Q. Describe the most common types of jobs you do for your clients.
A. Bathroom remodels are by far the largest part of our workload. Whether it's a leaking shower that needs replacement, or just an outdated bathroom that needs a new look. With designers, general contractors, painters, electricians and carpet/hardwood installers we have worked with for years, if we can't do it, we can get you in touch with someone who can.
Q. What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
A. Ask for references and check on them. Don't go by pictures they show you. Do you know for a fact they did the work or did they just Google tile bathroom and print out a few nice ones. I've torn out a lot of shower over the years, and far too many of them were just a year or two old. Mold everywhere, no waterproofing, no liner in their shower. Mistakes no self respecting knowledgeable tile installer would ever make. Installing pressure treated wood in a shower may sound like a good idea to the average person without doing his homework, but in reality, if the shower were done right in every other way, that pressure treated wood would dry out and then begin to warp and twist. Slowly cracking out grout, popping loose or breaking tiles. A little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing.
Q. If you were a customer, what do you wish you knew about your trade? Any inside secrets to share?
A. Inside secrets... Mastic is not for use in showers. Pre-mixed thinset is bad stuff. All showers need to be waterproofed. All flat surfaces in a shower need to be sloped, this includes floors, benches, shelves and window sills. Corners and seams on backerboard need to taped and mudded prior to waterproofing.
Here's a little tip. Take the trim off your shower valve and take a peek behind your tile. Do you see sheetrock? Even if it's greenboard (green paper on face) your shower is not going to last long. Is the caulk in your shower turning black? If may be mold coming through the caulk from behind. Fix it before it becomes a health hazard as well as costly damage to your home.
Q. What important information should buyers have thought through before seeking you out?
A. You should have a general idea of what you are looking for as an end result. Any pictures you have that show what you like are great. I can introduce you to a designer if you wish to go that route, and I also have contacts in many trades (painter, electrician, carpet, hardwood, even a general contractor if you have a large project in mind) and a referral from me to them gives you an edge on pricing there as well.
I also carry a portfolio that you can look through to see if anything in there catches your eye. Working with all the showrooms I do, gives you a chance to see a very large selection of available materials, so the sky is the limit. If you can dream it up, we can help bring that dream to life.
Q. Why does your work stand out from others who do what you do?
A. When we install tile or stone on your project with Laticrete premium mortars & grouts your tile & stone work is covered by a lifetime warranty. We use the best possible installation techniques and materials available and prefer to use Laticrete tile & stone installation products.
Laticrete products are Green and are GREENGUARD certified. Laticrete products include MicroBan to reduce mold & mildew problems.
We recommend Laticrete HydroBan waterproof membranes for all tile & stone wet area installations to prevent leaks as well as mold & mildew problems.
We recommend & feature SpectraLOCK, the “Stainless Grout” that never needs sealing.
It's hard to be a lifetime warranty that is offered by a tile installer, even harder to beat a lifetime warranty that is backed up by that installers supplier.
Q. What do you like most about your job?
A. Every day is a new challenge. A new homeowner, a new job enviroment, new designers and suppliers and materials. I like not sitting behind a desk every day under fluorescent lights , and I like being the boss. When problems arise, it's up to me to solve them and make the customer happy. When a job is complete and the customer loves our work, it's all worth it. Being able to stand back and look at a newly remodeled bathroom or kitchen, and know that it not only looks good, but will provide decades of worry free use to the homeowner, as well as adding value to their property.
Q. What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?
A. I often get asked if I like what I do. Truth is, I've never held a job for much longer than 2 years. I usually get bored and move elsewhere. After doing tile for 15 years and owning the company since 2008, I think i can honestly say I've found something I enjoy. Getting to help people when they are in a difficult situation, say a leaking shower causing damage to their home, really makes it easy to take pride in your work. The flip side is having to earn the trust back as a contractor, when their shower is leaking because they hired a contractor once before who failed to deliver what he promised.
Q. Do you have a favorite story from your work?
A. So many stories come to mind. I've been blessed to be able to work with, and for, some great people over the years. Hearing back from customers years later when they've bought a new home and want to change the tile, or getting a call from a friend of a former customer because they loved what they saw and heard about us.
Q. What do you wish customers knew about you or your profession?
A. If you are looking to hire a tile specialist and you go out and ask for 5 different bids.... You really need to ask more questions than just what will it cost me. If all you want is the lowest bid, you are going to end up with the lowest quality level of work completed. Period. It's that simple. You don't have to take the highest bid, but you can educate yourself easily on what you need to look for before hiring anyone. Check if their license is valid. Check their insurance and bond. Ask for references. Ask them what materials and waterproofing methods they use. Do they only offer 1 year warranty or can they give you a lifetime warranty. It will be more expensive to get a bathroom that will last a lifetime, but do you think it will be more expensive than tearing out that same bathroom in 2 years when the shower is leaking into your living room and you find out the contractor is now out of business?
Q. How did you decide to get in your line of work?
A. I actually kind of stumbled into it. Looking for work, my sister worked at a tile supply company, and heard that someone needed some help. I started out on the ground level, literally, my first day was spent on my hands and knees, grouting a floor for 8 hours. 13 years later I'm the owner of my own company and still loving what I do.
Q. Tell us about a recent job you did that you are particularly proud of.
A. Insurance job for a remodeling company based in Sammamish. Large home in Redmond that had flooded while they were out of the country. Over 1500 sq ft. of tile including a large marble entry floor and a very large master bath. Job was completed on budget despite the difficulties of the homeowner being out of the country for most of the project. Working in Seattle can have it's challenges, with pay parking and limited hours/space, but each city will have it's difficulties. Mercer Island, Redmond, Kirkland, Bellevue, Newcastle... We are even working on a project on Herron Island right now.
Q. Do you do any sort of continuing education to stay up on the latest developments in your field?
A. I am a daily visitor to the John Bridge forums (http://www.johnbridge.com/vbulletin/index.php) where professional tile installers hang out and help DIY (do it yourselfers) with questions on their projects, as well as hang out, brag, and educate each other on everything you can think of related to tile. New products, reviews of new and old, sharing techniques, showing off pictures of jobs we are currently working on, or just sharing pictures of the catch from the latest fishing trip. It's known as the friendliest DIY forum on the internet. I've been going there and learning from other professionals for a long time. if a customer has a tough question, or he doubts my answer, it's good to be able to send him somewhere where he can openly ask other professionals.
I'm also certified by Laticrete with all of their products, a certified installer of Wedi products, certified with all of Masterheat's in-floor heating products and I attend several home shows during the year representing them and talking to homeowners about their products.
Q. What are the latest developments in your field? Are there any exciting things coming in the next few years or decade that will change your line of business?
A. I enjoy using laticrete products, and those from other manufacturers like Noble and Schluter. They are always improving their products and coming up with innovative new ones. Laticrete's new 125 is a new thinset that has kevlar fibers in it and when it dries, it's very flexible. Crazy flexible. It has to be seen to be believed. it not only acts as a crack isolation membrane, but also as a sound supressant. Great for floors in condos or high-rises where you'd really like to get a tile floor without making the neighbors below you angry with every step.
I also like the fact that by using laticrete's products, I can offer what a lot of other companies cannot. A lifetime warranty. I attended an invite-only seminar hosted by laticrete at their factory in Oregon, to be trained in all their products and installation methods.
Q. Describe your most recent project, what it involved, how much it cost, and how long it took.
A. We just finished phase 2 of a project on Mercer Island, basement guest bathroom and their master bathroom. Both done in Crema Marfil Classic marble. Heated floors, mudset showers with recessed shampoo niches including a shelf for extra space. A small bench in one, tiled ceiling in the other. 4" polished marble base tile around the perimeter of the room gives it a nice clean look. Band of mosaic glass at eye level, matching the vanity backsplash of the same mosaic glass. Laticrete's spectralock epoxy grout to provide a stain proof bathroom that never needs to be sealed. Hydroban for all waterproofing, the same waterproofing used to line swimming pools. These showers will be in use for a long long time.
Q. If you have a complicated pricing system for your service, please give all the details here.
A. While some installers give a flat hourly rate, I feel that is little incentive for them to get the job done in a timely manner. Our estimates are detailed enough so you know exactly where your money is going. If a tight budget needs to be met, adjustments can be made without any suprises at the end of the project. Too often I hear about companies that offer a low estimate to get the job, and end up charging much more on the final invoice. Any changes to the estimate are approved before work is started.
Q. If you were advising someone who wanted to get into your profession, what would you suggest?
A. Always wear kneepads and eye protection. Measure twice and cut once. Don't just rely on what you are told, research things yourself and keep up on current information. There are lots of resources online for you to learn more about the trade. Seek out ways to get training or become certified with products so you can install them with confidence and the manufacturers warranty backing your work. One bad job can lose everything you've earned on ten good ones. Every customer, if happy, can bring you new customers. Every customer, if unhappy, can do just the opposite.
Lastly... Enjoy what you do! Life is short and the kids grow up fast. Don't miss it.