The stone industry has adopted man-made products just as the tile industry has encompassed natural stone. The winner has been the client, as this month’s tile awards (being presented on 14 May) show.
Projects shortlisted for the Tile Awards, being presented this year at an Awards Carnival in St John’s Hotel, Solihull, on 14 May, have once again highlighted some spectacular stone interiors, including that of the Taymouth Castle renovation.
Taymouth Castle is on the shores of Loch Tay, at the gateway to the Scottish Highlands. It is a stately home that has had many millions of pounds spent on converting it into a hotel and golf course.
The man hoping his tiling at the castle is going to earn him the title of Tile Fixer of the Year and/or the Award for the Best Use of Tile in the Leisure/Hospitality Sector is Wes Geraghty, who learnt the trade from his father, Joe, and worked for Fired Earth for three years before returning to the family business of Geraghty Tiling.
Joe Geraghty won a Tiler Of The Year Award in 1987 and Wes would like to follow in his footsteps.
Wes was supposed to start working at Taymouth Castle in 2011, but the developers shelved the project. It got going again three years later under new ownership and Wes returned to carry out his work.
Taymouth Castle as it is seen today is mostly Victorian, built by the Marquis of Breadalbane so he could entertain Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. But a castle has stood on the site since 1550, when Sir Colin Campbell built what was then called Balloch Castle. It became the seat of the Campbell Clan whose lands, at the height of their powers, covered more than 100 miles from Taymouth to the West Coast of Scotland.
Geraghty Tiling is a family business started by Wes’s father, who also had a tile shop in Perth until he retired in 2008. Wes’s son, Lewis, now also works at Geraghty Tiling, as does Wes’s older brother, Nick.
The interior designer for the latest work at Taymouth Castle was architect Peter Inston, Managing Director of Adatto.
The idea had been to use Carrara marble throughout but there were concerns about the weight that the stone would add to the upper floors, and in particular the damage it might cause to spectacular retained, 200-year-old ceilings on the ground floor. One of the ceilings, in what is called the Queen Victoria Library, has been valued at £10million alone.
So while 20mm thick Carrara marble was used on the ground floor in 300mm and 400mm square tiles, on the floors above an 8mm thick porcelain Carrara lookalike 300 x 600mm was used, although with genuine impression that it is the natural material throughout.
Wes says the porcelain is printed with the Carrara veining 100m2 at a time, so there is little chance of seeing a pattern repeat.
The use of natural stone tiles is accepted across the interiors sector these days and the mixing of natural stone and man-made products is not so unusual, although tilers need to understand the differences there can be between natural stone and ceramic tiles.
It was stone that led the way in larger format tiles, although the porcelain manufacturers have quickly learnt to follow suit. As tiles got bigger, many natural stone tile producers started adding a mesh backing for strengthening as a precaution. For some, that has now become standard practice and both Stone Federation Great Britain and The Tile Association (TTA) have issued warnings about using standard tile adhesives with mesh-back stone tiles.
They reiterated those warnings last year after mesh-back stone came adrift in bathrooms at the luxury Shangri-La hotel in The Shard in London. The problem delayed the opening of the hotel and formed the bulk of a claim of £57million against contractor John Sisk and Son by the Hong Kong-based hotel chain. The claim was eventually settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.
Wes Geraghty says being a small business and a member of TTA (which runs the Tile Awards) he refuses to work for anyone who will not accept his recommendations for fixing tiles. He says he favours using Schluter tanking and backing boards and Raimondi levelling clips for floors.
He says he won a job at Gleneagles. There were over £100,000 worth of tiles on an anhydrate floor. He would not lay them without using a Ditra mat because he anticipated trouble if he did. The client’s team did not want to use Ditra, but in the end they accepted Wes’s arguments for why it was necessary.
Schlüter Ditra 25 is a grid structured polyethylene membrane with an anchoring fleece laminated to its underside. It is for tile and natural stone installations, serving as a waterproofing membrane, a vapour pressure equalisation layer to accommodate moisture on the underside of the substrate and an uncoupling layer for problematic substrates.
The tiles at Gleneagles were 1200 x 1200mm covering 600m2 of floors as well as being used in seven bathrooms. Wes wanted to enter that for an award but it was for a private client who did not want it pictured.
Geraghty Tiling carry out domestic and commercial work in the area around their base in Perth and go further afield for commercial work, especially car showrooms, which Wes particularly likes doing. “We’re pricing a lot of commercial jobs in England at the moment,” he told NSS.
Wes Geraghty’s project at Taymouth Castle that he has entered for the Tile Awards this year is impressive, but for the Fixer of the Year title he is up against six others who also believe their work should win them the title, which is not based on the size of the project but the quality of the work. As the Tile Award judges always say, determining the winner among so much high quality work is never easy.
Another of the shortlisted entrants is David Stott. He has been voted Tile Fixer previously and is hoping to set a record by becoming the first person ever to gain the accolade twice. He has been proposed by BAL for seven wet rooms he tiled in a private house last year. The master bathroom was all in Carrara marble, matt on the floor and semi-finished on the walls, but there were various products used throughout the scheme, including hexagonal porcelain tiles in one of the bathrooms.
One of the finalists in another category – that of Best Use of Tile in a Commercial Contract – has the most spectacular use of natural stone of all the entries in all the categories. For this magazine, at least, it is the stand out project from the 2016 Tile Awards. It is the renovation of St Patrick’s Church in Donaghmore, County Tyrone in Northern Ireland, entered by Armatile.
Established as an independent tile retail outlet in Armagh in 1975, Armatile has developed into a leading retailer and distributor in Ireland, with showrooms now in Newry and Belfast as well as Armagh and a 6,000m2 warehouse.
But the main element in Armatile’s growth has been the purpose-built manufacturing plant it opened in Armagh in 2000. It has some of the most advanced cutting technologies the tile industry has to offer, including two waterjets, which have played a significant role in insetting words and designs into stone floors, as they did for St Patrick’s in Donaghmore.
Armatile’s project management team works with leading designers and architects throughout Northern and Southern Ireland on all kinds of projects including churches, cafes, swimming pools and shopping centres.
Armatile has been involved in some of the most recognised projects in Ireland of recent years, including St George’s Church in the centre of Belfast, The K Club golf course in County Kildare, The Europa Hotel, Peter Mark’s Training & Creative Centre in Dublin and the stunning St Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh. To that list can now be added St Patrick’s Church in Donaghmore.
We will bring you more details and pictures of St Patrick’s in the next issue of Natural Stone Specialist magazine, when we will also report on the winning projects, products and people in the Tile Awards, which will have been presented by then.