When you're hiring a tile contractor, you expect to have the work done right the first time. Unfortunately, you don't always have the benefit of seeing the contractor's work beforehand and realizing what you need to avoid (see How Not to Install Tile on Floors, Walls and in Showers).
That's why we've put together these warning signs to help you avoid hiring a tile contractor who is poorly qualified and more of a tile "placer." (Definition: tile placer - a person who does not have the skills, knowledge and experience to install the job correctly.)
That way, you can rest assured that the beautiful tile installation in your mind's eye has every opportunity to become reality and bring you delight for years to come.
10 Warning Signs to Heed When Hiring a Tile Contractor
Be on the lookout for these ten warning signs when hiring a tile installer for your project.
1. Can you verify the installer's contact information?
It's important to not just have a name and phone number, but also an address so you can verify this information in a Google search window.
If your contact has a website or Facebook page, be sure to check each one out.
If you can't obtain additional information or can’t verify his or her name, address, phone number and other credentials, be extremely cautious.
2. Are you being asked to pay cash, upfront before your tile project has started?
Being pressured to pay in cash before the job has begun should make you very nervous. And even more so if you don't have a written contract from the tile installer.
The beauty of a contract is that it sets expectations for you and the installer on your project. It also provides you with recourse if you aren't satisfied with the work.
Make sure it is signed and dated by both parties.
3. You can't believe how low the price is for your tile installation project!
Beware of very low prices or quotes. A quality tile installation takes time, expertise, proper materials and an understanding of how to meet your expectations for the project.
A tile installation price that is “too good to be true” is just that! It generally means that the person doesn't have at least two years of verifiable experience as a lead installer setting ceramic tile on a full-time basis, not to mention not being familiar with the latest innovative products on the market and best practices used to install them.
4. Is checking references complete agony?
Checking references is a must. References provide you with valuable perspective on your project and how best to work with your contractor. Normally, satisfied customers are delighted to talk about the ins and outs of their tile installation.
If you haven't been given any references and/or you can’t reach any of the references provided, be very cautious. References you can't reach probably don't exist. If the contractor won't provide references from past customers, it may be because s/he doesn't want you hearing about poor quality work or the failure to complete the project within the promised schedule.
5. Do you feel like you are speaking to a wall?
When you ask your tile installer questions, what kind of response do you receive? Are your questions answered courteously? Do you feel like you are learning something from the answers?
Or, do you receive answers that are uninformative or vague?
If you can't communicate successfully with your contractor, be very concerned. Most tile installation projects are intense and involved; they happen in your home and involve losing the use of the affected room for an extended period of time. In other words, you may not be able to use a bathroom or kitchen for a period of time. Knowing what will happen and when are crucial to a successful project.
You need to feel comfortable communicating information and confident that your installer understands your vision and expectations.
6. Is it impossible to reach your tile contractor?
We're all busy, but sometimes it's hard to respond to phone calls, text messages or emails in real time. That said, if your contractor consistently doesn't get back to you in 24 hours, be concerned.
If you notice a pattern of promises to respond by a certain date/time that fall through or constantly generate excuses, be concerned.
If you consistently can't reach the "tile placer," consider finding a qualified Certified Tile Installer by using the zip code locator on the CTEF website (See #1 above).
7. Are your tile project requirements being ignored?
Your purpose for hiring a good tile installer is to take your vision of a beautifully tiled kitchen, bathroom or floor and make it a reality. And that it looks just as beautiful for years to come.
Yes, that includes expert installation. It also includes listening to you and fully understanding your requirements for the project.
If you feel that the tile placer is not listening to you or meeting your expectations, be concerned. A quality tile installation is created only when the tile contractor and the customer review and discuss the project requirements and how to achieve them.
8. Why can't you see examples of previous tile installation projects?
Expert tile installations speak for themselves. If you can't see previous projects either in person, via the installer’s website or through a presentation book of photos, be concerned. This should definitely alarm you.
Again, always obtain and check references! Some unscrupulous contractors steal photos of beautifully installed tile installations from other websites and display them as their own. The Latin phrase, caveat emptor (Let the buyer beware) speaks volumes. Verify that the work being viewed was completed by the contractor being interviewed.
Competent and qualified installers are very proud of the work they do and welcome the opportunity to show you their work.
9. Yikes, those are bad online reviews!
We live in an increasingly online world where customers can leave reviews on websites and social networks such as Google My Business, Yelp, Facebook, Next Door, Houzz and more.
Be on the lookout for reviews. If all you see are bad reviews that harp on consistent issues, be concerned. Bring them up to the contractor you are considering and ask about them. You will learn a lot from the response.
10. How much experience does that tile installer have?
Ultimately, you are looking for a tile installer with experience. Not someone who's just getting started and learning at your expense.
Rather, you need to confirm that you are hiring a Certified Tile Installer (CTI) who has at least two years of verifiable experience as the lead installer setting ceramic tile on a full-time basis.
Do You Have Additional Warning Signs?
What additional warning signs have you seen that scream "stay away!" from a potential tile placer? Send them to us and we'll add them to the list.
Thanks for reading!
Note: We originally published this article on October 11, 2016 and have updated it.