NYC Renovation Chronicles

The truth about leftover tile

By Clare Donohue | October 21, 2009 - 12:29PM
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The Situation

This just happened to a designer friend of mine, and it comes up whenever people haven't been informed.

"Why do I have so much leftover tile," his client groused, "and why should I have to pay for all this material I'm never going to use?"

As any professional would, my friend had ordered 15% more than the square footage needed. In fact, depending on the type of tile or stone, and whether it is sold only in full cartons, the standard overage can be as much as 25%. 

It may sound like a conspiracy, but it's just common sense.

Here's the Deal

• You never want to run short once a job is in progress. Even if a tile is locally stocked, the time lost from an interruption is too valuable. And if the tile is an eight-week special order, or imported, your job will come to a grinding halt.

• Tile is a breakable material. Even careful shippers will end up with chipped corners or shattered pieces once in a while, and tricky cuts can take two or three tries to get right. Some materials, such as glass or slate, are more delicate than most and require lots of overage.

• Trim pieces--such as long, skinny chair rails, decorative borders, and corner pieces--are especially vulnerable, so be sure to order plenty of extras.

• In case of future floods or damage, it's unlikely you'll be able to buy matching tile later on. Store enough of the leftovers to retile a good-sized section of wall or floor.

• If you feel you are covered, you might be able to return unused portions depending on the supplier.  Normally, suppliers accept only stocked items in full, unopened cartons, in resalable condition, and within a reasonable time frame.

• If you can't return your surplus tiles, find a creative use for them. Slate, natural stone, and even porcelain tile can be used in the garden as stepping stones, borders, edging, tabletops. Extra and broken ceramic tile can be collaged into artful picassiette. Art teachers appreciate donations of small mosaics and colorful tiles for crafts projects.

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