Carol’s Top 10 Tips for ordering and Installing Handmade Tile

by Carol Rose Dean
Dean Tile & Design
The question I am most frequently asked is: “What advice do I have to make an installation that includes handmade tiles go more smoothly?”
Tip 1: Slow down. Craftsmanship and good design take time. Rushing to meet a deadline only causes problems, so relax and try to enjoy the process. “Stock” handmade tile generally takes 3-8 weeks for delivery from ordering. Custom handmade tiles can add 4 weeks.
Tip 2: Make sure to ask your tile artist, designer, and/or installer questions about how the different types of tiles will affect the durability, suitability, and maintenance of your tile installation. This is especially important on floor and outdoor projects.
Tip 3: Always order 10-15% more than you know you need. If you are short one or two custom tiles, they can take 6 weeks to get in, plus the color may not match as well. Under-ordering is NOT a good way to save money. 
Tip 4: The least expensive job takes the longest, so save money by having a good, solid plan, and start the process early.
Tip 5: When your tile arrives, the installer should look over all the pieces before starting to check for color variations across the entire batch.  This avoids having potential color variations set all in one area, especially at the end.
Tip 6: Adhesives: the setting surface and size of installation will determine the type of adhesive used. I prefer acrylic modified thinset mortar, which makes it easier to add thickness behind the tile. As a general rule of thumb, grey thinset for

 floors, and white for walls. Mastics can be appropriate in settings where water is not a factor.
Tip 7: Before setting, check how thick and/or warped the tiles are. Choose the thickest tiles, and set the remaining tiles to that height. Very inconsistent tiles will require setting the tile with a thinset, 

so that extra adhesive can be applied to thinner tiles (backbuttering) to raise them to the correct height.
Tip 8: The dimension variation of the tile will determine the minimum grout width. Whatever the variation is, add 1/16 for your grout line. For instance, if the tile varies up to 3/16, it will be necessary to use a 1/4 grout line to contain these variations.  An alternative is to go through the entire tile lot and pick out all the tiles that are too large.
Tip 9: Always use a sanded grout.
Tip 10: To keep your tile installation looking its best, make sure to seal the tiles, and ALWAYS seal the grout. It is necessary with oil-based sealers to reseal every year or two; with water-based sealers, every 6 months to a year.

Handmade Tile Association
34 Thirteenth Avenue NE
Minneapolis, MN 55413

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