September Feature: San Francisco’s Hotel Grace

Old hotel gets trendy new look with MAPEI ShowerPerfect

(Ed. Note: Shortly before press time, Pineapple Hospitality made the decision to change the name of Hotel Grace to The Alise. Find more information on the hotel here:

In a press release touting the opening of Hotel Grace in San Francisco, the owners reported, “Hotel Grace is the embodiment of Pineapple Hospitality’s vision for what a refined, urban, classic yet modern hotel should be. Located at 580 Geary Street, Hotel Grace is just steps from Union Square, the Theater District, Nob Hill, The Wharf, cable cars, and more. Designed by Glenn Texeira and San Francisco-based architecture firm Stanton Architecture with a deep respect for the building’s impressive 103-year-old history, the fully renovated and reimagined property has been entirely modernized from top to bottom with thoughtful design details at every turn.


ShowerPerfect installation underway.

“The 93-room Hotel Grace provides distinctive accommodations unlikely to be found anywhere else in San Francisco,” the release continued. “Each king and queen guestroom has a cheerful color palette of vibrant yellow against muted gray. Custom fabrics and finishes lend an air of subtle sophistication. The décor includes a graceful blend of modern touches like ultra-high-speed WiFi, air conditioning, upgraded sound proofing, and thoughtful lighting, with traditional touches of dark wood floors, elegant lamps, and a closet complete with black wallpaper embossed with golden pineapples. One large black and white vintage scene is artfully framed in gold in every room, while custom-designed bedroom furniture and exquisite marble and tile bathrooms maximize utility and evoke an easy, residential-style experience with a nod to the property’s original design elements.”


Shower installation finished.

The Hotel Grace – formerly known as the Hotel California, and only five blocks away from Grace Cathedral — brings a sense of home to its guests with its “pets welcome” policy. Up to two canine companions (unlimited weight) are allowed to stay in select guest rooms, and the hotel provides a whole set of doggie delights, including a dog bed for the four-legged guests.

Another perk of the hotel for adventure-loving visitors are the Pineapple cruisers. A pineapple-yellow bicycle, complete with helmet and bike lock, is available free of charge to each guest. The front desk staff will even help hotel guests plan their cycling tour around the city.

Especially important in today’s world, Pineapple Hotels are dedicated to being stewards of the environment. In an effort to minimize its environmental impact, Hotel Grace uses environmentally conscious cleaning products, recycles, saves water, and supports local businesses. The hotel also makes it easy for guests to be earth friendly during their stay.


Marble tile installed on bathroom walls with Ultralite Mortar Pro and Ultracolor Plus grout.

All these amenities were part of the planned transformation of the former Hotel California into the Hotel Grace. Under the firm and practiced management of general contractor CCI, the insides of each floor in the building were gutted and new guest rooms with a modern touch went up at a well-scheduled pace.

MAPEI at work on the jobsite

The renovation of the bathrooms and the floor spaces in the hallways, lobby and bar were the work of Rubenstein’s of Seattle, members of NTCA, StarNet and Marble Institute of America. After the CCI crew had demolished old forms and fixtures, the former tub space in each guest bathroom was converted into a luxurious new shower using MAPEI’s ShowerPerfect LM system with liquid waterproofing membrane. The owner of Rubenstein’s had seen ShowerPerfect at The International Surface Event trade show; after a demonstration and mockup of the system, he convinced the property owners that this would be the best solution for modernizing the bathrooms. The system warranty provided by MAPEI added the final motivation for the selection of the system.


Close-up of ShowerPerfect Drain.

Before the ShowerPerfect installation could begin, the Rubenstein’s crews had to deal with the very old, uneven floors. They first used Mapecem Quickpatch and Planipatch to patch areas where plumbing had been shifted and where there were divots and/or trenches in the substrate. Next they poured Novopolan 2 Plus to level the uneven floors.

The ShowerPerfect systems were installed using Mapelastic AquaDefense as the liquid waterproofing membrane over the pre-sloped panels and walls of the showers. Mapelastic AquaDefense is a premixed, advanced liquid-rubber, extremely quick-drying waterproofing and crack-isolation membrane for installation under ceramic tile or stone in residential, commercial and industrial environments. Mapelastic AquaDefense provides a thin, continuous barrier to protect adjacent rooms and floors below from water damage. For common problem areas like coves, corners, cracks and drains, it can be combined with MAPEI’s optional Reinforcing Fabricor Mapeband™ accessories (cove roll and drain flash) to provide additional protection. Mapelastic AquaDefense dries after about 30 to 50 minutes and is then ready to receive any MAPEI polymer or epoxy mortar. Mapelastic AquaDefense can be flood tested after 12 hours of drying time, is IAPMO-listed for use as a shower pan liner, and exceeds ANSI A118.10 and ANSI A118.12 standards.


Installing tile in the lobby with Ultralite Mortar Pro and Ultracolor Plus grout.

MAPEI’s ShowerPerfect Linear Drain Assembly Kit was installed, allowing the crews to adjust the drains for a perfect fit in each shower. Rubenstein’s project manager, Michael Bradford, said that his company was on a very rigorous schedule to complete all the shower conversions, and he felt that ShowerPerfect helped them achieve their goals.
The showers walls and floor, plus the walls and floors in the rest of the bathroom were tiled with white, veined marble. The tiles were set with Ultralite Mortar Pro and grouted with efflorescence-free Ultracolor Plus grout. The backs of the tiles were sealed with MAPEI’s ECO Prim Grip.


Lobby tile completed.

Reducing cracks and sound in the lobby and bar

In the hotel lobby and bar area, an elegant design of black and white tiles was installed over Mapeguard 2 crack-isolation and sound-reduction membrane. Mapeguard 2 is a next-generation, flexible, thin, 40-mil (1-mm) lightweight, load-bearing, fabric-reinforced “peel-and-stick” crack-isolation membrane. After application, ceramic tile or stone can be installed immediately with any polymer-modified cement-based mortar. Mapeguard 2 helps to prevent existing or future in-plane floor cracks (with movement up to 3/8″ [10 mm] wide) from transmitting through grout, ceramic tile or natural stone. It also reduces the transmission of impact sound from footsteps, dropped objects, etc. and airborne sound from sources like voices and TV through floors when installed under ceramic tile and stone.


Tile on the lobby’s main staircase, installed with Ultralite Mortar Pro and Ultracolor Plus grout.

Mapelastic AquaDefense was used in certain areas in the lobby and bar for waterproofing. Ultralite Mortar Pro and Ultracolor Plus grout were also used for the installation of these tiles and the large-format tiles on the lobby stairs.

In hallways and common areas on the guest floors, carpet was installed using Ultrabond ECO 120 carpet adhesive from MAPEI.

MAPEI’s complete portfolio of surface preparation and flooring installation systems allowed the installer to meet all challenges that arose during the installations and to obtain a warranty to cover the project.

Project information

  • Project category: Hospitality – Hotel
  • Period of construction: 1913
  • Year of MAPEI involvement: 2015-2016
  • MAPEI coordinator: Chris Anderson
  • Project owner: Pineapple Hospitality
  • MAPEI distributor: Systematic Supply
  • Architect: Glenn Texeira, Stanton Architecture
  • General contractor: CCI General Contractors
  • Surface preparation contractor: Rubenstein’s
  • Tile and stone installers: Rubenstein’s
  • Floorcovering installers: Rubenstein’s
  • Project manager: Michael Bradford – Rubenstein’s
  • Photographer: Michael Bradford, Raul Ballester
  • Project size: 25,000 sq. ft.MAPEI products used
  • Mapecem Quickpatch
  • Novoplan 2 Plus
  • Planipatch
  • ECO Prim Grip
  • Mapeguard 2
  • Shower Perfect LM
  • Mapelastic AquaDefense
  • Ultralite Mortar Pro
  • Ultracolor Plus
  • Ultrabond ECO 120

Business Tip – September 2016

bus-rauschWhat’s on your bucket list versus what’s in your bucket

By Steve Rausch, industry consultant

Many folks spend time thinking about, and developing a fantastic “bucket list” about where they want to go on vacations and what they want to see and do. Yet those same folks rarely put this much effort into their business or work life. It doesn’t matter if you are the owner of a company or just an hourly employee, you should be spending some time working on your “business bucket list.” I have several starting suggestions below for you to consider.

There’s nothing wrong with having a “to-do list,” but consider adding a more important list, a “to think about” list. On this ongoing list you record the thoughts, ideas, and concepts you want to think about to help improve what you do in business to earn your living.

What about spending time improving your business skills? If you are the owner of the company, maybe you want to take a course at a local college on modern business management practices. If you’re the office manager, maybe consider a class on improving your business accounting skills. Many of you are installers, obviously, and there are a range of opportunities to improve your knowledge of the products you use daily and the skills you use to install those products. (Editor’s note: Consider attending a NTCA Tile & Stone Workshop or CTEF Educational Program when they roll through your area, an industry conference, take part in a NTCA Webinar or visit NTCA University to brush up on some skills and knowledge. Visit for more information on these opportunities, many of them free.) Knowledge does cost in terms of both your time and sometimes your money, however, the lack of knowledge costs far exceed the costs of staying current in your skills. One of my favorite statements is “IF you believe you don’t have the time to do it right the first time, where will you find the time to go back and fix the problem?”

What about spending time improving your communications skills?  The first key to good communication is to have a consistent way to gather information, knowledge, experiences and then a system that works for you to remember it, store it and have it available so that you can use it. And preparation is the key. I tried using 3” x 5” cards, however, that didn’t give me the ability to efficiently store and recall data. I now use a softcover-bound notebook so I have a permanent record. If you are using a smart phone or laptop, consider trying a program called Evernote (, which not only takes your notes and stores them, but allows you access from multiple locations.

Everything you do somehow is affected by and depends upon proper communications, so plan to spend time weekly improving these skills. People quickly judge you by your spoken or written words; make sure you communicate that you are a person worth spending time with.

Now finally, I want to share four words with you that I learned years ago in a course I took that has returned value to me every single month since I took that class:

Interest. Sharpen your curiosity and your interest in life, work, and people. Those are the big subjects: life, work, and people. What about life? The questions you might have about life and the mysteries of life. What about work? Develop questions about how to improve where you spend so much of your life, earning your living. And finally, what about people and human behavior? This skill will make everything else clear.

Fascination. NOW, go from being interested to being fascinated. Interested people want to know, Does it work? Fascinated people want to know, How does it work? What goes on below the surface? I can see that it works, but what makes it work?  Develop your ability to ask great questions.

Sensitivity. Try to put yourself in someone else’s shoes ( Try to feel what they feel. Try to hurt like they hurt. Have sympathy and compassion. Sensitivity is trying to understand where someone might be at the moment. The reason that they’re angry may not be obvious. Many times when folks lash out at someone, they are really angry at themselves or another situation and it just flows out in the wrong direction. The biggest lesson I’ve learned here is how to prevent this from happening FROM ME towards others.

Knowledge. So we’ve got interest, we’ve got fascination, and we’ve got sensitivity. Here’s one more word: knowledge. You just have to know. Collect knowledge in your journal, from your ongoing education. Fill up your mental and spiritual and emotional bank ( so that it becomes like an unending reservoir to draw from. Then take the time and effort to SHARE your knowledge with others. Consider becoming the trainer who teaches others those same skills you’ve worked so hard to learn.  Maybe even spend a few minutes writing a magazine article about what you’ve learned!

Steve Rausch has been involved in the tile and flooring business for over 30 years and is currently an industry consultant specializing in sales, marketing, and interpreting technical issues in understandable terms. You can contact Steve at [email protected] or 404-281-2218.

Ask the Experts – September 2016

When installing floor tiles, should you tile to the walls or leave a small space for movement and flexibility?

In answer to your question about whether to leave a space where a floor meets a wall – Yes! A gap of approximately 1/4” should be left at all changes in plane (for instance where a floor meets a wall) around the perimeter of the installation. This gap should be present in the underlayment and tile. If no trim will be installed to cover the gap, a “soft joint” can be made with appropriate sealant, or certain trim profiles can be installed to accommodate movement and expansion. This gap should also be left where tile abuts cabinetry, pipes or other permanent fixtures. Any other change in plane such as where a wall meets another wall must also have a soft joint installed to allow for movement and expansion. Also, expansion joints must be properly placed and installed in the tile field depending on the location and size of the installation. Additionally, control joints and saw cut joints in concrete must be honored through the surface of the tile to avoid future cracks in the finished installation. These specifications and the many, many other details related to a successful tile installation can be handled by your qualified contractor and certified labor.

– Mark Heinlein,
NTCA technical trainer/presenter

I have a job we are installing a wet bed on top of concrete and I would like to install an uncoupling membrane on top of the wet bed for crack prevention. My question is, will an uncoupling membrane help to prevent cracks in the concrete from penetrating through to the tile?

There are many products and some installation methods that can help mitigate in-plane cracks from telegraphing to the tile surface.

Manufacturers of uncoupling membranes are best at describing the performance characteristics they warrant their individual products for. If you share with me your geographic location and contact information I can request a technical representative from that company get in direct contact with you, or your preferred uncoupling membrane distributor should be able to put you in touch with a technical representative from the company.

Since it sounds like you are installing a mortar bed, perhaps installing a cleavage membrane to create an unbonded mortar bed system may be an additional solution for you to consider. Details for this type of installation can be found in the Method F111 in the TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation.

– Mark Heinlein,
NTCA technical trainer/presenter

President’s Letter – September 2016

JWoelfel_headshotI have just had the worst experience in my career when it comes to dealing with distributors on a single project. Three different distributors each quoted the architect my contractor pricing. One of the architectural reps even gave the architect their estimate on the installation price. I understand this is now becoming commonplace in a lot of areas and it is seemingly getting worse.

My question to distributors is, “Are the pressures of sales so important that you are willing to cut the tile contractor out of their needed profit? If so, do you think that the tile contractor has any loyalty to keep your specification?”

I believe many distributors have no idea what my costs are on my installations. I am responsible for Medicaid/Medicare taxes, Social Security taxes, local, state and federal taxes as well as job-specific liability insurance (which includes things that could happen on the job, or damage that could happen because of a poor installation). In addition, I am responsible for workman’s comp, site-specific safety costs like personal protection equipment, job-specific safety plans for each new project, safety orientations on each new job. My job costs have to include new equipment like saws, grinders, new cutting equipment, diamond blades and core bits. My overhead includes electricity, computers, building payments truck maintenance, gas, forklifts and insurance on my building and equipment. My costs also include my financing of the tile we pay for when starting a new job. I also pay for my people to sit and wait at the distributor while they figure out where they have put my order.

Do I sound bitter? I am getting there. I understand fully that I take all of these costs on to be involved in my profession, knowing I better be making a profit to overcome these costs. Distributors sharing my prices with the architect, general contractor and end user create another obstacle for me to make a fair profit. In fact, one of the distributors said, “Just mark your labor up more.” What a moronic statement; obviously this person has no idea how a business is run.

If we are in the age of transparency in our industry, then I think that the distributors need to share their cost of material from the factory, and then have to justify their profit. I fully understand the costs of distributors; they have to mark up their materials to cover their costs, including salespeople and architectural reps. I also understand that they spend money to obtain these specifications.

Until now our company has been known for keeping distributor specifications and being loyal to them for their hard work. I am now questioning that process; a lot of distributors here in Phoenix have now lost my loyalty. It is my opinion that when distributors lose a good quality contractor’s loyalty, they will have a lot more job problems. As I have said many times over the years in seminars, good tile contractors need to find and associate with good distributors. I believe this is very true, but two of the three companies that gave the architect my pricing were “good” distributors, or so I thought. It is now my belief that tile contractors need to look out for themselves, and if distributors are going to go down this road, then tile contractors should feel no remorse breaking a specification or changing out products to their own trusted supplier. All we are doing is learning our lessons in loyalty from distributors.

P.S. A lot of distributors may balk at what I am saying, but at least I did not call out the names of these “reputable” distributors!

James Woelfel
President, NTCA

(Editor’s note: Interested in sharing your perspective? Please send email comments to [email protected])

Editor’s Letter – September 2016

Lesley psf head shot“Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere” – Chinese proverb

When I talk to my non-industry family and friends about my work, a question I often get is, “How can you write so much about TILE?” The general public sees pretty tile in a home or a store, maybe knows a little about grout, but has no idea about the details and consideration that go into a tile installation.

Indeed, when I was writing and doing publicity about carpet and floor covering for decades, even I didn’t dream the tile industry was as intricate and involved as I came to learn. Coming from primarily a retail/sales perspective on floor covering, I didn’t realize the precision, engineering, and technical aspects that tile (and stone) installers have to deal with every single day – not to mention the artistry and business acumen that has to come into play. I’ve said in this column before that it was through attending the NTCA annual conference in Charlotte, N.C. in the fall of 2002 and talking with James Woelfel, that I got insight into the passion and the level of complexity that contractors need to encompass in day-to-day operations.

Add in the constant evolution of manufacturing technology and setting material refinements and you have plenty of material for a monthly (and then some) magazine on this topic!

This month’s issue is no exception. We focus intently on membranes and underlayments in this issue, from the MAPEI cover story on the company’s ShowerPerfect system, to contributed pieces on crack isolation and permeation by Dean Moilanen of Noble Company, acoustical underlayments by Ryne Sternberg of Pliteq, and our By The Book feature on membrane use in a steam shower, authored by Elizabeth and Dan Lambert, Five Star Contractors from near Vail, Colorado. There’s a wealth of information on the fine details of these subjects, for starters.

Then read about a recent gauged porcelain tile installation at the U.S. Tennis Association’s training and development center in Orlando. Five Star Contractor David Allen Company partnered with MAPEI and European Tile Masters – with early-on assistance from Crossville – to install Fiandre 5’ x 10’ Marmi Maximum Premium White tiles – 3 floors up. All partners putting their heads together made this installation a huge success.

And one of our stories this month is a preview of Total Solutions Plus – the eventual evolution of that NTCA conference I attended 14 years ago. The opportunities here for education and connection with colleagues and suppliers are immense. If you are still on the fence about attending, please read Bart Bettiga’s article and then go to to register.

There are lots of opportunities to learn more about our venerable industry – that’s what NTCA is all about. Whether it’s workshops or webinars, educational programs, conferences, or publications, NTCA has got it all going on to help you excel in your trade and get support while doing it.

God bless,

[email protected]

August 2016 Feature: Achieving LEED Gold in Chicago

By Arthur Mintie CSI, CDT
LATICRETE Sr. Technical Services Director

Virgin Hotels launched its brand in the U.S. in 2010, and recently opened its first location – on the corner of Lake and Wabash in Chicago, the site of the Old Dearborn Bank Building in Chicago’s downtown area and business heartland. During the construction phase that lasted for several years, the original building was gutted and completely renovated into 250 rooms that occupy 45,000 sq. ft. (4,181 square meters) with a number of unique features and amenities. Common areas, which include event and meeting areas for groups of up to 150 people, were added and take up between 15,000 – 25,000 sq. ft. (1,394-2,323 square meters) of space.

feat-02feat-03Bourbon Tile and Marble of Buffalo Grove, Ill., a longtime MVP partner of LATICRETE and one of its top 10 tile contractors in the country, was contracted to install all the tiles for the project. Architects and designers worked diligently to preserve as much of the character of the original building as possible, and the new facility is now both Green Seal and LEED Gold certified. The company plans to have hotels in 20 U.S. locations by 2025.
Bourbon Tile and Marble faced three major challenges with this project:

Unproven materials – A number of stones and tiles used on this project had not been used on any previous project and it was not known how well they would perform once installed.

Warranty preservation – The installer needed to come up with a new, high-quality installation process to ensure that all work carried out did not void any warranties on the stone and tiles used in the project.

Sound dampening – Because Chicago is a busy city with lots of street noise and the building would be housing hundreds of guests at any given time, the hotel needed effective sound dampening that was compatible with the tile installation materials in all locations including common areas and guest rooms.

“This was an exciting project because of the new materials that were involved and the historical significance of the building,” said Eddie Bourbon of Bourbon Tile and Marble. “We’ve had such great experiences with LATICRETE® products so we had no doubt that the process would run smoothly and produce the results the customer wanted.”

feat-04LATICRETE solutions used in the Virgin Hotel Chicago project include:

NXT™ Level was used throughout all floor areas including the guest rooms, café and bar to level, flatten and make the floor areas smooth. NXT Level is a high-performance self leveler that allows tiling in as few as three to four hours and membranes in 72 hours. 9235 Waterproofing Membrane was used to waterproof all shower and bathroom floor areas. The 9235 Waterproofing Membrane is a thin, load-bearing waterproofing designed specifically for the special requirements of ceramic tile, stone and brick installations, which was perfect for the hotel. Bourbon Tile applied a self-curing liquid rubber polymer and a reinforcing fabric, which quickly formed a flexible, seamless waterproofing membrane that bonded to substrates in the bathroom.

254 Platinum was used to install 30” (76.2 cm) by 3/4” (1.9 cm) thick concrete tiles in the bar area and the 4” (10.2 cm) hex by 3/4” (1.9 cm) thick concrete hex tiles in the café. 254 Platinum is a high-performance, polymer-fortified adhesive mortar.

feat-05LATICRETE Glass Tile Adhesive was used to install the glass tile on backsplashes. Glass Tile Adhesive is a water-mixed, non-sag, polymer-fortified adhesive mortar that is specifically formulated for use in glass tile applications. Glass Tile Adhesive has great workability and produces an ultra-white finish that enhances the look of glass mosaics, glass tile, and most any translucent tile or stone. In addition to containing antimicrobial protection, Glass Tile Adhesive is GREENGUARD certified for low VOC. Glass Tile Adhesive Mortar can also be used with porcelain or ceramic tile.

253 Gold was used to install 1” (2.5 cm) penny round tiles as well as the 3” x 6” (7.6 cm x 15.2 cm) floor and wall tile. 253 Gold is a superior polymer-fortified, bagged, cementitious thin-set powder that Bourbon mixed with water to install ceramic tiles using the thin-set method of installation. It is designed for interior and exterior floor and wall installations of all types of ceramic tiles, porcelain tile and stone over concrete, exterior glue plywood and a variety of substrates. It proved perfect for the hotel.

feat-06Able to handle various sized grout joints and available in 40 colors, PERMACOLOR® Grout was used to grout all areas, tiles, and stone. PERMACOLOR Grout provided a high-performance joint between tiles that was fast-setting, dense and hard. It was color consistent with the tiles and contains an anti-microbial additive that inhibits the growth of mold and mildew. PERMACOLOR Grout can also be used in joint sizes ranging from 1/16” (1.6 mm) to 1/2” (13 mm).

The hotel opened in early 2015 to rave reviews and is proving to be an excellent launch for the Virgin Hotel brand in the United States. Guests love the many features that were preserved from the original building, including a 1920s cigar bar that serves as the hotel’s front desk and the restored brass elevator doors.

The entire project was a success for a number of reasons. Bourbon Tile and Marble, a Trowel of Excellence award winner, completed the installation to meet the high-quality demands of the Virgin brand while also finishing the project well within an aggressively scheduled grand opening finish date. It also provided an excellent opportunity to get American products into the international mix and show how they could not only compete with the best, but also exceed expectations.

Benefits Box: NTCA Voice of the Contractor at TCNA Handbook Committee Meetings

by Lesley Goddin

Usually in this section, we explore the different business benefits membership in NTCA affords in terms of programs NTCA offers, educational opportunities, discounts and the like.

TCNA-logoBut this month, we want to bring to your attention the advocacy for tile contractors and installers of which NTCA is a part. Hopefully, by now, you are well acquainted with the industry “Bible” of approved methods and standards for installing ceramic tile, stone, and glass – the TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation. Every two years, the Handbook Committee meets to adopt changes to the Handbook, refine discussions and explore methods and standards that would make the industry better and that would improve tile performance and reduce failures, which makes tile contractors’ lives a whole lot better.

At the time of writing (June), the Handbook Committee meetings have just wrapped up in Atlanta. More than 120 guests attended, with 38 voting members, including NTCA representatives Nyle Wadford, James Woelfel, Chris Walker and alternates Martin Howard, Bart Bettiga and Dan Welch, as well as Scott Carothers voting for CTEF. NTCA guests include Rod Owen, and NTCA training and education coordinator Becky Serbin. Other NTCA members in attendance included Methods & Standards chairman Kevin Fox, and his head estimator Kyle Maichel – and those who represented union tile associations: NTCA board member Rich Galliani of the Tile and Stone Council of Northern California; Lupe Ortiz of BAC in San Francisco; NTCA Five Star Contractor Rich Papapietro of De Anza Tile, San Francisco, representing TCAA; Earl Anderson of NTCA Five Star Contractor Grazzini Brothers of Eagan, Minn.; Mike Hawthorne of IUBAC; Kurt Von Voss and Jerry Chioni of Great Lakes Ceramic Tile Council and NTCA member Brad Trostrud of Trostrud Mosaic & Tile, Wood Dale, Ill.


Eric Astrachan, TCNA executive director, presided over the Handbook Committee meetings.

This large number of NTCA members attending this event brought the Voice of the Contractor to bear upon decisions being made and standards being developed. Currently, the thin porcelain tile product and installation standards are still in discussion as we work towards developing these standards.

Voices from NTCA

NTCA president James Woelfel said of the meeting results, “We have new language on coverage and tile inspection standards. Tile installations are to be inspected on the wall at 36” and on the floor at 60” away. This prevents people from crawling on their hands and knees and using a magnifying glass to find imperfections in the tile installation. Thirty-six inches is in ANSI 137.1 Inspection for Manufacturing Standards for Imperfections. A lot of hard work from the NTCA!”

He added that “Kevin Fox, Martin Brookes, Chris Walker did a fantastic job with the NTCA submissions. The new language inserted into the Handbook will save tile contractors money. Uncoupling membranes were allowed to stay in the book but we were promised that standards for uncoupling will be ready for the next Handbook meeting. Make sure if you use an uncoupling underlayment you follow the manufacturer’s directions.”

Concerning the inspection language section, Kevin Fox, head of the Methods & Standards Committee, commented that “our original inspection section got divided up into mainly three areas:

  1. New section under Finished Tilework called ‘Visual Inspection of Tilework’
  2. Two new sections under Grout Joint Size and Patterns Considerations called ‘System Modularity’ and ‘Tile Layout’
  3. New section under Using the TCNA Handbook for Specification Writing called ‘Design Considerations when Specifying Tile’

“There was also language added to the Mortar and Mortar Coverage section noting 100% mortar coverage is not practical and should not be specified,” Fox added. He added that language was inserted under the Membrane Selection Guide that indicates that it’s normal for tile installed over membranes to sound hollow.

“These were all topics covered in our original inspection submittal that was moved to more appropriate sections in the Handbook,” he said. “This will be, in my opinion, the most impactful new language.”

More than 120 guests attended the TCNA Handbook Committee meeting in Atlanta, with 38 voting members, including NTCA representatives Nyle Wadford, James Woelfel, Chris Walker and alternates Martin Howard, Bart Bettiga and Dan Welch, as well as Scott Carothers voting for CTEF.

More than 120 guests attended the TCNA Handbook Committee meeting in Atlanta, with 38 voting members, including NTCA representatives Nyle Wadford, James Woelfel, Chris Walker and alternates Martin Howard, Bart Bettiga and Dan Welch, as well as Scott Carothers voting for CTEF.

NTCA past president Nyle Wadford of Neuse Tile Company, observed that “The NTCA, along with all elements of tile contracting labor, was tremendously influential in the 2016 TCNA Handbook Committee meeting and its outcomes. Our leadership for the tile industry was recognized and even sought on most all the issues presented. The professionalism and passion for the industry demonstrated by the NTCA members present was evident as numerous changes to Handbook language should add protections for tile contractors along with needed installation revisions to our craft. The entire membership should be proud of what was accomplished in Atlanta this year.”

Christopher Walker, chairman of the ANSI A108 Committee, said, “In the past decade, the NTCA in particular has achieved success in elevating the profile and recognition of the installation contractor’s voice in the various committees and agencies associated with the tile community. This was never more apparent…as multiple submissions proposed by NTCA members were easily incorporated into the TCNA document. Special recognition should be extended to Kevin Fox. His background as an engineer and his passion for the industry were on full display as evidenced by the high level of collaboration received from multiple manufacturers, testing agencies and industry experts. The submissions coordinated by Kevin as current chairman of the NTCA Methods & Standards committee received great support among the TCNA Handbook Committee.”

What’s essential – in addition to changes in the 2017 Handbook – is this role NTCA members play in shaping the industry and vying for the importance of the installer. Want to be a force and a voice in this industry? Consider joining NTCA – contact assistant executive director Jim Olson at [email protected] for details

NTCA University Update – August 2016

NTCA_UniversityFinisher Apprentice, Sales and Installation curricula offer basics in how to use/install sustainable products

By Becky Serbin,  Training and Education Coordinator

By Becky Serbin, Training and Education Coordinator

I realize that this issue is all about green products and sustainability. While we don’t have courses dedicated to these subjects right now, there are plenty of courses teaching people why these products are used and how to install green/sustainable products. There are two different avenues of curricula  that could be viewed depending on your role in the company. These are Finisher Apprentice curriculum and Sales and Installation curriculum.

The Finisher Apprenticeship curriculum currently has the first six months available for purchase. This curriculum is for anyone that is new to the job who will be working on residential, commercial, or remodel construction sites with others to install tile. Since the first six months of this person’s career will be learning about many new products that they have not seen before as well as assisting others, these courses cover many different topics from safety, to introduction to products or tools seen on the job and how to use these tools, to how to install different types of grout. The idea behind these courses is that they can either be used on their own with on-the-job training to educate the apprentice, or in conjunction with classroom and on-the-job learning if the company has a Department of Labor-approved apprentice program.

The Sales and Installation curriculum is for people who are new to the industry but may work in a showroom, or for a manufacturer who is not actually installing products. It also is perfect for those who have been in the industry for a while and are looking for continuing education. While we have been focusing on the introductory courses, we will eventually have more advanced courses available to view either individually or in monthly continuing education courses. The current courses include introduction to waterproof membranes, primers, crack isolation membranes, mortars, grouts, sealants, and the history of tile.

The NTCA office has started to receive questions about the courses that are appropriate for your employees to take or to discuss during a group meeting. If you are at this point, please get in touch with me so that we can discuss your needs. Each company is different and may require courses to be developed based on their level of experience.

Visit the NTCA store to see courses that are currently available. If there is a course that you would like to see offered or if you are unsure of the types of courses available, please send me an e-mail at [email protected] or call me at 770-366-2566.

A&D Guest – August 2016: LHK design

LHK design: Incorporating Sustainability to Enhance the Quality of Life

Fairfield Inn and Suites in Waterbury, Vt., wins CID Sustainability Award

ad-lori-kramerLori Kramer, LEED AP, of LHK design was the award-winning interior designer for one of the projects recognized in the Sustainability category at the Coverings Installation Design Awards, held in Chicago this past April. The firm, with offices on Park Avenue in Manhattan and Upper Saddle River, N.J., designed the complete interior of the Fairfield Inn and Suites in Waterbury, Vt., using a range of tile products that reflect the natural feel of the Vermont environment.

ad-01Kramer explains that “This new hotel maintains the brand’s signature features with the rustic charm that defines this beautiful New England town. Upon entering the lobby, guests experience a warm and inviting rustic lodge atmosphere featuring stylized wood grain translucent panels flanked by reclaimed teak wood planks on the registration feature wall, reclaimed wood cabinetry, and a magnificent burnished finished brass ring chandelier set against a ceiling of found teak wood.

“The public areas meet the needs of its productivity-oriented guests with its modernized and contemporary approach to the classic lodge, providing both vacationing and business guests with ample connectivity options, along with more casual and informal areas for relaxation,” she added. “Guests may relax by the impressive stone fireplace in the lobby or enjoy a swim in the inviting indoor pool, which boasts a spa-like atmosphere with its surroundings of rich stone and wood elements.“

ad-02Kramer noted that “Our design concept reflects many nature-inspired materials indigenous to Vermont. Flooring consists of wood-look parquet tile, and carpet inspired by the warm color palette of the area’s stunning fall foliage. Furnishings were selected to be interesting focal points, such as the feature communal farm table made by local artisans from reclaimed pine and surrounded by solid birch stools with warm, weathered black stain and iron stretchers. A polished nickel ring chandelier with Edison-style vintage antique light bulbs complements the rustic farm table with its minimalist style and metallic composition. The contextually inspired barnstyle doors at the entrance to the breakfast buffet bring a rustic feel to the contemporary look of the solid stone counters of the buffet.”

In addition, “the locale-inspired guest rooms feature an accent wall with a stunning paneled effect,” she said. “As they retreat to the signature suites, guests enjoy a soothing color palette of pale gray, graphite and warm browns with accents of celadon and wheat.”

Stone and tile products used

To create this warm, inviting atmosphere, LHK design selected natural stone and porcelain tile materials throughout. They included:

  • ad-03Stone veneer at fireplace, accent walls in lobby, and accent wall in indoor pool – Boral Stone Products LLC/Pro-Fit Alpine Ledgestone cultured stone, color: Echo Ridge
  • Porcelain 6” x 30”, 7/16” thick wood-look plank floor tile at lobby – Cancos Tile & Stone/ Albero 6, color: Fresh, with a matte finish. Tri State Stone & Tile of Rockaway, N.J., installed this plank tile in a 1/3-offset staggered brick-joint pattern installation method with 1/8” grout joint.
  • Porcelain 24” x 24” x 7/16” thick wood-look parquet floor tile adorned the breakfast room – Cancos Tile & Stone/Albero 6, color: Fresh in a matte finish. Tri State used a straight-lay installation method with 1/8” grout joint.
  • ad-04A marble mosaic tile backsplash is featured at the connect and print counter – Cancos Tile & Stone/ Chelsea 2 series Golden Sand, color: Beige with a nano-sealed multi-surface finish, 1” x 1” x 3/8” thick, supplied on 12” x 12” sheets.
  • Porcelain 6” x 24” x 3/8” thick wood-look plank tile was installed at accent walls in the indoor pool – Cancos Tile & Stone/Albero 3, color: Ash. Tri State installed this in a 1/3-offset staggered brick-joint pattern, with tiles installed horizontally across wall, and 1/8” grout joint. The full height and the full width of the walls were covered in Albero 3.
  • Porcelain 6” x 24” x 3/8” thick wall tile was installed at accent walls in the indoor pool – Cancos Tile & Stone/Elements Deluxe Collection, color: Ocean Storm with a honed finish. Tri State used a stack bond installation (tiles installed horizontally across wall) with 1/8” grout joint.
  • ad-07Porcelain 13” x 13” x 3/8” thick floor tile and bullnose base was installed at the indoor pool and public restrooms – Cancos Tile & Stone/Rok, color: Calcare, matte finish. Tri State performed a stack bond installation with 1/8” grout joint. Slip resistance of this impervious product is a wet slip coefficient: 0.61-0.71 (>0.60 tile classification slip resistant).

Sustainable products on the rise

ad-06Although clients don’t always request sustainable products, LHK designs has its own ethic for products it selects. “There has been an increase in the amount of products offered that are sustainable,” Kramer said. “We seek out products that meet the following criteria: encompass our design intent, translate the vision of the client, meet hotel brand standards, are within the client’s budget, and have sustainable attributes.” The rise in the use of HPDs and EPDs in the last few years “provide the means to communicate the environmental characteristics of products to designers,” she added.

ad-05LHK designs “incorporates sustainability into every single project, striving to balance all of the mental and physical dimensions in order to create design solutions that enhance the quality of life,” Kramer explained. “Sustainability, as wellness for the planet, goes hand in hand with wellness for the individual. The use of environmentally responsible materials in design and construction leads to an increase in worker productivity, improved indoor air and light quality, energy-saving operational and maintenance practices, and the preservation of natural resources,” she concluded.



North American “Three-PD”: An Industry First!

Unpacking the importance of EPDs for tile, mortar and grout

bill_grieseBy Bill Griese, LEED AP BD+C, director of Standards Development and Sustainability Initiatives, Tile Council of North America

Big news: two additional EPDs round-out the EPD trifecta

At Coverings 2016, Tile Council of North America (TCNA) announced an industry first: the completion of two industry-wide Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) for tile mortar and tile grout made in North America, which when used along with the existing EPD for North American-made ceramic tile, provide the environmental impact of the full installed system.

The EPD for North American-made ceramic tile, which was released in 2014, is a 23-page report containing a comprehensive disclosure of the environmental impact of over 95% of the ceramic tile produced in North America. Representing approximately 2.5 billion sq. ft. of tile, the following manufacturers contributed data to the study: Arto, Crossville, Dal-Tile Corporation, Florida Tile, Florim USA, Interceramic, Ironrock, Porcelanite Lamosa, Quarry Tile Company, StonePeak Ceramics and Vitromex de Norteamérica.

Similarly, the two new EPDs for North American-made mortar and grout provide lifecycle-based data on the vast majority of the main materials used to set tile, representing over 2.25 billion kg. of products produced annually in North America. The following mortar and grout companies contributed data to the study: Ardex, Bexel, Bostik, Crest, Custom Building Products, HB Fuller/TEC, Interceramic, LATICRETE, MAPEI and Cemix/Texrite.

What are EPDs, and why are they important?

Product selection is a major component in green building. Products can impact the environment in different ways, and it is important to understand the variety of contributions by all products. The sustainability of a product involves much more than recycled material content, energy efficiency, or any other single attribute. Conformance to multi-attribute sustainability performance thresholds and whether environmental information is transparently reported should be considered when evaluating a product’s true sustainability. Additionally, how products combine into installed product systems is important.

green-01Product conformance to the North American tile industry’s standard for sustainability, Green Squared®, is a good indicator of sustainability performance. With regard to transparency, EPDs are the most common vehicle for appropriately communicating environmental information.

An EPD provides a comprehensive overview of how a product impacts the environment – specifically, global warming, abiotic resource depletion, acidification, smog formation, eutrophication, and ozone depletion. The primary intent of an EPD is transparency, and while developed within a standardized reporting framework, the EPD itself does not indicate conformance to any particular environmental performance threshold(s). Just as nutrition labels inform with respect to food choices, an EPD informs with respect to sustainability.

The industry-wide EPDs for North American-made tile, mortar and grout are based principally on lifecycle assessments that address myriad aspects: sourcing and extraction of raw materials; manufacturing processes; health, safety and environmental aspects of production and installation; production waste; product delivery considerations; use and maintenance of the flooring; and end of product life options such as reuse, repurposing, and disposal. Each of these three EPDs provides 60-year environmental impacts, per square meter of installed product, based on “cradle-to-grave” LCA (life cycle assessment) data submitted by participating companies. Additionally, product-specific (proprietary) EPDs may be available from each of the participating companies.

All three industry-wide EPDs are based on a comprehensive analysis by thinkstep, Inc. (formerly PE International) and have been independently certified by UL Environment. Both thinkstep and UL Environment are well-established leaders in the field of sustainability assessment and validation. This means there is no “greenwashing” and that a formal account of the true environmental impact of tile, mortar and grout is provided and has been critically reviewed and verified by independent third-party experts.

EPDs for tile, mortar and grout provide specifiers and green building professionals with the information they need to understand the environmental impact of the fully-installed system. For more information and to download copies of all three North American industry-wide EPDs in their entirety, visit

EPDs for tile, mortar and grout provide specifiers and green building professionals with the information they need to understand the environmental impact of the fully-installed system. For more information and to download copies of all three North American industry-wide EPDs in their entirety, visit

Relevance of EPDs for tile, mortar and grout

The tile industry’s three EPDs are valuable resources for many reasons. EPDs provide manufacturers opportunities to see where they stand relative to the industry average, and allow a means to assess progress toward continuous improvement. Also, LCA data from the EPDs can be extracted to populate product information databases. Such databases are being used increasingly today by A&D and building life cycle experts for Building Information Modeling (BIM) and to make informed product decisions.

Furthermore, the three EPDs showcase the industry’s minimal environmental impact. For example, the industry-wide tile EPD, though it does not itself draw conclusions or report on ceramic tile’s environmental performance relevant to competitive surface materials, tells an interesting story when reviewed side by side with publicly available EPDs of other flooring products. When compared to other product EPDs, ceramic tile has the lowest 60-year environmental impact per square meter. Similarly, the industry-wide EPDs for mortar and grout report very low 60-year environmental impacts per installed square meter.

With regard to green building, the industry-wide EPDs for North American-made tile, mortar and grout are important tools for architects and specifiers who wish to use tile to satisfy green building project requirements. A product manufactured by any of the manufacturers who contributed data to these EPDs can contribute toward points and/or satisfy the criteria of virtually every North American green building standard and rating system: LEED, Green Globes, NAHB National Green Building Standard, ASHRAE 189.1, International Green Construction Code, CalGreen, CHPS and GSA Facilities Standards for Public Buildings.

green-03Also, having submitted data for the industry-wide EPDs, many participating manufacturers have already or will soon start to develop and release product-specific EPDs, which could potentially qualify those products to additionally contribute toward points and compliance in green building.

But, the most exciting aspect of the tile industry’s EPD trifecta? As most green building standards, codes, and rating systems provide incremental credit for each product that is addressed by an EPD, joint use of EPDs for tile, mortar, and grout means that a single tile installation could potentially contribute “triple!”

Moving Forward

Publicly-available North American industry-wide EPDs for tile, mortar, and grout, when used together, can provide in-depth environmental data and paint a clearer picture of the life cycle environmental impact of a tile installation. With the transparency provided by EPDs for the main materials used to install tile, along with the multi-attribute performance thresholds of Green Squared® which have been established for several years, specifiers are fully equipped with the information they need to specify green tile industry products in 2016 and beyond.

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