From big city living to supporting rural areas as a tile installer
Certified Tile Installers aren’t as prevalent in many smaller cities the way they are in bigger cities. Brandt Garrison of Garrison Tile & Renovation (www.facebook.com/garrisontile/) has seen and worked in both kinds of cities. From Salt Lake City, Utah, to the small town of Burley, Idaho, Garrison has been working in the tile trade for over two decades.
“There aren’t really any installers in my area with much experience in the tile trade,” he said. “At 21 years experience, I am by far the most experienced in my local area.” His attention to detail, and his technical and product knowledge is what elevates him above his competition. Garrison invested a lot of time and work to get to the point where he is now.
He started out as an apprentice, then moved up to working under a contractor as a tile setter. After putting in his time and absorbing as much knowledge as he could, he formed his own business doing mostly residential reconstruction and remodel.
Garrison has been in Burley for seven years. He decided to move after doing a job there for a family friend and noticing that there weren’t a lot of knowledgeable tile installers. He said, “I saw while I was here that there was a complete lack of experienced installers in this area.”
Moving from a big city to a rural area brought up a problem for Garrison. Back in Salt Lake City, it was only a 15-minute drive to get whatever materials he needed; he was used to that convenience. Where he lives now, however, that isn’t the case. After seven years of living in Burley, he’s found ways to overcome this situation, such as ordering leveling pins, tape and similar necessities online. The closest Home Depot or Lowe’s is 45 minutes away, so he orders in bulk or by the pallet and keeps everything stocked up in a storage unit. He has a rotating stock of everything he needs. Finding the most economical shipping options was also an obstacle, but he discovered a convenient option for him.
Four years ago, Garrison joined NTCA after seeing information and posts on Facebook. He originally found out about NTCA through some Google searches, but the Facebook content piqued his interest. He also took his Certified Tile Installer test at MUD3. The family-friendly event with vendors and mud training was held in Fresno, Calif., back in February 2020, (currently being held annually in Idaho Falls) and he became CTI #1642. Garrison believes his CTI certification helps him land jobs and shows his credibility as a tile contractor, making his customers “more confident” in hiring him, especially living in an area where Certified Tile Installers aren’t common.
THASIE: March 1-2, 2024
Garrison and owner of Bravo6 Tile & Stone, LLC, Kristan Blanchard, started The Hybrid & Advanced Systems Installation Event (THASIE) together. The two talked for several years about starting an event that would provide tile installers with hands-on learning about how to properly prepare showers for tile installation.
“This event [THASIE] is seeking to fill that need in a better way than a product demonstration at a vendor could,” Garrison said. THASIE takes place March 1-2, 2024, at DeSoto Sales in Fresno, Calif., to educate tile installers and give them knowledge to take home with them after the event.
The “hybrid” aspect relates to the demonstration techniques: manufacturers will host booths, but have actual tile installation professionals and contractors doing the demonstrations as the manufacturer explains the process of using the products.
THASIE will also sponsor the opportunity to take the Certified Tile Installer (CTI) exam on February 29.
Garrison, an NTCA Ambassador, said THASIE will offer standards-based education. “Technical reps will be there to show how to properly install to manufacturer and industry specifications,” he said. “Proper prep work makes installs a breeze. And it’s the important part. I tell customers, ‘Tile is the decoration; I’m building the functional part underneath. The longer I take on this, the better the finished product will turn out.’”
Some of the things attendees will learn about will include: bonding flange drains with liquid waterproofing, mud floors, foam walls, foam pans, ways to prep a wall properly before hanging foam, as well as floating mud walls and mud drains.
The COVID-19 pandemic fortunately did not affect Garrison’s business, but the economy did. The inflation in tile prices and material shortages caused some difficulty, and he had to change some materials to keep costs down. Being able to find substitutes for some materials and still make his customers happy was something he had to overcome. Besides that, he had no issues continuing to work through the pandemic and now.
One of the joys of tile work for Garrison is creating realities out of his customers’ ideas. Bringing their desires to life in their homes makes it all worth it. He said, “The reactions from customers when they see their vision of what they want materializing is probably my favorite part of the job.”
Amanda Mourelatos, daughter of John Mourelatos, Owner of Mourelatos Tile Pro, is a 19-year-old student in her second year at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Ariz., where she is majoring in journalism with a communications minor.