Each day, thousands of tile contractors set out to bring a kitchen or bath to life. The contractor sets the tile with precision and puts his reputation on the line. As a craftsman, he has confidence in the job and takes pride in his work, knowing that the homeowner will admire the beauty. But the true craftsman also knows that the homeowner won't see one of the most important aspects of the tile job, the materials that lie beneath the surface and protect the contractor's reputation.

Installing the right underlayment behind or below ceramic tile can prevent unattractive broken tiles, swollen walls and spongy floors. According to Brian Coppola, owner of BC Services Home Improvement in Orange County, California, selecting the right tile underlayment for installation is a simple process. "I use Hardibacker® on every job." says Brian. "I started using Hardibacker because I wanted a cement board that was easy to use and wasn't messy or abrasive." Brian continued, "I wouldn't trust my reputation in the hands of a lesser board. After I finish a job, I can walk away knowing that my work and reputation is protected by Hardibacker." John Dufeif, a Baltimore-area custom-home builder and remodeler shares similar feelings. "Use the best quality materials," advises Dufeif. "What's behind the tile," he says, "is just as important as the tile itself."

Hardibacker fiber-cement underlayment from James Hardie Building Products is the #1 Quality Rated underlayment according to Builder Magazine. From the 1/4" thick Hardibacker EZ Grid™ underlayment for floors to the 1/2" thick Hardibacker 500® backerboard with G2 Technology™ for walls, James Hardie produces the world's most advanced fiber-cement products that continue to gain the confidence of builders and contractors across North America. "I feel it's superior to any other product on the market," Dufeif says of Hardibacker, praising it for its water resistance, strength and durability.

So what should contractors stay away from? Ed Bielecki, a tile contractor and master plumber from Baltimore warns not to "line walls and floors with products that can become saturated with water, a recipe for disaster. The main component of drywall, gypsum, will eventually succumb to water saturation. Even more highly treated gypsum products can succumb to this."

With competing products on the market, it can be difficult to determine which products are trustworthier than others. One recommendation for selecting the right underlayment or backerboard is to confirm that the product is recognized as a Code compliant building material by an independent evaluation agency such as the National Evaluation Service. Bryan Walters, Product Manager at James Hardie, explains, "Every building code has a section that indicates what materials should be used for a building project. These materials must meet standards established by the American National Standards Institute [ANSI] and the American Society for Testing and Materials [ASTM]. James Hardie underlayment and backerboard products meet these requirements. And James Hardie references the Code Compliance Reports that recognize its products as complying with Building Code requirements. James Hardie and other reputable manufacturers have spent a significant amount of time and money testing their products and reporting these results to independent evaluation services. I would be wary of purchasing and using a manufacturer's product that isn't recognized as Code Compliant and that doesn't list specific compliance with applicable ANSI and ASTM Standards in their Code Compliance Reports and supporting literature."