Tackling a DIY tile project can seem like a daunting task. Not only are there a million options for different tiles and materials to choose from, but the tools and processes of actually installing the tile can vary as well. That’s why I asked Professional Tile Contractor Adam Esparza of ALE Tile Co. all about tiling and how you can learn to tile like a pro. Here are his tips!
“I think subway tiles are always a classic hit that will never go out of style.”
What things should homeowners consider when installing new tile in their home?
I think homeowners should consider whether they’re going to want an installation that is going to last a long time or if they’re looking to flip the house. There are always ways to make the cost cheaper when purchasing materials. Most of the time my clients already have an idea of what they want, I usually just direct them where to get it.
You obviously do some high dollar tile design, what are a few tips you’d give the average homeowner who maybe doesn’t have a lot in their budget but wants to up their tile game?
When on a budget, simplicity is key. You could go out and get basic white tile and do something classic with them. I think subway tiles are always a classic look that will never go out of style.
Are there any common mistakes you see homeowners committing when it comes to DIY tile installs? Any absolute “Don’t Do’s” when it comes to tile?
There are a lot of “don’t do’s“ but the biggest would have to be in shower areas that can have water damage. Make sure you do your homework and have good waterproofing or you risk causing serious damage and costing yourself A LOT of extra money.
Can you explain the difference between using thin set mortar vs mastics? Is there a reason to use one over the other?
Mastic (tile adhesives) is designed for areas such as backsplashes where there isn’t a lot of water. In high water contact areas (like a shower/bath) you normally want to use a modified thin set.
“Needless to say if you were to go to Europe and see tile installation that was installed centuries ago it’s all installed on mortar. That’s why I brand myself as an old world craftsman.”
I notice you use mortar to float most of your applications rather than using cement backer board. Can you explain why and what your basic process is for floating?
When floating with mortar, you have the advantage of making an area that isn’t square and plum, square and plum. Also the waterproofing is behind The mud bed as opposed to being right behind the thin set. What that means is if you have to remove a Tile you are not affecting the waterproofing but just hitting at cement. I could go on and on about the benefits of a mortar bed but needless to say if you were to go to Europe and see tile installation that was installed centuries ago it’s all installed on mortar. That’s why I brand myself as an old world craftsman.
“There is nothing more satisfying than to be able to install what you imagined and it coming out great. It’s so satisfying.”
What’s your favorite part of your tile projects (designing, installation, etc.)? Why?
I think at this point Design is very fun for me. Getting to design a bathroom or kitchen backsplash is so enjoyable for me. But there is nothing more satisfying than to be able to install what you imagined and it coming out great. It’s so satisfying.
Meet the Pro:
Adam Esparza is a second generation tile contractor that has over 15 years experience and takes great pride in the art and customization of his trade. As a teenager he was his Uncle’s apprentice and he and his Dad installed the “old world” way using mortar. Adam started ALE Tile Co. in 2013 after realizing the corporate world was not for him. He says that he feels he “was meant to be a self-employed artist.”
ALE Tile Co. specializes in custom tile work in the greater Orange County, CA area. Using old world techniques paired with modern technology, he works hard to ensure your finished product is not only exactly what you’re looking for, but one that will stand the test of time. He works with you to individualize and design each project & does it the right way so you can feel confident knowing you’ve gotten the quality of work you’re looking for.
For more Tiling tips from Adam, listen to our full podcast episode: How to Tile Like a Pro
Follow ALE Tile Co. on Instagram @aletile
All images in this post are attributable and subject to copyright by ALE Tile Co. and are used with permission.