5. Tile is Forever
I'm going to 'steal' an anecdote I heard recently, and butcher it beyond recognition. The point should still be conveyed. When Picasso was an old man, he liked to sit in the cafe and draw on his napkin. An observer once asked him to buy one of his doodles. He replied, "sure, that'll be $20,000." Aghast, the fellow cafe patron exclaimed, "but it only took you ten minutes to draw!" Picasso replied, "no, it has taken me a lifetime." Do you get it?
Tile is forever, at least, it should be. Bad design and poor execution plague tile installations almost canonically. How many times do I get the call that a homeowner just spent five thousand dollars on a tile shower and it leaks right through the floor? Well, it’s a tough lesson to learn, a tile shower costs fifteen thousand dollars, not five. It’s tile, how hard can it be? Arrogance and cavalier know-it-allism hath wrought upon us many a porous shower and cracking tile floor.
The cheapest tile available is about $0.65 per square foot to buy. It is ugly. It not worth the cost of installation. Considering the cost of professionally installed tile and specialty underlayment is around $18 per foot, does it make sense to put down the cheapest, ugliest tile you can find? It’s a waste of money. It’s a bad investment. Similarly, buying an expensive tile and hiring a bargain rate handyperson or overconfident contractor to install it is also a bad investment. Instead, consider where you really want the tile. Minimize the use, don’t cheap out on the cost. It should be as carefully used as it is installed, after all, it’s not going anywhere. Make it an accent, make it a presence, just be prepared to invest in it. Otherwise, just go with vinyl or laminate on the floor and an acrylic shower surround. Then, when you replace it every few years, it won't feel like you are ripping out an investment.
Tile installers are often artists. Like Picasso, the longer they have worked at their craft, the more valuable their work. It's details that you or even I wouldn't think of. It's in their ability to cause the tile to transcend mere blockish building material and become something greater than the sum of it's parts. Look at the abomination in the photo above. The tile screams, "I am a big green f'ing tile! I am everywhere, and I am ugly!" It looks like a bathroom built in "Minecraft", yet, it's probably a 3/4 million dollar new build from 2002. Good design saves time and money. Bad design takes time and money to fix. Could you imagine ripping out that jade pixel potty palace, or having a flood in your kitchen ceiling everytime your partner takes a shower, how about cutting yourself on a carelessly sharp edge, or having to look at rough exposed cut ends? If you look, you'll see this garbage everywhere. Stay sharp, #askmeanything