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How to Pay for Tile Installation

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Installing tile can be a great way to elevate the look and feel of a room. It can also be expensive. The cost of a tile installation project, including materials and labor, ranges from $13.50 to $83 per square foot, according to data from HomeAdvisor, a home improvement website. That means you’ll pay an average of $1,500 to install tile for a backsplash and $3,500 for a countertop.

If you’re considering installing tile as part of a home renovation project — or if the project is necessary due to an unexpected event like flooding — here’s what you need to know about the cost of installation, how you might pay for it and how to save money during the process.

How much does tile installation cost?

Cost varies greatly from project to project. Some projects could run you a few hundred dollars, while others could cost upwards of $3,000. Installing porcelain or ceramic flooring, for instance, costs an average of $1,770, according to HomeAdvisor. But there are some factors that will affect the cost of nearly every project. Here’s what to consider when pricing out tile installation.

Account for the cost of removal: If you’re installing tile flooring, consider whether you’re tearing out old tile or another type of flooring, like wood, carpet or vinyl, said Bart Bettiga, executive director of the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA), headquartered in Jackson, Miss.

Some types of flooring will be more time-consuming (and pricier) to remove, while others — such as some types of preexisting tile — can have new tile installed over them. Plus, the cost to remove tile will vary from state to state, as it’s often based on the price of hourly labor in that state, Bettiga said. Ask for a tear-out estimate before you hire a contractor or installer.

Shop around when choosing tile: Most ceramic tile will cost $1 to $6 per square foot, Bettiga explained, adding that a lot of tile in the U.S. is imported and therefore often marked up. The same exact tile, for example, could cost $3 per square foot at one store and $4 or even $5 somewhere else.

Markups mean price doesn’t always match quality in the tile industry, Bettiga said, and inexpensive tile isn’t necessarily low-quality. He also suggests avoiding cutting costs on labor in order to afford the tile itself. “I actually think that’s a backwards way of doing things,” Bettiga said. “If you take your time to research the price of the tile, you can actually find tile at an affordable price.”

Choose installers based on more than cost: While choosing a top-notch installer is important, you don’t need to pick the most expensive one on the market. It’s best to shop around for contractors as you would with any major purchase.

You can vet a tile installer by checking their references and seeing if they’re part of the NTCA. You can also verify the company employs certified tile installers. Tile installers aren’t nationally licensed like people in other professions, such as teachers and doctors, but they can be certified through the NCTA.

When it comes to checking references, specificity is key. If you’re redoing your kitchen backsplash, ask the installer to share contact information for references regarding that specific job.

How to pay for tile installation

Most tile contractors will require 50% of the cost as a down payment and 50% upon completion, though this could vary from company to company, Bettiga said. Here are a few ways you can finance your tile installation project.

Set a budget and stick to it: Create a budget several months in advance, setting aside a certain amount each month that will go toward the project. For example, if your estimate was $2,500, you could spend one year putting $208 each month toward a special account designated for the project. By budgeting ahead of time, you won’t have to take out a loan with a potentially high interest rate or put the balance on a credit card.

Take out a home equity loan or home equity line of credit (HELOC): If you hold equity in your home, you could pay for your tile installation project by taking out a home equity loan or HELOC. A home equity loan is a fixed amount of money for which the equity you hold in your home is used as collateral. A HELOC, which is also backed by your home, is a revolving line of credit.

A home equity loan is likely a better option, as most contractors will give you a fairly accurate estimate before beginning the project, eliminating the need for a line of credit. Although it can be simple and streamlined to borrow against yourself with a home equity loan or HELOC, it can also be risky: If you miss payments, you could lose the roof over your head.

Consider an unsecured personal loan: If you don’t have enough equity in your home or you’d prefer an unsecured loan — meaning you won’t need to put up an asset, like your home, as collateral — consider taking out a personal loan. Personal loans come with fixed interest rates, a fixed repayment period and fixed monthly payment amounts. But they may also have higher interest rates or lower borrowing limits than secured loans.

Interest rates on personal loans depend on your credit score. The average personal loan APR during the first quarter of 2019 was 33.38%. Borrowers with scores higher than 720 received an average APR of 7.27%, while those with subprime credit saw rates of 85.92%.

Use a credit card with a 0% introductory APR: Credit cards aren’t an ideal way to finance a big expense, since paying interest on the balance makes the project pricier. But using a credit card can be worthwhile if you find one with a 0% introductory APR that lasts for 12 months or longer. Pay off your tile installation project costs within the introductory rate time frame, and you’ll have financed the installation interest-free. Be sure to make a plan to get rid of the debt before your APR jumps at the end of the introductory period.

Check whether financing through the installer is an option: Some tile installers, especially big flooring or carpeting stores, will offer in-store financing, Bettiga said, or they’ll offer financing through a third-party service. But most traditional tile installation companies do not do so, Bettiga added, and it’s important to pick an installer based on their skills, price and references, not just their financing options. Check with the installer once you’ve gotten an estimate to see if financing is a possibility, and compare the interest rate and terms with other alternatives.

Ways to reduce tile installation costs

The overall price of a project isn’t set in stone, though it’s best to avoid cutting costs on the installer or contractor you choose, Bettiga said. That can jeopardize the success of the project and lead to more costs to fix issues and damages down the road.

You can, however, cut costs when it comes to the tile itself. Shop around to see if the tile you love is available elsewhere at a cheaper price, or opt for a similar tile that’s available at a lower price point.

Perhaps you envision a new tile backsplash in the kitchen, as well as new tile flooring in the kitchen and bathrooms. If money is tight, opt to just have portions of the renovation done now —  say, the kitchen floor and backsplash — and save a different part, such as the bathrooms, for another time.

Do-it-yourself tile installation

Another way to save money is by doing a tile installation yourself. Bettiga advised that although this is possible, it can be a time-consuming, stressful and nuanced process that most homeowners are not prepared for.

Tearing out and properly preparing a subfloor — the area below the current floor — isn’t always simple. Plus, laying out tile involves not only following a grid, aligning and equally spacing each piece, grouting and properly cutting tile, but also having the tools necessary to do everything yourself. You’ll need to purchase everything from mallets and manual tile cutters to sponges and painter’s tape.

That doesn’t mean that a DIY tile installation is impossible. You can find resources such as step-by-step guides online. But even those who are able to make it work might want to pay a pro to save time and energy.

“A lot of people who DIY tile properly will come back to me later and say, ‘If I would’ve known it was this much work, I would’ve hired someone to put this in,’” Bettiga said.

Is tile installation worth it?

Whether installing tile is worth the price largely depends on your personal preferences and financial situation. If you’re financially secure — meaning your basic needs are covered, you already have an emergency fund of three to six months of expenses and you have a steady income — and you think renovating your home’s tile could be a worthwhile project, go for it. If you plan on putting your home on the market within the next few years, it could also be worth considering, as renovations that include new tile could increase the value of your home.

If you’re struggling financially, however, and $2,000 or $3,000 would be better used elsewhere — such as funding an account for emergencies — consider putting off the project until you have more solid financial footing. For instance, if you’d have to put the project on a credit card and you’re not sure when you’d be able to pay it off, you’re likely not ready for the financial impact.

Although tile renovation will be optional for some people, it could be necessary for others due to flooding or other unexpected problems. If you fall into this category, considering financing your tile installation project using one of the strategies covered above.


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