I’ve been a home-improvement writer for nearly 25 years, and have visited remodeling jobs and construction sites all over the country. And as a member of the press, I’ve had privileged access to some astonishing projects, including a California hillside home, which had a freeform redwood deck cantilevered over a 100-ft.-deep ravine; a 10,000-sq.-ft. beachfront South Carolina home that was framed entirely out of 2x12s (including all the interior walls!); a French-built tramway over the Mississippi River at the New Orleans World’s Fair; a townhouse development in Helsinki, Finland, where every unit had a cedar-lined sauna and a hand-cut soapstone wood-burning stove; and the rescue renovation of the Statue of Liberty on her 100th birthday.
But do you know the very best thing about being a home improvement writer? No, not the limos or groupies (unfortunately), it’s that I get to meet some really talented tradesmen, designers and architects. Most of the time I’m working on projects here in New England, so over the years I’ve developed relationships with dozens of local carpenters, masons, electricians, plumbers, roofers, landscapers, and cabinetmakers.
A few weeks ago I was trying to find a floor tiling project for a new book that I’m writing. The job had to include tearing out an old ceramic tile floor, installing new cement backerboard, and then setting glazed porcelain tile. So, I called my buddy Jimmy Tiganella who owns Classic Tile in Oakville, Connecticut.
Jimmy and I have worked together on more than a dozen projects over the years, and he’s always willing to let me photograph and write about one of his projects. (That’s me with Jimmy, who’s kneeling beside his grouting bucket. The other photo shows Jimmy spreading thin-set mortar with a notched trowel.)
I’ve learned a lot from Jimmy about how to set and grout tile, but also how to properly prepare the subfloor to ensure a long-lasting tile job. We’ve installed tile on floors, walls, countertops, shower pans and kitchen backsplashes. It’s a pleasure watching Jimmy work. He takes no shortcuts and always has a good reason for everything he does.
On the job, I’m always asking questions and having Jimmy explain each step of the process. As you can imagine, this could drive someone mad. But Jimmy is always very patient and takes the time to answer each question with both sound advice and good humor.
So, thanks to Jimmy for putting up with me all these years. He has made me a better writer, and I’ve come to appreciate how much hard work and talent it takes to properly install tile.