add-on orders—and how to avoid them

by clé tile | published: Mar 24, 2022

you’d think that adding on to a tile order is straightforward (well, as straightforward as any step in a design project can be.)

sadly, it’s not. in fact, “add-on orders” are the three most dreaded words in tile projects.

bottom line: when you’re dealing with handcrafted tile, there’s a very good chance that your add-on order will not match the tile you originally ordered, and that leads to disappointment, hassle, and cost.

in addition to the disappointment of not getting what you wanted—or worse, having to start over from the beginning (more on why this is, below)—there’s a hassle factor due to time: the inevitable delay as you re-order. there is also a chance that we may not have inventory to fulfill even a small add-on order. this can push out construction schedules—which of course, costs more money.

also driving up potential cost: shipping small add-on orders is also very expensive, as all our tile ships on palletized freight.

and finally, tile prices can increase since your original purchase—tile could also become discontinued.

but it doesn’t have to be this way.

here’s a little more background on why this happens, and how to avoid the dreaded add-on order to begin with.

what can happen with add-on orders: installations that aren’t as cohesive as they should be

so why can’t it be easy?

the reason is inherent in what we love about handcrafted tile: its natural variation, its character, and its uniqueness.

we’re often asked why an add-on order can’t just be from the same “lot” from the tile originally ordered…but with tile – unlike fabric—there are no dye lots.

handcrafted tile gets its unique character from that miraculous alchemy between material (natural clay), glaze (which is composed of minerals), and the heat of the kiln (which can vary by the day, and can have hot and cold spots–just like your home oven). through this process, a piece of clay is transformed into a completely different material—not just dyed or painted according to a standard formula.

add to that the fact that artisan tile is made in small batches. again, due to the alchemy of fire, minerals, and earth, each batch will have a different color, texture, shape, size, and thickness from the last. this is why add-on orders will rarely be consistent.

while we set standards for each tile, the difference can—to some—feel drastic.

a more cohesively blended installation that takes advantage of variation

avoiding it to begin with

1. plan your design carefully. we love being in the moment and embracing serendipity…but when it comes to tile projects, it can cost you.

let’s say, for example, you decide during installation that you want to take the tile that was originally going to end at the bottom of the hood and run it all the way to the ceiling. it’s not as simple as ordering another box or two of tile: you’re very likely to run into variation problems.

if you think there’s even a chance of this—order more tile than you think you need. and if you don’t use it in one installation, you’ll likely find another place for it.

2. measure carefully, again. ideally, have your contractor do it. this is the most important part of your tile journey after finalizing your design: your contractors should not only be seasoned artisan tile contractors, they are responsible for supplying you with correct quantities to order. every contractor has their own methods of installing, and this will determine the correct quantities. this is essential to avoiding an “add-on order”.

3. be aware of grout minimums. keep in mind grout minimums (found on each product page). our square footage calculations are based on those minimums. if you want a thinner grout line than we recommend, simply order more tile (but check with your installer.)

4. always add overage… when you order from clé, you’ll see that we factor in a minimum overage of 15% due to tile cuts, breakage, and to cover future repairs.…

but keep in mind that 15% is a minimum. if you’re looking for a more uniform look (or want fewer pits and chips in the case of zellige) order more tile (we recommend 20-30%) so you can hand-select the tile to make sure you’re able to get the look you’re after. obviously, it does add to cost.

if you aren’t comfortable with a 20-30% overage, we recommend choosing a tile with less inherent variation–but note that even our classic subway tile can have some variation too.

some products–particularly in our heritage collection–have significant variation, like this antique terracotta, which will only vary more so between batches.

design: sarah ruth interiors / photo: theresa wooner photography)

5. double-check your order before you hit buy. you can only make adjustments for 3 hours after you submit your order.

remember: installation deems acceptance. before installing your tile, lay it all out and blend from all boxes making sure you have enough for your project to go forward.

if a contractor hasn’t, upon receiving your shipment, unpacked all your tiles to blend them and insure his quantities are correct, then you may be looking at a future with the worst type of all tile orders… the add-on order.

shower installation with intentional embrace of variation, design by general assembly for assembly line. photography by sean davidson

when all else fails—turn lemons into limoncello: let’s say you’ve added onto your order—and there’s some variation, perhaps more than you’re initially excited about.

the secret: blend, blend, blend. it’s a pre-requisite for any installation and can usually help to smooth out the visual effect of the variation.

or perhaps this is a chance to embrace the variation? in fact, a few of our design professional clients have turned variation into a feature by grouping darker (or lighter) tiles together or by interspersing them throughout their installation in a rhythmic pattern that’s both bold and modern.

like many things in life, do it with conviction, make it look intentional, and watch the compliments roll in. it may not have been your original design vision—it might even be better!

if you have concerns or questions about how much to order, we’re here to help.