In this edition, we sat down with Tom Habelt, owner of Habelt Custom Tile LLC in Albany, OR.
TILE: How did you first get involved in the tile industry? Please explain a little bit more about yourself.
Habelt: I have been involved in construction since 2005. My first job was with a roofing company. I worked there for two years until I figured out that I didn’t want to be a roofer for the rest of my life. I got a job with a contractor that did all phases of construction and started to learn how to tile in 2007. I worked for him up until 2011 when I started my own company.
TILE: Are you a company owner? If so, what were some reasons for starting your own business?
Habelt: It has always been a goal of mine to be self-employed. I am very driven and love what I do. My company is called Habelt Custom Tile. I’m 37 years old and have four beautiful kids. Starting my own company has been the best thing for my kids and me. It is also very rewarding to complete jobs for customers and see the smile on their faces when I am done. When I first started tile, I really didn’t know much. I am basically self-taught. I remember my first tile job. I was given a wet saw and was told to tile a kitchen floor. I have definitely come a long way since then.
TILE: Has the tile industry changed much since you first started? If so, in what ways?
Habelt: The industry has changed since I’ve been in it. There are newer, more efficient products to use these days. I go to trade shows and training events to better my knowledge and learn industry practices. One accomplishment that I have completed is becoming a Certified Tile Installer through the CTEF. I’m CTI 1359. Since then, I have been able to keep learning and pushing myself.
TILE: Is there a particular job you’ve completed that stands out? Why?
Habelt: I have been able to do some amazing installs over the years. One install I was able to do was for a fraternity. I worked with unique mosaics and we installed a beautiful mosaic of their crest on the shower wall. I have done some amazing pebble scribe work and just recently completed a showcase backsplash using three different-colored tiles from fire clay to make the kitchen flow beautifully.
TILE: What are some common issues you have to deal with on the jobsite? How do you overcome them?
Habelt: There are always challenges and issues that come up when on jobs and it takes perseverance to overcome. A major issue that I deal with is schedules. We all work around other trades and work for contractors as subs, so communication is the most common issue for me. Plumbing needs to be done. On new builds, I like sheet rock painting, and I live in Oregon where it rains so the house needs to be dry and heated. Communicating and scheduling are the most common issues that I deal with.
TILE: What are some steps you take to educate your customers about their tile installation before you begin?
Habelt: When I meet customers for the first time and talk about their project, I see what they are looking for. I get an idea of what their budget is and get a feel of the design and vision they want. I explain my process for the entire job and the materials and products I use. I talk to them about proper tile instillation and give them as much information as I can before I leave. This helps them gain knowledge of products and how their job should be installed before they make a decision on any estimate. I am not the cheapest tile guy and it’s good to inform them why. Using top-quality products and industry standard techniques will be more expensive, but in the end will be a product that will last.
TILE: If you could lend any advice to professionals just beginning their careers, what would it be?
Habelt: If I can lend any advice for any professional that is just starting, it is to remain teachable. We are always learning. Go to industry training events. Attend conventions and make connections with other tile contractors. Don’t take on more than you can handle and have fun! Tile isn’t just a job, it’s a passion.
Fun facts about me: I’m an amazing single dad. I love to cook. I actually have a cooking group on Facebook called ‘Dads Dinners.’ I love to go on trips and my favorite outdoor activity is hiking.