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Vital checks before installing natural stone & porcelain tiles

26 May

Are the tiles suitable for the intended use?

Before installing tiles of any kind, whether they are porcelain tiles or natural stone tiles, certain considerations should be taken into account. Irrespective of who has chosen or purchased the tiles, it should be confirmed by whoever is doing the installation that the tiles purchased are suitable for the application they are intended for. Ordinarily a professional installer will be able to determine this, and if they don’t consider them to be suitable – for example you might not want to use Mediterranean White Limestone in a high traffic area – then they would normally point this out prior to installing the tiles. If the customer still wanted to go ahead then that would be their choice. If you are installing stone or porcelain tiles yourself, you should speak to the retailer, giving them as much information as possible and asking them to confirm they are suitable for their intended area.

Have I got the right tiles?

You’d be surprised by how many people receive the wrong tiles, and the installers just install them without question. I’ve been installing natural stone and porcelain tiles for over 15 years and have be given the wrong tiles to install on numerous occasions. I’ve been sent honed marble tiles instead of a polished marble tiles and quite often received the wrong size tile. If you don’t brief your installer as to exactly what they are getting then there is always the possibility that the wrong product may be received and they will just install it! For example tell them something like:

“You should receive 24sqm of polished cappuccino marble tiles size 610x406x12mm – please confirm you have received the right product”.

It’s always wise to leave a sample tile with the installer for them to use to check against what they have received, assuming you won’t be there when the tiles arrive. Of course, if you take delivery of the tiles you can check yourself to make sure you have got what you ordered. It sounds simple, but it has been known for tiles to sit on drives for days on end only for the installers to find out they haven’t got what they were meant to have when they turn up! Basically, always make sure you get what you asked for, and your installer knows what they are meant to be installing.

“I just fitted the tiles what I received, Mrs” whilst not in accordance with numerous tile installation standards like BS8000 Pt.11 (workmanship/internal and external wall and floor tiling) and BS5385 (wall & floor tiling) it is a common retort and not that helpful when they’ve been paid and everything’s stuck to your bathroom walls. As far as retailers are concerned, there is nothing that can be done once the tiles have been installed.

Wet Natural Stone Tiles:

There is a separate article titled “Natural stone tiles are often supplied wet – here’s why” that goes into precisely why some natural stone tiles are supplied with moisture content. Travertine tiles and limestone tiles are more susceptible to this as they are more porous than granite tiles or marble tiles, and tend to retain some moisture from manufacturing. This moisture content typically makes the tiles look a shade or two darker than they will be when they are bone dry. When your travertine tiles arrive wet, it’s a good idea to let a few of them dry out properly to see what the final colour will be, to ensure you are satisfied with the end result. Ivory travertine tiles have a habit of getting lighter over a period of time once they have been installed.

Porcelain tiles – Batch numbers:

When it comes to installing porcelain tiles, it's important to check you’ve got the right ones and they all come from the same batch. Retailers typically don’t send out different batches of tiles in one order as the shades, and quite often the sizes of the tiles, can vary. It’s not unheard of for somebody to unwittingly receive tiles from two different batches, install the first batch then find out that the remainder of the tiles is different. This can cause massive problems for all involved. It’s vital that whoever is doing the installation, whether it be a professional installer (and they don’t always get it right) or a DIY enthusiast, checks that the batch numbers that are clearly printed on the boxes to ensure they are all the same. If different numbers are identified, this information should be relayed back to the supplier BEFORE installation commences. There’s no point in installing one batch, then speaking to the supplier and asking them to supply the remainder from the same batch only to find out that there are no more available! Bottom line – make sure your porcelain tiles all come from the same batch.

Mixing tiles up and pre-selecting:

There are colour and shade variations from tile to tile in all natural stone products. However, during manufacturing, tiles are cut from large slabs of rock and each slab will vary from each other. If you can imagine 20 tiles all coming from one slab that look similar to each other are packed into a crate, and the next 20 coming from another slab all look similar and are packed next to the previous 20, then there could be a distinct shade variation between the two batches of 20. This is a simplistic overview and the manufacturing process has many other factors that can affect this, like quality selection etc. Theoretically, if an installer takes out one tile at a time from a crate of tiles and fixes them to, for example a kitchen floor, you could get two areas of the floor that have distinct patches where each set of 20 tiles have been installed.

The recommended practice for pre-selecting natural stone tiles is to:

  • Go through the entire batch and pick out any that you might want to go in inconspicuous areas, like underkitchen cabinets or under a bath or shower tray. These tiles might have slight defects or have some pattern on them that you don’t necessarily want in the middle of your kitchen floor.

  • Take all the tiles out of their crate and stand them up against a wall in as many rows as you can. Taking each tile out and placing it randomly on a row will in effect mix the tiles up like a pack of cards. The installer will then take tiles randomly from the rows mixing them up even more. This will ensure the tiles are laid randomly and there is no possibility of large patches of one shade appearing next to each other.

The above is standard practice for most natural stone tile installations, but not all. If you see an installer pulling one tile at a time from a crate of tiles and fixing them to your walls or floor, you should be concerned.

Fixing products:

It’s better to be safe than sorry on this one. If you are doing the installation yourself or if you are providing the installation products to your installer, then you should make sure you are getting the right products for the job. Always speak with whoever is supplying the fixing products and discuss the installation with them. They will be able to advise on exactly what is required. Typically problems arise when unsuitable adhesive is used with porcelain tiles, or where underfloor heating is used. If in doubt, call the manufacturer's helpline on the bag and discuss with them. If you get an adhesive failure after using the wrong product, you will have to rip the whole lot up and start from scratch! Not much fun I can assure you.

StoneSuperStore can offer help and advice on all aspects of natural stone and porcelain tile installation. Feel free to call and discuss your project with us even if you haven’t ordered anything yet.

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