How to tips

  • 5 things to consider when buying tile and stone online

     

    Buying tile and stone online can be a nerve wracking process.  It is important for you as a consumer to understand if you are suited for purchasing this type of product online.   Some folks are very visually oriented and need to see the product installed.   This is difficult in the online environment.  Your local tile dealer will be a better match for this individual.   Here at Beltile we won't feel bad as we also had a brick and mortar for many years and recognize the importance of supporting your local dealer.   However, for us, we are still a mom and pop, just online, and will bring our years of experience to you along with our down to earth approach to our business.     To help you with your online purchase, we have identified 10 things you must consider when purchasing tile and stone online.

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    1. Sizes can vary.  Natural stone is cut overseas in factories geared towards the metric system.   There will be variances in an 18"x18" tile from factory to factory depending on how the tile is cut.   The tile may be cut 45 cm or 45.7 cm or 45.5 cm.  So as you are planning your layout, it is important to plan for these variations.    Usually, your installer or architect will be familiar with these potential variances and account for them.
    2. Dye lots and stone production lots can vary.   With regard to tile, whether it be handpainted, glazed ceramic, unglazed porcelain or a glazed porcelain, colors can vary from lot to lot.  For example our unglazed white hexagon sheets do not exactly match the same unglazed flower hexagon sheets.   The white hexagons are fabricated at different times and the colors can vary, so you cannot always combine these products into the same floor pattern.    This is also true with the glazed materials and handpainted.   Colors can vary from production lot to production lot.  It is always good to order samples to see the precise colors, especially if you want to match something.    Stone tiles are produced at different times and in different areas of the quarry.   Depending on the lot, you can have different colors/movement in the material.   Usually we can email you lot photos of many of the materials.   If lot photos are not available, it is always good to order a sample.  These issues are true whether you order online or not but in order to ensure you know what you are getting, order a sample online if you have specific color requirements.
    3. Lead time from order to shipping.   If you are in a hurry for materials, the amount of time before an order ships can be critical.   Tile is heavy so it generally takes a couple of days to get it packaged properly and ready to go out.  When ordering materials that are time sensitive, be sure to check with your supplier when materials are expected to ship along with the estimated transit time.
    4. Samples should be representative of the current lots.   Make sure that the samples you are ordering reflect the current size and color of the material that is presently shipping.
    5. Website security.   It is not easy for the average individual to really know which sites are secure.   It used to be simply looking to see if there was a lock icon in your browser which was indicative of SSL.   Today, many sites will redirect to you to another site to complete the order or credit card processing.   Or there may be things going on in the background which may not be transparent on your end.   Some folks like to see a merchant using Paypal, while others like to see Authorize.net badges on a site.   These can be hints but do not necessarily ensure that the site was built with security in mind.   We use Sucuri to monitor our site daily and all credit card processing is done by Paypal on their servers whether you pay with a card or via Paypal direct.   We never have access to your card information.

    We hope this helps you navigate the shopping experience of buying tile online.   You can always call us as well if you have any questions.   866-925-TILE or email sales@betile.com.

  • How to Clean Marble

    Cleaning marble in the shower

    As many of you already know, most cleaning products purchased at your local grocery are not geared for cleaning stone.  Most have harsh abrasives and bleach, which is damaging to natural stone.  There are many lines of stone cleaners that can be purchased from your local stone retailer to deal with soap scum and such or look for ph neutral cleaners, which you can sometimes find at your local grocery.  You may also consider using a diluted mixture of Downy and water described here: http://www.diynetwork.com/diy/lv_household_tips/article/0,2041,DIY_14119_2275101,00.html

    In addition. maintenance is the key to preventing problems in a marble shower.  You should keep a squeegee nearby (one with no metal parts which could damage the stone) and dry the walls daily after your shower.   This will reduce the potential of mold and mildew build up and mineral deposits.   Today, there are grouts on the market which are mildew proof.   You will pay a hefty premium for this grout but it will represent only a tiny fraction of what you paid for that beautiful marble.  See without water, it is very hard for mildew to grow!  If you do encounter mold and mildew in the shower,

    Polished marble in the bathroom has become dull?

    Many ask how to polish marble to bring back the shine of when it was first installed.  If your polished marble is now dull it could be related to a variety of reasons.  Sometimes you just need to remove the soap scum, which can be done with professional stone cleaners.  Perhaps mineral deposits have built up and etched the stone or general use has dulled the surface.  You can first try a color enhancing sealer with a gloss.   If this does not bring back the shine then you may need to have a professional repolish the marble.

    Professional re-polishing involves the use of a polishing machine which grinds and sands down the surface.   Although, you see the polished marble in hotels, malls, and office buildings, keep in mind that alot of maintenance goes into keeping those surfaces shiny and new looking.

  • What is the best time of the year to buy stone and tile?

    Just like buying cars there is often a better time than others to buy if you are looking for a deal.  I have always tried to buy my car at the end of the year right before Christmas.  Often, no one is shopping for a car and either the dealer is ready to make a deal to move inventory before year end or the salesperson is looking for something extra in his stocking.

    For limestone and marble there are also good times to buy.  During the hot months of July and August, most of us head for the beach, however, for those waiting all year long to get some bargains, this is the best time to shop for stone tiles.  Inventory needs to be cleared before the busy months of the fall, so prices will be cut to sell slow moving items.  Another good time is also the year end around the holidays.  You can find some great bargains on tile and stone but you do need to know who to ask.  Check with dealers who stock inventory.  If they don’t stock, often their distributors run specials that the dealer rarely takes advantage of.  You may need to be somewhat persistent as many employees are not even aware of their distributors’ clearance items.

  • Ideas for Interior Designers to Grow Your Interior Design Business in a tough economy.

    Most of your leads have traditionally always been through word of mouth.  As the economy slows those referrals have begun to slow and your traditional reliance on people that you know or former clients is not enough to sustain your business.   All businesses must evolve as markets change or industries change.  The Internet has been seen as one of the last places that interior designers tend to leverage, in general, much less as a lead source, however there is an untapped opportunity out there.  Clearly your website is a place that potential clients may first go to see your work but does anyone find designers online?  I believe the answer to this depends on the designer’s business model and tailoring their model to make the channel effective for them.   Also, keeping in mind that people on the mass market end will want to spend less, there are creative ways to create “products” suited for this trend and still make money.    First you have to be ready to consider these bold steps:

    1. Think Beyond Local.We know that more and more people are beginning to specify products online and the natural evolution is for them to next seek out professional assistance online.   However, as a service oriented business, you have traditionally looked at your regional market.  Design Services do not have to be local.   Your customers telecommute, why not you?
    2. Embrace the Internet and Promote yourself online.  Many interior designers are not quite ready to embrace technology, however their customers are quite often very computer savvy.  Being “found” is important to the client as he/she feels a little bit of prestige when telling others about his new designer and his/her coworkers “google” your name and you pop up everywhere.   ”Being found” is important for every business.   What do you really need to know about “being found”?  Links are king on the internet.  Make sure you have as many authority links to your site.   Get listed on Yahoo and DMOZ
    3. Ensure you are getting paid enough for your time. Making your interior design services more available online requires that you put together services that are scalable and profitable.  The Internet is about efficiency.  Your services need to have a balance between being customizable and repeatable.
    4. Don’t be afraid to rebrand. Concerned that an online strategy may devalue your brand,  just crate a separate entity for this business segment.  No need for your core clients to know how you generate your other sources of revenue.
    5. Blogging. Yes, I know that those of you who already are busy don’t even think they have time for a blog, however, this is one of your main lead strategies.  Consider it only takes 1 hour at night to write about an exciting new product.  Soon you will have many pages of articles and this is how links and traffic are born.

    If you are ready to consider promoting your services online, here are some ideas that you may consider:

    1. Flat fee consultation. This is a simple advice consultation based on a questionnaire and photos and you provide a detailed response.   Use this simple online form will allow you to get all of your questions answered and you will have easy access to all of the responses.   www.wufoo.com.  Once you get an idea of your customer’s needs, tailor your response and guidance to your customer’s answers.
    2. 3 D Rendering Consultation: Create a flat fee consultation including 3 different bathroom layout designs and render the design in a simple program like Plan 3 D.  You don’t need to know any programming and can provide a professional looking deliverable to your client, which then becomes easily repeatable.  You may just need to set up 5-10 different bathroom configurations and then it is just a matter of applying different materials and layouts.  Of course we would recommend that you use the designs on Beltile.com in your renderings!  But you can use any materials from any site by just saving the image and dragging it into the program.
    3. Niche/Specialty consultation: Color consultation, Feng Shui consultation, green consultation, bathroom consultation, powder room consultation, kitchen backsplash consultation etc.  Focus on your niche!  Build your entire online business around a certain niche and often the smaller the better. Promote this to the hilt!  Once you build a niche, you can tie in specific product recommendations which you can sell to your clients.
    4. Project Management: Many corporate firms allow this function complete remote management. Often, a customer just needs some help in coordinating the ultimate design with the contractor, subs, and finishes. Create a package which would include a daily review of work and progress, along with a discussion of the design and finishes to ensure the final look is executed based on the direction provided to the contractor.  Sometimes the consumer just wants an intermediary.

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