the art of installing tiles

July 2015 Newsletter

the art of installing tiles

In this issue, we have the good fortune of chatting with Rafael Anaya, a well-known local artisan who does fantastic work with tiles. Taking a break from his work on a new master bath in Oakland Hills, Rafael generously shared with us some of his trade secrets and offered advice for homeowners planning to do a remodel.

it's all about the float

Floating refers to the application of wet cement mix to form a mortar bed. This is a physically demanding skill that takes years to develop since it is important to make the surface smooth and grading correctly to ensure proper drainage. When doing a mortar bed, Rafael and his team prefer to float the entire area all at once if possible. On building Lab's recently completed master bath project in a Russian Hill residence, he worked with handcrafted tiles of different textures and thicknesses. In this case, the two segments were floated one after another and the tiles at the transitions were perfectly matched. 

an eye for design: importance of dry layout

In this sophisticated master bath, clean lines and modern design are enriched with handmade elements and natural materials. Rafael worked closely with the designer building Lab and builder Jeff King and Co. in planning the layout. First, they had to agree on a focal point where the eye would naturally fall on. From there, tiles would be laid out without mortar (dry layout). As the tiles approached walls or other floor surfaces, decisions had to be made to ensure the cut edges were aesthetically pleasing. Having either a full tile or half tile at the border would be an ideal scenario. 

tips for homeowners

  • Order all the tiles before the job starts. The layout cannot be perfect without the actual tiles. 
  • For shower floors, avoid polished stone in formats larger than 12"X12" since they would be too slippery. Use honed stone or matt ceramic if you like large tiles. Small tiles would not pose such problems as the grout lines provide the friction.
  • Stone tiles need to be resealed every year. Do not use abrasive cleaning materials as they would dull the surface.
  • Frequent cleaning and good ventilation are essential to avoid buildup of molds and mildew. 

the master

Rafael grew up in Mexico and moved to Los Angeles as a teenager. After high school, he worked in construction and also did a stint as a shuttle bus driver. He worked as a housepainter after moving to the Bay Area in 1989, right after the earthquake. In 1993, he apprenticed with the great tile master Tony Buselli (now retired). Rafael started his own firm, Anaya Tile Company in 2005.
Photo captions: L-R
1. Rafael Anaya at a job site   2. Project in progress - tiles drain to a sloping channel at the far edge
3. Channel leads down to the drain   4. Two full tiles between the niches
5. Completed project: modern master bath atop a historic russian hill residence

a big thank you to our clients and colleagues for their stellar reviews

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top: parquet ceramic by pratt & larson
bottom: herringbone field limestone by sonoma tile
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