The Absolute Worst Mistake when Running Tile

Image showing WORST TILE MISTAKEThere is nothing quite like the feeling of pride and accomplishment after completing a difficult home improvement project. It usually follows a long time of putting the project off and finally mustering up the energy and ambition to start it. I want you to be proud of any project you complete. I am going to inform you of the absolute worst mistake you can make when running tile with varying colors and textures. I will explain how to avoid this mistake and define how to make the area of tile you are running as eye catching as possible by adding one important step in preparing your tile project.

When you finally carry those boxes of tile into your home, ready to start that tile project, it can be tempting to start running the tile right away straight out of each box. After all, why would anyone want to take all of the tiles out of the boxes only to have them scattered all over the place, taking up space and keeping you from you desired goal of the project completion. This is the worst mistake you can make. It is vital when using tile with variations in color and texture to remove all the tiles from the boxes before you start. However, the last thing you want when running these tiles is to complete the project, step back in what will be a short feeling of satisfaction, and notice that the tile you ran has all similar colors in one area. Or that the tile you ran has all similar textures in one area. This creates a very bad blotch in the tiled area and turns your sense of satisfaction to a sense of horror. Let me help you avoid a heart attack and explain my tile selection process in working with two different types of tile.

The first tile, cultured marble is relatively small. Any tile about 3×6 fit into this category. Cultured marble has variations in color and has a wide assortment in the amount of pits in them. Some may be almost smooth with very few pits where others can resemble a moon rock with a large quantity of pits. My goal in separating my tile is to create individual stacks of tile in a grid pattern and one stack of what I call my “Special Stack”. This stack is of tile that is very unusual with special features all its own. You will notice these as you go. Allow me to explain my process. I take the tile out of each box and separate them in 3 to 4 columns with the lightest shade to the left continuing to the darkest shade to the right. Continue this process through all the boxes. You will find yourself moving tile from one column to the other because the variation in the shades of the tile is subtle. The objective is to get about the same amount into each column. I then take each column and separate them into 3 stacks with the fewest amounts of pits in the bottom stack continuing to the largest amount of pits in the top stack. Again, move them from stack to stack as you go and try to finish with about the same amount of tile in each stack. Continue the process for each column you created. You now have 9 to 12 stacks of tile separated by shades and textures, and one “Special Stack” of the tile with lots of character. I then layout my first two rows of tile to be ran on the counter, so they are ready to install on the wall. You can now very easily select from the different stacks of tile and place them in the two rows. You want to mix and match the tile by shade and texture. Be aware of the tiles next to each other horizontally as well as vertically. Pay attention to continuing this variation through any wall corners. Lastly, remember to place any of your “Special Stack” tile sporadically in your tiled area.

The second tile is a large scale tile, 6×12 or larger, usually used on tub or shower walls. This tile, a smooth surfaced marble, may have no variance in texture. However, there may be variations in the tiles color, shades, color patterns, and direction of movement. The larger tile is harder to sort through to create variations because these require you to lay the entire pattern on the floor. It is also much more important to pay attention to continuing the variations through the wall corners with this larger tile. First, remove the tile from the boxes sorting them in stacks based on their variations in color, shades, color patterns, and direction of movement. You should pre plan your tile layout before running them on any wall surface. This tile layout is based on how you want the tile centered, is it going to be a stacked or subway pattern, tile waste avoidance, etc. This is an entirely different topic, so I will assume you have that planned. Based on your preplanned tile layout, create the layout by setting each tile on the floor with a variation in color, shades, color patterns, and direction of movement. Be aware of surrounding tile of similar looks. Take your time with this because this is the most important step in creating a stunning tile project. Also, please, please, please make sure no children or rather large pets step on your tile after you have them laid on the floor. This not only requires you to purchase more tiles after it is cracked, but you are also left with the dilemma of finding another suitable tile to fill its space. Ask me how I know this!

I hope this helps you create a finished tile project you can be proud of. Here’s to avoiding the absolute worst mistake in running tile. And “Good Luck”.

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How to Install a Perfect Door

There are way too many opinions that claim setting a door is hard. Not at all. You just have to keep three things in mind; preparation, where to start, and how to finish.


The information in this blog corresponds with my two part video on this project.


Items you will need are:

  • Caulking gun
  • Urethane sealant (if setting on concrete)
  • Silicone sealant; not 100% silicone (if setting on wood) Look for a neutral cure silicone, Dow corning CWS, 790 756 795 GE SCS 2000
  • Flashing and/or rubber membrane (if setting on wood)
  • 4’ level
  • Torpedo level
  • Door shims
  • Hand tools
  • Nail set
  • (3) #10 brass screws – 2 to 2 ½ inches long
  • #10 finish nails
  • Finish nailer – optional
  • Drill with bits
  • Great Stuff – Window and Door (minimal expanding, low pressure) 


  • ·         Important – Preparation
  • ·         If concrete – Clean the concrete. Run two beads of caulk under threshold of door and one bead on each edge of sill plate. If you want to raise the door up for interior clearance over existing carpet or an added throw rug now is the time. Use a pressure treated material to set onto the concrete. On top of the pressure treated material run two beads of caulk under threshold of door and one bead on each edge of sill plate.
  • ·         If wood – To help the installation of the door go smoothly get the door threshold sill perfectly level by shimming or wedging. If you want to raise the door up for interior clearance over existing carpet or an added throw rug now is the time. Wrap the threshold with aluminum flashing, a rubber membrane, or use a door pan. If using flashing or a rubber membrane run two beads of caulk on top of the flashing or rubber membrane under threshold of door and one bead on each edge of sill plate. If using a door pan run two beads of caulk under threshold of door and one bead on each edge of sill plate and set the door pan into the caulk. 
  • ·         If your door has an exterior trim, apply a bead of caulk around the perimeter of the trim where it will be in contact with the wall.
  • ·         Set the door down directly onto the caulk beads. Try not to smear the caulk.
  • ·         Open the door to 90 degrees and support the open door with something to hold the standing door jamb in place.
  • ·         Important – Where to Start – Level the door threshold. Determine which side of the door is the high side. You will want to temporary nail your door jamb on the high side at the bottom of the jamb. Center the door in the opening. Make sure the door jamb is flush (or sticking in past the drywall 1/16”) and shim and temporary nail the bottom of the jamb.
  • ·         Shim around the perimeter of the door on the other three corners keeping a perfect margin between the door jamb and the door. The top margin can be a bit wider on the knob side of the door. The screw inserted into the top hinge will draw this margin up to perfect. Try to keep the threshold tight to the sill.
  • ·         Temporary nail all four corners through the inserted shims keeping the jamb flush with the interior drywall or sticking in 1/16”.
  • ·         If the existing wall is out of rack the door may not be flush with the jamb on the knob side. Close the door and make sure the interior side of the door is flush with the door jamb from bottom to top. You want this to be perfect so the door will close against the door weather seal and with minimal effort. You can adjust the door jamb by tapping adjacent corners of the door one way (in or out) and the opposite corners the other (in or out). You can refer to my video on this project for further direction.
  • ·         Important – How to Finish – The rest is easy. Shim and screw the door at every hinge location. Shim and nail the door securely at the lockset. You can hide the nails under the side weather seal but be careful not to damage the seal by using a nail set. Add more shims and nails as needed.
  • ·         Check the door one more time for operation.
  • ·         Use a minimal expanding insulation product to insulate between the door framing and the door jamb. Be careful to choose a product that does not over expand, because it is strong enough to push your door jamb over. Also be aware that this product is the stickiest substance in the universe. It is messy and if it gets on your skin it will be there for months.


Finally, here is a checklist to verify a perfectly set door.

ü  The door margin between the door jamb and door are perfectly consistent on all three sides.

ü  There are no air gaps or daylight in these margins or at the threshold of the door.

ü  The door does not hang up on the threshold.

ü  The gaps between the door framing and door jamb are well insulated.

ü  The door on the knob side has a consistent reveal (in and out) with the door jamb all the way from bottom to top.

ü  The door jamb is flush or sticking in past the interior drywall 1/16”.

ü  Hinges are shimmed and screwed.

ü  The lockset area is shimmed and secure.


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Perfect is in the Eye of the Beholder

Perfection is defined as: an unsurpassable degree of accuracy or excellence. Well, that’s just wonderful! By who’s perception of accuracy, much less excellence? My perception of perfection may be totally different than yours. How would one know if what they view as perfect is the same as what another would view as perfect? For instance, you take your car in for a brake job. You pick the car up and the brakes squeal, so you take the car back. The mechanic takes the car out for a test drive. He comes back and says, “The car stops on a dime. The brakes are perfect”. So, to the auto mechanic the brakes are perfect, but to you they are far from it. Here’s another example. You decide it’s time for a “new doo” so you run off to your local hair stylist. You expect to come out looking like Jennifer Aniston, but come out looking like Lady GaGa. Now to you this hairstyle is “God awful”, but to the young “just cleared twenty” hairstylist doing the cutting, it is beautiful! In fact, it’s perfect! lol This is fun. Let’s take this to remodeling. You have the bathroom tile changed out. The contractor promises a good job and you did check his references. When he completes the project the grout joints are not equal and the tiles are not level in some areas. You are not happy at all! To you the job is lousy! When you confront him about what you perceive as poor quality he replies that the job is beautiful. You explain that surely this is not how the tile is supposed to look. He responds that this is the way it is done where he is from and he does all his jobs this way. In fact in his mind the job is …………………….you got it! Perfect! So what is perfect and what is not? How do you make sure you are getting what you expect?
Communication is the key. A quality remodeler will have a well planned construction process which should spell out exactly what the homeowner should expect throughout the project. The process should explain the entire procedure from the first phase of the initial consultation to the final phase of finishing the project and clean up. Talk to your remodeler about what you expect. If you have any other expectations or concerns have it added to the initial agreement.
Documentation helps to clarify any confusions in communications. Use architectural plans, 3D renditions, photos and other visual aids to help finalize any questions that need clarity. A picture speaks a thousand words could not be truer. If you have photos of what you expect have them as part of the initial agreement. If your contractors overall quality does not meet your expectations you will have something concrete to use in your defense.
Finally, any quality contractor will have include a specification sheet as part of the initial agreement. The specification sheet spells out exactly what is being done on the project. A good specification sheet should spell out everything from grade of countertop to number of coats of paint to be applied. Thousands of dollars can be lost by homeowners caught off guard by hidden remodel expenses not included by remodeling contractors. A good specification sheet helps remove these hidden costs. A material description sheet should be part of the specification sheet . This will help clarify items such as material types, color selections, tile selections, etc.
Any good remodeler will provide documents and communicate to help their clients know exactly what is included in the remodeling costs. There are far too many homeowners and business owners getting taken advantage of by poor quality minded or less than honest contractors. It is not your job to create the paperwork needed to back up what you expect. Require this from your remodeling contractor. Don’t get caught being left unhappy with a less than quality project because your remodeler has a less than perfect view of a finished project.

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Adding a Door In an Exterior Brick Wall

    Do you need a door added into a brick wall, but can’t afford it? Have the estimates for this project come in higher than you expected? The chances are that the prices are high because your remodeler has to include brick and drywall repair costs. Tell your remodeler you know a company by the name of Benoah Renovations that can insert the door with no brick or drywall repairs. Here’s how!

The information in this blog corresponds with my 2 part video on this project.

ü  4’ ladder

ü  Drop cloths

ü  Shop vac

ü  Hand tools

ü  Saw zall

ü  Cordless drill with a ¼” x 12” masonry bit

ü  A multipurpose tool

ü  4’ level

ü  Saw

ü  Small sledge hammer

ü  Mason chisel

ü  Protective goggles, mask, ear plugs

ü  Saw zall blades

ü  Cord

ü  Flashlight

ü  Drill Bits

ü  Screws and nails

ü  Glue

ü  Mason Saw

ü  Wheelbarrow


Determine the best location for the new door

  • o    Dodge interior trade issues such as pipes, wires, ductwork
  • o    Be aware of exterior problems such as grade issues, wall offsets, HVAC units, etc.

Work preparation

  • o    Clear all items from work area
  • o    Lay down drop cloths and other home care products

Make final determination if door location is workable

  • o    Visually check interior and exterior conditions – preliminary determination
  • o    Cut a small hole just above interior baseboard, hand feel, remove insulation, and visually check   
  • o    Cut a larger hole just above to verify that nothing will cause problems– final determination

Mark the door rough opening on the exterior wall

  • o    Drill a hole from the interior through the mortar joint to create a controlled dimension pull spot  
  • o    Determine the height of the door by using the rough opening of the door; add height for interior throw rugs and exterior trim.
  • o    Make sure the top horizontal line runs through the next mortar joint up from the height rough opening of the door
  • o    Adjust door location side to side as needed trying to leave at least a half a brick on each side for the angle iron support
  • o    Using a level, mark the exterior door rough opening on the brick wall

Cut out the door hole on the brick wall (brick dust and debris is a big factor)

  • o    Be aware of wires, plumbing, etc. before cutting
  • o    Run a temporary awning to control the brick debris spray
  • o    Use a brick mason saw to cut the hole in the brick
  • o    Use protective wear when cutting
  • o    Use a shop vac to help control the dust
  • o    Do not cut above the top horizontal line

Remove the brick from the door opening

  • o    Create a starting point of removal at the center of the door opening
  • o    Remove the bricks from the inside out
  • o    Gently remove the top courses of brick last
  • o    Clean up all brick debris
  • o    Chip any rough edges of brick along cut lines with brick chisel

Mark the door rough opening on the interior wall

  • o    Insert some form of rod through the exterior sheathing at the sides and top of door opening
  • o    Determine the interior rough opening of the door – pay attention to manufacturers rough opening and add extra height for interior throw rugs
  • o    Using a level, mark the door rough opening on the interior wall

Cut out the door hole on the interior wall (drywall dust is a big factor)

  • o    Remove the insulation
  • o    Be aware of wires, plumbing, etc. inside the wall cavity
  • o    Cut and remove the drywall
  • o    Clean up dust and debris

Cut out the wall framing

  • o    Build a temporary wall if there is a heavy load and a wide rough opening
  • o    Cut and remove the exterior sheathing
  • o    Add the header height plus an extra inch and a half  to the door height and cut the top of the studs
  • o     Install a flat 2×4 from stud to stud for header top
  • o    Cut out the bottom sill plate

Install the brick angle iron

  • o    Determine and hollow out the brick mortar joint at the angle iron horizontal line
  • o    Chip off and clean up any overflow of mortar on the interior face of brick
  • o    Gently slip in the brick angle iron from the inside
  • o    Shim the angle iron as needed

Install the wall door header

  • o    Install header; glue and screw it under flat 2×4
  • o    Install 2 jack studs on each side of door for header support

Install final details of framework

  • o    Tape and caulk sheathing joint as needed
  • o    Add glue to exterior sheathing
  • o    Nail or screw exterior sheathing and interior drywall
  • o    Install angle iron and sheathing spacers
  • o    Clean up
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A Facelift? Who Would You Trust to Do the Work?

by Luke Zmolik

So you’ve decided you’re not happy with the “exterior you”.  After a lot of thought you’ve decided you want a more youthful appearance. Not settling for a simple Botox injection, brow lift, or removal of a few wrinkles, you decide to go for the full facelift. So away you go on your search for your perfect “Nip Tuck” surgeon. You walk into a fancy office with nice furnishings and decorations. You see nicely framed plaques and membership certificates, and his diploma on the wall. The plastic surgeon comes out, gives you a warm greeting, and welcomes you to his office. He makes you feel so warm and fuzzy; something in the manner of his speaking. He has been in business for some period of time so he must be good at what he does. So you say to yourself, “This must be my guy. Cut me up Doc!” ARE YOU NUTS?! There is no way you would trust just anyone with your facelift. And for good reason! You had better be putting your “Surgeon Scissorhands” through all kinds of vetting and scrutiny. Background checks, criminal history checks, nervous tic checks, palm reading, and a breathalyzers!

There are only two true ways to make sure your surgeon can do the job you expect.


Now take the same philosophy you would use in choosing that perfect plastic surgeon into choosing the perfect remodeler.  Here are some of the misconceptions far too many people are fooled into when choosing a good remodeler.

You found a remodeling company with a nice showroom. So what? Does that make you sold on the quality of his work?  Yes a showroom does show that the remodeling company means business and intends to succeed, but that’s it. And how do you think that fancy showroom is paid for? OK, I dress nice and wear the most expensive fitted suits around. Am I now a good attorney? Check their work and their prices.

This remodeler has nice advertisements with credentials. Impressive! And his website looks nice with all these memberships, awards, and certificates. Does that make you want to use him for your home? Don’t trust it! Look. There are companies out there that are wonderful and they darn sure deserve the awards they get. But be leery. A lot of memberships can be purchased. And be wise enough to know that awards given by media and communities may be given because the remodeler knows the right people. Rub a few elbows, do a little horse trading, wink wink, nod nod! And “Walla”! A fancy new award!

Have you ever talked with someone and every word seemed to grab you?  Words just flowed out…smooth as butter. Have you ever been verbally persuaded into doing something that you regretted later? All talk! Followed up by what? Disappointment! And then you don’t know who to be mad at more. The smooth talker whose overall performance came up short; or you for making that lousy decision. Don’t be fooled.  Take the time. Do the homework. Ask for references and call them.

The number of years in business does speak well for a company.  It does prove that the company has been profitable and will probably be around in the future if they are needed.  But again, this is not the best way to be sure you are getting what you pay for. My company has been around for decades, but I would definitely expect any possible new clients and friends to check my references and see my work.

References and visually seeing prior work are key.  If the remodeler is proud of his work he will find a way to show you some. If the remodeler has treated his clients well he most likely has become friends with them.  Ask to go see work he has done in other’s homes. Most homeowners love to show off their improved house and would be happy to give you a tour. This is also a good way to make sure Ronald Remodeler didn’t give you his Aunt Sarah’s phone number, and how would you know if you were talking to Ronald Remodeler’s golf buddy? Request addresses. Ask your remodeler to set up appointments to view his work.

So whether you…..or your home is getting a facelift. Get those numbers. Make those calls. Ask questions. And don’t be afraid to ask to see prior work. Don’t put you….or your home through the agony of dealing with bad butchers?

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