May 2012 Feature Story – MAPEI Corporation







The Western Heritage Parking Garage sits between the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History on its south side and the Fort Worth Community Arts Center on the north, opposite the Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum. The parking garage serves the Cultural District of the famed Texas “Cowtown.” Like all Texan efforts, the four mosaic tile murals inset in the exterior façade of the garage are fascinating and big – 33’  high and 9’ wide. Two more murals that set off the entrance and exit to the parking garage are 3’ high by 17’ and 15’7” inches wide, respectively.

Last spring the Arts Council of Fort Worth and Tarrant County selected the proposal from famed mosaic artist Mike Mandel (Watertown, Mass./ as their choice for an artistic tile installation in this very public place. Mandel won a Spectrum Grand Prize Award for his mosaic murals at the Charlotte Convention Center in 2005 and at Skyview High School, Vancouver, Wa., in 2000.


Mike’s proposal included western-themed subjects rendered photo-realistically in 1”x1” porcelain and glass tiles for the four insets and 1/2”x1/2” porcelain and glass tiles for the two entrance/exit murals. All of the tiles are square, so no hand-cut tiles were employed since individual square tiles are used like pixels to make up the mosaic. The vertical murals show a cowgirl, a cowboy, a Hispanic singer, and a rodeo bull rider. The horizontal murals depict the Fort Worth Stock Show and the African American heritage in rodeo history. 

Once Mandel fabricated the mosaic tiles into a photographic-style image laid out on 1’x2’ tape-faced panels (1’x1’ for the horizontal murals), he relied on the tile installation team from Collins Tile in Lubbock, Texas, to mount the murals into the façade of the garage.

“We had to deal with all the typical issues involved with installing on an exterior façade,” Mandel said. “The murals had to be designed to withstand movement that occurs due to temperature changes experienced from night to day and from season to season. We had to be sure we had an installation system that would give us 100% coverage for the tile panels, and we had to make certain the tiles didn’t slip on the vertical surface.”

Mandel’s solution for these challenges was one he has been employing for years. “We only install with MAPEI’s Kerabond/Keralastic mortar system, and we grout with Ultracolor grout,” he said. “And we always follow the TCNA Handbook’s methods for the installation of tile and stone.”

The vertical inset walls were prepared by the general
contractor with a cleavage membrane and lath-and-plaster system as recommended in TCNA Method W-201. The inset was 2” deep before tile application. The plaster work complies with 1/8” per 10’-0” tolerance for the vertical surfaces.

Installers from Collins Tile prepared the entrance/exit walls for direct application onto brick, using TCNA Method W-202. The depth before tile application on these walls was 3/4” with brick surround.

A fear of heights would have been a serious problem on this project. The bottom of the inset murals began 25’ above the ground. Cranes and lifts raised the installers up as high as 58’ in the air at the top of their work. But the Collins crew was fearless. Once the tile panels were set according to a numerical grid arrangement using Kerabond/Keralastic, the team grouted the joints with Ultracolor Plus grout. Mandel chose to use a black grout throughout the project. When the murals were complete, they were covered with a sealer to protect against weathering.

The art murals were so well received that Mandel and the tile installation crew will be back in Fort Worth this spring to install an additional seven murals on the new Equestrian Multi-Purpose Facility at the Will Rogers Memorial Center. Established in Fort Worth in 1936 to house events near downtown and in the Cultural District, the center attracts in excess of two million visitors each year.

CASE STUDY – Tile Labyrinth

Tile labyrinth provides interaction and learning at historic L.A. school

Black basalt stone, installed with custom-designed French encaustic tiles, provide canvas for schoolchildren’s expression

In 2006, the Ambassador Hotel – site of both the famed Cocoanut Grove nightclub and the 1968 assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy – was razed to make room for a new set of six pilot schools to be known as the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools.  The namesake schools now feature a marble memorial depicting the late Senator Kennedy, a manicured public park, and a state-of-the-art swimming pool, and include the Ambassador School of Global Education, Ambassador School of Global Leadership, NOW Academy, UCLA-CS, School for the Visual Arts and Humanities and Los Angeles High School of the Arts.

The schools, which occupy 24 acres, are intended to serve the Pico-Union and Koreatown neighborhoods, with a robust and personalized program that embodies the social justice legacy of the late Senator Kennedy. Four thousand students in grades kindergarten through 12 will be served in this 2011-2012 school year.

Artist Lynn Goodpasture ( was commissioned by Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD)  to develop an original public artwork for the new schools. She designed the 690 square-foot hexagonal labyrinth as a remembrance of the landmark hotel. The labyrinth, is titled Keeley’s Garden, Labyrinth 1, after Goodpasture’s daughter, who grew up in and around her mom’s studio. The labyrinth is paved with custom-designed French encaustic tiles, derived from the classic decorative motifs found throughout the Ambassador.

The labyrinth is a symbolic archetype that has fascinated people for thousands of years. Petroglyphs and artifacts inscribed with labyrinths that were discovered in Egypt, Greece, and Europe are thought to date from the late Neolithic or Early Bronze Age.

Keeley’s Garden, Labyrinth 1 was conceived to provide children with opportunities to express creativity, be contemplative, and have fun.  It also provides educators with a unique instructional tool that integrates art with education. Eleven large slabs of black basalt stone along the labyrinth’s path offer students surfaces on which to create their own chalk artwork, write poetry, or illustrate a sequential lesson in history, literature, and science, using bright washable chalk. The labyrinth’s hexagonal shape provides teachers with a large tactile example of geometry, which may be used to illustrate certain math concepts. Students can walk the labyrinth to absorb and learn from one another’s work.

Installing the labyrinth

Goodpasture worked with Gardena, Calif.-based Classic Tile & Mosaic (CTM), run by Vincent and Bonnie Cullinan, to supply the tiles, which were made by Original Mission Tile, San Luis Potosi, Mexico, according to Goodpasture’s direction from the original designs in the Ambassador.

“It was exciting for CTM to collaborate with an artist and through months of preparation to be able to see Lynn’s vision translated through our tile,” said Vincent Cullinan, CTM owner.

CTM fabricated the labyrinth, with Gardena-based Stone Etc. carrying out the complex installation which was completed in November 2009. The challenging

project was based on precise geometry without any allowances for cut-tile


adjustments, fitted into an irregular recess. Meticulous planning and execution was required to install the 12”x12”, 12”x6”, 6”x6”, and 2”x6” tiles and basalt slabs. The unsheltered exterior installation of approximately 1,500 tiles and 11 heavy slabs of basalt (134 square feet) took place in 100-degree heat, but resulted in a truly unique application of tile and stone, with Goodpasture working with Stone Etc., on the installation every step of the way.

Setting materials provided by Stone Etc., of Gardena, Calif., included 2”x2” 16/16 welded galvanized wire reinforcement, Noble Deck Exterior Thin-Bed Waterproofing & Crack Isolation Membrane, LATICRETE 254 Platinum, followed by Portland Cement Float by Riverside Cement Co., Custom Building Products’ Polyblend Sanded Grout, and Aqua Mix Enrich N Seal.

“The labyrinth is a functional piece of art that not only adorns our beautiful RFK campus, but provides an opportunity for kinesthetic learners to explore math and art simultaneously,” said Danny Lo, assistant principal of the UCLA Community School, one of three elementary schools on the RFK campus.

Located at the base of the amphitheater and just in front of the indoor/outdoor stage at the elementary school, the labyrinth is a focal point from the upper elevations of the middle and upper school areas, as well as the lower elevations of the expansive playground shared by three elementary schools. The pure geometry of the hexagonal labyrinth was designed to relate to the clean lines and generous volumes of the architectural environment by Gonzalez Goodale Architects.

“Working with Bonnie and Vincent at CTM was a true pleasure,” Goodpasture said. “From the start they understood the intention and helped me find a way to translate my concept into 690 sq. ft. of precisely laid tile and stone, resulting in a labyrinth unlike any other.”

This $99,143.00 original tile installation was designed to inspire students to learn through art that is seamlessly integrated into the built environment. It provides a place for young students to express their own creativity in a public space. The contemplative aspect of the labyrinth also makes it a fitting art form here, given the historical significance of the Ambassador site. Keeley’s Garden, Labyrinth 1 offers endless creative interaction.

2012 developments in ANSI Standards

DCOF, glass tile, highly-modified mortars, saw tooth soft joint/caulk joints join the standards

By Chris Walker, vice president, Northeast region, David Allen Company

Our industry is changing at a rapid pace. Installation professionals and project designers have access to practically unlimited choices of tile, stone and glass tile materials. Many of these materials require specialized installation products, methods or preparation.

For answers to unique product installation requirements, your first resource should always be the product manufacturers’ recommendations. But for the installation and design professional, the industry’s best resources are the ANSI A-108 Material and Installation Standards and the TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation.

Both documents are under constant review. Fifty-eight industry professionals, representing the manufacturing, allied-products and installation community, volunteer countless hours revising and updating the manuals. The documents evolve with the industry to provide usable information and specifications for real-world installation applications. They are guides to assist the industry, providing useful information to ensure successful and beautiful installations with longevity and tangible life cycle advantages.

A few important changes are included this year in the ANSI A108 Standards and are outlined below. For the precise language and definitions, please refer to the ANSI A-108, A-137.1 and A-137.2 documents.

Static vs. dynamic co-efficient of friction

An eminent change in the testing/reporting requirements are about to be incorporated into A137.1 Section Co-efficient of Friction.

“Tiles suitable for interior wet application shall have a WET DCOF of 0.42 or greater”. This standard is for “Interior Commercial Tile Installations, frequently walked on while wet”.

For years the static co-efficient of friction was measured by pulling a weight across various surfaces with a particular type of shoe leather (which is no longer used) by someone who could not possibly perform the test in exactly the same way every time. Test results varied widely, in part due to the irregularities of the method and person.

Now an automated testing device (BOT 3000) more accurately mimics how people actually walk on a floor and when they begin to slip. This should provide consistent results with a regulated test for tile materials produced for our market. Instead of being a recommendation, this measure will now be a requirement.

The wet/dry values, area of use, and intended contaminants all play a role in determining the suitability of a particular material for an intended application. The decision for the appropriate specification of any material is the project designer or architects.

Currently, specifications reference an advised standard (not required) of: 0.6 Level/Wet; 0.6 Tread/Wet; 0.8 Ramp/Wet as measured by ASTM C-1028.

Now that standard will change to a mandatory Dynamic Co-efficient of Friction (DCOF) value of 0.42 vs. the current advised Static Co-efficient of Friction (SCOF) indicated above.

The testing and reporting requirements will be outlined in a revised proposed standard for ANSI A-108, in the A-137.1 manufacturing standard. This method has been balloted and approved by the ANSI A-108 committee, but is not official until it has been acknowledged by the ANSI Review Board. That process will likely be completed by June.

ANSI A-137.2 Specification for Glass Tile

The popularity of these materials is evident and continues to grow as manufacturing technologies evolve and creative influences drive these products into all types of residential and commercial applications. Successfully undertaking and passing this manufacturing standard was a huge undertaking and should be recognized as a major accomplishment for the industry.

Defining and categorizing glass tile materials was a monumental task on its own. What resulted after years of collaboration by the manufacturers and Tile Council of North America (TCNA) is the introduction of the A137.2 Glass Tile standard.

The Glass Tile standard is similar to the A137.1 Ceramic Tile Standard and provides multiple classifications by type, size and manufacturer requirements. It is a manufacturing standard and as such, is mostly technical information. For the installation community there is useful information to help you determine how to evaluate the material you are installing and may assist in your decision on how to prepare, cut and work the material for a particular installation application. Manufacturer’s recommendations are extremely important for glass tile installations. Decisions on design, expansion/control joints, preparation and installation can be quite different than traditional ceramic tile installations.

Revised mortar definitions: 

Highly Modified Mortars

ANSI A-118.4 & A-118.15: This year a new classification of Highly Modified Mortars; A-118.15, identifies modified mortars with improved performance characteristics. As you are probably aware, there is a tremendous difference in price and performance between the least expensive and most expensive A-118.4 modified mortar.

Providing another level of classification for improved performance allows the specifier and installer to assure specific performance criteria are met. It also assures that similar materials are being included in determining the value of the installation in a competitive bid situation.

Saw tooth soft joint/caulk joints

The ANSI standard this year will allow saw tooth soft/caulk joints for use as expansion breaks for vertical and horizontal applications.  This should not be confused with soft joints at control, movement or shrinkage cracks. The recommendation of installing the soft joint to respect or be placed “directly over” a crack/movement joint still applies. This allows “a generic movement joint in a saw tooth configuration in a broken joint tile pattern, continuously following the grout joint for the designed span.”

TCNA, ANSI and NTCA committees: developing new standards

The development of new standards can be a lengthy and arduous process. Witness the recent Green Squared initiative by TCNA – the first sustainable standard for tile and setting materials, known at ANSI 138.1. TCNA put an  incredible amount of work and effort into developing the ANSI and TCNA documents (which you can read about in the Green Tip feature by TCNA spokesperson Bill Griese in each issue of TileLetter) – and it is a major accomplishment.

In addition, it’s difficult to keep pace with rapid advancements in materials and construction techniques.

In an effort to accomplish this, the NTCA Methods & Standards Committee works with its membership to address clarifications, revisions or additions to both the ANSI document and the TCNA Handbook. ANSI also appoints Ad-Hoc Committees to develop preliminary language for submission to the full committee, in between the regularly scheduled meetings. There are also TCNA Sub-Committees which are very active in the review and testing of materials for the industry. These committees are intended to utilize the expertise of interested parties, collaborating in the development, refinement and introduction of industry standards.

Some of the items currently being considered by these committees are:

  • Large Format Glass Tile
  • Installation Specifications
  • Definition Review: Required Plane – its relevance to floor flatness requirements and large module tiles
  • Thin Tile – installation, substrate and methods requirement for “Thin Tile.” The current consensus definition for thin tile is a tile module thinner than 4.5 millimeters
  • Barrier Free Shower/Handicap-ped Shower-Installation Detail
  • Steam Showers; Perm Ratings/Vapor transmission; Classifications/Definitions of Membrane Requirements-Definition/Clarification
  • Minimum Coverage; Coverage percentages on large and thin tile
  • Medium Bed Mortars;  Classification/Definition


Christopher Walker, vice president, Northeast region, David Allen Company, Inc., also serves the industry as chairman of the ANSI A-108 committee chairman of the US Technical Advisory Group; ISO T-189 committee; chairman of the NTCA Methods & Standards committee; voting member of the Tile Council Installation Handbook committee; voting member of the NTCA Technical committee.



NTCA members can receive free quotes on a variety of insurance needs through Schechner Lifson Corporation (SLC) of Summit, N.J. This members-only agreement for property and liability insurance features many benefits to NTCA member firms including worldwide liability coverage, selling-price valuation on sold inventory, workers compensation, coverage for property at job sites, and employment practices liability (harassment/discrimination). In addition, SLC has numerous loss-control and safety programs that will assist you in controlling your contractual obligations – subcontractor risk-transfer, and hold-harmless agreements. SLC can also help with travel and accident coverage, and international liability-exposure coverage. SLC offers rate discounts for general liability and worker’s compensation, and a convenient pay-as-you-go premium payment option for workers compensation.

Marc Rosenkrantz is SLC’s liaison for NTCA members. He is eager to work with you towards meeting your insurance needs through programs that are specifically tailored to your company and the tile industry.

“We met Marc at Total Solutions two or three years ago,” said Dana Collins, of Collins Tile and Stone, Aldie, Va. “After the show, he followed up with us to give us a quote on our workman’s comp policy.  We immediately made the change to go with Marc, as he was able to save us significant dollars over what we were paying our current insurance broker for this coverage. I believe his focus on the tile industry has allowed him to offer such discounts, and would encourage any contractors out there to at least get a quote, and make some comparisons.”

For more information, contact Jim Olson, NTCA assistant executive director, at 601-939-2071/[email protected] or Marc Rosenkrantz, Schechner Lifson Corporation at 1-800-279-9360/[email protected] for a free quote or to discuss your insurance needs. This one service alone could literally save you you thousands of dollars.


Green SquaredSM Certified products debut at Coverings

After five years developing Green SquaredSM (ANSI A138.1), an all-encompassing multi-attribute sustainability standard and certification program for tile and tile installation materials, the first five tile manufacturers with certified sustainable products were announced at Coverings:  Crossville, Daltile, Interceramic, Ironrock, and Porcelanite-Lamosa.  Bonsal American, Florida Tile, LATICRETE, MAPEI, Marazzi, Quarry Tile Company, StonePeak, TEC, and Vitromex expect to have Green Squared Certified products by year end.

Crossville has the distinction of being the first manufacturer to achieve Green Squared Certification across all its U.S.-manufactured porcelain product lines and for its manufacturing processes. Because the company’s processes are certified, all products manufactured by those processes are compliant.

In addition, Dal-Tile Corpora-tion’s plants in the U.S., and Monterrey, Mexico were evaluated by Underwriters Laboratories-Environment (ULE), to certify that American Olean and Daltile-manufactured products meet the industry’s toughest green standards.

Only those products independently evaluated and certified by a third party may bear the Green Squared Certified mark, making it easy for specifiers and consumers to select sustainable products and build sustainable tile systems.

Currently, the approved third-party Green Squared certifiers are NSF International, Scientific Certification Systems, and UL Environment. The certifiers conduct worldwide operations and are available to conduct Green Squared certifications wherever tile is manufactured.

For full information about Green Squared, including sustainability criteria, visit, and follow @Green_Squared on Twitter.

All Crossville product to  contain recycled content

Crossville Inc. has announced it is the first and only tile manufacturer in the U.S. “to achieve certification of its waste recycling programs through Scientific Certification Systems (SCS), an independent, third-party certifier of recycled claims,” stated John E. Smith, Crossville’s president and CEO. Now all tile produced by Crossville® will contain 4% certified recycled content of pre-consumer, fired sanitary ware from TOTO, the world’s largest manufacturer of sustainable, luxury plumbing products, in addition to varying percentages of its own filtrate and fired waste. This material from TOTO has been recently certified by SCS as part of Crossville’s Fired Waste Process, marking the latest development in Crossville’s Recycling Processes program.

SCS has verified that through these recycling processes, Crossville annually recycles approximately 12 million pounds of previously land-filled filtrate, fired tile and pre-consumer sanitary ware, making Crossville a net consumer of waste, consuming more manufacturing waste than it generates. In addition, the volume of finished goods Crossville ships now exceeds the amount of raw materials it extracts from the earth for use in manufacturing.

For full information, visit, call 800-221-9093 for samples and follow Crossville, Inc. on Facebook and Twitter.

GREEN TIP – May 2012

Understanding the Technical Criteria
of Green SquaredSM/ANSI A138.1

Section III: End-of-Product-Life Management

By Bill Griese, Tile Council of North America, LEED AP BD+C

Establishing sustainability criteria for products throughout their full life cycle, ANSI A138.1 is divided into five sections. Throughout the last two months, we’ve reviewed the first two sections of the standard. This month, we’ll have a look at the third section, End-of-Product-Life Management.

This section of the standard opens with the following preface:

Inherently, tile products are durable, inert, and intended to have life spans as long as the buildings in which they are installed. They are engineered to serve as permanent finishes capable of outlasting multiple generations of building occupants. Tile product end-of-life management is pertinent to building demolition waste and small quantities of waste generated during construction.  

Although a tiled finish is inherently durable and typically desirable for a lifetime, there are some scenarios where end of product life must be addressed. Thus, end-of-product-life management elective options in ANSI A138.1 are intended for instances where buildings are demolished, scrap waste is generated during construction, or an occasional remodel occurs.

The first end-of-product-life management elective option involves clean-fill eligibility of a product. To satisfy this elective, a manufacturer shall provide documentation verifying that a product is inert and solid, such that it can potentially be considered along with other eligible construction and demolition debris for state and local Clean Fill acquisition initiatives.

The second end-of-product-life management elective option involves end-of-product-life collection plans. To satisfy this elective, the manufacturer shall establish and implement a plan which involves the collection, processing, and recycling or re-tasking of its products for other purposes once the products’ useful life is completed.

Next month, we will review the criteria of the next section of ANSI A138.1, Progressive Corporate Governance.


Building your sales team

Flowing logically from our recent Business Tip sections on Job Description, Compensation and Recruiting Practices from the NTCA Reference Manual, the Sales Team topic in the Sales chapter of the Business Section details what’s needed for an effective sales team. 

Did you ever wonder why some people seem to be able to sell anything? I’m sure you’ve run across this type of person – and have probably bought something from them! In this section, we’ll talk about how to hire your sales staff, and we’ll address questions like:

  • How much experience should your sales reps have when you hire them?
  • How important are computer skills?
  • What should you look for?
  • What should you include in training for your sales reps?
  • What personality traits make one person a better sales person than another?
  • How do you know if you’re hiring a “star” or a “dud?”

Hiring the right sales people

When you begin the process of hiring your sales team, it pays off to first spend some time planning and setting up a budget. Advertising, recruiting, interviewing, and training are all expensive, and you don’t want to waste your time and money on the wrong candidates.

Before you interview your first applicant, have in place the compensation structure you plan to use. Depending on how attractive it is, it may be a good enticement for top candidates.

Write out the complete job description. For example, put in writing the leg work that must be done prior to making a sales call, how you expect existing customers to be serviced, how you expect records to be maintained, how many calls should be made in a week, etc. Think through the entire sales process and detail how you want it to be done, what tools will be used, and your expectations for their results.

This exercise should include not only what you want sales reps or account managers to do, but also how you want them to approach it. Think about the style of selling you want them to use.

Evaluating your sales candidates

You should have a good idea of the experience and skill level of your job candidates after reviewing the hundreds of resumes you’ve most likely accumulated. At this stage, you should be asking:

  • Have they been in front of people selling before?
  • Are they right out of school, or do they have a few years of experience to draw on?
  • Do you have a strong enough training program to allow you to hire recent grads with no experience?
  • Do they have what it takes to actually perform the technical functions of the job? – In other words, do they have computer skills?

There are a lot of things to think about. With selling, experience isn’t always the most important thing to look at, especially if you have existing sales reps that can assist in the training and mentoring of new recruits.

In order to be good sales representatives, your recruits have to have good research skills to find out about their prospects and know and understand their needs, their business, their business structures, etc. These skills can be taught, but experience in digging up the necessary information is helpful. These days, that experience includes internet research skills, as well as good old-fashioned research techniques – asking co-workers, making phone calls, and using business reference books at the library.

Communication skills

Your candidates also need to be good communicators. The majority of what a sales rep does involves communication –  both written and verbal. Whether it is explaining the specifications of your product or service or communicating how your prospect will benefit from the product or service, much rides on how this is articulated and negotiated. Pay close attention during the interview process to how your candidates articulate their qualities and “sell” themselves to you.

Technical skills

What level of computer skills do your candidates need? If you’re planning on using any type of contact management, then they  have to be familiar with the basics of word processing, spreadsheets, and maybe the fundamentals of relational databases. You should also look for knowledge of presentation software like Microsoft® PowerPoint. Many clients expect high-level presentations from sales representatives, so your reps have to be comfortable using technology, and in some cases designing their own presentations.

Outside sales

Outside sales representatives, also simply known as sales reps, are professionals who commonly travel to businesses or other organizations in order to sell their firm’s products or services. Maintaining contact with current customers and attracting new ones, professional sales reps make presentations to buyers and management or may demonstrate items to production supervisors. Salaries are typically at least partly based on performance since outside sales workers frequently receive commissions on their sales. Although many sales workers receive a base salary in addition to commission, some receive compensation based solely on sales revenue.

Inside sales

An inside sales representative position is exactly what it sounds like: selling products to potential customers from within a sales office. This means that an inside sales representative will primarily be speaking to existing customers and potential customers and following leads over the phone. Inside sales, where showrooms are involved, may require working with product selection for customers or their designer representative.

Most inside sales positions don’t require much more than a high school diploma. Most training is completed on-the-job. Inside sales representatives must be able to communicate effectively and persuasively both in person and on the telephone and good computer skills is essential.

For access to this entire document, as well as the information-packed NTCA Reference Manual itself, contact Jim Olson at [email protected] or 601-939-2071 to speak about NTCA membership. 

Ask the Experts – May 2012


What is the standard installation for ceramic tiles on Gyp-Crete®? The floor consists of light-gauge metal framing, with ¾” plywood subfloor and 1” Gyp-Crete. Preparation of the Gyp-Crete consist of the application of sealer prior to the installation of the tiles. Would this floor be adequate to receive ceramic floor tiles?


I am concerned with your statement regarding lightweight metal joists. The floor must be engineered to support dead and live loads, and tile can be heavier than most other floor coverings.

You also state that you want to seal the Gyp-Crete. Instead, you need to prime the Gyp-Crete with the primer that your mortar manufacturer recommends.

You should also follow the installation instructions that are provided by the specific manufacturer of the gypsum underlayment you are using.

Also be advised that Portland cement and gypsum can have an adverse reaction if placed contiguous to one another, which could result in a possible loss of bond. To alleviate this risk, many tile professionals always use a waterproof/crack isolation membrane or uncoupling membrane between the gypsum and the tile.

Michael Whistler,
NTCA Tile & Stone Symposium presenter/technical consultant



I am installing floor tile for a client. I have contacted the manufacturer, which has ultimately brought me to this email. I need to find out what the relative humidity of the concrete slab should be (ASTM F2170) prior to the installation of this tile.


Typically moisture testing is done with a calcium chloride test kit, which measures how many lbs. of moisture per 1000 square feet are escaping the slab in a 24-hour period. Anything less than 5 lbs. per 1000 is probably suitable for use with cementitious mortars. Anything more than 5 lbs., you should contact the mortar manufacturer to ascertain suitability of their product with high-moisture slabs. Any slab measuring 12 lbs. or more per 1000 needs special consideration, and possibly a moisture barrier, depending on manufacturer’s instructions.

Michael Whistler,
NTCA Tile & Stone Symposium presenter/technical consultant

President’s Letter – June 2012


I hope this letter finds you in good health and spirits as we all work diligently to make professional tile installation the norm in the finishes industry.

This month’s issue reviews the recent Coverings expo in Orlando — and what a great event it was!.

It is always interesting to gather at a place where everything in the tile world comes together for a few days. Exhibitors from around the world displayed everything from maintenance products to elegant stone.

Of course your NTCA was right in the thick of it as our staff manned several areas of the show and had an enduring presence throughout the week. NTCA membership and staff were well represented as we gave educational presentations, spoke with new and existing members, recruited new members, participated in an ANSI meeting and hosted, for the first time, Contractor Tours of the show. These tours proved to be a great success along with the Contractor Lounge, and was enjoyed by the contractors and manufacturers alike.

The NTCA and three of our Five Star contractors were highlighted in the Installation Design Showcase, where tile installation took place over several days right on the show floor. I commend each of the companies for their brilliant efforts as they brought to life the culmination of ideas from top designers and top-line products of sponsoring manufacturers to create simply stunning tile installation artistry. Many thanks to those contractors: Cox Tile, Collins Tile and Stone and David Allen Company, and to the sponsors for all their hard work to make this venue the success it was.

Your NTCA also hosted the first Coverings Installation & Design awards which again displayed the artistry of contractors from around the country. These contractors and designers received  awards for their outstanding projects as recognition of their efforts.

That evening culminated in what proved to be the highlight event for me: a tribute to the NTCA for the 65th anniversary milestone it achieved this year. I was honored to narrate a presentation that toured the history of our association, demonstrating our influence, accomplishments and leadership in the industry. In typical eloquent style, NTCA executive director emeritus Joe Tarver then offered a moving speech, recounting many details of our history and helping to chart the future.

Suffice it to say the NTCA was everywhere during Coverings week. We continue to strive to make the contractor’s voice heard throughout the industry. We will do so again this month as our representatives join a strong labor contingent at the TCNA Handbook meetings in Atlanta. Speaking of Atlanta, go ahead and make plans to attend Coverings next year at Atlanta’s Georgia World Congress Center April 29th through May 2nd, 2013.

I thank each of you and the NTCA for the opportunities presented that allow us to listen and learn from others. It’s how we grow. Come join us as we pursue excellence and take adages to heart like the words of Jerry Rice who said “Today I will do what others won’t, so tomorrow I will accomplish what others can’t.”

All the best,


Editor’s Letter – May 2012

May is the issue that hangs in the balance between the actual Coverings show in Orlando and the full coverage of the event in our June issue. I don’t want to give everything away, but I do have to say that this Coverings was a fantastic show, with a sense of optimism, good turnout, and great reception to contractor programs sponsored by NTCA. There were demonstrations by Gerald Sloan and Michael Whistler, tag-teaming their way through their educational and lively presentations; and a strong NTCA presence in the conference sessions as well. New this year were the Contractor VIP tours – I got to tag along on one and it was informative and populated with a huge crowd of contractors.

Also this year was the evolution of the TileLetter Awards to the Coverings Installation Design Awards, sponsored by TileLetter and TADA. A healthy crowd turned out to recognize the contractor/designer teams that won accolades for their excellence. Next month we’ll start rolling out the winners.

Speaking of TADA – Tile for Architects, Designers and Affiliates, NTCA’s newest quarterly publication for the architect/design community – it received a rousing response, so much so that by end of day Thursday, there was nary an issue to be found in the magazine bins! It seems that the industry has been hungry for a publication of this type for quite some time. Issue two debuts at NEOCON in June.

The Installation Design Showcase was also a huge hit, with three dynamic contractor/designer teams that planned their vignettes and installed them during the course of the show. Stay tuned for coverage of that as well.

There are a few items from the show in this issue, such as TCNA’s new Dynamic Coefficient of Friction standard and test method you can read about in our News section, and assistant executive director Jim Olson’s letter of thanks in our NTCA News section that celebrates the success of the show and strikes a note of gratitude for the many NTCA member volunteers that helped make the show run smoothly.

Enjoy MAPEI’s fascinating cover story featuring Mike Mandel’s gorgeous murals, and a California labyrinth installation in our case study. David Allen Company’s Chris Walker gives us a tour through new ANSI developments, and C.C. Owen is our contractor spotlight for this issue.

Got some thoughts about what you’d like to see in TileLetter? I’m always happy to hear from you at [email protected]



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