By Stuart Middleton, Executive Chairman of Aquacut Limited and Tilers Tools discusses the background to levelling systems.
Launched a number of years ago, levelling systems are a staple consumable of the tiling sector. Many professional tilers and landscapers wouldn’t dream of installing tiles without using a levelling system, but why do they bother?
Let me start with an anecdote that goes back a few years when levelling systems were starting to be used in the UK. A tiling customer of ours, using one of our levelling systems for the first time, was finishing off an internal floor having laid polished porcelain. As he was applying the finishing touches to his work, a casually dressed chap appeared and complimented our tiler on such a great job, remarking on just how smooth and even he had managed to get the finish. Our customer confessed that he was using our levelling system for the first time and was delighted with its performance, but being curious, asked the stranger who he was.
He was the architect/designer who specialised in large prestigious commissions and promised our tiler that, if he continued to do such great work, he would be offered all the architect’s future tiling jobs. Needless to say, our customer is a regular buyer of our levelling systems and hasn’t struggled for work.
The headline benefit of levelling systems is they are used to push adjacent tiles into the same plane, creating an even, lippage-free surface. There are however other benefits of using a good quality system:
- Speed up jobs, giving the opportunity to earn more. The system ought to more than pay for itself in time saved.
- Levelling systems are available in a range of grout joint widths so avoiding the need for spacers – particularly used in internal tiling systems.
- Customer satisfaction is greater.
- Cleaning tiles is facilitated.
- Makes grouting much easier as it avoids having to deal with ‘ski-slopes’ of grout caused by lippage.
- They may even take some slight bowing out of tiles, really useful when installing planks or laying tiles in a brick-bond fashion.
- Can hold heavy flags in place to avoid sagging.
- Work well with smooth and textured tiles/flags – a must in landscaping.
- Can be used for internal and external installations.
There are two basic types of levelling system:
- A wedge system of three parts; a reusable wedge, a disposable clip, and a pair of pliers to force the wedge into a clip.
- A screw cap system of two parts being a cap which is screwed onto a clip.
There are other marginal systems out there, but they tend to come and go as they are not in favour as are the wedges and screw down caps.
My judgement is the screw cap is a superior system that is easier to use and avoids having to search around for the pliers, but both will achieve the same perfect results.
Professional tilers are most likely to use the wedge system. That was the system first introduced and was adopted by the tiling fraternity. Having got used to the system, and having a supply of the reusable wedges, tilers preferred to stick to what they know, however they are increasingly switching onto the screw cap.
20mm thick porcelain emerged in the landscape market at the time when the screw caps came on the scene. Consequently, landscape professionals invariably use these in preference to wedges.
Our screw system can accommodate tiles up to 26mm thick, so are perfect when installing 20mm porcelain, stone, and cementitious products.
Tilers Tools systems offer scratch protectors for use when installing polished tiles – these do what they say on the tin, avoid scratching the tile surface and are reusable. They are available for the wedge and screw cap systems.
Beware of cheap imitations
One final word of caution. Beware of cheap imitations. We regularly hear horror stories about the performance of cheap knockoffs:
- Some are too fragile and snap before the right tension is achieved, making them as useful as a chocolate teapot, or worse.
- Some are made of the wrong type of materials and refuse to snap when the installer tries to kick them off – this often leaves remnants of the clip sticking up through the grout joint requiring a laborious
task of going round with a grinder – can you imagine the work that would cause?
So, in conclusion, do yourself, your client, and your designer a favour. Find a branded levelling system you work well with and stick to it to achieve the best professional results – after all your reputation is important in driving new referrals, remember the tale of our customer I mentioned above.
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