Each tile project is unique, but some basics apply. When you work with a professional tile installer, here are a few crucial processes that should be part of your project:
Your installer can be a great resource for choosing the right tile (format, size and finish) for your project. Include them in the tile selection process before making a final selection if possible. They have first-hand experience with the myriad details that can impact the finished look. For example, you want a narrow grout line, but you’ve chosen a tile that has a minimum recommended joint width. What’s the best way to proceed? An experienced installer can help explain your options.
Because humans order, pack, pick and ship tile, it’s best practice to inspect the tile order before installing to ensure it’s the tile you were expecting. And, yes, this can mean opening all boxes! This review allows for any issues with color, breakage, shortage, etc. to be dealt with before the installation is ready to begin. Your installer can help with this as well. Skip this process at your peril! Lost time, headaches and hassles can be avoided with this easy step.
Mix Tile Boxes
Color is a variable characteristic. Consistency can be hard to achieve, and this includes tile. While wide color variations are generally not acceptable for tile used on a single project, some variation should be expected. These variations may not be immediately noticeable and may only be discovered after the project is nearing completion. That’s when “pools” of different shades become apparent. Experienced installers mix tile among boxes so color variations are masked and visual continuity achieved.
Dry Setting Before Installation
By dry fitting tiles prior to actual installation, your installer can give you an idea of the finished look. While changes at this point may cause delays, it’s better than a project you are less than happy with or an installation that needs torn out. This process also helps identify any color or pattern variations that still need to be addressed beyond mixing up boxes.
Proper Surface Prep & Tile Setting
What an installer does before a single tile goes down can make or break a project’s success. Just like an iceberg, big stuff happens under the surface! This is not an area where you want your installer to be short on knowledge or interested in saving a buck. Using quality products for surface prep and tile setting can help alleviate any aspects of the installation that are less than ideal, such as unlevel surfaces, absorbent substrates and movement. Along with the “what” of material selection goes the “how.” The right products need to be applied the right way. The National Tile Contractors Association offers training and guidance on the proper trowel method and mortar coverage and professional tile installers follow these recommendations. Along with helping to ensure correct installation, following these guidelines and manufacturer’s instructions protects most applicable warranties.
After the proper no-traffic set time, tile is ready to grout. Along with setting materials and mortar, your installer will likely have a preferred manufacturer/formulation for your project. Choosing a grout color within these parameters avoids surprises and allows your installer to work with products they are familiar with. Any sealers will be applied after the necessary dry time.