As with all national chains you'll probably find that they only have a
limited range of "buy it cheap, pile it high". I know an excellent tile
place in Newcastle, massive range (floor area about the size of an average
DIY shed) of proper tiles and good prices, certainly on a par with the
sheds. But with the advantage of being able to get tiles that are not the
mass market, mass produced stuff.
I find that selecting tiles is one of the hardest things for a project,
but mainly because I am picky about them. For example, I hate
anything that looks obviously screen printed (because it's been done
badly quite often and one can see the dots from some distance away) and
where an attempt is being made to make a tile look like something that
it isn't - e.g. ceramic tiles made to look like marble or limestone etc.
I have had looks at the DIY stores and the selections seem to be really
poor in general, so I've tended to go look at the medium sized tile
warehouses. I've looked in the really large ones like Topps Tiles in
the past, and found that the combination of there being too much to
choose from and the absolute junk mixed in with decent somewhat
overwhelming; to the point that I have just left the store.
Equally, I've looked at places like Fired Earth and found that while
they have a few reasonably priced lines, many are overpriced for what
they are- i.e. one can find identical or close to identical elsewhere.
So in terms of looking for what I want, I find that the 'less is more'
principle actually works better. To that extent, finding a few local
firms having perhaps 1 to 3 showrooms is far better than going to the
big guys. Generally, their displays are better as well and there can
be a discussion about price anyway. I don't think that I've ever
paid the asking price for tiles. In this area, (East Berkshire,
Surrey), Ceramic Tile Warehouse in Camberley and Just Tiles in Woodley
have quite good ranges. When looking last time, I did spot similar
type places closer to where you are - Richmond, Twickenham etc. but
didn't make visits.
The other thing that I found helpful was to identify manufacturers who
had approximately the types of tiles that I wanted. For example,
Marlborough Tiles have a range of fairly classic and quite good quality
ceramics. Once you know roughly what you really want, and the kind
of price range that you want to pay, you can then go to a variety of
suppliers and look at price, or you can go with a sample or a catalogue
of one you like to another place and ask if they have similar.
Really important once you have narrowed it down, is to get some samples
to take home and look at for a few days. Most places want a deposit for
this, but I think that it's really important to do it. On several
occasions I have found things in stores that I was pretty much ready to
buy and then when I saw them in the room didn't really like them,
either immediately or the next day.
Designs are a really personal thing, but I've found it better to go for
quite plain backgrounds and field tiles and then either to add a small
number of accent tiles or to put other brighter objects in the room.
The point is that changes can be made when you get bored.
Even fairly inexpensive tiles cost a lot once one adds the time taken
to plan and fit properly, so it's worth investing the time to choose
and to plan. I used a software package, Precision Tile, to work out
the optimal layouts -
well worth it.
In my recent cloakroom project, I spent more time on planning and doing
the tiles than any other part of the project, but it's worth it.
Whether the project is a bathroom, kitchen,.... the finish matters a
Marlborough Tiles are (at least in part) a distributor rather than a
manufacturer. We used a porcelain tile which they distribute, made by
Valverde. The UK retailers we found wanted >=A340m^2 for the tile
through Marlborough, so I asked this guy, whose site I found while
looking for the right tile, if he could help:
transport from Italy, the cost was =A318m^2.
I've done the same since with a Marazzi tile which we found in World's
End Tiles, and rather cheekily bought a sample to get the
manufacturer's name off the the back. The savings weren't quite so
good, but it was about =A330m^2 delivered, against =A345m^2.
I reckon that tiling costs something like £25 a sq meter for grout,
cement and *time* (charged reasonably). More like £50 for a really
careful job with natural stone.
Makes a mockery of £5 a meter tiles...
I believe that they are both.
This can be good, but one does need to think about redress if there is
For example, where I recently used limestone in my cloakroom project,
the material delivered was quite a lot darker than the samples. I've
used enough stone to know that there can be a lot of natural variation,
and in this case a different area was being quarried and generically
this particular type has become darker. However, it just didn't
look right in the room. The supplier was willing to take the lot back
and helped us to select a different type from a different source, even
providing samples. That would have been difficult to organise with a
supplier in Italy and was worth the 15% or so higher price paid. The
same kind of thing can happen with porcelain and ceramic tiles - there
are batch variations.
There is more to value than price.
The way would be to ask for a sample from the actual and current batch
to be bought - not one that has been around for a year or more.
I'm not risk averse by any stretch of the imagination. However, if I
can mitigate risk by taking a set of actions then I factor that into
the cost of the project.
True, but much as I trust Marco Bettini, it would be a huge pain in
the arse to try and resolve that sort of problem over distance.
You can always mitigate risk by shelling out cash. In the first case,
there was nearly a thousand pounds in it, and over 100% margin. That
pays for quite a lot of risk in my book.