Professional Builder’s Kieran Nee goes to Colchester to visit a tiler hoping his new invention, the Tile Trix, will ride a wave of success into every tiler’s toolbox.
A tiler of some 17 years, Gregg Flanegan is on a mission to put an end to UK tilers’ stress during the tiling process by eliminating tiling snags caused by tile spacers. Gregg has designed the Tile Spacer Punch, launched under the brand Tile Trix. Rather like a nail punch, it is designed to push tile spacers to the required depth to allow the grout to successfully bond over them. This might sound like something you can easily do with your thumb but, as Gregg explains, it’s not as easy as that.
“As you tile up the wall, the tiles get heavier and heavier, putting more pressure on tile spacers, causing them to move in the joint. Usually people put their spacers in with their thumb or any tool they have to hand, but what happens is they twist in the joint,” Gregg explains, “because you are not applying even pressure to the spacer arms. As the tiles get heavier the spacer gets jammed or moves slightly.
“You try and push it further in or leave it till the adhesive has set, you then try and remove or push the twisted spacers in with, say, a screwdriver. A slip of a hand or nicking a tile edge during the removal causes damage, which can end up costing you in materials and time wasted in replacement. The Tile Trix Spacer Punch is designed with a wedge effect and shaped like a spacer, which ensures no twisting or chipping.
There is often a particular incident that leads to a lightbulb moment for a budding inventor. For the part time surfer-cum-tiler Gregg, this moment came eight years ago, which he describes: “I’d finished the whole bathroom off that I was working on and was just pushing in the spacers or removing where possible the slightly proud ones.
It was all going smoothly until I got one that was too tight and I ended up chipping the tile. Of course, then you have to deal with the removal and damage to the plasterboard substrate. I ended up chipping the adjacent tile too, during removal and all in all I spent two hours putting it right when I could have been at home with my wife Suzanne or at the pub! That’s when I thought ‘there has to be a better way’.”
And what was the reaction from said wife when he returned that evening with the new idea? “She’s been a great help to be honest. She helps out with a lot of the admin side of things, also she checks my letters over and makes sure all the Ts and Is are crossed and dotted. I get a lot of telling off in that regard! However I think my wife would probably murder me if I came home wanting to start the whole process again with a new tool. Don’t even think about it jokingly she warns me, which is fair enough.”
Has the process been a long one then? “Well, persistence is the key to success, I believe if you believe in something you have to see it through. It’s been over seven years now since we started the process and to be honest, most of that time has been consumed by paperwork rather than manufacturing. Simply getting the tool protected and patented has been such a huge cost in terms of funding and time – lawyers, designers, patent fees, everything adds up.”
In this age of social media, trade magazines and trade shows, getting feedback on the fruits of your labour, for better or worse, has never been easier. Luckily it would appear that tradesmen, so often stuck in their ways, are willing to make space in their bags for the humble spacer punch. “We’ve had some reviews and feedback on Facebook and Ebay since putting it out there,” Gregg tells me. “One reviewer told me it’s not only earned a place in his tool box, but now sits permanently in his pocket while tiling. For a tradesman, that’s pretty much the ultimate thumbs up!”
For more information on Tile Trix click here.