Al’s Column: Finding qualified tile installers

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April 11/18, 2016; Volume 30, Number 21

By Bart Bettiga

Floor covering retailers say finding quality installers is still one of the biggest obstacles to growing their businesses. Whether dealers are looking to subcontract labor, refer customers to contractors or hire/ retain qualified workers in their own crews, the shortage of flooring installers is an ongoing issue.

The National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) fields many calls related to tile and stone installation. Following are a few frequently asked questions we typically receive.

  1. Can you provide any guidance for finding qualified tile installers in my area?

If you work with builders or remodelers, ask them if they have tile installers they would recommend. NTCA recommends you ask for referrals from work done that is similar to your requirements.

Another way to find a qualified tile contractor is to ask for a recommendation from tile suppliers or designers you work with. Searching the Internet for tile contractors is a good starting point, but be sure to check references before you move forward. Use the “Find A Contractor” search tool on NTCA’s website (tile-assn.com) or on the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) website, tilecareer.com.

  1. What kind of questions should I ask someone if I want to check a contractor’s references?

You might ask the client, “Did the tile contractor communicate with you throughout the process?” Other potential questions: “Was the tile contractor up front and honest? Did he explain changes to the original agreement? Was the tile contracting company professional in appearance and the way he cleaned up each day?” More important, “Would you hire him again for your next project?”

  1. Should I Google a contractor?

This is appropriate and can be helpful. However, there are quality tile installers who are not active on the Internet. There are many small companies that specialize in certain types of installations, but it may be difficult for them to develop a strong Internet marketing program. So Googling a company is recommended, but keep in mind there may be an excellent option out there that might not be found in this way.

  1. What should I look for in terms of qualifications and certifications?

The certified tile installer program offered by CTEF is an excellent source for referrals. We also recommend the Advanced Certifications of Tile Installers certification program as these individual certifications can provide added confidence in specific installation skills, like shower pans and large format tile applications.

  1. Do I need to draw up a contract?

NTCA strongly recommends a contract or agreement should be provided to you. This should include the conditions of the project, the type of installation that will be performed and any preparation that will need to be done to get the area ready for tile. It should include the price of the material and labor as well as the terms of payment, including a payment schedule. The duration or expected amount of hours for the project should also be documented.

These are just a few examples of questions to ask. As a rule, quality tile installers should have an understanding of their industry standards and methods. I recommend that specialty flooring retailers keep current copies of these standards in their showrooms as a handy reference tool to ensure their crews are informed.

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