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  • Gita Jacobson

5 Reasons to Shop at a Tile Showroom


Selecting tile is one of the more fun aspects of designing your new home! I met with Jake Tran, a tile expert from Artistic Tile & Stone in San Carlos, to get all the juicy gossip about tile.


The main question I get asked by my clients is why tile is so much more expensive at a tile showroom than a big box store? Although big box stores have low prices, great return policies, and are convenient to shop, there are some factors you may want to consider before going the big box route.


#1: Variety

Mass home improvement retailers sell tools, construction products, gardening supplies, paints, and every other possible home improvement product. They don’t just sell tile, therefore their tile selections are very limited.


On the other hand tile retailers specialize in selling tile. They focus only on providing the most up to date assortment of tile. They constantly are looking for new tile options and deliver a much larger, more on trend and classic assortment of tile. A good showroom will have a vast variety of tile selections in order to satisfy different people’s tastes and allow you to see many different options for your project. When you walk into a showroom you should feel inspired...and a little overwhelmed!


Pro Tip:

Before you come to a tile showroom spend time looking through Houzz or Pinterest to get ideas of what you want. Print those images out or have them up on your phone or tablet when you come into the showroom. This will be a good starting point for selecting tile.


#2. Quality

Tile at a big box store may be thinner than what you see at a tile showroom. Natural stones may be of poorer quality. For example, Travertine is a natural stone that has holes throughout it. When travertine is produced to sell, the holes get filled by the manufacturer, this is known as Honed and Filled Travertine.


Good grades of Travertine will have less filled holes and smaller sized holes. Tile showrooms specifically seek out manufacturers that can provide the best grades of Travertine with the smallest holes.


Travertine tile at a big box store may have very large filled holes, and a lot of holes on a single tile. To the common person they may not recognize this, but to someone who understands stone that is a big red flag when buying Travertine.


Another example is cut and level. Often times the tiles in big box stores are not cut perfectly, so tiles appear wider and longer than others and don’t lay level. When installing the tiles, you will see all of these imperfections and you may need to widen your grout to hide them. These situations are something that would never happen at a quality showroom. They ensure that tiles are cut exactly the same and 100% level so the tiler can minimize grout lines and the end result speaks for itself.


Pro Tip:

Grab 10 tiles at a big box store and lay them down in your tile pattern on the floor. Make sure tiles are level and sit properly.


#3. Guidance

Showrooms will have dedicated and highly educated sales consultants to answer product questions and assist clients in putting together a design for their dream bath or kitchen. Big box stores simply do not provide the same level of dedicated tile service.


Pro Tip:

Always ask to take home a tile sample so you can see it in your space with the lighting in your home. Or if you are buying cabinets you could take your backsplash tile to the cabinet shop to ensure everything will work together. The more finish materials you see together the faster you will be able to make a decision.


#4 Availability

The other perk about shopping at a showroom is you can shop for tile well before your contractor will need it. In fact, I shop for tile with my clients before we even get contractor bids. You can read about my process here.


Unlike big box stores, showrooms will be able to get you tile right before you need it. That means you can spend months or even a year to design the space and only order when your contractor needs it. Furthermore, once the tiler begins work he may tell you that he needs extra tile and you can easily call the showroom to order more.


With big box stores you never know what tile they will have available and what quantities, so it is best to shop and purchase tile when you need it.


#5 Finishes

Putting together a high-end tile look requires finish trim pieces like quarter round, pencil and bullnose to name a few. The nice thing about a showroom is most of their tile has coordinating trim pieces or they can find trim pieces that would work well with your tile selection. Many times people will simply purchase their tile without thinking about the trim. Then as the tiler begins, they realize that they don’t have the proper trims to finish a design.


Happy tiling!

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