FEATURE COVER STORY – Tiling entryways and foyers

How to successfully install tiles in high-traffic areas prone to water, dirt, and movement stresses

By Sean Gerolimatos, Schluter Systems LP

Entryways and foyers vary in size, use, and style, depending on the type of building. Despite their inherent differences, there remain various requirements that apply to virtually every case. Much of the building traffic will enter via the entryway or foyer, making these spaces ideal for creating positive first impressions.

Ceramic tiles are durable, hygienic, and offer a wide range of design palettes, making them a perfect fit for these applications. A comprehensive installation system will ensure a successful tile application, thereby creating an entryway and foyer that is both attractive and durable, and sets the tone for the rest of the building. 

Mitigating movement stresses

Virtually all substrates present significant challenges for ceramic tile coverings. For example, all wood materials, including plywood, OSB, and framing members, are subject to expansion, contraction, bending, and deflection due to changes in moisture content and loading. Concrete, often considered a “good” substrate for tile, moves at a different rate than tile with changes in temperature, shrinks during the initial drying process as excess moisture is lost, and often cracks. This results in stresses in the tile covering and risks of cracking and delamination when tiles are bonded directly to the substrate using the thin-bed method.

Uncoupling membranes provide lateral flexibility and independent movement between the tile and substrate, limiting the transfer of movement stresses. This protects the tiles from damage, thereby improving the performance of thin-bed assemblies. This method is based on a configured membrane with an anchoring fleece laminated to the underside. The membrane is bonded to the substrate by embedding the anchoring fleece in thin-set mortar. The top of the membrane features a grid of cavities that provide a mechanical lock for the thin-set mortar used to set the tiles. Support for the tiles is ensured by the column-like mortar structures formed in these cavities, which carry the loads from the tiles to the structural base.

Because all tile coverings expand and contract with changes in moisture, temperature, and loading, movement joints are an essential component in any tile assembly. Prefabricated movement-joint profiles can replace sealant joints in tile fields and at restraining surfaces. These profiles provide a maintenance-free alternative to sealant joints that typically require periodic replacement. They also protect tile edges and improve the integrity of the tile assembly as a whole.

Waterproofing protects moisture-sensitive substrates

Inhabitants or visitors often track dirt, dust and water on their shoes when they enter the building. Uncoupling membranes are typically waterproof and offer essential protection for moisture-sensitive substrates. For complete waterproofing, seams and floor-to-wall transitions can be sealed with bonded waterproofing membranes. Waterproofing floor-to-wall transitions ensure that moisture from the outdoors and from cleaning solutions will not penetrate and damage the base of gypsum board walls.

Profiles enhance and finish tile bases

While wood bases are very popular and can be installed over bonded waterproofing membranes, tiled bases or wainscotings are more durable and hygienic in the long run. Poorly-designed floor-to-wall transitions, however, can collect dust and dirt and are difficult to keep clean. Cove base is a ceramic base that provides a rounded transition between the floor and wall, thus making cleaning easier. When tile lines don’t include cove base or other ceramic trim pieces, cove-shaped profiles provide a solution. They can be integrated with field tile to create a smooth, easy-to-clean transition that enhances the overall aesthetic appeal of the application.

The availability of ceramic tile trim supply can be spotty, depending on the manufacturer. In fact, imported European tile lines may not provide trim at all, since ceramic trim has limited use overseas. Wall profiles are an alternative to ceramic trim, which can be used instead of surface bullnose or to finish and protect tile edges at outside wall corners and at the top of tile bases and wainscotings.  A variety of accessories, including inside and outside corners, are available for most wall profiles.

Profiles are effective at floor-covering transitions

While most of us in the tile industry would prefer to see tiles used on floors throughout the building, in reality there is a need for clean transitions from tiled entryways and foyers to adjacent floor coverings, such as hardwood or carpet, particularly in residences.  Floor profiles are used to finish and protect tile edges at these transitions, with sloped profiles available to address height differences between tile coverings and adjacent floor coverings. In fact, many of these profiles provide slopes that comply with the guidelines in the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Entrances that combine beauty with durability

Ceramic tiles are durable, hygienic, and offer a wide range of design options, making them the ideal covering for entryways and foyers. A comprehensive system approach as presented above will help ensure an attractive entrance into a home or public building that successfully combines beauty and utility with long-term durability.

Marazzi Architectural Ventilated Wall System creates sustainable rainscreen

When the Evanston, Ill.-based professional design partnership BEHLES + BEHLES wanted a sustainable facade as part of the green design strategy for the branch banking facility of First Bank &Trust, the firm turned to Marazzi Architectural.

BEHLES + BEHLES closely collaborated with Marazzi Architectural representatives on the new LEED-Gold recognized facility, located within the Village of Skokie, Ill. Marazzi Architectural’s Ventilated Wall System was selected as one of the most visible elements of the sustainable design strategies implemented for the project.

DTI of Illinois, based in Aurora, Ill., installed approximately 5,200 square feet of Marazzi Architectural’s white and gray Monolith porcelain stoneware in rectified, large-format 12”x24” and 24”x48” modules on the specially-engineered, site-specific aluminum framework by Jurij Podolak, architectural engineer, CSI, ASCE, AAWE, associate AIA, and founder of VF Engineering (ventedfacades.com). The Monolith series, supplied by Great Lakes Distribution in Madison, Wis., boasts 40% recycled content.

“The Marazzi rep – Jerry Joyce – was absolutely terrific to work with on our initial rainscreen facade project, First Bank & Trust in Skokie, Ill.,” said Brian Castro, president of DTI of Illinois.

“We would NOT have been able to get the project done without his help. There were plenty of challenges, but Jerry was readily accessible at each and every one. He made himself present at the site on numerous occasions. “

Castro said the biggest challenge in this job was the bracket attachment to the building. But Marazzi’s help gave DTI the support needed to handle the situation. “Jerry worked around the clock to provide a solution that was compatible with American construction methods,” Castro added. “Once solved, the actual installation was a learning curve that was quickly absorbed by our union-trained professional installers.”

In Marazzi Architectural’s Ventilated Wall System, continuous external insulation provides uniformity in thermal protection, while the cladding material stops direct sun radiation. Together, they reduce unbalanced temperature distribution (thermal bridges that promote condensation and mold formation) and enhance the energy efficiency of the building.

To maximize these benefits, BEHLES + BEHLES super-sized the layers of insulation both within the building and on the exterior wrap to increase energy efficiencies as well as comfort levels inside the structure.

Other LEED/sustainable design highlights of the project include:

• A geo-thermal heat pump which extracts energy embedded in the earth, allowing for a 25% reduction in energy from non-renewable resources.
• A green roof covering 66% of the roof area of the building, reducing the urban heat island effect of conventional roofing systems.
• An underground site retention system that collects storm water run-off and returns better quantity and quality of run-off water to storm sewer.
• A building site that is a brown field redevelopment, with good access to public transportation and special allowances made for bicycles and low-emitting vehicles.
• A highly-insulated tile rainscreen exterior wall made from 40% recycled material that provides better thermal and moisture conditions for the interior spaces.
• Large floor-to-ceiling windows and high clerestory windows that bring ample daylight into the building, providing a better work environment for building employees.
• Energy efficient LED light fixtures that are used throughout the building.
• Use of water-efficient plumbing fixtures throughout the building that allow for a 42% reduction in overall use of potable water.
• 20% of all building materials obtained from recycled sources.
• 20% of all building materials obtained from regional sources (within 500 miles), decreasing energy use for materials transportation.
• Recycling of 90% of all construction waste, diverting that material away from landfills.
• Low-emitting paints, coatings, sealants, and floorings, creating a healthier work environment for building occupants.

Although the bank has only recently opened and comparative energy savings statistics are not yet available, typical results obtained with Marazzi Architectural’s Ventilated Wall System are up to 1/3 savings on energy usage. The large-format porcelain tile also offers excellent performance, both technical and aesthetic. Abrasion, freeze-thaw, fading, graffiti and harsh weather conditions become non-issues.

The ventilated façade overcomes all of the mechanical phenomena encountered during its lifetime, such as its own weight, suspended loads, external ambient shock, wind loading, deformation in the support structure, temperature or humidity variation, solar radiation, chemical and atmospheric agents.

All the sustainable design objectives were employed to demonstrate the client’s commitment to both the local Village community and the larger environmental community.

“It was so much fun, we’re presently in negotiations for two more larger similar projects,” said DTI’s Castro. “We’re very much looking forward to our next adventure.”


Sustainability was celebrated and recognized for the third year running with the PROJECT:Green competition, held at Coverings 2012 in Orlando this spring. Three projects walked away as winners, and three other submissions were also deemed noteworthy in their use of sustainable materials. Winners were represented in the new Coverings Central social media hub. All three winners are defining achievements in design and architecture where sustainability was a core mission and tile and stone were integral to that end. The editors of Environmental Design + Construction (ED+C) magazine joined with Coverings to sponsor and judge the initiative.

Schlüter Systems
Reno distribution and training center

Schlüter Systems’ newly-built 90,000-square-foot distribution and training center in Reno, Nevada was honored with the “Best in Show” Award for Commercial/New Construction (see the cover story of TileLetter, September 2011 for full details of this project – visit http://tinyurl.com/cldnsgg online). More than 41,000 square feet of tile were installed throughout the facility on floors, interior walls and the exterior façade, with 24”x24” porcelain tile applied over a combination of Schlüter®-KERDI-BOARD and Schluter-DITRA-DRAIN.

The washroom sinks demonstrate one of the unique applications of tile. Using Kerdi-Board panels to build the structure and the sloped surface for the sink basin and the Kerdi-Line linear drain for drainage, the vanity and sink are covered entirely in tile.

In an atrium, porcelain tile provided the backing for a “living wall” where the plants that thrive on this vertical surface add oxygen and humidity and act as a bio-filter for the air inside the building. Even the warehouse features 8,000 square feet of tiles, innovatively applied to walls over a radiant cooling system. Schlüter – BEKOTEC modular screened panel formed the platform for the system and integrates with the tile covering to produce a system that reacts very quickly to changes in temperature, and consumes 70% to 80% less energy than traditional systems.

Judges remarked that the project is “a living laboratory, research center and museum for what is possible with ceramic tile and how it can contribute to a healthy, sustainable and lifelong design.”

San Francisco Airport

Taking the Commercial/Remodel “Best in Show” Award was San Francisco International Airport Terminal Two, where Crossville’s Color Blox EC tiles – with a minimum of 20% recycled content – were extensively incorporated into the design. This renovation of the airport’s circa 1950s terminal by Gensler earned a LEED Gold rating, the first air terminal in the U.S. to achieve this certification level. Tile, installed by De Anza Tile using setting materials from Custom Building Products, was the featured flooring and wall surface in each of 16 public restrooms, four post-security and four pre-security areas in the terminal. All together, more than 36,160 square feet of the material were used.

The Color Blox EC porcelain tile – supplied by Butler-Johnson Corporation – made up 95% of the tile used in the project, with a band of glass mosaic tile running along the ceiling edge above the vanity/mirror areas comprising the other 5% of tile used. The recycled content in Color Blox EC comes from varying percentages of Crossville’s own waste and from its Tile Take-BackTM Program, which recycles reclaimed, previously-installed tile.

The terminal’s design uses 15% less energy than California’s stringent building code and the reuse of the existing building’s structure saved approximately 12,300 tons of CO2. Low-flow fixtures with a dual plumbing system  take advantage of reclaimed water, and use of daylight reduces the need for electric light in many areas. Aggressive recycling policies for all tenants reduce the airport’s waste generation and carbon footprint.

Chicago Federal Building

Named “Best in Show” for Institutional/Remodel was the John C. Kluczynski Federal Building in Chicago. Crossville again was the lead resource for tile featured in all 78 renovated bathrooms in this Mies van der Rohe-designed architectural landmark. The 57,000 square feet of new tiles installed in the project by Trostud incorporated recycled tiles, toilets, sinks, urinals and drinking fountains that were removed from the building as part of the renovation, then subsequently crushed and made into new, custom porcelain tile. An estimated 102,000 pounds of end-of-use porcelain material were diverted from this building and recycled by Crossville for this closed-loop project. There was 13,750 square feet of white 12”x24” tile with 50% pre-consumer recycled content and 43,464 square feet  of grey 24”x24” tile with approximately 48% post-consumer recycled content. The project was the inspiration for the new line of Shades by Crossville porcelain tile, launched this year. Crossville is the first tile manufacturer to be certified by SCS for its waste recycling processes for fired and filtrate waste.

No-VOC and low-VOC MAPEI setting materials were used; tile was supplied via Virginia Tile.

Inspiration and Ideas 

Three additional project submissions were acknowledged for offering inspiration on sustainability via use of tile or stone. These noteworthy projects celebrated in the PROJECT: Green Ideas Center include:

Subway Restaurant, Kokomo Town Center, Kokomo, IN.
Idea 1: Use recycled/reclaimed materials

Reclaimed/recycled limestone salvaged from a central Indiana school and church and other former projects was used for both interior and exterior surfaces, providing a distinctive aesthetic while eliminating need for newly quarried stone.

Floor & Décor, Norwood, NJ
Idea 2: Consider manufacturers you are sourcing from and their sustainable practices

This 2011 PROJECT: Green Honorable Mention was cited this time around for a residential bathroom renovation where the utmost consideration was given to the manufacturers who were sourced as much for their sustainable practices as for their sustainable products. Eco-friendly Porcelanosa 12”x25” tile products from the Lino Blanco line were used for surface finishes. Porcelanosa has been an ISO 14001 certified organization since 2004 and employs a range of sustainable practices in its operations, from recycling cardboard packaging, recycling plastic wrap, converting heat from its kilns to electricity and using filters to reduce dust emissions.

Matt Kline Associates, Alexandria, Va.
Idea 3: Be sensitive to the environment of the space

This distributor of tile, stone and other surfaces renovated the family’s own kitchen, cleaning and reusing bricks from the back wall in the project. There was very little demolition waste in the project due to its reuse or recycling back into the project. In addition, highly sustainable products were selected such as hand-painted tiles surrounding the brick oven and backsplashes from a California studio employing low-tech processes and excellent environmental practices. Long-wearing, eternally fashionable, practical, and easily-recycled Blue Eyes granite was used on the counter work surfaces and a special cut of Calacatta Gold marble was used on the islands.

For full  details, visit www.coverings.com and click on Attendees & Press, then on Special Programs  or enter http://tinyurl.com/6necdtw into your browser.

NTCA Benefits Box – August 2012

The NTCA Executive Committee is currently revising the Association Strategic Plan for 2013/2014. It will be presented to the Board of Directors at Total Solutions Plus, taking place October 27th-30th in Palm Springs, Calif.

One of the main objectives identified for the NTCA is to continue to save our members money and find them work. Our mission is simple: eliminate any confusion or objections about why a tile contractor or business would NOT be a member of the NTCA. Here is a quick snapshot for those who are not yet members of the NTCA to consider:

Total NTCA Membership
Cost Per Year: $500
(Monthly billing of $45 on credit card or direct draft available)
Benefits of your membership: saving you $$$$$$$$

• Partnering For Success: $1,500 of free Product Vouchers (You get to pick the vendors with which you wish to partner. This benefit alone offsets your membership and allows you to actually MAKE money!)
• Free subscriptions to TileLetter and TADA magazines
• Free technical advice from association staff (over 150 years of industry installation, sales and technical experience)
• Strong voice on the development of industry standards (our members fight for the tile contractor)
• Free access to the NTCA Reference Manual (used in both customer and supplier correspondence)
• Discounted registration for  the Certified Tile Installer Program offered by the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF)
• Discounted freight on Freightquote.com and Partnership
• Discounted insurance programs in liability, auto, property, workers’ compensation
• A complete low-cost program to assist the tile contractor in developing a marketing plan

These are just a few examples of programs NTCA has established to save you money. We are exploring new programs for 2013 in the health field, discounts on purchases of vehicles for your business, and more. Our staff will continue to strive to find programs that will offset expenses to your bottom line. It does not take a lot of time for you to do the math. Being a member of the NTCA is an easy decision!

NTCA: Dedicated to finding you work

New language in the TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation and MasterSpec recognizes approved company recognition efforts like the NTCA Five Star Contractor Program and the CTEF Certified Tile Installer Program as viable resources for designers and specifiers to consider. At a minimum, we strongly recommend that those individuals involved in specifying or hiring installers request proven performance of successful projects of similar size and scope. This effort will only protect all NTCA members who are dedicated to the successful installation of ceramic tile and natural stone. Our staff is working on future partnerships with companies that sell ceramic tile and natural stone to consumers and project owners to be  resources for installation referrals and recommendations. We expect several announcements in 2013 that will result in unique opportunities for you and your business. In addition, we will continue to explore developing national account specifications for Certified Tile Installers and NTCA Five Star Contractors.

To obtain more information on NTCA membership, contact Jim Olson, NTCA assistant executive director, at [email protected] or call us at 601-939-2071.

Join the hundreds of new NTCA members now and see why your association makes perfect sense for your business!


BASF offers the SELECTTM Eco-Label Manager database free for its company, external stakeholders and registered participants. BASF’s Sustainability, Eco-Labeling & Environmental Certification Tracking Eco-Label Manager was developed to allow strategic management of the abundance of eco-labels, environmental claims, product directories and green ratings systems. This comprehensive database includes detailed program information and functionality which will help users view the requirements of programs in a structured format; compare programs and program specifications; and assess their products against program requirements. For information, visit www.selectecolabels.com.

GEOS Sustainable Surfaces

GEOS Sustainable Surfaces blends a mixture of post-consumer and industrial glass into a dense, durable surface for countertops and surfaces in residential and commercial settings. This low-VOC product contributes to LEED-NC, LEED-CI and LEED-CS points. GEOS offers a 10-year warranty and 13-color palette in a durable, scratch, stain- and heat-resistant, easy-to-maintain surface. 800-719-3671; geos-surfaces.com.

Mediterranea USA

Mediterranea’s Precious Stones collection uses Dynamic HD Imaging to replicate the look of premium stones in the world’s most exclusive quarries with colors, veining and color consistency never before seen in a manufactured product. In five sizes and four palettes, with 2”x2” mosaics and 3”x12” bullnose trim. 305-718-5091; mediterranea-usa.com.

Fireclay Tile

Fireclay Tile launches Glazed Thin Brick, its first artistic brick collection. It features rich, organic texture, up to 100% recycled local content, American craftsmanship and a selection of nine VOC-free natural glazes manufactured from oxides and raw earth materials.  100% of glaze overspray is collected and recycled. Standard size Glazed Thin Brick is 8-1/8” x 2-7/16” with corners, caps and glazed edges available. Utility and Modular sizes and other finishes including Sandmolded are also available by custom order. In keeping with Fireclay’s community efforts, Fireclay recycles  1% of all Glazed Thin Brick sales to a local charity, selected quarterly. 408-275-1182; www.fireclaytile.com

DAC announces 18th Annual Multiple Sclerosis Golf Outing

David Allen Company (DAC) has announced it 18th annual Multiple Sclerosis Golf Outing for Friday, October 5, 2012, at the Heritage Hunt Golf and Country Club in Gainesville, Va. The outing supports the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

For the last 18 years, DAC has donated over $431,000 to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. This year, the Raleigh, N.C.- based tile contracting company aims to reach the half-million mark.

The schedule includes registration and lunch at 10 a.m. and tee off at 11 a.m. Auctions, awards and raffle drawing will be held in the ballroom immediately after golf. They include a putting challenge on the practice green, a closest-to-the-pin challenge on holes 6 and 9, and double-your-money or raffle tickets on holes 11 and 18.

To obtain a registration form with details, email Susan Allen at [email protected] All registrations must be received by September 26, 2012.

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