To answer your question about whether to leave a space where a floor meets a wall – Yes! A gap of approximately 1/4” should be left at all changes in plane (for instance where a floor meets a wall) around the perimeter of the installation. This gap should be present in the underlayment and tile. If no trim will be installed to cover the gap, a “soft joint” can be made with appropriate sealant, or certain trim profiles can be installed to accommodate movement and expansion. This gap should also be left where tile abuts cabinetry, pipes or other permanent fixtures. Any other change in plane such as where a wall meets another wall must also have a soft joint installed to allow for movement and expansion. Also, expansion joints must be properly placed and installed in the tile field depending on the location and size of the installation. Additionally, control joints and saw cut joints in concrete must be honored through the surface of the tile to avoid future cracks in the finished installation. These specifications and the many, many other details related to a successful tile installation can be handled by your qualified contractor and certified labor.
Rolling in the deep: passion for excellence parlays challenging mermaid pool install into follow-up backsplash project
Handmade mosaic murals by Ruth Frances Greenberg required careful prep and attention to detail from Hawthorne Tile
Two challenging hand-made mosaic designs by Portland’s Ruth Frances Greenberg (rfgtile.com) have recently been installed in a Portland residence by Hawthorne Tile. The precision of the design and process of installation initially challenged Hawthorne Tile when the tile contractor set Greenberg’s mermaid mosaic in the bottom of a pool in summer 2017. But once the owner saw the beauty of the expertly installed pool mermaid, she immediately commissioned a Ruth Frances Greenberg backsplash for the pool house kitchen.
Bringing a mermaid to life
The 14´ diameter mermaid project involved “pretty intense logistics,” said Travis Schreffler, project manager for the install. He explained that after the tiles are made by hand, fired and then re-fired for exterior use and the design is created, Greenberg lays the tiles out in a huge circle and face-mounts them with plastic, cuts them into sections and numbers them. They are then placed on pieces of cardboard to deliver them to the jobsite.
That required Schreffler to build a map to clarify where the design was going – it had to be laid out and put back together like a puzzle. Compounding the difficulty was the slope of the pool – it sloped from the shallow to deep end on a radiused arc rather than on a straight plane, so it was a perfectly flat curved arc: an intersecting plane that was flat in one direction and arched in the other.
The bottom of the pool needed to be prepped first with ARDEX AM100 rendering mortar with a radius established based on the arc; then an installer and an apprentice created a series of screeds that followed the pool’s arc. The installation prep took two and a half days.
Each piece of the mosaic puzzle had to be moved down to the swimming pool, and the relationship between the pieces appraised since, as Schreffler said, “each piece relates to the other pieces in that they are loosely mounted, and needs the next piece to be adjusted, like a gear.” This meant that once the installation began, it had to be done in one four-hour take.
The crew, with Schreffler, two other Certified Tile Installers and two apprentices, started early in the day while it was cool to keep the ARDEX X77 thinset viable. ARDEX’s William White was onsite to help with the logistics, providing extremely attentive support, said Schreffler.
There were some nail-biter moments during the install. “Every piece you put down, you felt like it wasn’t going to fit,” Schreffler said, so at times he also jumped in to lend a hand. In the end, the job was done by noon, and left to sit protected overnight. The next day, the plastic was removed, loose tiles reattached, and it was cleaned. Two days after the install, it was grouted with ARDEX FL and was ready for the plasterers to come in and finish up with pool plaster.
Mosaic mural adorns pool house kitchen backsplash
The mural for this backsplash was a 6´ x 8´ Hawaiian beach scene with breaching humpback whales, sea turtles and tree frogs, again created by Ruth Frances Greenberg. Plus the homeowner had befriended stray cats while in Hawaii, so the mural included them as well.
The process of assembling all the parts and pieces was the same as with the pool, but Hawthorne Tile was now familiar with this system.
Schreffler said, “Ruth laid them out with me so I knew where everything was to go. She gave me some creative license – with relief flowers and some other pieces. Before the first install in the pool, she never experienced CTI installers before, so the experience for her was very welcoming.”
Again, the mural needed to be installed in one fell swoop, using ARDEX X77 as thinset. “We started this one at 7 a.m. and were done by 11 a.m.,” Schreffler said. This was after the crew spent a day prepping the wall surface to be sure it was flat. “We had the same crew,” he said, “So they knew exactly what they were doing and acted as a fantastic team. They took the bull by the horns, were confident and did a fantastic job, impressing the homeowner.”
This is the kind of work upon which Hawthorne Tile thrives. “We welcome this kind of challenge,” Schreffler said. “Exactly this kind of thing – outside the box – we set out to do this a long time ago. Those moments that feel like you can’t get there from here are extra sweet when you step back and it’s done.”
Editor’s Letter – September 2018
Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other. – John F. Kennedy
As we move into the fall, we focus on a number of training events and technical stories in this issue. Our Business Tip on the University of Ceramic Tile and Stone gives information on some online courses that can enhance your knowledge and professionalism. NTCA Technical Trainer Robb Roderick’s Tech Talk story on mock-ups is a comprehensive story on something we don’t discuss that often but that is really essential to the success of an installation – creating a mock-up to not only fully visualize how the product will look, but also troubleshoot other aspects about the job such as lighting that will impact its ultimate success.
In our Thin Tile/GPTP section, MAPEI’s Dan Marvin reports on a thin tile seminar and demo that took place at Coverings and the essential information presented and demonstrated on this increasingly popular tile format. In our Training & Education section, we spotlight the NTCA Five Star Contractor Summer Meeting, held in Nashville, Tenn., and the caliber of technical and business training that took place, in addition to a tour of Daltile’s Dickson, Tenn., manufacturing plant.
Ron Meler was the business speaker at this Five Star meeting, and in this issue he shares his expertise on the change order process, to help you navigate what can be a complex and confusing aspect of doing business.
We also check in with NTCA member Stephen Belyea of JSG Tile & Stone in Weymouth, Mass., to learn about his path to professional tile setting when he started out as a professional chef! And we spotlight Hawthorne Tile’s challenging and beautiful install of first, a mermaid mosaic by Ruth Frances Greenberg in a residential pool, followed by RFG’s backsplash mosaic in the pool house kitchen. These projects are true testaments to the skills qualified tile setters possess.
What is your favorite topic to read about? We are in the throes of putting together our editorial calendar and story topics for next year. Give us your input on what you want to learn about or see, and help us hone our content to be more useful to you. Just email me at the address below!
Columbia River Tile & Stone’s stunning black and white marble bathroom
In 2003, Jeff Occhipinti, owner of Columbia River Tile & Stone in Portland, Ore. – and winner of the 2018 Coverings Installation Design Award for Residential Stone Installation – started working in the tile industry, learning from many stellar tile setters. He developed a specialty in flagstone work, explaining, “It is challenging, but you can be very creative with it,” he said.
After three years, Occhipinti became a licensed contractor and went out on the road for the next four years building new hotels until the economy dropped and being on the road was no longer feasible. At that point, Occhipinti said, “I was determined to build my business locally by giving our clients the best possible service. In 2017 I joined the NTCA, and became a Certified Tile Installer – #1354.”
Columbia River Tile & Stone has grown to six employees including Occhipinti – all of whom have been hired with no previous construction experience. “We take pride in the fact that we are training the next generation of tile setters,” he said. “We believe heavily in education as we participate in local training events as well as being active in NTCA University. It is an exciting time right now in the tile industry. We are true artists and craftsmen in our work, and are proud to be contributing to the growth of the industry.” In fact, Columbia River Tile & Stone is a member of the newly formed Columbia-Oregon Tile Trades Training Trust, which starts its initial apprenticeship class next month (TileLetter July Training & Education feature).
The winning project – black and white marble bathroom
Occhipinti describes the installation process of his prizewinning project, for a previous client.
“The homeowner unfortunately had a fire at their house that required a complete tear-down to the studs. This included the previous work that we had done. The homeowner had a vision for the rebuild of their 1929 home, and we were fortunate to be a part of that vision. The upstairs bathroom had a tub surround with alternating diamond shaped Blue Celeste marble and White Thassos marble, the floor was 3” hex and borders of the same materials. The kitchen floor, backsplash, and fireplace were Spanish style tile. For a vanity wall we installed a smoky mirror mosaic tile.
“The master bathroom was the centerpiece of the project. A combination of Nero Marquita and White Thassos marbles comprised the majority of the materials used. The concrete slab was recessed to accept the curb-less entry mud-set shower. Everything was waterproofed with a liquid-applied, thin waterproofing anti-fracture membrane and the niche and bench were constructed out of wedi. The bathroom floor had Schluter Ditra underlayment and the bathroom floor and shower floor were both heated with SunTouch WarmWire. The job was finished with urethane grout and a penetrating sealer was applied to the marble.
“Layout was critical on this project. We were able to continue the diamond pattern on six walls creating a true wrap-around effect. We were able to achieve full tile at all of the focal points including the bottom and top cuts, the vertical outside corner, and against the arched entry way. The stained glass window also has the pattern continue to the other side, in addition to having symmetrical cuts on both sides. The shower floor and bench top are centered and balanced. The floral patterns are also perfectly placed with one of the florals landing centered on the tiled shower drain.
“This project definitely had its challenges. Right from the start we realized that stacking the diamond- shaped tile was going to require some special steps to keep the tile aligned properly. We modified our 1/16” T spacers to have a Y shape. This worked pretty well. The use of straight edges at the diagonal runs was crucial and helped keep the tiles from sliding out of alignment. The mitered outside edge also took some patience since White Thassos marble has a tendency to crumble when it is cut. There were quite a few attempts to get the perfect mitered edges for this focal corner.
“Overall this timeless beauty was another great project for us,” Occhipinti concluded. “We are honored to be recognized for the work that we have done.”
Certifications and NTCA membership feeds his hunger for knowledge
New NTCA member Ken Ballin, owner of Skyro Floors in West Creek, N.J. (www.skyrofloors.com), located near the Long Beach Island and the Jersey shore, got his feet wet learning about tools from his grandfather, who
was a carpenter and a Seabee in the Navy. “He taught me everything I know about tools,” Ballin said. “After my wife and I purchased our first home and started renovations, it was pointed out that I have a knack for flooring. I started installing for customers on my days off from my ‘regular job’ and business took off. I was lucky enough to pick up a contract with a local box store and quickly became the guy they called to fix the mistakes.”
Ballin started out installing only laminate flooring but learned about other types along the way. The box store “asked if I could install hardwood (so I learned),” he said. “Then they asked if I could install tile (so I learned). Then they asked me if I could install carpet (so I hired a couple carpet crews). At my peak with them I was running about a dozen or so crews and we did the work for about a dozen or so stores.”
Ballin says that unfortunately the proverbial rug was pulled out from under his feet when the box store decided to go with a work room format instead, jettisoning the small companies doing their installs. Today, Skyro Floors installs tile, hard surface flooring, and concrete overlays in mostly residential remodel projects with some new construction.
Though Ballin has only joined the NTCA in the last few months, he’s always been focused on training and bettering himself. “I’m hungry for knowledge so first I got certified for hard surface flooring with CFI, then I took and passed the CTI test, and most recently joined the NTCA,” he explained. “I try to focus on higher-end/higher-paying customers since I live in a tourist market. While I’m still learning every day myself, I try to share my knowledge with others as much as possible.
“I joined the NTCA because aside from my love of the industry I wanted to see firsthand what it can do for my business,” he continued. “I’ve heard the ‘voucher argument’. I’ve also heard that some small business owners felt it was more geared towards bigger companies so instead of just listening to stories I decided to find out for myself. What better way than to jump right in?
“So far the greatest value in joining the NTCA is the support,” he said. “I don’t mean technical support. I mean from the other members and yes, I know, I didn’t have to join the NTCA for that but the reassurance from other members and knowing that I’ve got someone to turn to if I need a hand is well worth it. The vouchers are nice too.” (Learn more about the Partnering for Success program here: https://www.tile-assn.com/page/vouchers?)
Ballin feels a great responsibility as CTI #1392. “Responsibility to my customers, responsibility to myself, and responsibility to the other men and women who’ve decided to make it their responsibility to represent high standards,” he said. “Being a CTI has given me the confidence to charge a premium for my services and the confidence to know I’m worth that premium.”
Ballin said the greatest satisfaction he gets in being an installer is “knowing that my customers will be making memories for the rest of their lives on one of my floors,” explained. “Something I did will be with them through birthdays, graduations, anniversaries, and everything else a family goes through. I shouldn’t say I don’t do this for the money because it’s how I (attempt to) pay my bills, but I genuinely love what I do and I love being around others who feel the same way.”
By Jeff Moen, General Manager, FILA USA
In addition to its inherent beauty, natural stone is globally acknowledged as the most time-honored and time-tested building material. Now easier to work with than ever before, durable and of course, a product of Mother Nature, it clearly stands up to the challenges of tomorrow.
But realistically speaking, not all stone is alike. Because of that, to maintain, protect and regularly restore the “look” of natural stone, especially for indoor horizontal surfaces, certain regimens are absolutely necessary.
Step one: is your stone acid resistant or acid-sensitive?
Step one is to know if the stone’s characteristics include being acid-resistant or acid-sensitive.
Should the stone surface be an acid-resistant stone such as natural granite, post-installation cleaning and maintenance procedures (provided the optimal products are used) should be less worrisome to end users than if they had recently installed acid-sensitive stone material such as travertine or limestone.
Often times, especially for commercial flooring installations where epoxy grout is specified, there is a great deal of grout haze/residue on the surface of the tile, even after the entire project has cured and cleaned. If the cleaning agent contains any acidic formulations, after the surface is cleaned, porous limestone and travertine will become impregnated with chemicals which over time, can become very destructive to the stone tile’s body. Cracking, breaking, efflorescence and even the emission of harmful VOCs possibly can result.
It’s highly recommended to use a grout release product to thoroughly clean the surface of the flooring. In some cases, but not all, this process can actually be considered as sealing the stone material. There are various educational programs and tutorials offering solutions from surface care professionals that clearly outline the best methods for post-installation stone floor treatments. Consider these as “insurance investments,” because if applied correctly, building owners don’t have to worry about down-the-road failures of their stone floor expenditures. Rather, they can be confident that their beautiful stone flooring will continue to perform and look great for years and years to come.
But, there is a bit more to consider.
Ongoing protection and maintenance
After the stone flooring has been thoroughly installed, cleaned and sealed, a program should be discussed regarding ongoing protection and maintenance. One doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand the need or simplicity of these regimens. But one does need to be a reasonable businessperson to recognize the fact that stone flooring, like every sizable investment, requires a certain amount of care to continue performing at optimal levels.
Selection of protection, maintenance and sometimes, restoration materials is absolutely key. And again, step one is simply to know the composition of the stone materials that have been specified. For example, most people don’t realize that quartzite, which is a durable product of nature, can contain a certain degree of marble elements. Which surface care products to be selected should be dependent on knowing the percentage of that within the body of the quartz tile.
Not to be confused with quartzite, quartz engineered stone tiles and slabs are agglomerates consisting of durable quartz chips held together by a binder of either cement or resin (epoxy). The surface care products you select should be determined by which kind of binder is used in the original manufacturing process. Obviously, cementitious materials are more porous and thus are subject to more staining than materials made with an epoxy resin binder. But whatever quartzite is being used, sealers, cleaners and other protectant chemicals produced with any concentration of alkalines should be avoided, as they can attack even the strongest of resin binders, ultimately causing deterioration.
Surface maintenance programs ensure beauty and longevity
Not only is natural granite beautiful, it is one of the most durable natural stones offered by Mother Nature. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that just a regular program of wet-mopping will maintain its look. Even with grout joints so tiny that they look almost invisible, grouting between each individual tile needs to be regularly cleaned. And even granite material contains tiny pinholes and fissures into which contaminants may penetrate. To cut to the chase, the most hearty of granite material also needs a surface maintenance program to ensure its longevity in both aesthetics and performance.
It’s obviously vitally important for buyers and specifiers to know the characteristics of ALL the stone flooring they are buying. And it’s just as important for them to know the characteristics of the surface care products needed to clean, protect and maintain these natural surfaces.
Many of today’s surfacing materials produced for both the commercial and residential construction marketplaces can contain harmful substances. In spite of the global outcry relative to climatic change, they continue to be specified. Even building materials that claim to be recyclable can end up in a landfill. It’s time for you and your customers to acknowledge the need to consider more environmentally friendly building materials such as natural stone. And in doing so, to consider the best possible ways in which take care of this time-honored material.
FILA (Fabbrica Italiana Lucidi ed Affini) has achieved international recognition for excellence in providing highly technical, easy-to-use protection and care treatment systems for all surfaces. A family-owned yet strategically structured managerial company, FILA has become a large international group always maintaining strong core values. With an eye on the future, FILA offers optimal answers to the needs of every client, consistently staying ahead of the market. That’s just one reason FILA has been endorsed as “#1” by 250 of the world’s leading tile and stone producers. www.filasolutions.com/usa/
New publication draws on wisdom in the NTCA Reference Manual
By Dale Kempster, Director of the International Technical Network, North America | Schluter Systems
This year is the 75th anniversary of the Terrazzo, Tile, and Marble Association of Canada, more commonly known as the TTMAC. This association is made up of both union and non-union tile contractors and there are currently 291 contractor members, 139 supplier members and 17 professional members. The
TTMAC provides online education, testing (ASTM C627, DCOF), on-site inspections, regional conferences, and an annual national convention. This year, the convention is being held in beautiful downtown Toronto, ON. The TTMAC also produces several technical publications and for the first time this year it is proud to announce its newest addition, the new Tile Installer Technical Handbook.
The Handbook, launched in July, was created to address specifically the challenges and predicaments that tile installers face on job sites almost daily. A large part of the content of this Handbook was reprinted under the permission of the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) located in Jackson, Miss., from the NTCA Reference Manual. All content was reviewed, modified, converted, and Canadianized, for the Great White North. This means that all the measurements are in metric, which was no small task, but for those of you who are still not that comfortable or familiar with metric, there’s a pretty comprehensive conversion chart in the back. Certain words had to be converted from American to Canadian such as vapor to vapour, color to colour, recognise to recognize, and uh huh to eh!!!
All references to details in the TCNA Handbook have been converted to the appropriate details from the Canadian 09 30 00 Tile Installation Manual, as well as any relevant Canadian standards such as the Canadian National Building Code, CSA, CGSB, etc. This Handbook has a wealth of information drawn from years of experience from tile contractors from coast to coast who have shared their lifetime of knowledge and expertise.
Following a similar NTCA Reference Manual format, The Problem, the Cause, the Cure and Prevention in the Future is how the Handbook has been organized. In addition, when appropriate, a template with an informative letter is included after each topic. These letters can be used to inform customers what the issue is and what the appropriate solution may or may not be or what standard or code may or may not be met.
Some of the key topics that are discussed are:
- General Statement on Moisture Emissions,
- Curing Compounds and Release Agents,
- Movement Joints,
- Engineered Wood,
- Division 3 vs Division 9 Floor Flatness Tolerances,
- Questionable Substrates,
- Poured Gypsum Underlayments,
- Waterproof Underlayments,
- Crack Isolation Underlayments,
- Uncoupling Underlayments,
- Critical Lighting Effects on Tile Installations,
- Gauged Porcelain and Porcelain Slabs,
- Exterior Application Guidelines,
- Radiant Heat Issues, Efflorescence,
- Steam Rooms,
- Natural Stone Problems and Maintenance,
- Glass Tile Installation Challenges,
- Grout Problem Solving Guide,
- Coefficient of Friction and DCOF,
- General Care and Maintenance, and an extensive Glossary.
Canadian-specific challenges and construction methods
In Canada there are of course some different challenges and construction methods, and as such this is where there are some major differences between the NTCA Reference Manual and the TTMAC Tile Installation Handbook. One such difference is with the recognition of the installation of Gauged Porcelain Tiles and Tile Panel/Slabs on wood substrates as identified in ANSI A108.19. In Canada, the minimum thickness by code for the subfloor is 15 mm (5/8”) thickness on 400 mm o.c. (16”) (not 20 mm (3/4”) as in the U.S.) so the use of these panels on wood substrates is not recommended, and will have to be researched and tested extensively by the TTMAC before it can be affirmed for the use over wood substrates. Other areas where there are some measurable differences between the US and Canada are: movement joint requirements, the use of partial coverage in crack-isolation membranes, back-buttering requirements, just to name a few.
Unlike the TTMAC 09 03 00 Tile Installation Manual, which is designed and targeted for the architectural and specification community, the Tile Installer Technical Handbook was designed specifically for the end user, the grass roots of our industry: the “tile installer.” A large portion of the photos are from the TTMAC library and many are past recipients of the Hard Surface Awards.
This new publication has 11 chapters and 306 pages of content. Since this is a relatively thick publication to print and to be environmentally responsible the TTMAC is also having this Tile Installer Technical Handbook available electronically. Lastly, the Tile Installer Technical Handbook is dated 2018-2019 and the goal of the TTMAC is to have it revised and reprinted approximately every two years, similar to the TTMAC 09 30 00 Tile Installation Manual.
Canadian tile setters and other industry members can obtain a copy of the TTMAC Tile Installer Technical Handbook, by visiting https://ttmac.com/en/technical/specifications. The Handbook is available for both members and non-members at a nominal charge.
The Belknap White Group (BWG), one of America’s leading full-service flooring distributors and an NTCA associate member, recently hosted a full day of hands-on, classroom style training at its Woburn, Massachusetts, Solution Center. More than 20 installers came out to learn more about thin gauged porcelain tile panels and the new ANSI 108.19 standards of installation in this classroom environment.
Representatives from Crossville Inc., LATICRETE International and Montolit Tools were on hand to conduct the training, which leads to attendees being named and listed as qualified panel/slab installers on Crossville’s Laminam website (https://crossvilleinc.com/laminam-by-crossville/) and certified under the new ANSI standards. The training event not only taught the origin of Laminam, but attendees were meticulously trained on tools required, how to handle it, how to cut it, appropriate setting materials, work time, and proper installation procedure.
“There is a lot of interest in large-format tiles these days and especially Laminam,” stated Bill Prescott, Executive Vice President of Sales for BWG. “It is a superb product that offers exceptional design and a variety of applications.”
“Hosting this training event was not only beneficial to local installers but also to the industry as a whole,” stated Paul Castagliuolo, President of BWG. “We strive to provide our customers what they need to be successful, including the latest trainings. The new standards require specialized training for thin gauged porcelain installation and we are committed to providing it. The Belknap White Group has always taken education seriously and will continue to do so as we look forward to future training events.”
The event was well received by attendees, who also enjoyed breakfast, lunch and the opportunity to win fun door prizes, like an iPad, GoPro and Yeti Cooler.