Crossville Recognized with Multiple ADEX Awards

Six Tile Collections Receive Honors, including Nest with a Platinum Award

CROSSVILLE, Tennessee – Crossville Inc. recently announced the recognition of six porcelain tile collections receiving ADEX Awards. The following tile collections received the ADEX Awards:
—Crossville’s Handwritten collection received Platinum recognition. This wall tile collection is inspired by artisanal craftsmanship. With its range of creative shapes, sizes, and colors, this line empowers designers to create truly custom installations for commercial and residential interior walls. 
—Crossville’s Notorious collection received Gold recognition. Notorious porcelain tile collection offers big city style in the distinct look of concrete, with the technical performance Crossville products are known for. 
—-Crossville’s Seta collection also received Gold recognition. Seta, inspired by the luxurious fabric of silk, is one of Crossville’s gauged porcelain tile panel collections. The surface visual of these impressive, large format tiles reveals the replication of delicate silk strands woven throughout the nuanced appearance of the line’s four color options. 
—Crossville’s Nest collection received Silver recognition. Nest porcelain tile is a beautiful alternative to wood for floors and walls, and it supports cleaner, healthier interiors while standing up to high traffic wear and tear. The collection authentically captures the sophisticated, clean graining of both Olive and American Oak species in a durable, versatile porcelain body. 
—Crossville’s Calce collection also received Silver recognition. Neutral colors and delicate nuances mark the face of Calce, a large format porcelain tile line inspired by wet plaster and concrete. The combination results in a soft, chalky visual that is both sophisticated and thoroughly contemporary. 
—Crossville’s Cava collection received finalist recognition. With looks as good as natural stone delivered straight from the quarry, Cava offers all the style with unsurpassable performance. Utilizing state of the art technology, Crossville created each vein of the line’s four colors to be rendered with remarkably authentic effect on each 1m x 3m panel.

All products are viewable at  crossvilleinc.com.

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Tech Talk – April 2018

Thin gauged porcelain tile – North American research, collaboration, and standardization

By Bill Griese, Director of Standards Development, Tile Council of North America and Noah Chitty, Director of Technical Services, Crossville Inc.

In February, TCNA’s Bill Griese and Crossville’s Noah Chitty traveled to Castellón, Spain, to lecture to the Congress of Qualicer 2018 on research and standardization of thin gauged porcelain tiles and tile panels (GPTP) in North America. Following are highlights of their white paper on this subject, which was presented at Qualicer 2018. The paper, in its entirety with works cited, is available online at tileletter.com.

ANSI A 137.3 and ANSI A108.19

 

In 2017, the North American tile industry released two new standards: ANSI A137.3, American National Standard Specifications for Gauged Porcelain Tiles and Gauged Porcelain Tile Panels/Slabs, and its companion, ANSI A108.19, Interior Installation of Gauged Porcelain Tiles and Gauged Porcelain Tile Panels/Slabs by the Thin-Bed Method bonded with Modified Dry-Set Cement Mortar or Improved Modified Dry-Set Cement Mortar. These standards, developed for the benefit of all tile consumers, are the result of a multi-year research and consensus process of the ANSI Accredited A108 Standards Committee, which includes participants from all industry sectors. 

These efforts aimed to establish a framework for specifications of products that are intentionally “gauged” to a specific thickness. Currently two classes of gauged tile products are defined by the standards: 

Those for wall applications from 3.5mm to 4.9mm and 

Those for floor and wall applications, from 5.0mm to 6.5mm. 

Other products, which either fall outside of these ranges or for which the manufacturer has not specifically provided a gauged-thickness designation, continue to be standardized under traditional tile specifications.

Terminology and strength criteria

One of the earliest topics on which the North American industry debated was terminology. These products were called “thin” tile, but since the same technologies are also used to create thick tiles – and end-users had increasingly prioritized tile thickness as a key characteristic – a new moniker was needed. Hence, the term “gauged” was born, basing the term on one used for other construction products – such as electrical wire and sheet metal – which carry different load capabilities and usage parameters across a variety of gauges. The group agreed to further differentiate gauged products based on their size, with gauged tiles being less than a square meter and gauged tile panels/slabs being greater than or equal to one square meter. 

In developing product performance criteria, the first key concern was breaking strength, as the North American requirement for traditional tiles was 250 lbf. Initially, very few – if any – thin gauged products met the requirement. Therefore, installed strength became the key to achieving performance levels comparable to those of traditional tiles whose exceedingly high breaking strength could often make up for flaws in mortar coverage or quality. With thin gauged tiles, though, the group chose to scrutinize how lower breaking strength may be offset by installation rigidity and increased mortar coverage.

Key provisions of the installation standard

To develop ANSI A108.19 Interior Installation of Gauged Porcelain Tiles and Gauged Porcelain Tile Panels/Slabs by the Thin-Bed Method bonded with Modified Dry-Set Cement Mortar or Improved Modified Dry-Set Cement Mortar, a group of installers, architects, and manufacturers conducted countless experiments to discover application and embedding techniques that make possible maximum mortar coverage, particularly for tile panels/slabs. Through these experiments, standard setting procedures for gauged porcelain tiles and tile panels/slabs were developed that facilitate optimal workmanship and system integrity. 

Mortar application: It was determined that applying a layer of mortar to both the back of the panel/slab and the substrate would result in the necessary bond coat thickness of 3/16” (4.8mm) and would allow for full encapsulation of lippage control systems. Anything less than this method would result in an embedded mortar layer thickness that was insufficient to achieve the agreed-upon substrate tolerance of a maximum deviation of 1/8” in 10 horizontal feet (3mm in 3m) from the required plane when measured from the high points in the surface for floors.

Mortar properties: Mortar properties such as extended open time, flow to achieve coverage, and curing parameters appropriate to the application, as well as a requirement for suitable mortar identification through consultation with the tile and setting material manufacturer are specified in the standard. 

Trowels: Only Euro-trowel, Flow-Ridge trowel, and Superior notch trowel can facilitate ridge collapse without the need to press and slide the tile. The group agreed to standardize the use of such trowels.

Embedding procedures: For floors, physically walking on the surface in the following pattern produces the greatest supporting mortar coverage: 

1) walk down the centerline of the tile; 

2) take small shuffling steps left and right from center to push air toward the edges.

This standardized procedure is listed in ANSI A108.19 for embedding tile panels/slabs on floors. For walls, a vibration tool and weighted beat-in paddle are specified in order to achieve optimal coverage.

For walls and floors, a vibrational tool used at the perimeter, achieved full coverage on the edge, critical for overall durability in flooring applications, and also facilitated full encapsulation of lippage control systems. For these reasons, edge coverage achieved through vibration is a provision of ANSI A108.19. The standard minimum required coverage is 80% for walls and 85% for floors. Additionally, maximum void size was established as 2 square inches (1290 square mm).

Coverage calculation: A standardized evaluation to calculate coverage was developed. ANSI A108.19 states, “In any single square foot under the embedded tile, coverage… is calculated by measuring the voids and the marked off square foot and dividing by 144 square inches (929 square cm) where the dry set mortar is not in full contact from the back of the tile to the substrate.”

Substrates: Standardized suitable substrates for the installation of gauged porcelain tiles and tile panels/slabs are mostly consistent with those of traditional tile, with the exception of direct bonding to plywood floors, which requires the use of a mortar bed or specified backer board and referencing floor rigidity requirements established by building codes and other widespread industry specifications. 

Applicable to all substrates, ANSI A108.19 details required flatness as maximum deviation of 1/8” over 10’ (3mm in 3m) from the required plane when measured from the high points in the surface.

Material handling: Qualified labor and other provisions also taken into account through discussion and A108.19 standardization were adequate jobsite storage, space to maneuver panels, prevention of damage while handling and time for mortar curing. Another critical aspect of ANSI A108.19 involves usage of properly qualified installers who are equipped with proper tools and have acquired sufficient product knowledge and installation experience. 

There are several other key provisions contained within ANSI A108.19, including grouting, workmanship, movement accommodation, and maintenance, completing a very comprehensive specification for how to install products defined by ANSI A137.3. 

See link here for the full paper, including footnotes. 

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PROFILITEC BECOMES STARNET PROVIDER

PROFILITEC, Italian producer of state-of-the-art floor profiles and related installation solutions, as part of a focused strategy positioning themselves as the “Choice of the Professional”, has announced its new partnership with Starnet Worldwide Commercial Flooring Partnership.

 

“We are looking forward to our new partnership with Profilitec,” stated Jeanne Matson, President & CEO at Starnet.  “The company has over 50 years experience in this industry, and its commitment to provide the most advanced systems is right in line with what our members are looking for​…​ and​,​ demanding. ​Profilitec’s broad product offering addresses the problems our members are encountering as they continue to take market share in the ceramic and hard tile commercial flooring business segment.  Our board was especially impressed with the company’s selective distribution network model.”

“There are so many benefits associated with this partnership,” added Greg Gelston, President of Profilitec. “Our products are meticulously designed to maximize intended function so contractors​ know they are getting the best possible solution for their flooring challenge. Profilitec ​offers products that Starnet members have not had access to in the flooring trade until now.​ Real ​solutions​.​

“Starnet wants to be assured that their vendor partners are established, reliable, ethical and embrace principles that are in line with theirs,​” ​continued Gelston.  “As a new player in the North American market, it was necessary that the board members get an understanding of our company and how we can work together. Profilitec’s positioning strategy is to be the ‘choice of the professional’ and to be dedicated to the more discerning flooring contractor, which, considering the quality of the Starnet members, is perfectly aligned with our strategy.

NTCA AWARDS RECOGNITION RECEPTION AT COVERINGS 2018 CELEBRATES 2017 TILE PERSON OF THE YEAR, CHRISTOPHER WALKER, DAVID ALLEN CO., INC.

The National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA), the world’s largest tile contractor association, will hold its Sixth Annual Awards Ceremony on Thursday, May 10th, during Coverings 2018 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, GA.

The program includes a cocktail and dining reception, followed by a presentation of special awards to industry leaders. Included in this year’s agenda will be:

  • Best Practice Award for Committee Leadership
  • NTCA emerging leaders named to the Coverings Rock Star Program
  • Five-Star Contractor Program Projects of the Year
  • Joe A. Tarver award for Service to the tile industry.
  • Tom Ade Youth Scholarship Awards

Highlighting the event, the NTCA 2017 Tile Person of the Year Award will be presented to Christopher Walker, Vice President of the David Allen Company. Chris has logged more than 32 years as a professional manager and installer within the tile industry. He has supervised the successful installation of many high-profile commercial projects. ​A recognized industry expert, Chris also serves as 1st Vice President of the National Tile Contractors Association, Chairman of the American National Standards Institute A-108 Committee, Chairman of the US Technical Advisory Group for ISO T-189, Board of Directors – Associated Builders & Contractor (ABC) of Virginia, as well as having been a voting member of the NTCA and TCNA Handbook and Technical Committees for many years.

“I’ve been blessed to be involved with industry groups focusing on training and standards for the benefit of the professional installation contractor,” stated Walker. “Being recognized by my peers with this distinguished award is both humbling and validating.  I am fortunate to have been able to work with these groups… and while doing so, possibly make a small impact on our industry.

“The NTCA reflects changes occurring in the marketplace today.  We work with other industry groups, which support the need for education and training to bolster constantly-evolving technical demands of specialty tile installations,” continued Walker.  “Tile installations are becoming much more complex and demanding. The growing use of gauged porcelain panels has allowed manufacturers to produce a whole new array of technically superior products, completely different than materials used when I was first introduced to the tile industry.  This represents a real opportunity for growth in our sector. Tile is now being specified for projects it never would have been considered for in the past.

“Being involved with the NTCA,” concluded Walker,​” and ​with ​other industry associations like TCNA and ANSI, I hope to continue my involvement with standards development… and, more importantly, support the groups and associations that assure we all practice the best methods. There is a collaborative effort to move the industry forward with growth and strength. With the support of manufacturers and allied suppliers, labor has been able to add its voice ​with​in the last decade​ and as a result, has made a real impact. I am proud to think I may have played a very small part in that.”

FIND NEW CONNECTIONS AT COVERINGS 2018

Coverings (coverings.com), the largest international tile and stone show in North America, has announced new opportunities for exhibitors and attendees to make meaningful and quality connections through networking. New programming focused on network-building at the show include extended show floor hours, digitally-driven introductions facilitated via Coverings app, and a celebration of all things tile & stone at the Coverings Installation and Design Awards and the Celebration at the College Football Hall of Fame.

In order to offer exhibitors and attendees with additional opportunities to explore all that the show floor has to offer, on Tuesday, May 8 there will be extended show hours, until 6:30 pm, and a chance to visit the world of tile & stone featuring happy hour specials, musical guests and lots of fun surprises. Afternoon happy hours will also take place on the show floor from 3:30 pm – 5:30 pm, Wednesday and Thursday. The happy hours are the ideal opportunity to network with colleagues and make new connections.

On Wednesday, May 9 from 5:30pm – 6:30pm, join us for the Coverings Installation and Design Awards. The Coverings Installation and Design Awards celebrate outstanding achievements in the design and installation of tile & stone in both residential and commercial projects. It’s a great opportunity to connect with colleagues, meet the winners and see the winning projects.

For attendees seeking new methods to discuss challenges and shared interests or to align with new potential clients for projects or business opportunities, Coverings has networking functionalities in its app. Users are encouraged to complete their attendee profiles to find like-minded or complementary connections at the show. Onsite, the Meet @ Coverings area will feature dedicated meeting space, creating an environment dedicated to fostering relationships and cultivating a connected industry.

“We are incredibly committed to offering all attendees and exhibitors endless ways to forge deeper connections in the tile and stone industry,” said Jennifer Hoff, president of Taffy Events, the management company for Coverings. “We are constantly looking for ways to enhance the Coverings experience, and we are pleased to provide networking opportunities and new ways to explore all the show has to offer.”

On Thursday, May 10 the tile and stone industry will gather for a tailgate party at the College Football Hall of Fame located next to the Georgia World Congress Center. Coverings attendees and exhibitors are encouraged to wear a sports jersey, choose their favorite college football team, and to celebrate another great Coverings show. Tickets to attend must be purchased during registration or at registration onsite at the show.

 

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Tile of Spain Mourns the Death of 3rd Generation ADEX Leader, Mr. Francisco Garcia Felipeneri

Miami, FL – March 2018 – ADEX’s 3rd generation leader, Mr. Francisco Garcia Felipeneri, known to friends and family as Paco, passed away on March 9, 2018 surrounded by his family. He took on the leadership and visionary position of 2 generations of family before him and saw the company enter its 121st year in the business. He was a man of heart which he poured into his family, company and industry.
Among his professional merits, Mr. Garcia was President of CEVISAMA, the International Fair for Ceramic Tiles, for 12 years. In 1993 he received the Medalla de Oro de la Villa de Onda for his contribution to the international promotion of the Spanish ceramic tile industry.
Under his direction, the company expanded from its European customer base to the North American market and established ADEX USA which now entered its 21st year. Paco was instrumental to the company and lead the introduction of “Art Tile” to the U.S. markets with its hand-painted tiles 35+ years ago. From that he went into what is now known as “subway tiles.” He often laughed as he said: “ADEX was in the subway tile market before there were subways.”
Under his direction, he groomed his children to take over the business and continue the family legacy of ADEX. This 4th generation continues his philosophy of listening to the customer and meeting their needs. Paco was also beginning the mentoring process of the 5th generation which has just entered the business.
His life and legacy is one which will live on through his children and their families as they fulfill the vision and dreams of the family business.
Thank you Paco…you will be dearly missed.

 “INSTALLATION EXPERIENCE” TO DEBUT AT COVERINGS 2018

 

The National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA), the world’s largest tile contractor association, has released detailed information about this year’s newest segment at Coverings 2018, held in Atlanta, Georgia, at the Georgia World Congress Center, May 8-11, 2018.

“Plans for this interactive event have been in the works for over a year,” stated Executive Director of the NTCA, Bart Bettiga. “We are psyched to see it go ‘live’ and know it will be well-received and well-attended by Coverings attendees. The live demonstrations and wealth of knowledge that can be attained in this approximately 3,900 square foot arena should be the highlight of any visitor’s time at the show!”

The Installation Experience offers Coverings show attendees to experience firsthand, numerous types of tile installations implemented by Qualified Labor. These interactive sessions will showcase today’s best practices relative to a multitude of distinctive tile installations.

Live, interactive installations will take place in a fully functioning kitchen; a bathroom with heated tile floor, vintage fireplace upgrade and grand installation of a contemporary shower system. These state-of-the-art projects will involve glass tile, porcelain, gauged porcelain panels, natural stone and other cutting-edge tile products and breakthrough technology installation systems.

Entering via a self-guided, designated pathway, guest/participants will journey through room-after-room of fully interactive installations with top representatives posted along the way to answer any and all questions.  They’ll have the opportunity to speak with industry experts regarding key processes, learning new strategies and experiencing hands-on demonstrations of the most modern of technologies.

Other highlights include “photographic retrospectives”… the Hall of Failures & the Hall of Excellence.  Here, attendees will see firsthand the difference between the right way and wrong way to perform a tile installation. In the Hall of ACT (Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers), ACT representatives will be available to discuss the program with attendees.

Don’t forget about the Construction Zone, where visitors can experience the progression of the CTI Challenge. The “CTI Challenge” is an exciting, live event designed by CTEF Director Scott Carothers, which is slated to take place between rival teams of who are both NTCA members and Certified Tile Installers. Clearly, this will be the tile industry’s “Fight of the Century!”

And, as part of the Installation Experience, all attendees will garner new insights on the attributes of Qualified Labor.  Representatives will be onsite to define, discuss, and demonstrate just what it takes to be a part of this elite group which includes the Certified Tile Installer program and the ultimate group of installers who have achieved the status of being ACT certified.

The Installation Experience will come to a conclusion with “At Home, With Tile.” It will be the final installation area… complete with an expansive seating area and large TV screen offering viewers a time-lapsed progress video, highlighting the various construction stages of the various projects slated to take place.

The Installation Experience, at Coverings, will be positioned in Hall C, Exhibit # 8401, at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, GA.

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NTCA is a non-profit trade association serving every segment of the industry, spearheading education for the professional installation of ceramic tile, natural stone and allied products.  For more information, please contact NTCA executive director Bart Bettiga at [email protected], via telephone at (601) 939-2071, or visit www.tile-assn.com. Or, contact Terri Sparks: 708-921-3517; [email protected]

About Coverings

Coverings is the largest and most important ceramic tile and natural stone trade fair and expo in the United States. It features exhibitors from more than 40 countries and is the stage for introducing some of the most innovative tile and stone products in the world.

The exposition serves as a valuable resource for continuing education for all segments of the industry, with more than 75 informative, accredited seminars and live demonstration sessions throughout the show, all free of charge. Coverings attracts thousands of distributors, retailers, fabricators, contractors, specifiers, architectural and design professionals, builders and real estate developers, as well as journalists and bloggers who cover this vital and dynamic industry.

Sponsors of the show are The Ceramic Tile Distributor Association (CTDA), Tile of Spain/Spanish Ceramic Tile Manufacturer’s Association  (ASCER), Ceramics of Italy/Confindustria Ceramica, National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) and the Tile Council of North America (TCNA). The show is managed by Taffy Event Strategies, LLC. For more information, visit www.coverings.com.

 

NTCA University Update – March 2018

Primer: format change at NTCA University

Three ways to find the courses you want

By Beck Serbin, Training and Education Coordinator

I was going to dedicate this month to providing feedback from users but I have had so many questions with the format change that I thought I would address those first.

As you may remember, courses were broken out into six-month segments for new hires, but I received so much feedback of “I can’t find the course I want” or “We only do residential” or “We just want our employees to take a few courses in each segment,” that I listened. As a result, we no longer have the six-month segments listed. Instead, every course is listed individually. Even though courses are listed individually, that doesn’t mean that we aren’t offering you some direction on which courses to take or tell your employees to take.

There are actually three ways to find courses. Let’s assume that you are a tile installer with a new hire; you can click on the introductory courses on the home-page of NTCA University. This opens into an Excel spreadsheet and lists all of the courses in six-month segments. You can then tell your new hire to follow the courses as listed or move courses around or delete courses that may not pertain to your company. And as new introductory tile setter courses are added, they will be added to this spreadsheet.

Keyword search

The other two ways to find courses can be found on the subscription tab. The first is a keyword search. So if a word is in the title of the courses, description, or keywords then it will appear. All courses have keywords associated with them that you can do a search on to see what is available. For example, if you search for grout, you will find several different grout courses, then you can scroll through and find the type of grout you wanted to learn about.

Category search

The third way to find courses is by clicking on a category. For example, if you are a beginner tile installer, you can click on “beginner” and all courses that have been tagged will be listed. Then you can decide what you would like to take. Or if there is a management course that you would like to take, click on the type of course and if one is available it will be listed.

To purchase your subscription, you can visit the NTCA store at https://tile-assn.site-ym.com/store/ListProducts.aspx?catid=490398 or http://bit.ly/2taYmOO to make your purchase.  If you have any questions or have ideas of courses that we should have available then please give me a call or send me an e-mail: 770-366-2566 or [email protected].

Qualified Labor – March 2018 – Kris Sardine

NTCA starts Kris Sardine on the path towards certification

In the summer of ’17, Kris Nardone, owner of K_Nardone Custom Tile Work, Kennesaw, Ga., became Certified Tile Installer #1364, at a Certified Tile Installer (CTI) exam at The Tile Shop in
his town.

After 20 years as a tile setter – and now with over six thousand followers on Instagram @k_nardonecustomtilework – Nardone said he took the exam because “Being a certified tile installer adds credibility to myself and my business.”

But it all started when he joined NTCA in 2016.

“The NTCA gave me a network of people and information that I didn’t have before,” Nardone said. “I spoke to another Certified Tile Installer about the CTI exam. I had attended a NTCA workshop in 2017 and met a local CTI exam instructor who also spoke to me about the CTI exam.

“After finding out more about the test, I knew that this certification would represent my experience in the trade and allow me to network within the industry,” he added. “I’ve always used industry standards. If I can be a part of a network of people that help add knowledge to my business and continuously improve my trade then I’m all for it.”

Nardone spent time preparing for the exam. “I read the CTEF workbook a couple times and looked at social media to make notes,” he said. “I also brought a list of key components to the test that I thought were important to track my day/progress. Every minute of the hands-on test counts. Layout is key! Other than that, I set tile daily. If you can think of it, I can tile it.”

His job experience made the book section of the exam relatively easy, but the hands-on portion was another story. “I thought the hands-on portion would be a breeze in the beginning, and then I heard from other certified installers not to underestimate the exam,” he said. “After taking the test, I know now that it does challenge your skills and knowledge as well as your time management. There are over 200 cuts in nine hours and it will test you mentally and physically.”

The time management aspect of the job varied significantly from the typical time management employed on a job. For instance, Nardone said, that on a typical job, he estimates “the time to complete the job and [I] push myself to complete the job in a timely manner, but I am always trying to do the best job possible for the homeowner no matter what it takes.

“The test is a set amount of time to get it right and get it completed,” he added. “It mentally tests you. Stay focused. Believe in yourself and get the job done.”

Being in an atmosphere of earnest demonstration of a tile setter’s skills was inspiring to Nardone. “You are working around others taking the test,” he said. “It was great to see that others take as much pride in their work as I do. Like any job site, if you can work well with others, you’ll get the job completed faster.”

Nardone, who plans to also pursue Advanced Certification for Tile Installers (ACT), recommends taking the exam to expand setters’ businesses and further their personal development and knowledge. “Though taking the test, you’ll make new contacts, friends, and learn more about the industry,” he said. “Those who don’t consider the exam should look more into the benefits of taking the test. It’s there to help you, your career, and the consumer.”

Nardone emphasizes that the CTI credential “assures the customer that they are receiving a quality install the first time… I have spoken to customers that have used other companies to meet their deadline or their budget and less than a year later – sometimes a month later or upon completion of install – the tile installation starts failing with cracking grout, unbonded tile, shower pan leakage, excessive lippage, etc. Hiring a Certified Tile Installer assures the homeowner that the installer is up to date on industry standards and is qualified to set the materials needed.”

Tile layout tips and tricks

Templates, story poles help match the tile to the needs and flow of the space

By Ryan Willoughby, Hawthorne Tile

When you are deciding on a tile layout, it’s a good idea to check with ANSI 108.02 section 4.3 “Tile Layout, A General Statement.”

This document basically says we are to center and balance the area to be tiled, while both minimizing the amount of cuts and maximizing their size. Fundamentally these are the rules we follow, but in their definition and execution it can get quite subjective.

Having spent the vast majority of my career in the high-end residential market, some of my opinions may differ from someone in the commercial side of the business. That being said I feel pretty fortunate to have had a mentor who took extreme pride in layout and instilled the same in me. While maybe only other craftspeople and design professionals will truly appreciate all the thought and effort put into a great layout, I think everyone can feel the difference between a chopped up space and one that flows. If you don’t take the time to really think it through and begin with a clear vision of the finished project, you will make mistakes and have some uncomfortable conversations with your clients.

Besides being able to share my philosophies on layout, writing this article gave me an excuse to reach out and discuss the subject with someone I’ve watched on social media, the NTCA’s Oregon State Ambassador, Jason McDaniel. Jason has a really cool and unique approach to laying out some of his installs, but first I’ll walk you through my process and then share a bit from our conversation.

Getting started with tile layout – square, plumb and level

My first course of action is to familiarize or re-familiarize myself with any detailed drawings for the project and identify what the architect or designer’s vision for the space is. Next, I’d square up the space and locate any problem areas that will need to be discussed or fixed prior to install, such as an out-of-square room, or my wall tile tying into an out-of-plumb or level surface. Putting up perfectly plumb and level grids really accentuates these problems, and the smaller the tile, the more obvious it is. Someone may have a hard time seeing a 3/8” taper in a 24”x 24”, but it’s an entirely different story over the same distance with a 5/8” mosaic.

If you’re going to be tiling a shower to the ceiling, you need to know if the ceiling is 3/4” out of level across the back wall. On floors, I snap a reference line off my longest or most visual run and find square from that by using “3-4-5” also known – to the more academic among us – as Pythagorean theorem. To be honest, these days I just use a laser square; it speeds up the whole process. On walls it’s the same; find center, then plumb and level with either a spirit/bubble level or a laser.

Creating a story pole; envisioning the space

Next is creating a story pole. I’ll lay my tile on the floor with the appropriate joint spacing, and do one of three things:

  • Write the full tile measurements down, or
  • Measure off of the tiles on the ground, or
  • With mosaics, make a true story pole marking a piece of lumber at each joint.

Once I have all this information it’s envisioning the space and identifying the most visual areas. Do you want to “center” or “balance”? For floors: do I center the room itself, a threshold or hall, a kitchen island, a soaking tub, the shower, toilet? For walls: is it the space, a window, plumbing, start full here or there?

Our options are endless. Choose an approach to centering, and then work backwards from that first choice. You’ll also want to ask yourself, “If I don’t like the cuts I get in one place, what happens if I start somewhere else? What do I have control of?”

Niche sizes are typically nominal, as are height of the bench, pony wall, and curb. Looking at all of these things and being willing to do a little extra work will speak volumes to your clients and separate you from your competition. As Dirk Sullivan, Hawthorne Tile’s fearless leader, likes to say, “Never pass up an opportunity to do something awesome.”

The biggest mistake I see people making is getting locked into their first choice and not weighing all their options or passing on that opportunity to be awesome in lieu of saving 15 minutes. I’ve found making these suggestions to an architect or designer is typically welcome and appreciated.

The McDaniel solution: templates for elaborate installs

With the advancement of manufacturing technology we’ve seen all sorts of new shapes and patterned mosaic sheets become readily available. These more elaborate patterns can make it difficult to see what every cut will look like on a kitchen splash with multiple stopping points.

I saw Jason McDaniel of Stoneman Construction, LLC in Lake Oswego, Ore., making templates for these installs and thought it was a great idea. I gave him a call to talk to him about it.

Jason has a background in solid surfaces and was comfortable with making templates. The first time he tried it on a tile install was while working on a large project, a beautiful home where he had already completed four bathrooms. He came to a backsplash that had many things to consider: a window, cabinets, and multiple outlets. He was setting a 1” x 3” marble herringbone mosaic.

He looked over the space wondering where to start. That’s when it hit him – he made a quick template, laid the tile on the floor, was able to lay the template over the tile, and quickly see everything. He marked all his cuts, made his cuts, and had the backsplash set within a couple of hours. He saw in that moment that this was going to be something he’d be doing much more of in the future.

Jason shared with me other installs where this method really shines, like installing water-sensitive stones with epoxy or a rapid-setting thinset. You don’t have to stop to take a measurement or go to the saw – just comb and go. Or when stopping by a job on your way home, you can make a quick template, lay out the tile at your shop the next morning, make all your cuts, and hand them off to your installer. When I asked Jason if he had any advice, he said, “’Centered’ and ‘balanced’ are the terms most often heard when talking about layout. I lean more towards ‘balanced’ when laying out a space. Balanced doesn’t always equal centered, especially with all the different shapes and sizes of product we are seeing these days.” I couldn’t agree more.

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