Ask the Experts – January 2018

QUESTION

I’m having issue with glass tile for one our customers. We’re trying to determine what’s causing the cracking. I believe it might be due to the thinset shrinking. Is it possible that it may be the tile?

ANSWER

Yes, it is possible that the glass cracking could be due to thinset shrinkage as it cures, especially if the maximum bond coat thickness of the thinset was exceeded. But looking at the two photos you sent, here are my guesses.

In the first photo that includes the glass door and hinge, it appears that the glass may potentially have cracked from:

  • over-tightening of the screw through the hinge
  • a minor misalignment of the hole drilled in the glass to accept the screw
  • weight of the door on the fastener at the pressure point if all components of the door installation were not properly aligned or balanced.

In the second photo showing the closeup of the grout joint, it is difficult to know what caused these small fractures. The photo is taken too close to see a context of the location in the shower. It appears that the photo was taken very close to the glass and the fractures are fairly small. My guess is the fractures may have been in the tile at the time it was installed and they weren’t noticed by the installer.

If you need a solid determination of these fractures, a third party consultant that can make an onsite evaluation may be needed.

I hope this helps.

Mark Heinlein – CTI #1112, NTCA Training Director, Technical Trainer / Presenter

QUESTION

We are members of NTCA and would love some technical advice on thin panel installation.

We are supplying large-format, thin porcelain panels for an exterior façade in Oakland, Calif. It is approximately 2,500 sq. ft. at 102˝ x 47˝ x 6.5mm and we are researching installation options for the owner that do not involve the normal setting method.

It would be great to know what options there are for a “rail & clip” system versus full contact installation.

At the very least, it would be great to get some information on the guidelines and practices for installing thin panels using some sort of clip or fastening system.

ANSWER 1

Thanks for contacting us. I took a quick look at the manufacturer’s instructions. They are very typical of most gauged porcelain tile panel manufacturers. I did not see anything other than the direct bond method as an option for installation. Most distributors of thin porcelain tile have been working with installation product manufacturers and tool companies to present a system approach to installation. Some even require the use of manufacturer trained installers.

Last April there were new standards added for this product. ANSI 137.3 and ANSI 108.19.

ANSI 137.3 deal with standards for the product itself. ANSI A108.19 deals with the installation of the product.

I would encourage you to reach out to the manufacturer to see if they would recommend another fastening system. We always encourage our members to follow manufacturers’ instructions explicitly. It decreases your liability in projects.

Robb Roderick, NTCA Trainer/Presenter

ANSWER 2

Thank you for contacting our NTCA Technical Team with your question.

Robb is correct. ANSI A137.3 and ANSI A108.19 are the industry standards adopted this year for the production and installation of gauged porcelain tile and panels/slabs. These standards call for the installation of this material in a thin-bed type system with special emphasis on the installation process for floors and walls outlined in A108.19.

As Robb stated, it is important to follow the tile manufacturer’s instructions. Contact them to be sure you understand their instructions thoroughly. Deviation from installation instructions can result in lack of warranty coverage and/or acceptance of risk by the installation contractor.

The Tile Council of North America (TCNA) has the new standards available on its website for electronic download and it is taking pre-orders for a limited-edition hard copy. You can find the information to purchase an electronic version or reserve your hard copy on the TCNA website www.tcnatile.com/products-and-services/publications/218-english-publications/227-ansi-a137-3-and-a108-19.html or http://bit.ly/2i4iP4p.

Local codes will likely have specific requirements for installing tile above a certain height, especially on an exterior.  Please be certain to contact the code official responsible for the municipality this installation is located in.

Many setting material manufacturers make specialty mortars for installation of these tiles.  You will want to involve your setting material manufacturer to help you determine the best mortar for the application and ask them to work with you to write a site-specific system warranty based on their instructions and industry standards.

I am not aware of any mechanical rain-screen type fastening systems for use with gauged porcelain tile/panels; however, some tool and equipment manufacturers make a clip-type system that is used in conjunction with a thin-bed bond coat installation to provide additional mechanical attachment of large tiles in a vertical installation. One such system is manufactured by Raimondi. For more information about that system please contact Donnelly Distributing/Raimondi USA at 262-820-1212 or [email protected]

Mark Heinlein – CTI #1112, NTCA Training Director and Technical Trainer/Presenter

President’s Letter – January 2018

Respirable crystalline silica – get ready for the new OSHA regulations

I hope that you have heard this term before and have begun the process of understanding what it means and how it is affecting your business. Believe me when I say that it IS going to affect your business going forward and none of us knows exactly to what extent.

The NTCA has held seminars at Coverings, forums at TSP and published articles in TileLetter on this topic in the past year. Yet, it seems like we are just beginning to peel back the outer layers of the proverbial onion when it comes to understanding the regulation (29 CFR 1926.1153 Respirable Crystalline Silica), including “Table 1” – and what is NOT included in Table 1. Then we begin to see DOL issue “Standard Interpretations” and “Interim Enforcement Guidance” and it all gets very confusing.

From the NTCA perspective and as a business owner, I urge you to take this law very seriously. There are many reasons, but none more important than you and your employee’s safety and wellbeing. Secondly, this law is going to have a significant financial impact on your business either in compliance costs or if you ignore it, in non-compliance costs. As an employer, you should educate yourself so that you can make the appropriate business decisions for your company and make sure your bids include costs to work in compliance. If you are an employee or craft worker you should do the same so that you are aware of the risks that you are taking with you long term health. Visit this site for more information: https://www.osha.gov/dsg/topics/silica
crystalline/ or http://bit.ly/2fI23os.

On the non-compliance side, a non-serious OSHA penalty was increased in 2016 to $12,600. If that doesn’t get your attention, a repeat violation penalty could be as high as $126,000.

At this point, based on the testing that we and others have done, I believe most tile installations can be done safely and in compliance with the newly imposed regulations with proper engineered controls and tools. The one area that remains a concern is performing circular cuts larger than 4” in diameter. If you have a proven solution for this, please email me.

As if this wasn’t enough to think about and absorb, California’s law called Prop 65 – which among many other things – is going to require manufacturers and/or re-sellers to put a warning label on every box of tile and bag of mortar and grout – basically anything that contains silica. This warning label will likely be different from manufacturer to manufacturer. We will not know the full impact of this until we see what the warning labels say, but you can bet it will not make our job any easier. It is also likely that these labels will appear on all products made for our industry regardless if they are made or shipped to California simply because the chance can’t be taken that an unlabeled product shows up in California.

It’s important that you know the NTCA staff and volunteers are working hard to minimize the negative impacts of these issues on all tile contractors. I urge all to take a very proactive approach to these issues and educate yourself as quickly as possible. At the end of the day, we want tile consumption to rise across America so we must be prepared to deal appropriately with these new requirements.

Keep on tiling!

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

Editor’s Letter – January 2018

“Whatever you do or dream you can do – begin it. Boldness has genius and power and magic in it.”  – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Happy new year, NTCA members!

I know the next year comes around like, well, clockwork, but somehow it always seems to amaze me that we are back at the start of another new year.

Of course, this is a time for resolutions that often get abandoned two weeks into the new year. But I am curious, have you ever made a business resolution that you actually kept (or a personal one, for that matter)? If so, would you be willing to share that with TileLetter readers? What was your resolution, why did you make it and how did you implement it in your business?

Here at TileLetter, we have made some resolutions for 2018 that we do plan to keep. For years TileLetter was a news magazine that brought you information about things going on in the industry as well as technical and business stories and tips to improve your business.

With today’s technology and digital news vehicles, we are changing the focus of TileLetter and how we bring you information:

  • TileLetter.com brings you daily updates on breaking news, announcements and timely information for our industry. Log in from phone, tablet or computer to see what’s new each day.
  • TileLetter Weekly and Enews & Views are short, digital newsletters that come out weekly, to alert you to significant developments and time-sensitive information in our industry.
  • TileTV is a concise video-format news magazine that’s available monthly, with convention and conference coverage, demos and the popular “Question Mark” feature in which NTCA Training Director Mark Heinlein answers your queries.
  • Of course, there are our Facebook pages – National Tile Contractors Association, NTCA Members Only and TileLetter, which also bring you timely stories and articles.
  • As for TileLetter, we are making the move to become more of a technical/educational journal. We’ll still have News and Product briefs, with a short description and links to full stories on tileletter.com. But our printed content is looking to be more of a reference document – something you can come back to again and again for help in a challenging project or for information about more efficient business operations.

We’ll also focus more keenly on our members, and their projects and showcase their work in the pages of TileLetter. So expect some changes, and let us know what you think.

One of the stories I’d like to bring your attention to in THIS issue is the Tile Geeks Project technical project. This amazing labor of love brought together a group of tile professionals who enjoy working and networking together to renovate several areas at a farm that serves the local community, especially autistic adults and children. The charge was led by NTCA member and Tile Geeks administrator Justin Kyle of Kyle’s Tile in Ocean View, Md., and 15 friends who are all part of the Tile Geeks Facebook group, supported by generous donations of setting materials by LATICRETE and tile by Crossville, in addition to tool and other sponsors.

In our Benefits Box, this month we detail the upcoming schedule for the brand new NTCA Regional Training Program, which will bring 20 local opportunities for intensive hands-on training around the country. This is a member-only training opportunity that starts in February, so try to make it when it’s scheduled near you. And Amber Fox, the NTCA Five Star Program Coordinator, will bring you periodic updates on the Five Star Program, starting this month.

We truly wish you a happy, healthy, prosperous 2018, and we pledge to do all we can to support you in that goal!

God bless,

Lesley
[email protected]

Members only: NTCA Regional Training Program schedule set for 2018

In our last issue, we reported on the pilot member-only NTCA Regional Training Program held in October in New Berlin, Wis., developed by NTCA Training Director Mark Heinlein and NTCA Training and Education Coordinator Becky Serbin. The program was a huge success and provided 100% free, hands-on experience and training for a group of 20 attendees, supported by NTCA trainers and staff from manufacturer partners.

As a result of this acclaimed event, many NTCA affiliate members are offering massive support to a full program of events in 2018, with Daltile and Crossville leading the bunch. In addition, ARDEX, Bostik, CUSTOM, LATICRETE, MAPEI, Merkrete and TEC/HB Fuller are supporting the program with financial donations. These donations are making possible a schedule of 20 dates for regional training at all regions across the nation. Thirteen will be open to local NTCA members, with eight events slated for Five Star Members only.

This program differs from the NTCA Workshop program in that they are all-day events, exclusive to NTCA members only. In contrast, NTCA Workshops are evening programs, open for anyone to attend.

The curriculum will address either of the following topics:

Standards-based installation of Gauged Porcelain Tile and Gauged Porcelain Panels/Slabs

Really big, thin tiles are here to stay. In fact if you don’t get on board with learning how to install them based on the brand new tile industry standards, you may soon find yourself on the outside looking in on some wonderful new contracting and installation opportunities. This program is your chance to learn about the basics of the tile industry standards and get an in-depth look at the new standards and methods for installing Gauged Porcelain Tile and Panels (GPTP). You will learn why this tile format is the wave of the future, how it is made, designs it is used for and the special tools, setting materials and techniques required to install it.

Here is a sampling of some of the questions you will have answered during the GPTP program:

  • What is a Gauged Porcelain Tile or a Gauged Porcelain Panel (GPTP)?
  • What is ANSI, TCNA, ASTM?
  • What are ANSI A108.19 and ANSI A137.3?
  • Why do I want to know how to install GPTP?
  • What are all of these specialty tools and why do I need them to install GPTP?
  • Why do I need special training and a trained team to install GPTP?
  • How is this going to help me make money?
  • What is Qualified Labor and why does it matter to me?
Standard Practices: Substrate Preparation and Large Format Tile

This program will take attendees on an introductory journey into the tile industry standards found in ANSI A108 and the TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation. Attendees will learn how to navigate and use the ANSI A108 standards and TCNA Handbook, then will use their new knowledge to address some of real-world challenges in practical hands-on installations focusing on the all-important process of substrate examination and preparation for installing large-format tile.

Here is a sampling of some of the questions you will have answered during the Standard Practices for Substrates and LFT program:

  • What is ANSI, TCNA, ASTM?
  • What are ANSI A108, ANSI A118, A136, A137.1 and A137.2?
  • Why do I need to know about ANSI standards?
  • What is the TCNA Handbook?
  • Why do I need the TCNA Handbook?
  • How do I use the TCNA Handbook?
  • What are the different kinds of substrate and why are there standards for them?
  • Why do I need to know how to examine and prepare a substrate?
  • How do I properly prepare a substrate?
  • Why aren’t some techniques good enough for fixing a substrate and setting tile?
  • How is this going to help me make money?
  • What is Qualified Labor and why does it matter to me?

NTCA Training Director Mark Heinlein will present each program, with occasional assistance from NTCA Trainer/Presenters Robb Roderick or Luis Bautista, and CTEF Director of Training Scott Carothers. Local contractor members may also assist.

To register for the free Regional Training Program in your area, visit www.tile-assn.com. For information about joining NTCA, contact Jim Olson at [email protected].

Qualified Labor – December 2017

Cersaie’s “Tiling Town” showcases qualified labor

By Chris Woelfel, Contributor

Qualified labor was prominent at Cersaie 2017, the Italian ceramic tile industry’s 35th annual show in Bologna, Italy, held at the end of September. Even before attendees could enter the vast corridors of new tile products, they were lured into “Tiling Town,” a conference hall dedicated solely to the installers who bring the industry’s products to life.

Here, the Italian labor association Assoposa exhibited the knowledge and skill required in successful installations as they demonstrated work with new products, tools and methods.

“This is where our craftsmen get to really show their talents,” explained Paolo Colombo, Assoposa’s President. “We have several levels of certification and specialization. It’s always impressive to see these fixers (setters) in action.”

Tiling Town at Cersaie is dedicated solely to installation.

Symbolizing the industry’s vast offerings, technological advancements and improved installation methods – as well as the origins of tile – a massive globe structure featuring quadrant impressions of earth, water, air and fire coalesced in the center of Tiling Town. Here, jagged surfaces of thin tile, flexible strips of oly-tile (a resin-based mosaic tile, custom-made for each project), and row upon row of shimmering mosaics made it clear that this was the work of artisans. Onlookers were captivated as they watched the installations.

Presentation booths in Tiling Town featured expert talks on installation methods, illustrations of good versus poor installations, and clever demonstrations that showed the effectiveness of new products.

Assoposa tile “fixers” (setters) demonstrate large panel mortar application.

The Italian tile industry is supporting qualified labor more than ever, explaining that all sectors of the industry must understand the important role of proper installation.

“While we focus heavily on educating installers, we also work to inform architects, dealers, construction firms and the public on installation’s critical role,” explained Francesco Bergomi, Assoposa’s Director. “Qualified installers are foundational to the overall success of our industry because their work often determines if the end user is happy with the product,” he said.

Assoposa, the Federation of European Tile Fixers and the NTCA are partnering to strengthen education and awareness about the need for certified installer artisans.

 

1. Origins of Tile installation at Tiling Town. 2. Glass mosaics wrap around cloudlike
formations to emulate wind. 3. Thin porcelain applied to backer board creates a dramatic “rock” formation. 4. Flexible strips of “poly-tile,” a resin-based mosaic tile, custom-made for each project – is trimmed to illustrate water’s role in tile production. 5. Tile fixer (setter) installing the glass mosaic wrap for the massive globe structure.

 

Several workshops focused on large panel tool use.

Tiling Town displays proper installation

NTCA President Martin Howard examines thick tiles on display. 

NTCA Board Chairman James Woelfel tests for lippage at Tiling Town.  

A designer visiting Tiling Town examines the installation process.

Tech Talk – December 2017

Have you added tile edge protection to your installation project?

How often are you including tile edge protection in your tile assembly specifications? Although not required for all installations, edge protection absolutely provides better results.

By Scott Carothers,
CTEF Director of Certification
and Training

Ultimately, if you’re serious about delivering only high-quality installations of ceramic, porcelain and stone tile, you must have the hand-skills to put the entire tile assembly into place along with the knowledge of what products are available to finish the project successfully.

Thinking about protecting tile edges is a perfect example.

What is tile edge protection?

You wouldn’t be in this business if you didn’t have an appreciation for how perfectly ceramic and porcelain tile function as floor and wall finishes. Tile is beautiful, durable, and easily maintained.

It has an amazing performance record and inspires intense product innovation.

Critical to your well-earned reputation is ensuring that your tile installation will perform despite heavy traffic. Edge profiles do the following:

  • Protect tile edges from chipping,
  • Provide easy transitions between adjacent floor and wall surfaces.
  • Deliver a design element that is often ignored.
Specify each component of the tile assembly

On most commercial tile jobs, the specifications clearly call out each component of the tile assembly, but not always.

However, on many residential jobs, the various items necessary for a good job may be overlooked.

Whether the project is commercial or residential, the tile installer is the last person on the job who should provide his or her input and expertise so that the ceramic tile installation is pleasing to the eye and will stand the test of time.

Don’t skip the little details!

Unfortunately the ultimate success of the completed project sometimes gets lost in the rush to get it done yesterday or in the little details that sometimes fall through the cracks.

Whatever the reason, the edge profile moldings are sometimes not included in the job. And yet, as mentioned above, these profiles play two key roles:

To provide a pleasing transition to the adjacent floor finish

To protect the edge of the tile, which may be a factory edge or a cut

Lack of edge protection means chipped tile

As seen in the photo below, which was taken from a hotel breakfast area, the edge of the wood-look ceramic tile is significantly chipped after only a few years of service.

Without the metal profile to protect the edge of the tile, unsightly chipping can (and does) occur.

In this case, the combination of the housekeeper’s sweeper and the metal legged chairs has taken its toll on the tile.

Consider exacerbating conditions

As you may have noticed in the photo above, the low-pile commercial carpet is 1/8” of an inch below the edge of the tile. This factor would definitely exacerbate the problem.

This may be particularly challenging, because you may not know the carpet pile height when discussing and developing a mockup for the project. Unless you consider the various possibilities, you may overlook the right product needed to finish the project successfully.

The tile otherwise has served the area well and looks great, but the chipped tile along the edge makes the entire job look unsatisfactory and unacceptable.

The real problem here is that when consumers see problems of this type, they often decide not to use tile in their next project. Their rationale is simple. If tile looks and performs like this (as seen in the photo), they don’t want it and will pick something else, which means everyone in the tile industry loses the job.

Proactive input eliminates problems

A small amount of proactive input prior to the job beginning would have eliminated this problem.

Many times the installer is not consulted on the design end of the project. But in this case, the installer gets blamed for the ugly result when in reality, he or she had no part in the process. The really odd thing about this hotel upgrade project is that all of the other installed tile surfaces included edge profiles.

The point here is that, as an installer, you should speak up and make recommendations that will enhance the project outcome and be a long-lasting testimonial to the durability and beauty of properly installed ceramic tile.

Certification signals your commitment to details like tile edge protection

If you haven’t already, consider becoming a Certified Tile Installer (CTI). As a CTI, you set yourself apart from the crowd and know how to anticipate tile installation problems before they occur.

Do it right the first time and get paid accordingly. Visit https://www.ceramictilefoundation.org/tile-certification-overview-ctef for details.

Business Tip – December 2017

Using magic words: understand Pay-If-Paid vs. Pay-When-Paid clauses in construction agreements

By Daniel A. Dorfman,
HARRIS • WINICK • HARRIS LLP

There are countless ways for a construction project to go awry. The first claims that come to mind are those based on delays or defective workmanship, but perhaps even more common are the potential claims that arise when a general contractor does not receive payment from the owner, but remains potentially liable to its subcontractors for work performed. Like most construction disputes, the answer to the question of whether or when a general contractor is liable for payment to its subcontractors starts (and often ends) with the language of the contract.

Case study

Beal Bank Nevada v. Northshore Center THC, 64 N.E.3d. 201, 407 Ill. Dec. 823 (1st Dist. 2016) is a recent case from the Appellate Court of Illinois (First District) discussing this issue, and providing guidance to understanding payment risks in a construction agreement in the context of pay-when-paid vs. pay-if-paid clauses.

The facts of the Northshore Center are simple. Northshore Center THC, LLC (“Owner”) borrowed funds from BankFirst to develop real estate in Northbrook, Illinois. The Owner entered into an agreement with a General Contractor, FCL Investors, Inc. (“General Contractor”), to perform certain construction work at the Northbrook site. The General Contractor then entered into a subcontract with Lake County Grading Company, LLC (“Subcontractor”) to provide excavation work, sewer line installation, and other construction services. The Subcontractor performed its work and issued several invoices to the General Contractor, which the General Contractor submitted to the Owner. The Owner failed to pay the General Contractor, who in turn didn’t pay the Subcontractor.

When the parties were unable to resolve their differences, a lawsuit ensued. The main issue between the General Contractor and the Subcontractor concerned whether the subcontract required the General Contractor to pay the Subcontractor’s invoices even though it was undisputed that the Owner had not yet paid the General Contractor. The relevant portions of payment clause in the subcontract provided that:

The Contractor will make partial payments to the Subcontractor in an amount equal to 90 percent of the estimated value of work and materials incorporated in the construction and an amount equal to 90 percent of the materials delivered to and suitably and properly stored by the Subcontractor at the Project site, to the extent of Subcontractor’s interest in the amounts allowed thereon and paid to Contractor by the Owner, less the aggregate of previous payments, within five (5) days of receipt thereof from the Owner.

The trial court reviewed this payment clause and ruled that payment by the Owner was a condition precedent to the General Contractor’s obligation to pay its Subcontractor:

[T]he provisions outlined in the subcontract at issue clearly make the receipt of payment from the Owner to [the General Contractor] the condition precedent to the [Subcontractor’s] payment. The condition precedent has not been satisfied as [the General Contractor] has not received payment from Owner.

Therefore, because the Owner had not paid the General Contractor, the trial court determined that the General Contractor could not have breached the subcontract by failing to pay the Subcontractor.

The Subcontractor appealed. The Appellate Court reversed the trial court and found that the payment clause in the subcontract did not contain a condition precedent requiring the General Contractor to be first paid by Owner. Instead, the Appellate Court ruled that the payment clause in the subcontract governed only the amount and timing of payments, not the threshold obligation of the General Contractor to compensate the Subcontractor (even if the General Contractor had not been paid by the Owner).

In so holding, The Appellate Court applied the following “useful framework” for distinguishing between pay-if-paid clauses and pay-when-paid clauses in construction agreements:

A pay-when-paid clause governs the timing of a contractor’s payment obligation to the subcontractor, usually by indicating that the subcontractor will be paid within some fixed time period after the contractor itself is paid by the property owner…. In contrast, a pay-if-paid clause provides that the subcontractor will be paid only if the contractor is paid and thus ensures that each contracting party bears the risk of loss only for its own work.

Applying that framework, the Appellate Court determined that the contractual provision in the subcontract was a pay-when-paid clause, which governed only the timing of payment, and not a pay-if-paid clause, which would have governed the General Contractor’s obligation to pay. In other words, in this case, the Court concluded that there was no condition precedent to payment; the General Contractor had to pay the Subcontractor whether or not the Owner had paid.

Lessons learned 

Northshore Center is an illustrative case study on the importance of payment provisions in construction agreements being drafted so that they are particularly clear and unambiguous with respect to their pay-if-paid intentions. In our experience, many subcontract agreements in Illinois have payment provisions that do not sufficiently identify that payment by the owner is a condition precedent. As demonstrated by Northshore Center, even language as clear as “to the extent” is inadequate. Without the “magic word,” i.e. “if,” that makes it clear that the general contractor’s payment obligation to its subcontractor exists only “if” payment is made by the owner to the general contractor, the general contractor will likely bear the risk of payment even where the owner doesn’t pay the general contractor. The first and best protection against such unnecessary payment risk is a well-written contract. Pay-if-paid clauses offer greater protection to general contractors and should be a consideration on all sides during the drafting process.

A copy of Beal Bank Nevada v. Northshore Center THC, 64 N.E.3d 201, 407 Ill. Dec. 823 (1st Dist. 2016) is available here at http://bit.ly/2pDSg8w.

Contact 

If you have any questions about this HWH Legal Alert, please feel free to directly contact Daniel Dorfman at (312) 662-4609 ([email protected]). This legal alert is provided by Harris Winick Harris LLP for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended, and should not be construed, as legal advice.

Daniel Dorfman is a construction lawyer in Chicago, Illinois, with the law firm of Harris Winick Harris LLP. Daniel has a national construction practice, representing owners, developers, engineers, architects, designers, general contractors, subcontractors, specialty trades, and construction suppliers in all types of commercial construction disputes. Daniel is licensed to practice in the State of Illinois, United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Daniel received his J.D., cum laude, from Northwestern University School of Law.

Ask the Experts – December 2017

This month’s Ask the Experts focuses on two recent questions concerning installing resin-backed stone.

QUESTION

Can you give me some guidance on working with resin-backed stone?

ANSWER

The issue that we have with resin-backed stone is there is no standardization. The backing could be composed of epoxy, polyester, urethane or a variety of other types of resin.  If there was some consistency to the resin backing, setting materials manufacturers could probably produce thinset that would work. Epoxy adhesives are the safest bet, and should always be used on moisture-sensitive stone.

When installing resin-backed stone, you should contact the stone provider for installation instructions. Many of them are not suitable for installations in wet areas.

The 2017 TCNA Handbook addresses some of this in the Natural Stone selection guide on page 10. The NTCA Reference Manual has a tremendous amount of information about this situation in its mesh-backed stone white paper on page 179. Both will point you toward the use of epoxy adhesives.

Somemanufacturersoftheseresin-backedstoneshaveincorporatedsandandotheraggregatestotheirbackingstohelpwithamechanicalbond,andmakeclaimsthatalatex-modifiedthinsetcanbeused.Iknowpeoplehavescarifiedandorprimedthebackofthesetilesinordertousemodifiedthinset.Withouttheendorsementofthethinsetmanufacturerandthestoneprovider,theseinstallationsarerisky.Iwouldproceedwithcaution.

Robb Roderick, NTCA trainer/presenter

QUESTION

I installed a large resin-backed marble tile on a fireplace wall with a glass-covered fireplace insert that produces a lot of heat, and measured tiled surface temp was about 250+ degrees in direct vicinity of the firebox. I have several issues.

Issue one – We used a polymer-modified thinset to install the tile.  I didn’t realize till after the job was done that it does not stick to resin-backed tile.

Issue two – Upon further research I should have used an epoxy thinset, but from what I was told it is only okay for temps up to 180 degrees.

Issue three – Is the resin on the back of the tile okay to be in contact with that kind of heat?

I am receiving very little help from my tile supplier, I have a very unhappy client, and I am eager to make the fix but I need to know the correct approach so I don’t have a problem again.

Thanks in advance for your help.

ANSWER

There are no industry standards for the resin/resin-mesh backing on stones. The best way to learn what the resin is composed of and what its temperature rating is, is to get the information on it from the manufacturer or stone quarry that put it on the stone, or a lab can examine it. I personally do not have information on the temperature ratings of various resins used on stone backing.

You can reference the NTCA’s Mesh Backed Stone and Tile White Paper (see the Stone section in this issue, page 78 for the paper), which discusses the other issues you described. This information should help give you a better understanding of the application of resin-backed stones in various installations.

It sounds like you will be considering a tear-out and rebuild to ensure that you achieve the proper bond and meet the temperature range of this particular fireplace. I suggest contacting the stone manufacturer/quarry to determine the type of resin, or if that isn’t possible, replace it with a stone that is not resin/resin-mesh backed. I also suggest contacting the manufacturer of the setting materials (i.e. thinset mortar or epoxy and grout) that you will plan to use to set the stone. Many product Technical Data Sheets include this information and can be found on their manufacturer’s websites, or a call to their technical service department will help you determine the correct setting materials to withstand the temperature ranges for this product.

Mark Heinlein – CTI #1112, NTCA Training Director and Technical Trainer / Presenter

Marazzi USA – Feature Story – December 2017

The Kingston Bay Senior Living Center is designed to promote independence for its residents, ensuring they have safe and comfortable surroundings.

Kingston Bay Senior Living Center uses Marazzi porcelains to create a comfortable, stimulating environment for residents

Located in Fresno, Calif., the Kingston Bay Senior Living Community provides residents with all of the comforts of home, while redefining retirement in a resort-like environment. The community, which opened its doors in July 2016, is designed to promote independence for its residents, while ensuring they have safe and comfortable surroundings.

While the adjacent area houses a large population of young families, the region was lacking a community designated for the older generations. In order to fit into the established neighborhood, it was vital that the center be captivating, while also accommodating the unique needs of its residents.

The Kingston Bay Senior Living Community provides residents with all of the comforts of home.

When construction first kicked off in spring 2015, it was important to find an architectural and design firm that could create a comfortable setting while still meeting the stringent requirements for senior living environments. Jeffrey DeMure + Associates Architects Planners, Inc. was selected for the project, taking the lead on the design, inspired by the relaxing atmosphere found on a cruise.

Cruise ship-inspired design

Marazzi Harmony™ created a vibrant cruise line feel throughout the entry area, café and first floor corridors.

“The inspiration for the design was a cruise ship on land,” said Steven Balliet, director of project development. “It’s all in the fun details of the exterior, from the Bermuda shutters to the coastal-inspired siding. It was designed with the residents in mind and the experience that they could have when they reached this destination.”

While creating a lively area was an important aspect of the design, the building also needed to function effectively as a safe area where tenants could engage and interact. The goal was to establish a campus-style environment that broke the stereotypes associated with senior living. “Safety, durability, comfort and fun were all requirements kept in mind when choosing products for the construction,” added Balliet. “We wanted products to tie into the overall theme and encourage visits from friends and family.”

The bold colors and textures of Marazzi tile enabled the design team to achieve their desired aesthetic.

Once the project kicked off, Balliet and his team were faced with a new set of challenges, especially in selection of materials. The project began with an assessment of regulations, mandates and rooms included. Choosing tile that could integrate style with functionality for residents was fundamental to the project. Marazzi readily fulfilled safety needs without sacrificing the intended design. The material-selection process was key for the architecture and design team, who firmly believe in designing charismatic communities as opposed to institutions.

“For our team, it was vital that the environment be one that provided a hospitality-inspired ambiance for residents, with everything at their fingertips,” said Balliet. “When it came to interior design and decorating, Studio Six5 chose materials that complemented the exterior and addressed the different uses of rooms.”

The design incorporated a variety of spaces, including a theatre, fitness room, salon, restaurants, common areas and sunrooms. Each space presented an opportunity to incorporate contemporary products that would still be practical given the requirements of the residents.

Featured in the main lobby, Marazzi Harmony™ was selected for its durability and bold first impression.

Marazzi materials provide style and safety

Known for its commitment to quality, Marazzi Harmony™ Colorbody Porcelain was selected for the main lobby. Since this area would receive a large amount of foot traffic from visitors and residents, it was crucial that the flooring met regulations, possessed durable performance qualities and made a bold first impression.

“We have been working with Marazzi for years,” said Justin Hickey, foreman and tile setter for Visalia Ceramic Tile, in Visalia, Calif., a NTCA Five Star Contractor. “Marazzi tile has always been highly durable, with a unique look. Our shop especially enjoyed working with the chevron pattern for this project.”

Marazzi Harmony, specifically in Chord, was also incorporated into the larger spaces. Fitting into the resort theme, the wood-look tile, in its linear plank design, created a vibrant cruise line feel throughout the lobby, café, and first floor corridors, without sacrificing the hospitality-driven mentality.

Both residents and visitors alike have been captivated by the fashion-forward details of the luxury destination.

“We wanted to get the job done efficiently, but still deliver a superior, quality finish,” added Visalia’s Hickey. “The installation was tricky due to the concrete flooring, and it took quite a bit of grinding and backfilling to get our surface perfectly flat. Once we were finished with our prep, all of the planks were set perfectly, and with ease.”

“The tile was a huge aspect of the design,” said Anna Manahan, Studio Six5 designer. “The subtle pattern sets the tone for large spaces and makes the area more lively. The only area with no tile was in the memory care unit to ensure the residents’ safety.”

Since opening in July 2016, the community has received positive feedback. Both residents and visitors alike have been captivated by the fashion-forward details and how every aspect transports them to a luxury destination. The textures and colors of the Marazzi tile enabled the design team to achieve their desired aesthetic.

The Kingston Bay Senior Living Community raises the bar for senior living. Kingston Bay proves that the feeling of home can be achieved through thoughtful design choices and the drive to provide the best quality of life for all residents.

President’s Letter – December 2017

Is it time to refresh the culture of your company?

Rebuilding a company culture can lead to new levels of engagement and satisfaction for all

Martin Howard, NTCA president

Have you ever thought about the culture (a.k.a.personality) of your company? If you haven’t, I’d like to invite you to give it a try.

There are many cultures that companies seem to gravitate to, and we’ll look at a few for comparison.

  • The Traditional or Hierarchy Culture is common and tends to be found in “Top Down” structured companies. This culture can be demanding with little employee empowerment, expecting employees to just follow directions.
  • The Market Culture is most often characterized as having “market share and profitability” as their top priority. One issue with this culture is that the top goals of market share and profitability can often compete with each other.
  • The Family Business Culture is very common in the construction industry, especially among trade contractors. Multi-generational owners usually hold the leadership or management positions. This can be good if a high level of training and career development exist to ensure competent and smooth transitions of leadership. Employees can feel that if they hold different ideas or opinions than the family, they will not be heard. They can also see that they will never grow to attain a high-level position and this makes it difficult to retain good talent. Additionally, this can cause good people to leave or do enough to get by rather than give their best effort.

At our company – David Allen Company – we had a mixture of cultures that had developed over a 90-year period. In 2010, we hit the restart button to rebuild our culture, led by our Chairman, Robert Roberson. This process required a 100% commitment from the ownership/leadership to establish trust and transparency. Our goal was simple: we wanted to become a great company with high value to our customers and team members while creating a great place to work and build a career.

We utilized several tools to assist us in this process, including 360 Evaluations, Skip Level meetings, and One to One listening sessions. These tools created dialog between departments and group discussions around a set of topics designed to foster honest dialog.

Early on in this process, we utilized a little book with a big impact: FISH! by Stephen C. Lundin, Harry Paul and John Christensen. Here we learned that, “There is always a choice about the way you do your work, even if there is not a choice about the work itself.” Said another way, we can choose to have a positive attitude while doing work we may not enjoy. To help encourage a positive attitude our leadership began to work harder to regularly communicate clear expectations, create transparency and demonstrate respect on a corporate level.

In our next step, we gleaned lessons from the book Good to Great by Jim Collins. One of the major take-aways was the concept of getting the right people on the bus, and then making sure those people were in the right seats. This brought a renewed commitment to hire only the “best fit” candidates and be willing to wait to hire if necessary. Everyone in the company took the “DISC” personality profile (a measure of Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Conscientiousness), which helped us better understand which seats were the best fit for our employees. DISC also helped us learn how to understand and communicate with personalities very different from our own.

On a structural level, we began dismantling some of the vertical silos that created division and started to build team levels of responsibility and accountability. This only works if all levels believe their voices are heard and can bring about meaningful change. To demonstrate this commitment, we assembled a cross-section of team members to review and modify the company policy manual.

Next, we developed clear career paths and the training and education necessary for success to improve team member fulfillment and job satisfaction. A key principle I learned many years ago is, “There is no success without a successor.” So, as we seek to develop ourselves, we must seek to develop those we mentor. The goal is that as one person takes the next step in their career development, they will have trained and mentored their replacement.

We then took on the task of developing a Standard Operating Procedure so that we could begin to work as a team. This offered the opportunity to scale our productivity by being able to support divisions that needed additional resources without having to hire and train for the short term. Through this process, duplications of effort have been eliminated and efficiency has lifted the level of work satisfaction. Encouraging team members to take ownership of their responsibilities requires empowerment and respect. Compensation and incentives have been reshaped and made available at more levels than ever before.

We then started a two-year company-wide process of studying Stephen M.R. Covey’s book, The Speed of Trust. This took us through the “4 Cores of Credibility:” Integrity, Intent, Capability and Results. Woven through these core concepts are 13 behaviors that build trust. Each month we created intentional opportunities to apply what we were learning by creating SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely) goals and team goals.

The study walked us through a progression of building trust within ourselves, in relationships, and within the company. Up until this point our focus had been building trust internally, but now we began to build and extend trust in our markets and with our customers.

We also began to build and extend trust in our community by addressing different areas of need there. Our team was excited to participate in various charity events where the company would provide matching funds, including Stop Hunger Now, Red Cross blood drives, holiday food drives, and Walk for Autism. At our traditional July cook-out and game day we reached new levels of fun as we teamed up with our co-workers to crown one team winner for the year. This spread to our annual Chili Cook-Off, which now attracts 30-40 entries. Our team-building event winners are recognized with trophies, plaques, and gift cards. We have offered Financial Peace University to the team and their families twice at no cost to them and have seen amazing results of personal debt reduction and wealth building.

With our centennial celebration a couple of years away and our desire to build a strong, stable, and enduring company for our team, we became an employee-owned company three years ago. Today the employees are the largest stockholders and we’re enjoying a high level of engagement to maximize the steps taken to improve our company. Throughout this process, the underlying theme has been to think about building others up and treating people like we want to be treated. The people that make up our team are – without doubt – our most important and valuable asset.

We still have much to accomplish, but the goal is closer than before and we are working toward hitting the mark. This journey has been enlightening, challenging and very rewarding. Ways of thinking about each other and work have changed and opened positive new channels of collaboration. I hope you are encouraged to think about your company and how you can make a positive difference for the future.

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

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