Consider a Mockup for your Tile Installation Project
Posted by TOA's Blog Team on May 18th 2023
There's an aspect of tile that is both exciting and frustrating: you love it and you aren't quite sure how it will look. That's why you should consider a mockup for your tile installation project.
What do we mean by a 'mockup' for your tile installation project?
A mockup is a very practical tool that puts into design and installation context the otherwise abstract tile pieces you've selected.
It can be as simple as dry-laying several pieces of tile together so you can see the effect, or as elaborate as a full sample installation that includes grout or as high-tech as a digital rendering based on actual images of your tile selection.
A mockup sets expectations for how tile installation projects will look
When you have a mockup for your tile installation project, you can 'see' how things will look before the entire installation job is (literally) 'set in stone.' If you don't like the pattern or the contrast with the grout, you can easily make adjustments without having to demolish and start all over from scratch.
This becomes critically important when the tile you have chosen exhibits significant shade variation.
>> See How to Deal with Shade Variation in Porcelain and Ceramic Tile?
In fact, the Tile Council of North America (TCNA) Handbook for Ceramic, Glass, and Stone Tile Installation calls for mock-ups in the Ceramic Tile and Glass Tile Selection Guides. Aesthetic Classes in both the V3 and V4 categories state that:
"It is recommended that the range (of color and texture) be viewed before selection and that a mock layout be made."
Here's a mockup example of Royal Grey porcelain tile with V4 variation.
Similarly, the Natural Stone Selection Guide in the Viewing/Inspection Distance sections explains that,
"It is recommended that samples, range samples, mockups and finished work be viewed for inspection at a distance of 6-1/2' from a position normal (perpendicular) to the stone face, and with natural lighting."
When you think of it, it makes sense. When you tile a floor or a wall, you use many tiles, not just the few you looked at and selected at the store.
When the tile has very little shade variation - as you can see in the image below - the look is more uniform and consistent. There, the mockup provides more perspective on how the joints will look and the effect of grout color.
When the tile has strong patterns and wild variations within that pattern from tile to tile, as you can see in the three images below, the overall effect can look considerably different from what you (or your significant other) had in mind to begin with.
Note how these mockups show you how the product looks installed with grout.
Here's an example of Barnwood Grey porcelain tile with V4 variation.
Similarly, King Wood Nut porcelain tile exhibits V4 variation.
In other words, your expectations for the final look of the project may be radically different from the reality of the installation. A mockup enables you, then, to better understand the ramifications of moderate and random variation on the look and feel of the end result.
In the case of the striations in the hexagon pattern below, you may prefer to have them all in the same direction or randomly mixed up.
By evaluating this beforehand, you can decide what is best for you.
Mockups for feedback and tile installation approval
Ultimately, mockups allow for feedback and final tile installation project approval. That review includes not just how the tile looks laid out from a shade variation and overall style direction, but also how the tile itself is laid out and what the offset is so as to avoid performance issues.
Earlier, we referred to the TCNA Handbook.
Although the other critical reference for tile installation, the ANSI Standards, does not require mockups, it does mention them as a means for evaluating joint offsets:
"ANSI A108.02-126.96.36.199 Running bond/brick joint offset: For running bond/brick joint patterns utilizing tiles (square or rectangular) where the side being offset is greater than 18 inches (nominal dimension), the running bond offset will be a maximum of 33% unless otherwise specified by the tile manufacturer. If an offset greater than 33% is specified, specifier and owner must approve mock-up and lippage."
>> See Managing Lippage: Why Offsets Matter When Installing Tile
Planning for shade variation. Notice the checkerboard pattern used in the top portion of the shower wall, in contrast to the more uniform bottom shower wall.
As Why a Tile Installation Mockup is Really Necessary explains about using a mockup for your tile installation project,
"Ultimately, the use of a mockup is a really good idea that can demonstrate to the end user, who may have difficulty visualizing the final finish, exactly what to expect.
The mockup shows the range of color and/or texture within the tile, the pattern or offset (if applicable), the size, texture and color of the grout joint, the appearance of the sealant joints, and any accessory items that will be used on the project. This way there are no surprises, unhappy customers or unfulfilled expectations upon completion of the project."
How will you use a mockup for your tile installation project?
We consider mockups incredibly helpful for tile projects. Not only have we created display boards showing how tile and stone looks together and what shade variation to expect, but we have also created boards showing how different grout colors can complement or contrast with the tile you select.
You will find those and more when you visit Tile Outlets of America.
On a final note, when you visit Tile Outlets of America to purchase tile, we will strongly encourage you to purchase a full box of tile or at least 4 pieces of natural stone to better enable you to gain a sense of the true look of the product and enable you to create your own mockup.
We look forward to seeing you and helping make your dreams with tile become reality!