Installing Tile and Stone

Ceramic tile and stone products are in high demand in both commercial and residential construction. The growth of tile and stone is exciting for those of us making a living on it. In addition, these products add considerable value and profit to the owner. Granite countertops, porcelain tile, glass and metal tiles, and larger-format tile are a few examples of products finding their way into homes and buildings ranging from entry-level to high-end. Not long ago, a large tile was thought to be 8 in. by 8 in. Now, products as large as 24 in. by 24 in., and in some cases exceeding 3 ft. in size, are being used.

Builders and developers are aware of the benefits that tile and stone offer their projects. This is especially true with construction trends today. It is important to point out that a quality installation is crucial, but unfortunately sometimes becomes an afterthought in the battle to remain competitive. Poor tile and stone installations can be catastrophic to the project, as repairing them is extremely costly. It is important to get it done right the first time.

The job of home builders is an extremely difficult one. They have to satisfy the desire of their clients while ensuring the subcontractors do their jobs right and on schedule. When it comes to tile and stone installation, the builder needs to look to the tile contractor as the leader, and trust that the installation products used and the methods implemented are correct. This doesn’t happen overnight. So how does one develop that type of trust? What makes a great tile contractor?

Successful contractors

Too often tile contractors bidding a project are selected on price alone. This can be a grave mistake for a builder. There is no disputing that price plays a significant role in the selection of all subcontractors. Even more importantly, however, is the tile contractors’ reputations and track records. Do they have the ability to perform the scope of work needed? Do they have a proven track record when it comes to timeliness, quality and safety? Do they have a list of satisfied customers? Home builders are at risk if they don’t check these facts prior to letting them on a project.

Successful tile contractors can communicate to the builder their industry standards. They are committed to training throughout all phases of their business. They invest in their most valuable resource: their employees. They probably are affiliated with either a national or local organization, where they are kept abreast of the changes to tile and stone installation methods. In 2007, numerous changes were made to our industry standards, and quality tile contracting companies must be aware of these changes. They are proactive subcontractors, not reactive.

The National Tile Contractors Association is in the process of implementing a Gold Star recognition program for its members. The purpose of this program is to allow members who are serious about differentiating themselves from their competitors a vehicle in which to do so. In order to achieve this recognition, a company must meet criteria set forth by the association’s board of directors. The applications submitted by each company for consideration of recognition are reviewed and approved by experts in the industry. Included in the criteria are the following:

  1. Membership in good standing of NTCA;
  2. History of continuity and integrity (five years);
  3. Demonstration of active safety program;
  4. Continuing education and training program;
  5. Reference letters from client base as follows:
    a. Commercial: architect and general contractor,
    b. Residential: home builder and consumer.

It is critical to understand the importance of safety in the selection process of a tile contracting company. In commercial construction, active safety programs most often are a requirement for bid consideration. In addition, hiring a contractor committed to safety provides the owner, architect or builder with a much better chance of a safe work environment, reducing the potential for injury on the jobsite.

Equally as important as a safety program is the demonstration of a commitment to training. Active training programs incorporate new methods, tried-and-true practices from the past, and involve both classroom and jobsite supervision. A process of measuring performance in both areas needs to be clearly understood. A dedicated employee should be in charge of this program. Commitment to training is a clear indicator to any home builder that you are working with a contracting company that cares about doing the job right the first time. It speaks volumes about their business ethics and their credibility as a business partner.

When you find a tile contractor who possesses many of these qualities, hang on to them. They are money in your pocket.