During my career as a designer, I have had clients who purchase ceramic or stone tile from discount or home improvement stores, rather than from shops dedicated to tile. The prices at these big box retailers are sometimes a fraction of those at tile shops. The tile is the same, right? Not so fast…
While the tile at discount stores may look the same as the products at tile retailers, remember the old adage: “You get what you pay for.” If a tile price sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
There are several reasons that purchasing your tile at a reputable tile store is a better idea than finding cheap tile at a big box store.
First, sales associates at tile shops generally know what they’re talking about. They can help you choose the best tile for the look, price and function that you need. They can tell you about the installation process, as well as maintenance of each product. While I have run into associates that are not well-versed in their products, this is thankfully the exception and not the rule.
Secondly, the tile at dedicated tile stores is usually of better quality than the tile at big box stores. In fact, some of the very lowest-priced tiles at home improvement stores are “seconds!” That is, they are not good enough to be sold in the tile shops, due to variations in size, color or texture. The manufacturers sell them to big box stores at a huge discount, which they can pass on to you. However, these variations can turn into a giant headache when you try to install your tile.
Variations in tile size can cause big problems during installation. If the size of the tile varies from box to box, and you don’t realize it right away, you may need to rip out everything you already installed to accommodate the different tile sizes. Larger grout joints are often required to make it all fit together.
Variations in thickness can also cause problems; this is typically seen in natural stone products such as slate or limestone. Having some tiles significantly thicker than others can result in toe-stubbing and chipped tiles after installation.
Finally, color variations are not always apparent when you purchase your tile, but will be obvious once it is installed. Every tile has a “dye lot” when it is manufactured. Your entire tile project should be installed from one dye lot to ensure perfect color matching. However, at some big box stores, they do not keep a close eye to make sure your order is pulled from matching dye lots, which may result in an uneven installation.
Another reason to purchase your tile at a reputable tile shop is the service after the sale. If you have problems with your tile after installation, and it doesn’t perform the way it should, they can help you get the problem resolved with the manufacturer.
Tile stores are also happy to recommend quality local tile installers who can get the job done quickly and professionally for you; this is a much better option than opening the yellow pages and hoping for the best.
Now, I’m all for saving money; I am a sucker for a deal! And, I’m no design snob; if I can find a deal at a discount store, great! But, I also want to get top quality for my design dollars, and I have found that buying quality tile is always the best value. If you plan to install your own tile, this is even more important. Save yourself the headache of trying to install uneven, mismatched tiles and buy the best you can get in the first place.
And, you may be surprised to find that the tiles at high-end shops are not always accompanied by high-end prices. I recently found large-scale subway tiles (4″x16″) tiles at a price of under $3/square foot; trendy tile at a price to rival big box stores! Shop with your square footage and budget in mind, and the sales associates can help you find something to fit the bill.
For the best tile shops in your area, contact a local interior designer, architect or contractor for a recommendation. While some tile stores do not sell their products to the general public (and you must purchase through a designer, contractor or tile installer), many of them do.
The colors, shapes, materials and textures in tile today are simply amazing; find a tile store near you and check it out!Pin It