I love renovating bathrooms and in days gone by I was very hands-on in our own homes. I have the war stories of laying miles of tiles whilst eight months pregnant to prove it! Well, the baby is now 18 and there are many more bathrooms under the belt, and fortunately I have learned a lot along the way.
Blogger: Bernadette Janson, The School of Renovating
Starting out renovating, you tend to think that saving a dollar is the Holy Grail, and to some extent it is but not at the expense of quality.
Tiling requires accuracy, a joint can be as little as 2mm out and you can pick it out a mile off, and for that reason I go to great lengths to get a top notch tiler. Nothing sets off a bathroom like a beautiful tiling job.
I learned very quickly that unless you are a tradesman yourself, DIY can take the shine off your renovation project.
Making the effort to seek out a top-notch tiler will help you avoid a whole host of bathroom regrets, but if you haven’t had a lot of experience it is difficult to sort the good from the not-so-good.
Here are some tips to selecting a skilled tiler:
Get quotes from at least three tilers. I generally supply the tiles and grout and ask the tiler to supply the rest (sand, cement, adhesive etc). Make sure they come to look at the job so that you can explain the scope fully.
It’s fine to make your selection based on price, as long as you complete a thorough due diligence process with your chosen tradesman.
Other than the usual document checks, it is also important to do thorough reference checks.
I use three main criteria for reference checks:
1. Can I work with him?
• This is pretty easy to work out by asking the owners about his attitude, whether he kept to his word, was efficient, reliable and what variations, if any, were raised. (Forgive me for being sexist here but I am yet to come across a female tiler)
2. Will the tiling job function well?
• Is there enough fall? The tiler is responsible for laying the sand and cement bed on a bathroom floor and creating “fall” to facilitate the drainage of water to the floor waste. The place where problems will show up first is usually in the shower - if there is not enough fall, the water will not drain away quickly enough and will flood instead.
• Is the bathroom watertight? This is a grey area as the waterproofer is responsible for laying the waterproof membrane, the tiler comes through afterwards and if careless can damage the waterproofing. This usually happens when a tile has to be removed after it has been laid and set (say an imperfection is noticed after the job is finished) and can result in leaks if the membrane is not restored. A tiler with a good eye for detail will avoid this and maintain the integrity of the waterproofing.
• Are the corner wall joints, wall-to-floor and wall-to-ceiling joints caulked (filled) with silicone, rather than grout. If these joints are filled with grout, they will crack with natural movement in the walls and the grout will pull away, crumble or fall out with time.
3. Does the tiling look good?
• Generally, wall and floor tiles are centred in the room but if this results in a narrow slither at the end, then the layout needs to be adjusted to allow for the cut tiles to be greater than half a tile if possible.
• Wall tiles should be laid in a perfectly vertical plane. If not, you will be able to detect the edge of a tile sitting proud of the adjacent tile. This is hard to explain, but if you hold a torch hard against the wall and shine it down to the floor you should not be able to see any irregular shadows cast by the edge of tiles.
• Grout lines should be uniform and approx. 2mm, and joints should be perfectly aligned.
If you are planning to do a lot of renovating it is worth taking the time to visit at least two of a tilers referees so that you can be confident of your choice and have the peace of mind that you have found a tradesman you can engage repeatedly.