Cheap? Buyer Beware!

What you can’t see, can’t hurt cheap guy

A curious thing happens when making a sale. Buyer and seller expectations come together in a sweet state of “We are all on the same page! Woo Hoo!” This happens for everyone right?


OK so I have come away from a project disaster. A real candidate for To Catch a Contractor.  I cant relate to you in the space and time I have now all the subtle nuances of each error this man made. I am going to keep it simple.

Discriminating customers know what good tile work looks like. While they don’t know the names of each feature they do know Flat. They do know symmetry. They do know fair proportion. They do know square. They do know straight. They do know plumb and level. They may not know the words for these things, but like the supreme court justice Stewart said of a nuanced point of art, “they know it when they see it”, and their hands can feel it. Especially when things aren’t right. Especially when the water does not flow to the drain. All of these are visual and tangible signals that things are just not right.

While these points of art may seem a simple thing to ask, and a simpler thing to expect from your service provider who may represent themselves as a tile guy. I assure you these are not simple and these are not easy. I have been through too many pretenders to tell you, the skill required to be a competent TILE MASON is rare. And the pride and care to hold oneself to that standard is rarer still. Price follows scarcity.

But Wait there is more! 🙂

Risk goes from simple to complex when tile meets shower. These are things the eye cannot see. These are things the layperson cannot know. This is where costs get cut. This is where repair costs start in the thousands and go up from there.

Did you know a shower experiences more annual rainfall than a tropical rain-forest?  Bet you didn’t know that.

So many ways to mess this shower thing up. But the A number one way to do it, is to skip the pre-slope. Pre-slope? What is that, never mind. Just understand that if your low price tile guy doesn’t know what pre-slope is, you can be sure your waterproof shower pan will hold about 5 gallons of water in the floor – For the life of your shower. And that is iff your budget tile guy minds all of his waterproofing details. Big iff. (Iff = If and only if)

First lets focus on the implications of omitting the Pre-slope, and then lets talk about why it is skipped, and last lets talk about the costs of fixing plus the wider possibility of costs.

Can you imagine living next to a five gallon bucket of gray-water filled with soap residue along with the organic essence of you? It is an awful mold breeding stew. Sorry, I didn’t know how else to frame it. Anyhow that is your shower floor without pre-slope. And there will never ever be a cure for the mold infection other than total replacement of the floor.

Do you or someone you love have Asthma, Allergy, COPD? Chances are you do. If not now, then sometime in the future it could be you.

Think about it. Is the health of you or your family worth following the low bid impulse? Do you believe there is goodwill in pressing your reputable service provider to meet or beat the low price on the street?

Here is why the cheap guys skip pre-slope:

  • Cheap guy does not care about you
  • Cheap guy lacks training
  • He’s not smart enough to understand the value
  • Little can be accomplished before the pre-slope.
    • Skipping it speeds up the job.
    • Gets them to $$ faster.
  • What you cant see cant hurt cheap guy

Cost of fixing no pre-slope. $2400 and up. You have to surgically demo the shower floor system, curb, and some of the wall tile. And then replace everything properly. While you may understand the need to replace the floor, you may not understand the need to take the wall and curb. The waterproof liner should be turned up behind the wall board at least 6″ (iff your guy did that). It has to be repositioned at a new higher level on top of the previously omitted pre-slope. Everything on top of the liner has to go, so that implicates some of the wall.

What if there is no pre-slope and the waterproof liner is defective? These often go hand in hand, because you are dealing with someone who lacks training, is not intelligent, and does not care about you. After all “What you can’t see can’t hurt Cheap Guy.” Well the moldy stew leaks out and begins to infect the rest of your home. As you may recall the Chinese Drywall and mold problems after some Hurricanes in the 2000’s. Entire homes had to be gutted and redone. Homeowners had little to no recourse against bankrupt builders. And they had zero recourse against defective material manufacturers half a world away possessing a culture wholly different from their own.

In this case we mean penniless so called tile guys who do not care in the way you think they should. You will have no recourse against him.

Again, if you have certain expectations about your tile project, you should really check your low bid impluse. This is not the time or the place to be cheap. Let price be your signal. Take the low bids; interview the high bids. Negotiate for pre-slope.

Expect care; Get Art.


  • Very well written, on a topic that doesn’t get enough exposure amongst our clients. Knowing proper installation methods is so important, yet only a stepping to stone to the beautiful end result, that is professional tile work.

  • Where are you located? We’re searching for candidates in Southern California and Southern Nevada for our 3rd season!

  • Spa showers and steam rooms are rapidly replacing tubs in many homes across the continent. Consumer expectation has risen to a whole new level. That there are pros like you, that continue to educate yourself, strive always to improve at your art, and rely on tried and true methods of preparation and planning so that you may provide for a lifelong installation in wet areas is a boon to this industry. You help raise us all up to a new and better standard. Thanks for being amongst the pros that inspire and drive us to be better at our craft.

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