CID 2018 Residential Stone Installation winner

Columbia River Tile & Stone’s stunning black and white marble bathroom


Background

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.”

New NTCA member Skyro Floors, turns knack for flooring into satisfying profession

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

This Skyro vehicle is as beautiful as the floors it helps Ken to install.

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.”

NTCA Training Director Mark Heinlein (L) signed Ken up as a member at a recent training event.

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.”

Keeping beautiful stone tiles beautiful

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.

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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/

TTMAC newest publication: the Tile Installer Technical Handbook

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. 

Key topics

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.

Belknap White Group has huge success with thin tile training event

More than 20 installers came out to learn more about thin gauged porcelain tile panels and the new ANSI 108.19 standards of installation at Belknap White Group’s Woburn, Mass., Solution Center.

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.

Attendees were meticulously trained on tools required, how to handle Laminam by Crossville gauged porcelain tile panels, 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. 

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.

Estimating courses are in development

As I have stated in previous articles, we have a lot of new members and they are looking for help with their businesses. If you take a look at our membership, most of our contractor members employ up to five people including themselves. I’m also assuming that most of these owners are tile contractors first and business owners second so the fact that they need help running their businesses should not come as a surprise to anyone.

That being said, one of the Training and Education subcommittees, led by Dirk Sullivan with Hawthorne Tile, has started developing estimating courses. The team realized that there are several different types of estimating needs based on the customer and size of the project, so they started with a course on estimating small residential projects in which you would be working in a home where a homeowner could be present.

The course starts with explaining what you should do during your initial visit including how to make a good impression and the type of information that you should gather while you are at the potential job site. Here is a tip: never give a price to a potential customer off the top of your head! Always take the information from the job such as substrate prep needs, size of project, potential material needs, and any important details with you, then take the time to write up a formal estimate in your office.

The course then progresses into everything that you should include in your estimate. Many contractors forget about overhead or what to do if the homeowner is adamant about buying the tile themselves. Will it meet ANSI A137.1? Will you be required to do extra work because of this tile? The course gets into these concerns and others. It also identifies what you should do to protect yourself.

Remember, you are a business owner and you must protect your business and be profitable. You are no longer only a tile setter. Do you only have a handshake agreement? Or do you detail deposits and payment schedules with a signed contract? Finally, the course reviews contracts and terms. It also discusses liens and the proper way to notify the homeowner in writing of your process to recoup any unpaid contractual services.

As I stated, this is the first in a series of estimating courses. As they become available I will be updating everyone in TileLetter since these courses are in such high demand.

To purchase your subscription, you can visit the NTCA store. Go to www.tile-assn.com and hover over Education & Certification on the home page, then click NTCA University. Or point your browser to http://bit.ly/2taYmOO to make your purchase. If you have any questions or ideas for courses that we should have available, please give me a call at 770-366-2566 or send me an email at [email protected].

Contractors get creative with green solutions

Recycling options can benefit homeowners, contractors, and community members as well as the earth

With this issue addressing issues of sustainability, environmental friendliness and recycling, we turn to a couple of contractors to see what might be percolating in the green arena for them. 

Nadine Edelstein, owner of NTCA member Tile Design by Edelstein located in Vashon, Wash., addresses the recycling issue with a program she’s dubbed, “No Tile Left Behind.” Edelstein said, “It’s enabled me to pull a LOT of material out of the waste stream, and then I am able to make creative spaces for clients with it. I don’t charge them for the material, but they pay me to design with it.”

Edelstein’s original hex concept made from her No Tile Left Behind program.

Edelstein was asked to create a feature wall for a new local salon and used No Tile Left Behind material to create it.

“I was thrilled when I found out that the branding was around the concept of the hive,” she said. “Several years earlier I had created a concept wall for a local group tile show. I cut kite shaped tiles from tile and stone (from No Tile Left Behind) and arranged them into a dimensional wall of hexagons for the show’s entry. Of course I saved all the tiles and hoped I would find an imaginative client. 

“Then along came The Hive! I had to tweak the color palette and add some more pieces but I was finally able to give the piece a place in the real world,” she said.

The wall Edelstein created for The Hive salon, using “waste” material.

Another recent No Tile Left Behind project was a shower for a previous client of Edelstein. “I was able to utilize glass, ceramic, and porcelain in a blue/green color palette to create a large scale mosaic for their master bathroom remodel,” she said.

“Fortunately, I have a large studio,” she said. “So I am able to store the rescued tile and stone until I can find them a new home.”

Another “Green” perspective

Another “green” perspective on recycling comes from appropriately named NTCA member Phil Green, owner of PGC Construction, Remodeling and Design in Gilberts, Ill. He’s also the creative genius behind the “Back Butter Buddy” tool, a tile-centric Lazy Susan that sits atop a bucket and allows large tiles to be turned more ergonomically. He’s putting his innovative mind to work on the recycling issue and he’s outspoken about the need for novel solutions. 

Glass, ceramic and porcelain from Edelstein’s No Tile Left Behind tiles created this stunning shower.

“We in the tile/remodeling industry generate a fair amount of waste materials during the course of our projects. Even the cartons and bags from our tile and thinset become something that we need to deal with,” he said.

“As the planet gets more and more cluttered with debris from a ‘disposable-minded’ society we NEED, MUST, ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO do our personal fair share to chip in and become part of the solution. Many programs already exist, and new ones are on the horizon that look for alternatives to bagging and shipping everything to the dump.”

Green detailed  a few things that his company has chosen to do to help: “When we demo a kitchen or bath we do it in such a way as to not damage the reusable products from the project,” he said. “Sure, sledge hammers work, but they are just to add drama on the DIY/HGTV shows. We take cabinets, countertops, faucets, light fixtures, doors, and even old paint to our local Habitat for Humanity Restore. For any valuable products, I fill out a donation sheet and give it to my homeowners as a tax write off. They appreciate it and it means less in the landfill. Win, win!”

Cuts and broken tiles are the perfect materials for mosaic projects.

Cuts and broken tiles make excellent materials for mosaic projects, Green has discovered. “I love the look of mosaic designs, and once again the tile gets a new life and is not buried in some hill,” he said.

“I would suspect most towns have a recycling program along with their normal garbage pick-up,” he added “I try to bring cardboard and plastic home to be disposed of in my personal container. I am also lucky enough that I can have an open burn pit at my home. I take paper and wood products home and burn them there. If I get any metal from my jobsite – other than copper and aluminum – I bring that home too, separate it from my normal waste and set it aside. I know that the ‘scrapper’ will drive along on garbage pick-up day, and if I can help him make a couple of extra pennies, I do. 

“Every town also has a recycling drop-off center for scrap materials such as copper and aluminum,” he said. “I accumulate these metals and make the trip, even if just for gas money, but I know these products too will be melted down and be reborn.”

Green knows this isn’t an exhaustive list of solutions, but it’s a start for contractors who want to be earth-conscious. “That is my GREEN perspective,” he said. “I guess I’ve always been Green without realizing it.”

The latest with Green Squared® – Certified Product Searchability

Earlier this year at Coverings, the Tile Council of North America (TCNA) announced a partnership with Ecomedes, creator of an online database of product information relating to environmental attributes and certifications. The objective of this partnership is to establish ways for designers, purchasers, and users of tile and related installation materials to more easily obtain product information needed to help fulfill their environmental goals. 

The immediate deliverable of the TCNA-Ecomedes partnership is a Green Squared Certified® product search page which has been incorporated into the Green Squared website. Previously, searching for Green Squared Certified products involved contacting approved Green Squared certification agencies or inquiring with manufacturers. Now, an up-to-date listing of certified products is housed in one place and managed by Ecomedes, who interfaces regularly with participating manufacturers and their Green Squared certification agencies. Plus, each entry within the Green Squared Certified database contains valuable product information that is especially relevant to green building project leaders, architects and designers. These include downloadable certificates, EPDs (environmental product declarations, if available), and additional educational resources from WhyTile.com. Users of the library have the option to filter Green Squared Certified products by manufacturer, certification agency, or Green Squared Certified products that additionally have EPDs.

For sure, establishing a flagship library of Green Squared Certified products is important, but the benefits don’t end there. Green building specifiers and purchasers use a variety of broader construction product locator tools. If Green Squared Certified tiles or installation materials aren’t ‘on the menu’ of any given tool, they will not be considered, regardless of their eligibility, the quality of information provided, or how well-known the products are. With Ecomedes hosting the Green Squared Certified product library, the tile industry is well-positioned with a partner that can facilitate an increased number of eligible products being ‘on the menu’ for consideration in North American green building projects.

All information within the Green Squared Certified product database is syndicated with Ecomedes’s master database, Fulcrum (fulcrum.ecomedes.com), which is the green product library used by many of the largest architectural firms and purchasing organizations in the US. Furthermore, Ecomedes has partnered with some of the largest purchasing organizations in the country, including the GSA and California Energy Commission, to develop proprietary libraries that contain only products that satisfy a particular purchaser’s needs. As an example, Ecomedes is the exclusive host of the online product library used by Federal purchasing officials to find certified green products: https://sftool.ecomedes.com/. With Green Squared Certified products entered into Ecomedes’s database, there is inherent uptake into libraries created proprietarily by Ecomedes for purchasers. 

In today’s day and age of database positioning, information partners are extremely important. According to Ecomedes, they “connect buyers and sellers with better data to make a purchasing decision and get the right information needed for projects.” To that end, they are a leader in green building, and the tile industry is well-positioned having them as a partner in Green Squared.

Oh, and in case you haven’t noticed, the Green Squared website recently received a facelift. For more information about the program and direct linkage to the Green Squared Certified product library, visit GreenSquaredCertified.com.

Ask the Experts – August 2018 – The Green Issue

Many people reading the Ask the Experts on page 22 in our June issue (and the TileLetter
Weekly Tuesday Tech Tip on July 3rd) were puzzled by an answer that appeared to a question about T&G boards. The problem was the answer addressed issues with porcelain planks and expansion joints, and it left a lot of people scratching their heads. 

We admit it, we had a bit of an email mix up and so the answer to a different question that originally appeared in the same thread was posted. This is the T&G board question paired with the correct answer:

QUESTION

I’ve got a new question for you all. What about homes with subfloors consisting of T&G boards, not plywood? They run diagonally. In this one specific case, there is actually 3/4” solid wood installed over the top of it. My thought is that it would require double 3/4” plywood, and I can’t find a single method in the book that identifies such a subfloor.

ANSWER

We get this question quite often. The movement between the planks can be too much for a tile installation. Most manufacturers require 3/4” OSB or plywood to install concrete board and uncoupling membranes for ceramic and porcelain tile installations. Installations involving stone require additional layers of plywood . 

You really have two options here: you can remove the existing layer of plank subfloor and replace with plywood, or add additional layers of plywood to the existing plank. Check with your manufacturer, but most will warranty the installation by adding an additional layer of 1/2” plywood before installing their product. Fasten down any loose planks, and sand or chisel down any high planks before installing your plywood.  Use the correct amount and type of mortar between the plywood and concrete board or uncoupling membrane. With concrete board installation use the right type and number of fasteners, stagger sheets from each other running them perpendicular to the plywood you have just installed. Depending on the thickness of the tile and underlayment there could be height differences between adjoining floor surfaces. These are somewhat common in older homes and can be handled with wood, stone, or even metal transitions. I hope this helps. 

Robb Roderick, NTCA Technical Trainer/Presenter

And here’s an excerpt from the question that prompted the answer about plank porcelain tile and expansion joints (correct answer follows):

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QUESTION

Wow. Just wow. There’s no way to make an expansion joint [with a long plank] look right. Zero chance. And I guarantee you 99% of every run over 25’ has no expansion joint filled with flexible sealant. I would love to see some installs from certified contractors who utilize them, if for no other reason than to generate ideas for placement and to show a customer what it will be like…Fortunately, most homes do not have that expanse because they’re doing single rooms or less than the whole house. It’s really only whole homes that are probably affected, so it’s a smaller subset.

But manufacturers keep making [planks] longer and longer, and they know the requirements. Without regard to installation requirements, they pump these things out at a cyclic rate, and customers have no idea. The average tile mechanic doesn’t either. And 9 times out of 10, incorrect installations rarely get held accountable, so when customers don’t want to listen to the right way and go get it done the wrong way, the competitor makes money, you don’t gain sales, and the customer is never the wiser. 

ANSWER

Attached are pictures of different installed tile work incorporating movement accommodation joints. The first is a residential installation with porcelain plank tile where a change of pattern is in a doorway to allow for a nearly unnoticeable movement accommodation joint. The other two are from commercial jobs where large areas of tile happen quite frequently.

In the TCNA Handbook from page 430 to 437 is section EJ171. It states under location and frequency of joints:

  • Interior – maximum of 25’ each direction Exterior- 8’ to 12’ in each direction
  • Interior tile work exposed to direct sunlight (heat) or moisture – maximum of 12’ each direction
  • Above ground concrete slabs – maximum of 12’ each direction
  • Perimeter joints – movement joints are required where tilework abuts restraining surfaces such as perimeter walls.
  • Change of plane, exterior – movement joints are required in all inside and outside corners.
  • Change of plane interior – movement joint required at all inside corners

Others and I believe it is the least used, most often misunderstood, and most important listing in our Handbook. Lack of correctly-installed expansion joints is thought to be – by many – the leading cause of failures in tile industry.

With plank installations, special considerations to layout should be considered. Installing expansion joints on the long side is easier, and less noticeable.

For example, if you have an installation that is 20’ x 80’ you would need a minimum of at least three joints perpendicular to the long wall creating four separate sections. Running the long edge of the plank perpendicular to the long wall would help hide these expansion joints, and would appear similar to a grout joint. Borders and change of pattern can also help you succeed in installing less-noticeable expansion joints.

Whether they are noticeable or not, they are required by our standards. If you look closely, you can find expansion joints in almost every airport, shopping mall, car lot, etc. There are great installers implementing the standards found in EJ 171 all across the country.

The TCNA Handbook says “The design professional or engineer shall show the specific location and details of movement joints.” If they don’t, reach out to them for information. If it’s just you and a homeowner, show them what the industry says in our standard and create a plan for a successful installation. 

Robb Roderick, NTCA Technical Trainer/Presenter

Best Practices: Project scheduling and job cost/ productivity goals and feedback

President’s Letter – August 2018 – The Green Issue

Most of us are not responsible for developing the construction schedule for an entire project, but we all will benefit greatly from identifying and monitoring the activities of our scope of work. However, we’re more knowledgeable than the general contractor, owner or developer when determining the most efficient schedule, sequence and durations that will maximize our opportunity to meet or beat our estimated labor costs. 

Monitoring the construction schedule

When bidding most commercial projects there is a “contract schedule” or “base line schedule” that should be available. If it’s not provided in the bid documents you should request a copy prior to submitting your bid. This schedule will show you the way the general contractor plans to construct the building and allows you to develop your work sequence and crew size within the overall project schedule for maximum efficiency and profitability. 

Later, during the construction process, if the general contractor changes the schedule in ways that negatively impact your efficiency, protecting your rights and working to find a solution that will return productivity is paramount. Monitoring the construction schedule is a very important key to your opportunity to succeed on every project. Understanding and protecting your rights regarding construction schedules are among the most important aspects of contract management and risk management.

Set goals for your crew tailored to each project

When thinking about job site efficiency and crew productivity I remember this quote by Zig Ziglar, “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.” This is exactly what happens when we send our crews to a job without daily and weekly production goals specifically tailored to each project. If they don’t understand how much production is required for each room type and tile type, they will most likely miss the mark. Helping them understand how their wages relate to the estimated budget and providing them with regular feedback as the job progresses helps them connect their performance with overall profitability. Projects today are using many different types of tile and different installation methods that require more detailed and accurate information supplied to field installation crews. Not properly planning and executing this part of each project could eat away large amounts of profit in a short period of time. The more budget information shared with field crews the more they will work to meet the realistic goals set for each project.

Recoverable Lost Time

According to a study released by FMI, field employees spend 42% of their 8-hour day installing work as planned, 26% of their day is spent planning, material handling, lay-out, set-up and mobilizing, while 32% of their day is considered Recoverable Lost Time. This time is lost due to waiting for information, materials, equipment, tools, additional manpower or other trades and reworking items already installed. While I’m sure your projects never experience this level of inefficiency, there are at least 5-10 minutes per hour of lost time that could be added to the productive part of the day. This small improvement can have a big impact on your bottom line profit at the end of the year; just run the numbers.

Best in Class contractors work hard to empower their employees to know their daily goals so when something outside their control impacts their productivity, they can alert management to get the situation corrected. Every other subcontractor and most general contractors don’t care if we have a productive path to do our work. Protecting our ability to be productive in the field is a major key to overall profitability. 

Keep on tiling and pursuing best practices!
Martin Howard, NTCA president
Committee member, ANSI A108
[email protected]

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