May Feature – Cevisama 2016

Cevisama showcases a range of trends to international audience

By Lesley Goddin


From left, Javier Rodriguez Ejerique, technical secretary of Qualicer, NTCA executive director Bart Bettiga, and NTCA president James Woelfel at Qualicer 16 in Castellon, Spain.

Cevisama was an especially important international event for NTCA this year, as NTCA executive director Bart Bettiga and NTCA president James Woelfel were both invited to participate in the Qualicer ‘16 conference taking place in Castellon, Spain, right before the show. The trip marked the first time a contractor had been invited to present during the conference – and it helped to open up a dialogue between Proalso – Spain’s counterpart to NTCA – and NTCA to foster knowledge and international collaboration as regards ceramic and porcelain tile installation. For more information, read Chris Woelfel’s story in this month’s Business Tip on page 26 and consult past issues of TileLetter for a more detailed chronicle of the events: March 2016, page 72: “NTCA meets strategic objectives at Qualicer 16;” Coverings 2016, page 10: President’s Letter.

In addition to these groundbreaking events, Cevisama – which takes place in Valencia, Spain, each year – offered up a dynamic range of new tile products to answer and establish trends within the world of fashion and design in tile. Here is a range of new trends seen at the show:

Main trends seen in ceramic tiles in recent years will continue in 2016, with updates to meet the new demands of interior design today. These include innovative formats in terms of size and thicknesses, more sober basic colors, combinations of rustic and elegant styles, a mix of designs and revived classics – a collection of trends that range from rustic to refined.

Sensory tiles offer novel texturing like pleats, folds, carvings, bas relief or other effects that create an interplay with light and position of the viewer, as in Dune’s Folding Roses.

Sensory tiles offer novel texturing like pleats, folds, carvings, bas relief or other effects that create an interplay with light and position of the viewer, as in Dune’s Folding Roses.

  1. Single colors. Color can create continuity between walls and floors, creating a uniform backdrop against which furniture or decorative items can stand out. Sober, neutral tiles in dark or stone colors often generally come in matte finishes with subtle shade variation to evoke nature and the passage of time.
  2. Subtle designs. Taking a cue from single-colored tiles, décors have been developed with subtle designs and slight contrasts that interrupt the uniformity of walls and floors. They feature faded, randomly arranged finer details with no apparent order or criteria, adding a harmonious sense of rhythm and highly personal touch.

    Nora Plus from El Molino takes wood as an inspiration and gives it a glossy finish for a unique interpretation of nature.

    Nora Plus from El Molino takes wood as an inspiration and gives it a glossy finish for a unique interpretation of nature.

  3. Interpreting nature. These ceramic tiles faithfully reproduce the beauty of nature, sometimes with modern or artistic license such as in the case of more contemporary looking wood-effect collections. Not-found-in-nature colors add interest, combined with shade variation and different designs that create a lived-in feel, with all the advantages of long-lasting ceramic tiles.
  4. Endless different designs. Any visual you can imagine, you can create in ceramic tiles. This year, delicate floral patterns will again feature alongside abstract models and geometrical motifs.
  5. Mosaics and more mosaics. Visual rhythm is created with small mosaic tiles in varying shades of the same glossy or matte color.

    Aparici’s Blue Natural uses traditional motifs in delicate colors.

    Aparici’s Blue Natural uses traditional motifs in delicate colors.

  6. Mix & Match. This trend is still a must in 2016. Traditional motifs, in gentle delicate colors, are mixed with different materials, textures, colors, formats, patterns etc.
  7. Unique Tiles. Instead of just being laid in rows, ceramic wall and floor tiles are now being used in designs that transform them into a star feature of the rooms they occupy in new and different ways. This can be angled layouts that offer a fresh perspective to traditional straight layouts; oversized and unusual formats that when combined in different colors can create 3D effects and optical illusions; sensory tiles that offer novel texturing like pleats, folds, carvings, bas relief or other effects that create an interplay with light and position of the viewer. Very delicate floral or plant patterns, perhaps also in gold to evoke the idea of jewelry bring interest, delicacy and a glint of metal.
Unusual formats, like this boomerang shape in Vives’ Titan, when combined in different colors, can create 3D effects and optical illusions.

Unusual formats, like this boomerang shape in Vives’ Titan, when combined in different colors, can create 3D effects and optical illusions.

Speaking of metal, a trend is the use of metal coating through physical vapor deposition (PVD) technology. These tiles are delicately coated with a layer of titanium nanoparticles, resulting in beautiful, functional, durable tiles. Digital printing techniques also continue to evolve to allow the creation of hyper-realistic designs, or patterned tiles combined in such a way that it is hard to find two identical models. By randomly mixing tiles with photographic designs, settings can be given a strong sense of personality.

In addition to these trends, attention and playfulness with tile shape are lending new effects to floors and walls, inside and out. For instance, manufacturers are exploring new uses of hexagonal tiles, mixing them with traditional shapes; integrating shades of grey, veined patterns, earthy colors, shade variation and “worn” effects, often with subtle polish or natural-looking glazes.

Square and rectangular tiles in a range of sizes are always popular, and are being used with traditional, vintage motifs, often with handcrafted looks in soft colors like whites, blues, greens and greys that evoke a sense of simplicity. Vintage designs are also updated with contemporary spins.

Elements from Alea mix hydraulic designs with gold or silver finish, as well as black or white, for a glimmering take on traditional patterns.

Elements from Alea mix hydraulic designs with gold or silver finish, as well as black or white, for a glimmering take on traditional patterns.

Tempus fugit is a continuing trend that focuses on the passage of time, creating sophisticated contemporary compositions with classical styling like black and white, symmetry, octagonal tiles, baroque decorative touches, and developing a sense of visual rhythm through tile arrangement.

Tile continues to evoke or incorporate stone and stone looks for timeless sophistication, often utilizing large-format, neutral colors of grey, beige and cream to blend harmoniously with other decorative features. Matte or mirror-like polishes can be mixed, zigzagged or combined in different shades of the same color for interest and dynamic effect.

Cervisama 17 will take place in Valencia February 20-24, 2017. Visit for more information.

Large-format Marguerite tiles from Peronda mix florals, polka dots and grey for a new spin on vintage looks.

Large-format Marguerite tiles from Peronda mix florals, polka dots and grey for a new spin on vintage looks.

This large format stone-look tile from Azteca brings harmony and sophistication to the home.

This large format stone-look tile from Azteca brings harmony and sophistication to the home.

Dacha from Ceranosa combines a hexagonal format with cross-cut wood motif for delightful effect.

Dacha from Ceranosa combines a hexagonal format with cross-cut wood motif for delightful effect.

Tech Talk – May 2016

New product technology for trendy bathroom remodels


Sponsored By TEC

Bathroom remodels are sound investments for your customers. The rate of return tends to be 75% or more of the initial investment, which is significantly higher than many other home renovations. The 2016 Kitchen & Bath Design Trends Report predicts that “transitional” style will dominate this year’s bathrooms. Transitional style blends the traditional with the contemporary – balancing comfort with sophisticated, clean lines. You can provide your customers with transitional style by incorporating the following three types of products.

Preformed components

One way the 2016 Kitchen & Bath Trends Report suggests that transitional style can be achieved is with open storage and built-in shelving.

may-tech-01Preformed components – like niches – can provide unique open storage options for residential bathrooms. Preformed components are consistent and easy to install – great for fast multi-unit residential and hospitality installations. Look for products like TEC® Preformed Components that integrate seamlessly with existing surface prep solutions, mortar, tile and grout. For protection against mold and mildew, choose a product that comes coated with an IAPMO-approved, waterproof membrane that meets ANSI A118.10.

Preformed components are a great way for tile installers to add a design element that fits with today’s building trends.

In-floor heat innovations

In-floor heating systems also align with the transitional aesthetic. They serve as an “updated classic” for stone and tile floors. Moreover, they are a great selling point when listing a home. They may reduce heating costs, so they are a true investment – not simply a design trend.

Beyond adding value to the home, features like in-floor heat bring a feeling of luxury and warmth (literally) to bathrooms, to make getting up in the morning and getting home in the evening more relaxing. Although they are considered luxury items, improvements in efficiency have made them a more viable option for both building owners and contractors.
The right products can also cut down on the special ordering and lag time associated with radiant heat installations. For example, TEC™ In-Floor Heat is customizable on-site to fit any space – eliminating the lag time of special orders.

may-tech-02Advances in technology have made installations more efficient as well. In the past, in-floor heating installations had many cumbersome steps: the system had to be installed, anchored and encapsulated in a self-leveling underlayment. Today, some products – including TEC In-Floor Heat – can simply be embedded in mortar. Then, tile and stone can be installed directly over them.

Despite many advances, the wiring of installation systems can still present a challenge. Look for products that offer the simplest wiring available to avoid frustrating installations. The new TEC In-Floor Heat mat does not have coils or wires that require patterning—saving installation time. For all systems, be sure to use an electrical source with the correct voltage. If you hook up to a power source with the wrong voltage, it could damage the system.

Before adding radiant heat installation to your repertoire, check your local building codes. Some areas of the country require a licensed electrician to complete the installation, while others allow a tile contractor to do so. Almost all manufacturers recommend that a licensed electrician complete all electrical work.

may-tech-04In-floor heat systems are available à la carte or in kits. Since they are luxury items, look for products with touchscreen or programmable thermostats to provide the utmost convenience for your clients. Most thermostats can be set for either ambient room temperature or floor temperature.

Grout color trends

This year’s trends also include neutral colors – like greys, whites and beiges. Look for grouts that fit this description. Although beautiful, these light colors can also be more subject to unsightly staining than darker grouts. With that in mind, you should recommend stain-proof and mold- and mildew-resistant grouts, like TEC’s DesignFX® grout, shown below. These durable characteristics offer convenience to your customers and help preserve the aesthetic of their spaces.

may-tech-05New product innovations have made installing high-end bathrooms easier. By carefully selecting the most efficient products, you can make stylish bathroom remodels more convenient for your customers and more profitable for your business.

The TEC® brand is offered by H.B. Fuller Construction Products Inc. – a leading provider of technologically advanced construction materials and solutions to the commercial, industrial and residential construction industry. Headquartered in Aurora, Illinois, the company’s recognized and trusted brands – TEC®, CHAPCO®, Grout Boost®, Foster®, ProSpec® and others – are available through an extensive network of distributors and dealers, as well as home improvement retailers. For more information, visit

Business Tip – May 2016

SponsoredbyMAPEINTCA forms new bond with Spanish labor group Proalso

With the goal of sharing installation challenges as well as successful methods and standards, the NTCA has opened a dialogue with Proalso, the Association of Professional Tile Installers in Spain. NTCA president and Technical Committee chairman James Woelfel met with Proalso’s secretary general, Matias Martinez Trilles, recently during Qualicer, the world congress on tile quality, and Cevisama, Spain’s international tile show.

“With new technologies in tile and setting materials production, it’s more important than ever for labor groups to work together to ensure successful installations,” explained Woelfel. “We can learn from each other because of, and in spite of, differences in the way our countries handle construction projects because different perspectives and experiences will ultimately strengthen our work and our industry.”

Proalso is working with ASCER, Spain’s association of tile manufacturers, in developing their country’s tile installation standards.

ASCER’s Industrial Affairs director, Alejandra Miralles, said while most manufacturers provide brief guidelines for the installation of specific products, there’s an understanding among members of the Spanish Standardization Committee for ceramic tile and adhesives (AEN CTN 138), that cohesive installation standards are needed.

“We have tried to involve all parties, including installers, in the development of this work, since their input is vital to harmonize best practices and guarantee the quality of the tiling,” said Miralles. “ASCER also supports and highly respects the activity been carried out by Proalso in relation to certification and qualified tile installers.”

Proalso certifies installers through a program using two comprehensive training manuals. Yet Martinez Trilles believes much learning can be done regarding the development of installation standards. “Product standards are especially important, and the professional tile installer needs to know them in depth,” he said. “Nonetheless, we consider product standards are not sufficient to improve installation processes and to prevent defects or pathologies. It is most important that we are able to work together in the development of specific standards on installation that allow unifying global criteria on tile installation systems. In this sense, we find most interesting the work being carried out in ISO/TC 189 in relation to Thin Ceramic Tiles and Panels and on tile installation recommendations.”

To help Proalso understand the work the NTCA does, Woelfel gave Martinez Trilles a copy of the NTCA Reference Manual, which the labor leader found extremely practical and useful.

The meetings were facilitated by Javier Rodriguez Ejerique, Qualicer’s technical secretary, who invited Woelfel to speak about the development of industry standards in the United States at the world congress on tile quality in Castellon, Spain.

“It is important for manufacturers and distributors to understand that there are highly skilled installers available and willing to take on the challenges involved in the installation of new products,” said Rodriguez Ejerique. “For example, the difficulties of thin panel tile installation should prompt them to seek out qualified installers to recommend to architects to ensure job success, rather than allowing the project to forego technologically advanced products out of fear of job failure.”

Looking forward, Woelfel said he hopes Martinez Trilles will be able to accept his invitation to Total Solutions Plus this October in Palm Springs. “We need to continually find ways of getting manufacturers, architects, designers, distributors and qualified installers to the table for discussion on quality installation. This is in the industry’s best interest now and in the future.”

Ask the Experts – May 2016


Is there any TCNA or industry information that indicates that rounded-top porcelain cove base is not meant for situations where tile is installed on the walls above the base (since it has a rounded top)? I’d also like to know how the cove base is to be installed in conjunction with floor tile. I stated in my RFP to “install metal trim strips when coordinating porcelain tile pieces are not available.” Given that the cove base option for a selected tile series has a rounded top and foot, this causes a potential for an unclean install. The options that the contractor has given us are:

  • Using the wall base and filling in the rounded top with an enlarged grout joint,
  • Cutting the wall tile and butting it to the floor tile with either a grout or caulk joint at the connection, or
  • Field-cutting the rounded tip of the wall base off

These are not preferred options for the government, as these lead to maintenance issues down the road for the facility.

Do you have any idea how I can respond to this or help with any industry or TCNA info? Thanks so much!


There is no such language in the TCNA Handbook or in any of the ANSI manuals.

I believe that the #3 solution is the proper method, and how my contracting company usually accomplished this detail if round top cove was the only cove available (if cove was required). Be sure to stone the cut, and although it will have a slightly different appearance than a factory edge, it will not be a maintenance issue. Since the tile cove is round footed, it is designed to be top-set.

There is another option that is very effective, if somewhat more expensive. Profile and edge manufacturers make stainless steel coves (with corner trims available) with different sizes available to match the thickness of your tile. Very beautiful, easy to install, and cool, too!

If cove is not required by code, then just use the field tile at all inside corners with a joint filled with foam backer rod and ASTM C920 sealant (100% silicone or single part urethane). Be sure that the tile is not set tight and that the joint is completely free of mortar and grout.

– Michael Whistler,
NTCA technical trainer


We are currently working on a project that includes 30,000 sq. ft. of penny round tiles that were manufactured in Japan. It’s our understanding that penny rounds are classified as a specialty tile and therefore, very little criteria has been set regarding the mounting of them. We are having some issues with the specified product and need a third party to evaluate the mounting of the tile. Can you offer some assistance or point us in a direction regarding mounting issues with mosaics, in particular penny rounds?

experts-01 Attached are pictures of some of the mounting problems, including inconsistent spacing, sheets not being square and excessive mesh where the sheets meet up with one another. Another problem is that the individual tiles release from the mesh backing as soon as they get wet (from thinset).

may-experts-02Two manufacturers’ reps were here last week to review the problems. Their solution is to either send us a video or one of their Japanese installers to show us how to install the tile. As you may imagine we took exception to their suggestion. We have plenty of experience with the installation of penny round tile and have processed through many issues regarding sheeting and wall-washing concerns. What we are in search of, is some guideline or criteria that we can show ownership so they can assess their expectations more in line with industry standards. Any assistance you can share with us would be greatly appreciated.


You certainly seem to understand all of the issues and have the experience to install penny round mosaics, which are difficult at best. The tiles you have been provided appear to have an especially flimsy mesh backing, and the inconsistent spacing and water-soluble adhesive is not going to help matters.

Obviously, a proper substrate that meets minimum deflection and flatness requirements and using the correct mortar and troweling method to achieve a minimum of 80% coverage on each tile with no squeeze-through will be critical.

I’m almost thinking that to have the manufacturer send their installer to show you how it’s done (for the duration of the project) might be a way to bring the manufacturer on board with some liability for the installation.

Has all of the tile been manufactured and delivered? Have you discussed the matter with the owner and architect?

Other than what Katelyn has provided below and the general workmanship requirements found in the TCNA Handbook and ANSI standards, I am not immediately coming up with anything that I can send you. I will check with my colleagues and get back to you.

Perhaps the best approach will be to hire a recognized consultant to come in and serve as a third party to view the tiles and installation area and scope of work and provide you with a written opinion.

– Mark Heinlein,
NTCA technical trainer


From a third party testing lab’s perspective, there is no way to measure mounting variation of penny round, mounted ceramic mosaic tiles. The mounting variation test methods for mounted tile are only performed on square mosaic tiles. I’ve included an excerpt from ANSI A137.1 Specification for Ceramic Tile below:
9.5 Test Method for Mounting Variations
9.5.1 This method is only valid for mosaic tiles with the following characteristics:

  • Nominally square
  • Nominal sizes of 1 inch x 1 inch (25.4 mm x 25.4 mm) to 3 inches x 3 inches (76.2 mm x 76.2 mm)
  • With straight edges

Our lab does not provide reports based on expert opinion so you may need to hire an independent consultant if that is something you are looking for. Please let me know if you are interested in an independent consultant and I’d be happy to send you the contact information for one.

– Katelyn Simpson,
TCNA laboratory manager

President’s Letter – May 2016

JWoelfel_headshotMy wife’s strength and courage

As many of you know, I am blessed to be married to such a great person; my wife, Chris. She is outgoing, beautiful, a great mom and she is very intelligent. Chris is truly my better half. She is also the major driving force in my creating and reaching my goals.

Last year after Total Solutions Plus, Chris went to get her yearly mammogram. A few weeks later, the radiologist called and said he wanted additional images. When she went in, the images revealed patterns in the film that the doctor said must be biopsied. It wasn’t an easy procedure and it created a massive and painful hematoma that she didn’t need to be dealing with during the holiday season. Between Christmas and New Years the doctor called and told us that Chris had breast cancer. We were stunned. It was denial combined with shock. We met with the surgeon and told a handful of family and friends. My wife, always the steadfast and focused one, told the doctor that we were going to Spain because her husband was going to speak at a world tile conference and she was going to support him and make sure he was successful. The doctor scheduled surgery for the week after we returned.

After four surgeries in four weeks and a week of cutting-edge, highly concentrated radiation therapy delivered through a bio-mechanical device that made a big guy like me cringe at the thought of it being implanted, the medical oncologist now has Chris on a five-year course of medications. We were also told that she may have the same issue in her other breast. All of this has my head spinning. It has been a challenging time, but Chris is proving her resilience, staying positive and focused on the things she needs to do to stay on course and get all of this behind her.

I know that many of you have been touched in one way or another by cancer. It is a horrible and scary disease that attacks people unfairly. We are fortunate that Chris’s was discovered early as other people are not as fortunate. It seems so cliché, but I never thought it would happen to us.

I reached out to people I knew had experience with cancer: Nyle Wadford, whose father died of cancer, Dan Welch whose father just recently passed away, and Bart Bettiga – his wife Sandy was in a similar situation as Chris. They have been so supportive and were there when I needed to talk or vent. I also found out how giving and loving our friends are. Chris received flowers, cards, gifts of comfort and well wishes of support, a true outpouring of love and understanding. People in our industry have given their time and hope so that Chris would feel just a little better.

My wife, always the one offering empathy and concern, did not want a lot of people to know. I have respected her wishes until now. You see, my wife is my hero. She is battling this disease with all of her strength and determination. I have always thought that there is strength in numbers; all of the prayers, positive thoughts and kind words will help her in this battle. As I write this we are preparing for our trip to Coverings. Chris is coming with me and our son, Preston. She looks forward to seeing, talking and being with the best of the best in our industry.

After experiencing this in the last six months I urge each of you reading this to go get your exams. Schedule them now and get the prostate exam, the mammogram, the CT scan – whatever test that can help catch this disease early. We caught it early and it is still a heavyweight fight.

Finally, I want my wife Chris to know that I love you, that Preston loves you and that you are the strongest, bravest and most wonderful person I know.

James Woelfel, President NTCA

Editor’s Letter – May 2016

Lesley psf head shotWith this issue, we start reporting on some of the news coming out of Coverings such as select products in our Thin Tile and New Product sections, and of course, the U.S. Tile Industry Update, announced at the Tile Council of North America (TCNA) press conference the second morning of the show by TCNA executive director Eric Astrachan. There’s good news for the tile industry, continuing the rebound from the dark days of the recession nearly a decade ago (actually when Coverings was last held in Chicago). Here’s how the tile industry did last year:

  • 2015 U.S. ceramic tile consumption was 2.74 billion sq. ft., up a significant 9.9% over with 2014’s 2.49 billion sq. ft., and 10.4% over 2013’s 2.48 billion sq. ft. – the sixth consecutive year-over-year increase in U.S. ceramic tile consumption, and edging close to 2013’s whopping 12.9% increase over 2012 volume consumption.
  • The value of U.S. ceramic tile consumption in 2015 was $3.2 billion, up 9.8% over the $2.97 billion in 2014 and 15.9% over 2013.
  • Though in 2014 imports decreased 0.7% over 2013, down to 1.71 billion sq. ft. from 1.72 billion sq. ft., that trend reversed itself in 2015, with growth of 9.9% to 1.88 billion sq. ft. Imports in 2015 held steady at 68.7% of U.S. tile consumption in volume, same as 2014, but down from 69.6% in 2013.
  • Although Mexico was the top exporter to the U.S. in 2014, China regained its position as the largest volume exporter to the U.S. China’s share of U.S. imports was 29%, followed by Mexico at 27% and Italy with 18.5%. Spain and Turkey rounded out the top five with 7.2% and 4.6% share of import volume, respectively.
  • In terms of value, Italy remained the largest exporter to the U.S., comprising 34.6% of U.S. value imports. China was second with a 26 % share and Mexico took third with a 14.3% share. The dollar value per square foot of tile imports (including freight, insurance and duty) rose slightly from $1.06 in 2014 to $1.07 in 2015.
  • There is a growing trend towards returning production back to the U.S. In fact, 2015 was a record year for U.S. manufacturers, as an all-time high of 857.2 million sq. ft. – up 10.4% from 2014’s 779.1 million sq. ft. – were shipped domestically.
  • 2015 exports were up 10.1% to 40.7 million sq. ft., up from 2014’s revised total (July 2015) of 37 million sq. ft. The vast majority of these exports (in sq. ft.) were to Canada (57.1%) and Mexico (18.8%).
  • In dollar value, 2015 domestic shipments (minus exports) were $1.26 billion, up 9.4% vs. 2014’s $1.15 billion. The dollar value/square foot of domestically produced tile fell slightly from $1.48 in 2014 to $1.47 in 2015.

There are lots of other great stories in this issue as well, with a focus on electric-floor warming: how it brings comfort and value to your customer, profit to your bottom line and what to keep in mind when you are considering an electric-floor warming installation.

Happy reading!

God bless,
[email protected]

May Feature – Schluter Systems Floor Heating

Ceramic and stone tiles are ideal surface coverings because they are durable, hygienic, and easy to maintain. However, a common objection to tile as a floor covering is that it can be cold underfoot. This is especially true in colder climates during the winter months. There are various floor-warming systems available that can help our industry overcome this challenge and increase tile consumption, to the benefit of manufacturers, distributors, dealers, installers, and home owners alike. In fact, floor-warming is seen as an affordable luxury to many home owners. It’s a perfect marriage, as tile is the best covering for floor-warming systems, given its ability to effectively transfer heat.

Systems based on hydronic tubing keep floors warm, but are typically used as the primary heating source for the home. These systems can increase comfort and reduce energy costs, but if an owner is only interested in keeping his or her feet warm in the bathroom while getting ready for work in the morning, an electric floor-warming system is a more practical choice. And today’s electric floor-warming systems have made it so that warm floors are no longer a luxury for the few, but an attainable option for every home with tiled floors.

floor warming 2-2

A thin sheet of plywood was used as a placeholder while the 12″ x 24″ marble field tiles were installed. The heating cables were first protected by a layer of unmodified thin-set mortar.

The basics

The heat source for most electric floor-warming systems is a cable comprised of a heating element (wire) that is protected by sheathing and surrounded by a ground element and a polymer jacket. The resistance of the wire causes electrical energy to be converted to heat energy. This heat energy warms the floor covering above.

Heating cable assemblies are produced in different configurations. In the simplest form, the cable is purchased on a spool and placed on the floor at the manufacturer-specified spacing. It is held in place by clips or tracks fastened to the subfloor. Cables may also be purchased mounted on a plastic mesh or within a sheet at a consistent spacing and attached to the floor. These products are available in standard and custom sizes. For loose cables and those mounted on mesh, best practice is to embed the heating cables in a self-leveling underlayment. Once the SLU sets, tile installation may begin.

Today’s innovations

The latest innovation in electric floor-warming is a new form of uncoupling membranes, which feature studs that secure heating cables without the use of clips or fasteners. These systems offer complete flexibility because cables can be placed wherever heat is desired, without creating height differences in the floor. Furthermore, self-leveling compounds are not required to encapsulate the cables. Tile can be installed immediately after the cable is placed, thereby significantly reducing installation time.

floor warming 4-2

Electric heating cables were run in all areas that would have foot traffic, taking care to maintain proper and consistent spacing of the cables throughout.

In addition to the floor-warming installation benefits, uncoupling membranes provide other functions to protect the assembly. They provide uncoupling through their geometric configuration, which allows the substrate and tile to move independently, thus mitigating movement stresses and preventing the major cause of cracking and delaminating of the surface covering. Many uncoupling membranes also function as waterproofing membranes to protect the substrate from moisture penetration. This is particularly important in bathrooms and kitchens, which are common areas for tile and floor warming, and can often be exposed to water. The free space on the underside of the membranes provides a route for excess moisture and vapor to escape from the substrate that could otherwise cause damage to the tile covering above. Finally, loads are transferred from the tile through column-like mortar structures formed in the membranes to the substrate. Thus, the advantages of uncoupling are achieved without sacrificing support for the tile covering.

Project feature

We spoke to NTCA member Mike Corona of Corona Marble & Tile Ltd., in Woodbine, Md., regarding an excellent example of a well-executed floor-warming tile installation. Case Builders of Lutherville, Md., was performing three bathroom renovations and adding a 3,500 sq. ft. addition to a home in Hanover, Pa. During the planning process, the homeowner commented that she was always frustrated with the floor in the master bathroom being cold. Corona suggested using the Schluter®-DITRA-HEAT system to provide floor warming and ensure a lasting tile assembly. He already had extensive experience with the system, as it has become his standard choice for floor-warming applications, and enjoys the “all-in-one” nature of the system.

floor warming 6-2

The shower drain was placed to complement the pattern on the mosaic on the shower floor.

The DITRA-HEAT was installed in all areas of the 125-sq.-ft. bathroom where foot traffic is common. They made use of a 240-volt dedicated circuit that was present in the bathroom and became available when the owner decided to remove the jetted hot tub. Removing large hot tubs during bathroom renovations has become more common and represents a great opportunity to save time and cost when providing power to floor-warming systems.

The sub assembly consisted of joists spaced at 16″ o.c., 3/4″ -thick plywood subfloor, and 1/2″ -thick plywood underlayment to support the stone tile installation. The tile setter prepared the plywood substrate with a self-leveling underlayment prior to installing the DITRA-HEAT in order to provide a flat substrate for the tile installation. Chesapeake Tile & Marble of Owings Mills, Md., supplied the Calacatta Gold 12″ x 24″ marble tile for the floor and New Ravenna mosaics that were used to create two inlays in the tile field. MAPEI® setting materials (self-leveling underlayment, thin-set mortar, and large-and-heavy tile mortar) were used throughout.

Getting started with your installation

In general, installation of floor-warming systems is relatively straightforward. When installation problems arise, there are some common culprits. Keep these tips in mind on your next installation:

floor warming 3-2 (2)

Care was taken to match the height of the mosaic inlay to the height of the marble field tile.

  • DO read and follow all instructions. Period.
  • DO partner with a qualified electrician who can verify that the installation conforms to applicable electrical and building codes. This will help ensure a safe application and avoid conflicts with building code officials.
  • DON’T overestimate the amount of heating cable required. Most cable systems CANNOT be cut to fit; this will change the resistance and could lead to fire. Consider that heating cables cannot be installed under fixtures and must be spaced at approved distances from walls, floor drains, and other heating sources when making your calculations. It is also recommended to plan for a “buffer zone” in the room where floor warming isn’t required (i.e., where it can be placed, but people are not likely to stand). In the event a mistake is made and too long a cable is purchased, you’ll have a place to put the “excess.” Many manufacturers have online tools to help you determine the correct length of cable for your application.
  • DO test the heating cables according to manufacturer’s instructions. This should be done at various times during and after installation (e.g., immediately after removal from packaging, after cable installation, and after tile installation). Testing can help catch a problem early and avoid costly tear out. Manufacturers’ warranties are typically void if the cable is not tested according to their requirements.
  • DO inform other trades that heating cable has been installed and where it is located. Once your work is complete, the last thing you want is to receive a call from the general contractor saying the heating cable isn’t working because the plumber unknowingly damaged it cutting a hole to run a drain pipe.