Tiling is known to function as a protective surface for your homes, but it’s not just that set the ambiance and feel of your house. It is one of the vital parts of your interior, and it gives life to your space. Matty from MMC Tiles is the special guest of Episode #40 of “The Construction Life.” Another episode, and another attempt towards the betterment of the industry. Matt discussed how he started, the reasons why tile workers are underpaid, and his passion and love for his work.
Matty from MMC Tiles started in 10 years ago, he hated college, and always wanted to do something with his hands. His was in Union 183, and he started with high-rise, commercial buildings. He shared a funny story of how his first day was weird, 40 guys were there when he entered the front floor, they were fighting, literally scrapping each other, he ignored them and went to his foreman. He started cleaning garbage, then he started grouting. He then slowly worked with tiles. He started with one washroom at a time and then the washrooms throughout the building. There were nearly 50 bathrooms in the building he was working in, that was his beginning.
Learning Not Earning!
Okay, when Matt started, he was making $700 per week, it was 10 years ago, and he was working really hard to earn this money. After two years he left high-rise buildings and went straight to subdivision homes. At that time, he was making $2/sq ft. (this amount included prepping). A McDonald’s guy was earning more than a tile guy 10 years back and he was completing one house in three days.
When he was 22, he realized that he is not making enough money and he should do something he will be proud of. By then he was completely oblivious about the products, techniques, and the work itself. But passion paved his way. When he started working on his own, he felt good and surprised at how long detailed and good work takes. He started testing on the sites, and on the homes, he was getting. When he started working on his own, he was literally making no money in exchange for learning, but he says he won’t change it for the world. He now knows how to do work properly, and more efficiently and earning from his years of experience.
Insta for Business
Matty says that he uploaded a casual video of the site he was working on. He didn’t know that the video will be a huge hit on Insta, and he will build a huge fan base. 6 years ago, he started MMC through Instagram and he started getting better at it, and he started asking for more money and rightfully so, his skills dictated the rate. Today 90% of business he is getting is due to Instagram exposure. It means that Contractors should wisely use their social media and online presence to expand their business. He also learned a lot from Instagram, especially about the products. He learned underlayment, waterproofing, self-levelers, and so much more by DMing other tile setters, communication goes a long way in construction.
Clips in Tiling
Everyone is using clips, and every tradesperson is now doing tilework because of the clips. According to Matt, Perfect Level Master is the best clip company. At the start of his career, he didn’t even use spacer or clips… because for $2 per square foot you cannot spend money on good grout, back buttering, clips, or spacers, if you did, you would be giving the client money instead of making money.
Clips are one of the best and worst creations introduced in the tile industry based on how you work with them. It is because if you don’t prep the floor properly with your thin-set, you will be leaving hollow spots in the tiles. If you pull up the tiles they will be left with holes. These hollow spots will be trouble in the future, potential of an object dropping and creating a crack.
Most tiles nowadays are garbage. If you look at a tile at eye-level and you follow a line from left to right all of a sudden, the tile will show a huge bump out of nowhere. The larger format tiles if they’re not baked or manufactured properly have those bows in them. You have to be smart enough to take two and put them face to face and show them to the client and tell them that your level is straight the tiles not straight so there’s a bow.
They are in fact putting on the boxes now to not install unless you have a leveling system in place.
Rubber pans are getting Obsolete
Rubbers pans are never done properly, neither are they glued properly. Homeowners usually say their drain stinks, they call in people to fix the drains and it is mostly the rubber pan that would go up the wall and then shield, the concrete board, or the drywall. Some guys always put screws lower than they are supposed to. It is usually a foot away or ten inches from the bottom of the pan, they would be putting screws up three inches. This is why homeowners face problems such as leaking mold. And because there’s not a waterproof membrane on top of that concrete, the sand bed acts as a sponge and it behaves like a swamp and so it stinks, such an old way of doing things.
Use Seat Belts, not Airbags!
One position from where all the leaks come from? Drain.
Clients believe tiles are the waterproofing membrane. People don’t even want waterproofing in their homes, because they don’t realize the importance of it. Instead of airbags, use seat belts!
Spend on making your home waterproof, because drainage matters a lot, never rely on the finished tile as your waterproofing.
Invest in Prep
There are some guys who are working for nothing. Homeowners get to take advantage of tradespeople and expect them to do it for nothing. Homeowners don’t realize the effort guys are putting in the prep is worth it. Especially when it comes to tile workers. They should not justify what they should get paid. Homeowners realize the cheap work after the house is done but it is too late. By getting cheap work for your home, they don’t realize they are ripping themselves off. People spend a lot of money on finishing things but don’t like to spend on the prep.
Takeaways of Episode 40
- Schluter has usually a 25 years warranty and is one of the top choices of tile setters.
- Porcelain is mimic of expensive tile, but a tile worker can tell is it cheap or not.
- Clients don’t want to spend money on prep.
- Matty uses a hand grinder, for certain sizes he uses a wet saw.
- As a tile maker, your cut should look like a factory cut. It should be like you went to a factory and bought a custom tile. Clean cut is achieved by polish and buff, not scorning and snapping.
- Using spacers is not a sin.
- Matty was asked how does he price his niches. He doesn’t charge on the basis of per sq ft but on the basis of the effort on the project.
- Benches are actually slowly fading away people don’t want benches. But there is nothing wrong with having one. The corner shelves from Schluter are perfect for a strong bench.
- People prefer curbless showers because curbs collect all the water. You have to maintain the shower by using strainers, cleaning the drains, and keeping the drains hair-free.
- Modified vs nonmodified cement: Modified is chemical dry doesn’t need air. Non-modified is not chemical dry and needs air to dry.
- Matty’s favorite choice of grout is Mapei.
- If you’re in this industry right now and you don’t have a tile cutting machine that can’t cut anything under 46-48 inches, you’re not in business.
- When asked about his choice of blades, he loves the “Hummingbird” series of blades by Coral Abrasives.
- People don’t realize, that after the grout, just because the surface is dry doesn’t mean it’s dry. It’s sweating from the inside so after applying silicone grout you have to wait for 8 to 9 days.
- Homeowners should trust the person they hire and let them do their work, so they get the best out of them.
- Vanity walls should be all tile 100%.
- Every single renovation has an element of weather in it. Nothing is pristine clean and wear and tear can happen over time.
- The message to new tile setters is “Don’t be a robot.” Think through the scope. Do things on your own, try to find new ways, own this work, do it if you love to do it. When you are working for someone, make sure to be on the same team.