• Ishii Tile Cutter Instruction Video

    In this video, Blake shows you how to assemble and use the latest version of the popular Ishii blue Big Clinker tile cutters.

  • How to Dress a Diamond Blade

    In this video, Blake shows you how to dress a diamond blade. Blades that have seen heavy use my not cut efficiently (or at all). Dressing reconditions the blade by removing glazing debris caused by use, heat and friction, exposing fresh diamond. The dressing stone is available here.

  • How to Drill a Hole in Ceramic Tile

    In this instructional video, Blake demonstrate how to correctly drill a hole in ceramic tile using a diamond hole saw and a cordless drill.

  • Ceramic Tile Cutter Shootout - Ishii, Superior and Sigma

    In this video, Blake compares the performance of three popular tile cutters: the Ishii Big Clinker, the Sigma 3C2 and the Superior Piano Board cutter.

  • Dry Polishing Pads Comparison

    Dry stone polishing pads have diamonds and other abrasives embedded in a heat-resistant resin, allowing them to be used without water. Running them against abrasive surfaces such as granite and concrete slowly remove pad material which exposes fresh diamonds.  The diamond content and makeup of the resin matrix is what determines speed, longevity and quality of the polish that the pad can produce. Dry polishing pads perform best on granite and harder stones; for marble and softer stones you will see resin smear (pad leaving color on stone) above about 800 grit. You can drop the RPM  on your polisher to help with this, but I recommend silica carbide sand paper for polishing soft stones.

    CeramicaDry_Pads

    Alpha Ceramica Dry Polishing Pads

    The pads we tested where all run at about 2800 rpm;  the speed I find seems to be best for most applications. We tested the Alpha Ceramica Dry pads, Diamax Cyclone Dryflex and Dryflex II pads, along with the MWI RockMaster Dry Pads and RockMaster E-Pads.  Hands down Alpha pads work the best and last the longest.  The Alpha Ceramica pads have the thickest resin layer.  They use a unique blend of diamond and resin to create better quality results and a longer life than typical dry resin pads. Honestly, many others (including us, frankly) have tried to produce a pad that performs as well, and lasts as long as the Alpha Ceramica pads and it they just haven’t quite hit the mark.

    dryflex

    Diamax Dryflex Dry Polishing Pads

    Cyclone DryFlex, a high end professional pad, are my next best pad, after the Alpha Ceramica.  The RockMaster was close contender but I found that DryFlex polished a little faster.  RockMaster E-pads and DryFlex II are comparable in speed and polish, but the DryFlex II seem to have little longer life.

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    RockMaster Dry Polishing Pads

    The Alpha and Dryflex pads are quite a bit more expensive than all the other pads.  Our RockMaster pads perform very well against the top of the line Alpha and Diamax products, and are probably the best bang for the buck.  Our pads are professional quality, significantly better performance than the cheap pads sold on Amazon (according to our customers, we confess we’ve never tried them).

    epaddry

    RockMaster E-Pad Dry Polishing Pads

    If you are professional using the pads every day, the Alpha or Dryflex might be worth the investment.  If you are contractor who only uses pads 6 or 7 time a year RockMaster pads are a great value.   If your or DIY or one time job Rockmaster E-Pads will get the job done.

    Keep in mind you must have variable speed grinder running around 2800 RPM.  Especially with dry polishing pads, you should wear a dust mask, along with eye and ear protection.

  • Installing Radiant In Floor Heating

    Important: This post is a very general guide to help you understand the differences in complexity of installing various in floor heating systems.  This article DOES NOT replace the instructions that shipped with the product, and we won’t cover all steps or product limitations.  Always follow the instructions you receive with the product when installing in floor heating.

    With installation of all our electric in floor heating, we recommend you buy and use a Loudmouth monitor during installation.  If the wire is damaged during installation, the Loudmouth will sound and alert.

    Also, always make sure to check the ohms before installing any of our floor warming systems and again prior to covering with tile or mortar.  Never install any in floor heating under cabinets, toilets, stoves, etc.  Always allow proper cure time before turning on your system, 14 days from the time you grout on all our systems except slab heat, which is 28 days.  Always check your local building codes to make sure you can install the system you are buying and to make sure the system you are purchasing is legal in your area.

    Slab Heat

    slabheat

    Prior to pouring concrete, you will attach zip ties to rebar at the spacing that is determined by your heat loss calculations.  Using conduit, run the cold lead up to the thermostat location to be connected later.  Run the probe up another conduit to the thermostat location.  I always suggest installing two probes.   They are cheap, and if one malfunctions it will save you a bunch of work to replace.  Next, pour the concrete. I always recommend using insulation under the concrete when using slab heat to improve efficiency. Pour concrete over the wire.  If you are not pouring the concrete, make sure the people who do are careful not to damage the wire in the process.  Slab heat can also be used on existing slab by putting down strap, stringing wire and pouring another layer of concrete over the top.

    Wire + RPM Mat

    rpm2

    The new RPM-V1 mat can be installed over concrete, wood and backer board using an inexpensive vinyl adhesive.  The V-1 can also be used over the top of ceramic tile, vinyl, and natural stone when urethane glue is used.  This is the newer version of RPM with vented studs allowing you to trowel vinyl adhesive over the substrate and install the RPM mat directly over without any additional fastener or special glues.   Once the RPM is glued down, it’s time to choose your wire spacing.  We usually suggest 2.5” when installed over wood and 2” over concrete.  If you are planning to use this as a main source of heat for a room you may want to run heat loss calculation to help determine the correct lay out.

    Next, you would take your cold lead wire feed up the conduit to thermostat box.  Then in a separate conduit, feed your probe wire to thermostat box.  Again, I recommend installing two probes as cheap insurance if one malfunctions.  Lay the probe in a grove that will not be occupied by wire.  String wire as based on your desired layout.  If you are using non-coated wire, you will need grommets to hold the wire down.  For coated wire, grommets will not be needed.  The really cool thing about this system is once the wire is in the channel, it cannot be damaged by people walking on the floor.

    Once the wire is placed, it’s time to level the floor with self-leveling underlayment, MasterHeat mix, or a cement-based underlayment to fill the channels.  The studs on RPM-V1 mat act as a screed making it very easy to level the cement.   Original RPM can be installed on concrete and wood.  The only difference on concrete is you would need to use urethane based glue, like Bostic Ultra Set, and on Plywood you would use vinyl adhesive and staple down.  This by far is the most user friendly product for a do-it-yourselfer, and pro’s like it for the added protection given to the wire on busy job sites.  And if a repair or removal of tile is needed, it can be done without harming the wire.

    Keep in mind that RPM replaces the need for backer board.  When going over concrete, a cork thermal barrier before the installation of RPM is recommended, especially if the concrete does not have insulation under it.   Cork is installed with wood grade urethane and RPM is installed on top of the cork.  This makes for a more energy efficient floor because you are only heating the tile and not the entire slab.

    Custom and Pre-made Mats

    mat2

    Premade mats make installation pretty simple as the wire is spaced within the mat.  With custom mats,  you draw your room out to scale with location of thermostat, including any obstructions such as counters, heater vents, stove, etc.   We send this to the engineers, and once we receive the layout back, you sign off on it for approval.  Then about two week later, your mat arrives.  Premade mats are available in a wide variety of sizes if you don’t need a custom one.

    Mat should be secured to subfloor with 2-sided tape.  I will usually staple it as well, which helps keep the mat flat (NEVER STAPLE WIRE).  Run cold lead up conduit to thermostat.  In separate conduit, run another probe up to thermostat. I usually run two just in case.  At this point, if you are installing tile, you can apply thinset using a special plastic trowel made for floor warming wire.  This method can be a bit challenging, and I don’t recommend it for the DIY folks.

    If you are not using tile, or prefer to cover the wire prior to installation, you can use thin set, underlayment, or self-leveling underlayment.  A lot of professionals do this to make it easier for them to install tile.   Covering wire before installation of tile should only be attempted by people who are experienced with troweling and topping compounds.   Over concrete, you will need to install cork then using wood grade urethane before installing the mat.  This product can go directly over plywood, but I recommend backer board first for tile installations.  Installation of this product can be done by a very experienced do-it-yourselfer, but best installed by a professional.

    Wire + Gauge Strips

    gauge_straps

    For coated and uncoated wire installed with metal gauge over plywood and backer board, first step is nailing the gauge to the floor.  On concrete, we again recommend cork as insulation before installing the wire.  Use hot glue or double sided tape to attach the gauge to the cork or concrete.  Decide wire layout you want based on area you are warming or if using for primary source of heat.  Run the cold lead up the conduit to thermostat box.  String the wire based on spacing you have chosen.  Leave 5 to 6 inches of spacing between wire and wall.  Once you are done stringing the wire, take your probe, and using a separate conduit, run it up to thermostat box.  Place probe in between the wire without laying over the wire.  Install two so you have a backup.  Keeping foot traffic off the wire is very important until it is covered.  You should be very careful when walking on cable not to damage it.  Do not ever walk on metal gauge as you can pinch and damage the wire.

    Once the wire is down, you can set tile using plastic trowel and thinset, however I don’t recommend this since it is hard to get flat floor and wire can be damaged.  Ideally you would be pouring self-leveling cement to cover and protect the wire immediately after installation.  It also makes for a nice flat floor to install your tile on.  You may also use thin set or underlayment to cover wire if you are skilled at leveling cement mortar.

    At this point, you’re ready to tile and grout.  Connect thermostat, let cure, and you are ready to go.  The skill level for this product is professional level.  Coated wire must be used in wet area and is harder to damage the uncoated wire.  Uncoated wire is less expensive and a little easier to work with but it cannot be used in wet areas.

    Under Floor Heating Mats

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    Under Floor heating mats are very easy to install, but you must have clear access to joists.  Installation is very simple, as you just staple mat up to floor joist.   Connect mats at junction box and install insulation.  If you are able to install probe in floor, run up conduit to thermostat.  If you are not able to put probe in floor, you can use change thermostat to operate off of air temperature.  You may also use a GFI on/off switch.  If you do this, floor will operate at max temp.  12 to 15 degrees warmer than if you had a thermostat, depending on floor covering.  Under floor systems are relatively easy to install for a more experienced do-it-yourselfer, if you have access to the joist.

  • The Basics of Radiant Floor Heating

    Radiant floor heating is a popular method for heating living and commercial spaces.  It is commonly used in new construction as an alternative to forced-air systems, or in conjunction with them for certain rooms, especially bathrooms.  Outdoors, it is used in slab to melt snow on driveways, walkways and in porches and patios.  Today we’re going to be talking about electric in floor heating and discuss the advantages, disadvantages and installation concerns for each of the types.

    Slab Heat

    If you haven’t poured the slab yet, this is the best system.  The wire is placed within the concrete slab and the entire slab absorbs the heat and radiates it to the above floor.

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    Pre-Made Mats

    The simplest way to install electric floor heat is the pre-made electric mat.  The electric mat is a plastic lattice, similar to plastic fence material, with the heating wire woven into it.  These are stapled to sub-floor, then you mortar over it, allow the mortar to cure, then apply thinset and tile over it.  They are simple, quick to install and, and perform well.  Mats are available in many sizes, and voltages, but they are all sold in square and rectangular shapes, so if your room is irregular or uniquely shaped, there will be cold spots or there may be no way for a mat to fit at all.

    Some people choose to not float the floor and install the tile directly over the mats.  I find setting directly over wire or mat that has not had leveling cement installed over it to be very challenging. It’s much harder to lay the tile flat and without causing lippage.   Wire installed with gauging strips and pre-made mats do not offer any protection to wire.

    Custom Sized Mats

    Custom mats are a great way to get the advantages of mats without the concern of having dead spots in your floor.  Custom mats can be tailored to fit most size rooms, and have all the advantages of pre-made mats.  The primary concern with custom mats is that they cannot be returned and must be ordered with plenty of lead time.

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    Wire + RPM Mat

    For pro's or DIY, this is probably the best overall combination and my personal favorite.  The mat and wire can fit any size and shaped room leaving no dead spots. The RPM mat is used in place of backer board so your gain in height is limited.   The RPM has a matrix of evenly spaced knobs that hold and protect the wire.  Small rubber donuts secure the wire to the mat.

    RPM mats installation of wire, and they accommodate 2”, 2.5” and 3” spacing.  They allow the floor to be floated flat very easily as the knobs act as a screed for your mortar (we recommend our fast-setting MasterHeat Mix with RPM mats). If the tile needs to be replaced later, the RPM mats protect the wire making it less likely the heating system will be damaged during removal of a tile for repair or complete removal of tile.

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    Wire + Gauging Strips

    The traditional way of installing in floor wire is to use gauging strips.  These metal strips are placed along the perimeter and the wire is looped around them at the required spacing.  They are simple and affordable, but the wire is much less protected than with RPM mats so care must be made by those installing the heating system and tile not to damage the wire.  Uncoated wire installed with gauging strips is very cost-effective if you can ensure the wire will not be damaged by whoever installs the flooring.   Coated wire is more expensive, and can be installed in showers.

    That covers the basic choices for electric in floor heating.  In our next post, we’ll discuss the various ways to install these products in more detail.

  • Oscillating Tool Shootout - Fein, DeWalt and Makita

    Fein started it all with the MultiMaster; an oscillating hand tool that allows you to quickly cut, strip, scrape, sand, and just about anything else in areas that would be impossible to reach with standard tools.  These tools are really indispensable, and once you’ve owned one, you will always have one in your toolbox because they save so much time.  There are now a wide variety of brands available.   We are going to review 3 that we carry here at Master Wholesale, and that we use, or have used regularly.

    Fein Multimaster Start 250 Q

    Fein FMM 250 Q

    The original oscillating tool, you can tell when you pick it up it is the real deal.  It’s relatively heavy, but in a reassuring way.  I have personally used this particular tool for many years, on many projects, and it hasn’t had a single issue.  Everything about it is robust, including the 16 ½’,  power cord which is both flexible and durable.  There is no discernible flexing of the dense matte plastic housing during heavy use.  Despite oscillating at between 10,000 and almost 20,000 RPM, it doesn’t create excessive hand fatigue.  The weight of the tool, coupled with it’s precise balance and anti-vibration system, makes the MultiMaster surprisingly comfortable to use.  The blade change mechanism is top notch as well.  This tool has plenty of power, and you’ll find that when pushed, the material is going to be the thing smoking, and not the Fein.

    The Fein also has the largest selection, and highest quality blades, scrapers and sanding accessories available.  Overall, their status at the top is unchallenged, and they are priced accordingly.

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    Dewalt’s DWE315K

    After the Fein, the Dewalt’s DWE315K would be my second choice.  Like the Fein, it really feels solid in your hand.  Weight is similar, and it just feels very substantial.  It performs similarly to the Fein, but I prefer the Fein blades and accessories.  The wider speed range of the Dewalt does make a difference for detail sanding.  Lower motor speeds will heat the tool up as well, limiting lifespan.  This is probably why the Fein starts at 10,000, which does work pretty well for sanding.  The Dewalt adds some features that some may like, such as the LED, which does make working with the tool in dark recesses a bit nicer.  The variable speed trigger isn’t as useful as you would think.  I find it a bit more difficult to use because of that.  I prefer to set and go, regarding the speed.  The 10’ power cord is adequate.  The blade change mechanism is solid and very easy to use.  Overall, this is a nice tool, and at about $50 cheaper than the Fein, reasonably priced for what you get.

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    Makita TM3010CX1

    The Makita TM3010CX1 is another quality oscillating tool that gets the job done, but it lives in the Fein shadow as well.  It has plenty of power, but it not quite as well balanced as the Fein, which means a little more vibration and hand fatigue.  Overall, this tool is solid though.  The weak link is the accessories.  Like the Dewalt, you can use Fein attachments on the Makita, and I highly recommend doing just that.  The motor operates in a similar but larger range than the Fein, from 6,000 to 20,000 RPM.  Overall, the feature set of this tool is more spartan than the Dewalt.  No LED, no variable speed trigger.  The tool-less clamp system is simple and rugged.  Overall, this is a fine quality tool, performing close to the Fein and about on par with the Dewalt.  All three tools are professional grade, and will perform well for you, especially when used with the Fein attachments, which all 3 do.

  • Choosing the Right Grout Float

    Each type of grout has a specific consistency, and it is important to choose the appropriate float or it will be difficult to manipulate the grout.  Harder grout floats will scratch softer materials. You should choose the least abrasive grouts when working with softer stones and tiles, and use a float with a more flexible face.  Regarding scratching surfaces, I suggest avoiding metal back floats.  They have been around for a long time, but their reputation for scratching and marking tile and stone is well deserved.

    Barwalt UFF-1 Epoxy Grout FloatMWI Premium Epoxy Grout Float

    Epoxy Grout Floats - Barwalt UFF-1 and Master Wholesale (MWI) Premium Epoxy Float

    Epoxy grout has a thick, and sticky consistency.  It sets up fairly quickly, and is rather difficult to clean up.  You need a hard rubber float when spreading epoxy grout.  The rubber must also resist the epoxy or else it will gum up on the float.  The MWI Yellow Epoxy Float works great.  The hard rubber doesn’t stick to the epoxy, and the smaller size (4” x 9”) makes it much easier to control and push the thick epoxy into the joint.  The Barwalt UFF-1 float is another good epoxy float, but personally I don’t find that it fits my hand as well as the MWI float.  We carry others but these are my two favorites.

    MWI Premium Grout FloatBarwalt UWF-2 Grout Float

     

    Traditional Grout Floats - MWI Premium 4" x 9" float and Barwalt UWF-2

    For urethane grout, I prefer the same two floats as above, assuming the material is hard and does not scratch easily.  Urethane grout contains silica and recycled glass that can scratch softer tiles and stone.  With softer stone or any tile you suspect might scratch, it is always best to test on a corner or scrap piece first.

    The Barwalt UWF-2 and MWI Premium 4" x 9" floats are my personal favorites for conventional  sanded and unsanded grout.   Both have the appropriate rubber compound that allows you to easily get the ground into the joint without leaving haze or waste behind. Both of these floats will last for multiple jobs.  Honestly, between them, it really comes down to which handle you prefer.

    If you do a significant amount of grouting, you’ll want to pick up a margin trowel style grout float and maybe a toe-kick float. These make easy work of the hard to reach areas and you’ll be glad you have them in your grouting arsenal.

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