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Consummate Craftsman

28/01/2015 11:28

Jimmy Reed has worked with tile since he was a pre-teen helping his neighbor. Now, as the president of Rock Solid Tile in suburban Los Angeles, he has truly made his mark by installing glass tile in pools and spas, known to be one of the most difficult uses for the material.

Here, we showcase three projects that have benefited from Reed’s meticulous touch.

Beautiful in bronze

The bronze glass mosaic was chosen to complement the client’s Mediterranean style home.

“The tile really lends itself to that type of architecture, because it’s got a rustic feel, but it also has a nice finishing touch as well,” Reed says.

The material also enhances the aquascape, by American Heritage Landscape in Canoga Park, Calif.

Metallic-tinged tiles make the perimeter-overflow spa and large spillway waterfeature all the more striking by reflecting the sun. But to properly install these crisp features required extra care. 

“We use a combination of laser levels and spirit levels, and we constantly check and recheck as we go,” Reed says. The crews check first with a laser level, mark it, then double check with the spirit level. Not only does this make sure that each measurement is accurate, but this process also uses one tool to check the other, thus  confirming that neither has been knocked out of alignment.

After the pool and spa were completed and the water running, Reed went back onsite to ascertain that the edge of every tile was level. “If there are any slight little corners that are sticking up and interrupting the even, reflective flow of the water, then we can adjust them [by] wet sanding with glass sandpaper, and then polishing them,” Reed says.

To make the spa more comfortable for users, Reed decided to alter its contours. He and his crews rounded out the transitions from wall to coping, and from bench to foot well. “All those radiuses were exaggerated and soft — they were very big radiuses, as opposed to a 2- or 3-inch radius,” Reed says.

When setting the float to create these contours, Reed carefully calculated the size of the rounded areas so that only full tiles would be needed. Crews began setting the tile from the top, worked their way down and finished with a full tile at the bottom of the wall. “The key to a successful installation, regardless of the difficulty, is proper planning, meaning always thinking at least one step ahead in regard to surfaces being flat, plumb, level, and measuring out transitions in relation to the tile grid measurements,” Reed says.

When installed over a radius, mosaic tiles want to spread apart as they wrap around the curve. To combat this, Reed and his crews had to gently push the mosaic pieces together, so the spacing would remain consistent between the flat planes and radiused areas. “If you just lay the sheet over that radius, then on that curve, the grout joints will be open wider,” he says.

The pool itself has a step that features a wavy outline across part of it. Reed’s crews created that shape using a template during the float stage. To make the pieces of mosaic conform to this pattern, crews cut the sheets of tile into strips, then snipped part of the paper between individual tiles so that the row could be maneuvered around the contours. On the straight part of the step, Reed was able to plan so that only full tiles were set. On the curved section, crews installed from the front of the step to the back, so if any cuts were necessary they occurred in a discrete area.

Tropical clean

This backyard renovation, designed by Collin Sainty, currently of Durie Design in Mona Vale, NSW, Australia and Los Angeles, was set in a lush space with low light. To help brighten the area and blend together the tropical theme, the designer chose this aqua/green tile blend. “They wanted something that would pop a little more,” Reed says.

The original pool was a deep, basic rectangle built in the 1950s, and for this project, Reed also designed the interior to include full-width stairs and a bench running around the entire perimeter.

“[We wanted] to make the pool look a lot more inviting and usable,” he says. “Now, instead of just a giant pool with a bunch of water in it, you have a party pool with all the benches and steps [that] relates to the patios and lounges in the environment.”

This change also served a second purpose. The team wanted to make the 10-foot-deep pool more shallow, and Reed also believed the vessel should be squared off as much as possible, eliminating the coved transitions from wall to floor, with the exception of the deep end, to create a better aesthetic match with the surroundings. Building the benches out approximately 20 inches from the wall and bringing the floor up 2-1/2 feet made it easy to then square the meeting of those two planes.

In designing the benches, Reed measured them out so that all whole tiles could fit in the pool. “You can see there are zero cuts,” he says.

In the stars

While the pool shape is fairly basic, the intricate mosaic interior turns it into a piece of art.

The client wanted the pool to have an astrological theme, with the sun, moon and stars, as well as clouds and his children’s zodiac signs. Additionally, the homeowner wanted the color blend to be laid down in a gradient format, so it gets darker the deeper it goes into the pool.

Reed set the tile so that each 12-by-12 sheet was slightly darker than the next. The blends were numbered, with No. 1 being the lightest. “So we know that, as we’re going around the pool, we’re using No. 1 on the entire perimeter of the pool at the top. Then our next tile down is No. 2 going horizontally around.”

In most of the pool, they could move around the perimeter, installing one blend at one level, then moving to the next darkest blend as they moved down one sheet at a time. In some areas, though, they had to install from top to bottom so they could see what blend they ended up with on the floor.

This created something of a logistical problem on the floor: The 3-foot-deep wall in the shallow end finished with a significantly lighter tile blend than did the bottom of the 8-foot wall on the deep end. Reed needed to somehow meet the two different blends on the bottom of the pool. He did this by using the lighter tile to form a cloud pattern in the shallow end. The darker blend then made up the sky, giving the perfect background for the sun, moon and stars. Tiles were individually cut to create the pattern.

The silver lining defining the shape of the clouds was designed with white gold mosaic tiles, set individually. The moon was created with the same material, while the sun was comprised of yellow gold tile.

Because the square tiles had to wrap around the curved contours of the freeform pools, they couldn’t be set in a grid. Instead, crews set the tiles to create level, continuous horizontal lines, but offset them.

“We ended up cutting each sheet into strips and, in our installation, manipulating them laterally in order to get a good, nice, smooth installation throughout the pool,” Reed says. “So all our horizontal lines are level, but our vertical lines are all randomly offset.”

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