August 31/September 7; Volume 30/Number 6
(Editor’s note: This is the fifth in a 10-part series familiarizing flooring retailers with merchandising and installing tile and natural stone.)
Consumers are drawn to tiled showers for the aesthetic appeal it can add to a bathroom. Whether it is travertine creating a spa-like atmosphere or ceramic and mosaic achieving bright, vivid hues, there are plenty of fashion-forward options from which to choose.
Beyond the aesthetics, there are some essential characteristics to shower tile: It must be slip-resistant, relatively impervious to water, and sized appropriately for the space and slope of the shower pan. While smooth tile may be ideal for the walls and seats of a shower, textured tiles are needed on the floor for safety.
Larger formats are in vogue these days across all flooring surfaces, and shower tile is no exception. However, smaller tiles offer more grout lines and thus, slip resistance. Smaller tiles also allow for greater control when cutting and installing, and should always be considered for any curved tile installation, flooring experts said.
There are additional benefits to using large-format tile; they are easier to clean and maintain, and are said to be more hygienic because they allow for less space for mold and mildew to accumulate.
Olga Robertson, president of FCANetwork, said any tile that is non-porous is suitable for a shower. “Today anything goes with floor tile being used on walls.”
Beyond helping customers choose the right colors and patterns of their shower tiles, RSAs must be able to convey the critical importance of proper installation and maintenance. Poor practices in these areas can result in leaks and mold growth, which may cause damage to the surrounding structure and lead to an unsanitary environment. As well, post-installation maintenance can be an issue if the proper board is not installed for a wet area or if it is not sealed properly.
“If a customer is [working on] a shower—something sophisticated [like] a steam shower or shower floor set in mud—it’s not a matter of qualifying the customer as much as educating [her] on the importance of spending more money on the substrate and better setting materials to ensure a good outcome,” Robertson said. “Getting the customer to understand the long-term value of proper care and maintenance, and spending more on quality substrates” is key to ensuring a successful transaction.
Ed Whitaker, a sales associate for Grigsby’s Carpet Tile and Rug Gallery in Tulsa, Okla., said working with the customer is much more involved for a shower tile project. “For sure it involves a lot of training [for RSAs], and there are many questions to ask, such as, ‘Where are the proper water shut-off valves? How old is your house? Are you looking for contemporary or rustic?’ Plus, at some point the house is going to be resold, and you want to have a design that matches the rest of the house.” Whitaker said he typically visits a home before making any recommendations on product and design.
While all tile installations require strict attention to layout, design, bonding and placement, with shower installations there are additional challenges such as waterproofing, proper drainage, incorporating plumbing fixtures and meeting code requirements. While a flooring installer may know about plumbing and how to waterproof a shower, there is certain work only a licensed plumber can do in order to meet code. “There is a lot of scheduling and time delays that go into effect with third and fourth parties involved in the process,” Whitaker noted. “You have to plan accordingly.”