When starting out on your own as a tile contractor, it is a great idea to take inventory of your tools and see where you stand. Having good-quality tile tools will make you more efficient and increase the quality of your work. While the initial investment in tools may seem daunting, you will save time (which equals money) and errors (which equals money) with the right tile tools for each job.
Below you will find Tile ProSource’s list of 10 must-have tile tools for any new tile contractor. If you are a veteran tile contractor and are missing an item below, then give the missing tile tool a try and you might be surprised at the time savings you gain.
This list was created to give you the lowest investment for the most profit potential. We want to offer practical tile tools that solve problems and are reliable enough for tile professionals to use each and every day. Getting them into your hands quickly is our goal.
- Yes, of course, you can use a paddle and electric drill. Countless times, tile contractors burn up drills and run out of batteries trying to mix super-thick mortars with a drill that’s not made for such abuse. Don’t get us wrong, you can certainly operate this way, but the best tile contractors know it costs less to buy a quality mixer than to burn up three electric drills a year. With Collomix professional mixers, you are guaranteed to get the best results with speed and efficiency. Collomix also offers a three-year warranty if one of their mixers fails and will either repair or replace it at little or no charge to you. Collomix mixers are easy to use and also allow you to stand up straight while you or your helper are mixing. They are ready to work and never missing when you need them. With four models available based on batch sizes, no project is too large for this simple tool to handle.
- You’re tougher than that, right? Don’t be. The best of the best tile contractors we know—let’s call them tile craftsmen—wear quality knee pads. The longer you stay in the business, the more you hone your skills. The end game is to find yourself working on the highest-paying quality jobs that showcase your skills. That type of reputation takes time. Give your knees a chance to get you to the finish line and don’t find yourself sidelined before you can play with the big boys.
- Here’s where the decision making gets tricky. 26" or 36" tile cutter? Sigma or Montolit tile cutter? Decisions. You can check out some of our demonstration videos on the cutters and see what you think or give us a call for recommendations. But a quality tile cutter is a must-have and a time saver. Right now, 12"x24" and smaller comprise 85 percent of consumer tile purchase, but the trend of big tile is not slowing down. As your reputation grows as a quality tile contractor, you will probably want to consider large tile panel cutters, but the 26" tile cutter or 36" tile cutter are certainly your workhorses as a new tile contractor. As for Sigma or Montolit, you will not go wrong with either choice. Just pick one and get good at using it.
- You can’t avoid a few scribes or door jamb cuts as a tile contractor. A high-quality grinder blade can save you time and errors on small cuts and detail projects. We recommend the 4" Montolit Gold Line DNA or the 4" Pearl P4 Turbo mesh as good workhorse options. As your tool arsenal grows, you will also be picking up grinder blades made for specific purposes, like the Montolit 4" Slim Cut (CSS100) for smooth chip-free cuts where your raw edge might remain visible.
Diamond Core Bits
- Starting out, there are two core bit sizes you do not want to be without on a jobsite. The 1 ⅜" diamond core bit for shower and steam head openings and the 3/16" diamond core bit for any fixtures your customers might want to use. If you have the cash, purchasing full sets of diamond core bits is a good idea. There is no doubt you will need to purchase additional sizes as you need them for various reasons. If you have to prioritize to start as a new tile contractor, the above two diamond core bit sizes will get you through a project with most needs in a residential tile installation. Our recommendations to get you started are the Montolit FAJ series bits and the RTC Dry Shot diamond core bits.
- There are four sizes of tile trowels no tile contractor can be without. A ¼" x 3/16" tile trowel, ¼" x ¼" tile trowel, ¼" x ⅜" tile trowel, ½" x ½" trowel. The larger the tile, the larger the trowel notch. Don’t be cheap and try to skimp on thinset, or your potential failures will increase dramatically. Thinset coverage on your tile needs to be 80 percent in dry areas and 95 percent in wet areas. Technique is obviously important, but use the wrong tile trowel size and you will have less thinset coverage, hollow spots under tile, and likelihood of breakage, all problems that will cost you money to repair or replace.
Tile Leveling System
- You need to purchase the tensioning tool you prefer and a good quantity (start with 500) tile leveling caps. Pass the cost of the tile leveling spacers on to the customers for each large-format tile job you quote. Depending on the brand of leveling system cap you choose, each spacer cost is around $0.25–$0.35 per square foot. Remember—tiles aren’t flat. Educating the customer on why you use a tile leveling system for your tile installation shows the client you are a professional with a desire to turn out a quality tile installation.
Soft Urethane Grout Float
- The better the float, the less grout you leave behind on the tile. It is important to get the most grout off the surface of the tile for ease of cleaning and to have less waste on the grout. Nothing is more frustrating than having to deal with a stubborn grout haze that has cured onto the surface of the tile. New tile contractors are bitten all the time by trying to grout too much at one time and letting these modern, powerful grouts get away from them. Using a high-quality soft grout float is 100 percent guaranteed to save you time and effort. We recommend the Gundlach Red Urethane Grout Float or the Primo Tools TruBlue Grout Float to get you started.
High-Quality Tile Sponges
- Undervalued, a good sponge can save a new tile contractor a lot of time on cleanup. Directional cleaning with a quality tile sponge cuts through the grout cleanup. You can always tell a difference between the absorbency of a cheap sponge and a quality hydrophilic grout sponge. A box of 3M Doodlebug pads are also a good idea to have around just in case you need a mild abrasive to agitate away some stubborn grout haze.
Horseshoe Spacers & Tile Wedges
- Try not to jam wadded-up pieces of cardboard into your tile joints as spacers. These are what tile wedges are made for. Tile wedges will keep tile in a good position if your thinset wants to sag or if you need to make a slight spacing adjustment on a vertical substrate. Horseshoe spacers are excellent for a variety of uses. They are super versatile and easier to keep up with than tiny rubber spacers. They also work great if you need to shim out your tile backerboard to square up a shower area or tub surround.
Like almost anything above, you can always purchase a less expensive version and you will usually get what you pay for. If you want to be a professional and make the most profit on your projects, invest in some professional-grade tile tools.