“One of the primary functions of our team is to ensure that our customers can make good, long-term decisions,” says Neville Colbert, Managing Director of Tile Warehouse. “The New Zealand building industry has a tendency to think quite short-term; a 10-year lifespan is not what you want for flooring. The longevity offered by tile gives you the best lifecycle costing of any flooring product in the world at about $4 per square metre per year, about half the cost of most alternatives.”
Since founding Tile Warehouse in 1989, Neville has grown the business from a single site with 2 employees into the nation’s leading tile importer and retailer with more than 30 stores across New Zealand. “We’re 100% Kiwi owned and we now have more than 100 staff and a dealer network throughout the country. In addition to supporting end customers with a range of design and selection tools, both online and in-store, we also have 13 commercial staff dedicated to working specifically with architects, designers, volume builders and construction companies. This enables us to support every major architectural practice and volume builder in the country.
“What I’ve found over the years is that many don’t understand the difference between tile types. I’m always telling people that not all tile or flooring is created equal. This is the most heavily hammered part of your home, after all, so it’s really important to get the package just right. We make that possible with a team of specialists. Our approach is unique in that we’re continually training our people in colour, design and technical skills; the value of that approach definitely shows in the customer feedback.”
With a truly staggering array of top-end flooring options and the ability to import pretty much anything else a client needs, Tile Warehouse is able to service a huge range of projects, Neville says. “We stock about 1,000 lines, but we can also get anything any architect wants from anywhere, and we’re not just limited to tile. We also provide stone and selected overlay flooring that meets our ethical flooring standards. At every level – whether that’s residential, commercial or group builders – we’re ready with the knowledge that our customers deserve. It’s all about understanding what their needs are, staying on top of global trends and providing interior design and installation expertise to help them deliver their vision.”
The team is currently working hard on an updated Design Collection Brochure featuring a number of new product additions, Neville says. “The challenge is how to find enough space in our warehouse to store them all! Some of the things we’re seeing a lot of at the moment are big-sheet porcelain for use in cladding, coordinated marble, warm and terracotta colouring, and timber looks and wall options with scratched and floral designs, and different textural finishes.” The overall focus, he says, is creating full-home flooring solutions. “Tile is the only product that you can use in every room of the house, both inside and outside. We see more and more architects seeking continuity of finish and simplification, accented with other surface textures. This is what we’re looking at with our design: metre by metre and 600x1200 products which have indoor and outdoor finishes. This allows architects to get in front of their customers early and present whole-build solutions that set occupants up with products which will truly outlast us all. Additionally, we have invested more in timber plank porcelain that looks like timber but does not require the maintenance or have the issues with water.
"We’re already by far the biggest tile importer in the country and I think we’re really delivering on both products and service. Internally, we’re transitioning our distribution centres into electric transport, moving toward 0 emissions and planting trees to offset the carbon emissions from our sea freight. We’re listening to our customers as, more and more, they’re asking for environmentally responsible alternatives to existing products elsewhere in the market. A lot of people might not realise that all nylon and synthetic carpets and LVT and sheet vinyl are PVC/ petroleum based. These products create significant emissions in their production processes and post installation in the form of VOCs. They are also flammable and lack longevity and reusability. So there’s this continual churn of having to make and reinstall products that will never biodegrade."
Queen Street Apartments
One of the most important longevity considerations, Neville says, is waterproofing. “The most important thing we can do as an organisation is to give people surety for the long term. We’ve seen some selective interpretations of the new E3/AS1 code which ignore the E3/AS2 part of the code that requires waterproofing, an approach which is inherently short-sighted. We can’t let the push toward affordable housing in New Zealand see builds compromising durability and longevity for short-term sales. In the long term, this will cost significantly more, compromise the core requirements of the building code for warm, dry spaces, and impact peoples’ wellbeing.”
Product quality is something that Neville and his team take great pride in. That commitment, he says, has helped Tile Warehouse build strong relationships throughout the industry. “They know we warrant our products for performance and support our partners to be successful. We ensure that all the manufacturers we deal with are of the best quality and that we are only purchasing first quality products from them. If you cut corners by not firing your porcelain at a full 1300 degrees, for instance, you compromise on the water absorption of that product and we won’t buy it.”
Tile Warehouse’s commercial arm has worked on creative solutions for a number of high-profile projects including flooring for Auckland Airport and, more recently, Westfield’s Newmarket Shopping Centre. “The Airport had a lot of vibration considerations, so we had to work with a flexible adhesive which would absorb the vibration of planes landing. That was back in 2007-2008 and, honestly, they’d have to jack-hammer that floor if they ever want to take it up. That’s how durable it is... We have a whole raft of commercial installers that we work with, some of whom helped to put all the marble into Newmarket and supported them every step of the install. We check in throughout installation as a matter of course, particularly with marble because it has colour variance, so we rely heavily on our network of installers throughout the country.”
Neville is heartened by the success of his team, and their ability to put together the right solutions and products for each project’s unique needs. “We have people who have been here up to 30 years because they enjoy the environment and what we’re creating together. This morning, I got a call at 7am from our Wellington Commercial Manager to say that the architect from one of their projects had changed their sizing requirement, asking if we now could find that very specific product in a different size. The team picked it up with a creative solution straight-away and I didn’t even have to think about it. Training our people up and seeing them fly like that makes me feel really proud.”
Looking ahead, Tile Warehouse will soon be updating their online selector tool for retail customers, as well as releasing the updated Design Collection Brochure. Beyond that, Neville is looking to the future of the industry and how he can do his part to make New Zealand building more sustainable. “We’re already by far the biggest tile importer in the country and I think we’re really delivering on both products and service. Internally, we’re transitioning our distribution centres into electric transport and moving toward 0 emissions. And we’re listening to our customers as, more and more, they’re asking for environmentally responsible alternatives to existing products elsewhere in the market. A lot of people might not realise that all nylon and synthetic carpets and LVT and sheet vinyl are PVC/ petroleum based. These products create significant emissions in their production processes and post installation in the form of VOCs. They are also flammable and lack longevity and reusability. So there’s this continual churn of having to make and reinstall products that will never biodegrade.
“What I like about tile is that it’s basically just clay and glass glaze which, when it’s reached its lifespan, you can crush up and toss in landfill to become part of the soil again. As an industry, we need to be thinking more about our source materials and their full lifecycle. I’d like to challenge architects to think more about longevity, Raw material origins , Environmental impact and easy of liveability and not having to resurface our spaces for a very long time.”
To learn more, visit Tile Warehouse at https://www.tilewarehouse.co.nz/ and connect directly with the local team in your area.
New Plymouth Airport