Spring is finally here. Time to freshen things up around the house…a “zhuzhing” of sorts. Maybe a new backsplash or bathroom floor — and you don’t want to spend too much on the tile so you make a trip to your local big box store. What could possibly go wrong? Well, sometimes more than you think.

COLOR CONSISTENCY: One of the biggest issues with buying tile from a big box or online discount retailer is an issue with the shading and sizing of the tiles from box to box that you are purchasing. Big Box stores or online discounters tile can have a large amount of color variation from box to box as each batch of tile can be from different dye lots of the same “color” tile. This results in an install that — while you are technically using the same color tile — the shade of that color is off from box to box and so it looks completely different on the wall and doesn’t match. This would be fine if the tile is supposed to be shaded and not a solid tone, but typically that is not the situation; you want your tile to all be the exact same, consistent color on the wall or floor. When you buy from a small specialty tile retailer you don’t have that problem. On every box of tile there is a dye lot number which is sometimes called a batch or shade number. Different batches or productions of tile will have different numbers. Batches can be different in both color and size from run to run. Because specialty tile stores have strong 1:1 relationships with their vendors, we work with our vendors to require that every order placed use the same batch and dye lot. The result is your tile will all be the same size and color from box to box and the vendor knows to only send tiles from the same dye lot for each specific order.

TILE SELECTION: The other bonus of buying from a smaller specialty tile retailer is that typically there will be more design and style options to choose from for each line of tile. Variety in mosaics, shapes and sizes, along with colorways from each tile line carried will be greater in a specialty store than you will find at a larger big box store. At a Big Box store, every item on the store shelf has to earn its place and only the most “popular” items that sell the most will get a shelf spot. Finding exclusive, unique tile in an array of color choices are not hallmarks of buying through a big box store — what you see is what you get. In contrast, a specialty tile retailer has carefully curated a showroom full of possibilities as well as access to much more than what their showrooms can display (not to mention a nicer atmosphere!).

TILE QUALITY: Some manufacturers sell to both the big box stores as well as the smaller specialty tile retailers. While it’s possible that in some cases they are the same tile, often the tile from the big box stores are produced specifically for that larger retailer and designed to meet a certain price point. This results in producing tile that is often lower in quality in order to meet the necessary sales margins of the big box stores, so the tile you are buying is not the same as the higher quality version of that tile you’d find at the specialty tile shop.

TILE KNOWLEDGE: Knowledge and education are the pillars of a tile specialist, and finding tile expertise at a big box store can be hit or miss and not necessarily comprehensive. When you shop at a smaller specialty tile retailer, you’ll find a much higher level of expertise around the differences between all types of natural stone and their corresponding finishes as well as porcelain, ceramic and other specialty products. Tile thickness, slip resistance, wear and installation requirements of each product should be considered before selecting tile, and a smaller specialty tile store is much more focused on those small details. Additionally, most smaller tile stores work in unison with their own installation teams for a more coordinated effort which means less work on the consumers side of finding an installer.

And we’ve of course saved the best for last….

DESIGN SERVICES: Everyone deserves the luxury of beautiful design, and it doesn’t have to cost a thing! A smaller tile showroom has complimentary, on-staff designers who take the intimidation out of the equation by partnering with the customer to help them achieve their vision — it’s a much more one on one experience and the customer feels confident in the selections they are making. Things like complimentary creative concept designs, material selection CAD drawings for each project, power point detail for each space and personal project management from design to installation are things you will only find when working with a smaller tile specialty store.

So while you will always find a decent price point at the Big Box store – buyer beware – there are some important distinctions and a lot of value in paying slightly more for your tile from a smaller, specialty tile retailer. Happy Shopping!

If you are building a custom home or remodeling your current home in Wilmette, IL, Delafield, WI or Lake Geneva, WI, you should visit our showroom in the area.  Our showrooms are filled with marble, ceramic, porcelain, terracotta and cement tiles for uses on floors, walls, backsplashes, fireplace surrounds and more. We also offer custom tile and interior design services. Our clients rely on us for interior design help when they build their custom home or are working on a remodel. Call any of our showrooms today for an appointment.