Keeping to the Tile Building Allowance

Uncovering the Hidden Costs of Tile Patterns and Installation

When building a new home, or undergoing a renovation of an older one, many homeowners will choose to contract with a builder. When the time comes to make tile selections and purchases, these builders may give the homeowner a building allowance for their tile purchases.

tile installation

With the vast array of tile designs, patterns and materials available today, homeowners may find themselves choosing materials that fall well outside this allowance. By understanding the allowance, and how to keep within it, it is possible to still get the style desired, at a price that’s affordable.

What Does the Building Allowance Include?

Homeowners who have never undergone a home building or remodeling project before, may be surprised to learn that frequently, a building allowance for tile will include both the purchase price of the tile and the cost of the tile’s installation. So an allowance of $10 a square foot might really only mean $5 or $6 for the tile, with the rest going to the installer.

Homeowners choosing tile that falls right at $10 a square foot may be surprised to learn that they have gone far and above their allowance. This can happen for a few reasons.

Subtracting out standard installation fees for standard tile installation will cause the tile purchase to go over budget all on its own. Now add in tile patterns, glass tiles, borders or specialty materials, and suddenly the tile allowance has been left far behind.

Tile Installation Costs

tile allowances

Many tile allowances will assume that the tile is being laid straight, and has no special considerations. A diagonal tile pattern, or multiple sized tile pattern, however, involves more measuring and cutting for the installer, plus additional material for waste. This adds up to a higher purchase price and a higher installation price. To keep tile costs down, choose a simple pattern or design.

Specialty tiles, such as paper face mounted materials, black or green marble, or glass tiles, can also cost more to install. This is due to additional steps taken to ensure a proper installation, such as back buttering of glass, removal of paper and special setting materials for black or green marble. By keeping the use of these materials to a minimum, it helps keep the tile budget in check.

Designing Within the Budget

Keeping to the tile allowance does not mean that the tiles chosen must be standard or devoid of style and design. It simply means being creative, using the expensive or difficult to install materials in combination with less expensive or easier to work with materials.

For example, if tiling a shower with a building allowance of $15 a square foot, and the total square footage to be tiled is 70 square feet for the walls and 9 square feet for the floor, keep the more expensive materials to the smaller area of the floor, and use them as a border on the walls.

For a modern bathroom shower that falls in the budget, begin by selecting a field tile for the walls that falls well below the budgeted price. For example, in a $15 tile allowance, roughly $7 of that is for installation. So using a 4” x 8” subway tile that costs $4 a square foot comes in well below budget.

Next, have the tiles installed stacked on top of one another, rather than in a running bond. This will reduce waste, and the installation cost, saving those for a more expensive material.

For the shower floor, go ahead and choose something fun, expensive or harder to install, such as 5/8” iridescent glass tiles. At $30 a square foot, these come in much higher than the budgeted price, but will work out in the end. Purchase two extra sheets of glass for waste, and to use as a border in the shower walls.

At this time, the shower wall tile is coming in at $280, and the border and shower floor at $330. The budgeted price for 79 square feet of tile, even taking out installation, was for $632. The cost of the materials combined is $610, less than the allowance. The extra will go towards the installation of the glass, along with the money saved by installing the subway tiles in a straight pattern.

The end result is a modern shower, with a glass floor and a mosaic accent border for the same price that a standard shower installation would cost if using regular subway tiles and porcelain mosaics on the floor.

Remember to have the builder break down exactly how much of the allowance is for material and how much is for installation, as these figures can vary. Ask the design consultant at the tile showroom to recommend inexpensive field tiles to be paired with the more desirable accent tiles, and be sure to ask if the material being considered costs more to install.

By thinking creatively, and being informed, the building project will come in on budget and with style to spare.

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