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Tile Box Shopping: Do’s & Don’ts at Big Box Stores

At first, tiling your bathroom floor is a simple task. You visit a large retail store nearby, such as Home Depot or Lowes, to gather all the necessary items for this home improvement project. These stores offer a wide variety of tiles, making your task easier.

However, an easy shopping trip can become complicated. Selecting and buying tiles would be hassle-free. Still, unexpected challenges often arise, making the process more complex.

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Table of Contents

Buying Tiles From Big Box Store

Challenges of Buying Tiles at Big Box Stores

Wrong Batch Numbers

A common problem often faced involves batch numbers. Buying tiles from large stores typically raises concerns about differences in shading and sizing between batches. Occasionally, variation in tile shades is desired, particularly for those looking for tiles with a non-uniform, varied appearance.

However, the issue includes extra discrepancies from one batch to another. Finding out that tiles in a new box do not match those you have already installed can be extremely frustrating. Such inconsistencies can lead to a noticeable and unwanted disruption in your tiling project.

To prevent this, checking batch numbers on tile packaging labels before purchasing is vital. This step ensures the tiles’ appearance remains consistent, helping create a seamless and professionally finished bathroom. By taking this precaution, you can avoid the disappointment and extra effort of mismatched tiles.

Buying Tiles

Potential Quality Issues

Many people suspect that big box stores might receive lower-quality tiles, often called “seconds,” for sale in their outlets. While there’s no solid evidence to confirm this, observations suggest a higher incidence of mismatched sizes, chips, and factory flaws in tiles from these stores than those bought directly from distributors. This theory, although unproven, seems plausible to many.

Additionally, these retail environments often show noticeable sizing differences between tiles. It’s not uncommon for tiles to vary by 1/8th inch or more from one another. Such variations challenge maintaining consistent grout joint sizes, complicating the installation process.

Do's and Don'ts

Don't Shop at Multiple Stores for Your Purchases

Purchasing tiles from a single store, like Home Depot or Lowes, is wise. These stores have a vast stock, but batch variations are common between different stores.

In other words, buying all your tiles from one store reduces the risk of getting tiles from different dye lots. This strategy helps ensure uniformity in color and pattern.

If your preferred store doesn’t have enough stock, it’s better to visit another store and make all your purchases there in one go. This approach minimizes the chances of color and pattern discrepancies in your tiles.

Buying Tiles 03

Don't Buy Too Many Tiles

As previously noted, big box stores like Home Depot and Lowes have excellent return policies. This might tempt you to buy more tiles than you need, allowing you to select the best ones and return the rest.

While sorting through the tiles and setting aside any flawed pieces is a good idea, be cautious about purchasing too much. It’s advisable to buy only what you need, plus an additional 20-30% as a buffer. This extra amount accounts for potential breakage, cuts, and future repairs without leading to excessive leftover tiles.

By doing this, you balance having enough tiles for your project and minimizing the hassle of handling and returning large quantities of unused tiles.

Choose New, Unopened Cartons

A significant advantage of big box stores like Home Depot and Lowes is their generous return policies. You can return any extra tiles instead of disposing or storing large quantities.

However, a downside of these policies is the risk of buying tiles that someone else has returned. Ask yourself, do people usually return the good tiles or the bad ones?

It’s common for customers to return mixed batches of tiles. These returned boxes can contain cut, broken, or completely different tiles. To avoid these issues, always choose new, unopened cartons of tiles for your project. This ensures that you get the best quality and consistent batches.

Buying Tiles 02

Check the Different Tile Components

Matching is fine, but not when your tiling project involves multiple tile sizes. But, if you’re using multiple sizes or shapes of tiles, it’s crucial to ensure they match, even if they are from the same product line.

For instance, if you’re using both 12×12 and 6×6 tiles, check that they harmonize in color and pattern. Don’t forget to compare the bullnose trim with the main tiles as well. Despite being part of the same line, there can be stark differences in appearance.

It’s a common issue to find significant differences between the components. By carefully comparing them before installation, you can avoid unpleasant surprises and ensure a cohesive look for your finished tiling project.

Understand What You're Buying

Different types of tiles vary in installation difficulty, which can affect the overall cost of hiring professionals or the effort required if you’re doing it yourself.

Tiles that are generally more challenging to install include:

  • Natural stone tiles: They often require special handling and cutting techniques.
  • Large tiles (such as 6×24, 18×18, etc.): Their size can make handling and fitting more complex.
  • Glass tiles: These are delicate and need careful cutting and placement.

On the other hand, tiles that are easier to install are:

  • Ceramic tiles: They are typically more straightforward to cut and lay.
  • Subway tiles: Their smaller size and uniform shape make installation easier.
  • Porcelain tiles with a rounded edge or “shoulder” fit together more easily and are less prone to chipping.

Big box stores offer competitive prices, excellent return policies, and convenience. If you find tiles that suit your project there, you can be confident about getting good value.

With these tips, you can make informed tile purchases without regrets, ensuring a smoother tiling experience whether hiring professionals or doing it yourself.

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