Schluter Systems – Tile brings warmth and quiet to oceanfront condominium – Feature Story May 2018

Tile brings warmth and quiet to oceanfront condominium

By Sean Gerolimatos, Director of Research & Development, Schluter Systems, LLP

With the range of tile membrane types growing, we are now beginning to see a new trend developing toward multi-functional products. This type of “Swiss Army” membrane can be the go-to product for almost any tile installer, and the Gateway Grand project led by Dobri Michev provided the perfect occasion. 

The luxurious Gateway Grand

The Gateway Grand is a luxury condominium residence in Ocean City, Md., with views of the ocean, the bay, and Ocean City itself. Developed by the Trammell Crow Company, it consists of a 16-story, nearly 500,000-sq.-ft. landmark building and 250 linear feet of direct ocean frontage. Other features include a resort-style, 4,000-sq.-ft. lobby, fitness center, indoor and outdoor pools, parking structure and surface lot, and a 4,500-sq.-ft. freestanding restaurant.

The project

Dobri Michev is the owner of DM Signature Remodeling Inc., and an exceptionally talented Certified Tile Installer (CTI) who specializes in high-end custom bathroom design and construction. He was engaged to perform the renovation of an existing condominium at the Gateway Grand. The current floors were to be replaced primarily for aesthetic reasons, but there were a number of other problems too – mainly cracks and even some delaminated tiles, due at least in part to a lack of movement joints. 

In addition to providing beautiful new floors in the interconnected bathrooms, hallways, kitchen, and living and dining areas, there were four primary requirements to fulfill. First and foremost, the floors simply needed to last. Second, the owners wished to have warm floors in both bathrooms for added comfort. Third, since there was another condominium directly below, impact sound through the floor needed to be managed to comply with the Gateway Grand sound abatement requirements. Finally, since this was a renovation, there was limited height available, meaning the floor covering assembly needed to be kept as thin as possible.

One membrane, multiple requirements

Dobri selected Schluter®-Systems’ DITRA-HEAT-DUO membrane to meet the multiple requirements of the project. The one membrane combines uncoupling to prevent future tile cracking, floor warming with thermal break, and impact sound control – all in a single layer. The product choice was primarily driven by the sound-control requirement. Laboratory testing documented in the product technical literature demonstrated the benefits of the membrane in reducing impact sound transfer to the space below. When tested according to ASTM E2179, a porcelain tile assembly including the membrane reduced the impact insulation class (IIC) of a bare concrete slab with no ceiling underneath by 20. When tested according to ASTM E492, the IIC of an 8˝-thick concrete slab with a porcelain tile assembly including the membrane was found to be 50. As those conditions very closely reflected the actual environment for this project, this membrane was a logical choice. It was clear that the membrane would also meet the other project requirements in an elegant way. 

Reduced heat loss, increased sound control

Use of an uncoupling membrane throughout the tiled areas provided protection against stresses caused by movement of the suspended concrete floor. From there, heating cables were quickly and easily secured between the studs on top of the membrane in the bathrooms. This didn’t create height differences between the bathrooms and hallways since self-leveling compounds are not required to encapsulate the cables. The tile could also be installed immediately after the cable was placed. 

The thicker bonding fleece on the underside of the membrane performs two functions. It acts as a thermal break to reduce heat loss to the concrete subfloor for faster warm-ups, and it reduces impact sound transfer to the condominium below. “The thermal break was so beneficial,” said Dobri, who has previous experience with other floor warming systems with the sound control element. “There is nothing out there that could do that with a 5/16˝-thick product.” 

The installation

In order to ensure a high-quality installation, Dobri meticulously followed the manufacturer’s instructions and industry standard guidelines from start to finish. He began the installation by securing a self-adhesive polyethylene foam gasket to all the walls the tile would abut. This simple act ensured that a perimeter movement joint was present at all restraining surfaces from the bottom of the tile assembly, right to the top. This joint was essential to allow the tile assembly to expand unimpeded and to prevent the transfer of impact sound between the floor and walls. 

The next step taken was to level the floor before installing the membrane, which greatly simplified the tile installation by making it easier to keep any lippage between the 24˝ x 24˝ porcelain tiles to a minimum and within industry standards. The membrane was adhered to the floor with a suitable thin-set mortar, heating cables were snapped in, and tile installation began. 

A lippage tuning system was used to further minimize elevation changes between tiles. These systems are becoming more and more popular all the time, in large part due to the consumer demand for large-format tiles. Surface movement joints were provided every 16˝ to 20˝ within the tile covering. Prefabricated movement joint profiles were used to eliminate the need for any associated maintenance going forward. The visible surface of the profiles was relatively narrow and selecting the color to match the grout made them blend seamlessly into the decor.

New possibilities

By selecting a membrane that was uniquely suited to meet the requirements of the application and paying close attention to the technical and aesthetic details, Dobri Michev was able to provide the owners of this luxury condominium with tiled floors truly befitting the space. Beautiful, durable, and comfortable tiled floors that reduce impact sound transfer to the downstairs neighbors are now within reach. They can be achieved with an assembly that is compatible with surrounding floors and does not compromise other homeowner objectives.