Using Heath Tile Seconds

By Christine Chang Hanway, Originally Published in Remodelista

A high end look without breaking the bank -- architect Ian Read achieved it by using tile seconds from Heath.

Oakland-based architect Ian Read was introduced to the world of Heath Ceramics’ seconds and overstock tiles (offered at 75 percent off retail prices in their Sausalito factory) when he worked with some clients on a remodel of a small guest house. When the same clients remodeled their kitchen, they collaborated with Read again to incorporate the Heath seconds into their lives a second time, sharing many bottles of wine in the process of laying out the tiles.

So when it came time for Read, the founding partner of Medium Plenty and a member of the Remodelista Architect/Designer Directory, to remodel his own house, a Queen Anne cottage built in 1892, he knew exactly where to go for his kitchen and bath tiles. “Heath Ceramics is one of the few remaining midcentury potteries still in existence and learning about the care they take in how they form, glaze, trim, and fire their tiles makes them even more appealing to us,” he says. “Besides, we don’t mind using castoffs because of the surprises to be had and the price—around $5 a square foot.”and the price—around $5 a square foot.”With doing comes experience (Read installed all the tiles himself in his house), so we asked him for insider tips learned on the job. Here are his top three: 

1. Celebrate handmade tiles

"It's important to remember that Heath Ceramics tiles are handmade. Unlike a manufactured tile, the irregular nature of the tiles means that that there will be differences from piece to piece. You, your designer, and your installer need to understand and embrace the nature of the material or expect to be frustrated." 

2. Keep an open mind when selecting tiles

"When it comes to selecting seconds and overstock tiles, prepare to be flexible. We never thought about brown hexagonal tiles for our master bathroom until we saw it available in a large quantity. Checking the website for changing availability is advised, but note that it's only available directly out of Heath's Sausalito store and stock can go quickly, so know how much you need beforehand—and make sure you include an amount for overage (additional tiles needed to make up for tile cuts or egregious flaws). When working with seconds, I would suggest buying 15 to 20 percent more." 

3. Take your time with tile placement and installation

"The placement of the tiles requires more time than if you were working with manufactured tiles because irregular shapes translate into irregular spacing. Wedge spacers, a critical tool, make up for the lack of regularity in the tiles, but you also need to check your progress against a benchmark to ensure that the overall layout is even. And finally, when working with seconds or overstock tiles, there will be some pieces with irregularities that will not be to your liking; put these in more discrete locations."Have a look at Read's results and read on for more tile intel.Unless otherwise noted, photgraphy by Melissa Kaseman.

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02/12/2014