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The Tile Contractor

Do-it-Yourself (DIY) shows make most construction projects look easy. But seeing a demonstration of one way it can be done, on TV, doesn’t show you the critical analysis, planning, substrate preparation and site-specific trim decisions that are made in order to get a job done right. Many critical experience-based insights go into a proper tiling job.

A backsplash installation might be simple enough DIY project to tackle. But more critical applications such as a shower stall, require quite a lot more expertise to assure a leak-proof, waterproof, problem-free installation. Since even demolition costs money, as does damage repair and new tile materials, if you’re not entirely sure what you’re doing, a failed installation may result in quite a bit more expense down the road.

Tile installation is actually somewhat of an art form. It also requires a good deal of planning and mathematics to work out the details. Surface preparation is critical to the installation and may require leveling work. An installation is only as good as the installer is experienced, and a craftsman. There is no “school” for tile contracting, but there is apprenticeship and training through the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF). The CTEF provides training and assessments for installers and certifies they are trained in the latest techniques and material types for the vast selection of tile materials available today.


Selecting a Tile Contractor

Always verify a prospective installer is certified, licensed, and has current insurance.

The contractor should review a design, the intended materials and the installation site with you in order to prepare a bid. The contractor will also figure tile quantities and the type of coordinating trim, if any, is necessary for the project.

Your prospective contractor should seem organized and detail oriented in order to instill your faith that the job will be completed in the same neat and professional manner with which they conduct themselves.

Tile installation is not an odds-and-ends handy-man job. Hire someone with at least three years of experience.

Always ask if the contractor has experience working on similar projects with similar materials (large format tile, wood look, etc.) and ask to see some photos. A good installer is proud of their work and usually happy to show you. Study photos closely for the revealing details:

  • Evenly spaced tile
  • Perfectly straight grout lines
  • The surface of the entire installation should appear level with all tiles "flush" to one another, free of protruding edges.
  • Cut tiles should be equally sized even if they are on opposite ends of the room
  • How were windows, doors, and corners handled?–trims are important.


The Bid

Ask for a written bid.

Get at least three bids in order to gauge your decision. 

Get a written guarantee the tiler will stand behind his work. You should expect this guarantee to cover you for at least two years.

If you wouldn’t buy a used car from this contractor, don’t hire them to do the installation.