Marble tile at historic Hearst Castle pool renovated with full system from CUSTOM

The Roman-themed Neptune Pool was expanded three times between the 1920s to 1936, to hold 345,000 gallons of water.

The Neptune Pool at Hearst Castle is perhaps the most exciting and beautiful renovation project a tile and stone contractor could dream of. Located on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean above San Simeon, Calif., this iconic marble pool was inspired by the stunning location, and rivals the extravagant architecture of the castle itself. When cracks and leaks in the 90-year old landmark required repairs and a complete replacement of the tile, a full system from Custom Building Products was selected to install the new stone work.

Originally designed by publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst’s architect Julia Morgan in the 1920s, the Roman-themed Neptune Pool was expanded three times until it reached its current size in 1936. It now holds 345,000 gallons of water, measures 104 feet long by 58 feet to 95 feet across and reaches a depth of 10 feet. The pool is an engineering marvel, being suspended rather than sunken; this factor added an extra layer of complexity to shell and plumbing repair efforts at the site.

By 2014, the aging pool was leaking up to 5,000 gallons of water daily during a devastating drought. After draining the pool to prevent further leaks and assess damage, all original tile had to be removed to allow extensive repairs to the shell. A complete renovation was commissioned by California State Parks, which owns and maintains this expansive property. Following repairs to fill cracks and other imperfections, the application of a crystalline waterproofing solution and a successful 14-day fill test, tile installation began in earnest.

Stellar products and technical support: a winning combination

The natural stone tile work on this project was awarded to the third-generation marble craftsmen at Carnevale & Lohr, Inc., of Bell Gardens, Calif. Their union stone masons and tile setters are trained in time-tested and traditional hand-fitting methods, but also incorporate modern tile installation technology, standards and techniques. This way, the installers brought together the best of the old and new worlds of tile craftsmanship. 

“Custom’s products are excellent,” said David Carnevale, president of Carnevale & Lohr, “but this project also needed to be about the technical support, best warranty, and partnership of the installation products manufacturer. Custom offered their testing labs and all of their resources to us. That was something different, and it counted for so much!” 

Surface preparation was carried out by experienced union installers from subcontractor and NTCA member Charles McCandless Tile Contractor, Inc. of Santa Ana, Calif. To smooth the surface of the pool shell, workers spread Quikrete® Deck Mud fortified with CUSTOM Thin-Set and Mortar Admix at a depth of 1/4” up to 1” in places. This pre-blended leveling mortar is formulated for low shrinkage and saved the labor of powder-blending at the site, while the addition of polymers improved performance and flexural strength. After curing, a bond coat of thin-set mortar was used to prepare the shell for receiving a membrane. 

RedGard® Waterproofing and Crack Prevention Membrane was specified to help isolate cracks in the substrate and waterproof the surface preparation and mortar bed.

Three full strength coats of RedGard followed an initial primer coat for a total of 45 dry mils.

RedGard® Water-proofing and Crack Prevention Membrane was specified to help isolate cracks in the substrate and waterproof the surface preparation and mortar bed. A liquid-applied, elastomeric membrane was indicated due to the size of the project and the rounded surfaces throughout. The membrane was roller applied for the best control of wet mil thickness to exceed the requirements of ANSI A118.10 and A118.12. Three full strength coats of RedGard followed an initial primer coat for a total of 45 dry mils. After curing, each successive coat was applied at a right angle to the previous one to provide the highest level of protection. 

“With RedGard, the ease of application and not having any seams is a huge plus,” offered Mark McCandless, president of McCandless Tile. “On top of that, the team at Custom provided a great system, technical assistance, coordination with the design team and a warranty.”

Attaining historical accuracy

Hearst Castle is a designated National Historic Landmark to protect the architectural masterpieces located at this unique site in California history. This status required an exact color and material match to reproduce the classic patterns of the original marble tile installation. Prior to demolition, 3D laser scans were used to map the tile in the pool to within 1/8”. From these calculations, dimensioned shop drawings were produced to plot the location of individual tiles and their relation to other pool elements. 

Since the site is a National Historic Landmark, an exact color and material match was required to reproduce the classic patterns of the original marble tile installation.

Honoring its first builders, the original Vermont quarry locations were located by a team from the state and used to source the new marble and serpentine needed to bring the pool back in all of its glory. 

All of this planning was followed by the painstaking installation of over 19,000 stone tiles involving countless referrals to photos, plans and other documentation of the original pool. Tiles were carefully fabricated and sorted by character to best replicate every detail of the historic project. Skilled masons set 3,000 sq. ft. of Vermont Verde Antique® serpentine and 7,000 sq. ft. of Olympian White Danby® marble. To match the original pool, the new stone was also cut to 3/4”-thick, so it was quite heavy at 12 lbs./sq. ft. MegaLite® Ultimate Crack Prevention Large Format Tile Mortar was specified for the setting the natural stone in this challenging environment. This mortar exceeds ANSI A118.15 TE for use up to 3/4” thick to support heavy tile and prevent lippage. 

According to the company, MegaLite offers the highest bond strength for the most demanding installation requirements and has the flexibility to withstand horizontal substrate movement. The lightweight formula provided excellent handling characteristics, including

Each stone tile was back-buttered prior to being placed.

less fatigue for installers working with heavy materials. Thixotropic properties provided the non-sag, non-slump performance needed for setting natural stone on both the bottom and vertical sides of the pool. 

Achieving 95% coverage

The adhesive mortar was keyed into the substrate. Then, additional mortar was combed in straight lines using the SuperiorBilt® Premium Notch trowel; this tool is designed to promote ridge collapse once the tile is set. Following industry best practices, trowel ridges were placed running parallel to the shortest side of rectangular tiles to facilitate air release. Each stone tile was back-buttered prior to being placed. Finally, tiles were moved across the trowel ridges to collapse them, release air and prevent voids behind the tile. 

An installer checks the back of a Olympian White Danby® marble tile to ensure 95% coverage.

The stone workers used soft rubber mallets to beat in the bedded tile for a flat tiled surface. Suction cups were used to periodically check mortar coverage and transfer to ensure that it met the 95% requirement for natural stone, exteriors or wet areas. With the pool combining all of these elements, proper ridge collapse and coverage were especially important to protect the tile per ANSI A108.5.2.5. 

The Neptune Pool’s marble and serpentine tiles were grouted with PolyBlend® Non-Sanded Grout. After testing with samples of the stone and historic small joints between tiles, the sand-free formula proved ideal for the project. This durable, non-shrinking, polymer-modified grout can be used to fill joints up to 1/8”. Bright White was the shade used to replicate the original grout, which long pre-dated
colored grouts.

The Neptune Pool’s marble and serpentine tiles were grouted with PolyBlend® Non-Sanded Grout, in the Bright White shade to replicate the original grout.

“As Californians, we take tremendous pride in this project,” said Jim Christenson, field superintendant at Carnevale & Lohr. “Everyone was very excited to watch the pool come back to life.” 

PRODUCTS USED: RedGard® Waterproofing and Crack Prevention Membrane; MegaLite® Ultimate Crack Prevention Large Format Tile Mortar; PolyBlend® Non-Sanded Grout; Commercial 100% Silicone Sealant 

LOCATION: San Simeon, Calif.


ARCHITECT: Page & Turnbull, San Francisco, Calif.

GENERAL CONTRACTOR: T.B. Penick & Sons, Inc., San Diego, Calif.

TILE CONTRACTORS: Carnevale & Lohr, Inc., Bell Gardens, Calif.; Charles McCandless Tile, Inc., Santa Ana, Calif.

CUSTOM BUILDING PRODUCTS TEAM: Brian Swann, District Manager; David Stephens, Territory Manager 

ILCO launches LiteCore natural stone composite panels

BLOOMINGTON, Ind., May 29, 2019  Indiana Limestone Company (ILCO), a leading supplier of natural limestone building products, today announced the launch of its LiteCore panel system. The new system provides the timeless look of natural stone in a lightweight, modular panelized system that combines high performance, design flexibility and labor-savings.

LiteCore panels are available in a variety of natural stones including limestone, granite, or marble. The natural stone veneer is adhered to a high-performing aluminum honeycomb backing and fiberglass mesh that results in a 1-inch panel that weighs 80 percent less than solid dimensional stone panels, while boasting 60 times more impact resistance. Additionally, the predesigned panels are available in standard-sized units, do not require mortar or complex design layouts, and install easily.

Duffe Elkins, VP of Operations for ILCO, says the LiteCore panel system is a natural progression in product innovation to meet the unique challenges of modern construction.

“Our LiteCore system truly allows construction teams to have the best of several worlds with high design flexibility and labor-saving installation combined with the classic aesthetics and resiliency of the highest quality natural stone,” said Elkins. “Additionally, the system can stand extreme freeze-thaw cycles and has the ability to serve as a rainscreen for added performance that allows building designers to address concerns around moisture management.”

LiteCore panels system comes standard with installation hardware that allow the panels to be securely attached to the building substrate for fast and easy installation.

In late 2018, ILCO became part of Polycor Inc., the largest natural stone quarrier in the world. The group owns over 50 quarries and 17 manufacturing plants across North America and Europe.

For more information, visit



Heidi Cronin Hired as CTEF Industry Liaison and Promotions Director

The Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) is pleased to announce that Heidi Cronin, previously President of The Cronin Company, has joined CTEF as the Industry Liaison and Promotions Director, a newly created role to support the next stage of evolution for the organization.


Heidi Cronin Hired as CTEF Industry Liaison and Promotions Director

Heidi Cronin


“We are pleased to welcome Heidi to CTEF in this newly created position”, says Bart Bettiga Executive Director of the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) and member of the CTEF Board of Directors. “Given her professional experience and passion for Qualified Labor, we are confident that she will be instrumental in supporting the growth of the Certified Tile Installer (CTI) program alongside Scott Carothers, Director of Certification and Training for CTEF, and shaping the tile and stone industry in the United States.”

As CTEF Industry Liaison and Promotions Director, Ms. Cronin will be responsible for speaking on a national level to promote CTEF certification and training programs.  Key segment groups include independent distributors, tile and allied product manufacturers, designers, architects, specifiers, remodelers, builders and general contractors. She will work closely with the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) and Tile Council of North America (TCNA), including promoting NTCA qualified labor efforts and the TCNA Why Tile campaign.

A native of Portland, Oregon, Ms. Cronin grew up in the floor covering distributor industry. She graduated from Southern Oregon State College with a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminology. She began her career at The Cronin Company as a branch manager. From there, she spent time in purchasing, becoming Vice President of Operations and then President.

“My ultimate goal as CTEF Industry Liaison and Promotions Director is to encourage all tile installers to become Certified Tile Installers and then to further challenge themselves with Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT),” says Ms. Cronin. “That starts with engaging manufacturers, distributors, and suppliers to host, support and promote more hands-on testing events, filling those events with installers and then convincing architects and designers to specify CTIs into their projects.”

“Please join me and CTEF in welcoming Heidi Cronin to her new role,” adds Bettiga. “The need for Qualified Labor in the tile industry is real and the value for all involved, including consumer and commercial end users, is significant. Heidi’s enthusiasm and expertise are critical to successfully evolving CTEF’s mission.”

Founded in 1996, the CTEF organization focuses solely on tile installation training and education along with promoting quality tile installation in the American marketplace. In 2008, CTEF launched the Certified Tile Installer (CTI) program. The CTI program is the only third-party assessment of installer skill and knowledge which is recognized by the tile industry. It offers owners, whether residential or commercial, peace-of-mind that their tile installer has the right skills to complete a successful tile installation.

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Anatolia Tile + Stone announces new U.S. distribution center

Toronto, Canada: May 28, 2019 – Anatolia Tile & Stone is pleased to announce the opening of its first distribution center in the United States. Strategically located in Savannah, Ga.,  the new distribution center will serve as the main shipping hub for domestic customers and primary receiving point for product from overseas. Located near the port of Savannah, a major terminal for oceangoing vessels on the east coast, as well as links to rail and nearby interstate highways, this is a further step in improving service to U.S. customers. The location in the U.S. will not only deliver better service to customers and reduced shipping rates, but will also offer cost advantages related to increasing import tariffs.

Another milestone in the global expansion of the Anatolia supply chain network, this distribution center follows the opening of the massive distribution center in Aliaga, Turkey in 2018. At just under 400,000 sq. ft. under-roof, the new Savannah facility sits on over 30 acres of land, allowing for abundant storage, staging and location of material inside the warehouse and outdoors. Boasting over 50 shipping and receiving docks, plus additional ground level access, there is plenty of capacity to accommodate the anticipate high velocity of inbound/outbound traffic. With nearly all of the space dedicated to storage, the Savannah location is expected to hold up to 60,000 pallets.

In total, Anatolia Tile & Stone operates four distribution centers. The global headquarters in Vaughan, Ontario houses the corporate offices as well as storage in a 625,000 sq. ft.  facility. Also located in the Greater Toronto Area is the Caledon, Ontario location with 250,000 sq. ft. of warehouse space. The recently opened Aliaga facility, serves as the main global logistics center bordering Europe and Asia. As the largest storage facility in the group at over 645,000 sq. ft.,  the Aliaga facility is also the main shipping point for product bound for Western Europe, Canadian distribution centers and will soon service the new facility in Savannah directly.

For more information visit


Tile Geeks attend Moravian Pottery and Tile Festival

During the 21st Annual Moravian Pottery and Tile Festival held recently in Doylestown, Pa., members of the Tile Geeks Facebook group showed up en force.
East Coast members of the Tile Geeks Facebook group in front of the Moravian Tile Works

East Coast members of the Tile Geeks Facebook group in front of the Moravian Tile Works

Moravian Tile Works building

Moravian Tile Works

The festival took place the weekend of May 18-19, 2019. It was a unique opportunity to view contemporary ceramic tiles featured by artists, dealers and collectors from around the country. Beautiful and rare examples of handcrafted tiles were on exhibit and available for purchase, and a free tour of the Tile Works was included.  Proceeds benefited the museum’s artifact collection and conservation efforts.
The Moravian Pottery and Tile Works is a National Historic Landmark. It’s maintained as a “working history” museum by Pennsylvania’s County of Bucks, Department of Parks and Recreation. Handmade tiles are still produced in a manner similar to that developed by the pottery’s founder and builder, Henry Chapman Mercer (1856-1930). Mercer was a major proponent of the Arts & Crafts Movement in America. He directed the work at the pottery from 1898 until his death in 1930.
Many East Coast-based Tile Geeks attended and made Global Hand Prints for the Mural which will be installed at Tile Council of North America.  Those who attended included: Dennis Pacetti, Jon Vanarthos, Mihaela Fedor, Vincent Pellicone, Jess Labrie, James Garbe, Justin Kyle, Metin Gungor,  and Isaak Mester.
Sheila Menzies, Executive Director of the Tile Heritage Foundation (THF), said, “It was a successful event for the Tile Heritage Foundation, for the Pottery and for the artisans who were there as vendors. THF also had a silent planter box auction with work provided by local artisans and a large array of donated tiles to sell from across the country!”

Coverings 2019 marks its 30th year with continued growth

Coverings (, the largest international tile & stone exhibition and conference in North America, had another year of strong growth at the 2019 show. With nearly 1,100 exhibitors showcasing 479,788 square-feet of tile and stone, the exhibition had solid growth from Coverings 2018. Almost 27,000 professionals from over 90 countries — an 8.6 percent increase — attended the 30th annual trade show, which took place at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando from April 9-12.

“The significant uptick in attendance at Coverings is certainly a strong indication of the health and vitality of the tile and stone industry,” said Jennifer Hoff, president of Taffy Event Strategies, the management company for Coverings. “It was particularly meaningful to see such strong attendee numbers as we celebrated three decades of Coverings.”

Coverings 2019 participants enjoyed new product previews, live demonstrations, networking opportunities, and over 50 educational opportunities. Among the thousands of professionals who attended, distributor attendance was up nine percent while architects & designers, builders & remodelers, contractors & installers, fabricators, and retailers grew by more than 10 percent as compared to 2018.

Exhibitors, in particular, were delighted with this year’s turnout:

“We come to Coverings each year because it’s the best opportunity to meet with key business players,” said Giampaolo Acerbi, Cooperativa Ceramica D’Imola North America national chief sales officer. “The show provides us with a moment in time to launch new collections, which we continue to see great success with.”

Perry Yancovich, Vitromex Vice President of Sales & Marketing also reflected on the show.

“Coverings doesn’t mean simply bringing new products and awaiting feedback,” Yancovich said. “We continue to see opportunities for new growth and distribution. This year, we took advantage of our time at the show to launch a new, user-friendly website on the first day of Coverings, which reinforces our brand identity while providing added tools and catalogues for customers.”

The show’s 30th anniversary milestone provided an opportunity to celebrate the brands that move the industry forward, as well as the designers, architects, specifiers, distributors and more who promote tile and stone within their businesses. In honor of these long-standing partners, anniversary badges and booth ribbons were awarded to attendees and exhibitors who’ve participated in every year of Coverings.

“The show allows us to meet with both current and potential customers, architects, designers and others involved in the industry, acting as a great networking opportunity,” said Ceramica Gomez Area Manager, Salva Liñan.  As a veteran company in the industry, we attend Coverings every year full of enthusiasm because it is the best place to showcase our newest product developments.”

The show concluded with a second-line-style parade, complete with beads and a marching band, in celebration of the fact that Coverings 2020 will take place in New Orleans. Coverings 2020 will be held April 20-23, 2020.

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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 over 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 informative, accredited seminars and live demonstration sessions throughout the show, all free of charge. Coverings attracts thousands of distributors, retailers, fabricators, contractors, specifies, 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 Manufacturers 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 or contact Taffy Events, Coverings Show Management, 703-539-5504.

Importers Challenge Ceramic Tile Antidumping Petition

Washington, DC: May 17, 2019 – On April 10, 2019, the Coalition for Fair Trade in Ceramic Tile filed petitions with the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. International Trade Commission seeking antidumping and countervailing duties on imports of ceramic tile products from the People’s Republic of China. The Coalition consists of U.S. ceramic tile producers American Wonder Porcelain, Florida Tile, Inc., Crossville, Inc., Florim USA, Dal-Tile Corporation, Landmark Ceramics, Del Conca USA, Inc. and StonePeak Ceramics (all members of the Tile Council of North America).

In response to that filing, a broad representation of North American based importers, distributors, retailers, and design professionals have formed the Ceramic Tile Alliance.  The group (CTA) is strongly opposed to the tariffs and believe they jeopardize the long-term health and growth of the entire ceramic tile industry against other competing floor and wall products. The group (CTA) is united in a single effort to save American businesses and the thousands of American jobs which will be at risk if these tariffs are imposed.

The focus of the Ceramic Tile Alliance is to both inform the industry through an awareness campaign and present a united front in the legal proceedings regarding the petition. The (CTA) believes it is important highlight the fact that these tariffs will only benefit domestic ceramic tile manufacturers at the expense of ceramic tile distributors, retailers, installers and design professionals. This campaign is supported by counterclaims against the antidumping and countervailing petition; which shows that Chinese imports have not negatively affected the growth of domestic manufacturing and Chinese imports are not the lowest-cost products imported into the market.

The Ceramic Tile Alliance has started a petition at in hopes of giving a voice to the tens of thousands of ceramic tile industry professionals that will be negatively impacted by these tariffs.

For more information visit

Antolini presents Python Black granite

Python Black granite from Antolini

Python Black granite from Antolini

Antolini presents Python Black granite. Cinereal streams of ashen strokes dance abound this chic granite in an ensemble of naturally-orchestrated beauty. As contoured silhouettes protrude across its igneous surface, the natural characteristics of Python Black emanate an elegance that augments contemporary interiors evoking a blend of luxury and refinement. Python Black is a truly unique form of Exclusive Stone in antiquity that reflects Mother Nature’s endless beauty. For information, visit




NTCA member launches floating shower bench

NTCA contractor member Davis Holland Leichsenring from Holland Bath & Spa, Inc. launches the HOLLSPA Customizable Floating Shower Bench. Leichsenring  is a NTCA Washington DC Ambassador and past Regional Director / Technical Committee member. He is launching his HOLLSPA Floating Shower Bench in showrooms and online nationwide.

NTCA contractor member Davis Holland Leichsenring has developed a floating, customizable shower bench.

NTCA contractor member Davis Holland Leichsenring has developed the HOLLSPA floating, customizable shower bench.

The HOLLSPA Floating Shower Bench consists of a fully customizable benchtop that attaches to the wall through a patented, concealed mounting system. It is built in the USA with durable stainless steel brackets and a mounting system hidden behind the wall for a clean, architectural look.

This ADA-compliant shower bench can be shipped either with one of HOLLSPA’s standard benchtops, or mounting system only, for a complete customization by the buyer’s own stone fabricator. The benchtop does not touch the walls, thus eliminating caulking or grout and creating a floating feel. The mounting kit comes with easy-to-follow instructions, a waterproof package, and an epoxy kit for securing the benchtop.

The HOLLSPA Floating Shower Bench is designed by a tile contractor to be installed by tile contractors. Details and purchasing information available at, [email protected], or 800.215.0203.

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