Tile from north to south: a builder’s perspective

Photo by Crossville, Inc
I have been a builder for over 27 years and have built in New England and more recently in the Bahamas. During that period of time I have seen and done many tile projects and both of these regions are different in their styles and construction techniques. Some of the tile that can be done in the Bahamas can’t be done in cold New England or I should say isn’t done as frequently.
New England as a whole is a very conservative area and in that regard tile is used in all the conventional spaces such as baths, kitchens and certain area floors. One of the challenges I have experienced is blending the different tile for the various applications needed to get the look a client is seeking. Being a builder and using tile is always interesting and is totally different than choosing a species of wood for trim work. Many times a client has an idea of what style and colors they are looking for but no exact tile choice whereas if you ask what type of wood, they will usually have a set species in mind such as maple or oak. Therefore tile choices can take a bit longer in the planning process.
Now in the Bahamas tile is everywhere. We use it for baths, floors, walls and even outside. Personally I haven’t used much tile outdoors in Vermont due to the freeze thaw cycles. Now it can be used but much more preparation has to be taken to insure against cracking such as an adequate base and drainage plane as well the proper tile and sealants. Yet even with the best precautions there can still be problems as New England winters can be hard.

Photo by Tile of Spain
Tile in the Bahamas is used frequently outdoors for porch floors and applied directly with thin set to the concrete. There is no freeze/thaw cycle here so cracking from the cold is not an issue. It is also used frequently around pools for the deck area and some wonderful designs are produced with various materials, mosaics and much more color than I’ve used in New England, it’s the tropics and color is abundantly used in the islands.
Another application that I have done here, and I must say it was a first, was tile on the exterior of a home. A few years ago we actually applied Travertine tile to the lower exterior portion of home approximately 30′ up. From that point to the eve, HardiPlank siding was installed and the look was wonderful. The application of tile to exterior home surfaces has become more common place here as it can be used as a focal point and set the home apart.
One other area of tile that I have done here is called Cement Tile. However here they refer to it as ‘Nassau Tile’ and at one time I have been told it was manufactured in Nassau. I had to do some repair work on a home and some of the tile had to be removed carefully for re-installation afterwards. When these tiles were removed I studied the layers and it looked to be the same process used as in Cement Tile-( multiple layers of various cements and about ½’ thick). The design of all the ‘Nassau tiles’ that I have seen here is not as elaborate as Cement Tiles produced today as Nassau tiles have more of a generic pattern but I have learned they have been here for a very long time which is another virtue of tile worldwide- longevity.
Tile in New England and the Bahamas has the same installation procedures as any where else in the world but there are regional differences in styles, color choices, and of course, a clients budget. Throughout time, tile has shown it’s ability to adapt and change for new customs and styles while remaining a material that will withstand years of use while retaining its beauty whether indoors or out.

Photo by Ceramics of Italy
I love tile and all the possible design choices that it affords so I am extremely excited about a trip I have decide to take this spring from the urging of some friends. I will be going to the Coverings trade show in Orlando, Florida, this April 17-20 and I am looking forward to seeing all of the offerings by the participating vendors as well as seeing and learning new techniques and tools for installation of tile and stone.  I have no doubt there will be more to see and learn in the time afforded me but I will try to take in as much as possible and let you know all the wonderful offerings in a future post on my blog, Building Blox.

Todd Vendituoli is a custom homebuilder and in addition to his blog, you can find him on Twitter as @TALV58.