If you're looking for a tile contractor, think you need photos of their work to tell if they're any good? Actually, among serious tile professionals, the proof isn't in photos, but in the finished work itself.
The artisan's term hand is used reverently among quality tile workers, because when serious tile contractors show you their work, they want you to see it in place. They want you to appreciate not just the colors or patterns, but the feel of the tile, the precision of the lines, and the perfection of the solid surface created by piecing together numerous materials. It's in the way the tile setter moves; it's how he thinks: This is the hand, and you can't see it in photos.
An Artisan's Approach to Marble and Tile
So will Mark Perri of Perri Marble and Tile in Alameda send us photos of his tiling work? Yes he will, but he says, "Anyone can take a photo of a tile job and say they did it. That's what gets so many homeowners in trouble. They think, ‘Oh, that's good work in that photo,' but they have no solid proof. You've got to see more than a photo before you hire a tile setter, or you can have real problems."
While we applaud Mark's ethics, this is the internet era, so we suggested before-and-after photos, which would at least prove that Perri Tile had done the work. Mark felt much better about that, "There are more guys out there who don't know what they're doing than who do." We've all seen tile jobs that are uneven, or cracked, or that leak, so we can all understand what Mark means.
But can't anyone learn to lay tile? Mark explains, "We were called out to fix a job done by another company. They sent out a young kid from Central America to do a shower surround, and it leaked everywhere when the shower pan filled up. But it was a beautiful job otherwise. The kid just didn't know that you have to use waterproofing. Where he came from, they didn't use it. But he had the hand. His tile job was fantastic, and I said, ‘If you ever need a job, call me—you're a great tiler." Wait, we wondered, even if the tiles leaked? "The leaking was just because he didn't know about waterproofing. You can teach that in half a day. His way with the tile, though—that's the art. You either have it or you don't."
The Pyramid Builders of Perri Marble and Tile
Mark may have received by his tile skills genetically. His grandfather and his uncle were tile layers, and his father, Joe Perri Sr., did the tile work on the Transamerica Pyramid, Alameda's Posey Tube, the California Governor's Mansion, the Embarcadero Center and the San Francisco Hyatt Regency. Mark is especially proud of his father's extensive and famous work on the Hyatt Regency, which consists of circular tiles laid out in multiple hourglass patterns. When John Portman (protégé of Frank Lloyd Wright and lead architect for the Embarcadero Center project) saw Joe Perri's work, he hired Joe to work with him to design and install the acres of tile the Embarcadero project required.
Mark Perri and his brothers Randy Perri and Joe Perri Jr. grew up working with tile, and all three are union-trained tile layers (Joe Sr. was Vice President of the Tile Layer's Union for the Embarcadero Center project). The Perri family also works with marble and granite, and when the family started their company in 1982, it was christened Perri Marble and Tile. Joe Sr. retired in 1992, but Mark, Randy, Joe Jr., and their mother Audrey Perri continue the family tradition. Though Joe Sr. has since passed on, his legacy continues in the thriving company. They now have 6 employees and Perri Marble and Tile are the tile contractors for Kaiser Hospitals and for Hyatt Hotels. Perri also provides marble, granite, and tile work to homeowners, churches, municipal buildings and businesses throughout Alameda County. They're also factory-certified installers for Nu Heat radiant floors, the heating underlayment systems that create a warm, comfortable tile floor and home.
But is Perri Marble and Tile affordable? Mark laughs, "Guess what? If you look for a cheap job, you get a cheap job! We definitely don't overcharge for our work. We can compete with any tile contractor in the world in terms of quality, but we're not in it for the money. This is a family business, and if you need one tile re-set, we'll come out and do it for you. We also know that some tile jobs are luxuries, but that leaking tile work needs to be fixed right now, so we offer financing to help with emergencies. But as for pricing, we've learned: If you do perfect work, the people will come. We're competitive and fair, but we've got tile layers with the hand, and they're true craftsmen. Some things are really worth paying for."