Tile Tools That Make Life Easier
While having made my living in the tile and stone industry over the past 15 years, it's no secret that I'm not out on installs; grinding it out day after day. I have a ton of respect and look up to industry veterans like Kenneth Lambert at eighthdaysonerestoration.com , Vince Parker at Tile by Vince and Bradley Lemmon at Kasen Construction, LLC and many others who make their living by utilizing their high level skills every day. Honest feedback on the tile tools they use every day weighs heavily on what we offer at Tile ProSource.
This week, I wrapped up a sunroom addition that we started back in September by laying 504 square feet of 32x32 over radiant heat. I feel a little beat up right now after grouting. But, I really enjoyed diving in and getting it done, with the help of my amazing wife Katelyn. She threw down the gauntlet, and issued the challenge of wanting 32x32 on a 1/16th joint. After I complained about it for a minute, I was up for the test of putting my knowledge to work. It turned out pretty well, all things considered. I'm proud of the fact that while every joint might not be perfect, I did it the right way. I followed the rules I preach by doing things like not contaminating my expansion joints, achieving 90+ % coverage, placing soft joints every 10 feet in both directions, etc. Time will tell if it will stand up to the abuse my family can dish out.
This entire process gave me time to reflect. I absolutely LOVE working with the tile tools that we carry; putting them to the test to find out what truly has value when performing an install like this one. Given the size of the tile and the room, I think I took more away from this install than any I have completed. I’d like to share with you what I learned from this experience.
These 32x32 tiles would have been miserable to install without Grabo Suction cups. I would have given up every tool and cut the tile with my teeth before trading in the Grabo-Pro. They allowed me to work cleaner and more confidently. They took a ton of stress off my lower back by being able to stand up, bend my knees and set these back buttered tiles. I wasn’t attempting to lean over on my knees, trying to hold on to 32s with my mud coated hands.
My Montolit Masterpiuma tile cutter saved me an ungodly amount of time and trouble. It stayed right there in the room beside me. I didn't have to set it up or take it down every day when I was finished setting. It snaps clean and did not break a single porcelain tile over the course of my 500 square foot install. Shoutout here to my wife for choosing a high quality porcelain from Cisa. I shaved off pieces as small as 1-1/2" without even thinking about it and I'm not as good as most with it. l was appreciative of the fact I did not have to soak down my tile on a wet saw and go through 100 towels trying to keep the tile dry while I back buttered. Over the course of this job, the Montolit Masterpiuma tile cutter was indispensable and earned a tremendous amount of my respect.
The Primo Tools 1/2"x1/2" Slant Notch Trowel allowed me to get the coverage I needed with minimal effort. I was nervous about troweling the floor with all my heat wire in, so I decided to back butter. I can tell you, you do not want to try to pull up a tile that has been set after mortar is applied with the Primo Tools Slant Notch Trowel. A time or two I had to pull them up, and once again, it couldn’t have happened without my Grabo-Pro. Those things were stuck and stuck well. Thanks to the amount of thinset and the angle of the notches, the mortar wants to fold over in the same direction, giving you maximum coverage instantaneously. The Slant Notch will be my recommendation for anyone asking what to use to set a large format field tile.
In a surprising turn of events, I had to try out one of the new Bihui Tools grinder blades for the first time. Can they really cut hard porcelain tile, well, for $19.00? Yes. Yes they can. The Bihui Tools 4.5" B-Speedy turbo mesh blade was the one I chose to try out for my corner cuts. It cut through this Italian porcelain like butter. The quality of the cuts were extremely clean, surprising me, considering this is not a continuous rimmed blade. I am unable to speak about its longevity, at this point, since I only had about 6 corner cuts to make. For less than 20 bucks, I can promise you will be pleasantly surprised with the ease this blade glides through hard tile.
Lastly, I would like to mention two simple tools that I did not use, which I feel I would have benefitted from purchasing for this project. The first was a simple rubber tile mallet like the Bihui Tools Comfort Grip Rubber Tile Mallet or the Montolit Monthor Soft-Touch Rubber Mallet. I will admit it here. Instead of using a simple rubber mallet to make adjustments, I beat the tile with my fist and agitated it with my hands in a caveman-like attempt to flatten it. After having a few days to reflect, and less general frustration, I think a good rubber mallet would have improved my installation and reduced my labor efforts.
Another simple tool that I chose to go without was a bucket scoop. I completely wrecked a pop-up work table, which served as my back butter and trowel station, by slinging thinset all over the side of it. The drop cloth below the table was also a victim of my mud slinging. A slant notch trowel is not the smartest, nor cleanest tool to use when transferring thinset from your bucket. Working clean saves time when setting tile by reducing the dreaded pre-grout cleanup effort. For $10.95 I think the Bihui Tools Stainless Steel Bucket Scoop would have saved about 50 pounds of mortar in reduced spillage, not to mention a work table that might or might not be salvageable at this point.
Now that my joints are healing, I have to say, I enjoyed the install. I'm really excited about having radiant heat for the first time at my home. Most of all, I really like knowing which tools we need to be keeping at tileprosource.com. These tools really provide value on the job each day. It is easy to see that having the right tools make this very physical task a little easier on the body and increases efficiency which ultimately leads to profitability on tile installs.