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Knoxville-area contractor taps CTIs for reliability and excellence in installation

Able Tile credits Battles and Battles legacy of NTCA membership, education and certification

Brown family at the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia.
Linette Brown (left) is partner of Able Tile and Specialty Flooring in Kodak, Tenn., near Knoxville. She’s shown here vacationing with her family at the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia.

Family-run Able Tile and Specialty Flooring is a professional tile, flooring, kitchen remodeling and bathroom renovation contractor in the Knoxville area. The company is a specialist in curbless shower design, kitchen tile and bathroom tile floor installation.

Partner Linette Brown has been in the tile business since 2011. She got her start working in tile sales with Battles and Battles Tile, another NTCA member in Knoxville, that closed up shop in 2018 after 25 years in business. 

The company is a specialist in curbless shower design, kitchen tile and bathroom tile floor installation.

Able Tile focuses on high-end custom bathroom projects, with custom cabinetry and custom tile showers. But the company also tackles small commercial jobs like restaurant floor repairs and commercial bathrooms for smaller restaurants. 

Able Tile installed this wood plank tile and used HVAC vents custom made with tile – cut to fit – so there are no unsightly floor grills in the way. Able Tile installed uncoupling membrane throughout. Plank tile is consistent all through the first floor with soft joints added as needed for expansion.

“My favorite project is a custom-designed curbless shower and bath that will serve the customers for a lifetime,” Brown said. “We do some new homes, but most of our work is upgrading an existing bath or turning current bathtub spaces into a big shower.”

Brown gets a lot of value out of her NTCA membership. “I have personally been an NTCA member for two years but [Battles and Battles] had been a NTCA member forever,” she said. “I joined the NTCA to keep in touch with like-minded people and to stay informed of new or other products and techniques in the trade.

“The greatest value of membership is using the resources offered for improvement of my company and to have people to go to who can help me resolve issues or answer questions,” she added. “The biggest asset to being a member is to have a pool of experience that I can reach out to. I try to continue my education in the tile business because I want to be able to offer the best application to my customers.”

Legacy of CTIs

Able Tile does not have installers on staff, but turns to NTCA and Certified Tile Installers (CTIs) as much as possible. She got into the habit of doing this, following in Battles and Battles’ footsteps of advocating for training and education and being CTIs themselves. 

“Using Certified Tile Installers makes my job much easier because they think through the job and are sure I have not overlooked anything,” she said. “They understand the importance of using the right materials, and how waterproofing systems work. I work with a local glass company who installs all the shower doors and glass in rooms that we have installed. They always comment about how there are never any problems when my guys have done the work. 

“I can leave the job and know that everything will still be done properly, with minimum supervision,” she added. “This is important to me, because I am basically a one-person operation currently. [CTIs] also realize that their name on a project is as important as having my name on a project – actually more important.

“I would like to give Battles and Battles the credit for insisting that all jobs were done to the highest of standards and with that bar so high, I have carried those expectations into my own company,” she said. She carries the tradition forward with a goal of educating “the general public about how important proper tiling methods are, and that the proper systems are in place so that everyone gets not only a beautiful bath or kitchen but a long-lasting one also.”

This shower features a 10’ tall water-jet accent wall that was almost 10 feet wide. Able Tile used two curbless pans and drains and hid them in the border on the floor. The company substituted a small accent shelf instead of a niche, and installed six other curbless bathrooms in this home plus 3,200 sq. ft. of floor tile. Able Tile made sure to meet the customer mandate of no transitions whatsoever. Large-format floor tile was used in the main bathroom areas and carried into shower floors. Mosaics were only used as wall accents. The porcelain shower and kitchen/family room projects in this story were part of the same home.

Priority one: customer satisfaction

Brown makes customer satisfaction her goal. “I strive to never leave an unhappy customer for any reason,” she explained. She reviews every single job with her customers, and has them select and approve all tile and sizes. Then she is meticulous about punctuality, and jobsite care. 

“We come on time and work every day till the job is complete,” she said, aiming for an “extra clean job site and work area.” The company never leaves “a mess in their yard or house and protects all of the areas that we work in. I also respect their pocketbook and try not to have much leftover material. 

I work by word of mouth and have been comfortably busy.”

This bathroom in an existing home had a built-in tub where the freestanding tub is now. This is partially on a wood floor and partially on concrete, so the concrete had to be leveled and screeded before any tile installation could take place. The door jambs all had to be cut because the doors were set too low to accommodate the tile floor. Able Tile installed all natural travertine stone with hand-polished edges to eliminate the need for bullnose. The curbless shower uses 2”x2 “mosaics to create enough slope to guide all the shower water to the drain. Niches have the same shelf as the top of the bench seat, which is all one piece and hand-shaped to fit. The border mixes natural marble and travertine, creating a shower accent that is trimmed with travertine pencil liner, and also embellishing the platform for the tub. The transition from tile to hardwood is thanks to an uncoupling membrane that added the correct height to the tile before installation.
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Editorial Director and Senior Writer for TileLetter and TileLetter ARTISAN

Lesley Goddin has been writing and journaling since her first diary at age 11. Her journey has taken her through a career in publishing and publicity, landing her the editor position of TileLetter and its special publications in 2006. Her goal is to educate, inspire, recognize and encourage those in the tile industry -- especially the tile and stone contractor.

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