Meet the Tilers: 2020 Tiler of the Year Awards
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With voting now for National Tiles Tiler of the Year Awards, here’s your chance to get to know the tiler behind the incredible tiling work that made it to our Top 10 Finalists

1. Elia Palombino: MJ Harris Tiling

Meet the Tilers: 2020 Tiler of the Year Awards: Elia Palombino

“I love tiling. It’s a very creative job and it’s really rewarding and inspiring when you see the completed work. It’s exciting to see the client’s really happy about what I have created. Planning ahead and being able to predict any issues that may arise will make the end result as good as it can be.”

I grew up in Italy and my father was a builder and a tiler. He taught me all about tiling and I used to help him in my spare time and then when I moved to Australia in 2013 I started tiling full time.

I love tiling. It’s a very creative job and it’s really rewarding and inspiring when you see the completed work. It’s exciting to see the client’s really happy about what I have created. To be a good tiler you really have to have vision and be able to communicate with the clients and with the interior designers as well. Sometimes their ideas don’t necessarily match what we can physically do on site, so we work with them to find the best solution. Thinking ahead is also really important. Planning ahead and being able to predict any issues that may arise will make the end result as good as it can be.

We are working a lot with subway tiles in a herringbone pattern for wall, and also for whole floors. It is challenging work but very rewarding.

For me and for our team being nominated as one of the Top 10 Finalists has already been a victory. We are very proud as it is a big achievement and we work very hard to get the best results possible with every project that we do.

2. Robert Bartucca: Bartucca Tiling

Meet the Tilers: 2020 Tiler of the Year Awards: Robert Bartucca

“The greatest satisfaction for me comes from the architects and designers we work with. I love pushing the boundaries in design. I take great pride in the work we do and seeing the final result.”

My father Frank started our tiling business over 50 years ago, so it was only natural that I followed in his footsteps. He worked in Italy as a stonemason and migrated to Australia in his teens and tiling became his passion and in turn mine. I particularly love natural stone. The greatest satisfaction for me comes from the architects and designers we work with. I love pushing the boundaries in design. I take great pride in the work we do and seeing the final result.

A good tiler really needs to have an attention to detail which I feel gets kind of lost these days. Tiles who are passionate have a really keen eye. There are few apprenticeship opportunities these days even through TAFE which is hard because it’s such a vital trade for the building industry. Our team have been with us for more than 20 years and many are of Italian descent. We operate as a family.

Tile trends do come and go but at the moment we are seeing a lot of handmade mosaic tiles and in particular Japanese mosaics. At the other end of the spectrum we are doing full height slab which is physically demanding and requires specialised machinery to aid the installation depending on the layout of and access to the space. You have to adopt best practice to suit the task at hand.

I think the Tiler of the Year Awards is great for individual tilers. This hasn’t really been done before and it’s really rewarding for tilers to get recognised for their work.

3. Todd Grave: T&N Tiling

Meet the Tilers: 2020 Tiler of the Year Awards: Todd Grave

“You’ve got to have a keen eye to be a great tiler. You need to know how to set a room out, how to work with uneven substrates. It’s technical and mathematical as well as creative. You need to be able to visualise the end result and anticipate any problems before they happen. Preparation is so important. You have to be reliable, be a problem solver and be immaculate in terms of cleanliness and accuracy.”

I was a trainee professional golfer at Sorrento Golf Club but found that I wasn’t really suited to that vibe, so I looked for an apprenticeship. I almost became a carpet layer but I got tiling apprenticeship opportunity with a local business. I worked with his team for nearly five years before going out on my own.

Having grown up on the Mornington Peninsula I had a lot of contacts in the area and had worked with a lot of builders, so getting my own business up and running was pretty smooth. I’ve always worked with residential builders doing domestic tiling.

You’ve got to have a keen eye to be a great tiler. You need to know how to set a room out, how to work with uneven substrates. It’s technical and mathematical as well as creative. You need to be able to visualise the end result and anticipate any problems before they happen. Preparation is so important. You have to be reliable, be a problem solver and be immaculate in terms of cleanliness and accuracy.

Three or four years ago it was a lot about grey tiles on the floors and 600 x 300mm tiles on the walls. Today the tile profile is getting much larger – we’re working with 900 x 900mm and bigger.

The areas that are getting tiled are much larger as well, with a movement away from laminated floors to tiled floors which looks great and gives a tiler big open areas to work on. It’s physically taxing though; the tiles can weigh over 20 kg each and when you’re tiling up a wall it can be demanding. As a result you need to work smarter and manoeuvre tiles more carefully.

The Tiler of the Year Awards are brilliant for tilers. It’s fantastic to seeing this skilled trade recognised for what it is. When tiling work is done by a professional it makes all the difference.

It’s the visual element that establishes the quality of the property and it takes an artisan who takes pride in their work to achieve that result.

4. Rob Di Virgilio: Tactile Mosaics

Meet the Tilers: 2020 Tiler of the Year Awards: Rob Divirgilio

“I am passionate about the tiling industry. You have to have passion to be good at what you do. As a tiler you also have to be practical, you have to think about the end user, and you need to get along with people – both clients and fellow trades. I love the relationships you can form with people.”

I started in the tile industry working with my father. Originally I said I would only help him out for a few years because I wanted to do my own thing. I was only young and wanted to get into fashion or photography or building. I went travelling for a while and when I came back I had to make a decision to join him and really make a go of it or find another job, so I turned the business into a company and helped take it to the next level. That was over 30 years ago.

We work with a very niche market – stone and terrazzo and crushed leadlight glass. We designed eight of the bathrooms at Government House doing some really amazing work with stone and marble that will stand the test of time.

I am passionate about the tiling industry. You have to have passion to be good at what you do. As a tiler you also have to be practical, you have to think about the end user, and you need to get along with people – both clients and fellow trades. I love the relationships you can form with people.

Tile trends do come and go, but since 2005 our business has focused on glass mosaics. Tiling is very taxing physically so I found a niche that I could specialise in whilst being kind to my body.

There have been incredible innovations in the glass mosaic market and there are outstanding systems available. There are only a handful of people who understand this material and finding talented tradespeople who can specialise in this art is not easy.

The Tiler of the Year Awards is such a positive step for the industry. Any opportunity like this that encourages the sharing of ideas and supports professionals in the tiling industry is a really fantastic for all involved.

5. Martin Guarino: MD Tiling & Stone

Meet the Tilers: 2020 Tiler of the Year Awards: Martin Guarino

“When it comes to tiling, I am a perfectionist. I can’t bear even being a millimetre off in my work. Accuracy is so important and doing the right preparation so that the job is set up correctly. I love talking to my clients and really understanding the look that want to achieve.”

My work as a tiler began nearly 20 years ago when I was started working with my brother, as a labourer initially. I really loved tiling straight away. In the first few years the tiling I was doing was mainly volume work rather than quality designs. I then worked with another company for around 10 years as their site manager in the tiling area.

Around five years ago I decided to go out on my own and start up my own tiling company so I could concentrate on design and quality. Working with boutique builders who are focused on more intricate work has given me the opportunity to tile projects that require a real attention to detail.

When it comes to tiling, I am a perfectionist. I can’t bear even being a millimetre off in my work. Accuracy is so important and doing the right preparation so that the job is set up correctly. I love talking to my clients and really understanding the look that want to achieve.

One of the major trends I have seen lately is in swimming pools – clients are using large format tiles in their pools. And the subway tile trend which has been so popular looks like it’s here to stay.

Being a part of the Tiler of the Year Awards has been a great way for myself and for all tilers to showcase quality work. There are a lot of tilers who do volume work but there’s only a handful who take pride in their work and provide an end result that makes their client happy. I’m so grateful to have made it to the Top 10 Finalists, it’s an achievement in itself.

6. Sam Greiner: Straight Line Tiling

Meet the Tilers: 2020 Tiler of the Year Awards: Sam Greiner

“It’s really rewarding to see the finished result of your tiling work. We get to turn concrete and plaster into something that looks great. There’s a great deal of satisfaction when clients are happy with the completed space. Attention to detail is so important and taking pride in what you do.”

I’m a third-generation tiler. My grandfather started the business. I did my apprenticeship with my father and three of my uncles and my cousin who are partners in the operation. That all began when I was 15 and I was qualified at 18 and at the age of 21 I went out on my own. That was eight years ago.

It’s really rewarding to see the finished result of your tiling work. We get to turn concrete and plaster into something that looks great. There’s a great deal of satisfaction when clients are happy with the completed space. Attention to detail is so important and taking pride in what you do. It’s a very physical job but I love it – even with the sore knees and sore back.

I work with homeowners as well as designers and do a lot of commercial work too. We’ve done a lot of major projects from apartment blocks and retirement villages to project homes and custom builds which keeps it interesting. The subway tile trend is really big and in particular herringbone layouts for splashbacks and feature walls. I love working with external tiling as well – anyone can lay stone but to do it properly, so it stands up to the elements, takes knowledge and expertise.

The Tiler of the Year Awards have been so interesting – getting to see what other tilers are doing so you can appreciate their work and get inspired by what they are doing is great.

7. Tom Samuels: Tile Smart

Meet the Tilers: 2020 Tiler of the Year Awards: Tom Samuels

“To be a great tiler you have to love what you do. You need to take pride in your work and pay attention to detail. You get a lot of satisfaction from doing a great job and seeing how happy your clients are. It feels really good.”

I was actually looking for a carpentry apprenticeship after school but there weren’t any available. I was offered the opportunity through a friend to trial tiling so I gave it a shot and really liked it. That was around 12 years ago. I went out on my own a few years back with the support of local builders and contacts I had made which gave me a good base. I have gradually worked my way into more high-end designs with builders.

To be a great tiler you have to love what you do. You need to take pride in your work and pay attention to detail. You get a lot of satisfaction from doing a great job and seeing how happy your clients are. It feels really good. Over the years there have a number of trends, and today there are so many different tiles available that there’s a real mix of styles to choose from.

I can’t believe that I have made it to the top 10 Finalists for the Tiler of the Year Awards. I’m really proud. I think it’s great for the industry because it can really encourage tilers to try their best and do a great job so they can enter next year.

8. Ben Everest: Goldline Tiling

Meet the Tilers: 2020 Tiler of the Year Awards: Ben Everest

“I love the difference great tiling makes. That you can walk into a bare room and completely transform it and make it look brilliant. It’s all about attention to detail. Being a finishing trade there’s nowhere to hide.”

I really fell into the tiling industry really. Family friends were tilers and stone masons and they offered me a job when I was 17 so I took the opportunity. That was 27 years ago. I did explore the hospitality industry for about six years, but I came back to tiling in around 2000. I set up my own business at that time and it was great because it was during the building boom. I have been working with the same builder for around 15 years now and we specialise in more high-end work around Sanctuary Cove and Solomon Island.

I love the difference great tiling makes. That you can walk into a bare room and completely transform it and make it look brilliant. It’s all about attention to detail. Being a finishing trade there’s nowhere to hide. The plasterers and concreters do their thing and then it’s up to us to make it all look good.

Over the years I’ve seen a lot of tile trends come and go. At the moment the bigger tiles are definitely one of the key looks – the 1500 x 750mm and 1200 x 600mm are becoming more common. The larger tiles are pretty taxing physically, so we have adapted to this challenge by taking the cutters off the floor and putting them on tables which has helped.

I think the Tiler of the Year Awards has been great for the industry. I’ve known about National Tiles here in Qld for some time – since the ‘glue wars’ here some years ago. They really shook up the industry and made all suppliers lift their game. I’m really proud to be one of the Top 10 Finalists.

9. Steven Zampogna: Stallion Tiling & Construction

Meet the Tilers: 2020 Tiler of the Year Awards: Steven Zampogna

“I find tiling so satisfying and rewarding especially when I have the opportunity to work with high calibre projects. Every tiler over time does develop their own style and way of working, and I see tiling as an art. I take great pride in what I do.”

I first started working in the tile industry when I was 15 years old as an apprentice. I refer to myself as a European- trained tiler which brings with it specific techniques and skills. I have now been tiler for around 22 years. Myself and my partner started our own business three years ago. We are quite broad with the work we do, from demo stage to plumbing stage with new builds and renovations.

I find tiling so satisfying and rewarding especially when I have the opportunity to work with high calibre projects. Every tiler over time does develop their own style and way of working, and I see tiling as an art. I take great pride in what I do.

Trends definitely change with times and it still surprises me how often tile trends evolve and people want something new. At the moment rectified tiles are really popular and natural stone colours like browns, beige and grey. Grey is particularly on trend and it’s a really good colour palette because it will have more longevity.

I am personally really excited about the Tiler of the Year Awards. We were really keen to enter and to show Australia what we can do.

10. Joel Grenfell: Metre by Metre Tiling

Meet the Tilers: 2020 Tiler of the Year Awards: Joel Grenfell

“To be a successful tiler you need to be patient, to work clean and to have a great vision about what the end result will look like. And you have to be very fussy and make sure all of the lines are square and that the finish is perfect.”

Through school I tried out a few different trades like cabinetmaking and plumbing, but I didn’t find anything that really suited. I was always into design so I wanted to do something more creative. When I started working with a tiler I found it really rewarding so I started an apprenticeship around 12 years ago.

I have been working for myself for nine years now. At the time is was a big leap and a bit risky but I was lucky enough have the support of some great local builders and that carried me until the business grew and my reputation expanded. I really enjoy the more difficult tiling jobs where I am challenged from a design point of view.

To be a successful tiler you need to be patient, to work clean and to have a great vision about what the end result will look like. And you have to be very fussy and make sure all of the lines are square and that the finish is perfect. It’s a physical job, and after a big day you really feel it on your knees and your back. But when you know you have executed a job to perfection it’s all worthwhile.

Everyone’s loving herringbone at the moment, for feature walls and floor. Tiling in a herringbone pattern is difficult, people don’t understand how much time it takes to lay out the design and cut it in and make it perfect. Mosaic feature walls are popular too.

The Tiler of the Year Awards have been great for the industry. Any sort of publicity that acknowledges tilers and what we do and shows people what we can create with our work is fantastic.

Click here to vote now in the National Tiles and Grand Designs Australia 2020 Tiler of the Year Awards



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Publish at: , last modify at: 25/03/2020

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