Member Spotlight – Lofthouse Tile & Mosaic – April 2017

Lofthouse Tile & Mosaic:

Striving for perfection is worth the investment

Randy Lofthouse is an independent residential contractor, specializing in waterproof showers featuring glass mosaics and large format porcelain.  Lofthouse Tile & Mosaic, in Bloomington, Ind., ( offers comprehensive service relevant to tile, stone and mosaic installation.  This includes demolition, framing, subfloor amendment, sales, design, installation, finish carpentry and associated touch-up necessary to complete the project.

Lofthouse started out in his home state of Texas, first using tile nippers in 2006.  The creation of mosaic flower pots and coffee tables helped cultivate an interest in future tile setting.

“I was on a bicycle ride in Fort Worth, Texas, when the window display at Lucasso Stone caught my eye,” Lofthouse said. “I walked in at the right time and met the owner; he referred me to an associate who needed a warehouseman.  I eventually gained employment with a natural stone importer in Fort Worth.  I was responsible for unloading freight including fine stone from Pueblo, Mexico.”

The team handled slabs of natural stone, crated dimensional stone, and cases of sheet mosaics. This first hand witnessing of Rojo, Noche, and Fiorito Travertine, Emperador Marble, tumbled, hammer brushed, honed and filled, and all of the terminology fascinated Lofthouse.

“From material handling and general warehouseman I eventually cut and produced sample boards to display at showrooms that offered our stone,” he continued. “Eventually, I tiled the entryway to the warehouse with an assortment of travertine — our best selling varieties.  The owner was impressed, and compensated me accordingly.” 

From there, Lofthouse moved into small bathroom flooring remodels, and eventuallyI acquired the correct tools of the trade.  “I remember buying my first wet saw at a pawnshop in Irving, Texas.” He said.  “Timing was perfect. A realtor recommended my services to a pilot that contracted me to tile a second story shower within an aircraft hangar in Saginaw, Texas.”

Lofthouse didn’t have a sophisticated truck to start – just a 1982 El Camino, which he said was very easy to load but not so fuel efficient. The downturn of the building industry in 2007/2008 brought difficult years.  But over time, work picked back up, with Lofthouse considering  each project more exciting than the previous.

Joining NTCA

After struggling in the development of my trade, witnessing the failed installations which are so prevalent, and learning to become a much better negotiator, Lofthouse decided to join the NTCA two years ago.

“I’ve always felt strongly about strengthening the industry,” he said. “Even among other tile setters, my question has always been:  ‘What are you doing to make conditions better?’  I’ve learned to use the word ‘NO’ whenever necessary.  This means turning down projects with insufficient budgets or expectations.  With the support of NTCA knowledge and networking, combined with my solid reputation, homeowners recommend my business naturally.

This approach has worked out well for Lofthouse. “With my experience and confidence, I offer a level of service few are willing to match,” he said. “ The majority of my clients are homeowners wishing to update their existing shower, whether a failed installation or simply out of date.  A very small percentage of my work has been new construction; although I am highly experienced and very much appreciate a fresh canvas.  I continue to reach out to reputable builders in search of establishing a mutually-beneficial relationship.  When I meet that special builder, we will both attain new levels of project efficiency and longevity.”

Lofthouse beams with pride in demonstrating professionalism, beginning with the initial quote, procuring materials, staging the project, making timely progress while honoring manufacturers’ recommendations, right through grout, caulking, and sealing.  He’s happy to educate the homeowner if they are curious as to why he installsl tile and stone in such a manner.

“What a great feeling when you are operating your business correctly; the end product is of museum quality,” he said.  “I have developed the habit of ‘service after the sale’ (which I learned from a respected jeweler).  I follow up with an email describing care and maintenance of the investment, and my warranty is:  ‘If you should have an issue with your tile, I would like to be the first person you contact.’  Thankfully, when a homeowner calls you back, it’s for ADDITIONAL WORK!”

Recently, Lofthouse  purchased a home about two hours north of Evansville Ind., where he had built his solid reputation.  “I feel accomplished, receiving referrals from homeowners to take care of family and friends here in the city of Bloomington, as far as Indianapolis,” he said. “Striving for perfection is worth the investment. I truly enjoy my career!”


Focus energy on growing, improving personally, professionally and as an industry

President’s Letter – April 2017

It’s April and Spring is upon us. With Spring comes the Easter celebration and all of nature reminding us that there are opportunities for new beginnings, personally and professionally. Regardless where you have been or how you have been running your life or business, today can be a new beginning.

The ideas of professionalism, craftsmanship, integrity, and customer service are values that we esteem and hold in high regard. Yet they don’t just happen — we must choose to invest our time, energy and resources to develop these values and see them integrated into the fiber of how we are personally and professionally.

Once a month our company gathers during the lunch hour to discuss and learn from each other. We call these gatherings “Forums” and they have been a transformational event in the success of our team. We spent all of 2016 discussing  the aforementioned ideas as the core values of our company.

Professionalism – This means being knowledgeable, informed and competent, and well trained to complete one’s job or trade. There are some who say it takes 5,000 hours of practice to be considered a professional. That’s about 2.5 years of full time work required at a specific task to master it. How are we pursuing the knowledge and training to be professional in our jobs? Did you learn your job from a mentor or were you hired and “thrown into the deep end of the pool” and forced to learn it on your own? Regardless how you started out, you have the opportunity to gain the knowledge needed to be a professional tile setter, finisher or business owner —  and you owe it to your customers.

Craftsmanship – While the traditional meaning is directed towards the product of skilled hands, we took a broader view of the term to include the skilled performance of any task by any of our team members — whether the skilled estimator, warehouse delivery person, accounts receivable or payable person, admin assistant, project manager or superintendent. Ultimately though, the skilled craftspeople installing tile and stone on projects are what keeps the rest of us employed. Therefore, we must make training and education of our craftspeople a very high priority. If we don’t, we won’t be in business very much longer.

Integrity – This is the quality of being honest and fair. To quote the proverb, “Keep your word and do what is right, even when it hurts.” We found through our discussions that this carries over to what we think and believe of ourselves and others, which determines how we treat them. If we don’t respect others, we will not treat them with integrity. If we want to be professional and successful, we must treat our customers, vendors, suppliers and team members with integrity.

Customer Service is meeting the customer’s expectations. We are only able to do this when we are properly educated, trained, skilled and treat others with integrity. Here’s what I mean: when you possess these qualities, you will help your customer set the appropriate expectations for the service you are contracted to perform. Without these qualities, you will leave your customer to create their own expectations and you may never be able to meet them.

I encourage us all to take the reminder of Spring, that each day is a new beginning. Let’s focus our energy on growing and improving personally, professionally and as an industry. If we do, the future will be bright and full of opportunity.

Thank you to all the DAC team for helping me learn and see these values more clearly. Keep on tiling!

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

Stone – April 2017

Dazzling natural beauty on display at Antolini

At Coverings this month, show guests will have the opportunity to be wowed by fantastic natural stone exhibits at Antolini, booth #2270.

HAUTE NATURE is Antolini’s tribute to a designer who has provided the world with the most

fashionable creations: Mother Nature. Antolini’s most elaborate exhibition immerses guests in stunning examples of Mother Nature’s most marvelous natural stone masterpieces, displayed in innovative ways and often illuminated and backlit for fantastic effect.

The reception desk is made of Explosion Blue, accompanied by two Morsetto lamps designed by Alessandro La Spada, and a magnificent backwall made of Stratos Design | Explosion Blue with an insert of backlit Crystal Quartz.

The bar area features a counter in Amethyst “Original” and Bianco Lasa | Covelano “Vena Oro”

illuminated by two Amethyst “Original” chandeliers and a backwall featuring the same stones

as the counter.

The booth also features 12 large backlit Precioustone slabs, six non-backlit Precioustone slabs, six Shellstone slabs, and 56 stone strips in polished and leather finish.

Eight onyx coffee tables in different colors can be found throughout with white poufs for seating. A large

videowall plays Antolini studios. Fourteen stone busts are adorned with Lady A Precioustone jewelery.

A special room dedicated to Azerocare will feature Bronze Amani walls and a kitchen. The room is strictly reserved for customers accompanied by salespeople, and a demonstration of the revolutionary innovation of AzeroCare’s bulletproof protection against staining and etching for marbles, onyxes, and soft quartzites. For the very first time, the public will be able to see firsthand proof of the treatment’s efficacy.

Antolini features a dazzling booth of stunning natural stone at Coverings 2017

Materials used include:

  • Amethyst “Original” — For over 3,000 years it has been one of the gems that are most often used in jewelry and furniture, prized for its properties of “second sight,” and exuding a royal purple hue.


  • Bianco Lasa | Covelano “Vena Oro” — This marble is uniform, compact, with fine-grain crystals and excellent physical properties. Bianco Lasa Covelano marble, is excellent to work with and can be easily mirror-polished to bring out its unique shine, color and transparency. Due to its good resistance to compression and bending, its ability to resist weathering and its hardness, it can be put to any use inarchitecture, construction and art.
  • Quartzite Michelangelo — Beautiful veining characterizes this stone, combining both warm and cool tones.
  • Fusion Wow | Original “Multicolor” – With the intense color of papayas and iridescent flares, this multicolor stone offers warm colors and exotic appearance.
  • Fusion Wow | Original “Light” – This quartzite is perfect for adorning the most fascinating projects, with shades of green that spread like gentle waves or and windblown field. This wonderful natural stone, unique for its colors and stunning veining, is now offered in a world exclusive by Antolini.
  • Fusion Wow | Original “Dark” – This quartzite captivates with a dappled blue appearance that is mysterious and deep.
  • Invisible Grey — Much like a painting, the Invisible Grey stone effortlessly displays a unique and individual pattern that consists of an almost shattered, dramatic look, with delicate lines of dark grey contrasting against the light.
  • Bronze Amani —This valuable and elegant natural stone comes from Spain, bringing warm and welcoming tones,which recall hints of bronze, and treating observers to three-dimensional characteristics that are formed from interlacing of various shades of color.
  • Explosion Blue – This natural stone resembles a wave that creatively embraces the nocturnal sea-dark tones, slightly reflecting the gold threads of the moon.
  • Crystal Quartz —Crystal Quartz preserves the intact beauty of spirituality. Able to capture the natural light and to produce extraordinary effects, this material has been considered in ancient times a god’s gift and so is today, as its healing properties are still effective. This natural stone has a magic allure that can be used as a perfect tool by the most visionary designers in search of a new harmony, conceptually as well as materially conceived.



For more information on these and other beautiful and spectacular Antolini materials, visit

Qualified Labor – April 2017

For John Mourelatos, CTI testing is about proving your skill as a professional

Raising the bar and learning time management skills are bonuses of the CTI test

By Terryn Rutford, Social Structure Marketing

John Mourelatos recently became a Certified Tile Installer (CTI) in January after successfully completing the hands-on portion of the test at The International Surfaces Event (TISE West) in Las Vegas. After 20 years in the tile industry, Mourelatos knew that in order to take his company to the next level he needed to get certified.

John Mourelatos, a NTCA member for 11 years, an Arizona State Ambassador and now a member of the NTCA Training and Education Committee.

My goal to become a CTI started shortly after the program was developed,” Mourelatos said. He tried to get enough interest to bring testing to his home city of Tucson, but after failing for several years, he decided it was time to take the test however he could. “Ed Siebern, my installer of 12 years, and I are now the first and only Certified Tile installers in our area of Tucson, Arizona!” Mourelatos noted.

Mourelatos Tile Pro Inc. was founded by Mourelatos in 2004. It has three employees including Mourelatos, two of which are now CTIs. “I was interested in [becoming certified] not only to support the CTI program, but also to take my skill to the next level, to demonstrate that I am dedicated to continuing education in our industry,” Mourelatos said. Certification is especially important in places like Tucson where there is no institutional standard for tile installers. Because of this lack of formal standard, Mourelatos said, “I feel it is imperative to support continuing education opportunities locally and nationally.” He added, “I am working on coordinating more awareness about the value of educational opportunities as well as CTI and ACT (Advanced Certification for Tile Installers) in my area.”

Mourelatos works hard to further the goals and vision of the National Tile Contractor’s Association (NTCA). He has been an NTCA member for 11 years. Five years ago he became an Arizona State Ambassador, and more recently joined the NTCA Membership and Training and Education Committee. “I believe that the NTCA is working hard to help the tile contractor succeed in business and installations,” Mourelatos said. “And I want to be a part of that. I want to bring that back to my local area and share it with other contractors and installers.

Mourelatos believes in the value of becoming a CTI. “Being able to demonstrate your skill in a testing

John Mourelatos is intent on his task, as he takes the hands-on portion of the Certified Tile Installer exam during TISE West 2017 in Las Vegas.

environment by a third party,” said Mourelatos, “that shows the value of the CTI program.”

Such an exam is only valuable if it really tests the mettle of those taking it. Mourelatos stated, “The CTI test challenges your skills in all facets of ceramic tile installation, from the details of prep work, the layout, cutting and installing of the tile, to the finish work.” Moreover, Mourelatos believes time management is a key lesson of the CTI test. “A well-managed day can bring production up to a profitable level,” he said.

Mourelatos encourages all tile installers to take the CTI. “I think that today’s tile contractors are continually striving to define their company’s strength and to show the benefits of hiring a qualified installation company,” Mourelatos said. “The CTI and ACT programs set the bar higher for installers to demonstrate their knowledge, which will result in respect for the tile installation trade. In this day and age of 30-minute ‘How to Install Tile’ sessions at your local hardware store, CTI and ACT help in proving your skill as a professional.”

NTCA University Update

Finisher courses benefit anyone new to the industry

By Becky Serbin, Training and Education coordinator

While we work to finalize the 6 – 12 month Finisher courses, let’s take a look at two introductory modules: Bonding Materials, and Grout.  Since both of these products will be used on most, if not all, tile projects, each course will have more in-depth information available in future NTCA University modules. You may want to either just stick with the basics, or group some of the more advanced courses together with the introductory information.

Bonding Materials

The Bonding Materials module introduces the learner to terminology and all types of bonding materials that they may see on the job.  And since the terminology can be confusing due to the fact that contractors can use multiple names to describe a product, we made sure that the ANSI standard and product name are both introduced so that there is no confusion for the learner.   We even explained where to find the ANSI standard on the product so they can make sure they are mixing the correct product for the job.  We provided a description of each bonding material, the types of conditions it is typically used in, if there are any safety concerns that someone should know when working with the product, and basic mixing information.  Although your company may not use all types of bonding materials, we still included everything to make sure that the new learner has a comprehensive overview of what is currently available.


The Grout course introduces the learner to different types of grout. By the end of the module, he or she will have a basic understanding of when each is used.  Since we all know that grout can make or break the tile installation, we took the time to discuss factors such as joint size between tile, stain resistance, chemical resistance, intended use of space that is tiled, UV exposure, and color that could affect your grout choice.  

The learner is also taught the basics of prepping the surface before grouting, such as removing excess thinset and how to hold a float.  Then in future modules, learners are shown how to mix, apply, clean, and resolve issues for each type of grout.

And here is something else to keep in mind — just because these are called introductory Finisher courses – don’t doubt that these courses will benefit anyone that is new to the industry.  If you have someone working at a counter, physically calling on contractors, or new to the industry in some other position, these courses provide basic terminology and installation techniques that anyone should know if they interact with a tile contractor.

Remember, you can purchase your all subscription access by visiting the NTCA store.  Make sure that you are logged in to get your introductory pricing.  If you purchase this subscription, you will have access to all of the learning content, including anything new that is created through December 31, 2017.  If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at [email protected] or 770-366-2566.

Business Tip – April 2017

Your journey to emotional ownership

by Ed Rigsbee

Pain and pleasure are such close cousins.  In life, it’s painful not to experience pleasure.  Too often though, it’s the holding on for dear life to familiar pain that keeps us from having what we say we really want.

In 1988 I joined the National Speakers Association, a trade group for professional speakers.  No, I wasn’t a speaker yet, but I wanted to be.  I had closed down my manufacturers’ representative company to accept a position of vice president for my principal manufacturer. Two years later, I found myself without a job.  It was now time to fish or cut bait.  Was I going to pick up another line and go to war with the manufacturer that fired me or was I going after my dream?  I went after my dream.  A decade later, I’m a nationally recognized keynoter on business alliances.

This experience, for all of the pain and pleasure, has yielded a path, my path to emotional ownership.  Since discovering this path, I have interviewed several business leaders and found that my path was also theirs.

Whatever pleasure you seek; there is usually pain in the way of having that pleasure.  I believe this path is also your path to the emotional ownership, of staying the course to having what you want in your life, both personal and professional.

In your personal and professional life you continually have challenges.  Challenges without solutions or answers generally cause extreme pain.  To solve or remove this pain, you must either move into action or simply do nothing and hide out.  Action means possibilities. Doing nothing is a formula for failure.  Doing what you have always done and expecting different results is called experiencing insanity. Nobody intentionally wants to be insane.  You will succeed at what you want through understanding and remaining on your path.

What is your challenge?  What would you like to do you are currently not doing?  What major decision would you like to make?  Your first step will be to think up ideas on how to deal with your challenge.

1. Idea:

Some ideas are gold and some are worthless. You must constantly seek possibilities to your challenges.  Earl Nightingale would sit with a yellow pad thinking of solutions to his day’s challenges every morning before the rest of his family awoke. Dr. Robert Schuller’s idea of possibility thinking is to list no less than 20 ways to solve your challenge.  His 20th is how he started the church that is known today as the Crystal Cathedral.

2. Excitement:

When an idea crystallizes, excitement sets in. Your view of the challenge is like a world of possibilities.  All is right as you are moving closer to dealing with your pain.

3. Hope:

Hope is the apex.  Hope without how will get you nowhere.  From this pinnacle the slow degrade begins.  As the reality of the challenge sets in doubt begins.  Unfortunately, at this point, hope turns into nope!

4. Reality:

When the reality of the steps, work and pitfalls involved in creating a solution set in, a feeling of hopelessness is not far behind.

5. Desperation:

Many people are living lives of quiet desperation.  Even people who are moderately successful find it difficult to make a new decision that would position them for greatness.  When the pain is at a level so high that anything else must be better, the point of decision is near. This is where tension can help you to mobilize, but too much tension can immobilize you.

6. Purpose:

Clarity of purpose allows you to see and understand the value of your struggle.  You must know you are playing in the right sandbox and for the right reason.  Now comes the promise of success.  Through example or belief, you now know success is possible and you can make a decision to go for the success.  If you are off purpose, are settling for less or see your world from the window of scarcity, you might make the decision of indecision and only move toward failure.

7. Decision:

The decision to move forward or to make no decision, the choice is yours. Knowing what to hold on to and what to discard is crucial to your well being.  This is where your emotional ownership comes alive.  No decision, no ownership and a continual decline.  Yet, with a new decision, all becomes possible.  Look for your emotional strength and security rather than comparing your self to what is not real. Be cautious of not falling into the impostor syndrome, thinking that you are not really good enough.  Look for your moments of decision. A friend quit drinking, and I ask him about his moment of decision.  He told me that it was one night while he was hanging out his second-story bathroom window, about to fall out and in a drunken stupor and realizing that he should change his life.  He said that he knew if he didn’t make some changes soon, he would no longer have a life.

8. Paying the price and taking risk:

This is the truth detector.   This is the point on your journey where you must internalize the intellectual ownership of your decision.  You must be willing to pay the prices.  Nothing good is free.  Having a track record of previous success and concrete examples of other successful person’s journeys will help.  It’s now time to stick your neck out!

9. Getting help:

Relationship building at its finest.  Nobody goes it alone.  Every successful person seeks help.  You may end up with some unlikely partners; especially people that can help you connect with your inner strength.  Receiving help connects you back to all your previous steps.  Also, you must accept help in anchoring back to your moment of decision.

10.  Accepting success:

Self-confidence and self-worth go hand in hand.  Accepting that you are worthy of success is key. When you have completed your journey to Emotional Ownership, you do it all over, repeatedly.  Additionally, you must realize that you are currently at different steps in different aspects of your personal and professional life.

Every day you are starting another journey in a different area of your life; personal and professional. Your journey always comes full circle; you can never just sit back because another phase of your total life journey is about to start. Enjoy your journey.

Ed Rigsbee is the consummate evangelist for member recruitment and strategic alliance success. He holds the Certified Association Executive (CAE) and Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) accreditation. Ed is the author of The ROI of Membership-Today’s Missing Link for Explosive Growth, PartnerShift, Developing Strategic Alliances, and The Art of Partnering. To his credit, he has over 2,500 articles in print and countless articles electronically published.
Ed is the Founder and CEO of the 501(c)(3) non-profit public charity, Cigar PEG Philanthropy through Fun, and president at Rigsbee Research which conducts qualitative member ROI research and consulting for associations and societies. He has been called “the dynamite that broke up our log jam” by association executives—rarely politically correct and almost always provocative—and from a dozen years as a United States Soccer Federation referee, Ed calls it the way he sees it. Exceptional resources at

Ask the Experts


We had an issue recently with a White Thassos mosaic where the individual pieces on the sheet had inconsistencies in spacing on the mesh, with a few pieces exceeding a 2mm joint. The factory specification was made to a 1.5mm joint, but I’m told from our vendor that various factors (handling,

Thassos White Marble Mosaic

shipping, etc) can cause shifting to occur over time.

Can you confirm if there’s an industry standard tolerance for deviation on these types of mosaics? I’m sure the Marble Institute of America has something to this effect, but I don’t have access to their documentation to verify.


I am able to provide the specification for ceramic mosaic tile from ANSI A137.1.  Table 6 of ANSI A137.1 states the specifications for mosaic ceramic tile, including mounting/crooked tiles and for mounting/wide & narrow joints.  Those specifications are:

  • Mounting/Crooked Tiles:  Individual joint range <30% of the average joint width of the sheet.
  • Mounting/Wide & Narrow Joints:  Average joint widths for each tile must be within +/- 25% of the average joint width of the sheet.

ANSI A137.1 section describes this a bit more:

The tile shall be uniformly mounted and in patterns specified.  Joints between tile shall be in accordance with manufacturer’s specifications.  For all mounted mosaics, the range of an individual grout joint shall be no more than 30% of the average joint width for the sheet.  For sheets containing mosaics of the same color, the individual average joint widths shall also be within +/- 25% of the average joint width for the sheet.  Sheets shall be accepted or rejected (for grout joint variations) based on the number of grout joints in the sheet.

As you stated, the manufacturer specification for the tile in this installation was for a nominal joint width of 1.5mm.  Some of the joints exceed 2mm.

When we apply the tolerance of <30% of the average joint width of the sheet for the mounting of Crooked Tiles, the acceptable narrowest part of the joint adjacent to a crooked tile would be 1.05mm.

When we apply the tolerance of +/- 25% for Wide & Narrow Joints the acceptable range becomes 1.125mm to 1.875mm.  2mm would be outside the range of tolerance.

Section 9.5 of ANSI A137.1 describes the laboratory testing method for variations in mounted mosaic ceramic tiles.  That is where we learn how many tiles and grout joints are to be examined and how many variations are acceptable based on the size of the individual tiles on the sheet and overall size of the sheet.  I am not certain if the specifications for stone mosaics are similar, but I am able to refer to the following.

In the Marble Institute of America’s “Q&A Manual (Expert Answers to Technical Questions About Working with Natural Stone)” the following is stated with regard for a reasonable tolerance for joint width:

“Tolerance is normally correct at a variation from true (specification) of 1/4 of the specified joint width. With a joint width of 3/32”, a tolerance of ± 1/32” is reasonable. A 3/32” joint is correct at 1/16” wide and at 1/8” wide. The joints should “eye up” straight and true. Be careful though, if the joint is specified at between X and Y.” *

To paraphrase the first sentence of the MIA’s statement, “a variation tolerance of 1/4 of the specified joint width” may be equivalent to +/- 25% for ceramic mosaics.

I have seen many instances where inadequate adhesive has been applied to the mesh allowing individual tiles to become loose or shift.  I have seen instances where the adhesive has dried out and allowed the individual tiles to become loose and shift on the sheet.  Many of these adhesives are water based; when they become damp they re-emulsify and lose their bond.  I personally have received a shipment of tile that had become damp at some point during the fabricating, mounting, packaging, shipping, storage and delivery process to such a degree that the mesh adhesive had lost most of its bond to the back of the tiles and the tiles themselves were mildewed.  I rejected that entire shipment.

When installing any type of mesh- mount mosaic, an installer should inspect each sheet for broken, loose or very inconsistently spaced tiles.  These should be cut off the mesh and individually placed or replaced.  Depending on the size of the installation, I always expect to repair at least several throughout the installation.

Some types of mesh used for mounting are less rigid than others.  Some mesh material used has thinner strands or larger spaces in the mesh fabric that make it flimsier.  This makes it more difficult for the installer to achieve consistent spacing when setting individual sheets and throughout the installation.

I hope this helps.  For more specific guidance, perhaps the Marble Institute of America would be willing to comment on your question. — Mark Heinlein, NTCA Technical Trainer / Presenter

* Quoted from Marble Institute of America “Q&A Manual (Expert Answers to Technical Questions About Working with Natural Stone)”

Northern Virginia NTCA Five Star Contractors partner on high-visibility Dekton project

Collins Tile and Stone, David Allen Company collaborate on commercial fabrication showroom install 

The crew (l. to r.): DAC’s Hugo Gonzalez, Chris Walker, and Edgar Martinez; and Collins’ Oscar Cardenas, Arpad Bereczki, and Buck Collins.


When Marble & Granite Express, a Cosentino Loyalty fabricator in Chantilly, Va., decided to completely redesign and remodel its DC-area customer showroom and design center, only a beautiful floor that would perform under the most extreme foot-traffic conditions would do. Because this customer is a Cosentino Dekton Certified fabricator – working daily with Dekton for countertops, fireplaces, exterior kitchens, showers, facades and other interior and exterior applications – it knew that Dekton, of course would be the perfect solution for the 2,000 sq. ft. showroom floor.


Crews had to diamond-grind the floor to prepare it for primer and self-leveling underlayment.

Dekton is a breed of surfacing material unto itself. The website ( explains that Dekton “employs exclusive Sinterized Particle Technology, a high-tech process which represents an accelerated version of the metamorphic change that natural stone undergoes when subjected to high temperatures and pressure over thousands of years.” The material has zero porosity and is super strong, lacking micro-defects in other materials that can cause tension or weak spots and it resists heat, frost and thawing. It’s also super flat, with 1/4000th of an inch tolerance.


Primer was applied after diamond-grinding and prior to self-leveler application.


To best show the value of Dekton, Cosentino has chosen to partner with highly-skilled NTCA Five Star Contractors. These contractors have a proven ability to expertly handle Dekton’s hardness and its size with specialized techniques and equipment necessary to work with the material. That’s why Larry Mazzola, who runs Cosentino DC, turned to Collins Tile and Stone in Ashburn, Va., and David Allen Company (DAC) in Raleigh, N.C.

Stellar collaboration from Five Star Contractors

Crews get ready to level the floor.


Both NTCA Five Star Contractors – an industry-recognized measure of excellence and accomplishment — Collins and DAC have had a long professional and personal friendship, born of mutual membership in the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA). Buck Collins, president of Collins Tile and Stone is dedicated to employing installers with Certified Tile Installer (CTI) credentials, an industry-recognized measure of validating tile setting skills.  Buck, along with wife Dana, has a superior reputation for performing high-end

LATICRETE NXT Level created a smooth, flat surface for the Dekton panels.

residential installations with unrivaled customer-satisfaction.  In addition, the company is involved in serving the industry and always learning more. Buck was the NTCA Region #2 director until last year, and was the first Northern Virginia NTCA Five Star Contractor.  He also is a member of the NTCA Technical Committee. 


Chris Walker is vice president of the David Allen Company, NTCA vice president , and chairman of ANSI A-108 and the new A-108.19 gauged thin tile panel installation standard.  And it turns out that both Collins Tile and Stone, and the David Allen Company are inaugural members of the Cosentino-Dekton family.

The Dekton panels were 56” x 56” x 8 mm thick.

The project got started when Collins Tile and Stone was contacted by Mazzola because of Collins’ regional reputation for high quality installations and commitment to customer service.  After evaluating the needs of the project, Buck decided to call on Chris and DAC for collaborating on the job.  David Allen Company – one of the nation’s largest contractors — brought experience with installing several gauged thin porcelain tile and large panel projects to the table. Since these sintered ultra-compact Dekton Zenith materials on floors were 56” x 56” x 8 mm thick, DAC’s experience was invaluable in ensuring a smooth installation process.

ETM Grip from European Tile Masters was used to move and handle the ultra-large format Dekton panels.

Good thing too – “The biggest challenges…were the size of the tile,” Collins said.  “While the tools we used made that easier, we were still setting 21.77 square foot per tile!” 

Another key member of the team was LATICRETE’s Kurt Webber, who worked with Collins’ Concrete Coatings crew to facilitate self-leveling necessary for the project.

“Since a perfectly flat floor is instrumental to successful tile installations — particularly large panel installations — significant floor preparation was required,” Walker said.


The prep work took three days and the tile installation itself was eight days,” Collins said. Collins Concrete Coatings personnel used diamond-

LATICRETE 4-XLT mortar was used on the job.

wheel concrete grinding equipment in concert with a survey by DAC to identify areas that needed grinding or filling, Walker added. After grinding, crews installed LATICRETE NXT Primer and leveled the floor using LATICRETE NXT Level.  In addition, two coats of LATICRETE Hydro Ban were installed for its crack isolation properties.

To facilitate moving and handling of the Dekton, European Tile Masters’ Brian Runkle reviewed the latest installation techniques and equipment with the installation crews.


The installation crews featured three Certified Tile Installers: Collins Tile and Stone’s Oscar CardenasCTI # 1007, along with two from David Allen Company: superintendent Marcos Castillo, CTI #552, and Edgar Martinez, CTI #1257.

Dekton panels were back buttered with a large-format tile mortar.



Crews used LATICRETE 4-XLT large-format mortar to bond the Dekton and LATICRETE SPECTRALock Pro Premium to grout it.


In addition, Collins Tiles and Stone’s experienced finisher Arpad Bereczki (who is on track to take his CTI exam soon) and DAC’s Hugo Gonzalez also assisted with the installation (Hugo is enrolledin the NTCA University’s Apprentice training program). Buck Collins noted that the Marble & Granite Express was “absolutely thrilled” with the installation.


Mortar also was applied to the floor to lock in the bond.


And the added benefit for Collins Tile and Stone and nearby David Allen Company is that there is now a “2,000 sq. ft. showroom in our backyard.” A true win-win for everyone involved.






Crews installed 2,000 sq. ft. of Dekton panels on the fabricator showroom floor.

Dekton expertly installed by crews from Collins Tile and Stone and David Allen Company.


ON THE COVER: Merkrete

Ilani Casino Resort center nears completion

Merkrete products allow installers to adhere to fast-track schedule

Developed by Salishan-Mohegan LLC in collaboration with the Cowlitz Indian Tribe, ilani will be the premier gaming, dining, entertainment and meeting destination in the Pacific Northwest. Construction began in September 2015, and ilani is scheduled to open during the spring of 2017. When it opens, the design of the 368,000 sq. ft. casino resort will project the culture of the Northwest and pay tribute to the heritage of the Cowlitz Tribe.

When Keystone Masonry was awarded the contract for the adhered stone cladding installation at the Ilani Casino Resort in La Center, Wash., (commonly referred to as the Cowlitz County Casino), Keystone’s president, Steve Borman, was well aware of the inherent challenges when considering a direct-bond exterior stone assembly, particularly in the frequently-unfriendly climate conditions of the Pacific Northwest region. Steve and the Keystone Masonry team knew that a robust waterproofing and installation mortar would be critical to the success and sustainability of the project, and reached out to his long time ‘go-to’ resource for tile and stone installations – Merkrete, a division of Parex USA for the Northwest Region, as challenging bonding agents are often specified in the adhered-veneer masonry sector.

Merkrete products support 137,000 sq. ft.+ of exterior stone cladding

Representatives from Merkrete, in collaboration with Steve and the Keystone project team, submitted a complete installation system from Merkrete, inclusive of both primary Merkrete HydroGuard SP-1 waterproofing membrane and 820 Merlite, a high-performance setting mortar, providing excellent non-sag characteristics for vertical stone applications in exterior conditions. This sole-sourced Merkrete installation system was submitted and approved by the architectural and design team at Friedmutter Architects of Las Vegas, NV. The Merkrete team was available as a resource to the project design team at Friedmutter to answer any questions or address concerns relating to the installation system as recommended from Merkrete. The HydroGuard SP-1 / 820 Merlite System was approved as submitted, and stone installations commenced in late August of 2016.

As is often the case when installing adhered veneer masonry or tile in a stacked stone method, the first courses of stone directly above the ledger board at the base of the installation cannot immediately have additional stone courses stacked on top of them. That’s because the bond coat will not cure rapidly enough to allow the installation to proceed with more than two to three courses of stone installed per day. This is where collaboration with the Merkrete team was critical. Merkrete Burst rapid setting additive was recommended and used with 820 Merlite, providing a rapid initial set, which allowed the entire installation to proceed quickly and far more efficiently than it would have with a standard-cure setting mortar.

As Brian Tuller, Keystone Masonry’s project manager for the installation described it, “Merkrete’s Burst was vital to our ability to keep this project on schedule, particularly when you consider the extremely fast-track work schedule that the general contractor assigned to the project. Had it not been for inclusion of the Burst Additive, we wouldn’t have been able to install anywhere near the amount of square footage of stone that we would have with a standard mortar without the rapid setting characteristics that Burst provided.”

Merkrete, Keystone Masonry teams collaborate to overcome weather challenges

Merkrete sales and technical teams worked directly with contractors to ensure the products were applied correctly to meet the projects specifications. Even in the face of rain, which it did on most days, the team came together with proper tarps and covers to make sure the exterior was secure and completed on time. Clint Anna, National Sales Manager for Merkrete observed that despite weather challenges, the project was completed seamlessly and Merkrete is proud to have been involved with this project.

In summary, Keystone Masonry and Swinerton Builders have been very pleased by the performance of all Merkrete materials used to complete the installation, and look forward to using Merkrete as their primary resource on future adhered veneer installations.

Project Information

  • Architect: Friedmutter Architects – Las Vegas, Nev.; Bergman Walls Associates – Las Vegas, Nev.
  • General contractor: Swinerton Builders – Portland, Ore.
  • Tile and masonry sub-contractor: Keystone Masonry – Yelm, Wash.
  • Merkrete products distributor: Emser Tile & Stone – Seattle, Wash.

Merkrete products used

  • Hydro Guard SP1 waterproofing membrane
  • 820 Merlite high-performace setting mortar
  • Burst rapid-setting additive
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