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Tile flooring – is this a good Do-it-yourself project?

Many homeowners think they can install themselves.  But, should you really install tile yourself?

Out of all the flooring surfaces, tile is the one that so many do-it-yourselfers think they can install themselves (or they have a friend who can do it). And, more than any other surface,  tile is the one where I see such a wide spectrum of skills and some VERY messed up tile jobs, so this is a big watch-out.  Poor tile installation leads to a) sloppy work – it just doesn’t look good and b) cracked tiles.

brick porcelain tile

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Because tile is so labor expensive, it is the most expensive surface to install. And, because it’s more expensive, it’s one of the areas customers try to save on, especially these days. Sometimes these jobs are done by do-it-yourselfers, sometimes by handymen, sometimes by people who are handy. Regardless, poor tile installation can sometimes lead to major issues, and personally I think it’s best to have a professional tile installer help you.


tile flooring with inserts westchesterBy far, the biggest issue is the one area inexperienced installers don’t even realize they need…floor prep. Your tile is only as good as the sub-floor and the prep underneath it! If you haven’t done this correctly, it doesn’t matter how much you’ve saved on your labor or how good your tile laying skills are, or how great a deal you got on those tiles as they will surely crack.


What sorts of issues can happen?

  • Most common issue is cracking. And, this happens often – usually not right away, but sometimes 1-2 yrs later; sometimes 5-10 yrs later. Most common reasons for this are because someone installed on top of plywood or a wood surface and/or because floor is uneven. Floor prep and leveling is super important. If you don’t do it, you’ll be sorry. I can’t even tell you how many jobs we have seen where the tile is cracked, and it’s obvious to me why it’s happened – it’s installed on top of plywood and there was no floor prep. This is even more important in Northeast and mid-Atlantic areas where homes are older and tend be less level.


  • Uneven tile laying – you should always use spacers. I have seen many sloppy jobs – tile and grout lines uneven. I also see lots of sloppy cuts around the edges and the trim and missing transitions. It’s quite sad. Looks terrible no matter how nice the tile is.


  • Improper lay out and spacing. My installers measure and center. So whether it’s a floor or a bathroom wall or backsplash, we measure to see how the tile will lay out. We center it in the room so you don’t have ½ pieces on one side of the room or your design or border hitting the electrical outlets.


  • Grout lines that are too large – Ugh. Every time I see large grout lines, my nose starts to cringe as this looks so dated. But, so often, this is just done by someone inexperienced and not up-to-date on the trends. Thinner grout lines look nicer, last longer and are easier to clean and maintain.


  • Wrong or no trim pieces. When finishing off tile, especially in a bathroom, you need to have bullnose or wallnose pieces for smooth transition to the wall. Otherwise, it just looks unfinished and it’s obvious that it was done by an amateur.


I could go on about other issues, but I think this is enough for now. If you’re considering installing tile flooring in your bathroom or adding a tile floor in your kitchen, please consider calling a professional.


color consultation for paint and stain colorsIf you live in Westchester County NY, I offer color consultations to advise customers on paint colors and stain choices. My designer discount at the paint stores usually more than offsets the cost for the hour consultation. Read more here. Due to popular demand, I’m now offering phone consultations as well.


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