The following article is presented to increase your general knowledge of tile installation, and is not meant to be an installation tutorial as much as a source of information.
TEN TIPS FOR COMMON TILE INSTALLATIONS
Common installations are a tile/stone contractor's bread and butter, but the need to increase profitability always exists. Installations such as tile over concrete, tile over plywood sub-flooring, tile over green concrete, and showers, come up often. Yet, inefficiencies can threaten the profits of even commonplace jobs. Here are 10 tips to help improve efficiency---and the bottom line.
1. Think “big picture”
Taking a step back to first look at the big picture will save time and money in the long run. Among the questions to ask yourself before getting out the tape measure and pencil include:
- Is the specified type of tile or stone appropriate for the intended installation? A material that is terrific for an interior wall may not be suitable for an outdoor patio-and vice versa.
- What are the ramifications of the job's other specifications? Don't get tripped up by not reviewing all specifications related to the job. For example, a tile floor installed over joists 19.2 inches OC, vs 16 inches OC, requires extra attention to ensure a successful installation.
- How to attack the job? Some jobs are best handled in one intense burst of activity while others are better completed in phases. A careful review of the specifications should provide the answer and help you better plan.
- What are the logistics of getting materials, equipment and personnel to and from the job site? Depending on the job, basic logistics can affect profitability.
2. Estimate and then re-estimate.
It's always tricky to accurately forecast the needed amounts of tile, installation materials and labor. A common rule of thumb is to purchase 10 percent more tile than required by the job's square footage to allow for cuts, errors and breakage. More than 10 percent may be needed for particularly fragile tiles, or when setting tile on a diagonal. A tile dealer or distributor should be able to provide guidance.
In addition, be on the lookout for factors that might cause you to use more installation material than anticipated. Two variables are the condition of the substrate and the size of the tile to be set. A wavy floor at the jobsite might require more material than expected. Likewise, larger size tile often requires more mortar to ensure a secure bond.
A good approach to use when considering mortars is to look at the yield - or approximate coverage in square feet - per bag when used with specific sizes of trowels (e.g. ¾ -inch rounded notch or ¼ by ¼ by ¼ inch square notch.) In fact, the yield per bag provides a better comparison than price because a cheaper mortar might offer less coverage.
Grout coverage is a bit easier to gauge because it is based on the width of the joint (1/16 inch or 1/8 inch) and the size of the tile in the installation. Grout manufacturers present this coverage information on packaging or specification sheets.
If you need to increase the efficiency of your estimating, you may want to consider one of the tile estimating computer software programs on the market. In any event, it always pays to go through the estimate with a fine-tooth comb whenever time permits.
The Handbook is an invaluable resource because the methods it addresses cover a wide range of tile installations. It doesn't, however, contain proprietary methods recommended by the manufacturers of tile installation materials. When in doubt about selecting an appropriate installation method, consult with the manufacturer.
Natural stone installation guidelines are covered in the Dimension Stone Design Manual. This reference book, produced by the Marble Institute of America (MIA), includes industry recommendations, performance data and design information. More information on this book is available at
Depending upon the material and the type of installation, consult the TCA Handbook, the Dimension Stone Design Manual or installation material manufacturers.
- Creating the underlayment, or the leveling layer, for the surface.
- Making an existing underlayment suitable for tile installation.
- Addressing a particular condition related to the surface.
An underlayment may consist of cement board or a pourable material, called a self-leveling underlayment, which creates a flat, level surface for installing tile. The TCA Handbook requires a substrate tolerance of ¼ inch in 10 feet and 1/16 inch in 1 foot.
In other instances, it may be necessary to patch an existing concrete or plywood underlayment so it is level and free of voids, seams and depressions. In addition, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) recommends that concrete or masonry is “dry, structurally sound and free of wax, curing compounds or other coatings.” The best way to ensure that this substrate is free of contaminants is to employ a mechanical cleaning method such as sandblasting, shot-blasting or scarifying.
Specific conditions might also exist, such as cracks in a concrete underlayment or a situation that requires waterproofing before tile is set. Crack isolation and waterproofing membranes are available for these purposes.
7. Take a systems approach
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