Lindsey Runyon Interviews Kris Trees, Owner of Strictly Tile
Lindsey Runyon: How did you learn how to do tile?
Kris Trees: I started in high school, working for a general contractor as a side job. I started with pushing a broom, then went on to painting, to foundations to framing, to doing tile work. I learned on the job. The builder I worked for was a custom home builder, so I got into the custom work right away. Custom work is kind of a little niche I’ve been in.
LR: Custom work as opposed to what?
KT: Commercial work, where it’s “just lay it and go”. Custom work is where the homeowners have more of a say in it. Those are the type of projects I like working on. You have to pick and match colors and if they don’t like it, you have to tear it out and do it again.
LR: Have you had to tear things out and do it again?
KT: Oh, never! haha LR: Never never, of course not! Haha. We like to talk about eco-consciousness in our newsletter so what are some ways you can be eco-conscious when it comes to tile products, design, installation, etc.?
KT: There are a lot of products out there that are eco-friendly – like the backer boards that go on the wall or underneath the tile. There is a product called Fiberrock which I think over 90% of it is recycled materials. It is a newer product that has just come out within the past 5-6 years. It’s great for wet areas. You still have to waterproof it, but it is much sturdier than a standard backer board. It’s a solid product so if you dip it in a bucket of water, it’s not going to absorb and disintegrate.
Under-floor heating is also very eco-friendly because it is so efficient. NuHeat is a mat that goes under the tile and heats up using electricity. It can even go into showers. It gets you away from using your gas heaters.
Epoxy grouts are also good for indoor health and maintenance as opposed to a traditional sand grout. Epoxy grout allows you to scrub without allowing anything to penetrate into the grout. It also lasts a lot longer. It is 3 times as strong and you don’t have to seal it every year like you would have to with traditional grout.
LR: And there are tiles that are definitely recycled.
KT: Yeah, and the tiles themselves! I’ll have to send you an email on it, but there’s one that cleans the air!
LR: That’s like a slab!
KT: It is, it’s crazy. I’ve seen them but I’ve never used them myself. The biggest tiles I’ve worked with personally have been indoor/outdoor slate tiles, which are about 1” thick and are 2’x3’. LR: What is a trend that you’ve been seeing with tile that you are really liking right now?
KT: I’m seeing a lot of subway tile lately, and I like it. It’s fairly easy to install but it’s just clean.
LR: Yeah, it’s classic.
KT: I’m also seeing a lot of 12”x24”s LR: Like a giant subway.
KT: Yeah, on floors. It’s really common.
LR: A lot of them are coming in that size, I’ve noticed, too. What types of products do you hate working with?
KT: Well, I don’t really hate them, but some products are harder to work with than others. Epoxy grouts are a pain in the butt. However, they’re one of the best products out there for grout in terms of durability, and I recommend them 100% of the time.
LR: So it’s worth it?
KT: It is. I also like a stone product. But it’s really hard to do because you’re working with all different thicknesses. They can range…stone is not a manmade product, so when they cut it, the blade wears down so the tiles can vary from 1/8” to 1/16” thinner than the next piece.
LR: What is your dream tile job to work on?
KT: My dream tile job….I’ve had one that was really amazing. It was a 1930’s home restoration and they had just a crazy crazy tile list. They spent like $130k-$140k just on the tile. There were three bathrooms, floors, kitchen backsplash, powder room, etc. So that was really really cool. That’s the stuff I really like doing. It’s fun when you see it done. The pictures are amazing for one. And usually, if you are at that kind of level the fixtures around it just make it look better. Just stunning.
LR: What do you see the benefits to working with an interior designer on your projects? And when you have drawings to go from and specifications all laid out from a designer, does that make it easier for you?
KT: The biggest benefit of having a designer is creativity. Every day I get the same old same old. Designers introduce new products because they are always out there looking for beautiful products and new, creative solutions. And when you have drawings and specs all ready for me, pretty much you’re doing the dirty work, which is great. Because the dirty work is where a lot of time gets eaten up. Haha. I definitely think designers are beneficial to the project.
LR: So, you think we’re doing the dirty work, then?
KT: Sometimes, yes.
LR: That’s so funny. You know what…One man’s trash is another man’s treasure….Because we think you’re doing the dirty work!
KT: I’m not really there to help pick out the tiles or design. You know, I have some great ideas, but if you want to really get to the down and dirty with the details, it can eat up a ton of time.
LR: So having a designer just frees you up to do the best at your job. And then you don’t have to worry about the design details part? think you’re doing the dirty work!