Higher Standard Tile & Stone

a division of Homza Enterprises LLC

Reminder – All bids are not created equal. It is important to ask each installer what steps they will take in order to assure you a beautiful, lasting, problem free installation.
Here on Maui we have many quality tile and stone installers. We also have some that are, well, not so good. Of course I hope you select our company for your project. But even if you do not, these questions and answers will help you differentiate between a knowledgeable professional and someone that is just trying to make a quick buck.

The appearance of the finished product is important. But what is below the surface is even more important. Proper prep work, waterproofing and layout are the keys to a lasting tile or stone project.

Please Click on Each Question to Reveal the Answer

Are they licensed and insured?

The state of Hawaii requires all contractors to be licensed by the state. Anyone involved in installing ceramic or stone tile should have a C-51 license. The licensing process is designed for the protection of the consumer. All licensed contractors must have current liability insurance and provide workman’s comp insurance if they have employees.
They also must provide the state with proof that they have experience in their trade and must pass a trade specific examination before a license is provided.

Our companies license number is CT-29319, to confirm it is valid please click here.
To check on any other company’s license number please check http://pvl.ehawaii.gov/pvlsearch/app
To see why the state of Hawaii requires use of a licensed contractor and the benefits of doing so please check http://hawaii.gov/dcca/areas/rico/licensedcontractor/

Do they adhere to ANSI AND TCNA standards?

ANSI- American National Standards Institute- Provides ANSI specifications for the installation of Ceramic Tile.
TCNA- Tile Council of North America-Provides Handbook for Ceramic Tile Installation as a guide to assist in clarifying and standardizing the installation specifications for ceramic tile. It is updated yearly. Experienced tile contractors refer both the ANSI specifications and the most recent copy of the TCNA handbook to confirm that their installation methods meet proven, industry approved methods.

We make sure our installations not only meet these minimum standards but exceed them

What steps do they take to prevent mold, mildew, and moisture problems?

These are the steps we take.

1. We do not use water resistant drywall in wet areas; only tile backer boards that are designed for wet areas are used.

2. We install and flood test our waterproof membranes for the shower pans
before tile is installed. We make sure there is proper drainage so the moisture can escape and that the weep holes on the drain are not blocked.

3. We also install a high tech, low VOC waterproof membrane on all our tub and shower walls. This is on top of the water resistant tile backer board or mortar bed. Tile backer boards and mortar beds are not damaged by water but do not prevent water penetration into wall cavity. We use products like Laticrete Hydroban-
or Laticrete 9235-

4. We also use thinset mortar, grout and caulk that have mildew and mold resistant additives built in. We do not use mastic adhesive in wet areas.

5. We recommend epoxy grout like
Laticrete Spectra Lock-
or high tech cement grouts like Laticrete Permagrout-

6. For cement grouts we recommend and natural stone we recommend installing a sealer from companies such as Drytreat-
or Prosoco-
Sealers do not last forever or make grout or stone stain proof. Sealers make the cleaning process easier and help slow down moisture absorption by the grout or stone.

7. Another option we use the Schluter shower system. They are an innovative company originally from Germany. They have some excellent materials for tile installation and great information on their website. This is a link to an article entitled “Essential Water Management in Tiled Showers.”

A properly built tile assembly in a wet area sheds water quickly and prevents moisture and vapor penetration into the walls or floor below.

Proper maintenance is also required. The shower should be cleaned regularly with a neutral cleaner. It is recommended to use a squeegee or towel to dry the walls after each use. All bathrooms need adequate ventilation, use of an exhaust fan is recommended.

Do they use mastic and/or greenboard in wet areas?

This should never be done. Mastic is an adhesive that should only be used to bond small ceramic tile 8” x 8” or less to walls in dry areas only. ‘Greenboard’ is water resistant drywall; it is not waterproof and should not be used on tub surrounds or shower walls.

Do they claim tile and grout are waterproof?

Tile and grout are not waterproof and no topical sealer can make them so. A tile or stone installation is a beautiful, easy to clean, water resistant surface. Any tile or stone installation in a wet area must include a properly installed waterproof membrane to protect the building from moisture damage.

Do they flood test their shower pans before tile is installed?

All shower pans should be flood tested for 24 hours, before mortar bed and shower floor tile is installed.

Do they install waterproof membranes over a sloped surface?

All waterproof membranes should slope to the drain. If they do not the mortar bed will stay constantly saturated which can lead to mold and mildew problems.

What do they do to prevent clogging weep holes in shower drains?

Weep holes are part of a two part clamping shower drain. They allow moisture that makes it way to the shower membrane to escape. It is critical that before the mortar bed is placed that small gravel, tile spacers, or filter fabric be placed over weep holes. Many installers skip this important detail.

What will they do to ensure that the tile doesn't crack?

First we must answer why tile cracks. There are many reasons but they are fairly simple to prevent

1. Improper tile selection. Tiles designed for wall use only are not durable enough to use on floors. Some tiles that are suitable for floors are not suitable for exterior installations. Some tiles that are fine for residential use should not be used in a heavy use commercial application.
2. Wrong type of adhesive or poor coverage of adhesive. Sometimes installers use mastic adhesive on floor installations. Mastic adhesive is a glue. It does not have the compressive strength to support heavy traffic. Most installers always use a thinset mortar. This is cement based and can handle heavy traffic. There is a wide variety in quality of thinset mortar. (There is another question further down the list on that subject). Even when thinset is used each tile needs adequate mortar under the entire tile to support it. If you have a few random cracked tiles throughout your floor this may be the cause. A dropped pot might chip or nick a tile but it should not crack a properly installed tile.
3. Structural Movement. –This is actually the most common cause of tile cracking. Do you have a crack that rambles along from one tile directly to the next? This is likely the cause. Don’t worry it doesn’t usually mean your house has structural problems. It is natural for concrete slabs and wood structures to move. When tile is directly bonded to or not allowed to move separately from the structure cracks appear when the structure moves

What can be done to prevent cracks?

Use a properly specified tile. Make sure it has full coverage of the bonding mortar and install it over a structurally sound substrate.
To guarantee no structural cracks a crack suppression or uncoupling membrane should be used under the entire floor and expansion joints need to be installed to allow for movement.

Here is an article from Fine Homebuilding that shows how a membrane from Schluter can be used over wood floors to prevent cracks, entitled “A Tile Floor That Won’t Crack”

Some of the products we use are:

Schluter Ditra http://www.schluter.com/6_1_ditra.aspx

Noble Seal CIS http://www.noblecompany.com/Portals/0/PRODUCT%20INFO/Product%20Descriptions/NobleSeal%20CIS%20Product%20Decription%200409.pdf

Laticrete Blue 92 http://www.laticrete.com/Portals/0/datasheets/lds6470.pdf

For more on the principals and science behind why we recommend membranes under all our tile work please see this article from Schluter- “Understanding the Paradigm Shift in Underlayment Technology” http://www.schluter.com/3785.aspx

Do they recommend use of uncoupling or crack suppression membranes?

When tile is bonded directly to the structure any movement can transfer to the finished tile installation and cause cracking. (Ex. Bonding directly to a concrete slab or plywood floor.) Most installations can benefit from an uncoupling or crack suppression membrane to mitigate chances of cracking. I will be happy to discuss options with you. For more information please click on this link-www.schluter.com/6_1_ditra.aspx

I recommend and install Schluter Ditra uncoupling membrane. This product has been used for over 2 decades in Europe. It provides complete separation from substrate movement and other benefits. It can be used over both concrete and plywood floors.

Do their installations allow for expansion?

All tile installations should include movement/expansion joints. Without them tile installations can crack or actually loose their bond. By planning for these early on they can be installed in a way that does not take away from the aesthetics of the finished installation. The architect should specify their location. They are recommended every 20’-25’ for interior installations and every 12’-16’ for exterior installations. Smaller installations are usually ok with perimeter movement joints only.

Do they use the proper thinset for the job?

Thinset is the main product used to bond tile to the substrate. It typically comes in 50lb. bags and can range from $5 to $40 per bag. Many tile setters use the cheapest thinset they can find to save a few bucks. There are industry standards and manufactures guidelines to help find the right thinset for each job. Are you choosing porcelain or glass tile, is it an interior or exterior installation, wet or dry installation, what are you bonding too? Check with your installer to see if they are using the correct product.

How do they trowel their thinset?

It seems like a simple thing but done improperly it can lead to loss of bond and/or cracked tile. The substrate should be thoroughly cleaned. The proper sized notch trowel should be chosen based on the size of the tile. The installer should spread thinset first with the flat side of his trowel to ‘burn’ the thinset into the substrate. Then using the notch side of his trowel comb an even bed of thinset all in the same direction. When the installer spreads in a swirl pattern it can lead to unwanted air pockets underneath the tile. Then the tile should be placed quickly in the fresh thinset. The tile should be slid back and forth ¼” perpendicular to the direction of the notches. This provides full coverage and a strong bond. Some large tiles or difficult to bond tiles like porcelain benefit from a skim coat (called back buttering) on the back of the tile just before it is placed in the fresh thinset.

Do they use thinset to build up a floor to proper elevation?

Some tile setters use excess thinset mortar to build up the tile to the proper elevation. This is incorrect. Thinset mortar is designed only to bond the tile to the substrate and to correct minor irregularities in the substrate. Thinset mortar will loose bond strength and shrink when applied too thick. That is why it is called thinset! A mortar bed, self leveling cement, cement board, or medium bed mortar should be used when the substrate is not at the correct elevation.

Do they recommend mud jobs for shower walls and tub surrounds?

(Mud job is portland cement mortar over wire lathe and a moisture barrier.)
This is way the ‘real’ tile man/woman likes to prepare shower and tub surrounds. While cement board can provide a high quality installation, a mud job is they best way. Check with your installer to see if they offer this service. It is labor intensive and requires skill and experience to do it right. Those in the know realize its worth.

Are they experienced in the installation of epoxy grout?

Typical grouts are cement based. They have greatly improved over the years and are what I would recommend for most installations. But for the best stain and mildew resistance you may want to consider an epoxy grout. They are more difficult to install and the material cost is significantly higher than standard grouts. If you are considering this option make sure you choose an installer that has extensive installation experience with epoxy grout.

Why should I hire a contractor?

The diy tv shows make installing tile looks so easy.

If you are willing to do the research, and have the time to do it right, tile is something a do it yourselfer can handle. In fact our company can even provide you consultation to get you started on the right foot. (Or the goofy foot if you prefer)

The diy shows make it look easy because many times they skip steps, like thinset under the cement board or mesh tape on the joints, or any moisture or waterproof membranes.
Just like cooking looks a lot easier on the Food Channel than it is in real life so can renovation.

Will they show up when they say they will and return your phone calls?

We show up when we say we will and we will contact you promptly if for some reason we cannot. We will return your phone calls no later than the next business day.

Do they consult with you regarding layout? Are they willing to take the time to answer your questions so that you end of with the tile or stone installation you envision?

Every tile installer has an opinion on the best way to layout a tile job including myself. But we will consult with you prior to installation to get your opinion. We enjoy assisting our clients and answering their questions. Contact us as early as possible and we can work with your architect, interior designer, and/or general contractor so that the project is properly detailed so that your tile or stone installation can be properly and beautifully installed.

What type of guarantee do they offer?

Our standard warranty is 1 year. Most of the installation materials we use have 10-15 warranties. In reality a properly installed tile job should last decades.
We try to develop life long relationships with our clients. If you follow our recommendations for installation methods and you select a quality tile we don’t think you will have any problems. If you do have a problem call us, and we will do everything to solve the problem. Even if the job was completed years ago.

How many times have you heard contractors say, “I’ve been doing it this way for years and never had a problem”? Well if they aren’t doing a good job then they probably are changing their phone number and company name every other year.

We actually attempt to contact our clients just before the first year is completed to see if any repairs are needed. We don’t try to hide from previous clients.

Of course even quality tile installations need maintenance. The owner needs to clean them regularly with non harsh neutral cleaners. Movement joints are like belts on your car, they do need to be replaced eventually.

We also provide service contracts. We can come back on a yearly basis, provide a heavy duty cleaning, touch up any minor grout or caulk problems, and reseal if needed.

If you have any other questions please contact us and we will be happy to assist you. We will answer your questions even if you plan to hire someone else or if you need some good advice on how to do the job yourself.