NTCA University is now up and running


The NTCA University is no longer a dream but reality! The site went live in January.

There are three separate sections to the University: Apprenticeship, Business, and Continuing Education. The online courses currently available for the apprentice program are introductory courses, such as safety orientation, tile safety awareness, electric tool orientation, and introduction to grout. These courses were developed to educate apprentices new to the tile industry, but they are also beneficial for any employees that are new to the industry such as sales reps.

The Apprentice Finisher program will be a two-year program. The first six months are all orientation courses designed as an introduction to everything one may see on the job, as well as products that may be used on a project. The next six months will be skill development courses. For example, the apprentice will learn about surface profile and prep and will gain more in-depth knowledge about the products introduced during orientation. At the start of year two, the apprentice will gain more detailed knowledge about the topics they’ve been studying. Towards the end of the second year, apprentices will learn how to be a setter helper, and study management skills that are useful in managing other finishers. Each course has a quiz associated with it; student apprentices must score at least 80% on the quiz to receive a completion certificate.

Once more courses are developed, information will be available for contractors to learn how to submit and register the apprentice program to their state Department of Labor.

NTCA has also added business courses for contractor members. Many NTCA contractor members are family-owned businesses, not big companies. They have spent their lives working in the tile industry, not necessarily running a business. There are many courses available to support their business success, such as basic marketing, basic accounting, employee recruitment, social media in the workplace, and workplace diversity.

Lastly, continuing education courses have been added to the site. These courses are registered with AIA and IDCEC to offer continuing education credits. All of the continuing education presentations created by the NTCA will be available online for architects, designers, contractors, and manufacturers. These courses include tile and stone water management, and backer boards for tile installations. Similar to the Apprentice Finisher program, each course has a quiz associated with it that requires a score of at least 80% to receive continuing education credits and a completion certificate.

All of the courses are available for purchase at the NTCA store. Once a course is purchased, the student will receive a link to the course to directly access the course via the link. NTCA members can also log on to their NTCA accounts to access all of the NTCA University courses in one’s account. Courses can be accessed from computers, tablets, or phones.

NTCA will continue to add new courses to all sections of the NTCA University as they are developed. Monthly updates are planned in a dedicated section of future issues of TileLetter. NTCA members can also visit the NTCA Store to find out what courses are currently available.

– Becky Serbin, NTCA Training and Education Coordinator

Thin Tile – March 2016

SponsoredbyMAPEIThin tile: the truck is here…now what?

dan-marvinBy Dan Marvin, Director of Technical Services, MAPEI Corporation

Even though the industry talks about thin tile, what they’re typically referring to is ‘really big tile that just happens to also be thin.’ The reason thin tile is becoming popular has nothing to do with its thickness and everything to do with the sheets being very large and beautifully decorated. If you’ve waited until the truck shows up with the idea of dealing with it once you’ve seen it, you’ve already made the first mistake. Preparation is key!

Know your foe

Apply thin-set mortar, achieving full coverage of large thin porcelain tiles.

Thin tile starts as huge sheets of tile (3’x 10’ and 5’x 10’ are common sizes) that can then be cut down at the factory or job site as needed. The key is to know what will be showing up. Because thin tile is typically made in Europe, it is quite often measured in meters. A bill of lading showing 1 x 3 sheets of thin tile without any other indication of size most likely means you will be ending up with 1 meter (39”, a bit over 3 feet) by 3 meters (117”, just shy of 10 feet). Another typical size is 1 x 1 (39”x39”). The process for handling a crate of 1m x 3m tile varies considerably from the process for handling cartons of 1m x 1m.

Stick a fork in it

Use frame and suction cup systems for careful handling of large thin porcelain tile when applying to walls and floor.

Assuming you will be receiving crates of 1 m x 3 m you WILL need fork extenders for your fork truck. The crates are loaded into the trucks length-wise, so even if you handle them from the side around the warehouse, to get them out of the truck they will need to be supported along the length of the crate. A ten-foot tile will come in a crate (or A-frame) almost 12’ long, so a minimum of an 8‘ fork extender will be required to get well past the middle of the crate.

Why are the fork extenders important? Although the tiles are somewhat flexible, they do have a limit to how much they can bend. If the tiles are allowed to bend too much in the crate, you will end up with a very expensive problem as some or all of the tiles may crack.Even worse, the tiles are often mesh reinforced on the back so you may not know you have cracked them until you are applying mortar (or even grout!).


Using paddle working from center to outside of tile to ensure air bubbles are removed.

Smaller sizes of thin tiles such as the 1m x 1m sizes will typically come in very large cartons on more conventional pallets, but even these must be treated with care. Avoid stacking the pallets beyond the manufacturer’s recommendations and keep all banding and edge protectors in place until they are placed where they will be used at the job site.

Wide load

Most job sites are cluttered with tools, materials, mixers, saws, and other people. A 12’ long crate is challenging to handle when there is nothing in the way, and becomes even more cumbersome in a typical work environment. Have a staging area set up before the truck arrives and an aisle wide enough to allow the tile to come through. Be careful where turns are required and remove anything on the floor that will cause the fork truck to bounce. In a worst-case scenario, an installer may have to carry the tiles individually from the receiving area to the work site. In this case, inexpensive corner protectors and the correct suction-cup frame for your size of tile will be critical.


A lippage control system helps keep lippage to a minimum and the large thin porcelain tile flush with each other.

Another issue installers face is transporting the tiles to different levels. Typical freight elevators may not be large enough to accommodate full crates or A-frames. Think about thin tile panels as similar to large sheets of glass when dealing with them on a job site. Rigging, winches, or cranes may be required to get them to their final destination.

Staying on edge

When handling large tile panels, it is best to keep it on edge as much as possible. Suction cups and a team approach are a must for handling. Since the edges are the most delicate parts of the tile, cushion them when setting the tile down. When the tile must be laid flat (to cut it or apply mortar, for example) a rigid frame will provide a “backbone” for the tile to keep it from flexing. The same frame also allows the tile to be placed all at once.

Train before you leave the station

The right equipment is essential to moving the large thin porcelain tile without damage. This frame from ETM uses suction cups for a secure hold until the tile is installed. Suction cups and a team approach are a must for handling.

Training is especially critical for everyone who will be handling and installing thin tile. There is a learning curve to handling, cutting, and placing the tile successfully, and chances are an installer may break a few $500 sheets of tile trying to master the techniques on their own. All importers of thin tile panels and installation products companies offer training on how to handle and install these tiles. Every installment of Coverings, Surfaces, and Total Solutions Plus includes sessions on thin tile, usually with a hands-on component. Tool companies that offer thin tile tools will be happy to train you on their use. The tile industry is making a concerted effort to get the information out there because they want the same thing the installer wants, successful installations with no call-backs.

This article touches on just a few of the critical aspects for handling thin tile panels. There are specialized tools for handling and cutting it, special mortars and application techniques required to get full coverage, and tips and tricks for placing the tile in a way that maximizes the opportunities for success. Although thin tile requires specialized training, installers who are comfortable handling and installing the product find that they have a niche in the market and don’t have to compete as hard on price to get the job. By understanding the nuances of the product, stunning installations that will last for generations are possible.


When the tile must be laid flat (to cut it or apply mortar, for example) a rigid frame will provide a “backbone” for the tile to keep it from flexing. The same frame – such as this one from ETM – also allows the tile to be placed all at once.

Qualified Labor – March 2016

1_CTI_20x20You’re in good hands with a Certified Tile Installer

Saugerties, N.Y., contractor gets certified for personal pride and customer assurance

By Terryn Rutford, Social Structure Marketing



Eric Tetreault, owner, EJT Contracting

Eric Tetreault, owner of EJT Contracting, has been a Certified Tile Installer (CTI) since 2011 and an Advanced Certified Tile (ACT) Installer since 2014. Tetreault explained the importance of certification, saying, “The industry as a whole needs a way to honor, celebrate – as well as isolate and market – certified labor. There is far too much unqualified work going on out there. And for customers, it can be overwhelming to try to figure out who is qualified and not, as well as who is properly trained, knowledgeable, experienced, and skilled.”

For people who don’t see the need for certification, Tetreault said, “Do it for yourself if not for any other reason. If you fail, you’ll know where you need to improve. If you pass, you’ll know you’re among the best and the brightest in the country. It’s an elite status that I personally am proud to be a part of.” If bragging rights aren’t enough to convince other installers they should become certified, Tetreault added, “I’ve found that with the right approach, people are comfortable with paying more for qualified labor than they would otherwise.”

Being certified, “has certainly improved my customers’ trust in me,” Tetreault said. “I work with builders and designers who work with other installers and I seldom get the average, or the easy jobs. As a certified installer,  I’ll always be the one to do the higher-end job; the job with more details, the job with particular challenges, and the jobs that need any sort of special consideration.”

The tile industry has no federal or consistent state-to-state guidelines for tile installers. In some states tile installers require a contractor’s license, but in many states no licensing or certification is required at all. Tetreault said, “Competition is very cutthroat out there. There is no barrier-of-entry into the industry, so you have everyone from the very best to the very worst competing on a level playing field. I decided to get certified to help my customers understand that there are independent testing and certifications out there to validate a person’s skills, expertise, experience, and professionalism. Since I present myself as a certified installer, they can feel assured that they are in good hands, as well as research the program to understand the certification process and the commitment [it shows] to the work I do.”

Tests are a challenge

Tetreault admits he was challenged by the tests. “I like it that way,” Tetreault said. “If it were too easy, it would only be a piece of paper.” Tetreault described the test, “The hands-on test was far more difficult than expected. The layout, design, and details were not as easy as they look[ed]. When finished, the test module was dissected for judging of the parts that are not seen and often overlooked. Every last detail of the install was inspected and judged. It was stressful.”

And if that wasn’t hard enough, Tetreault said, “The written test was even more challenging. The questions were highly specific, and not just common knowledge. There’s no way someone would know the answers to these questions who wasn’t dedicated to the tile industry exclusively.”

The certification process is a chance to really see the standard to which all tile installation needs to rise. During testing, the judges, “really go over [the test module] with a fine-tooth comb looking at craftsmanship, performance, manufacturers’ recommended practices, industry standards, neatness, and cleanliness.” This kind of perfectionism raises the bar for tile installers everywhere.

Tetreault completed the ACT certifications in Membranes, LFT, Mud Floors, and Shower Receptors and plans on taking the Mud Walls certification as soon as he becomes more proficient. Tetreault said, “I plan on taking any new ACT tests as they become available.”

Located in Saugerties, N.Y., EJT Contracting has been specializing in residential and remodeling tile installation since 2007. Tetreault found out all about certification while visiting the Certified Tile Education Foundation and decided that certification, “was well worth the effort.” Now that he is both CTI and ACT certified, Tetreault said, “My customers do seem to trust me more than ever before.”

Tech Talk – March 2016

TEC-sponsorTile and stone lippage:

Achieving acceptable tile lippage through quality tile and stone installations

Donato PBy Donato Pompo, CTC, CSI, CDT, MBA

Tile lippage is the vertical displacement between two adjacent tiles of a ceramic, glass, or stone tile installation. Excessive lippage can lead to a number of problems: the edge of the tile with excessive lippage can have a propensity to chip; furniture and appliances can get caught on edges and not slide easily across the floor; and most important today is that excessive tile lippage can be a safety hazard particularly to the elderly with our aging population. Tile lippage is an inherent characteristic of installed tile. It is not possible to eliminate it completely, but it can be minimized within reason.

(Ed. note: This is part two of a two part article. Part one appeared in the February issue of TileLetter, as the the Tech Talk feature.)


Installation methods – The tile installation method used can help limit tile lippage, or it can contribute to excessive tile lippage. Adhering the tile directly to the substrate, particularly if it hasn’t been properly prepared to meet the industry requirements for flatness, can make it difficult to avoid tile lippage. On the other hand, installing tile in a fresh dry-pack mortar bed while it is still in a plastic stage can help compensate for the tile dimensional variations because the installer can embed the tile into the fresh mortar.


This looks like excessive lippage due to type of lighting and viewing angle, but it isn’t.

Installer skill and workmanship – Another factor that can contribute to excessive tile lippage is the lack of skill and workmanship by the tile installer. It is very important how skilled and conscientious the tile installer is, and the lack of those qualities can be a contributing factor to excessive tile lippage. If the installer isn’t experienced and skilled enough, or isn’t detail minded, then poor workmanship can cause or contribute to excessive tile lippage. It is important that qualified skilled tile installers who understand – and are current with – industry standards are used for tile and stone installations to help ensure a successful installation.


This is measuring lippage from previous photo, which shows that the ceramic tile lippage is less than 1.6 mm (1/16”) which is within standards.

Unavoidable lippage at drains – There are some applications where tile lippage to some degree is unavoidable. ANSI A108.02-2013-4.3.7 cautions that the lippage requirements don’t apply to tiled floors sloping to drains specifically when using tiles that are 6” x 6” (15 mm x 15 mm) and larger. The larger the tile surface area the greater the potential for tile lippage under these conditions. That is why you will often see tiles cut in half on a diagonal near drains that have sudden changes in slope. That doesn’t mean the installer can have extreme tile lippage; it still needs to be reasonable considering the conditions. Using the relatively-new trench or linear drains can be good solution to avoiding this problem.

Perceived excessive tile lippage – Another tile lippage problem is perceived excessive tile lippage, when in fact lippage is reasonable and within allowable standard tolerances. The culprit is lighting. Even the best of tile installations can have perceived excessive tile lippage when the light is shining on the tile surface at a certain angle relative to the viewing angle. This is more problematic with large rectangular tiles with narrow grout joints installed on walls, particularly if the tile is installed in a staggered pattern. Just look at some tile exterior veneers when the sun is directly shining on the tile surface and you will find certain angles where it looks like there is so much lippage that you can climb up the wall, when in fact it is within tolerance. On the other hand, under other viewing angles or lighting conditions you don’t see excessive tile lippage in these same installations.


The perception of lippage is affected by the angle of the light falling upon the wall.

Optical illusion caused by lighting – Sometimes lighting causes shadowing at the grout joint, creating an optical illusion that there is excessive tile lippage. This can occur in interior and exterior applications with natural lighting or with artificial lighting. The TCNA Handbook warns that the use of wall-washer and cove-type lighting – where the lights are located either at the wall/ceiling interface, or mounted directly on the wall – may produce shadows and undesirable effects with tiles. Similar shadows are created from natural lighting on interior walls and floors when light shines from an angle through windows and doors. I have investigated a number of projects, both commercially and residentially, where there were complaints of alleged excessive tile lippage only to find out during our inspection that it was reasonable and within allowable industry tolerances. On the other hand, I have seen cases where there was indeed excessive lippage when the above referenced contributing factors were not properly managed.

How tile installers can avoid actual or perceived excessive lippage – It is the same old answer: follow industry standards, and don’t accept substrates that don’t meet industry standards, unless you are being paid to fix them.

It does not matter who is at fault when there is a problem – everyone ends up paying, either in time to defend themselves, money to fix the issue, or with their reputation. It is in everyone’s best interest to ensure tile installations are compliant to industry standards. The following paragraphs summarize the key steps that should be followed for tile and stone installations to avoid excessive tile lippage.

  1. Require a mock-up to be built that will become the standard upon approval for installation methods and for workmanship for aesthetic quality. It should include the specified lighting that the tile will be subjected to. If the client doesn’t allow for a mock-up, then after the first portion of the tile installation is completed, require that the client approve it and agree to use it as the standard for balance of the installation. This will help eliminate false expectations by the client, and if corrections are needed, it will be a lot less costly to fix it.
  2. Use good quality installation products because they typically perform better.
  3. Make sure your tile installers, both setters and helpers, are current with industry standards. They should be certified or verified to demonstrate they know and are current with industry thin-set standards (e.g. Certified Ceramic Tile Installers [CTI] through the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation [CTEF]; Tile Installer Thin-set Standards [ITS] Verification through the University of Ceramic Tile and Stone [UofCTS]).
  4. The stone should meet ASTM standards for its respective geological classification. Ceramic tile should meet ANSI A137.1 standards, and glass tile should meet ANSI A137.2 standards. Be sure to closely inspect the tile before installing it. If the warpage or sizing appears to be excessive either refuse to install it or get a written letter from the client approving the consequences. Then install a mock-up and get the client’s approval before proceeding.
  5. Considering the tile’s sizing and warpage tolerances, and the tile size and installation pattern, recommend a reasonable grout joint width to your client.
  6. Be sure to inform your client that lighting can cause the perception that there are excessive irregularities in the tile installation, when in fact the installation is consistent with industry tolerances. Tell them that light fixtures must be placed in a manner to avoid direct lighting on tile wall surfaces. You don’t need to tell them how to do it, as that is not your expertise. You can give them the language from our standards that warns of the problems that can occur if the lighting isn’t placed properly.
  7. Evaluate the substrate to make sure it meets ANSI requirements for flatness. If it doesn’t meet the ANSI standards then reject it and don’t proceed until it is corrected. Or you can correct the substrate for an additional fee. Cementitious self-leveling mortars or patching mortars can work well for repairing or preparing substrates for your tile installation. ANSI A108.02 states that if there are any obvious defects or conditions preventing a satisfactory tile installation, the installer is to notify the architect, general contractor, or other designated authority in writing, and is not to proceed until satisfactory conditions are provided that will allow for an acceptable installation.
  8. Use the TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass, and Stone Tile Installation, the Marble Institute of America Dimension Design Manual, and the ANSI A108 standards as tools to persuade your clients of the need for you to follow the standards to ensure an acceptable tile installation. Being knowledgeable of these important standards will give you more credibility with your clients and will help you avoid costly problems.
  9. If the architect’s specification is ambiguous or if there is something wrong or missing, always submit an RFI (request for information) for clarification before proceeding with the work.

Viewing angle affects perception of lippage. Better lighting reduces the perception of lippage in this image – even though it’s the exact same wall with acceptable – but unsightly – lippage earlier in the story.


Excessive tile lippage can lead to damaged tile edges as various objects sliding on the floor hit these unsupported tile edges. Excessive tile lippage can cause trip and fall incidents, particularly for those elderly who tend to shuffle when they walk and use walkers. Even in commercial settings, tile lippage can be problematic and annoying as carts and other equipment clack as they run over tile edges.

Excessive tile lippage, or perceived excessive tile lippage, can be avoided by following the industry standards. Excessive tile lippage is typically due to a combination of improperly prepared substrates, improper installation methods, improper use of materials, and poor installer workmanship performance. Perceived excessive tile lippage is typically due to improper lighting design, overly narrow grout joints, and not following industry recommendations. Avoid the false expectations by the specifier or client by informing them of the potential issue in advance.

To avoid these problems, installers must be current with industry standards and follow those standards and the product manufacturers’ directions while installing the tile. Installers are mechanics with the skill level to provide quality workmanship, but they should not be expected to make architectural decisions – architects must give the installers the information and details they need to do their job correctly.

Many installers learn their skill on the job and do not have the opportunity to learn the industry standards. So it should be required that the tile installers are up to date with the current industry standards.

I have never investigated a tile or stone failure and found that all the industry standards and manufacturers’ instructions were followed. It is always the opposite. The failure is never due to one deficiency, but is generally due to many compounding deficiencies. Simply put, the key to a successful tile and stone installation is to follow industry standards.

Donato Pompo, CTC, CSI, CDT, MBA, is the founder of Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants (CTaSC), and of the University of Ceramic Tile and Stone (UofCTS). He has more than 35 years of experience in the ceramic tile and stone industry from installation to distribution to manufacturing of installation products. Donato provides services in forensic investigations, quality control (QC) services for products and installation methods, training programs, testing, and onsite quality control inspection services. He received the 2012 Construction Specifier Magazine Article of the Year. Donato can be reached at [email protected].

NTCA Benefits Box – PartnerShip

partnership-logoPartnerShip®, the endorsed shipping management provider of NTCA, offers shipping discounts to all NTCA members on select FedEx® services, as well as savings on less-than-truckload (LTL) freight shipments arranged through PartnerShip.  This program is FREE to all NTCA members, with no minimums required.

Members can  request a no-obligation free quote for standard or guaranteed LTL (less-than-truckload) services from PartnerShip freight broker. The service works with the reputable LTL carriers, including: AAA Cooper, Estes Express, FedEx Freight, Dayton Freight, Old Dominion, New Penn, Pitt Ohio, R+L Carriers, Reddaway, Southeastern, UPS Freight, YRC Freight and many more!

Services also include full or partial truckload (dry van, flat bed, step deck, refrigerated, etc.). PartnerShip employs a stringent carrier review process and has access to thousands of the top truckload freight carriers across North America. If you need to ship to a trade show, PartnerShip can help with this as well, as it can arrange great shipping rates with leading exhibit freight carriers. The company has a relationship with UPS Freight and YRC Freight and, if needed,  can secure other carrier options as well.

Many NTCA members are benefiting from the PartnerShip service, including James Woelfel, NTCA president. “We used PartnerShip for a project in another state,” Woelfel said. “Their service was perfect and the shipment was fast, at a fair price. All of my future shipping will be done with PartnerShip. This is a fantastic membership benefit.”

Interested in learning more about PartnerShip or becoming a NTCA member? Contact assistant executive director Jim Olson at 612-788-4726 or email [email protected]

Stone Feature – February 2016

Lessons from creating the labyrinth at Grace Episcopal Church in St. Helena, Calif.

mapei_sponsorBy Ron Treister, Communicators International

Fr. William MacIlmoyl at Grace Episcopal Church had a secret dream. With retirement around the corner, he wanted to give his congregation lasting gift of silence. “Modern life is so stressed, so busy, we all need a way to bring more silence into our lives,” says “Fr. Mac.”

He felt the best way to do that was to build a labyrinth in front of the newly renovated sanctuary. “I walked my first labyrinth years ago,” Fr. Mac says. “I look at it as a yoga, a contemplative technique not unlike saying the rosary. For 20 minutes you allow your mind to sink into silence, to get away from the business of the day and come to center.”

1-stoneSteve and Joan Heller also had a dream. Before Steve retired from General Mills, he and his wife purchased an 11-acre vineyard near St. Helena. After relocating there, they took a leadership position in the parish. Fr. Mac asked if they would make a donation as seed money for a labyrinth. To Fr. Mac’s surprise, within a week Steve and Joan not only agreed to use their donation for the labyrinth, but also to spearhead its construction. Steve immediately assumed the role of labyrinth construction coordinator and Joan lent support by setting up a labyrinth website as a way to create an open communication with the congregation about the project.

Robert Ferre recommends Creative Edge

While researching labyrinth construction design and techniques, the Hellers discovered the work of Robert Ferre, president of Labyrinth Enterprises and one of the founders of the Labyrinth Society. Steve contacted Robert by email and asked if he could recommend a company to construct the labyrinth. Robert replied: “If you want extraordinary work, go with Creative Edge Master Shop in Fairfield, Iowa, the country’s largest and oldest fabricator of architectural floors and landscapes using water jet technology.”

2-stoneCreative Edge’s Ron Blair was in charge of the fabrication of the Grace Episcopal labyrinth. “This was my first labyrinth project, although Creative Edge has fabricated many labyrinths using a wide variety of materials, from granite to stone to vinyl and carpeting,” Blair said. “I learned early on that Fr. Mac wanted to replicate the Chartres labyrinth, making the project nearly 43’ in diameter.”

As a comparative religion major at the University of California at Santa Barbara, Blair studied the sacred geometry of the Chartres cathedral in France. It helped that Robert Ferre had already measured the Chartres labyrinth down to the 1/16”. In his generous way of making the labyrinth available to everyone, Ferre had given his perfectly measured CAD diagram to Creative Edge, so the design was already completed.

Creative Edge President/CEO Jim Belilove and his wife, Ginger, traveled to St. Helena to meet Fr. Mac and Steve and see the site. Fifteen months after the initial meeting, the ground was prepared and the granite was cut by Creative Edge waterjet machines into the curving shapes that fit together like puzzle pieces, creating a perfect replica of the mystical Chartres labyrinth at Grace Episcopal Church.

Reaching consensus on stone and color

3-stoneFrom the start, Fr. Mac and Steve wanted to reach consensus with the entire congregation. “One of the things you learn as a church pastor – you have to collaborate,” says Fr. Mac. “We didn’t want a single member of our congregation to feel uncomfortable with the colors or materials we’d chosen. And when we started, probably 98% of the congregation didn’t even know what a labyrinth was.”

Getting an entire congregation to make color and stone choices – rather than one or two decision-makers – made Blair’s task as project manager more complex. Steve handled communications with the congregation, but it took three or four rounds – nine months – to come to a consensus.

That brings us to the next principle of the labyrinth: Go at your own pace. When walking a labyrinth, it’s not a race to reach the goal. As in any spiritual pilgrimage, it’s an inner journey that unfolds as slowly or quickly as it needs to.

Steve said, “For starters, the Grace Episcopal Church is a beautiful structure dating back to the 1800s, made of tufa, volcanic rock. In the process of tripling the size of the sanctuary in recent years, the congregation chose, with great care, to keep true to the original architecture. They even located the original local tufa quarry where the original building stones were sourced. “Now, with the labyrinth, we are adding 1,400 square feet of hard-scaping within 10’ of this cherished building, almost touching it. So we didn’t want the labyrinth colors to be too starkly contrasting or too contemporary. We wanted it to look organic.

“Tufa is a golden color with rose and brown tones. So there were some members who thought an earthy, golden limestone labyrinth would match the beautiful golden tufa of the building. This is where the experience of Creative Edge saved us from making an expensive mistake. Ron gently steered us away from that choice, explaining that in their experience, limestone is easily stained. For durability, he suggested granite.

Guidance from Creative Edge ensures walking safety

“But polished granite can be slippery when wet,” Steve continued. “Ron explained that for safety reasons, the surface had to be roughened by applying a high-temperature flame treatment to create tiny chips in the stone. Though necessary, this process takes away some of the beauty of polished granite. So to get some of the beauty back, a high-pressure water treatment is applied to smooth it out a bit.

“So every time we chose a sample on a website, we had to have the granite supplier apply these treatments,” Steve explained. “It would come back to us looking quite different than the web photo due to the treatments, sometimes for the better, but sometimes for the worse. We also learned that granite comes in two thicknesses – 3 cm and 2 cm – but only the 3 cm granite would work for our project.”

Blair also narrowed granite choices to North American quarries, since nobody wanted to wait several years for the granite to be shipped from overseas. The quarries had to have sufficient amounts available so all the slabs could come from the same lot, ensuring that they would match each other.

Steve added, “We knew there would be two colors, one light and one dark, and once we had selected three samples for each color, I’d place them at the entryway of the sanctuary. Then I’d wait for 10 people to gather, and I’d write down their reactions. After about 10 of these gatherings, I’d have enough information to choose the next round of samples. “

Steve’s process was one of listening for consensus. “It was subjective. We went through three or four evolutions of samples before we got what we wanted: two beautiful colors of granite, Crystal Gold for the path and Masabi Black to outline the edge of the path. It was a great feeling, because by the fourth round, 90 to 95% of the people said ‘you’ve nailed it.’”

A joyful experience

Blair stated, “Even though this process certainly took a lot longer than normal, working with Steve and Fr. Mac and seeing the process unfold was a joyful experience. There was something special about having the entire congregation take part in the process. They did a marvelous job and came up with a wonderful palette.”

4-stoneEven the fundraising was easy. With the generous seed money from the Hellers, the rest of $250,000 came almost immediately. One member of the congregation, Jonathan Plant, donated the services of his landscape architecture company to position and landscape the labyrinth.

Fr. Mac says that when he walks a labyrinth, he stays in the center until it’s time to go. “It’s a time of receiving, of divine union,” he said. “We remember who we are at the deepest level, which is God.” He continued, “The labyrinth is a great teacher. Every time there are different lessons. Every time I go into the center and offer myself to God in whatever ways are useful. Some of them are conscious and some unconscious, but I come away with insights and answers.”

When asked to share his hopes for the labyrinth at Grace Episcopal Church, Steve said, “I hope it’s a place where people find spiritual safety, relaxation, and peace. I see it as a prayerful place, a place where people can learn about meditation.” Steve also wants to encourage people to move ahead with their labyrinth plans no matter what their budget. “I first walked a labyrinth made of canvas,” he said,“I saw one that was made of old shoes. You can buy kits to make a labyrinth out of patio pavers. Money does not have to be a barrier. It’s up to your imagination.”

“At Creative Edge, we are happy to help anyone build a labyrinth,” concluded Belilove. “Our waterjet machines can cut intricately curved designs out of costly granite or marble, medium-cost paving stones or terazzo, low-cost vinyl or carpet. In other words, no matter what your budget or materials, we can create it.

As for Fr. Mac, he is a happy man. By the time he retires next May, he will have experienced the joy of walking the labyrinth at Grace Episcopal Church many times – a “cherished dream coming true,” he said. He will have witnessed the members of his congregation enjoying the peace and stillness that a labyrinth journey brings.

And, he is hoping, the community will have unlocked its secrets as well. “Grace Episcopal Church has built this labyrinth as much for the community as for our congregation,” says Fr. Mac. He recently received a call from a fifth grade teacher asking if she can bring her class once the labyrinth is finished, and says they welcome schoolchildren, seniors, veterans – anyone and everyone in the community. Father Mac says, “We are looking forward to sharing this beautiful experience with people who have never walked a labyrinth before, who may arrive without a clue of what to expect and yet can experience sacred moments of awakening and peace.”



Institute memberships approve MIA+BSI two-year joint  venture

In December 2015, it was announced that the memberships of the Marble Institute of America (MIA) and the Building Stone Institute (BSI) have voted to enter into a two-year joint venture. Effective January 1, 2016, the combined organization, MIA+BSI, the Natural Stone Institute, began operating as a consolidated organization. Each organization will also maintain its individual identity during the two-year period.

2015 BSI president Rob Barnes (Dee Brown, Inc.) remarked, “This joint venture, with its combined equity, will provide additional value to the industry and its members. MIA+BSI will ensure our continued relevance as we work together to become the world’s premier natural stone association.”

2015 MIA president Dan Rea (Coldspring) agreed, “I believe this is tremendously important for the stone industry. The time is right for likeminded people across the industry to join efforts to defend and grow the use of natural stone.”

In 2016, MIA+BSI will focus on five key initiatives, in addition to the myriad of ongoing programs underway for each organization:

Introduction of Dimension Stone Design Manual, Version 8, which includes additions pertaining to restoration and maintenance. Technical committees will be formed to expand references to thin stone and flagstone paving in the manual.

Addition of safety programs for quarriers (in addition to extensive current offerings available for fabricators, installers, and stone distributors).

Launch a Natural Stone Promotional Campaign.

Development of industry advocacy groups.

An expanded legislative outreach program.

The Board of Directors and staffs of both organizations are reviewing and combining operations and are excited to begin putting plans to action immediately. More information regarding the MIA+BSI joint venture will be available soon. The first joint presence occurred at TISE West in Las Vegas.

Learn more at www.marble-institute.com and www.buildingstoneinstitute.org.

Qualified Labor – Dave Karp, Tile Fusion LLC

1_CTI_20x20Dave Karp, Tile Fusion LLC

Certification: a standard to validating professionalism, skills and willingness to excel

By Terryn Rutford, Social Structure Marketing

tile-fusion-logoAfter eight years as a tile installer, Dave Karp became a Certified Tile Installer (CTI) at Daltile in Plymouth, Minn., in 2008.


Dave Karp, owner, Tile Fusion LLC

“I found out on a Sunday night that Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) was coming to town on Tuesday,” Karp said. “I sent emails that night and called first thing Monday morning to make sure I could get in. I felt it was a great way to separate myself from the rest of the guys in town.”

A year later Karp opened Tile Fusion in Shakopee, Minn., specializing in high-end, meticulous, and detailed residential tile installation. Becoming a CTI gave Karp the confidence to pursue his own tile shop. “[Certification] made me feel stronger as an installer, more professional, and better at selling myself.”

The CTI exam consists of two parts – a hands-on portion and a written-portion. “The written test wasn’t too difficult, being open book,” he said. “I read the book a couple of times.” For Karp, the hands-on portion was a different story. “I was in the same room as two of the Twin Cities’ premier installers,” Karp said. “Legends I’d call them: Joe Kerber and Jan Hohn. It meant the world to me to be able to show everyone what I’ve got.”

During the test, students have two days for preparation, tile setting, grouting and taking the written exam. It can be a very stressful experience that requires both quick thinking and quick acting. “The tile supplied to us was 4” X 4” white ceramic and 12” X 12” porcelain, but there were two different dye lots,” he explained. “I used this as a design feature – one color for the border and checkerboard for the center.”

Gerald Sloan, former NTCA trainer, judged Karp’s work and was impressed by his decision to include 1/16” joints. “I still feel good thinking back on that day,” Karp said.

In addition to being a CTI, Karp is wedi, Schluter, and StonePeak-MaxFine thin tile certified. And he became a member of the National Tile Contractor’s Association (NTCA) after hearing Gerald Sloan speak in August 2009. “He spoke of education, technical knowledge and professionalism within the industry and how the NTCA is leading the way. I signed up that night to be a member.” Karp is also a member of the Handmade Tile Association.

Karp is currently preparing for the Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT) in vertical mortar. NTCA membership and CTEF certification provide incredible value to the tile installer. The NTCA and CTI logos distinguish his estimates and invoices from those of competitors, and give tangible proof of an installer’s expertise. “I promote certification as a standard to validating who you are, your professionalism, skills and willingness to excel.”

Tech Talk – February 2016

tec-logoTile and stone lippage:

What is acceptable tile lippage and how do you avoid excessive tile lippage through quality tile and stone installations?

Donato PBy Donato Pompo, CTC, CSI, CDT, MBA

Tile lippage is the vertical displacement between two adjacent tiles of a ceramic, glass, or stone tile installation. Excessive lippage can lead to a number of problems: the edge of the tile with excessive lippage can have a propensity to chip; furniture and appliances can get caught on edges and not slide easily across the floor; and most important today is that excessive tile lippage can be a safety hazard particularly to the elderly with our aging population. Tile lippage is an inherent characteristic of installed tile. It is not possible to eliminate it completely, but it can be minimized within reason.

(Ed. note: This is part one of a two part article. Part two will appear in a future issue of TileLetter.)

Standards for tile lippage

There are industry standards for determining what is acceptable or excessive tile lippage. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) A108.02-2013–4.3.7 for the installation of ceramic tile states that for grout joints less than 1/4” (6 mm) wide, the allowable lippage is 1/32” (1 mm) plus the inherent warpage of the tile. For grout joints that are 1/4” (6 mm) wide or wider, the allowable lippage is 1/16” (2 mm) plus the inherent warpage of the tile. There has been some confusion in the interpretation of this standard, which is discussed in detail later. The Marble Institute of America (MIA) simply says that there can be no more than 1/32” (1 mm) lippage for natural stone tile installations.

Substrate tolerances


Stone tile that does not have excessive lippage. Photo from Premier Tile of Oaksmall, Calif.

The challenge in trying to meet the standards to minimize tile lippage has to do with a number of compounding conditions. One of those conditions is the condition of the substrate in terms of flatness, which can affect tile lippage particularly when you are adhering direct to a concrete slab. Per industry standard ANSI A108.02-2013-, the substrate needs to be prepared prior to the tile installation so that the maximum allowable variation from the required plane for tiles with all edges shorter than 15 inches (380 mm), is no more than 1/4” in 10 feet (6 mm in 3 m) and no more than 1/16” in 1 foot (1.6 mm in 0.3 m). For tiles with at least one edge 15 inches (380 mm) or longer, the maximum allowable variation from the required plane is not more than 1/8” in 10 feet (3 mm in 3 m) and no more than 1/16” in 2 feet (1.6 mm in 0.6 m). A very irregular substrate makes it difficult for the tile installer to compensate and install the tile so lippage is minimized.

Medium bed thin-set mortars:not designed to compensate for out-of-tolerance substrates


Limestone with excessive lippage.

Many tile installers and specifiers misunderstand the use of medium bed thin-set mortars. There is a misperception that medium bed thin-set mortar adhesives – which can be applied as thick as 3/4” with some products – will compensate for substrates that are excessively out of plane. Industry standards for thin-set mortar adhesives, such as modified dry-set cement mortars standard ANSI A118.4-2012-2.1, clearly state that thin-set mortars are designed as direct-bond adhesives and are not intended to be used in truing or leveling underlying substrates or the work of others. Substrates need to be prepared before adhering the tile to them. High spots on concrete slabs need to be ground down and low spots need to be filled with special patching


Limestone installation without excessive lippage.

mortars. Cementitious self-leveling mortars can be used over concrete and wood subfloors to achieve the appropriate flatness or slope to meet project requirements. Medium-bed mortars are only meant to be used for large-and-heavy tiles so they don’t sink into the thin-set mortar during the installation, or to be used to compensate for ungauged tiles that vary significantly in thickness from each other.  Because of this common misunderstanding, the industry is in the process of eliminating the name “medium-bed mortar,” and changing it to “dry-set mortar for large- and-heavy tile (LHT mortar), which is limited to 1/2” (12 mm) thickness after embedment.

Tile warpage

Another compounding factor that can contribute to excessive tile lippage is how much warpage the tile has. Today with such large tiles, particularly the rectangle shapes whose long-to-short-side ratios can be extreme, tile warpage can cause unavoidable actual or perceived lippage, which is discussed later.


Measuring 1.8 mm (9/128”) of tile lippage, which is excessive for stone, but acceptable for ceramic tile.

Please note that all ceramic tiles, including porcelain tiles — which are a type of ceramic tile — have some degree of warpage. This isn’t anything new. The irregularities in ceramic tile, just as in natural stone, are what give these products their character and desirable appearance. Ceramic tiles have always had warpage and other dimensional variations, although today’s current manufacturing technology results in greater consistency in ceramic tile production. The ANSI A137.1 Specifications for Ceramic Tile standard has established allowable tolerances criteria for each type or category of ceramic tile.

Calibrated versus rectified tiles


Measuring excessive tile lippage in stone at 4 mm (5/32”) on a floor tile.

Porcelain ceramic tiles are much denser and are more controllable in their manufacturing, although they do have warpage. Standard calibrated porcelain tiles have tolerance requirements that allow more variation in warpage and sizing dimensions. Rectified porcelain ceramic tiles have been ground after manufacturing so their dimensional tolerance variations are much more limited. This allows the tile to be installed with a narrower grout joint width. Some manufacturers will say the grout joint can be as narrow as 1/16” (2 mm), although I never recommend a grout joint less than 1/8” (4 mm) wide. A 1/16” (2 mm) wide grout joint is too narrow to adequately fill to full depth for maximum support of the tile edge. Failure to fully fill the joint can result in grout coming loose later.


Natural stone slate floor installation that shows excessive tile lippage due to improper installation

The 1/16” (2 mm) wide grout joint also isn’t wide enough to allow for adjustments during the installation to help compensate for dimensional tile variations and to help minimize the potential for tile lippage. The more dimension variation a tile has, the wider the grout joint should be to keep grout joints looking consistently straight and to minimize potential tile lippage. That is why you see grout joints on irregularly-sized Mexican paver tiles that are 3/4” (20 mm) wide or wider, which helps compensate for the broad variations in their dimensional sizes.

Grout joint widths

ANSI standards and the MIA state that the grout joints can never be less than 1/16” (2 mm) wide. I often see where tiles are butted together and this can lead to some serious problems. One potential problem is tile edge chatter where the edges of the tile chip because the tiles compress against each other. This is caused by normal expansion within the tiles caused by moisture or temperature fluctuations or from the dynamic building structural movements.  Another potential problem with tiles butted up to each other, particularly if there aren’t adequate movement joints installed within the tile assembly, is that tiles can become debonded and tent up from the compression stresses; particularly if they are not bonded well to their substrate.

Measuring tile lippage of 2 mm (5/64”).

Measuring tile lippage of 2 mm (5/64”).

Staggered tile pattern standards

Tile warpage generally occurs at the tile corners or at the center of the tile. For that reason the ANSI A108.02 standards state for running bond tile patterns (tiles are installed in a staggered or offset pattern) using tiles where any tile side is greater than 15” (380 mm), the grout joint size shall be on average a minimum of 1/8” (4 mm) wide for rectified tiles, and a minimum of 3/16” (5 mm) wide for calibrated tiles. The grout joint width shall be increased over the minimum requirement by the amount of edge warpage on the longest edge of the tiles being installed. For example, for a rectified tile exhibiting 1/32” (1 mm) edge warpage on the longest edge of the tile, the minimum grout joint width will be 1/8” (4 mm) +1/32” (1 mm) or 5/32” (5 mm) for running bond tile patterns. Again, the wider the grout joint the more you can minimize irregularities in the tile and minimize tile lippage.


Measuring excessive stone tile lippage of 2.38 mm (3/32”).

Warpage concentration limitations

Currently the ANSI A137.1 standards don’t limit how much warpage can be concentrated within certain spans of the tile. This can be problematic because the tile might not exceed the maximum allowable warpage, but its warpage could be concentrated at the tile corner or at the center of the tile, for which the tile installer can’t fully compensate. For this reason the ANSI committee is currently considering adding language to the standards to limit warpage concentration.

Staggered tile pattern limitations

Because tile warpage can be so much more problematic with tiles that are being installed in a running bond pattern, there are other limitations stated in ANSI A108.02-2013- This particular standard covers the compounding effects of the warpage from two adjacent tiles. It states that tiles being installed in a running bond pattern where the tile side being offset is greater than 18” (457 mm) long, the running bond offset cannot exceed 33% of the tile length, unless otherwise specified by the tile manufacturer. Mock-ups should always be required for approval prior to the tile installation to make sure that the end user understands what they are getting and to avoid any false expectations.


Note gap between two tiles at end and the concentrated warpage at the end of ceramic tile wall.

How to calculate allowable tile lippage

Now let’s go back to the allowable tile lippage standard that says that the allowable lippage is either 1/32” (1 mm) or 1/16” (2 mm), depending on the tile and the width of the grout joint, in addition to the inherent warpage of the tile manufactured in accordance with ANSI A137.1. Tile Council of North American (TCNA) website (www.tcnatile.com) interprets this as meaning that the inherent warpage of a particular tile is the actual warpage that the specific tile has when installed. Some people incorrectly interpret this to mean that you can take the maximum allowable warpage stated in ANSI A137.1 and add that to the respective allowable lippage value. If that were true, then in my opinion, from a standard-of-care point of view for professional tile installations, the calculated lippage would be unreasonable and excessive.

Square edge versus chamfered edge tile

Another compounding factor that can contribute to excessive tile lippage is whether the tile being installed has a sharp square-edge or if it has an arris with a slight chamfered edge. The sharp square-edge tiles are more prone to showing tile lippage and other variations, where the chamfered edge tile will be more forgiving. The chamfered edge will make the grout joint width wider at the tile surface.

Donato Pompo, CTC, CSI, CDT, MBA, is the founder of Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants (CTaSC), and of the University of Ceramic Tile and Stone (UofCTS). He has more than 35 years of experience in the ceramic tile and stone industry from installation to distribution to manufacturing of installation products. Donato provides services in forensic investigations, quality control (QC) services for products and installation methods, training programs, testing, and onsite quality control inspection services. He received the 2012 Construction Specifier Magazine Article of the Year. Donato can be reached at [email protected]

Business Tip – February 2016


The power of a single thought


By Steve Rausch

It’s Saturday morning and I’m wondering: Can a single thought begin a snowball of momentum for yourself, your family, and co-workers? And is the timing of that thought key?

I’ll explain in a minute but first let me tell you two stories of senior marketing professionals who were given news about a recent re-organization. Neither was surprised that there was a re-org at this company, or that their role could be impacted.

The first was told her role would be eliminated. After the shock wore off, she decided to leave with the same integrity and positive outlook that she had demonstrated during her 30 years with the organization. She thanked the CMO and others who had been part of her journey. She committed to transitioning her work at the highest level of excellence and for the highest good of the company. She tucked in a trip to Hawaii for good health and continued to be available even after her official time had ended.

So what happened? She was immediately sought after to sit on boards, and when her former company threw an incredible party to celebrate her and her life-long contributions, she realized her relationships and reputation remained as stellar as when she was an employee. This was  a great asset for her next career phase, and held relief and enthusiasm for the team that stayed behind. They will not hesitate to reach out to her in the future for business opportunities because of how she exited. Her enthusiasm must have sent a tsunami of positive outlook to the team, much like a departing employee who is disgruntled sends a flood of negative outlook to those remaining.

Those of us living in Georgia just saw another example of this power when Coach Mark Richt of the University of Georgia Football team was released recently. Coach handled the transition in a positive and powerful way, praising the university, the football program, and even expressing understanding of the reasoning behind the decision yet disagreeing (obviously) with that decision. Coach Richt was picked up within a few days by another major university – University of Miami – and will, I’m certain, continue to provide young men with a positive and inspirational role model.

The second story also comes from that same corporate re-organization we discussed earlier. I had previously spoken to another marketing manager in another country of this company and he had shared his concern of the re-org. He had deep expertise in his field but he said he had trained up some of the finest professionals so if he was de-employed the business would be in excellent shape. I spoke with him six weeks later and the joy in his voice was so intense I nearly choked up. He wasn’t de-employed. He was given more responsibility and easier international travel. He said he was so happy that on Monday morning he woke up at 4 a.m. to get to the office by 5 a.m. because he was so excited to start his day! And this is a 30-year veteran with the company! No doubt, that enthusiasm was a contagious influence!

I was floored when I realized that I had uncovered what seemed to be a critical business principle – that smart people actually set up the reality of outcomes for themselves even if they don’t choose the situations in which they find themselves. And this wasn’t being a Pollyanna. I’m just an outside observer – a vendor – watching this unfold. No one was aware of or trying to impress me.

So I started to wonder, is there a critical moment in time when these people chose to be positive, optimistic and take the high road?  We all know plenty of situations, work and personal, of people who receive “negative” news and then let that news destroy their next phase in life, almost to a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I am certainly not a psychologist, but I came across a recent article that might explain the “how to” behind the positive response to build amazing life momentum. The article notes that there it is scientifically proven that the thoughts one holds in mind before going to sleep profoundly impacts one’s attitude and energy the next day. Positive, grateful thoughts prepare an individual to have a positive, energetic, day full of gratitude; worry thoughts wind up producing more worry upon awakening.

Now the people in the reorganizations mentioned above probably established their outlook early or over their entire life. But for those of us who worry or wonder whether or not to take the high road, perhaps this little exercise of controlling the single last thought before we go to sleep at night might tap us into the momentum that positive outlook brings! I certainly don’t see any downside of focusing on this and it seems to me the “upside” could be incredible. Let’s all try this starting today.

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 – February 2016


Our house is currently under construction. The contractor applied a 1/4” grout for the 7” x 20” wood look-alike ceramic tile. We want to know the standard application of grout for this kind of tile to prevent lippage. Hope to hear from you soon. Thank you.


Grout is an important structural component of the tile installation. Grout joint size is determined by a number of factors such as the grade of the tile, variation in tile thickness, warpage (cupping or bowing) within each tile, wedging (variation in a tile’s facial dimensions), installation pattern, and others. Depending on the quality and grade of the plank type tile you have described, we often see many physical variations that must be accommodated.

While design preferences and final appearance are also important considerations, the installer must factor all the variations to determine the appropriate grout joint width that will produce an installation with allowable lippage. Without personally knowing the factors of your installation, a 1/4” grout joint is not uncommon and may be the most appropriate.

– Mark Heinlein, NTCA presenter


cracked-glassWe have had a lot of difficulty with two tiles that keep breaking with our shower install. We have no choice but to cut the glass tiles because there has to be an opening for the water. We’ve followed all of manufacturer’s suggested techniques: wet drill, drilling from the back etc. Do you have any suggestions?


Glass tile, particularly large format as these seem to be, can be extremely difficult to cut successfully. You stated that you are using wet drilling, so that leads me to believe you are using a diamond core bit (possibly 1-1/4”). You need to ensure that the hole saw is sharp (new diamonds exposed) so undue pressure is not exerted on the tile while being cut. Sharpen a diamond core bit (or diamond blade) by wet cutting several times through a very abrasive material such as an aluminum oxide rub stone or a piece of concrete cinder block. When you wet cut the tile, you need to use LOTS of water, as any heat build-up can result in failure. Also, drill very, very slowly, again to not exert undue pressure on the tile. It seems that cutting from the front AND back of the tile can usually give a successful result. Mark the tile on both sides, wet drill slowly half way through the face side of the tile and stop. Turn the tile onto its face, preferably on a towel to avoid scratching, and slowly wet drill from the back of the tile to meet the cut you previously made. This trick usually works.

One further point: many diamond core bits on the market come with a masonry type pilot bit. This bit needs to be removed for glass tile (and really any tile harder than a 4” x 4” or 6” x 6” talc body tile). Begin cutting with the core bit by holding the drill at a slight angle to the face of the tile, and with a steady hand, begin the cut. After cutting in about 1/16”, start slowly rotating the drill more and more upright until you have created a completely circular kerf. You may then begin drilling perpendicular to the tile (exerting very little pressure).

You probably do not have an abundance of extra tiles, so hopefully this will work for you on the first try. If you still experience cracking of the tile, you may need to enlist the help of an abrasive waterjet cutting company. Most cities and even towns have one these days. Just mark the tile, take it to the waterjet guys, and for a nominal fee they will make your cut. This method of cutting puts almost zero pressure on the tile.

I also noticed from your photos that the tile had cracked under an installed plumbing fixture. Tub spouts usually screw into place, and it is very easy for an installer to slightly over-tighten the fixture to get a nice tight fit, resulting in cracking. It is much better with glass tile to leave the fixture one revolution loose and to use a 100% silicone sealant (caulking) between the fixture and the face of the tile.

Hope this helps, and feel free to call me with additional questions.

– Michael K. Whistler, NTCA presenter

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