I’ll get right to the point: Stabila R-Beam levels are by far the best levels I’ve ever used as a tile and masonry contractor. I have been using them for three months and now I can’t imagine not having them. They are actually fun to use! Here’s why:
1. These new levels are super comfortable to work with because of the form and contour of the grip, and because they’re so smooth. Tile installers and masons love them because we use cement and water all of the time; we’re always wiping our levels down with sponges. These levels are easy to clean, and the continuous grip allows an installer to use one hand instead of having to use two hands.
2. I love the two very thin edges on the backside of the level. We do dirty things with our levels. We set them in thinset and mastic, and they become coated with bonding agents. Any texture on the level makes it difficult to clean them.
|And if you don’t clean them right away, it’s impossible to get the stuff out of the cracks and crannies, which leaves levels looking pretty dismal, and in time affects the accuracy of the level. The thin edges on R-Beam levels are easy to clean.|
|3. R-Beam levels have a new recessed vial design, so the bubble vials also stay much cleaner.|
4. Because the bottom edges aren’t rounded or eased, it’s much easier to strike a sharp, accurate pencil line—which I do all the time for laying out tile on walls and floors.
5. That same crisp edge is absolutely fantastic when I use a utility knife to make a cut on drywall or cement board—the blade actually follows the edge without trying to duck under it.
6. I like the new end-cap design, too, because they’re the same thickness and shape as the level—there’s no step at the edge or end of the levels, so it’s much easier to carry a straight line right into a corner.
|Sure, sometimes the end-caps still get in the way, but they also seem softer and easier to remove and replace than other levels.|
7. Now this next part is really big in my business: R-Beam levels are the very best for working with a mortar base, like the cement in a bottom of a shower pan. And when screeding a large floor, the R-Beam’s shape and contour cut the time and effort in half—between the continuous grip and the sharper edge, working mud with an R-Beam level is like running a snow plow through powder.
8. The placement of the level vial on the 4-ft. level is brilliant. Everyone I show it to is impressed because it just makes so much sense.
9. And there are other advantages to these new levels that we are just beginning to discover. For example, if you ever have to cut a piece of 1-in. or 2-in. PVC pipe—you know how pipe tries to roll away from a saw—just set an R-Beam level on the floor or across a bucket and rest the pipe in the curve of the level. That pipe won’t go anywhere!
I’m sure professionals will come up with more ways to use and enjoy R-Beam levels.
• • •
Being the oldest boy of seven in a family of ten kids, Tom started helping his father install tile at the age of ten on weekends and in the summer. Not only did this help his father to have an extra hand, it also helped his mom to have one less kid in the house.
Years ago, when one became a tile apprentice, they had to grout, clean, and cut tiles for the first three or four years. Tom was a full-fledged tile installer by the age of nineteen.
In 1991, Tom started writing articles for Fine Homebuilding. Tom and his wife, Lane, co-authored Working with Tile, which was published by the Taunton Press, and from time to time Tom speaks around the country at major tile and building shows.
Tom and Lane own a two-story tile store called Cape Cod Tileworks in Harwich, MA. They live in Harwich with their four boys who are active in all sports, including boating, sailing, and fishing on the Cape. In the winter, you can find the whole family snowboarding (and sometimes skiing) most weekends at their winter home in Maine. Tom also prides himself on the fact that he golfs with a mixed bag of lefty and righty golf clubs, but he still has a handicap of 25. It’s just about having fun!
Tom credits his success to his father, Don, who taught him the “old world way” of installing tile, which almost doesn’t exist today. The combination of that old world way and modern day technology have allowed for Tom to find solutions to most problems, creating different methods that make his work exciting almost every day.