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Frequently Asked Questions

Facings has a national reputation for supplying the highest quality products in the tile and stone industry. Since 1967, we have been direct importers of tile and stone from around the world while complementing our offering with products from over 50 domestic vendors. Each of our products is artistically displayed in our two award-winning showrooms where our design consultants help you create your project and make product selections. However, what truly separates Facings from other distributors is the value we supply to our customers in terms of:

  • Facings Guarantees the finest buying experience in the industryOur goal is 100% client satisfaction and we will go out of our way to ensure we meet all of your needs.
  • Showroom experienceOur showrooms are considered a “playground” of design by many designers and architects.
  • Product SelectionFacings has tens of thousands of products from which to choose meeting all project budget requirements and meeting our high quality standards. Our Architectural Features also complement many of our stone flooring options.
  • Knowledgeable Design Consultants All of our Design Consultants have extensive design experience and have completed Facings extensive two-week certification program. Whether you are a designer, architect or walk-in client, you will have a trained professional to assist you with your project!
  • Full Warehouse support Facings operates a full warehouse where each ordered item is personally inspected upon arrival in our warehouse to ensure it meets our quality expectation. In addition, we store your products until they are needed on the job-site to help reduce jobsite theft and maintain the products in a pristine condition until they are installed. Tile contractors like our warehouse storage policies because it assists them keep your project on time and within budget.
  • Second Generation Owned and Operated Facings ownership is recognized around the world as being industry innovators and having one of the most extensive tile and stone backgrounds in the industry. A company owner frequently assumes active roles in many projects and is always available to assist clients with any questions.
  • Architectural Feature Division Facings designs and fabricates some of the most beautiful and unique Architectural Features™ in the U.S. Most of our pieces are hand-carved by our Italian artisans in the heart of Tuscany and are often described as works of art.

Everyone has heard about the 4 “C’s” and how they apply to purchasing diamonds, but did you know that they apply to Natural Stone as well? The color, clarity, carat, and cut (the 4 c’s) are also factors in natural stone pricing. Many clients are fooled into paying too much for inferior natural stone because they don’t understand this concept.

  • Color:How consistent is the stone color range and variation? This is extremely important when dealing with many marbles such as Bianco Carrara or limestone and travertine. For example, when specifying Bianco Carrara, the background shade of pure white with clean grey veining is rarer and therefore costs more than a yellowing white background with cloudier gray movement. The differences can be subtle, and the yellower background can look good, even “white”, until compared with the more expensive material. A buyer must look at several pieces, not just a single sample to make an adequate evaluation.
  • Clarity:Since stone tiles are not transparent, we like to discuss clarity in terms of the number of inclusions or voids contained in a tile. Think of stone as a piece of Swiss cheese and how many holes or inclusions it contains. An easy comparison is to evaluate the density and weight of equal size stones which usually affects the amount and size of inclusions or voids. The number of inclusions also affects the amount of epoxy fill required for a filled and honed or polished tile. This aspect of a tile is very important to evaluate because once installed, new voids and inclusions expose themselves creating a less desirable look within months of installation. A buyer must look at several pieces, not just a single sample to make an adequate evaluation.
  • Carat:This defines the size and thickness of the stone tile. Larger size tile formats, like larger diamonds, are more expensive to produce for many reasons. One is that the quality of the block purchased to be used for production needs to be of higher quality since any abnormalities must be worked around and avoided. This results in more product waste. Another reason for the greater cost is that fewer manufactures have the machinery or expertise to work with larger size tiles, such as 36”x36” sizes or a uniquely shaped stone tile such as Facings’ Hexstone product line.
  • Cut:How precisely are the tiles cut? Will they fit properly with consistent joint sizes when working with patterns? How square is the material which affects how tight a grout joint can be set? Less expensive material often is not cut square, requiring the installer to use a wider and inconsistent grout joint. Also, a buyer should evaluate how finishes are applied to the stone. An example is when one compares our Monastere Finish™ to a regular chipped edge tile, it is easy to see the quality difference in manufacturing processes. Our Monastere Finish™ ensures a more consistent joint size, natural patina look and feel, and contains no “jagged” edges that can easily cut feet.

All of this being said, one also needs to consider one manufacturer’s commercial grade stone is another manufacturer’s 1st choice. Since there are no formal standards for defining stone quality, it is left to each individual manufacturer to decide how to classify their stone. In an effort to protect buyers from being taken advantage of by a bait and switch tactic, we recommend the following guidelines for ensuring that the natural stone purchased is worth the money paid for it:

  • Ask the vendor to lay out several hundred square feet of material from several crates to evaluate the shipment’s overall 4 c’s. If the material is being special ordered, have signed off samples refining the range and expectation for quality of the stone. Remember the beauty of natural stone is in the variation and movement and a full understanding of range should be agreed to prior to purchase. We always recommend for stock material to pick your own crates and if a vendor charges more for this service or resists, ask yourself what they are trying to hide from you.
  • Inspect the material at the job site prior to installation to make sure it meets your expectations. Just like you wouldn’t invest the same amount of money in fool’s gold as real gold or cubic zirconium as a diamond, one should not invest for inferior flooring products.
  • Prior to installation and once all of the material is at the job-site, make sure the material is pulled from various crates to ensure a proper blending of material.
  • Understand the after care maintenance requirements for the stone.
  • Ask a lot of questions!

Not all tiles are created equaly due to the number of variables affecting the quality of tiles during production such as the tile hardness, resistance to staining, type of finish, type of body used to create the tile, the amount of time and temperature the tile spends in a kiln, rectification of the tile, and many other factors. A major and little discussed fact affecting the quality of a tile is the origin and type of raw materials used and how long it is allowed to bake and at what temperature. Obviously higher temperatures, longer baking time, and the addition of certain raw materials create a more durable and lasting tile. However, the increased production time, natural gas costs to heat the kiln, and raw material can quadruple the tile costs. Another factor affecting the quality of the tile is how long the porcelain or ceramic tile is allowed to cool with some manufacturers attempting to reduce production time and costs by cooling their tiles as quickly as possible. The rapid cooling can then affect the surface tension and tensile strength of the tile which can affect its overall performance.

These types of factors are reasons we spend so much time educating and certifying our design consultants to help ensure you receive the proper guidance for your project. Our knowledgeable sales staff, 46 year industry reputation, and showroom presentation is a major reason why the best names in the tile industry, including Walker Zanger, Bisazza, Oceanside Glasstile, Sonoma Tile Makers, McIntyre, and countless others want Facings of America displaying and selling their product. You won’t find a bigger or better selection of quality material to build your project which is why award winning designers, homebuilders and architects use Facings of America’s products in their personal homes.

Facings is committed to sustainable design and have many products that can contribute to LEED certification and are produced in the most environmentally friendly manner. If properly installed most of our products will last several centuries far exceeding our own individual lifespans. For example travertine, limestone, and marble used throughout Europe in many of the cathedrals and villages have lasted centuries reducing the impact on landfills. Many products themselves are produced from post-consumer products such as the glass tiles produced by Oceanside Glasstile who includes recycled “Corona” beer bottles in their products. Iris U.S. recycles 100% of their industrial waste from their fired and unfired tiles. In addition, most manufactures now use 100% recycled packaging to ship their products and recycle 100% of the waste water from their manufacturing process. For more information regarding the environmental statement from any of our vendors, please consult with one of our trained design consultants.

In much the same way that sparkling wines can only be called Champagne if they are from the Champagne region of France, sun-dried terracotta tiles can only be truly called Saltillo if they were produced in Saltillo, Mexico. These tiles are shaped by hand from naturally occurring clay in the area and then dried in the sun. They are later fired in a kiln. Terracotta, meaning “burnt earth” in Italian, can refer to any sort of natural clay formed into tiles, dried, then fired in a kiln. Saltillo tiles normally contain Lime Pops which expose themselves over time creating pits or holes. European terracottas are frequently more durable due to their extruded manufacturing process which removes most air in the clay before the firing process begins.

Terracotta tiles are predominantly made in one of two ways: extruded (machine made) or hand made. Both methods will service the client well as long as the material is properly installed and the end user’s expectation corresponds to the intended use of the product. The major advantage of extruded terracotta manufactured by machine is that the clay is compressed and trimmed to the proper size, producing a strong, solid finished product. If we compare this to the process of making a snowball, the harder we push the snow together, the more we compress it, the harder and stronger our snowball is. The less we compress it, the more likely our snowball is to break apart. The machine compression process allows for less clay to be used during production yet creates a denser tile. The compression and then firing of the material creates a strong and durable tile that should withstand daily wear and tear of most consumers.

A hand made material, such as Saltillo, usually requires much more clay during the production process and is made similar to the way kids make mud pies. The craftsmen pack the clay into wood or ceramic frames which define the size of each tile. As the size of the tile increases the thickness of material must also increase to maintain the integrity of each tile. An example is a 12” x 12” handmade material may need to be approximately ¾” thick. As the size of the tile increases to a 16” x 16”, the thickness of material needs to increase to a minimum of approximately 1” to prevent the tile from crumbling or breaking during the installation process. The added clay required in the hand-made process usually increases material and shipping costs.

When a hand-made clay tile is fired at high temperature, the heat extracts the moisture from the clay causing several results that must be considered during the selection process. Small pockets of air are in the tile where moisture had been before firing making a very porous product. This porosity means that this type of terracotta is a poor choice for an outside application in a colder climate where freeze/thaw conditions exist. Also, the tiles frequently bow during firing. The larger the tile, the more exaggerated and pronounced the curl will become during the firing process. The added thickness of material and bowing (which increases the absolute thickness) needs to be considered when attempting to match materials to existing floors. Hand-made material usually also requires a thicker mortar base during the installation process which can further compound floor thickness challenges. In other words, will the terracotta’s and setting material’s added thickness allow it to be set next to an existing floor or adjacent to carpet without excessive lippage?

In the end, handmade or extruded terracotta or Saltillo will hold up well if properly installed and I have seen many installations hold up for over 50 years. The key to a successful project is the selection of a quality terracotta or Saltillo, proper substrate preparation, using proper setting materials and methods appropriate for the installation, and completed by a licensed tile contractor familiar with these types of installations.

Facings’ always recommends protecting your investment by using a high quality penetrating sealer. However, even the best sealers can’t guarantee a tile, stone, or grout will not stain from a wine, ketchup, or other type spill. We have experimented with many types of stones tiles and with few exceptions, a sealer does not act as a 100% barrier to staining but rather creates extra time to clean up the spill before staining or etching starts to occur. Our best advice if staining is a potential concern is to request a sample of the stone to conduct your own test or to use a durable porcelain tile.

An installed floor should be sealed as soon as possible to help prevent any damage especially in on-going construction or remodel projects. We recommend using a high quality penetrating sealer with one of our favorites being Oceancare High Performance Penetrating Sealer manufactured by Oceanside Glasstile due to its outstanding quality and environmentally friendly characteristics. Another reason to seal a floor or tile is to assist with regular cleaning. We find the best way to clean a floor is to use a high quality steam cleaner and microfiber towel. The hot steam will help lift dirt and grime and the microfiber cloth helps remove the dirt or grime from the tile surface. The challenge using a mop and soap is soap often leaves a film behind that actually can help attract more dirt and unless the mop water is changed frequently, all the mop does is move the dirt around on the floor and does not remove it from the surface. For stubborn cleaning challenges we recommend one of the following ecologically friendly Oceancare products: For areas around water with calcium build up in bathrooms, kitchens or pool and spa waterlines Oceancare Calcium Releaser will help restore your tile or stone to its original condition. For tough to clean areas, Oceancare Degreaser will remove most heavy grime, grease or dirt. For routine cleaning of bathrooms and kitchens we recommend Oceancare PH Neutral Tile and Stone Cleaner.

The stone industry uses the word “maintenance” to refer to having to reseal a floor. Various sealing products have different lifespans which are usually indicated on the bottle. However, the actual use and sun exposure will dictate how frequently a floor or other area will again require a sealer to be applied. For example an entry way or heavy use hallway may require more frequent sealing than a room that is seldom used. Because of the number of variables involved with sealing and resealing a floor or tile, we strongly recommend developing a strong relationship with a reliable and trustworthy stone care company such as “Beyond Stone Care”, and rely on their years of expertise to help you preserve your investment.

You just installed your beautiful stone or terracotta floor and a few months later notice a white powdery residue start to appear on the surface. You wipe it away and notice it keeps coming back and back. Your otherwise beautiful floor now looks chalky and you start to blame your flooring supplier for selling you a defective product. The supplier insists there is nothing wrong…So what exactly happened?

More than likely the culprit is a chemical process called “Efflorescence” which makes its presence known as a white crystalline deposit composed of salts, lime or other minerals that work their way to the surface of the tile or stone. The origin of the salts or lime is usually from cement based products such as a concrete floor, cementatious based mortar or grout used to set tile or stone, or the terracotta clay material used to produce a tile. In a terracotta tile the presence of salts or limes usually has to do with the origin of the clay used to produce the tile. For example terracotta from Mexico frequently has higher salt and lime content than their European counterparts making it more likely for Efflorescence to occur in Saltillo tiles.

In new construction projects using tile or stone installed over freshly poured concrete, oftentimes the salts or lime contained in the concrete or setting materials work their way to the tiles’ surface. As the water evaporates, the salt crystals are left behind on the tile. The salts and minerals are capable of traveling through the actual tile or stone depending upon the density of the tile. Rainwater can also expedite the appearance of efflorescence; as water absorbed into the ground works its way to the surface with its salts and minerals. Often people have a false belief that efflorescence is caused from water used in cleaning, however this is seldom the case especially since most water and its residue is immediately wiped from the surface and the water is usually from filtered sources with minimal salt and mineral content.

The porosity of the tile or stone will greatly affect the amount of efflorescence that occurs. A high quality porcelain product with very low porosity or water absorption characteristics has a much more difficult time transferring moisture through the tile and it can only travel through the grout. However, a low quality travertine with its very porous nature can act like a super highway bringing the salts and lime to the surface rapidly. In installations using a very dense porcelain tile, the efflorescence will usually be found along the tiles’ edges due to the salts traveling through the grout causing many people to believe their tile is defective.

If efflorescence is of concern, clients should look toward high quality products with very low water absorption characteristics. Often manmade porcelain and ceramic tiles are specifically rated for their water absorption rates which reputable suppliers and manufacturers can provide. Also it is important when setting stone to make sure 100% of the stone is bonded to the substrate either on the wall or floor so in the event of efflorescence, it will be consistent on the stone’s surface. In instances where a spot method of installation is used, I have witnessed efflorescence occur as round spots where the setting material was applied causing many clients to believe they have a defective tile or stone.

Although efflorescence can’t be fully prevented, there are steps one can use to help minimize its effects. Using a waterproof membrane at the time of installation helps stop the transmission of water from the concrete substrate to the tile surface. However, this process can be expensive and may not work as well in wet applications or in areas with exposure to exterior moisture from rain and snow. Another alternative is to use epoxy or other synthetic blend grouts that minimize the ability for water to be absorbed through the grout joint. When using a sanded grout, use one that does not contain Portland cement which can be the source of many efflorescence challenges. Using a high quality penetrating sealer can also help prevent the effects of efflorescence coming through the stone by minimizing the amount of water that can travel down through the stone and slowing the evaporation process from below the tile or stone surface.

Although efflorescence is a naturally occurring process, following a few preventive measures, using high quality materials suitable for the intended application, and having a licensed contractor complete the installation all help minimize the affects of efflorescence. The most important preventive measure however is to work with a reliable tile or stone dealer who is comfortable answering your questions and has an industry reputation for being knowledgeable and dependable in the event of a project challenge.

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