end of California Street in San Francisco, and it goes up into Lincoln Park. At the bottom
of the staircase there’s a school. It was parents from that school who wanted to
create a decorative tile staircase as part of their centennial celebration for the school.
i+s: How were the tiles installed to the original staircase?
AB: The staircase itself was built in 1916. It was an old concrete staircase. So the
tiles are adhered and set onto that substrate. [We used Schluter-] Ditra, a system for
crack suppression that adheres to the back. So you have the concrete, the Ditra,
then the tiles are thinsetted to the Ditra.
Because it’s such an old staircase, each flight was slightly off from the last.
Once the art tiles were applied, then the flat tiles were put around it. And all of
that color was made by Fireclay, which is a tile company in the area—in San Jose.
And that was all made to order.
i+s: Why did you go with Fireclay?
AB: They do a lot of recycling, and their colors really fit the types of colors I was
using in my art tile. So the two products really fit each other. And because they’re
local. It’s nice to use local companies.
i+s: Were they the only other tile company you used?
AB: No. On the pillars, the art tiles are in the central part of it, then I used Heath
Tile to fill around them. Heath Tile is another local company in Sausalito. They have
a huge collection, so I would go there and find the colors I wanted. I collected
them over the course of six months since we had a limited budget.
i+s: Had you used these companies before?
AB: It was the first time I had used Fireclay. I have used Heath Ceramics before
for another tile stairs project. The first one that I did was on 16th Avenue in San
i+s: Was there any difficulty in using two different companies and being
able to match the colors?
AB: No, because my pallet was quite limited. It worked really well together.
i+s: What were some of the issues you came across?
AB: Since we were using an original staircase that was built in the 1900s, there
was nosing that had to be sawed off the whole way across. Because the tiles are
adhered to the riser part—the upright part of the stair—when we had to saw off all
that nosing, in some areas that substrate wasn’t completely flat. So they had to be
flattened out. The installation took longer than expected because of those kinds of
problems. And then there was cracking on the concrete as well, which is why we
ended up using the Ditra.