April 2016 Feature – Merkrete Systems


Construction of the Loma Linda University Health Medical Office Building and Campus, a San Bernardino clinic and healthcare trade school, is nearly complete, bringing a vision for low-cost medical care and training closer to reality. The three-story, 152,000-sq.-ft. project located next to San Manuel Stadium is expected to open in July 2016, where it will be able to accommodate 200,000 patient visits each year.


Installers prepping 6” x 24” plank installed over Merkrete mortars for grout.

Layton Construction Company, LLC is the general contractor leading the construction of this $68 million dollar healthcare facility, which includes a training center for San Manuel Gateway College and is being built by Loma Linda University Health. It will be one of the few places trade students will train alongside physicians in a certificate program. Approximately 80% of the building will be devoted to clinic use, while the remainder will be used for youth educational programs. There are plans for a community dental program, pharmacy, lab and operation room simulators, as well as a restaurant on the ground floor. The facility will service hundreds of thousands of visitors and patients per year, putting the performance of the tile installations to the test.


Installers apply Merkrete 200/211 System to install exterior stone veneer columns.

Merkrete 200/211 System creates excellent results for challenging exterior façades

Van Nuys, Calif.-based City Tile & Stone, Inc., known for its interior and exterior tile and stone expertise, was responsible for the complex tile installations. Guy Tzur, president, and his crew installed over 25,000 sq. ft. of large-format porcelain tile and plank on the floors and about 15,000 sq. ft. on the walls, including 32 restrooms. Additionally, about 7,500 sq. ft. of natural stone veneer were applied to the exterior, providing an elegant accent on all pillars and entryways to the building.


The healthcare facility waiting area features 6” x 24” plank installed over Merkrete mortars.

“For those types of exterior installations, we always use the Merkrete 200/211 System,” said Saul Henriquez, site superintendent. “This easy-to-use, two-part system has excellent physical properties in adhesion, resiliency, water resistance, and shock and weather resistance.” Pedro Torres, site foreman, added, “The 200/211 System from Merkrete has excellent results when used in challenging exterior façade installations. For most projects, particularly this one, we relied on Merkrete for their technical expertise.”

Merkrete meets jobsite challenges

Healthcare installations tend to present many interesting challenges for the designer and installer to overcome. These applications place tremendous stress on the tile or stone application, creating a challenging environment not only for the finished tile or stone, but also for the installation system materials. City Tile & Stone, with technical assistance from Merkrete, assessed the job requirements and provided the proper installation system for each specific application throughout the build.


Detail of waiting area planks set with Merkrete mortars.

The specifications called for crack isolation and waterproofing in nearly all of the interior parts of installation combined with an aggressive project schedule. Work began using Merkete Hydro Guard SP-1. A liquid-applied, fast-drying product, Hydro Guard SP-1 combines crack isolation up to 1/8” and a waterproof system to enable crews to prepare the substrate for setting tile at a faster pace. Hydro Guard SP-1 offers excellent elongation, adhesion and high-strength properties, providing a 100% waterproof membrane that also prevents the transfer of substrate cracks to the finished ceramic or stone tile surface.

“Merkrete’s liquid membranes have been a staple in the industry for many years and we rely on their performance,” said Henriquez.


Decorative tile installed on wall with Merkrete mortars.

With a properly prepared, crack-prevention-and-waterproofed substrate to work on, the installers began setting various sizes of large porcelain tile and planks. Most of the entryways, hallways and lobby areas contained 12” x 24”, 6” x 24” and 24” x 24” porcelain tile requiring a flat surface and a proper setting system to maintain a flat and level installation.

There is no doubt that large tile and planks present their fair share of installation challenges. Planks in particular demand tighter tolerances to maintain the beauty of the tile and overall aesthetic of the installation. So, selection of the setting material is critical, especially when installing “Large and Heavy Tile (LHT).” LHT mortars are not for leveling or truing the substrate. Instead, they are intended to help fill the irregular space between the tile and the underlayment. City Tile & Stone’s preferred mortar is Merkrete’s 735 Premium Flex for these types of applications. “The smooth and creamy material makes for easy spreading, especially when speed is a factor,” said Torres. “735 Premium Flex works great for both floors and walls and offers high strength and flexibility.”

“We have been using Merkrete products for over 20 years,” said Tzur. “As a matter of fact, we use Merkrete on just about all of our projects because we have the trust in the performance of their materials, job after job.”


Another view of healthcare facility waiting area with 6” x 24” plank installed over Merkrete mortars.

Business Tip – April 2016

mapei_sponsorSocial media: the new networking

(Editor’s note: Clearly, social media is a powerful tool to put you in touch with key people and audiences in your industry. In our Coverings issue, we had a story dedicated to social media, and this CTDA contribution continues the theme. The message is clear: get online, and get sharing, posting, liking, pinning and tweeting!)

Networking is crucial to the success of any organization. An especially important benefit of associations is the networking opportunities members enjoy. Networking used to occur mainly through social events, meetings, and small groups. However with advances in technology and the advent of social media, there are many more opportunities for networking and a multitude of possibilities for expanding your business’s network.

To ensure your business is taking full advantage of social media, your business should have a social media strategy, measurable goals and specific tactics.

Your company’s social media strategy ought to have the same organization as any other corporate strategy your company follows. Make your strategy #Specific. Set a clear image of what success looks like. Set #Measurable objectives to evaluate your progress such as “Increase our followers on Facebook by 50 this year.” Ensure your strategy is #Attainable and realistic to achieve within the time specified. Of course anything you do must be #Relevant meaning it should align with your company’s mission. Finally, your strategies must be #Timely – that is, you should assign a timeline for each .

One of the first tasks you will want to undertake is to understand the variety of social media platforms available to you and, of course, those that your desired audience is using.  Some of the current platforms to consider include: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Houzz, YouTube, Yelp, and Google+.

Important social media measurements could include: follower (or participation) numbers and growth over time; increasing total impressions (views of your company’s profile by day); increasing engagements (messages, comments or check-ins from your audience); and increasing link clicks from your company’s posts. A great way to track your company’s success is through a content manager such as Sprout Social, Shareist, or Hootsuite. Also, Facebook offers its own free insights section on your company’s page.

When starting off small, you may want to consider setting a portion of time every day to spend managing your company’s social media. Start with responding to your engagements (good or bad) within 24 hours. Then focus on promoting something new every day, whether it be #MarbleMonday #TileTuesday, #WebinarWednesday, etc.

On those days when you are short on content and to refrain from being repetitive, have some days focus on others. Retweet on Twitter, comment, like or share on Facebook or repin on Pinterest.

The value of #hashtags

ALWAYS #hashtag. #hashtag – ing is an effective way to ensure your company’s post is viewed by the most people. The more views, the more followers and the more followers, the more FREE marketing your company receives. Strategically select a trending or common #hashtag to accompany your post. Also, pick one #hashtag that your company will use in all of its posts on all social media platforms; the more posts with that #hashtag, the better off your company is. Within the social media platform #hashtags are searchable, so if you use a hashtag like #CTDAmember with your Facebook post, anytime anyone searches for #CTDAmember, your posts will come up.

You’re not taking full advantage of #networking, if @yourcompany isn’t active on #socialmedia. Social media has evolved into so much more than reconnecting with your long-lost high school friends. It has become a way professionals connect with each other. Your business must not miss out on this unique #marketingtool which is mostly FREE.

To learn more about social media, join CTDA for our #CTDAWebinar on Social Media on May 19th with Shannon Vogel, director of social media, Creating your Space. Learn how to leverage your business and expand your networking opportunities. If you’re online, follow this link to learn more about CTDA Webinars; otherwise, enter https://www.ctdahome.org/content/education/webinars-list.asp into your browser. Webinars are free for members or a small fee per non-member company.

To learn more about membership, please contact [email protected] or to join CTDA, please visit our website at www.ctdahome.org. And don’t forget to like us on Facebook and Twitter @Ceramic Tile Distributors Association (CTDA).

Ask the Experts – April 2016


I am installing an indoor/outdoor patio for a continuous look on a cement substrate. The tile is 16” x 48” porcelain. The outdoor portion will be raised approximately 2” with a mud float. Should I use a bonded mud float or install a cleavage membrane? Additionally should I reinforce the float with lathe or not? Finally, I am in Austin, Texas, so I am wondering if I should put a membrane on top of the float to help prevent problems when there is a rare freeze. Thank you for your expertise.


Thank you for contacting the National Tile Contractors Association.

The closest TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation method to follow for the exterior portion of this project is F103B. This method details a wire-reinforced mortar bed (maximum 2” thick) on top of a drainage mat/system. A drainage mat makes an ideal cleavage membrane since it promotes quicker evacuation of water from the tile/mortar bed system. Refer to TCNA Handbook methods F103B, F111 and F121 for details including specifications for cementitious bond coat mortar.

Sloping away from the structure is required for any exterior area, both for the substrate and the mortar bed. A minimum slope of 1/4” in 12” of horizontal run is required and is the typical specification to meet code. The slope of the substrate and the mortar bed need to match each other to produce a uniform thickness mortar bed. Prevention of water flooding back to the structure is the main reason, but slope and drainage are also a great help in reducing efflorescence issues.

A waterproof membrane is a good idea as long as there is not excessive moisture in or beneath the slab, which can be caused by poor landscape drainage design or clay-type soils for an on-ground installation. Moisture in the slab should be checked before deciding to install a waterproofing or crack-isolation membrane. Most membranes are suitable for moisture presence up 5 lbs/1,000 sq. ft. Some manufacturers state their product can be used up to 12 lbs/1,000 sq. ft. Check with the manufacturer of the membrane to determine what their product can handle. Moisture in excess of 12 lbs/1,000 sq. ft. will require significant mitigation before the project can proceed.

It is critical to pay strict attention to the planning and installing of soft joints and expansion joints. Installation of a membrane does not eliminate the need for proper movement joint placement. Soft joints must be installed in the mud bed and tile in line with the control joints. Expansion joints must be installed in the tile every 8’ – 10’ in the exterior and in the interior section if it is adjacent to a large surface area of windows and glass doors. Expansion joints are also required at the interior/exterior dividing wall and all other interior and exterior walls, cabinetry etc. See TCNA Handbook method EJ-171 for more details.

To ensure acceptable lippage with the installation of the large format tile it is very important to begin with a flat substrate. Your mud bed flatness must ensure a maximum variation in plane of 1/8” in 10’. You will also want to consider a 1/3rd offset layout if the tiles have any warpage. A lippage tuning system may also be beneficial.

I hope this helps!
Mark Heinlein,
NTCA technical trainer

President’s Letter – April 2016

JWoelfel_headshotMutually assured destruction: fight it with product testing, investing in training, and hiring quality installers

Mutually assured destruction. This is a pretty ominous statement, but a very provocative statement as well. Among manufacturers, distributors and installers, in my opinion, we are headed down this road.

It seems every day we are being introduced to new tiles, thin tiles, plank tiles, recycled-content tiles and so on, and it seems that a lot of these tiles have not been tested in real-world applications. Thin tile and its installation does not even have national installation or manufacturing standards yet. Plank tiles are getting longer and longer, and their warpage and lippage tolerances are still based on a manufacturing standard last updated a few years ago. Recycled-content tiles that contain glass, porcelain and other materials have hit the market, and we installers are the guinea pigs on what type of setting and grouting materials we need to use to set these tiles.

In short, new tiles introduced into the marketplace have inadequate testing and the tile setter is trying to learn on the fly how to set these products without problems.

Some distributors are pushing these products out into the marketplace and getting tiles specified even though they do not understand all of the installation issues that need to be solved in order to have a successful installation. These distributors are putting sales numbers in front of success numbers, and this damages the industry. Some of these same distributors are also failing to vet their recommended installers on their qualifications. More than once in discussions with various distributors, the first question to me is “Why are installations so expensive?”

My response is, “I train my people, I certify my installers, I take money out of my bottom line to go to various training courses, both for installation and business. It takes my hard-earned profits to do this.” My other response is a little less political, “Am I not allowed to make money? Is it unfair for me, the installer to make money on the installation as well?” Sometimes I think these distributors forget that we as tile contractors are taking the installation liability on, and we need to be monetarily rewarded for this liability.

As installers, our companies have to do a better job of training our employees. If you sub-contract your installers or if they are paid by the hour, training is the number one priority. In our industry, we have CTEF/Certified Tile Installer certification, Union apprenticeship training and ACT certification. These classes and certifications need to be fully attended and we have to educate our people to install tile properly. The manufacturers and distributors have every right to call installers out when there is a job failure due to poorly trained people – and we tile contractors have to spend money to train our people.

Our industry thinking and the way we do business has to change. Manufacturers need to test their new tiles more effectively and be more open about real-world testing in real-world applications. Distributors need to be more focused on long-term success and need to partner with qualified quality labor. Both manufacturers and distributors need to invest more in the training of installers because without proper installation our industry will NEVER achieve its potential and we will continue to lose dollars and market share to inferior products like VCT, carpet, LVT, polished concrete and so forth. Tile contractors have to invest in their people. Numerous studies have shown that training your employees builds better attitudes and retention. And installation failures need to be reduced drastically.

If we, as an industry, do not change our mindset we will condemn ourselves to a smaller piece of the economic pie.

James Woelfel, NTCA president
[email protected]

Editor’s Letter – April 2016

Lesley psf head shot“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
– Nelson Madela

Each month it seems, there is an industry event going on that we are pointing to and encouraging attendance at. I no longer mark my calendar by holidays, but instead I mark the passage of time by considering it TISE West time, Coverings season, time for Total Solutions Plus. This month, of course, is Coverings, and I do hope you’re planning on joining the industry in Chicago from April 18-21 for it.

But I want to draw your attention to events that are ongoing each month, all across the country. And that’s the NTCA/CTEF educational program, with NTCA Tile & Stone Workshops being given at Daltile, Marazzi and American Olean locations nationwide, and the CTEF Educational Programs being offered at other hosts, including The Tile Shop and Emser.

In this issue, we shine a light on the wave of educational programs that took place in the last month or so and will do so periodically throughout the year. These programs are presented by NTCA trainers Michael Whistler, Mark Heinlein and just getting on the bandwagon, CTEF training director Scott Carothers. And there could be an opportunity for you to become a presenter too, if you are fluently bilingual, like to travel and are highly knowledgeable and able to teach about standards, methods and how to achieve successful installations. Interested? Contact Jim Olson at [email protected]

These programs are all free, in local markets and include a time for networking and enjoying local culinary fare at the host site. The presentations include a talk and hands-on demonstrations to fully illustrate the points being made in the talk. There’s always a Q&A session to get your questions answered, and often a time to visit tabletops from vendors and also receive great giveaways the vendors supply. Often local NTCA members are on hand to talk with you about the association or how qualified labor benefits the whole industry.

AND, if you’ve been thinking about becoming a NTCA member, each workshop gives you an opportunity to join our association, at a discounted price. This is a no-brainer opportunity, just for the Partnering for Success program alone, which awards every member EVERY YEAR with $1,800 in vouchers for free product that you use every day or have been longing to try.  That benefit is just the tip of the iceberg of NTCA benefits (check them all out at http://www.tile-assn.com/?page=Membership), but it’s up to three times the cost of membership reimbursed every year.

That’s not where education ends, of course. Please check out the ongoing NTCA University Update feature written by Becky Serbin, that takes a peek at our online course offerings in our apprentice and finisher programs. NTCA is dedicated to equipping tile setters, installers and contractors with the knowledge and information they need for long-lasting, well-performing installations that don’t put them at risk in terms of safety on the job or in terms of liability for ill-conceived installation systems.

Please peruse the Workshop story starting on page 62 in this issue, and consider attending when Michael, Mark or Scott roll into your town.

God bless,
[email protected]