because they are aesthetically pleasing; we all enjoy looking at beautiful things!

In this article I will be writing about back splashes in the context of RESIDENTIAL REMODELING. This model will work best if you are hiring a tile installation company directly or if you are working with a builder.

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When you’re preparing for your new back splash, get a rough idea of what you want. Use Pinetrest, Houzz or Instagram to help you narrow things down. Realize, the pictures you see on those sites are installers’ BEST WORK.

Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, find a reputable store to source the material. Ask about price and availability. Heck, maybe you’ll get some alternative ideas from the store! Stay away from the box stores, the warehouse style spots; admittedly, I believe in Main St. over Wall St. When I look at tile made in Bangladesh, Turkey or China, I think about the working conditions and treatment of the folks in those countries. I then contrast that with the conditions of Spanish, Italian or AMERICAN workers and it helps my soul rest easy. We save a few bucks by buying from repressive regimes, but at what cost, really? Not to mention, much of the material from China, Bangladesh and Turkey will not have an ANSI (American National Standards Institute) tag on it, so we have no idea what we’re getting, and the quality is questionable. Think “lead in toys from China.” The example serves my point. I digress!

Have the person who is going to do the install arranged before you purchase tile. A great place to start is on Google, looking for a detailed website that has examples of their work and photos or videos of them performing their work. People who document themselves working, not just the finished product, take pride in their work! It also helps you verify who is ACTUALLY DOING THE WORK. That’s the guy you want to vet, not the guy who sells you the job. Look for reviews. They’re hard to get so, if you’re installer has a bunch of detailed testimonials, you’re part of the way there. Feed back from other installers on their social media is a great sign. A tile guy who is active in the tile community will also be up on the latest installation methods and products. Look for certifications and credentials. You wouldn’t go to a Dr. without a PHD you shouldn’t hire a tradesman without some degree of credibility. “Experience” is just a word and “Quality” means nothing with out a detailed explanation of what that means.

I recommend paying extra to allow for your tile installer to handle all aspects of the tile acquisition. It’s tempting to think that it’s no big deal to pick up the tile. It’s more complicated than that. The installer will make sure you get consistent dye lots; They will make sure the tile isn’t damaged and that you have the right amount. Is this a nominal size tile? Have you ever walked into Home Depot and been turned around not knowing up from down? That’s what the tile store will be like, in overdrive. If there’s anything wrong with the tile or if anything unforeseen happens (likely) it’s the installer responsibility NOT YOURS. You have better things to do with your time, trust me. 

Get his or her opinion before you buy any tile. Is the tile you’re looking at a quality tile? Are there any stipulations involved with the installation of your desired tile? Does the purchase of the tile you want change the scope of the job?

We send our clients to a specific shop to speak with our designer. You walk in, tell them you’re with Hamilton Tile, work with the designer to find what you like. We handle the rest. Other companies will have their own system, but that’s ours and it works great!

There are infinite choices for your back splash depending on what you like and what tile fits your budget; but here are three major differentiators that matter to tile installers. Is the tile:

Natural Stone

Porcelain

Glass

Glass is the most technical install because, IT’s GLASS. We use a fancy-Dancy thin set, specifically engineered for glass and specialized saw blades, for instance. It takes an excess of skill and precision to install to a high standard of finish. What does a high standard of finish look like?  I talk more about it in the video below. Glass is going to be your priciest option.

Natural Stone is the second most technical install. A tile guy must eliminate the use of time saving “snap cutters” with this material. That can add a lot of time and effort running to the saw, which will be set up outside the home. Imagine the distance between your kitchen and the garage, we’ll be making that trip for EVERY CUT.  It will likely have to be sealed which adds another step to the install and a small amount of extra money. As far as functionality, natural stone is not as easy to clean. Imagine spaghetti sauce on a tumbled stone. Yuck! There can be added maintenance. The material is, on average, more expensive to buy and install.

Porcelain is your most installer and homeowner friendly material. A good installer can put it up efficiently; it’s the least number of headaches. For a homeowner, it’s tough and maintenance free. An example of porcelain tile would be traditional subway tile.

Sometimes, certain mosaics combine all THREE! Yay!

Tile is as varied as the rainbow! The type of material matters because many types of tile have different installation requirements and standards. Many tile can have different installation techniques that are required. Similar principles, but distinct practices.

If you like detailed back splashes that look like a lot of work to put in, expect a higher price from the installer. What does “a lot of work” entail?

Cutting around light switches and electrical boxes.

Patterns like herringbone.

Kitchens that are difficult to access (upstairs.)

Decorative insets.

Difficult material (glass, mosaics, natural stone)

Tiles that are not square or rectangles. Circles, arabesque, etc. These make it hard to cut a square edge!

Are there inside or outside corners? How many corners?

Will the installer have to climb a ladder to install the tile on the wall? Over cabinets, or around a vent hood?

Moving on, without a doubt, the most difficult part of a back splash is the tear out or demolition of an old back splash. (if you have one.) We don’t just show up and start going to town. Hours are spent protecting your home. Covering countertops and cabinets, covering the floors, putting up zip walls and preparing for dust containment. A demolition is a huge liability for a tile company. We are working inside your house around finished plumbing and cabinets, finished floors and walls. Not to mention, what is buried inside your walls when we are cutting and hammering out the old back splash. There are horror stories of people cutting through water pipes and gas lines. We’ve been close ourselves! Don’t think it doesn’t happen, because it does! Your installer also must dispose of the material from the demolition. Don’t sleep on the demolition and be sure the people who are working in your home are conscientious and respectful.

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After the demolition is complete, which usually takes one full day, we fix any framing. This means straightening and sistering in studs to give a place for our new backer board to be secured. It’s very important to have flat walls with no bumps because this will affect the overall look of the back splash. After all that is done, the old backer board is replaced with new. Some people use drywall, we prefer an engineered, foam board, like Kerdi or GoBoard. Foam board is more expensive, but it is an upgrade because it’s waterproof. It also cuts down on the dust inside your home.

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All the corners and seams get seam tape and we have ourselves a fresh pallet to install your new tile. The prep stage is the most important part of your back splash install, before any tile is set. This part dictates how the whole job is going to go.

Once the prep is complete your tile guy will do a rough lay out. You’ll want to be on site for this part to discuss your options. Options like:

Mirrored or wrapped corners. Click here for informative article.

Inset placement, any other feature placement.

Where you want to stop the tile.

What kind of pattern will you use? Straight set or brick set? Diagonal or herringbone? Click here for descriptive article.

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Be on site for the different stages of the back splash install. Tile is permanent, and there is nothing worse than having a back splash complete and the homeowner wanting to make changes. If you see something wrong or something you don’t like, TELL YOUR INSTALLER, IMMEDIATELY. The next day it comes out with a hammer! Many choices that tile installers make are completely subjective. There is no objective way to do certain design features with tile, so, it all needs to be discussed PRIOR to the tile going up. If you have complete trust in your installer (preferred) great, but if you have strong preferences in how you want things done, be involved. We prefer customers to be invested in what we are doing, rather than having issues once everything is done.

Realize that your home is probably not constructed perfectly. You will have to make compromises if you don’t want your whole kitchen torn apart and redone to accommodate for imperfections out of the remodeler’s control. Why are some things out of the remodeler’s control? Whenever your house was built, it was put together, presumably, below par! Be flexible and open to unorthodox solutions. An example, your granite counter tops may not be level. That means irregular cuts under the cabinets, your walls out of plumb may mean angled cuts! Aside from rebuilding your whole house, compromise is key! A truly skilled artisan will produce, regardless of circumstances.

The average back splash takes one or two days to install the tile, depending on the size. We take our time with back splashes. My favorite saying is this: “A fatigued tile guy is a careless tile guy”. The one thing you don’t want your tile guy to be, is careless!

When we do a back splash, we go step by step, utilizing a tried and true system that produces quality, great looking work and a long-lasting finished product. Tile guys will decrease their price by cutting corners, working long hours and combining steps. Using ‘speed set’ is one example of how they will accomplish this. “Speed Set” is a thin set that is used to stick the tile that sets up quickly. We only use ‘speed set’ if it’s absolutely necessary and in my opinion, it is rarely necessary! Cement gets its strength from the curing process! Speed set quickens the curing process so, it’s an inferior product, in my mind.

We put each part of a back splash into multiple days because we allow for each step to dry completely. We don’t set and grout a back splash in the same day. We set tile, let the thin set completely dry according to manufacturer specifications, and then we’ll grout.

 A five-day job for a conscientious installer, will be cut to two days by a blow and go guy. If you’re not picky and you just want a project to be done quickly and cheaply, that two-day guy is your candidate; but remember, tile is a PERMANENT FINISH and the Cheapest tile job is the one you only have to do ONCE!

Once all the tile is set, we’ll grout. You’ll have to determine what color you like. Pick your grout once all the tile is up, so you can compare colors in the natural light! I recommend using the highest end grout possible. People are usually unhappy with grout getting filthy. There’s an easy solution. Buy a quality grout. It costs more, but it’s denser and has built in sealer, so dirt won’t penetrate it as easily. We use a product by Custom called Prizm or, when we can, a product by Mapei called Flexcolor.

Here’s a part many tile guys skip to save money and you’ll want to have your antennae up during the recruiting phase to hear if your tile guy mentions this. We caulk all plane changes. A “plane change” is where the granite meets the tile, or in corners or under cabinets. Why do we do this? We’ve all seen the cracked grout joints between granite tops and tile splashes in many homes and businesses. That’s because it was grouted in tight and didn’t allow for the small amount of movement in the structure. Every house moves because that’s the nature of wood structures. Good installers will allow for that by using “soft joints” to compensate.

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Installing ‘soft joints’ will add one more trip to your house to use high quality, silicone sealant that matches your grout. We don’t silicone the same day as the grouting because it’s best practice to allow the grout to completely dry, come back the next day, do a final buff, getting any grout dust cleaned up. The product we use is 100% silicone and not the “siliconized” stuff (JUNK!) packed with latex.  It has a slightly different shade than your grout, because one is cement and one is silicone, but it helps to make a lasting, issue free back splash. The silicone is also cleanable, so when you’re cleaning your counter tops you can scrub it without a problem. The soft joint step is usually a couple hours, but we’ll also adjust your outlet covers which can be quite a feat because of the added thickness of the tile. We have our ways!

Our tools are long gone after the setting stage, the cardboard was taken up after the grouting, so when the caulking is done, we pick up a final check and we’re out of your hair. This hypothetical back splash took about five days.

Wow, all that for a back splash. People will call me telling me about the square footage of their back splash. I always tell them; SQUARE FOOTAGE DOESN’T MATTER. Back splashes are billed based upon time. The average backsplash takes a setter and a helper 40hrs. When you get a bill for your custom, one of a kind back splash, think about the price like that; Two guys, working inside your home for 3-5 days. Plus, the cost of setting material, tile, any other business expenses as well as profit. (So, we can stay in business and do your next project.)

On average one of our back splashes will cost from $1,000-$5000. If we have to tear out an old back splash, it will certainly be over $1000.

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A few points for you to think about:

·         Many counter tops have a small 4” granite splash that was installed by a granite company. That piece of vertical granite is more than likely covering a large gap between the granite top and the back wall. Framers build wavy walls and granite guys don’t cut their granite to conform to the wall. If you take that granite back splash off, there may be a large gap that the tile will not cover. If you put tile on top of that granite back splash, in my opinion, it looks extremely silly. You can do it, but it’s not ideal. If you’re having granite put in and you KNOW you’re putting in a tile back splash, make sure the granite guys cut their granite to conform to the wall it is going up against, or you may not be able to use the tile you want, or get tile at all.

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·         Think about edging for your splash. Anywhere that a tile is going to end, where it’s not butted against a cabinet or another wall, you need to edge it. That may be by flipping a tile vertically, while the field is horizontal, or my preferred method is using a Kerdi profile in brush nickel, for example, to match the fixtures. A fine little detail. The raw outside edge of a tile is a quite unflattering and sloppy look!

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· Back splash lighting is important.  Most electricians will slam their lighting against the back wall, which is against national standards. (who’s keeping track?) When this is done you get an effect called “wall wash” where the light hits the tile back splash at an unflattering angle, accentuating every flaw. This isn’t the tile guys fault! If you’re in the planning stages, have your back-splash lighting brought out to the middle of the underside of the cabinet and this will solve the problem. CLICK HERE FOR AN ARTICLE ON THIS TOPIC!

·         Think about buying new face plates for outlets and switches! New plates will look amazing! If your outlets and switches are old and worn, think about having an electrician replace them!

·         Be onsite to supervise the moving of appliances. Your stove very often needs to get moved. It’s wise to be around to help, if needed and consult with the tile installers.

·         Electricity may need to be shut off to the outlets on the back splash to prevent the installers from getting shocked.

·         Your tile installer will also be responsible for adding electrical outlet extenders so your outlet plates go on the way they should!

·         During a demolition, put things away and take things off the wall that could fall due to vibration. There is going to be a lot of hammering! Wouldn’t want to break Granna’s China!

·         You want to be the person that has their counter tops completely cleared of all ‘STUFF’. Make the space ready to work in for the people who are doing your splash. Have a space that is out of the way ready to accept things like coffee pots, dish strainers, etc. Have your island cleared as well if you have one! We’re tile installers, not movers.

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 There is a lot that goes into a back splash. They are certainly a luxury item and when you’re ready to off load your home, a nice one will sell the place for you.  I always warn against shopping for back splashes based on price. We’re usually lured into accepting undesirable treatment or results because the carrot of low price was dangled in front of us. Don’t accept it! This is a permanent finish and something you’ll have to live with as long as you’re in your home. These people will be working in a FINISHED SPACE with your valuables and everything you’ve worked your whole life for. Drop the extra money to have it done beautifully and professionally.

Now that you’ve made it through this post, I sincerely believe you’re ready for anything that comes at you.

You now have the knowledge, which will be transferred into the power to realize the kitchen splash of your dreams! Good luck!

Is your shower a toxic swamp?

It’s nutty to think about some of our recent bathroom tear outs. We start these jobs and as we look at a dated, but otherwise clean looking shower…once we take it apart the utter horrors underneath are enough to write home about.

You’ve seen these tub surrounds or showers, maybe you even have one. White, ceramic 4”x 4” tile. It has caulking that has been done 100 times over the years. The shower looks clean enough. The people who own the home are hygienic and orderly…Little do they know that behind the wall of that shower is a toxic swamp of moisture and mold.

We take it apart and deliver it to the dump and no one is the wiser, but I often think, every bathroom in the neighborhood is like this!

I was thinking about my role as a bathroom re-modeler, watch the video below to hear a recent musing about what motivates us:

Discovering inspiration from a mosaic tile shower floor in Johns Creek, GA

Inspiration sometimes comes from the strangest places! It’s not often when working with tile that we get to be exhilarated by a feel good story. I was really moved to see that the tile we were using on a recent tile shower install in Johns Creek, GA was put together by some people who are being integrated into the work force by a group of non-profit organizations. These people have intellectual difficulties but are still finding fulfillment and purpose making things with their hands. This is another example of an incredibly touching exercise in humanity happening in the tile world.

The company is called Eco Ceramica and it is based in Spain. I would like to promote a great company doing excellent things in the world and being the change they wish to see.

I thought it would be neat if one of the special needs workers living across the world sees a video of the tile they made being installed in the U.S.A I bet it would fire them up and it would also make my year! This would be a great example of things coming ‘full circle’!

Why we're losing craftsmanship in a 'Market for Lemons' and a prescription for change.

I have no problem selling our product to an informed consumer. None. One of my first questions over the phone is “Have you researched my company?” I ask this because I can not sell to a person who is uninformed about the product that I’m selling. In economic terms I’m wanting to reduce ‘information asymmetry.” Information asymmetry deals with the study of decisions in transactions where one party has more or better information than the other. I strive to level the playing field on this website so that everyone is on the same page. If you call my company and I am just a number in your pocket, I will never be able to sell to you. If you want us to do work, and you don’t care about how your project is built, it will be hard for you to see value in our product.

I’ve thought for years about why it’s so difficult to sell our services for reasonable wages in this market. Finally, I have an explanation, which I’m going to elaborate on today. The quality of tile work and a craftsman’s ability to make a living has suffered. A term originated by Nobel prize winning economist George Akerlof , “The market for Lemons” describes the source of our adversity very well.

The “market for lemons” according to Wikipedia:

“Examines how the quality of goods traded in a market can degrade in the presence of information asymmetry between buyers and sellers, leaving only "lemons" behind. In American slang, a lemon is a car that is found to be defective only after it has been bought.

 Low prices drive away sellers of high-quality goods, leaving only lemons behind.”

Click here to read Akerlof’s paper.

This paper was written in the 1970’s and the used car market has improved and solutions have been devised, but it still rings true in many ways in relation to tile installation.

When you buy a used car ultimately you have no idea what is going on under the hood. A car can look great, but it could be a ticking time bomb. Used car dealers go through all sorts of contortions to build confidence in their buyers that they’re buying a reliable car. A buyer is ultimately unable to tell which car is quality and which one is not.

Tile installation is the same way. When you’re buying a shower, you have no idea what is going on under the tile. Tile may look great, but how your shower or bathroom was put together is the most important part and frankly, most homeowners have no idea about the inner workings of their bathroom remodel.

Unfortunately, used cars and tile work have received awful reputations for quality because of this information asymmetry. Buyers simply don’t know what they’re buying. They can’t tell the difference between a lemon and a peach. This leads to prices getting driven down. Everyone assumes they’re buying lemons. Lemons become the norm. I often look at tile work that people are perfectly happy with, and I think of all the improvements we could make to it. “Why didn’t they do this like this…Oh, that’s not right….” But because of an over all degradation of the trade, consumers don’t know the difference between great tile work and average.

So, what happens to the guys like us, that are selling ‘peaches’? Guys that over build things and build with quality and precision. 1. We get driven out of the business because we can’t make a living at it. 2. The quality guys adjust how they do things and build things lower quality in order to meet the market’s price point.

Gresham’s law describes tile very well. “The bad drives out the good.” The ‘race to the bottom’ makes it impossible for craftsmen to prosper.

Some say the solution to this problem is government intervention. More laws. The insurance business is an example where the information asymmetry goes in the buyer’s direction. Insurance companies don’t know what is going on with people; their health, their lifestyle, etc. So, there are laws to account for the buyers’ dishonesty.

Electricians and plumbers are licensed, that helps them regulate their market. They are required to have up to date training, but it’s not a magic bullet. This will never happen in tile.

My solution is an informed consumer. The consumer needs to demand they be able to ‘look under the hood.’ When you’re buying tile ask to see the CARFAX. The internet is solving the information asymmetry. A good tile re modeler is going to have content online for people to verify what they’re getting. My website, my blog, has three years of documentation to verify that we are indeed, selling ‘peaches’. Credentials and reviews also help push the point home.

My problem is how do you make people curious? How do you convince people that all tile work is not the same? How can I convince people to pay more to get something that will last?

I push people to spend a lot of time online before they buy a bathroom. Your number one tool during a bathroom remodel is your computer and an internet connection.

In tile, like in the used car business, there are ‘peaches’ and there are ‘lemons’. Find the company that is selling peaches. Those peaches will be priced much higher than the lemons. The only way you’ll know that you’re getting a peach is by depending on the construction companies’ content marketing and reputation.

Builders have an incredible incentive to cheapen their products and incredible amounts of opportunity to reduce quality by cutting corners in areas that you don’t see.

Just like the CARFAX report has revolutionized used cars, content marketing is revolutionizing remodeling.

Two John Ruskin quotes to ponder:

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Have a look-see at my newest Tile Money guest post!

I endorse Tile Money because I believe the highest good is helping others with good paying work.. Not charity, not hand outs….but a career that pays a living wage. A wage to grow a family, pay taxes, set up a retirement account, get health insurance, take a vacation, send the kids to summer camp. That’s why businessmen have traditionally received the utmost respect and reverence in our society.. I know that respect has waned considerably, but what can I say, I’m a throw back! I still yearn to be one of those guys handing out the Christmas turkeys. The truth is, the only way that’s going to happen is if we can take in the money necessary to grow, not just scrape by and survive.

Tile is a great career, but we need to get educated on portraying its true worth. Many tile guys, with their immense talent and hard working nature, are under paid and under appreciated and are dismissed as simply ‘labor monkeys’.

I want that to stop. Today.

Let me note the two calls today about leaky showers. At least one a week about shoddy tile work. This trade is skilled work, it’s worth every penny of what you pay. Don’t believe me? Ask the people that need to pay twice! Not just money, but time and inconvenience and if they’re not careful, they’ll get ripped off by the “fixers”!

It’s as simple as this: People with good character, WINNERS will not become tradesmen if they will not be paid well. Upstanding men won’t stay in this field if they can’t get paid. So, you will be left with the bottom feeders of society working on your home. Straight talk!

I believe we can elevate this trade and I’m putting my money where my mouth is and participating in a MOVEMENT. Mark my words, this isn’t a podcast….THIS IS A MOVEMENT. At the end of the day, it will only HELP you as a homeowner….because you’ll get better work and better people will be doing the work.

I thank you for not only supporting me now, but supporting the dreams and the future of my children.

So, do be a favor and share the Tile Money podcast and this blog post to other tile installers if you believe in fair pay for an honest days work.

Click here for a blog post about what the Tile Money podcast can do for you!

Find out the secrets of this stunning Kennesaw, GA bathroom remodel.

I open this post bathroom remodel blog post from our latest project in Kennesaw, GA with a comment on how neat it is to look over my blog. What other company can show you their last 3 years of work in this fashion? Allow me to answer that for you, not many!

Karthik and Lindsey received our number from their neighbor Bob, for whom we did a lot of tile work. Bob told them “They’re not cheap but they do a really nice job!” That’s a great description of us! Like I always say, it’s not what you pay, it’s what you get!

They had a pretty clear vision of what they wanted and we just went ahead and put it together for them. We employed our fool proof system for success and they received a show stopper!

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What a great example of what makes us different. It’s a conscientiousness while we work. We’ve been there and done that! How many guys have I seen dive into this tear out carelessly with a sawzall. Can you imagine if you hire a guy like that and they hit these pipes buried in the wall? Not us. We plan for the worst and have the foresight to prevent you from having a major head ache during your bathroom remodel.

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Even your garage floor gets protected while we’re working. “It’s just a garage.” Yes, that is true…But it’s not OURS so it gets treated with the level of respect that you pay winners to have. That’s my new thing, we’re winners. I look around at the men out there. We are winners. You want to hire winners.

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Funny story, while packing this shower pan, the dry pack we were using to form it started hardening in ten minutes rather than the traditional eight hours! What a nightmare. Jason was about half way done with the pan when it started hardening, so we just took it all out and started again the next day. This had a compounding effect on our schedule. We lost about two days because of this, all told. We still finished on time but with a reminder of why we love foam pans! This situation is an illustration of Jason’s perfectionist nature. When you look at your bill and see it’s a little more than the next, realize it’s because things like this that are out of our control happen quite regularly. It seems to be more and more prevalent in the tile business because just like everything else…the materials we use are getting cheaper and cheaper; worse and worse quality…We roll with the punches and keep moving forward with perfection in mind.

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I like to mention the innumerable ugly drains I see in pictures amongst my peers. Schluter has the sharpest drains and I’m doubtful people really notice until they go to a friends house and see the hideous ones that unscrupulous installers put in!

We’re water proofing on the OUTSIDE of the shower too!

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Full coverage under large format tile is so important. It’s more than just plopping tile done and saying, “good enough.” It takes a flat substrate, it takes putting your back into it, and it takes loving care…A professionals touch. We proudly take photos of our full coverage as verification for you after the job is done. I’m still waiting to see that from our competition.

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The supplier didn’t have small format tile for the shower floor available. We do small tile (at or under 4”) on the shower floor to improve footing. Jason went ahead and cut 20 square feet, and sanded all the edges. This stuff is actually better quality than anything you could buy at a tile store, but I suppose I have an attachment to these….because we MADE IT. That’s MADE IN THE USA for ya! Quite literally.

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You think we’ll trust unknown granite installers to install our hard surface curbs and counter tops? I think not! They are famous for putting these things down with silicone and our question to them is what happens when water gets in between the layers? How are these supported without full thin set coverage? I’ll tell you what they say because I’ve asked them…”It doesn’t matter the glass is on top of there.” That mindset is why we don’t let granite people around our showers. They have no concept of how one is supposed to operate and the importance of using proper installation techniques. We don’t even try to tell them how to “feel”. We do us and keep them as far away from your house as possible. We live by the saying, “If you want it done right, do it yourself”.

I wanted to mention that I don’t necessarily hold anything against granite guys. They are expected to do a certain number of installs a day. So, not much time can be put into yours. You’re always better off having the tile guy handle your hard surface installs. He’s there and he cares and he probably doesn’t have 5 other stops to make that day.

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Systems, yes, the implementation of systems is how we have success. One step at a time. Finish this step before you move on to the next. Each step takes as long as it takes.

This is a water proof shower. The most important part of any shower build. We talk a lot about water proofing and if you’re having tile work done this should be a major concern of whoever is constructing your bathroom.

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Straight stacked tile is the way to go…Read the article here! This is a floating bench that will get a metal support bar and a water proof 12”x28” Kerdi in set box. This tile was awfully sizey but nothing Jason couldn’t handle. They were as much as a 1/16” different between each piece, which makes it extremely difficult to keep consistent grout lines.

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The finished product pre glass doors. This small bathroom took us two weeks to complete. Two guys, two weeks, inside your home. We are the guys you can depend on and trust. Most ‘builders’ will send strangers to your house. We are not strangers. Yes, you may trust your builder, but ask to meet the people doing the work. They are the ones that have the fate of your project and your hard earned money in their hands. What’s going on underneath is usually much more important than what you can see!

You can tell I take pride in this, just by the way I write. That’s the beauty of hiring owner operators. We put our name on this stuff, we have addresses in the community and the future of our family rides on these remodels. That’s why we take these so seriously.

At the end of the two weeks of tile installation Chattahoochee Glass Doors comes and does a template. One week later the doors arrive. Like clock work. Every. Single. Time.

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The glass tile in the back of this soap niche was a very interesting look. It had the look of blue jean fabric. This box was placed perfectly in the lay out, full pieces of 12”x24” tile all the way around. This box is edged by color match Schluter profiles. They are special order from the factory, so chances are no one else will have them. Very sharp and a great way to protect the edge of the tile from damage.

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That’s me! I was very happy when my Crossfit coach saw this picture and told me my arms were looking big! I said, “Thanks to your help!” Unfortunately, as my wife’s pregnant belly grows, mine seems to be doing the same thing! My only fitness goal has been staying in an extra large shirt! Small goals for now!

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There was a small back splash on the vanity that had to meet up and be flush with the outside 12”x24” tile. When this happens we’re dealing with different thicknesses so we mount the thinner glass on Kerdi fabric so we can build the smaller tile out to the level of the thicker tile on the outside. Time consuming technique but a very effective one for ‘detail oriented’ tile guys. That’s us!

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We also did a pattern tile laundry floor. I really love pattern tile. I can’t wait to build a shower with it!

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The finished product! This thing looks great and it’s built to last.

So, you’re here. You’re looking for re modelers. You’ve found your guys. You’ve found a company that will have your best interest in mind, that will build something that will last and function as it should; that will go above and beyond, that are experts in their field and are at the TOP of their field; we’ll call you back and show up when we say we will and do the things we say we will…We have all the qualities that people say they want in a remodeling company...and we would like to connect with you. We want to be your unicorn. If you’ve read this far you ‘get it’! These people ‘got it’ and we are so blessed and appreciative to have been their unicorn!

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Finally, the Five Star Google review. I can speak all the golden language and I can sure spin a yarn! But, as the grande finale, allow me to let me our happy client to do the talking for me. I’m particularly proud of the shout out to my web site and blog! It’s why I do this, it’s for my people!

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Neesha (I hope I didn’t miss the spelling) Great, sweet dog! We are dog people. If you have dogs, not to worry, we are well versed in the ways of animals!

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Check out my two recent guest posts!

I had a lot of fun putting together a couple pieces of content for the NTCA (National Tile Contractors Association) and the DIY Tile Guy.

My NTCA (National Tile Contractors Association) blog post is titled, “10 tips for a tile apprentice to get to the top”. On this one I thought I’d write out some hard fought lessons I’ve learned through out my journey as a tile guy. I’m hopeful these pointers will be useful to a young person starting out in the tile business.

Click Here to read my National Tile Contractors Association Article.

I made this video and blog post for the DIY Tile Guy. I have liked his website for a very long time. I’m thrilled to have contributed and it was really exciting to have the opportunity to put this together.. My tip will be invaluable to a Do-it-yourselfer.

His blog contains a load of great information and will be helpful and informative to a homeowner and DIY person alike. If you care about how your project is built, his site is a great resource to figure out how things are supposed to be done!

Check out his excellent blog at DIYTILEGUY.com

Click here to visit my guest blog post!

Have a look at my tile tip video!

Four reasons we recommend a straight stacked tile pattern.

Making a decision about the lay out of your tile can be a very difficult one. Almost as difficult as actually choosing the tile!

Designers and homeowners are usually aesthetically minded, but as installers we think of tile lay out in a completely different way, which I’m writing about in today’s blog post.

In a perfect situation, the designer/homeowner collaborates with the tile guy and takes their perspective seriously. They’ll mix their worldviews to produce something that looks, functions AND lasts. This doesn’t always happen because lay out is often mistakenly seen as not making a difference to the over all finish. The fact is, lay out is quite important in relation to the finished product.

So important, that manufacturers will label their products to inform the installer on how to put it in. Labels like this one generally shouldn’t be ignored:

Be sure to check manufacturer recommendation before installing your new tile.   PRO TIP:   I can tell if the tile I have is from a legitimate, upstanding manufacturer based on whether or not they have installation recommendations on the boxes of tile.

Be sure to check manufacturer recommendation before installing your new tile. PRO TIP: I can tell if the tile I have is from a legitimate, upstanding manufacturer based on whether or not they have installation recommendations on the boxes of tile.

Below are the two most common tile patterns, and many of the other patterns are variations of “brick set” or “offset” lay outs.

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The question:

Why do we consistently recommend a straight pattern over an offset pattern?

Here are my four reasons:

  1. Less potential for small pieces

    As a tile installer there is nothing more unsightly than small pieces of tile. As CTI certified installers, our training advises us to never have any piece smaller than a half, but when we are doing large projects with patterns that are supposed to ‘mirror’ or ‘wrap’ sometimes it’s impossible.

    “But Ben, just shift the pattern.” Easy for you to say! Like I haven’t thought of that! :P

    When shifting a pattern to try to reduce the instance of small pieces, the small piece will manifest itself somewhere else! Frustrating!

    In a perfect world, the space you will be tiling is designed and built to accommodate the tile size and pattern. I’m talking about some EXTREME planning. It never happens like that.

    When we’re putting in a ‘straight set’ pattern, we really have more flexibility in minimizing any small pieces on the project. Below is a perfect example of what I am talking about:

Nothing bugs an installer more than small pieces. But with a bathroom like this, with tile wrapped around the entire space (wainscoting) if you shift the pattern to make bigger pieces in one area, the problem of a small piece manifests itself somewhere else! Problem solves itself with a straight set pattern!

Nothing bugs an installer more than small pieces. But with a bathroom like this, with tile wrapped around the entire space (wainscoting) if you shift the pattern to make bigger pieces in one area, the problem of a small piece manifests itself somewhere else! Problem solves itself with a straight set pattern!

Compare the picture above to this ‘straight set’ bathroom below. Same size tile. Same bathroom lay out with wainscoting. There wasn’t a small cut in this entire bathroom. Full pieces in the corners. Full pieces around the inset box.

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2. Less wasted tile.

Most tile jobs require about 20% waste. Unless we’re doing an offset pattern, we’ll get significantly more so we don’t fall short. The first bathroom with the horizontal offset pattern above, we had practically no leftover tile at the end of the job. We had to strategically use every tile. As a homeowner you may think that is great, but for a tile installer it is a nerve racking experience, and not having enough tile has the possibility of throwing the schedule of a job way off.

The straight set tile job from the photos above had plenty of extra with no danger of falling short. Why?

When an installer is doing an offset pattern sometimes a large portion of cut tile cannot be used anywhere else. That increases the waste considerably.

3. 'Straight set’ is a more contemporary look.

When I look at installer photos from across the pond I see the Europeans doing more ‘straight set’. What I notice when installing tile, there is definitely a generation gap between the people who want an ‘offset pattern’ and those that want a ‘straight pattern’. A ‘straight pattern’ will automatically make your space seem more modern, whereas an ‘offset pattern’ will make your space more traditional. Looking to be young and hip? Go straight set.

And most importantly:

4. ‘Straight set” is more likely to produce a flatter finish.

All porcelain tile is slightly warped. No size has a more pronounced warp than a 12”x24” porcelain tile. They are the main offender. Look around at any commercial space and you’ll see brick set 12x24” that look horrendous. That’s the reason most manufacturers don’t recommend brick set with that size tile. When you brick set a tile of that size, the middle is warped up and the edges are warped down, so where three tile come together there will be lips. An example below, you can see the lips clearly:

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There are ways to alleviate some of these issues, but straight setting is the most straight forward.

Some of the lippage problem can be taken care of with leveling systems, like Lev-Tech or MLT but they are not a fix all. Leveling systems add another level of technicality to any install. Cost aware people should think ‘straight set’!

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The built in warpage of tile is the number one issue with the material. The higher quality tile has less warp, but every tile has some.

These two floors could not be done in an ‘offset pattern’ Even a 1/3rd offset was proving to be problematic.

Let me rephrase that, these floors could have been done with an offset pattern, but they would have had unsightly lips. “Just be a better tile installer!” Ultimately, we are only as good as the material provided.

We spoke to the customer and straight stacked the floor and they both came out perfectly flat, because instead of the warps working against each other, we configured them in a lay out so that the warped tile worked with each other.

A flat, lip free install took precedence over an arbitrary aesthetic preference, as it should.

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The moral of the story is that you increase your probability for success by conferencing with your installer prior to installation and seeing what the best option for lay out will be. I’m a big fan of mock-ups. Have a mock up done for comparison and make a decision from the perspective of ‘this tile is forever’. Be open to change, based on the limitations of the material.

Expert Glass tile back splash installation in Milton / Woodstock, GA...worth the money!

Man, we had a lot of fun on this recent glass tile back splash install in Milton / Woodstock, GA. We see a challenge and laugh in it’s face!

Check out the video break down below! My favorite thing is to know (unlike the other guys) you can look CLOSELY at our work and check the details! We are detail oriented tile guys, it’s not just a slogan. See for yourself. Zoom in!

BEFORE

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AFTER

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The fun and the Artistry is in the creation:

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The guys after a true team building project!  Vetted tile installers. We are producers. We get you what you want.

The guys after a true team building project!

Vetted tile installers. We are producers. We get you what you want.

Has your shower failed? Your nose knows!

I started my relationship with these clients in Milton, GA by putting them together a glass back splash. They had found me through the CTEF website. It was a challenging splash as most glass back splashes are. I remember setting up in the driveway, because the house didn’t have a garage, and the week I was there was one of the coldest of the year. Twenty degree temps during the day, mixed with water from the wet saw….made for a miserable install!

About mid way through the job, the homeowner obviously decided I was the installer for him. I should have known he had been bamboozled by someone else, because someone traditionally isn’t going to go on the CTEF site without first being swindled by a careless builder. He brought me to his master bath and from the moment I walked in, I had the eerie feeling of mold and decay. I could smell it faintly. It was an otherwise aesthetically pleasing shower, but with a natural stone shower floor, that I identified as holding water….and a crack in a grout joint on the shower bench. I also noticed all the corners and plane changes were grouted in, which doesn’t accommodate movement in the structure . That’s a major indicator that whoever built it didn’t care, even a little bit.

Immediately, I knew it was a failed shower. I told him so, but also advised him to talk to someone who ‘repaired’ such showers to get another perspective.

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What happens in this situation is that the water hits the building material underneath the tile, that wasn’t properly water proofed. The building material expands as it gets wet and drys out, forcing the tile to move, cracking the grout. This shower was only FIVE YEARS OLD. Goes to show you how important water proofing is.

They ended up hiring us to rebuild the bathroom.

Have a look at the photos below. I know I lose jobs to the ‘repair guy’ because of the cost of full replacement. The photos below show you how awfully built this shower was. If a repair person comes in and ‘repairs’ the pan, this house would still have had an atrociously built shower, with a new pan.

We rebuilt the entire bathroom, for the lowest cost, when you acknowledge that they’ll never have to touch it again and that it’s built correctly (waterproof) with modern products and effective techniques. Tile is the least expensive building material over the life of the product, but only when it’s installed properly. That’s where we come in!

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There could not be a clearer example of the difference in how we install tile and how “the builder guy” installs. In the professional tile community, the picture above is the worst of the worst. All of the voids where there is no thin set, is a place for water (and bacteria) to hide. Those tiles jumped off the wall with a tap of the hammer.

When you walked into this bathroom all you had to do was use your nose to sniff and you could tell you were in the presence of a failed shower.

NTCA (National Tile Council of North America) states that an installer should get 95% thin set coverage (on the back of the tile) inside of a wet area. When using big tile (or any tile for that matter) you only get 95% coverage by flattening the walls that the tile is going on. The way we do it is by fixing the framing. The picture below is what 95% coverage looks like.

Want to test your installers competence? Ask him what the standard for thin set coverage is inside of a shower? If he doesn’t know or gets that question wrong, don’t hire him.

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You may be thinking, “A shower built like this is an anomaly, my builder is a pro.”

We see these type of showers all the time, these are regular occurrences.

Your builder may be a “pro” but what about the guys he sends to your house to do the work? Are they tile specialists? Vet them too!

Below is a picture of a vetted installer. Certified Tile installer #1465.

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The box bench in the photo is built out of cinder blocks. The ‘builder’ glued on fiber rock to the front to build it out to where he needed it for a better tile lay out. It was a bio-hazard zone!

Not only that, Imagine the additional weight on the frame of this house because of this bench. Cement is heavy. That’s a problem when houses are built to minimum standards.

Foam alleviates the added weight from the house’s structure which automatically makes your house stronger.

That bench was at least 300 unnecessary pounds.

Yuck.

Yuck.

Below, what you’ll notice is that we completely rebuilt this wall. The previous framing was missing about five studs. it was nailed precariously, plumbing wasn’t secured.

The house we were working in wasn’t some cheap place either, this was a really nice place, owned by very pleasant people..who didn’t deserve the treatment the previous contractor gave them.

That electrical box you see, was a junction buried in the wall that we uncovered during the demolition.. Burying junctions is something electricians lose their licenses over. We made sure it was accessible on the other side of the wall.

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We ‘wet shimmed’ these walls to make them plum and flat. We glued these colored spacers on the wall to allow us to be able to screw our Kerdi board the same day. It’s a new technique we were experimenting with. It worked great but took forever! We perfected this technique by using 1/4” plywood plumbed up and flattened, stapled to the inside of the stud. THAT worked perfect!

We use old skills daily and also modify and improve upon existing ones. Jason sometimes comes up with stuff I’m sure is original to him.

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All of our showers get a ‘flood test’ as an insurance policy. Fill the pan with water and wait 24 hrs. We’ve never had one fail, but it’s easier to go backwards before tile rather than after. Is your installer giving your shower a ‘flood test’?

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“What size is your biggest soap bottle?” Jason asked.

“Oh, here it is, my husband hates how he can’t pump it when it’s in the soap niche.”

These small conversations with our clients ensure they get what they want. These small conversations help us find out their needs.

Tim can now pump his soap because we built him a custom sized soap niche.

It’s part of hiring PEOPLE rather than a BUILDER.

PEOPLE are responsive to your needs, you know them, you interact with them.

A BUILDER sends mystery men to your house, that are generally there to get the job done as quickly as possible and are usually instructed NOT to talk to the homeowner.

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One of the final steps is installing toilet paper holders and towel rods..

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We put in a corner bench without a front built out of 2” structural foam. It increases the space inside the shower and they are less of an obstruction. The solid box benches are a disaster! They are also the main spot the showers leak. We never penetrate the water proofing to put in one of our benches.

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When someone gets defrauded on a shower the custom glass panels cannot be re-used. They are custom built for the shower. Luckily we were able to re-use one panel in this bathroom, saving these folks a bit of money, but generally the glass cannot be salvaged. To the trash they go!

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This bathroom main floor had a large crack across the tile. Why did this happen and how did we solve the problem?

The previous builder did not put enough blocking in the floor after he cut out a section. When we took the tile off Jason put his foot through the floor by simply walking on it.

The previous builder was also under the false assumption that cement board adds structural strength. It doesn’t.

We ended up adding another layer of plywood as well as extra wood in the framing to support the weight of tile. To have tile, your house needs to be solidly built. Over engineered.

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Before you hire for your next remodeling project, be on the look out for these logos. They signify your tile installer understands the mechanics of tile installation.

Two low cost items that are sure to improve your daily 'duties'

My main priority on this blog is to help my readers. I’m a professional tile installer, but before that, I am a person, with regular human functions. Today we’re going to elaborate on those fundamental human functions, so if you have a more refined disposition, if you don’t want to read about using the restroom, this isn’t the post for you. This is a bathroom web page, and what happens in the bathroom? What do I have to lose!?

Now that we’re on the same page, today I am here to tell you about two low cost bathroom improvements that I’m sure, when you adopt, they will change your daily duties. The first is an ingenious invention called the Hello Tushy.

I’ve been using the Tushy for about two years now, so I’m not a band wagon jumper or recent adopter…this thing is a main stay in my daily routine. The Tushy is an aftermarket bidet, that attaches to your existing toilet with just a couple tools. The installation is simple and more importantly it washes your bum with water.

I’m not sure why bidets never caught on in the United States, but I assume it’s because they went against societal norms, A tradition of using paper and smearing the stuff everywhere back there, I don’t really understand it. The best option for me has always been to go to the toilet and then take a shower directly after, now that I have a Tushy, I cut out the middle man, I don’t have to take off my clothes or waste all that water to get completely clean.

The sales pitch that really sells it is this, When you get chocolate on yourself, what do you wipe it off with? Do you wipe it off with a dry paper towel? Or do you get a wet wipe or a wet paper towel and wipe it off?

Tushy comes in at around $70. $70 to walk around clean like a king(or queen). Sitting here now I’m starting to think about all the dirty bums out there, that just smeared the stuff with toilet paper. What a beautiful feeling of luxury, after your daily visit. Additionally, you’ll save money on toilet paper, a great thing for environmentally conscious people.

So, let’s think outside the box (or cave) and give Hellotushy.com a try! You won’t be disappointed.

 

Okay, back to the cave…

The next low cost bathroom improvement is one you’ve probably seen. If you’re a television watcher you’ve seen their unicorn ad. The Squatty Potty has improved my movements by optimizing my posture for the job at hand.

I’m an outdoorsmen as well as a lifter, so that low squat position is a thing of beauty. Whenever I’m doing heavy squats I have an urge to let a stinky one fly…I’m always in public, so I hold it back, but it proves my point. That low squat is best for the release!

What the squatty potty does is, it sets you up in the position to have the best flow. Our bodies are simply not designed to go in the seated position. We may think of ourselves as modern, hip beings…but our biology is still set in the cave. This company has devised a way to honor both sides of humanity, modern with a nod to our stone age make up.

This simple, plastic stool sets up around your toilet ( you can easily move it) and as your setting up, you lift your feet six inches and rest them on raised platform. It’s that easy. It’s comfortable and cost effective at $25.

These two aftermarket pieces have my toilet looking like upgraded Honda Civic, but they have proven to make my life much better. I also love the questions I get from guests when they go to use my bathroom. I never skip the opportunity to modestly demonstrate how they work. “Yeah, just stand right here and turn that nob!”

We haven’t made it to Mars, but we have figured out how to maximize comfort at bathroom time…This is a big win for humanity, always striving for comfort!

If you’ve made it this far, check out the accompanying videos and marvel at the wonders of the 21st century. Also, be sure to click the links below to be brought to the product web sites for more.

HelloTushy.com

SquattyPotty.com