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Unread 01-13-2022, 03:02 PM   #1
MrChips
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Looking for advice to vet a tile contractor

I would consider myself an above average DIY'er. I have laid tile in my large kitchen and even put the heat mats in when i did it. I have tiled bathroom floors. I can solder copper, add circuits to the electrical panel, etc...

I have never done a shower and find myself needing to get one done in a house I own and I really don't have the confidence to do it myself, so I have decided to just bring in a pro to handle it so I can focus on the other projects I have going on

Standard 5' x 8' bathroom with a 35 year old fiberglass tub/shower enclosure and the builder's special 4'x4' white floor tiles laid on a mortar bet approx 1' thick ( I know this from replacing the toilet flange a few years ago)

I have brought in a couple guys to give me quotes and they seem to be all over the place with price, which isn't a huge surprise. They all want to quote labor only with me buying material, which i have no problem with. The biggest problem is trying to decide who actually knows what they are doing. I asked some friends/neighbors for referrals and have since found that the guys who did theirs were ' handyman " types and not even tile specific so that isn't much help

the other issue is if I am supplying all the materials, I would really appreciate some guidance as I have no idea what to get and the guys that have given me quotes don't really seem to want to make recommendations. for instance, when I say " I assume the tub drain has to be relocated to the center more' they say that it doesn't have to be and that's really my choice...

I need some help and would really appreciate some guidance . I'm located in southern NJ if that matters. By NJ state law tile contractors are supposed to hold a home Improvement license but the guys who have responded to me and came to the house have insurance and LLC's but no NJ License so that's a whole other concern... If you've made it this far , Thank You. I appreciate any advice
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Unread 01-13-2022, 05:27 PM   #2
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Well I just had a horror story with my contractor that I did not vet. He was a veteran as was I, talked a good game, said he was licensed and insured and had a crew he worked with. I signed a contract and well, now I have a mess. I have a thread where you can look at pics of his "workmanship".

I would say ask for no less than three or four references of past customers that you can talk to about their work. If they don't give you references, bye.

Call the attorney's generals office and make sure their license is up to date. I found out my guy's was expired since 2015

Don't just look at pics on a web site, actually talk to his customers.

Ask him how many times he's done/installed what you want done? is it something they do all the time or once a year.

That's all I can offer. More experienced guys will come along and help, but that's where I would start.

https://imgur.com/a/KgZWWSB
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Last edited by Kiasmama; 01-13-2022 at 05:28 PM. Reason: Added link from my horror contractor
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Unread 01-13-2022, 06:04 PM   #3
MrChips
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I appreciate your response. I've been following your story for the last couple days and this is exactly what I'm afraid of. I would normally insist on seeing prior work in person, but covid has made that difficult. One guy gave me a couple phone numbers of previous clients but I didn't bother to call. Even if they are actual customers, I really doubt they are customers that might say ANYTHING negative

In NJ the license doesn't mean a whole lot. There is no test or proof of competency involved. Pick a home improvement skill you know nothing about (with the exception of plumbing and electrical) and as long as you have insurance and $110 for the fee you will get a Home Improvment contractor license. the law here is so sketchy that it seems almost advantageous to hire someone who is unlicensed because I can deny them payment for pretty much no reason, not that I would but basically an unlicensed contractor waives his rights by failing to be licensed
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Unread 01-13-2022, 06:28 PM   #4
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Welcome, Jim.

Yes, it matters, and if you don't add that geographic location to your User Profile so that it appears with each post, the information will be lost before we leave this page.

Your concern is one we've heard from many hundreds (thousands?) of our visitors. Finding qualified and competent people to do remodeling work in your house is not an easy task. The very best way would be to find the same contractor(s) who did work for one of your friends, with which they were very happy. But even then we've had folks not get anything close to the same high quality work their friend experienced.

You can ask some important questions about the method of waterproofing the contractor wants to use in your shower and get a good start on determining whether she really knows her business. Or, if you have a particular method in mind, you can look for a contractor who advertises using that method.

Some questions, such as the one you asked about moving the drain to the center of the shower, will not be based upon hard and fast rules, but on preference and best practice. No right and wrong answers, just explanations, such as that you want the entire perimeter of the shower floor to be level, and the slopes to the drain will be more consistent with a centered drain. No, you're not required to do that, but you might be happier with the result.

Other questions, such as whether he will put a pre-slope under the waterproof liner in the receptor and not matters of preference, but requirements by both tile industry standards and building code. No acceptable response other than, "Yes, I always do that."

A good number of questions such as that will give you a pretty solid hint as to the contractor's knowledge and ability. See what Ms. Elle has posted above, too.

References are good. If the contractor gives you one or two, actually check them out. No guarantee, but can be useful. Keep in mind that the reference might be his brother-in-law for whom he's never done any work, but has agreed to say fine things about him.

The single most effective way to get the shower built correctly, though, is to do it yourself. We can help with that.

My opinion; worth price charged.
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Unread 01-13-2022, 06:47 PM   #5
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Is time an issue? If not, and you can do all the things you said, you can absolutely build your own shower. The folks here can talk you through it. I'd consider myself an above average DIYer as well but I hadn't done any plumbing or soldered copper. By the end of the project I had tackled everything from plumbing to building the shower and installing a new water heater.

You may save yourself much time and frustration and certainly money. You can also look at renovation contractors but you will likely pay more. Personally, I'd make my first question "how do you water proof your showers?" and Skip anything other than a detailed response. Feel free to post any detailed responses. A detailed response doesn't mean it's right.

You'll go through a lot of contractors. I did before I found one where the estimator was able to tell me off the top of her head. Turns out they were too expensive for me (probably well worth it though) so I decided to do it myself. Personally I would never hire someone without a license. In my state insurance means very little without a license.
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Unread 01-13-2022, 09:02 PM   #6
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The TCNA handbook is the bible for the tile industry. Ask the contractor which procedure he will be using to build your shower. If he doesn't know what it is, look for another!

There are numerous, approved, vetted ways to build a successful shower. If the installer understands and follows one of those procedures, the end result will at least not leak. Good workmanship should provide a good visual end result, but it's the underlying bits that determine if it will work properly.

Personally, of the available methods, my preference is a surface applied membrane, and then the entire shower is waterproof. Many people think that the tile and grout (and maybe caulk) make a shower, but those are primarily a wear surface, and decorative...it's what's underneath that's really important and is the real critical thing. Many people can make a pretty exterior, but that's only a small part of the whole.

To get an idea of my preference, check out www.schluter.com. There are other companies that make similar products and the vast majority of them have not been doing it anywhere near as long and are knockoffs. Doesn't mean they're bad, but may not have as much history or depth.

A conventional shower works, too, if done right.
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Unread 01-14-2022, 07:42 AM   #7
MrChips
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Quote:
You may save yourself much time and frustration and certainly money. You can also look at renovation contractors but you will likely pay more. Personally, I'd make my first question "how do you water proof your showers?" and Skip anything other than a detailed response. Feel free to post any detailed responses. A detailed response doesn't mean it's right.
I have asked this question of everyone and Redguard is the common answer I get but no other details. In fairness to them, it seems like most of these guys that I've met with aren't native english speakers so I think they try to keep their answers brief as its frustrating for both of us to keep having to repeat our questions and answers.
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Unread 01-14-2022, 08:22 AM   #8
MrChips
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Quote:
Is time an issue? If not, and you can do all the things you said, you can absolutely build your own shower. The folks here can talk you through it. I'd consider myself an above average DIYer as well but I hadn't done any plumbing or soldered copper. By the end of the project I had tackled everything from plumbing to building the shower and installing a new water heater.
Yes and no on the time issue.

Right now I am nearing the end of having a total siding and window replacement done on this property. The house looks so good on the outside I decided its time to address a couple minor interior items I've been neglecting. From there it's so easy to say " if I'm doing this I might as well do that" and of course you can't ignore the problems you never even knew existed, but you found along the way. That's where I am . My plate is pretty full right now with flooring, drywall, electrical and the like so i thought rather than having to learn how to properly do a shower I would just pay someone so I could focus on the other 967 things. the good news is its a vacation property and not our primary residence, so I'm not in a giant hurry, but I would have a lot less stress around the whole thing if I at least had a solid game plan. I may very well end up doing it myself, but I was kind of hoping to let someone that already knows how do it, just to take the stress out of it
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Unread 01-14-2022, 09:26 AM   #9
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Since you aren't in a big hurry, that is good. Most good contractors, you will need to book months in advance. Someone who can start next week, is probably someone you don't want.
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Unread 01-14-2022, 11:15 AM   #10
MrChips
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Fair enough. just to be clear, i started my inquires several weeks ago and no one can even start until the end of this month. It seems even unlicensed guys have plenty of work on the books around here
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Unread 01-14-2022, 02:14 PM   #11
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The Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) has a certification test for professional tile people. I don't know how common it is to actually have someone get that piece of paper, but it's my understanding that it's not a simple paper stamp...you have to actually demonstrate enough skill. https://www.ceramictilefoundation.or...ile-installers will let you search to see if there are any near you.

The TCNA handbook is the industry bible.

RedGard by Custom Building Products does have a method to waterproof a shower. IMHO, while yes, it works, there are too many potential gotchas with it. It's not as simple as painting a wall...it needs to be done right (well, they all need to be done right to work long-term!, but some are more forgiving than others).

The majority of TCNA shower build procedures do NOT produce a totally waterproof shower. They all have a waterproof shower PAN, but the walls do not need to be waterPROOF for it to end up reliable. I prefer them to be, but I also prefer the waterproofing to be directly underneath the tile rather than buried, which a bunch of the methods utilize.
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Unread 01-14-2022, 04:03 PM   #12
MrChips
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Thank you jadnashua

that link for CTEF was extremely helpful. It seems like most of the installers that came up are licensed and I already have somebody from there coming over tonight to take a look.

cheers
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Unread 01-15-2022, 11:17 AM   #13
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Licensed vs unlicensed

MrChips to be a tiler does not require a state license. Most tilers are self employed that does not requier a license to work in such capacity. Most of them work as subcontractors which once again does not require a license either. A licensed contractor hires these guys on a subcontract basis, so your tiling work will be done by a tiler that does not know anything about state licensure and legislation. Google the subcontractor definition.

As you stated earlier a license is just a form of doing business legally.

Most builders do not have a tiler on their payroll, they will hire someone off the street to get the job done. No licensed contractor will admit that. Reason why so many botched up jobs out there (messed up jobs are a million dollar industry).
Speaking about contractor's license: I just happen to relocate back to US and I am considering getting my Maintenance and Alteration license to become a tile contractor (kind of strange) I was expectig to pass an exam with the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs based on the tiling industry alone and not building codes, driveways and roofs etc.. the 60 hours prelicensure/exam has nothing to do with the tiling industry. I am at the point where I am considering sending my wife to get the license as she does not need a 24 year tiling experience over her sholders while passing the exam. What kind of tile contractor will she be then?
We subcontractors know the trade. Period!
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Unread 01-15-2022, 11:48 AM   #14
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While this maybe true in MI or OP's state of NJ, it's not true in my state. Anyone doing contracting work (whether it be tiling, plumbing, handyman work) over $3,000 has to have a home improvement license. Over $25,000 a contractor license. Anyone can have insurance but the insurance doesn't have to pay out more than the license amount.

OP, If you are concerned with insurance and licensure I urge you to check with your state's contractor board and they should be able to tell you what requires a license in your state.
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Unread 01-15-2022, 12:00 PM   #15
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Well, yes and no. Most states require licensing of sub-contractors. Texas is one that does not. I don't know about New Jersey.

That said, a license doesn't guarantee quality of workmanship. The best thing is to get references and call the people. Some might invite you to come have a look.
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