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Thursday, July 18, 2024

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Know your materials; determine your warranty

Ken Ballin Skyro Floors

What color is your shower? Gray and white with a glass accent? No, no, no – not the tile. I mean underneath that. What color is the prep? Orange? Blue? Green? Gray? Are all of your waterproofing and setting materials from one manufacturer? 

There are many reasons that a tile setter uses the setting materials that seem to show up on the job site time after time. From cost, to availability, to training opportunities, to the people who work for these companies and the support they give us when we are in need, we each have our own reasons for choosing the vendors we like to work with. A big factor for working with a particular vendor can be the warranty that comes with using their system. 

Two words stand out in that last sentence. “Warranty” – your promise that you make to your client that what you’ve sold them will perform as you claimed it would. “System” – the product selection you’ve chosen to work with to fulfill that promise. 

A small bathroom with BLANKE PERMAT uncoupling membrane, Schluter shower pan, FloFX bonding flange drain and GoBoard walls, set with Bostik Pro-MS 50.

Faith in manufacturer warranties and faith in YOUR warranty to the client

Warranties can be made for any length of time to cover any number of variables but having faith in the warranty from your manufacturer of choice is just as important as the warranty you – the installer – provides to your customer, based on what you’re selling to your client. Read that last part one more time. The warranty you sell to your client will affect your setting materials, your installation methods, and even your ongoing relationship with your client – and you need to understand all three. 

When I first started installing showers I was – and still am – a big Schluter fan. I love their huge product line, the product training they offer, and I loved my Schluter rep. She welcomed me with open arms. That not only gave me the confidence to install showers, it encouraged me to seek out more knowledge to be a better tile setter. Selling everything orange to my clients allowed me to offer a warranty on my installations that no other local contractors would. To say that set me apart would be an understatement. 

This shower features a Schluter linear drain with curb and custom shower pan from East Coast Foam, uncoupling membrane from Progress Profiles, and GoBoard walls set with MaxiGrab sealant from Maxisil.

I sold a ton of showers that way for quite a while. Then COVID struck and all of a sudden we couldn’t get KERDI board. It came in small spurts at a time, sometimes months and months apart. Supply was not reliable. This happened with quite a few vendors across the industry so we had to get creative. I worked with just about every manufacturer on the open market, with all sorts of different materials, simply because I enjoy seeing how everyone’s product lines function and even interact with each other. I decided that I could still offer a quality installation that I could sell with a lifetime warranty just because I was confident in the vendors I was using and my knowledge of how to make them work together. 

An installer’s warranty is their bond

I understand that banding – or seam tape – regardless of color, will retain water the exact same way. I understand that sealant, regardless of logo, will do the same. Yes, mixing manufacturers will absolutely void their warranty, but at the end of the day my warranty trumps them all and I’m the one responsible if anything goes wrong. My current setup – that can change based on any number of factors – is GoBoard walls, Bostik sealant, CUSTOM foam pans, fabric from either FloFX or Schluter, a FloFX drain, and Bostik setting materials. 

Installing GoBoard with Bostik Pro-MS 50.

No one will guarantee my showers but me. I’m fully confident that they will last a lifetime – and if for some reason they don’t – then I’m fully capable and happy to handle that for my clients. Am I advocating mixing your setting materials and avoiding a system warranty? Absolutely not. If you are selling a system warranty to your clients and that’s what you’re comfortable working with then that’s exactly what you should be doing. What I am saying is that you should understand how the materials you are using work, and be versatile enough as an informed tile setter to know when it’s okay to make adjustments on the fly while still putting out a well-executed, fully-warranted successful installation.   

Ken Ballin
Owner at Skyro Floors

Ken Ballin is CTI #1392 and CFI #13604. He owns Skyro Floors out of West Creek, NJ and is co-founder of Ballin Knows Best, the first AI-integrated community for installers by installers. Visit Ballinknowsbest.com for the latest updates, resources, and more for the flooring and tile industry.

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