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Natural Stone & Porcelain Tile Help & Advice

Professional installation: How to find an installer and get the best job done.

Like any other “trade”, the techniques required to successfully tile an entire bathroom or kitchen floor have to be learned over a period of time before you can call yourself a tiler. Whilst you don’t need to have studied at Oxford, it still requires a certain amount of brainpower and skill to achieve the best results. For instance, the successful installation of marble tiles with all their inherent fault lines and fragile veins requires certain techniques if all the tiles are not to be broken during cutting. Not only are there certain cutting techniques required, you need specific cutting equipment too. To successfully cut natural stone tiles you must use professional wet cutting machinery with diamond tipped cutting blades.

Layout considerations, aka “setting out”

When tiling a bathroom, a good installer will consider the layout of the tiles on the walls and/or floors to get the best aesthetic result. This requires a good amount of consideration as to where the apertures in the walls are, like windows and doors, and where pottery, like toilets and sinks, will be placed along with shower screens and any other furniture.

If your tiler doesn’t spend a good amount of time weighing up the layout (also known as “setting out”) and say, just starts at one end of the room and finishes at the other, you will no doubt get some unsightly small thin cut pieces of tiles (sometimes known as slithers) up against windows and doors etc, because they haven’t considered the setting out and just chucked up whatever they have been supplied.

Any good installer will consider the setting out and if they don’t, then basically they don’t know what they are doing or can’t be bothered.  This is a sign of an “in & out quick” job, which you don’t really want when you’ve just spent a hard earned £3000 on your glorious limestone tiles. There are numerous tradespeople like plumbers and joiners that say they can tile but these tend to be (but not always) the ones that don’t know what they should about getting the best end result. They might be familiar with cheap ceramics that are easy to fix and cut, but natural stone tiles are a completely different ball game. It’s always better to get a professional tiler involved.

Finding a good stone tiler:

Finding a good tiler in this country isn’t as easy as it might seem. There are countless people out there that call themselves tilers that really should be doing something else. We hear horror stories all the time about atrocious installations from so-called tilers. It’s heartbreaking, especially if you have to live with the end result or are at worst faced with ripping an entire bathroom out and starting again. It does happen, and all too often. We are regularly asked for advice on how to remedy poor installations and the truth is that there is little you will be able to do but start again.

So how do you find a good natural stone tiler? Well there’s a clue in the question. There are numerous different tile types like ceramic tiles, porcelain tiles, terracotta tiles and natural stone tiles. Generally, tilers will prefer installing a certain type and specialize in for example, ceramics. What you need is somebody that specializes in the installation of natural stone tiles. You will tend to find that a good stone installer will prefer installing a certain type of stone, like for example travertine tiles, but generally if they specialize in stone tiles then they will be able to install practically any type of common stone. That said, it doesn’t guarantee that they are any good at it!

We strongly recommend using a stone tile installer who has previously done work for somebody you know. As a general rule, personal referral is the best way of sourcing good tradespeople. There are a few minor downsides if you manage to get hold of somebody that really knows what they are doing. Firstly, if they are any good they will no doubt have plenty of work lined up, as word travels fast when you do a good job. I spent 15 years tiling and never spent a penny on advertising! The other slight downside is that good installers cost good money – that’s a fact. So our advice is don’t leave finding your installer until the last minute, and expect to pay decent money for anybody capable of giving you the quality of workmanship you will no doubt expect.

If you are considering a DIY tile installation:

We sell plenty of tiles to people who are going to do their own installation and most manage to eventually complete the job themselves. All we can say on this subject is make sure you know what you are capable of before starting. Tiling a small area in a bathroom with ceramic tiles from B&Q is one thing, but an entire bathroom in marble is another.

Remember, professional installers have professional equipment. Trotting down to the nearest Screwfix to buy a cheap wet cutter certainly won’t enable you to get the best results. Cutting marble tiles successfully requires precision equipment and a level of skill not many, even most tilers, posses. We quite often get calls when a DIY installation goes wrong and somebody’s marble tiles are crumbling in their hands when they are trying to cut them incorrectly with inappropriate equipment. The quality of the tiles is always the first thing people blame saying they are faulty or substandard, when 99% of the time it’s down to how they are being cut and handled. This is a skilled trade after all.

There is no doubt that some satisfaction comes from doing something yourself, and of course there are cost implications as well. Our advice on DIY natural stone or porcelain tile installation is to always consider using a professional first before you decide to take the job on yourself. They will always do a better job, and no doubt get it done in far less time - so you don’t end up showering in the kitchen sink forever whilst your bathroom is out of action and your wife is threatening to leave you unless she gets her bathroom back!

If you really want to do it yourself, we can still offer some sound advice – why not call the office to discuss some dos and don’ts with professional stone tile installers.

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