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.

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 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 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, 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]

March Feature Story – LATICRETE International, Inc.



Penn State’s men’s and women’s swimming teams compete against the best athletes in the NCAA’s Division 1. And, to compete against the best, the school needs the best facilities.

The McCoy Natatorium, Penn State’s main swimming facility, features a 1960s-era Olympic-size pool that began to show its age in early 2014.

2-feature-marchTiles were loose and cracking in the pool and throughout the decking. The grout between tiles was deteriorating, and water was reaching the underlying concrete.

When Penn State put the job out to bid, the bid package required a firm that could deliver the highest quality and warranty its work.

JP Phillips, Inc., a LATICRETE MVP firm, won the job in no small part due to their ability to deliver the valuable LATICRETE 25-year warranty.

3-feature-march“Penn State needed a warranty on their pool,” said James Pogel of JP Phillips, Inc. “Our ability to work with the LATICRETE team and design a system capable of getting the coveted LATICRETE warranty was key to landing this important project.”

The challenge

Once JP Phillips, Inc. won the job, they needed to overcome three challenges specific to this project:

Time frame – The Penn State pool could not be inaccessible for long stretches of time. The swim teams rely on it throughout the academic year, and work needed to be completed over the summer break. JP Phillips, Inc., could only access the space between July and mid-August.

Harsh conditions – The job required products that can withstand some of the toughest conditions imaginable. This includes chlorine and the constant presence of water.

4-feature-marchA significant change in scope – After the initial job consultation, JP Phillips, Inc. found additional problems that required immediate attention. For example, once the concrete was exposed, the team found areas requiring patching and new plumbing. This additional work needed to be completed within the same tight timeline.

A LATICRETE solution

JP Phillips, Inc. worked with the LATICRETE Technical Services team to design correct procedures for the repair of the Penn State pool.

5-feature-marchThis included a specifically sequenced suite of LATICRETE products:

  • 254 Platinum was applied first in the form of a slurry. 254 Platinum is a one-step, polymer-fortified, ANSI A118.15-compliant, high-performance, thin-set mortar that is used for demanding installations of ceramic tile and stone. It is designed to mix with water, has a long open time and high shear bond strength, which results in an adhesive mortar with unsurpassed adhesion and workability.
  • 6-feature-march3701 Fortified Mortar was then applied while the 254 Platinum slurry was still wet. This combination of materials was left to dry for five days. 3701 Fortified Mortar is a factory-prepared fortified blend of carefully selected polymers, portland cement and graded aggregates. Its advantage on the project was that it did not require the use of a latex admix or any mixing of sand and cement. The contractors simply added water to the bagged mortar to produce a thick bed mortar with exceptional strength onto which the tiles were placed.
  • HYDRO BAN® was applied once the five days had passed. HYDRO BAN is a thin, load-bearing, waterproofing/crack isolation membrane that does not require the use of fabric in the field, coves or corners. This single-component, self-curing liquid rubber polymer forms a flexible, seamless waterproofing membrane. HYDRO BAN bonds directly to a wide variety of substrates.
  • 7-feature-marchSPECTRALOCK® Pro Premium Grout was then used to adhere and grout the pool and decking tiles. SPECTRALOCK PRO Premium Grout is a patented, high-performance epoxy grout that offers excellent color uniformity, durability, stain protection, and beautiful, full grout joints in an easy-to-use, non-sag formula. Designed for use on ceramic tile, glass tile and stone applications, both residential and commercial, SPECTRALOCK can be used on both interior and exterior floors and walls. Ideal for regrouting applications, SPECTRALOCK PRO Premium Grout is perfect for swimming pools, fountains and other wet-area applications.

With the tiles and LATICRETE products installed, the pool and decking needed 14 days to cure before the pool was filled. Once this two-week period ended, the pool was then filled slowly at a rate of one inch per hour.


Through a combination of JP Phillips, Inc.’s professionalism and the support of the LATICRETE Technical Services team, Penn State University got the pool its swim teams deserved and the LATICRETE 25-year system warranty the university requested.

The results speak for themselves. In the spring of 2015, the Penn State women’s swimming team set a new record for the 800-yard freestyle relay.


Business Tip – March 2016

SponsoredbyMAPEIDo your people know the play? Practice the daily huddle to align your team

wally_adamchikBy Wally Adamchik, FireStarter Speaking and Consulting

It works for (insert your favorite quarterback here) and it can work for you, too. It is, perhaps, one of the most effective leadership and management tools at your disposal, and takes just a few minutes to execute. But it is rarely used. You should start doing it tomorrow. If you are already doing it, you should work to make it better. What is it? A daily huddle.

You need to tell your people things they need to know to do their job. They want to hear those things. Contrary to popular belief, there are employees at all levels and all ages who want to do a good job. Many of those who are disengaged feel that way because the boss is not communicating with them.

The daily huddle is a fine solution. And it can work in any industry. The concept is simple. Before the workday starts, you gather your team to deliver key information to align them for the day. Are there any special events/visitors/incentives? How about a key training or safety tip? Perhaps you will talk about production or sales targets for the day. All this information gives them direction and helps them to be more productive. You also might toss in some feedback about how things went yesterday. (While this is not a time to single out poor performers, you may highlight some wins from the day before.)

Make sure to ask for input and questions. If the huddle is a new concept for your team, people will be reluctant to share anything initially. But, over time they will see you are serious about the huddle and will work with you to make it better. I have seen, and participated in, huddles that were also a stretch-and-flex period to increase safety awareness and to warm up cool muscles before starting physical labor. It sends a strong message that the company is serious about safety when the boss joins in the huddle and the flex when he is visiting. I have also seen bosses blow off that part – and that sends a message, too! Communication is one of the keys to success in just about any endeavor. I have never conducted an employee satisfaction survey for a client in which the results indicated there was too much communication. In fact, over 85% of my surveys have indicated that communication from management is in need of drastic improvement. The huddle is a quick, easy and inexpensive way to fix a major problem.

Why it works

Let’s look at why it works. First, it is personal. No texting or email is involved. This is direct, eye-to-eye contact – still the most compelling form of communication we have. When we look someone in the eye we know we have their attention and we can see them understand our message. Also, engaging in eye contact shows people they are important, that you want to communicate with them. It conveys the message that you trust them enough to share this information with them. When you ask for their input, you are literally saying, “I want to hear what you have to say. I am interested in you and the value you contribute to our team.”

It comes down to trust and respect. And it educates and aligns people on key business issues. They feel like they are part of the team and they operate from a “we,” not a “they,” perspective. When I interview an employee and he speaks of his firm in terms of “they do… they say,” it makes me cringe. It is as if the employee does not actually consider himself part of the company, but rather some visitor who has little stake and even less affiliation or sense of camaraderie. Keeping people informed is your job. Setting direction is one of the primary roles of a leader. In the case of the huddle, the direction is short-term. We are not communicating the strategic plan of the company; we‘re merely stating the goals of the day.

What‘s the payoff? You get employees who are more motivated and educated to do the job. Does it always work? No, not every single employee may respond to the huddle – but most will. I can guarantee though that starting the day without a huddle insures a workforce that is uninformed and de-motivated. And not even the worst quarterback in the league would attempt that.

NTCA has partnered with Wally Adamchik to bring his interactive virtual training system at to NTCA members. Contact him at [email protected] to learn more about how the NTCA/FireStarterVT partnership can save you training dollars while improving your leaders at all levels.

Ask the Experts – March 2016


I have a question regarding polished porcelain mosaic tiles. Polished porcelain is becoming more popular these days with so many “marble” looks being manufactured. I have a client wanting to use a polished porcelain for her shower walls and would like to use the coordinating polished porcelain 1.5” x 2.5” basket weave mosaic for the shower floor (it is not available in matte). Is it ok to use any polished porcelain mosaic on a shower floor? Please advise.


Small mosaics generally do not pose a slip/fall hazard in wet areas, even if they are polished. The grout joints are so closely spaced that they create a type of textured surface that lends good traction, even in wet areas with lots of water on the surface. Mosaics have traditionally been used in shower floors with high success and little risk of liability.

– Michael Whistler
NTCA Trainer


Our company has been asked to look at a marble floor that is staining and “rusting.” This has only started happening within the last year or two of the floor’s 15-20 year life. There seems to be no etching or loss of sheen (which does not rule out chemical absorption, I am aware). We have been assured that the cleaning process/chemicals have not changed. The floor is on concrete, with occupied space below, and no evidence of moisture-related damage in that area’s ceiling. Before tearing out this floor and replacing it, I would like to be able to suggest what may be the cause and possible solution prior to going in and having unforeseen issues. Any assistance would be greatly appreciated.


White marble tiles can contain deposits of iron. As a mineral, iron oxidizes and turns the marble yellow or brownish red when exposed to water or acids, similar to the way metal rusts. It is possible for the oxidation process to occur many years after the tile was installed. The rusting of the tile may have been initiated or accelerated if the tile installation has recently been exposed to a large amount of water or if the chemistry of the wash water has changed.

It is possible to check the water supply for iron. A plumbing supply store should be able to provide a test kit. If iron is detected, the water supply can be chemically treated to remove the iron.

The tile itself can be tested for iron content. A yellowed tile can be removed from the installation and sent to a lab for testing. If there is attic stock tile that has never been installed, it can also be tested. Comparing the test results of the tiles will help determine whether the iron content was native to the tile or introduced through the water supply.

The rusting process is a chemical change internal to the tile and is difficult or impossible to reverse. It may be possible to remove the stain by applying a poultice consisting of a thick plaster of a product called Iron Out, which contains sodium sulfites. Test a small area by applying the paste and keep it damp for several hours. Remove the solution with a wet vac and clean water. Make sure your wash water does not contain iron. If the stain is removed, the entire floor can be treated in this manner. The process will cause some etching and the surface will likely have to be re-polished.

If you determine iron oxidation is not the cause, you may discover the cleaning agents or the cleaning procedure has changed (such as using the same mop and wash water on the marble after being used in a dirty environment). Marble is porous and has naturally occurring pinholes. After years of wear, the surface of the marble may have become less polished and more open to absorption of dirt. Normal traffic or a dirty mop could be introducing dirt into the pinholes.

After you have ruled out iron mineral staining and suspect cleaning is the cause, it is possible to clean the marble with an alkaline solution. Test the alkaline cleaning solution on a small area before attempting the entire floor. The cleaning process will require scrubbing, which will likely dull the surface. The surface can be re-polished.

The size and scope of the project may determine the best course of action. Ultimately, removal and replacement may be the solution.

I will be interested to know what you discover in your investigation and the approach you take to correct the issue.

– Mark Heinlein
NTCA Trainer

Editor’s Letter – March 2016


My dad, Richard Goddin, and me, in 2012.

“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.”
– Vincent Van Gogh

This column comes to you courtesy of a conversation I had with Jim Harrington, Sr., of Professional Consultants International, inspired, posthumously, by my dad.

First, a little background. On January 29, immediately after Surfaces and as soon as the airports were clear from the major snowstorm that hit the Northeast the weekend of January 23, I flew from NM to NJ to be present with my dad while the pulmonary fibrosis he had battled for many years weakened him and finally claimed his life. While it was a time with him I will treasure, it was also a harrowing experience to watch his life systematically drain away, even as I navigated through the labyrinth of Medicare, hospital and nursing home care, communication with his doctors, and the gamut of emotions that resulted for my mom and me. Before I go on, I want to thank the NTCA staff and contributing writers for their immense loving patience with and support for me for those six weeks, as well as the support from many in the industry. And I want to extend apologies for delays in getting TileLetter, TRENDS and Coverings issues to you this year – I was juggling deadlines during this process and did not always hit the mark.

lesleys-dadDuring this period, I engaged in an email exchange with Jim Harrington about our late dads, who had both served in the Army Air Corps in WW2. Both our dads provided “behind the scenes” support for the war effort – Jim’s dad inspecting planes coming through Hickam Field in Honolulu and mine packing parachutes. We conversed online about how these support roles saved lives.

Jim shared about a seminar a friend had attended given by a pilot who had been shot down. This pilot had the occasion to meet the soldier who packed his parachute. “The pilot pointed out (correctly) that without the guy packing the chute doing his job correctly, he would not be here,” Jim wrote, pointing out that “many of the combat vets were always willing to acknowledge the importance of every cog in the machine to the success of their mission.”

And this is where this column relates to our industry, and even your business. In each situation – business and personal – everyone plays an essential part. I saw that first hand in my recent experiences at the nursing home, where LPNs and CNAs did indispensable services for my dad that ensured his safety and comfort. I saw it with friends and family: those who drove me to the nursing home when I didn’t trust myself behind the wheel of a car due to lack of sleep; those who accompanied me to visit in the last days as a support; some who fed me; or put me up in their home; those who sent notes of encouragement or traveled many miles to be with my mom and me; and of course my sweetie who held down the fort at home and flew out for the funeral, and the friends who looked after our cats while he was away. I saw it during the whole funerary process as each funeral professional from the funeral home to the cemetery helped to create an honoring tribute to my dad. One of the things I feel is so much gratitude to all involved.

Your business may not be a life or death situation, but the health of your business is important. It’s important for your customers’ satisfaction, for your employees’ financial health and that of their families, for the ongoing prosperity of the company that you may have built, run or work for. And each role is essential. Try doing without the foreman, or helper, or receptionist or designer for a day or a week and see how things fall apart.

So, this is a call for bringing gratitude more consciously into your day-to-day operations for everyone who makes up your team. Gratitude for all those who dedicate themselves to making your business run smoothly, whether they are high-profile employees or those who keep things humming behind the scenes.

Merriam-Webster defines cog as “a subordinate but integral person or part;” oftentimes the emphasis is placed on “subordinate,” or being “just” a cog, but in this column, I’d like to place the emphasis on “integral.” No matter who you are or what your role, you are important. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. It couldn’t get done without you. And beyond the immediate task you are accomplishing in the situation, you may have no idea of how far reaching your effects may be. Thank you for all you do.

God bless,
[email protected]

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