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The Players in Pool Tile Selection

Tile in submerged applications, i.e., pools, has the potential to being subjected to the most caustic conditions in the tile industry. It is imperative that at every stage of the process, from tile selection to installation materials and installation protocol, is approached with this reality in mind, beginning with the design phase of tile selection and continuing down to waterproofing and installation system decisions.

MANUFACTURERS are where the buck stops … you would think. Of course, they know more than anyone else about the physical properties and capabilities of their product and are the best option in obtaining product verification information, but beware. Not all “manufacturers” are actually manufacturers. Often, names that are recognized nationally and internationally for superior quality and excellence, and presumed to be manufacturers, are actually nothing more than distributors who sell a variety of manufacturers’ products with their private label. This is not necessarily a bad thing as long as they’re dealing with quality manufacturers, but too often what is packaged up in a nice box is a substandard product made in third world countries, with low standards. A prudent buyer will ask the right questions and demand product verification and performance in writing, along with specific installation instructions.

INTERIOR DESIGNERS often get involved in the exterior elements of a home and, while they have great influence on bringing design continuity throughout a home, they aren’t typically mindful of the performance of materials in exterior environments.

LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTS will often work in conjunction with designers to assure that a project has design continuity throughout. Although this is a safer approach than simply relying on the designer for material selections, it can still be problematic with submerged and partially submerged application, an environment that can be far more caustic than other exterior applications. While it is a safe bet to say that architects are more diligent when it comes to researching material compatibility in harsh environments, they also regularly rely on the word of suppliers for product verification.

HOMEOWNERS occasionally get directly involved with tile selection. Of course, they have the prerogative to do so and in fact are encouraged by many, as it seems to expand their horizons as to the possibilities. One downfall with homeowners choosing pool tile is they seem to fall into the hands of salespeople who promise the world and have nothing to back it up, especially if a failure occurs shortly after the pools put into service. A great example is glass tile, among the most problematic materials if not manufactured properly. And adding insult to injury, the most devastating flaws in substandard glass tile are invisible to the naked eye.

BUILDERS bear the responsibility of fact checking product verification as well as putting the package together and assuring that all subcontractors’ work is done to specification and interfaces with one another correctly. Ironically this, in what should be the “fail safe” component of every project, is generally where things slip through the cracks. Not to suggest that general contractors are ignorant or lazy, in fact, most are quite bright and diligent, and care about what they are producing. But even the most meticulous contractor out there doesn’t typically recognize the misinformation, assumptions, and possible smokescreens that everyone before him thus far has encountered and unknowingly passed on to him, who in turn unknowingly passes on to the installation contractor. Installers hold the most responsibility for delivering a long lasting, quality product, but unfortunately, are generally at the bottom of the chain with regard to input.

INSTALLERS have a responsibility in studying the material selected, as well as communicating with manufacturers about implementing the recommended system for their tile installation, but too often their input, coming at some a late stage, is ignored. After all, decisions have been made, material has been purchased, manufacturers and distributors have offered installation instructions, and time is of the essence.

Also see Pool Tile Selection and Who’s Making the Pool Tile Selection?