Ask the Experts – February 2018

QUESTION

We found the stress cracks in the floor several days after the tile was installed. I had never seen anything like this in my 40 years of being in the trade, and neither had my tile man. They showed up as slightly wavy white lines in the marble. There was not a black line or crack you feel.

We removed a couple of tiles where two stress cracks intersected. The tile was well bonded to the 1/2” cement board below the tile. There was no intersection of sheets of cement board below the crack. The cement board looked sound. We removed the cement board to expose the tongue-and-groove plywood subfloor below. Where the cracks intersected in the floor was exactly where a sheet of plywood stopped and started. The cracks lined up with long 8’ run and one 4’ run. So, somehow whatever movement took place in the sheet of plywood transferred up through the cement board to the tile. There were no cracks in the cement board and it was firmly bonded to the plywood.

We took up all the tile and cement board. We checked the subfloor with a laser to see if the floor was showing any signs movement. The entire floor was within 1/8” of level everywhere we checked. There were no ridges in the plywood where the sheets butted together. The only suspicious thing I found was an area along the 8’ side of the plywood where the tongue of one sheet was not fully engaged in the groove of the other. This meant that there could be more flex in the plywood than there should have been.

We removed the sheet of plywood and checked the framing. The new joists we sistered onto the existing joists were 2” x 8”. They were nailed soundly to the existing 2”x 10” that were all over 2” thick. These joists spanned from the living room wall to the exterior wall. They also pass over the wood columns and beams that divide the stair well from the entry hall. The floor platform was really strong and robust. The plywood had been installed with construction adhesive and ring shank nails. It was fully bonded to the framing and very difficult to remove.

We could not see any good reason why the tile came to show the stress cracks. The only reason that I could come up may have had to with using adhesive to bond the plywood to the framing. I have seen problems in other areas due to adhesive shrinking as it dries. We have found when wall board is installed with adhesive and screws that the screws and plaster above them can show up as little humps on the surface of the board as the adhesive dries and pulls the wall board closer to the framing. It is only a fraction of an inch but I have seen this happen many times before – as the board moves closer to stud and the screw stays fixed, you get a hump.

This is only a theory but if the plywood got pulled tighter to the framing as the glue dried, could that small shift in the floor sub floor cause the crack in the tile? Total guess.

Also the non-fully-engaged tongue could have had something to do with it on the long side. Though short side of the ply was firmly seated on a joist, and we had stress crack here, too.

Marble is much softer than other stones or porcelain tile. Like I said before, I have never seen this happen before and we have used this type of assembly successfully for many years.

Anyway, we decided to add rows of blocking between the joists along the 8′ length to make sure that side of the plywood was more secure. We re-installed the plywood and were planning on using uncoupling membrane under the tile to avoid further stress cracks in the marble.

I suggested to the client that he might like another type of floor material to avoid any other chance of this happening again due to the softness of the marble. I understand everyone’s reluctance to do this, but I just wanted to increase our chances of having no further complications.

The tile installer feels pretty confident the uncoupling membrane will do the trick. My stone guy examined our tile and he said the product was as sound as you are going to get with Carrara marble.

What do you think?

ANSWER

Good to hear from you. As you are aware, the NTCA always encourages people to follow industry guidelines set by both the Tile Council of North America (TCNA), and American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

I was able to read the correspondence about this stone tile failure. The questions raised are covered in our industry standards.

The assembly that failed was a backer board installation over plywood. Attached is the diagram from the TCNA Handbook method F250, which is the closest method to what was described. If you notice two layers of plywood are required underneath the backer board install. For a similar installation using ceramic only one layer of plywood would be required. That detail is found in method F144 on page 162 of the 2017 TCNA Handbook.

There are two standards for allowable deflection in tile installation. For ceramic and porcelain tile, the standard is L/360. For stone tile installation the standard is L/720.

The L in this equation is the length of unsupported span under the installation in inches. This means that only half of the movement which would be allowable with a ceramic install would be allowable with a stone installation.

The question about adhesive under the plywood against the floor joist is addressed in ANSI A108.11 it states “…a 1/4” bead of construction adhesive should be applied to the center of the top of the joist and the plywood fastened to joist with 6d ring shank nails. There should be a 1/8” gap between the subfloor sheets.”

There was a mention of using an uncoupling membrane for the second installation. A second layer of plywood is required when using uncoupling membrane. Check with the uncoupling membrane manufacturer for complete instructions on this type of installation.

I hope this information helps. – Robb Roderick, NTCA presenter/trainer

Be well prepared before making the leap from installing tile to teaching tile installation – Business Tip – February 2018

Recently, NTCA trainer/presenter Robb Roderick fielded a question from an installer who was inquiring about the best way to transition from installing tile to teaching or training others in tile installation. Robb’s experienced response follows:

Robb Roderick,
NTCA technical presenter/trainer

In response to your question of how to move from installing tile to teaching or training tile installation, I would give you two pieces of advice: increase your credentials, and increase your exposure. 

Increase your credentials

There are many ways you can increase your credentials. One way is to become certified as a Certified Tile Installer (CTI) with the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation. After successfully passing the CTI exam, I would suggest taking as many of the ACT (Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers) tests as possible. Complete the online NTCA University courses. Attend as many NTCA and or manufacturer workshops as possible. Investigate training and education offered by your local union hall. The Ceramic Tile Institute also has some training and programs that may
benefit you.

Increase your exposure

To increase your exposure, I would encourage you to attend trade shows, conventions and conferences and network with as many people as possible. A few to attend would be TISE West/Surfaces, Coverings, and Total Solutions Plus. Also getting involved with Facebook could help you to meet more people who may help you with your endeavor. I would suggest joining and being an active part of sites like NTCA Members Only, Tile Geeks, Global Tile Posse, Tile Love 2.0, etc.

The NTCA website (www.tile-assn.com) now has Career Center page, which includes both employers and job seekers. This is a place where you can create an account and post your resume, and search possible employment opportunities. Many manufacturers also have employment opportunities listed on their website.

It’s said that success is when preparation meets opportunity. Hopefully the information above will help you prepare for your opportunity.

70-year old Flamingo hits the jackpot with Bostik – Feature Story – February 2018

ForrestPerkins’ renovations keep true to the property’s character and charisma

The third gambling establishment to open on the soon-to-become famous Las Vegas Strip, today The Flamingo is the Strip’s oldest resort. In the mid-‘40s, businessman extraordinaire William “Billy” Wilkerson envisioned a grand hotel/resort with an energized casino, pool, spas and golf course drawing gamblers and celebrities from across the globe. At that time, almost all casinos already in Las Vegas were extremely rustic and followed a Western theme.

That was about to change – enter architect George Vernon Russell, who brought his vision of a European-styled hotel/casino to reality. Clearly, The Flamingo was eons ahead of its time and via its luxury, major glitz and non-stop publicity campaign, created a bona fide blueprint for future resort/casinos in Las Vegas.

The Flamingo recently celebrated its 70th birthday, continuing to give visitors an authentic Vegas experience. The resort offers more than 3,500 guest rooms and suites, and features a sprawling 15-acre pool and wildlife habitat complete with waterfalls, island-like vegetation and tropical wildlife.

In 2016, and as part of an extensive renovation plan from its owner Caesars Entertainment Corporation, a major $90 million complete guestroom renovation project was launched. Led by design firm ForrestPerkins, the process began in late August. Some rooms were opened to guests in November; final completion is expected for the second quarter of 2018. Long-time aficionados of the hotel needn’t worry, as the newly renovated rooms continue using the property’s well-known pink theme.

“Flamingo Las Vegas is an iconic resort filled with 70 years of rich history and unforgettable experiences,” said Bob Morse, President of Hospitality for Caesars Entertainment. “The renovated rooms pay homage to the property’s past, while also giving it a fresh and modern new look.”

This new design program not only updates the guestrooms; it clearly brings the bathrooms up to today’s standards. All fully renovated rooms feature unique, contemporary and retro-chic designs with accents that celebrate The Flamingo’s rich history as a centerpiece of the Las Vegas Strip. ForrestPerkins’ rooms were tasked to “sparkle like glitter and shine like champagne, with vibrant hues of gold and bright pops of flamingo pink, keeping true to the property’s character and charisma.” Without question, the heralded design firm did not disappoint.

Gibson Tile, Daltile + Bostik make bathrooms shine

This renovation included the previously mentioned 3,500 guest rooms, of which about a third were completed at press time. Getting the guest baths up to the designers’ stringent standards and making very, very tight deadlines overall, was a major undertaking for all trades contracted for this project.

Mark A. Dopudja, Vice President of Gibson Tile Company, Las Vegas, Nev., stated, “We were contracted to handle the tile installation. The bathroom design called for a very high-quality, white Dal-Tile 3” x 6” product. We wanted a premium installation system, so we selected three Bostik materials: Hydroment Vivid Grout; D-2001 Ultra-Premium Mastic and Bostik GoldPlus for waterproofing.

“Our reasons for choosing these materials were very basic,” continued Dopudja. “Vivid was chosen for time constraints. It is a rapid curing grout that offers ease of installation; a superior color-consistent grout joint and non-sag properties, which are ideal for wall tile projects. We did not have time to wait for an epoxy product, which takes considerably longer to cure, so Vivid was the ideal selection. The time frame was so tight, once furniture was in place, fixtures installers were right behind them. This was the procedure, floor-by-floor, throughout the entire hotel.

“We needed a quick-cure system, one that allowed for full foot traffic in rooms after just four hours from being installed,” he added. “That’s why we decided upon a total Bostik system. And in particular, we knew their waterproofing system was ideal for the bathrooms,” stated Dopudja. “And frankly, using one full system from one single manufacturer, we believe helps to ensure an even more successful install.”

Bostik Hydroment® Vivid™ is a rapid curing, premium grade, stain resistant cementitious grout for demanding commercial and residential projects. It offers consistent color technology with enhanced stain and efflorescence protection. And Vivid™ is exceptionally ease to clean up. This greatly contributes to the speed at which installers can perform their overall project work.

Bostik D-2001® Ultra-Premium™ Mastic is a high performance adhesive for the interior installation of all types of ceramic and stone tile (except moisture sensitive marble). Ideal for fast and highly professional installations, it provides excellent vertical grab.

Lastly, Bostik GoldPlus™ is a ready-to-use, roller-applied, latex waterproofing and anti-fracture membrane for use beneath thinset ceramic tile installations on both vertical and horizontal surfaces.

“A few years ago,” concluded Scott Banda, Bostik’s Director of Marketing and Business Development, “Bostik made a focused commitment to become a major source for tile and stone installation systems to high-end Las Vegas hospitality establishments. Our recent work at The Flamingo represents another cornerstone to that pledge. As the need for high-quality, easy-to-use and high-performance tile and stone installation systems increases, Bostik will continue to have the products, the experience and the wherewithal to more than meet this demand.” 

NTCA University Update: NTCA completes year two of the DOL-approved five-year apprenticeship program

By Becky Serbin, Training and Education coordinator

In case you missed it, the big NTCA University news at The International Surfaces Event (TISE West) in Las Vegas was that we have completed two of the five years of courses for a new hire that are required for a Department of Labor (DOL) apprentice program.

And to catch you up on previous updates, we are developing five years of introductory courses for a new tile setter. If your company has a DOL-approved program, this means that the two-year finisher program is complete and we are starting to work on the three-year setter program.

The second year of courses build on knowledge that was gained in the first year. And we included several introductory management courses such as crew task management, introduction to communication, and controlling confrontations. These courses were included to support someone who has been on the job for two years to lead grout crews and assist new hires to learn the tasks at which they are proficient.

Even though these courses are being developed with the installer in mind, they aren’t meant SOLELY for a new finisher or setter. While there is a slant to the installer’s perspective, anyone working in the tile industry can benefit from taking these courses. For example, if you are a sales rep, do you understand the entire installation process? Do you know how your product fits in with all of the other steps? Or do you understand issues that may occur with an improper installation? All of these questions can be answered by taking these courses.

Remember that NTCA University now has key word search capabilities. Let’s say that you want to take a course related to epoxy grout. In the past you would have to scroll through all of the courses to look for that particular course; now you can search for epoxy and/or grout and find a list of courses that may meet your needs.

To purchase your subscription, you can visit the NTCA store at https://tile-assn.site-ym.com/store/ListProducts.aspx?catid=490398 or http://bit.ly/2taYmOO to make your purchase. If you have any questions or have ideas of courses that we should have available then please give me a call at 770-366-2566 or send me an e-mail at [email protected]

President’s Letter – February 2018

Estimating + Best Practices

Martin Howard, NTCA president

A year ago, we talked about the goal of increasing the professionalism of our membership. We want our NTCA brand and logo to carry a respected and positive meaning in the marketplace. One of the many ways we can contribute to this goal is to seek out and incorporate industry best practices into daily use in our businesses.

This month let’s look at best practices in estimating every job we bid, and identify some ways we can improve outcomes. In other words, sell more jobs and increase bottom line profits.

If your experience is anything like mine, there seems to be any number of competitors out there willing to work for wages rather than a profit. I often scratch my head and try and figure out how another bidder could have arrived at a price for a defined scope of work that’s 15%, 20% or even 30% less than mine. Once I get beyond the emotional response of, “They must have missed something” or “They are wrong and will lose money on this job,” I begin the process of checking my take-off quantities and pricing in hopes that I will find the mistake. Sometimes the error becomes obvious, but often it remains a mystery. There are many reasons that can account for these types of pricing differences and most often it’s a combination of several factors.

Let’s look at some of the basic elements of estimating best practices:

Have a written guide – It is essential that you have a written guide outlining every step in the process. This will help to eliminate many of the most common mistakes in compiling an accurate cost estimate.

Understand the scope of work – It’s critical to understand the scope of work to be priced. This may mean collecting and reading all the contract documents including the specifications, drawings, contracts, general conditions, special conditions, RFIs and addenda. Or, it might mean visiting the site and inspecting, measuring and identifying every aspect of work required to meet the customers’ expectations.

Begin estimating the cost of the work – Once this is completed we know what will be required and can begin the process of estimating the cost of the work. This is an area where significant costs can be overlooked if we aren’t careful. If a contract requires that we include items such as composite clean-up, safety orientation, daily stretch and flex, maintained protection of completed work, full-time supervision, 30-hour OSHA classification, delivery during non-standard hours only, and many more, we can lose significant amounts of money. The way we perform our take-offs should be very consistent from job to job. Whether you use a scale and pencil or a digital system, use it the same way on every job. Work your way through each room, area and level of the building the same way each job. Look at every page, read every note. Repetition and consistency are your friends because they help to reduce omission errors.

Begin the pricing process – Once the quantity take-off is complete, we can begin the pricing process. Again, this needs to be standardized so that you approach every bid the same way. I recommend using a system where all the items normally found in a job are pre-listed. After pricing all the direct costs including materials, freight, sales tax, delivery charges, labor, payroll taxes, insurance and labor burden, equipment, trucks, and a factor for miscellaneous small tools, remember to add all the indirect costs. These costs could be a factor of annual costs spread across all your projects such as safety training, supervision, craft training or apprenticeship. Overhead should include all your infrastructure costs such as office, warehouse rent, and all the costs associated with it. Remember to include management, estimating, human resources, regulation compliance, licensing, accounting, etc. This should be the total of all your fixed cost of doing business that is not actually installing tile work.

Break out the questionable costs – WFG, crack-isolation membrane, epoxy grout etc. – in fact, anything in question. GCs have said they prefer this type of break-out vs. leaving these items out of the bid. Being the expert to the architect and GC makes the knowledgeable tile companies an asset that every good client needs. When they have a question, who do they call? You?  Are you building loyal partnerships or just trying to get another job? Build to last.

Calculate your profit margin – Now comes the fun part! Calculating your profit margin. Please see this video for a detailed explanation of Mark-up vs. Margin calculations. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BCo5i1mMO3E&t=527s or http://bit.ly/2r7wFL5.

Here is the formula:

Sales Price minus Costs of Goods Sold divided by Sales Price.

Example: $125 sales price – $100 costs/$125 sales price =
20% gross margin.

At this point, there are two main things every business owner needs to determine: how much do I spend on overhead each year and how much profit do I want to make each year? If you spend $100,000 each year on overhead, what must your sales be at a 15% gross margin to break even? The answer is $666,666 or 100,000/.15.

Now how much net profit margin above overhead do you want to make each year? Let’s say it’s 10%. If your cost of goods sold is $566,666 the sales price must be $755,555 to produce a 25% gross margin that will pay your $100,000 overhead and give you a net profit margin of $88,888 for the year.

Here’s one more thing to think about. Let’s say you forget to install expansion joints in two jobs and they fail and you’re required to replace them at a cost to you of $50,000. How much more work must you sell and perform at a 25% gross margin to breakeven on that loss? $50,000/.25 = $200,000 more or an additional 26% more work than your normal annual volume – and you don’t even make anything for it; you just replaced the $50,000 loss. It pays to do it right the first time.

Let’s work smart and seek to be more profitable in 2018 by setting up a system of consistent estimating procedures – even if you’re doing them on the kitchen table – and make sure we price them with the correct margins to make a reasonable profit. NTCA University has several estimating courses in development – look for them in 2018!

Keep on tiling!

Martin Howard, NTCA President
Committee member, ANSI A108
[email protected]

Does lack of 80% mortar coverage mean that a tile installation will fail? – Tech Talk – February 2018

By Tom D. Lynch, CSI

Not on your life! But you’d never know it by the way most professionals view this issue. The TCNA Handbook and ANSI A108 strongly recommend that 80% coverage should be attained for most installation scenarios, and rightfully so (exterior projects and showers recommend a minimum 95% coverage). The Handbook even goes so far as to offer explicit instructions as to how this can be obtained (thanks to Joe Tarver’s research years ago at the NTCA).

I agree wholeheartedly that the 80% goal should be reached on every tile installation; but I disagree that if it is not attained it will doom an installation to failure. I have seen too many installations that have been in for two years, three years and more that have never had the slightest inkling of failure until dramatic structural movement triggered lateral stress – most times as a crack in the concrete slab – that caused tile to dis-bond and shear loose. Then, if the coverage was something less than 80%, the tile contractor got blamed for the entire failure, or at least the vast majority of it. Never mind that the floor never failed for several years. Never mind that it is obvious that a crack in the concrete triggered the stress put on the mortar. It becomes the fault of the tile contractor because of the less-than-80%-coverage issue.

I disagree! I’m 100% on the side of the tile contractor here! Let me shed some needed light on this topic.

Let’s go back to the 1950s and ’60s when thin-set mortars were first being introduced to the market. ANSI was tasked with evaluating these new mortars that were beginning to replace full-blown mud-bed installations. ANSI A118.1 was developed, which included a porcelain tile shear strength rating of 150 psi. ANSI A118.4 came in at a porcelain shear of 200 psi. It was determined (and still is) that A118.4 has the desired mortar strength for installing porcelain tile. You with me so far?

Realizing that human beings are incapable of 100% perfection at all times, the Tile Council of America (now TCNA) and ANSI deemed it permissible to allow only 80% coverage for most installations. This is cool, but the one factor missing is that the ANSI testing is performed with 100% coverage on the test samples.

Oops! Now what?

If 100% coverage yields 200 psi, then it might be safe to assume that 80% coverage would yield only 160 psi. Make sense? Okay, so now let’s improve our installation mortar upwards to the newer A 118.15 mortars that achieve 400 psi shears with porcelain. 80% coverage with this mortar would yield a 320 psi shear strength which is exactly twice as strong as what A118.4 mortar achieves. This could also mean that only a 40% coverage rate with an A118.15 mortar would equal the required A118.4 rate of 160 psi at 80%.

What?? Am I suggesting that the rate of coverage be dropped to 40% minimums? Absolutely not! But what I am advocating is that if an installation has the tile edges and corners adequately supported and yet the coverage rate is something less than 80% it is NOT necessarily a cause for failure, and the tile contractor should be given the benefit of the doubt until the actual cause of the failure is discovered.

Up until now this 80% minimum coverage rate has been the death knell for tile contractors. It is unfair and needs to be stopped.

Here’s another point to consider. If the coverage on a particular failure was 80%-95% and a crack appeared in the slab causing the tile to shear loose, whose fault would it be? Obviously the concrete guy’s, right? So who can determine how much lateral stress the cracking of the concrete caused? 100psi, 200psi, 500psi, 1,000psi? It’s humanly impossible to determine, so let’s give the benefit of doubt to the tile contractor. Remember, when concrete cracks it’s generally like a mini explosion taking place – sudden and violent. It is never a silent and gradual separation.

I would venture a guess that there are more un-failed and completely successful tile installations in this country with less than 80% mortar coverage than there are with it. As professionals, let’s concentrate on solving failures rather than copping out by simply calculating coverage issues that more times than not unfairly condemn the tile installers.

Tom Lynch is a 55-year veteran of the tile industry and one of the NTCA’s initial Recognized Industry Consultants inductees. He can be reached at (336) 877-6951, [email protected] or at www.tomlynchconsultant.com. 

Ringing in the new year with new educational opportunities

By Becky Serbin, Training and Education coordinator

As we start a new year, each of us typically reflects on the previous year and then decides to make resolutions that hopefully we will keep through the month of January.

Well, I wanted to do something similar to start the year.

We completed one full year of offering an online system for training. Within that time, we created several new introductory courses for new hires, moved to a new learning management system to house NTCA University, and created a pricing structure going forward so that all members – no matter the size – could afford to sign up and take courses.

In case you haven’t heard, NTCA University is a member benefit so we wanted to make sure that it was affordable for all members. You can have users come together in a meeting, so only one login is required for your company – or you could have a login for each user. It is up to you.

Here’s the current pricing structure:

1 Person – $50

2 People – $99

3-15 People – $149

16-50 People – $199

51-100 People – $299

101-150 People – $399

151-200 People – $499

Keep in mind that NTCA’s Partnering for Success program now has a $50 voucher for the NTCA store that contractors can choose as one of their vouchers. That means that if you are a one- person shop and choose to use the $50 voucher for access to NTCA University, you would have access for free to the site for the whole year.

To purchase your subscription, you can visit the NTCA store at https://tile-assn.site-ym.com/store/ListProducts.aspx?catid=490398 to make your purchase (or enter http://bit.ly/2taYmOO in your browser).

So what are our resolutions for the year? As I said, many of us break our resolutions early in the year so I don’t plan to make any resolutions that will be quickly broken, but here are some items that NTCA will be working on this year.

We will continue to develop online training for new hires. So if you have apprentices, this means that we will start working on a three-year setter program.  For all others, you can use these courses to train your new hire on how to plan and set tile.

We will also be working on courses from the Training and Education sub-committees.  The CEU Technical sub-committee is working on courses explaining the necessity of documentation and how to properly document and the CEU Management sub-committee is developing introductory courses to estimating.

We will also be assisting Scott Carothers of CTEF with developing courses for people to take prior to completing the hands-on Certified Tile Installer Test.

Again, it looks like it will be a busy year again in 2018.  If you have any questions or have ideas about courses that you’d like to see us pursue, please give me a call or send me an e-mail. 770-366-2566 or [email protected].

Happy New Year!

Becky

The building blocks of a NTCA Five Star Contractor

Amber Fox, NTCA Five Star Program Director

As I wrap up my first year on the job as the NTCA Five Star Contractor Program Director I have been reflecting on some of the items that we are implementing for 2018. One of the first items that comes to mind is the update to our application. This has great significance because it is essentially a roadmap on how to become a Five Star Contractor.

Our new application incorporates the building blocks to a Five Star Contractor: Integrity, Professionalism, and Craftsmanship. In order to build a firm foundation, your company culture must value continual investment in itself. So how do we find companies that have this culture imbedded on all levels, and how do we evaluate them for acceptance into our group?  These are the questions we asked ourselves when we updated our application.

I will touch upon some of the key elements of the application process in the hopes that you can recognize greatness in your own company, and if not that it can inspire you to rise to the challenge.

Integrity – the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles, and the state of being whole and undivided.

All applicants must show proof that they are contracting under the local laws of their state, which means that they carry all licenses and insurance needed.  Stability is important, which is why they must attest that for the last five years:

  1. They have operated under the same company name
  2. The company has not filed for bankruptcy
  3. There have been no federal or state tax liens filed against the company
  4. The company pays all federal, state and local payroll taxes, worker’s compensation, unemployment, FICA, etc. for all employees.

As a Five Star Contractor, you are part of something bigger, which is why you are also required to have been an active NTCA member for at least three years. Active membership does not just mean that you have paid your dues; we are seeking out leaders who get involved and want to help shape our Industry. That’s why you will always see our Five Star Contractors out in force at events like TISE West, Coverings, and Total Solutions Plus.

ProfessionalismExhibiting a courteous, conscientious, and generally businesslike manner in the workplace.

This sums up how you do business as a whole. We request resumes for your designated company representative as well as a project manager to help us understand the background of your company. The backbone of all companies is their employees and we want to know that you value them and invest in them. That’s why we require that you have an active Safety Program as well as an Employee Manual/Handbook.

Each day contractors need to interact with many partners such as material manufacturers and distributors.  Successfully navigating these relationships is imperative, so we require that you gather three reference letters from your vendors/suppliers attesting to your professionalism in the tile industry.  How your client sees you is the best judge of all, so we also require three letters of recommendation from your client base such as architects, designers, general contractors, or owners.

CraftsmanshipOne who creates or performs with skill and dexterity especially in the manual arts.

Now we address the heart of our contractors – the artisans. It is our belief that it takes one to know one, so two letters of recommendations from peers or competitors are required.

Since our group encompasses national membership, we needed to find a way to evaluate skill level. To that end, it was decided that at least 10% of your field installers must be Certified Tile Installers through the CTEF or have completed a three-year apprenticeship program approved by the Department of Labor. Although it is required that 10% be certified, many of our Five Star Contractors have fully embraced this program and are far above the minimum needed.

The Five Star Contractor Group is comprised of contractors of all sizes and specialties but what they all have in common is an unwavering drive to exceed expectations, upholding the highest technical standards, and providing impeccable quality and service. Because of this commitment to excellence on every level, I see our group as industry leaders who are creating the change we want to see in our industry. It is my

hope that others see our efforts and are inspired to join us.

If you would like additional information about the NTCA Five Star Program, please reach out to me at [email protected].

Tile setters, suppliers donate labor and materials to the Tile Geeks Project

Good works and camaraderie enjoyed while renovating Madison Fields in Dickerson, Md.

By Lesley Goddin

Madison Fields (madisonfields.org) in Dickerson, Md., is a fully functional farm that offers an inclusive environment where adults and children – many with special needs – can play, learn, and work together. Among the features of the farm is an Equestrian center that fosters a nurturing and healing partnership between horse and rider that benefits children and adults with autism, developmental disabilities, wounded veterans or the local community.

For 10 days at the end of October 2017 into early November a group of 15 tile installers who are members of the Tile Geeks Facebook group came together to donate their time and expertise to renovate various areas of the farm – almost 3,000 sq. ft. in all.

Justin Kyle, owner of Kyle’s Tile in Ocean View, Del., a Tile Geek administrator and NTCA member, set this plan in motion a year prior. He was inspired while at a training session, working with many fellow setters.

“I came to the realization that the same people in our group would travel to conventions and training events at different places in the country,” Kyle said. “We go to classes, drink some beers, walk through the conventions, but never really had a chance to work together. So I came up with the idea of finding a good charity project to do that would give us the chance to get together like we enjoy anyway, and out of that some good could come.”

After a flurry of emails to children’s charities that went unanswered – and a rough poll of Geeks who might be interested in such an endeavor – Kyle received a response from Madison Fields in April 2017, expressing needs that could be met by the tilesetting group. And it just so happened it was virtually in Kyle’s backyard.

“I was willing to organize this project anywhere in the country,” Kyle said. “With Madison Fields only a three- hour drive away, I was able to plan and arrange everything better than I had hoped.”

The original scope of work morphed from a “bunch of bathrooms in an extra house that the foundation was trying to buy on a property next to the farm,” Kyle said. That deal fell through, but instead there was a need for much more tile work in other parts of the farm, including four bathrooms, a tile floor in the barn itself, and a large floor in one of the resident houses.

Donations: labor and materials

When Kyle first hatched this notion, he ran it by those Tile Geeks on a shuttle bus with him at a training class. He got enthusiastic responses, so he set up a separate Facebook group (The Tile Geeks Project) and added the people he thought might be interested in doing it. “From there it just blossomed,” he added.

Those who attended came from all over the country: LATICRETE rep, Jeff Kimmerling, Milwaukee, Wis.; Dennis Pacetti, Pacetti Tile and Remodeling, Inc., Huntingdon Valley, Pa.; tile setter James Morris, Philadelphia, Pa.; Paul Luccia, Cabot & Rowe, Houston, Texas; Ulas Maris, Maris Tile Pro, East Moriches, N.Y.; Metin Gungor, Dekor Construction, LLC., Columbus, N.J.; Jon Appleby, Appleby Custom Tile, Bucyrus, Ohio; Joe Lenner, Infinite Ceramic, Emmaus, Pa.; tile setter Jim Garbe, Schenectady, N.Y.; Joseph Dantro, On All Floors, York, Pa.; Dan Kramer, DKCT, Inc., Buxton, N.C.; Stephen Belyea, JSG Tile and Stone, Weymouth, Mass.; tile setter Bethany Sheridan, Sterling, Va.; Carl Leonard, Cutting Edge Tile, Roebling N.J.; and George Maneira, New Age Stone, Jackson N.J.

A variety of setting materials was used on this project including: Strata_Mat™, Hydro Ban®, Hydro Ban® Board, Hydro Ban® Sheet Membrane, Hydro Ban® Flange Drain, Hydro Ban® preformed shower systems including curbs, and corners, Hydro Ban® Adhesive & Sealant, 3701 Fortified Mortar, PERMACOLOR® Select grout, Tri-Lite™ mortar, and more.

These installers footed the bill for their own transportation and took time away from their businesses to work together for the greater good. As it turned out, there was lodging available in the historic farmhouse that dates back to the early 1800s where the group was able to stay for most of the project. That was a boon for the bonding of the group. “If we had to go to a hotel, the majority of our down time would have been spent in our rooms,” Kyle said. “Having use of the farmhouse gave us a center base to work from. We could go out to dinner and then come back and sit around the living room and talk shop. It was really a fun experience.”

Donations of materials were another story. Since the project was established right before Coverings, Kyle had the chance to speak with Noah Chitty of Crossville in person in Orlando to ask for donations. Crossville was very generous with their tiles, donating 3,000 sq. ft. tile from multiple series for the project, including Nest, Notorious, Speakeasy, Cotto Americana, and Virtue.

Likewise, Kyle had been in contact with LATICRETE’s Ron Nash about this effort, who gave “his blessing. I even got to sit down with Henry Rothberg and he said whatever we need is ours,” Kyle said. In fact, LATICRETE wound up sending materials above and beyond what was requested, which wound up coming in handy when some unexpected situations cropped up later.

“We asked LATICRETE for what we expected to need,” Kyle said. “They sent out some extra materials including the new 257 Titanium thinset, and 2” Hydro Ban board, which was put to good use.

“It was an important step, because without setting materials and tile, we couldn’t do anything,” he added. “But once I knew those two companies were on board, it was just a matter of getting all the details figured out.”

Beyond the donations of labor and materials, Kyle knew that a “slush fund” account was needed for incidentals like plumbing and vanities. To address this, Kyle established a silent auction and Tile Geek members donated items to be auctioned off. Contractors Direct and Norton donated saws, and J&R Tile donated an iQ dustless saw; Shannon Huffstickler from Schluter was instrumental in donating three shower kits, and MLT’s Mick Volponi donated several MLT kits also. All items were sold to the highest bidder, which allowed the group to have some cash to work with.

“To top it off, Justin Ernst of Minnetonka Minn., contacted Kate-Lo Tile and at his request, they shipped a pallet of buckets to the jobsite for us to use,” Kyle said.

In addition, iQ itself donated an iQTS244 dustless saw to the effort that was used on site and then raffled off at the project – Ulas Maris held the winning number!

Working together to meet challenges

Kyle had some concerns bringing so many “Type A” personalities to work together. But it all worked out, he said. Setters buddied up to work on different areas of the project and when they finished, jumped right in to other areas where work was still under way. “We all just blended together as I hoped,” Kyle said.

In fact, Jim Garbe said, “For me, the best part of it was the amazing way that the planning and execution fluidly evolved constantly as the situations were assessed and re-assessed when demo commenced and often revealed things that were worse than we expected them to be. Instead of one large job, it was 10 small ones going on all at once with a limited time frame and constantly fluctuating labor force,” Garbe added. “The ability of everyone to problem-solve and switch gears to be what the current task required was simply amazing to behold.”

The project was not without challenges however. “The biggest challenge was knowing that we were on a set time frame that we had to meet and since we had not demoed anything, we didn’t know what was behind, and under the existing materials,” Kyle said. “There was no new construction. It was a complete remodel.”

Having the materials on hand made things better, Kyle said, even materials that had not been on the original wish list. For instance, the one bathroom in the horse stable was a bathroom someone had tiled improperly. It has a curbless shower, with no slope to the drain, tile stuck to the wall over drywall, and no waterproofing. The Tile Geeks team went in and ripped it all out.

“We didn’t have the room to do a true curbless shower as they had intended, but we were able to build partitions with some of the 2” Hydro Ban board, and make a vanity with the Hydro Ban board,” he said. In addition, “We did a large floor with a failed floating laminate job on top of it,” he continued. “We ripped that out only to find that the original slab had cutback on it. We ended up having some 257 Titanium, LATICRETE’s new thinset there. We knew it would bond to cutback, so we used it to install Strata_Mat. That saved us time from having to grind or scrape the floors.”

Camaraderie – an added bonus

In the end, the project was win-win – delivering renovated spaces for the organization and a time of connection and camaraderie for the setters.

“Tile Geeks Project was my first priority for the year of 2017,” said Ulas Maris, who enjoyed reuniting with Tile Geek friends and meeting some he only knew by name online. “I was looking forward to being there and sharing my skills helping out people in need… It would not be possible for us to be there if we didn’t mean it for real in our hearts. We all wanted to be there and be part of it.”

Tile setter Bethany Sheridan from Sterling, Va., added, “I enjoyed working with a team that accomplished so much in a short period of time, all for a good cause. It was also great getting to know my online friends from Tile Geeks. I would certainly do it again.”

Stephen Belyea, a NTCA State Ambassador as well as a Tile Geek member, said, “It was a pleasure to be a part of the Tile Geeks Project.  It was very rewarding to donate my time to the Autism Foundation. It was a bonus to do so with such a great group of people. Everybody that was willing to donate their time was also there with a great attitude. We all came from different places and different backgrounds, but we all had the same goal. We were all positive and willing to work hard and do what it takes to get the job done.

“It is nice to learn different techniques from different people,” he added. “I enjoyed being around people who are as passionate about tile as I am…We would spend quality time at each meal having great conversations. Sitting by the fire having a drink after a long day of work was great. I look forward to doing this again and hope the same caliber of people show up.”

“It’s amazing to me, anytime I get together with tile guys, especially the ones willing to donate their time and effort to something like this, I’m struck by the fact that they are simply really cool people,” Kyle said. “They are obviously intelligent in the tile field, but that also filters into other aspects of their personalities. I find the same thing when I go to conventions. I’m amazed at how well we all get along.”

Garbe added, “The opportunity to work with these people was as good as I expected it to be,
and I would do it again in a
second.”

Large-format Tile – January 2018

Polished concrete floor renovation needs self-leveling treatment for large-format porcelain install

MAPEI products minimize impact of flooring installation in Indiana Greek Orthodox church

Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church sits on a 20-acre (8,09-hectare) site in Carmel, Ind. It was the first church to be constructed in the Triad Byzantine style since the Hagia Sophia, which was built more than 1,400 years ago. The church design includes a dome with a diameter of 55 feet (16,8 m) that was built and raised up from the ground, bronze doors weighing 600 pounds (272 kg) each at the grand entrance, and the ability to accommodate more than 600 worshippers.

Because the expression of creative beauty within the Greek Orthodox Church’s places of worship is a major tenet of the Church, the members of Holy Trinity decided to have the floors and some vertical spaces dressed in tile and stone. CJK Design Group specified large-format 24” x 24” (61 x 61 cm) and 12” x 24” (30 x 61 cm) porcelain tiles from Daltile’s Diamante, San Michele and Continental Slate series for the narthex, nave and sanctuary.

But when the church was built eight years previously, the floors were finished in polished concrete that produced a nonporous, sealed surface that did not offer the proper finish for the installation. Traditional shot blasting could not be used for surface preparation because of the deleterious effect that it could have on the painted frescoes and delicate icons, which were created with a centuries-old process using egg tempera paints.

Innovative technology produced a solution that circumvented tradition and provided a breathtaking foundation to anchor the beauty that lines the walls and ceilings of the narthex, nave, sanctuary and ambulatory at Holy Trinity.

Preparing the subfloor

Installers from Indianapolis-based Starnet contractor Certified Floorcovering Services (CFS) used MAPEI’s ECO Prim Grip primer to cover the polished concrete surface, eliminating the need to shot blast and potentially damage the church’s painted treasures. Next, the crew tested and used Ultraplan LSC – a MAPEI self-leveling liquid skimcoat – to patch and smooth all floor surfaces, again reducing dust worries. The crew also used Mapelastic CI liquid-rubber membrane for crack isolation in the concrete flooring. During the first three weeks of work, the church still held services in the nave.

Once the floors were prepared, the CFS installation crews worked meticulously to the architects’ plans. The crews transitioned between varied types of porcelain tiles and marble to produce a look that complemented and accented the intricate icons and frescoes. The large-format 24” x 24” (61 x 61 cm) and 12” x 24” (30 x 61 cm) Daltile porcelain tiles for the narthex, nave and sanctuary were set with Ultraflex LFT mortar and then grouted with Ultracolor Plus FA.

In addition to porcelain tiles, red “Rojo Alicante” marble tiles were set as borders and for transitions between the white porcelain tiles. The marble tiles were set with Kerapoxy 410 100%-solids epoxy mortar; these tiles were also grouted with Ultracolor Plus FA. The CFS crews hand-cut many of the Rojo Alicante tiles to fit around existing structures in the church and so that they could tile a number of vertical elevations in the floor.

In the narthex and nave, the crews set four prefabricated mosaic medallions that continued the iconography from the walls to the floor. The crews first used Mapecem Quickpatch concrete patch and Ultraplan Easy self-leveling underlayment to patch and level the substrate beneath the medallions. Then, the crews set the medallions in place with Ultraflex LFT.

The installers also set Daltile Keystone glass mosaic tiles along the inner walls of the baptistery, and they interspersed Glass Horizons mosaic tiles with Crema Marfil marble pillars on the baptistery’s exterior. After waterproofing the baptistery with Mapelastic AquaDefense membrane, installers used Adesilex P10 glass tile mortar to set the mosaics.

Mapesil T sealant was used to fill all expansion joints and soft joints where vertical and horizontal tiled surfaces met.

Innovation and determination bolstered the flooring contractor’s efforts to successfully complete the beautification of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church. Because CFS was so proud of its work, it entered the project in the Starnet Design Awards; the company won the Silver Award for the 2017 Unique Installation Challenge.

 

 

 

 

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