Floor tiles take a lot of abuse. Floor tiles need to be thick enough to prevent cracking, but very thick tiles are hard to integrate into existing construction. Generally concrete floor tiles are around ¾ to 1 inch in thickness, but smaller GFRC tiles can be made a bit thinner. As with other tile materials, properly installed underlayment and subfloor preparation are key to preventing cracks in the tiles. The subfloor should be flat and rigid. GFRC is an ideal material to make tiles out of because it is strong and flexible, so thinner tiles are practical and easy.
Making floor tiles demands precision. Most tiles are all the same size and shape, so in order for all of the tiles to fit together and have consistent grout lines you need to make sure all of the tiles are identical. Besides controlling thickness, keeping the tiles flat during curing is important, too. A curled tile won't lay flat and is likely to crack.
Pricing three-dimensional pieces can be tricky. You can't simply calculate the square footage, and you often don't know how long the piece will take you because you've never done anything like it before. Think through every step of the project, starting with design and going through mold building and on to installation. Often all of these steps will be more complicated than a flat kitchen or bath countertop, adding up to a whole lot more time. Also, consider what might happen if the piece doesn't turn out the first time. Build in risk mitigation in the form of a higher price.
However, recognize that sometimes it is more important to build your portfolio than to make a huge profit on one project. Just be sure you get high-quality photos of the finished project. By pricing well and carefully planning the project, you can begin to build up your portfolio with impressive projects.
Troy Thompson of Surface Studios in Des Moines, Iowa, has built up an impressive portfolio by occasionally doing a few key projects of new types such as fireplaces or dramatic sinks for about half price. "I want that photo. There's nothing like showing your own work. Your passion and creativity will shine through."
Portfolio photos of non-countertop projects are a great way to sell non-countertop projects, but what do you do if you don't have photos yet? One thing you can do is simply educate clients and designers about the versatility of concrete. You might get a lead for a kitchen countertop in a high end, modern new home, but the client never even realized that concrete can be used for fireplaces. By taking a consultative approach with your clients, and perhaps a few proactive steps, you can upsell your way to a much larger and more impressive project.
James Catabia of Casting Impressions in Ocala, Fla., did just that. James was called into a project to give an estimate on a shower pan. He found out that the house had a dramatic, four-story spiral staircase encased in glass, yet the general contractor was going to have a regular precast concrete contractor create flat, gray slabs of concrete to sit on the metal stair frame. James took the initiative to create a sample of a white stair tread with a dropped edge to cover the metal stair frame. Not only did the homeowner love the stair tread idea, the example opened her eyes to all the possibilities of concrete. James ended up creating the shower pan, shower panels, floor tiles and the stair treads. A project that was to be $2,500 had gone to almost $40,000, all because James showed the client the endless possibilities of concrete.