Tools, Equipment and Application

Cutting Tools

Wet Saw

A wet saw slices through tile with a high speed diamond-embedded circular saw blade. During cutting, a pump injects a water stream over both the tile and the rotating diamond blade, helping to keep the tile & blade cool while reducing tile dust.

The use of a wet saw creates a professionally smooth cut (straight, curve, or bevel). It also cuts with a great deal of precision, so there is little or no waste throughout the job. Cuts as small as 1/32" can be made repeatedly.

If a particular tile is not manufactured in a size you like, Suffolk Tileworks can quickly and easily make custom-cut pieces for you. For example: a tile only comes in 12" squares and the pattern you like combines 12" squares with 6"x12" rectangles and 6" squares.

Suffolk Tileworks uses two different sized wet saws, depending on the size of the tile and quantity of cuts in the job.

Dry Cutters

Suffolk Tileworks uses a heavy duty double-slide-bearing dry tile cutter for making straight line cuts on all but Class V commercial tiles. It is an exceptionally fast and accurate method, but leaves a slightly rough edge, so is used for areas that can not be seen, such as those under cabinets or on the bottom row of wall tile. (Since this cutter leaves perfectly matching halves, the edges visually heal when butted together and cemented in place. This fact comes in handy when setting a large tile around compound edges that can not be accomodated with a single tile.)

Two smaller high speed hand-held diamond blade circular saws are used when the length of the cut is very short. These saws are very portable but can raise dust, so are used sparingly.

Hand-held "nibble" cutters have carbide tips and can be used to cut any tile up to a Class V, but are used sparingly because they only cut small pieces (a nibble) AND because the resulting cut can not be perfectly predicted. They are used on softer wall tile for small protrusions to a larger cut surface, such as for cleaning up cut areas that will be under electrical cover plates.

Measuring and Layout Tools

Squares, spirit levels and chalk lines are used where appropriate. However, in large areas or when an absolutely straight and level line is needed, laser levels are used.

Laser is particularly suited for wall and floor tile that must span across window, door and shower openings. In addition, the tripod-mounted laser that Suffolk Tileworks uses is indispensable for installing wall tile that wraps around an entire room. There are no surprises - every row of wall tile meets every other row of tile on all adjacent walls.

Tools and Material Application

A variety of stainless steel trowels are used. Small wall tile is generally installed using a small v-notched trowel, with the mortar being applied to the wall. Larger tiles (both floor and wall) are installed using a square-notched trowel. The largest tiles are installed with mortar applied to both the sub-surface and the rear side of the tile itself.

Suffolk Tileworks only uses the best mortar for your walls, floors, countertops, and patios, and this mortar is applied generously. Why do we do that, when it takes longer and can cost more? Because your tiles will remain intact. They won't pop up, crack, or start to sound hollow. You can perform the "coin test" on tile that we lay at any time, and you will hear the same sound everywhere. Try this on other jobs and you may be surprised how many tiles are loosely anchored! It is only a matter of time, but loosely anchored tiles eventually pop up and crack as moisture and dirt gets beneath them.

Grout is applied using a variety of floats, making sure that the appropriate amount of grout remains in the space between tiles and the right amount of water remains in the grout after clean up. If the grout is not applied properly (if too much or insufficient material was used, if the right amount of water was not mixed in, if the grout was removed too soon or too late, or if the right amount of moisture was not used in the clean-up) then the color, texture, and the level of the grout will vary throughout the wall or floor.

Grout is only used in wall-to-floor joints which are fully contiguous, such as those in a shower basin, or between the floor and walls of a poured concrete basement or patio. Countertops follow a similar logic: grout should not be applied in the right-angle joint formed by a countertop and its backsplash, unless the joint is literally made as one piece.

In all other cases, a small space (a line of no-contact) is left between floors, walls and backsplashes to allow for contraction and expansion of both surfaces. In this intentional space, a high quality polyurethane or silicone caulking compound is used. It is not recommended that grout be used in these joints, because it is only a matter of time till grout cracks appear. In the worst cases, the surrounding wall or floor tile may crack next to these joints, because the tile edges are put under pressure as inevitable expansion and contraction occur along these lines. If that joint must resist moisture (bathroom floor) and grout was improperly used in it, the moisture barrier will be lost.

Cotton cloth and/or clean sponges are used for final clean-up to make sure that the tiled surfaces are cleaned of haze and grit. If this step is rushed or skipped, material may remain on the face of the tile or along grout surfaces. While this is bothersome to the touch, it also is bad in the long run becuase grit may scratch your tile, and uncleaned grout will trap dirt and become more difficult to clean over time.

Grout is an exceptionally strong material, but it is porous. Either it should be sealed (after the grout has cured to preserve its color and finish) or a product like "Grout Boost" should be used instead. "Grout Boost" is available at Lowe's or your local tile store.

Grout sealant helps to prevent stains and moisture penetration by reducing its surface porosity with an abradable coating. Therefore sealant is vulnerable to wear such as can happen by friction of any kind, even lightly brushing over time.

"Grout Boost" is mixed into the grout in place of water and therefore it's treatment is completely throughout the cured grout. Tile grout that has been mixed with 100% "Grout Boost" resists stains from within by repelling every other color applied as a liquid or dry powder. Grout lines made with "Grout Boost" can be cleaned with a white stiff bristle brush and strong chlorine bleaching surfactants like Comet or Ajax. Try that on a normally sealed grout line, and you'll need to reseal it after it dries.