Frederick M. Hueston, PhD

I was sound asleep at 5 a.m. when my phone rang. I normally turn my phone off at night, but for some reason I forgot to silence it the night before. After all, in the stone business there is no such thing as an emergency… or so I thought. 

I answered in a voice groggy with my interrupted beauty sleep, to hear the voice on the other end crying hysterically. I could hardly understand what she was saying. All I could make out is that she was taking a shower and “the sky is falling.” I thought for sure I was dreaming but she went on. I calmed her down and she told me that she was in her shower and the tiles started falling down off the wall and the ceiling. One had hit her on the arm and cut her. My first thought was, Why is  she calling me and not headed to the ER?  I asked her if she was OK and suggested that perhaps she should go to the doctor. She said that this was the first time they had used their brand-new shower. She asked if I could come take a look at it right now. Geez. – It was 5 o’clock in the morning and I haven’t even had my first cup of joe!

I told her I could be there by eight. That way I figured I could get my butt up and get to my favorite greasy spoon for some breakfast.  I assured her I would be there as soon as possible. Well, to be honest, I could get there in about two hours. I rolled out of bed and headed to the shower.

I arrived at the diner where the same old crowd was all present and accounted for. The Admiral was telling his same old war stories. The quiet guy with the hat he refused to remove sat quietly in the corner booth reading the newspaper. An old lady was sitting at the counter asking Flo a million questions about the menu. I took my seat at the counter and Flo poured me a cup of joe and nodded good morning. I ordered my breakfast and couldn’t help but wonder why the tiles were falling off this lady’s shower. I thought I had a good idea. I finished my last sip of coffee and headed out the door to check out this “stone emergency.”

I pulled up to a modest Florida-style home. The garage door was open and there didn’t appear to be any cars parked there or in the driveway. I hoped someone was at home – or maybe I had the wrong house? I poured these old bones out of the Woody and headed to the front door. But I had no sooner gotten out of the car when a lady came running out with a robe on and her hand wrapped in a towel. There appeared to be a lot of blood on the towel. I introduced myself and asked if she needed to go the ER. She told me her husband left early this morning and she had no way to get there. Well I’m not a medical doctor, but I have had some first aid training  — not to mention I have been married to two nurses (not at the same time of course – LOL!). 

I carefully unwrapped the bloody towel and bandaged her hand, and again asked her if she wanted me to take her to the ER.  She said sure, but could I look at her shower first. I couldn’t believe it! This lady needed stitches and she was more worried about her marble shower than her arm. I said I would take a quick look.

Tiles with resin-coated back are a failure waiting to happen in vertical installations – just say no! Instead, use fiberglass-backed tiles for safety and peace of mind.

Tiles with resin-coated back are a failure waiting to happen in vertical installations – just say no! Instead, use fiberglass-backed tiles for safety and peace of mind.

I walked into the bathroom and noted several tiles on the shower floor. It was a tall shower – it went up about 15 feet to the ceiling. I picked up one of the tiles and flipped it over and knew right away why they fell off the wall and ceiling. The tile had a resin coated back — not a fiberglass back. The entire back of the tile was coated with a resin with some sand mixed in it. There was no thin set adhered to the back. Later, I would also discover that the wrong thin set was used!

I explained why the tiles fell and then insisted we go to the ER. On the drive to the ER all she could talk about was her shower. At least this day was starting off exciting. I pulled up to the ER entrance and asked if she needed a ride back home when the doc got done stitching her up. She said thanks, but no, she would call an Uber. Well, this case was another first for me in a couple of ways. I guess there really are “stone emergencies.”

By the way, my mother used to tell people I was a doctor, but not the kind that helps people – guess that’s not true, now. Mom would be proud!

The Stone Detective is a fictional character created by Dr. Frederick M. Hueston, PhD, written to be entertaining and educational. Dr. Fred has written over 33 books on stone and tile installations, fabrication and restoration and also serves as an expert for many legal cases across the world. Send your email comments to him at fhueston@stone