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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’?
“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.
One of the final steps is installing toilet paper holders and towel rods..
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.
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!
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.