Challenging cladding project takes careful planning, expertise and materials

When an owner of a newly built home in Berkeley, Calif., contacted Martin Brookes of NTCA Five-Star Contractor Heritage Marble & Tile in Mill Valley, Calif., about cladding his home’s exterior, Brookes knew the project was going to take technical expertise and special installation protocols, setting materials and specialized equipment. 

The finished project involved 3,200 sq. ft. of large-format porcelain tile for cladding, upper deck and out buildings.

The homeowner had sourced the 4’ x 4’ x 1/2” porcelain tile through a local vendor from an Italian manufacturer, Brookes said. “We

The Raimondi RAI-FIX Anchoring system provided a simple, effective solution to prevent the fall of the tiles applied vertically with adhesive in case of detachment from the wall.

knew this would be a challenging project and layout would be critical due to the owner requiring full tile on all four sides,” Brookes explained. “We teamed up with LATICRETE, which gave an installation procedure we were comfortable in executing.” Dale Foster, LATICRETE rep, was a huge help in helping things run on time without a hitch.

Though these were large-format tiles, they were thick and rigid at 1/2″ (12.7 mm) – not the thin gauged porcelain tile panels (GPTP) becoming increasingly more popular today.  

“Because of the weight of the tile we also decided to anchor the tile with Raimondi RAI-FIX Anchoring System,” Brookes added. This system provides a simple, effective solution to prevent the fall of the tiles applied vertically with adhesive in case of detachment from the wall. At the time – the project spanned February – May 2017 – Raimondi RAI-FIX was not available in the U.S., so Heritage had the components shipped from the UK to meet the schedule for the installation (Note: the system is now available domestically through Donnelly Distribution at donnellydist.com).

In addition to the installation protocol, anchors, and setting materials, what helped the job to go smoothly was the excellence and expertise of crew members Gabriel Cortez and Leo Escamilia, who are both Certified Tile Installers and ACT Certified. They corrected the previously installed substrate to provide a suitable surface to be tiled, and layout was thoughtfully calculated to make the finished product shine.

Because the panels were so thick and rigid, crews used suction cups to move the tile from the scaffold to the substrate.

The project started toward the end of the rainy season, so Heritage crews had to protect the work space.

Crews used a large MK Diamond bridge saw on site to cut the material, which worked perfectly, Brookes said. All the corners on the project featured quirk miters. 

Crews, led by CTI/ACT certified Gabriel Cortez and Leo Escamilia, corrected the previously installed substrate to provide a suitable surface to be tiled, and layout was thoughtfully calculated to make the finished product shine.

The contractor had GPTP equipment on hand to move the tile due to its size. But because the panels themselves were so thick and rigid, Brookes didn’t need to use it and opted for suction cups to move the tile from the scaffold to the substrate. It took four crew members to handle the weight and the handling of the tile. 

Heritage Marble & Tile workers implemented directional troweling with LATICRETE 254, which performed exactly as expected. 

“We did not grout the project until we gave the thin-set mortar ample time to cure,” Brookes said. “We felt this would not only benefit the curing process of the thin-set mortar, but would reduce our potential call backs for efflorescence or latex leaching.”

Leo Escamilia (l.), a valued Heritage crew member who is a CTI and ACT certified, along with LATICRETE rep Dave Foster – both of whom were instrumental to the smoothly running project.

The Heritage team – and the client – were thoroughly pleased with the results, which amounted to about 3,200 sq. ft. of tile for the cladding, upper deck and out buildings. “Although this was a challenging project, the guys excelled and the finished product was to the delight of the owner,” Brookes concluded.