How to Start a Tile Business

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When you're researching starting tile business, you have a lot to consider beyond the tools, permits and employees. For instance, maybe you plan operate in a niche area, such as bath fixture installation, rather than offering a wide range of services. Do you plan to perform any of the hands-on work? You don't even have to be a tile installer to own a tile business. And what about networking? Having a good rapport with the tradespeople in your industry may be more important than you realize. Don't let the pressures of starting a tile business outweigh your excitement. Arm yourself with knowledge that will help you make informed decisions.

The Preliminaries

Before you can start back-buttering tiles, you have to get the go-ahead from your government and you may need to complete a few other tasks. For starters, choose your business name, write a business plan, obtain financing, get insurance, apply for an Employer Identification Number, a permit and a business license and equip your truck or van with the right tools including a tile saw, drill, level, notched trowels, tile scorers and nippers. Although tile installers don't have to be certified, obtaining a Certified Tile Installer certificate from the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation denotes they are qualified and professional and will earn consumers' confidence.

Hiring Experienced Tile Installers

Maybe you're a tile-installing pro who's been in the industry for decades, plan to become a member of the National Tile Contractors Association and have every tool of the trade at the ready. These memberships give you more credibility. When you're preparing to enter the tile-installation business, you don't have to apprentice although you do need to understand the basics of the profession. You need a skilled, reliable team of employees with their own tools and some of your own quality backup tools. To hire topnotch installers for your business, ask the right interview questions, such as:

  • What do you like least about tiling? By asking a question like this, you should be able to gauge if the installer might cut corners when it's time to clean up, or lacks experience using an angle grinder or needs more practice with setting tile around a toilet pipe or light switch.
  • What is your biggest weakness regarding tile installation? Although this question is similar to the former one, it's a call for honesty. If a tile installer has trouble installing a shower floor and getting the pitch toward the drain just right, here's her chance to fess up. Don't hold her weakness against her, especially if she otherwise seems to be a good fit for your company. Maybe you could put her on backsplash duty or pair her with an installer who could teach her a few shower-floor-tiling tricks.  
  • Why should we hire you for this position? Have your pen ready to make notes; This question should set off a landslide of qualifications, skills and experience, some of which may not be on his resume.

Keep your skilled, hardworking employees happy. Buy them lunch occasionally, offer annual bonuses and give praise for work well-done; It takes a trained eye to offset or straight-set tiles beautifully or to choose complementary grout colors.

Networking With Other Trades

In the tile-installing profession, you usually work alongside various other tradespeople, such as general contractors, plumbers and electricians. It's important to build a solid rapport with as many of these folks as possible. By networking or interacting professionally with each tradesperson you encounter, you improve your chance of word-of-mouth (WOM) advertising. In the home-improvement industry, WOM travels fast. Just remember that any bad reports make their way around your trade circles the same as good ones do. With this in mind, make sure that your team is setting a great example for the quality of their work and how they interact with the trades and homeowners alike. When you're starting out, there's nothing wrong with asking for referrals, so always have business cards on hand.

Networking With Suppliers

Building strong relationships with your network of suppliers is just as important as getting along with your competitors and tradespeople in the home-improvement, remodeling and construction industries. The better your rapport with the retailers that provide mortar, grout, tiles, tiling tools and related needs, the better your chance of receiving outstanding service, favorable pricing and special terms that build value into your company.