Installer’s Forum: Deconstructing bathrooms
After speaking with a trio of experienced industry professionals, TILE learned the key components to a successful bathroom installation
As the industry continues to grow, so do the standards that regulate certain practices, such as tile installations. But, what really makes each installation different? Is it the professional the client hires? The setting in which the installation is being completed? Or the brands of products professionals utilize?
To gain more knowledge on different types of installations, from those involving water to those without, TILE Magazine asked three industry professionals to lend their advice on what’s most important. We mainly focused on bath and shower installations, but here’s what we found out.
“Each installation is a different animal, in regard to location, size and customer specifications,” explained Steve Cederquist, CEO of Cornerstone Property Services, Inc. in Huntington Beach, CA, who also appears on the HGTV series Flip or Flop. “I always try to treat each job individually; I really get to know the customer and client. I even go as so far to figure out if they’re left-handed or right-handed. I know it sounds weird, but it makes a difference.”
Although Cederquist caters to his client’s every need, like most professionals do, there are some common issues that arise when completing bath and shower installations. “A common issue that can come up is grout can come loose around the tub and the tub has to be re-grouted,” said Michael Guttilla, founder and president of Guttilla Contracting, Ltd. in Bronxville, NY. “It can set you back a day and also affect the tiling.”
“Moisture damage and mold are also common,” added Cindy Albert, designer at New Life Bath & Kitchen in Santa Maria, CA. “Depending on the extent of the problem, we might have to cut out studs and replace them.”
For loosened grout, Guttilla explained how prep work is crucial. “To avoid this issue, fill the tub with water before grouting and leave the water in the tub overnight until the grout dries,” he said. “Also, consider using an epoxy grout, which is much stronger.”
“Wet” vs. “dry” projects
When working in an area that will eventually be submerged in water, it’s essential to notice the differences between “wet” and “dry” installations and the subsequent precautions to take. “Wet areas always present problems because they have to be moisture- and leak-proof,” said Albert.
“It depends on whether I’m using natural stone or a tile product, but I like to make sure my floors are level and check to see if there are any cracks,” said Cederquist. “If it’s on a substrate like concrete, I make sure I’m using Merkrete’s Fracture Guard [crack isolation membrane] because natural stone is softer. I want to ensure the client is getting the best installation.”
While Cederquist recommends using a good crack isolation membrane before lying tile or stone in a wet area, Guttilla suggested using another popular alternative. “When approaching a bath/shower installation, you should use Custom Building Products’ WonderBoard [cement backboard] for the substrate, a cement board that stands up much better to water,” he explained. “When approaching a dry installation, you can use green moisture-resistant sheet rock for the substrate.
“Laticrete 9235 [Waterproofing Membrane] is also a great waterproofing product for shower areas before you tile,” Guttilla added.
Albert piggybacked Guttilla’s comments and voiced her excitement over Schluter-Systems renowned backboard, Kerdi-Board, a multifunctional tile substrate and building panel which can be used for creating bonded waterproofing assemblies with tile coverings. “This is perfect for shower systems,” the designer explained. “It makes it quick and easy to create custom elements ready to tile. It’s waterproof and vapor-retardant; even, rigid and dimensionally stable; thermally insulating; lightweight, easy to handle and transport; easy to cut; dust free; has printed gridlines for precise cutting; and contains no cement or fiberglass.”
“Tar works great,” Cederquist went on to say. “The only time I’ll use a particular product from Laticrete or say, Custom Building Products’ RedGard, is if I’m doing a wall. I web all of my seams on a HardieBacker [cement board], which makes it waterproof.”
As a 30-year veteran of the construction industry, Cederquist has learned by experience and wants to ensure good practices continue. “Make sure you do the job right,” he said. “Hire the right people around you. Make sure you’re hiring somebody who is experienced, whether it be in hot mopping or plumbing. You have to deal with professionals.”
“The first bit of advice is budget,” added Albert. “Make sure you have enough for a qualified contractor — a tile shower is not an area that you want to save on. If it leaks down the road, it will ultimately cost a lot more in repairs. Collect a few pictures on Houzz or Pinterest so you have a clear direction. Know that glass is going to cost more in time and material. Understand what kind of trim pieces will be used.”
“My advice for anyone completing a bath/shower installation is to always use a licensed contractor and plumber,” said Guttilla. “Make sure they have insurance and workers’ compensation. Any good contractor will also be more than happy to show you projects they have completed and offer references.”
“It’s the little things you learn along the way,” said Cederquist.