Business Tip – June 2018

Construction Wages: skilled workers command higher pay

By Lesley Goddin

In the TileLetter Weekly digital enewsletter disseminated on March 7, 2018, a recent study of wage data from the American Community Survey (ACS), analyzed by author Sasha David and published on BuildZoom (buildzoom.com) caused quite a stir. The analysis of the study was to determine which jobs pay the most – and the least – and why. The full story, with supporting charts and tables, can be found at http://tileletter.com/2018/02/construction-wages-who-makes-the-most-and-where/ or at http://bit.ly/2oqMLeO or at BuildZoom at http://bit.ly/2osxF8B.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) charts annual mean wage by area.

The controversy centered around the statistics that show concrete and terrazzo workers in this study make $35,000/year and brick masons, block masons and stone masons – as well as carpet, floor and tile installers and finishers make $30,000/year – which are said to be a far cry from elevator installers and repairers at $80,000 annually, or construction and building inspectors at $55,000. 

The upshot of the story was that location (workers in urban centers generally command higher wages than those in rural settings) and the skill/training level of the workers are the two main factors in higher paying positions, which David attributed to roles like supervisors, engineers and inspectors. 

The BLS statistics paint a different picture of tile and marble setter wages.

However, some TileLetter Weekly readers took umbrage at how tile setters were characterized and how figures may have been obtained including small sample sizes (15 for cement, concrete and terrazzo workers, 19 each for brick masons, block masons and stonemasons and carpet, floor and tile finishers and installers).

Rod Owen

“I dislike this occupational study and the way they group tile setters in with carpet/flooring. It requires greater skill to be a hard tile setter than it does to be a resilient/carpet installer,” said Rod Owen, of NTCA Five Star Contractor C.C. Owen in Jonesboro, Ga. “In fact, the word ‘installer’ irritates me because it associates a tile setter with a less-skilled trade of simply installing products rather than having to perform precision work with less forgiving materials like tile and stone…If all I had to offer was a median of $30k after achieving tile setter status I might as well quit trying to find long-term stable employees.”

Skill makes a difference

David did make the point that skilled “blue collar” positions also can bring in more robust salaries, but she did not identify tile setters as part of that elite group. 

“People tend to associate white-collar or office jobs with higher salaries compared to blue-collar or manual labor, but the rankings show that this is not necessarily the case,” she said. “Working with elevators or boilers requires physical work, but these are among the highest paid jobs in the industry.”

David pointed out, “The highest-paying occupations often require specialized apprenticeships, licenses or certifications that demonstrate an understanding of the trade and command a premium in the market, such as a grounding in mechanics for elevator technicians, circuitry for electricians, or water systems for boilermakers. Of course, licensing can also serve as a means for controlling the number of people practicing and by reducing the supply of those tradesmen, increase their wages.

“Towards the bottom of the list are trades that generally have lower barriers to entry,” she said, adding fuel to the fire. “Floor installers, construction laborers, drywall installers, painters and roofers are listed on the Bureau of Labor Statistics as having ‘no formal education credentials’ required, while professions with average pay including pipelayers, sheet metal workers, glaziers, insulation workers, and carpenters typically require ‘a high school diploma or equivalent.’”

Woody Sanders

Woody Sanders, founder of D.W. Sanders Tile & Stone Contracting in Marietta, Ga., a fellow NTCA Five Star Contractor, took exception to the way tile contractors were characterized, saying, “We should highlight and make the case for what the professional ‘TILE’ contractors are paying and doing. I would agree with Rod, we have to detach our trade from carpet, vinyl, LVT. I understand that some of our members are in the floor covering business, but that is neither our charter nor our trade. Our message should be clear that we are a highly skilled trade that offers a career path.

“Interesting enough, as I got [the digital enewsletter], I was entering the pay rate for a new hire,” he added. “Having no experience, knowing nothing about the tile, I started him in the high $20Ks, with a chance to go even higher once he makes it out of his probationary period.” 

Varying statistics

In fact, The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) page of the U.S. Department of Labor states the median pay for flooring installers and tile and marble setters in May 2017 was $40,250 per year and $19.35 per hour, quite a difference than the BuildZoom study. These figures, from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey, exceed $37,690 – the median pay for all workers in that time period.

Further analysis of the BLS data paints a different picture from the BuildZoom story. In May 2017, the BLS said tile and marble setters brought in a median wage of $41,680, compared to carpet installers at $38,830, floor layers (except carpet, wood and hard tiles) at $40,040 and floor sanders and finishers at $36,950. The lowest 10% of earners in the flooring installers and tile and marble setters category (which the government does lump together) made less than $23,590 and the highest 10% earned more than $73,990. 

Training

As part of its occupational analysis, the BLS includes a section called “How to Become a Flooring Installer or Tile and Marble Setter” at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/construction-and-extraction/tile-and-marble-setters.htm#tab-4 or https://bit.ly/2rf5RoM. In terms of education – as David pointed out – the BLS states, “There are no specific education requirements for someone to become a flooring installer or tile and marble setter. A high school diploma or equivalent is preferred for those entering an apprenticeship program. High school art, math, and vocational courses are considered helpful for flooring installers and tile and marble setters.” 

However, the BLS continues in its training section with information about on-the-job training for flooring installers and tile and marble setters, adding that some flooring installers and tile and marble setters learn their trade via a two-to –four year apprenticeship. 

“This instruction may include mathematics, building code requirements, safety and first-aid practices, and blueprint reading,” the section states. “After completing an apprenticeship program, flooring installers and tile and marble setters are considered to be journey workers and may perform duties on their own.”

And certification programs figure prominently in the BLS’s Certification section, which names industry programs that test installer and setter skills and offer certification credentials. At the top of the list is the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation and the Certified Tile Installer (CTI) certification, and the Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT) program and requirements for taking the exam:

“Certification requirements include passing both an exam and a field test,” the site states. “Workers must also have either completed a qualified apprenticeship program or earned the CTI Certification to qualify for testing.” The program offers certifications in seven specific areas of tile installation:

  • Grouts
  • Large-format tile and substrate preparation
  • Membranes
  • Mortar (mud) floors
  • Mortar (mud) walls
  • Shower receptors
  • Thin porcelain tile.

The site also names voluntary certification programs for floor finishers and sanders by the NWFA, CFI’s certification for flooring and tile installers and the INSTALL comprehensive flooring certification program for flooring and tile installers. 

Important qualities that flooring installers and tile and marble setters need to exhibit are also listed, which include: color vision, customer-service skills, detail oriented, math skills, physical stamina and physical strength. 

So while it is true that anyone can enter the field without formal training, there is more than a nod given to certification programs, skill credentialing for skills of installers and setters and specialized qualities that enable them to execute their jobs. 

Bart Bettiga

“These products are not meant to be put in by an untrained workforce,” said Bart Bettiga, NTCA Executive Director. “Tile and stone are most often selected because they are considered to be a permanent finish. For this to be the case, we need to have a highly trained and highly compensated workforce.

“For the past several years, the NTCA has been developing its online apprenticeship curriculum,” he added. “We have worked with several of our members to help them use this educational tool to recruit new people into the trade and to train their current staff. It is our hope that this program can be integrated with supervised and field-related training.

“The reason this is so important is that we believe that tile installation is a highly skilled craft that takes several years to master,” Bettiga continued. “Why is this important? Because we have a big job to do, and it is perfectly illustrated in this paper. We must raise the wages of our trained tile installers if we are going to recruit talented young people into our trade. We cannot continue to be grouped with other flooring trades that quite frankly are not as complex, nor do they take as long to master. Tile installers should be making wages like other trades that are considered to be highly skilled.”

Clearly, CTIs, ACT-certified tile setters and NTCA Five Star Contractors exhibit “the specialized apprenticeships, licenses or certifications that demonstrate an understanding of the trade and command a premium in the market” that David indicated is a prerequisite for higher wages. Getting the word out to end users to look for those craftspeople with credentialed skills is an ongoing initiative in this industry.

Ask the Experts – June 2018

Ask the Experts Q&As are culled from member inquiries to NTCA’s Technical Support staff. To become a member and make use of personal, targeted answers from Technical Support staff to your installation questions, contact Jim Olson at [email protected].


QUESTION

I’ve got a new question for you all. What about homes with subfloors consisting of T&G boards, not plywood? They run diagonally. In this one specific case, there is actually 3/4” solid wood installed over the top of it. My thought is that it would require double 3/4” plywood, and I can’t find a single method in the book that identifies such a subfloor. 

ANSWER

Attached are pictures of different installed tile work examples incorporating movement accommodation joints. The first is a residential installation with porcelain plank tile where a change of pattern is in a doorway to allow for a nearly unnoticeable movement accommodation joint. The other two are from commercial jobs where large areas of tile happen quite frequently. 

In the TCNA Handbook from page 430 to 437 is section EJ171. It states under location and frequency of joints:

  • Interior – maximum of 25’ each direction; Exterior – 8’ to 12’ in each direction. 
  • Interior tile work exposed to direct sunlight (heat) or moisture – maximum of 12’ each direction. 
  • Above ground concrete slabs – maximum of 12’ each direction. 
  • Perimeter joints – movement joints are required where tilework abuts restraining surfaces such as perimeter walls.
  • Change of plane, exterior – movement joints are required in all inside and outside corners.
  • Change of plane interior – movement joint required at all inside corners.

Others and I believe this is the least used, most often misunderstood, and most important listing in our Handbook. Lack of correctly installed expansion joints is thought to be – by many – the leading cause of failures in tile industry.

With plank installations, special considerations to layout should be considered. Installing expansion joints on the long side is easier, and less noticeable.

For example, if you have an installation that is 20’ x 80’ you would need a minimum of at least three joints perpendicular to the long wall creating four separate sections. Running the long edge of the plank perpendicular to the long wall would help hide these expansion joints, and would appear similar to a grout joint. Borders and change of pattern can also help you succeed in installing less-noticeable expansion joints.

Whether they are noticeable or not, they are required by our standards. If you look closely, you can find expansion joints in almost every airport, shopping mall, car lot, etc. There are great installers implementing the standards found in EJ 171 all across the country. 

The TCNA Handbook says, “The design professional or engineer shall show the specific location and details of movement joints.” If they don’t, reach out to them for information. If it’s just you and a homeowner, show them what the industry says in our standard and create a plan for a successful installation. 

Robb Roderick,
NTCA Trainer/Presenter

President’s Letter – June 2018

Coverings 2018 – NTCA shines

Martin Howard, NTCA president; Committee member, ANSI A108

Coverings is behind us, summer is upon us and I’m sure you are in the middle of your busy season. We need to take a moment and give thanks for our improving economy and the amount of work in the marketplace. I am also thankful for the tremendous growth our great association has experienced in recent years and even more grateful for the excitement and enthusiasm generated by many of our newer members. 

Have you ever walked into a crowded room or event where you didn’t know anyone personally and felt a little uncomfortable? If you attended Coverings this year and stepped anywhere close to one of the NTCA venues, you probably had more than one excited member greet you. Thanks to the efforts of many – our trainers, our State Ambassadors, our workshop hosts and sponsors, our staff – the number of NTCA members attending Coverings this year was up significantly and the buzz and atmosphere around our booth, the Installation Design Showcase, the Installation Experience and the Installation Demonstration Stage was very positive with lots of networking. I’d like to thank all our members for being outstanding ambassadors and reaching out to those who wandered into any of these areas – meeting people, sharing ideas, asking questions and providing answers about installation products and methods and ultimately building relationships and friendships. This is just one of the reasons we have seen membership exploding to new heights. And at Coverings, we added another 18 members to the fold. It’s energizing and very exciting to be a part of such a dynamic and diverse group that’s brimming with enthusiasm and passion.

We all owe our outstanding staff a huge thank you for all the extra time and effort they put into this year’s show. A special shout-out goes to our training team that works so hard all year, traversing the country teaching and demonstrating our craft to all who are interested. On top of all that, this year they recruited many members to volunteer and join them in working very long hours in advance of the show to prepare the venues so that we could enjoy the experience, learn and engage with new friends.

The NTCA Board of Directors is working hard to keep our members on the cutting edge by finding more ways to put education and training in your hands so you can continue to grow and build your business. The Installation Experience and the CTI Challenge were new this year and offered interactive learning opportunities.

Every time I attend an event and have the chance to network with other tile contractors and industry professionals, it’s a learning experience. This year’s Coverings show was no exception! I hope to see many more of you at Total Solutions Plus at the Gaylord Texan Resort Hotel and Convention Center in Grapevine, Texas, October 27th – 30th.

Keep on tiling!

Martin Howard, NTCA president

Committee member, ANSI A108

[email protected]

Editor’s Letter – June 2018

“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Lesley Goddin

Well, you’ve made it to the halfway point of the year. Congratulate yourself that you are still above ground and hopefully making a good living in a profession you enjoy. So many are not, including a much-beloved icon of our industry, Armen Tavy, the irrepressible inventor and founder of Tavy Enterprises LLC. Read a bit about his impact on the industry and his legacy in this issue.

Last month, there was SO much to see at the Coverings show. We at TileLetter and NTCA were posting from the show on Facebook and Twitter with #ntcaatcoverings18, so if you frequent these social media outlets, see what was hopping in Atlanta. For the rest of you, we’ve provided an overview of many of the happenings at Coverings and a smattering of the kaleidoscope of products we saw there. By the way, it was wonderful to meet with so many of you in Atlanta! It made my heart sing! Remember to add Coverings to your 2019 schedule – April 9-13, in Orlando, and let’s visit again, among the rest of the excitement and education the show offers!

Though training and education has always been part of NTCA’s charter, NTCA is taking these opportunities to the next level with the Members Only Regional Training Program instituted this year, and the ongoing network of free workshops that crisscross the country. Get a bird’s eye view of these offerings in both our new Training & Education section with Connie Heinlein’s “Riding Shotgun,” and the NTCA University Update story that details our Members Only Regional Training opportunities. 

The respirable crystalline silica issue is not going away, and compliance with OSHA’s recently established regulation safeguards workers’ health – and keeps your operations legal. Learn more about this issue in our Tech Talk section where we view some of the information presented by iQ Power Tools’ Joel Guth during a Coverings conference session.

How lucrative is tile setting anyway, and how does it compare with other trades? Take a look at our Wage Study story in Business Tip. Input and feedback are welcome! 

Finally, our Hot Topics section addresses the next generation of tile setters. Thanks to Dave Clark over at the Global Tile Posse Facebook Group, an interesting discussion recently ensued about teaching offspring the trade – how early do you start, what kinds of tools do you let them use, and the like. Drop in and see how knowledge of our trade is being passed on to the next generation. 

We’re right on the cusp of summer. What major projects do you have on the roster? We’re always looking for great case studies with before/after photography, so if you’ve got something you’d like to crow about, send it to me at the email below!

God bless,
Lesley
[email protected]

Thin Tile – June 2018: Ponder prep before predicting price

By now, hopefully much of the tile industry has been hearing about gauged porcelain tile panels (GPTP) and realize that their installation requires specialized expertise and training as compared to typical large-format tile like 12” x 24” formats. But what’s really involved? 

Recently NTCA Training Director/Trainer/Presenter Mark Heinlein fielded a question about pricing for a 48” x 96” GPTP. While he couldn’t give a figure for such an installation, he did detail what’s involved in the installation and what’s needed as compared to traditional tile. Following is his response:

Installation of GPTP requires specific training on substrate prep, setting material selection and usage, specialty tool usage, material handling, teamwork and timing for successful installations. ANSI A118.19 is the installation standard for this material. It is the standard for every aspect of a successful installation.

Many manufacturers of GPTP team with setting material and tool companies to provide this specific training. NTCA is currently conducting GPTP training for our members in regional locations throughout the U.S. Our next program is coming up in the Chicago area in July. (Visit page 8 of this issue or this link for a calendar of upcoming regional training programs and workshops: https://bit.ly/2JjtEjr)

I strongly encourage any installers looking to work with GPTP to receive training based on ANSI A118.19 before attempting to perform an installation.

As far as pricing a job, items such as: substrate prep; proper mortar selection and use; appropriate specialty tool sets; lippage tuning systems and a well-trained, highly functioning team are required to set these tiles/panels. There is money to be made on these installations, but it takes some significant understanding of the process to determine appropriate pricing. Each job should be approached individually as each one will require very specific substrate preparation, etc.

NTCA’s day-long, member benefit regional training programs are currently training on GPTP, and Substrate Preparation and Large-Format Tile. They always incorporate Tile Industry Standards. In addition to installers, I have had project managers and designers attend these extensive training programs. The information and experience they gain has helped them better understand what their company is getting into on these projects. If you’d like to know more about these programs, contact me at
[email protected].

Stone – May 2018 – Installation – General Information

Installation-General Information:

an excerpt from the Dimension Stone Design Manual

The Natural Stone Institute maintains a Natural Stone Resource library for Architects, Designers and Contractors at this site:  https://bit.ly/2Fxo4mB. There are 274 documents that represent a wealth of information and wisdom to those who work with stone – 101 documents alone that deal with some aspect of stone installation. 

This document, Installation-General Information, is derived from an excerpt from the Dimension Stone Design Manual, Version VIII (May 2016). The included section below references materials and methods for setting a range of natural stone. 


3.0 RELATED MATERIALS

3.1 Setting Bed Mortars

3.1.1 Portland Cement Mortar (Thick Bed)

3.1.1.1 Portland cement mortar is a mixture of portland cement and sand, roughly in proportions of 1:3 for floors, and of portland cement, sand, and lime in proportions of 1:5:½ to 1:7:1 for walls.

3.1.1.2 Installation Methods. Portland cement mortar is suitable for most surfaces and ordinary types of installation. The thick bed, 3/8” to 1-1/2” on walls and nominally 1-1/4” on floors, facilitates accurate slopes or planes in the finished work. There are two equivalent methods recognized for installing stone tile with a portland cement mortar bed on walls, ceilings, and floors:

3.1.1.2.1 The method (ANSI A108.1A) that requires that the stone be set on a mortar bed that is still plastic.

3.1.1.2.2 The method (ANSI A108.1B) that requires the stone to be thin set on a cured mortar bed with dry set or latex portland cement mortar or a two-part, 100% solids epoxy.

3.1.1.3 Suitable Backings Portland cement mortars can be reinforced with metal lath or mesh, backed with membranes, and applied on metal lath over open studding on walls or on rough floors. They are structurally strong, not affected by prolonged contact with water, and can be used to plumb and square surfaces installed by others. Suitable backings, when properly prepared, are brick or concrete masonry unit, concrete, wood or steel stud frame, rough wood floors, plywood floors, foam insulation board, gypsum board, and gypsum plaster. The one coat method may be used over masonry, plaster, or other solid backing that provides firm anchorage for metal lath.

3.1.1.4 Installation and Material Specifications. Complete installation and material specifications are contained in ANSI A108.1 for installation when bed is still plastic, and for cured float bed and thin set applications.

3.1.2 Thin-Set Mortar [Thin Bed (ANSI A118.1)]

3.1.2.1 Thin-set mortar is a mixture of portland cement with sand and additives providing water retention, and is used as a bond coat for setting stone.

3.1.2.2 Installation Methods. Thin-set mortar is suitable for use over a variety of surfaces. The stone should be properly tamped in place into the mortar, which will be one layer as thin as 3/32” after tamping. Thin set mortar has excellent water and impact resistance, can be cleaned with water, is nonflammable and good for exterior work.

3.1.2.3 Thin-set mortar is available as a factory-sanded mortar to which only water need be added. Cured thin set mortar is not affected by prolonged contact with water, but does not form a water barrier. It is not intended to be used in trueing or leveling the substrate surfaces as tile is being installed.

3.1.2.4 Suitable backings. When properly prepared and in sound structural condition, suitable backings include plumb and true masonry, concrete, gypsum board, cementitious backer units, terrazzo, cured portland cement mortar beds, brick, ceramic tile, and dimension stone. Existing control joints including divider strips shall be maintained. Polished, glossy, honed, or smooth backup surfaces shall be roughened by sanding or scarifying. See ANSI A108.01 General Requirements: Subsurfaces and Preparations by Other Trades. 

3.1.2.5 Installation and Material Specifications. Complete installation and material specifications are contained in ANSI A108.5 and A118.1.

3.1.3 Latex-Portland Cement Mortar [Thin Bed(ANSI A118.4)]

3.1.3.1 Latex-Portland cement mortar is a mixture of portland cement, sand, and special latex additives which is used as a bond coat for setting stone tile.

3.1.3.2 Installation Methods. The uses of latex-portland cement mortar are similar to those of thin-set mortar. It is less rigid than portland cement mortar.

3.1.3.3 When latex-portland cement mortar is used to install stone in a wet area that may not thoroughly dry out in use (e.g., swimming pools and gang showers, etc.), it is recommended that the complete installation be allowed to dry out thoroughly (cure) before exposure to water. Consult the thin-set manufacturer for curing instructions. Latexes vary considerably, and the directions of the latex Manufacturer must be followed explicitly.

3.1.3.4 Suitable backings (See 3.1.2.4 above). 

3.1.3.5 Installation and Material Specifications. Complete installation specifications and material specifications are contained in ANSI A108.5 and ANSI A118.4.

3.1.4 Epoxy Mortar (ANSI A118.3)

3.1.4.1 This is a thin bed mortar system employing epoxy resin and epoxy hardener portions. A two-part, 100% solid epoxy is to be used as the setting bed for green colored marbles, serpentine stones susceptible to warping and for any fiberglass mesh-backed tiles.

3.1.4.2 Suitable Backings . Acceptable substrates, when properly prepared and structurally sound, include concrete, APA rated Exposure 1 underlayment grade plywood* , steel plate, and ceramic tile. 

Application is made in one thin layer. Pot life, adhesion, water cleanability before cure, and chemical resistance vary with manufacturer. 

3.1.4.3 Installation and Material Specifications. Complete installation and material specifications are contained in ANSI A108.6 and ANSI A118.3.

3.1.5 Limestone Setting Mortar. Cement used with limestone shall be white portland cement, ASTM C150, or white masonry cement, ASTM C91. Nonstaining cement shall contain not more than 0.03% of water-soluble alkali when determined in accordance with procedure 15, calculation 16 of ASTM C91 or Federal Specification SS-C181C. However, if a large amount of normal cement has been used in the backup material, and if an effective water barrier has not been provided between the stone and the backup, the use of nonstaining cement may not prevent all discoloration. 

Discoloration will disappear as the stone dries. The Indiana Limestone Institute recommends a 1:1:6 (portland:lime:sand) or Type N mortar be used with Indiana Limestone. At the present time, there are few masonry cement mortars produced labeled “nonstaining.”

3.1.6 Setting Bed. White portland cement with low alkali content is required for all light colored stone varieties.

3.2 Grouts Between Stones

3.2.1 Commercial Portland Cement Grout (“Unsanded Grout”)

3.2.1.1 Commercial portland cement grout is a mixture of portland cement and other ingredients, producing a water-resistant, dense, uniformly colored material. There are two types: white and gray. Damp curing is advantageous for both wall and floor types.

3.2.2 Sand-Portland Cement Grout (“Sanded Grout”)

3.2.2.1 Sand-portland cement grout is an on the job mixture of one of the following proportions: one part portland cement to one part clean, fine-graded sand (ASTM C144) used for joints up to 1/8” wide; 1:2 for joints up to 1/2” wide; and 1:3 for joints over 1/2” wide. Up to 1/5 part lime may be added. Damp curing is necessary. Sand-portland cement grout should be applied with caution over softer varieties of stone with honed or polished finishes because it may scratch the stone surface.

3.2.3 Polymer Modified Portland Cement Grout (ANSI A118.7)

3.2.3.1 Polymer modified portland cement grout is a mixture of any of the preceding grouts with polymer admixtures. The common polymer types are latex and acrylic. This grout is suitable for all installations subject to ordinary use and for most commercial installations. The use of polymer additives in portland cement grout increases the flexibility of the grout and reduces the permeability. Consult the grout and polymer manufacturers for specific instructions. It is less absorptive than regular cement grout.

3.2.4 Colored Grouts

3.2.4.1 Many manufacturers offer grouting materials in colors. Architects and Designers find them pleasing for aesthetic reasons. Since some stones are more porous than others, test to determine the stability of the relationship between the colored joint filler and the stone before proceeding. Make certain pigments contained in the colored grout do not stain the stone.

3.3 Sand. Sand should comply with ASTM C144.

3.4 Water. Mixing water must be potable quality.

3.5 Stone Sealants, Backing Rods, and Caulking

3.5.1 Building sealants are normally covered as a separate section in project specifications, and in most trade areas the installation of sealants is not in the trade jurisdiction of Marble Mechanics and Stonemasons. Grouting is almost always in the stone specification.

3.5.2 Silicone Sealants. Some grades of silicone sealants are not recommended by their manufacturers for application on high calcite content materials. Consult the Sealant Manufacturer’s technical recommendation before applying a given sealant to calcite materials.

3.5.3 Severe service areas (patios, decks, traffic surfaces) should be caulked with materials having sufficient abrasion resistance. Consult Sealant Manufacturer’s technical recommendations for sealants in these areas.

3.5.4 Oil based organic sealants should not be used in conjunction with natural stone products because they may stain the stone.

3.5.5 Sealing the Face of the Stone. Nothing in this section is intended to imply that actual sealing of the faces of the stones is a recommended practice. If any sealer coating is specified for any natural stone material, advice should be sought in detail from qualified Stone Suppliers or Installers (See Ch. 3, pg. 3-5, section 5.10). 

3.5.6 Joint Filler. An important feature in the determination of the joint sealant is the selection of the joint filler. The joint filler, or backing rod, performs three functions:

3.5.6.1 Controls both the depth and shape of the sealant.

3.5.6.2 Provides support for the caulking sealant when it is being compressed during tooling.

3.5.6.3 Acts as a bond breaker for the sealant to prevent three sided adhesion. (Three-sided adhesion can result in failure of the sealant.)

3.5.7 Waterproof sealant is applied in joints that have backing rods inserted. The backing rods can be porous (open cell), or nonporous (closed cell), and are typically made of polyethylene or polystyrene rope.

3.5.8 Consult the Sealant, Waterproofing, and Restoration Institute guidelines for further information on proper joint sealant design, selection, and installation.

3.6 Expansion Joints

3.6.1 Design and Location. Expansion and/or movement joints are essential for the success of stone installations. Various methods require proper design and location of expansion joints as shown in “Method EJ171,” from the Tile Council of North America Installation Handbook. [Ed. note: TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation] Because of the limitless conditions and structural systems in which stone can be installed, the Specifying Authority shall show locations and details of expansion joints on project drawings.

3.6.2 Final Design. It is not the intent of this manual to make control and expansion joint recommendations for a specific project. The Architect must specify control and expansion joints and show location and details on drawings.

3.6.3 Sealants. Where so specified, joints shall be pointed with the sealant(s) referred to in this section, after first installing the specified backup material and applying a primer if required, all in strict accordance with the printed instructions of the Sealant Manufacturer.

3.6.4 All sealants shall be tooled to ensure maximum adhesion to the contact surfaces.

3.6.5 Expansion joint sealants include silicone, urethane, and polysulfide. Generally, urethane sealants are recommended for horizontal stone surfaces because of their resistance to abrasion and penetration.

3.6.6 Silicone sealants may be used in expansion joints on both exterior and interior vertical stone surfaces. Some one part, mildew-resistant silicone sealants are formulated with fungicide for sealing interior joints in showers and around tubs, sinks, and plumbing fixtures.

3.6.7 Sealants should comply with ASTM C920.

3.7 Substrate Limitations

3.7.1 Moisture Penetration. The performance of a properly installed stone installation is dependent upon the durability and dimensional stability of the substrate to which it is bonded. The user is cautioned that certain substrate materials used in wet areas may be subject to deterioration from moisture penetration.

3.7.1.1 Wet Areas. “Wet areas” are stone surfaces that are either soaked, saturated, or subjected to moisture or liquids (usually water), e.g., gang showers, tub enclosures, showers, laundries, saunas, steam rooms, swimming pools, hot tubs, and exterior areas.

3.7.2 Self Leveling Underlayments. Gypsum-based and self-leveling underlayments are not recommended for use with stone paving, except in conjunction with an approved water-proofing/crack isolation membrane(See ANSI A118.10-118.12). If using this method, extreme caution in following the Manufacturer’s recommended procedure is required.

3.7.2.1 Installation of stone paving directly over gypsum based underlayment is not recommended.

3.8 Deflection of Surfaces

3.8.1 General Contractor Responsibility. It is the responsibility of the General Contractor to provide a rigid, code-compliant structure that is adequate to accommodate the stone and its anchorage including all associated loads and forces.

3.8.2 Cast-in-Place Concrete Floors. Design substrate for total load deflection not exceeding L/360, as measured between control or expansion joints.

3.8.3 Frame Construction. The subfloor areas over which stone tile is to be applied must be designed to have a deflection not exceeding L/720 of the span. In calculating load, the weight of the stone and setting bed must be considered.

3.8.3.1 Strongbacks, cross-bridging or other reinforcement shall be used to limit differential deflection between adjacent framing members.

3.8.4 Maximum variation of a concrete slab or subfloor shall not exceed 1/8” in 10’ from the required plane when thin set systems are applied.

3.8.5 Allowance should be made for live load and impact, as well as all dead load, including weight of stone and setting bed.

3.8.5.1 Mortar Bed Weight. For estimating purposes, mortar bed weight can be approximated as 0.75 lb. per square foot per each 1/16” of thickness.

3.8.5.2 Stone Weight. For estimating purposes, stone weight can be approximated as 1 lb. per square foot per each 1/16” of thickness.

4.0 SAMPLES

4.1 The Dimension Stone Contractor shall furnish samples of the various dimension stones to be used. Samples shall indicate the extremes of color, veining, and marking the stone supplied to the project will have. Samples must be approved or rejected in their entirety, without stipulation.

4.2 Pending the scope of the installation and the variability of the stone product, a full-sized mockup may be required to adequately demonstrate the range of the material’s color and character.

4.3 Inspection of supplied material to evaluate compliance with approved samples shall be done at a viewing distance of not less than 6’-0” with natural lighting.

5.0 CARVING

5.1 All carving called for shall be performed by skilled workmen in strict accordance with approved full-size details or models. Architectural drawings will show approximate depth and relief of carving. Carving shall be left as it comes from the tool, unless otherwise specified.

6.0 FIELD REPAIR 

6.1 During the progress of construction, changes are often necessary to accommodate other trade and design revisions. These changes may require job site cutting and some finishing of stone, and this can be executed satisfactorily by qualified mechanics. 

6.2 Repair or patching is sometimes necessary due to damage of material either on-site or in transit. By allowing these repairs to be made on-site, progress of the job can be maintained, thus aiding the successful completion of the work. Repairs should not detract from the desired appearance or strength of the completed installation. 

7.0 STONE TILE INSTALLATION REFERENCES. The Natural Stone Institute has participated in the Tile Council of North America’s (TCNA) development of the Handbook for Ceramic, Glass, and Stone Installation. This document is reprinted every year, although the handbook committee meets only biennially, so substantial revisions are likely to appear only biennially. This handbook includes a section dedicated to the installation of stone tile products. The details are not duplicated in the Natural Stone Institute publications. Contact the TCNA (www.tcnatile.com) or the Natural Stone Institute’s Book Store to obtain a copy of the handbook. 

This document also contains information about:

8.0 TRIPS AND TRAPS OCCURRING IN THE INSTALLATION OF NATURAL STONE, including stone tiles with fiberglass mesh backing, green colored stone, travertine voids, sealant staining, efflorescence, down washed lighting, reflection, and polishing wheel marks. To view the complete document, visit https://bit.ly/2HMniEa online. 

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Printed with permission from the Natural Stone Institute. 

*APA – The Engineered Wood Association, Voluntary Production Standard PS 1-07 Structural Plywood.

CardConnect – NTCA Benefits Box – May 2018

A new benefit from NTCA is CardConnect. This credit card payment processing company gives you an easy way to process payments and manage your merchant account.

CardConnect offers best-in-class payments technology to ensure accepting debit and credit card payments is simple, secure and affordable.

NTCA members enjoy a wide range of services from CardConnect at deeply discounted prices. You can easily add secure payment acceptance capabilities into any application, so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to process payments. Card Connect offers developer tools, enterprise solutions as well as ISV integrations, for point-to-point encryption. 

With Card Connect, transactions are protected with highly effective security solutions that ensure PCI compliance. A full range of reporting tools makes keeping track of transactions easy and efficient, from your office or on the road. 

For more information about CardConnect, or about joining NTCA, please contact Jim Olson at [email protected] or phone 601-942-2996. 

Member Spotlight – May 2018 – Rogers Tile Company

Springfield, Mo., contractor values vouchers, technical assistance

Kerry Rogers, in business 40 years, trained NTCA trainer/presenter Robb Roderick as a helper

By Lesley Goddin

Forty years ago, a school-age Kerry Rogers started helping out his dad and granddad in the tile trade, as a way to earn some pocket money and work with his hands at something he enjoyed. This hobby became a profession over the years, as Rogers gained proficiency and helped his family members tile the country’s first Bass Pro Shop and chain restaurants like McDonald’s, KFCs and Burger Kings in the Springfield/Kansas City, Mo., area. 

“I mixed my first bucket of grout in 1969,” Rogers said. “We didn’t have mixing drills – we made our own grout. I didn’t know how to work the tool, and I splashed it up and got it in my eye, and that helped me remember when I first mixed grout!”

After Roger graduated high school, he moved to Arizona in 1980, opening his first company and doing business in the Tempe area. He had his own employees – mostly running a crew of four, which was his sweet spot in being able to keep tabs on quality – but when working on a large hotel project, he had the challenge of maintaining quality while running a 15-man crew.

In 1989, he moved back to Springfield and started the Missouri Tile Company, installing tile at restaurants like Chick-Fil-A, McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Burger King and Popeyes.

It was during this era when he took a tender, young tile helper under his wing – none other than the NTCA’s own trainer/presenter Robb Roderick! 

“In all of my years of helpers, Robb has really stood out as one of the best helpers I ever had,” Rogers said. “He was polite, on time and energetic.” Rogers also trained John Allsbury, who is now Schluter’s Director of Sales, Western Region. 

Missouri Tile Company continued till the dearth of work in 2008 during the recession forced him to shut down and travel the country doing any work he could find, until three years ago when the market improved and he reinvented his business once more as a solo contractor doing residential work, 98% of which is new construction. 

“We sold our big house so I could stop traveling, and find a little work around here until things got better,” Rogers said. “And then we rebuilt a house right next to the old house on six acres, since we loved this area.”

As a solo contractor, Rogers was attracted to the technical support and vouchers that the NTCA offered. Plus, he said, “Robb is a good salesman. Vouchers help out with supplies and 24-hour support is important when I need help and a question answered.” His local setting materials rep also offers great technical support, but the “vouchers, the Handbook and having technical support there when I needed” made it easy for him to decide to join. 

The satisfaction Rogers gets from his work keeps him going, earning a living doing something he enjoys. “I love to go into a place and it’s nothing but a room with sheetrock and when I walk out, it looks fantastic and ready to move into,” he said. “And to watch the smiles on [my customers’] faces and hear what they say even before we are done.”

His four decades of experience also provide a unique perspective over how things have changed. 

“Nothing now is like it was then,” he said. “We made our own grout and floated mud floors…we hardly used any thinset. It’s totally different now, but I get the same result. I think it has changed for the better. It’s safer, it’s neater and cleaner and you can get more done than we did in the old days.” And, he pointed, out, “Showers used to fail all the time. Now I can do 100 showers – and they don’t fail. Showers are changed for the better, and so is the education about how products work.”

Tech Talk – May 2018 – TEC® Products help set a perfect stage for the new Global Learning Center at Walsh University

TEC® Products help set a  perfect stage for the new Global Learning Center at Walsh University

The new Global Learning Center at Walsh University in North Canton, Oh., will truly be a communications hub for students and faculty. The two-story atrium building has an open, modern design to encourage and support maximum interaction. The sunlight-filled facility will house student labs for fast-growing technology-based fields of study such as computer engineering or video production, The Forum – an aptly named space for two of Walsh’s important research institutes – contains an atrium café, meeting areas and more.

The building’s open design incorporates the use of many windows, curved glass railings and round support columns. Stylish large-format tile flooring adds to the modern feel with 30” x 30” and 15” x 30” thin gray tiles covering about 11,000 sq. ft. on both the first and second levels. For an additional 1,000 sq. ft. of tile in the restrooms, sleek 12” x 24” thin panels were selected. 

Distributor Virginia Tile of Cleveland helped ensure that TEC® flooring installation products were specified to meet the unique challenges of the job. With a tight construction timetable and lots of curved columns and curved flooring lines along atrium railings, installation of the Global Learning Center’s large tile panels required special skills. Luckily, Youngstown Tile and Terrazzo (YTT), a NTCA Five Star Contractor, had the skills needed to accomplish this challenging tile installation.

Substrate challenges

When YTT arrived at the Global Learning Center site, they quickly discovered that leveling the substrate would be tough. The new concrete had varying elevations. On the first floor, there were frequent dips and swirls up to 1/2”. On the second level, the concrete changed depth by up to 1-1/2” across a 6’ section. In addition, the many columns and curves added leveling complexity. 

After priming with TEC® Multipurpose Primer, YTT pumped new TEC® Level Set® 300 Self-Leveling Underlayment to correct the variations. Josh Cohol, President of YTT, explained, “The new TEC Level Set 300 created as close to a perfectly flat surface as I’ve seen. We pumped the product and noticed its excellent flow ability to reach around the many columns and follow the curved flooring edges. Even applied at a depth of 2”, it was walkable in just a couple of hours.” Cohol appreciated frequent on-site support from H.B. Fuller Construction Products’ Charlie Renner, Technical Sales Manager, and Ron Sheldon, Technical Services Manager.

To mitigate concerns about cracks migrating up through the large, thin tiles, TEC® HydraFlex™ Waterproofing Crack Isolation Membrane was specified. YTT rolled on the membrane before troweling on the mortar. For the larger expanses, TEC® 3N1 Performance Mortar was used. TEC 3N1 is a lightweight premium mortar with Easy Trowel Technology™ for superior handling and extended open time – appreciated for large spaces and large tiles. 

The Global Learning Center’s round columns required challenging radius tile cuts and a 17° angled layout to follow the column line on the second floor. YTT’s experienced installers successfully navigated through all the challenges with impressive results. For the bathrooms, TEC® Ultimate Large Tile Mortar was used to handle the large tiles on both the floors and walls, where its non-slip and non-slump properties made tiling much easier. 

To finish the dramatic tile installation, YTT grouted with TEC® In-Color™ Advanced Performance Tile Grout. YTT was impressed with how easy it was to grout with the ready-to-use product. TEC In-Color Grout is crack-resistant, stain-proof, and chemical-resistant with no sealing required. In other words, the product was just right for the very large tiles set in the high-traffic spaces of Walsh University’s new Global Learning Center. 

Upon completion of the project, YTT’s Josh Cohol did a walk-around with Charlie Renner, who summed up the quality of the work when he said, “This installation had a lot of challenges, but the tile looks flawless.” 

For more information about the products used at Walsh University, visit www.tecspecialty.com.

©2018 H.B. Fuller Construction Products Inc. 

The 12” x 24” tile on the bathroom floor and walls was installed with TEC® Ultimate Large Tile Mortar.

Technical Feature – May 2018 – Make sure things “pan out”

Make sure things “pan out”

By Dean Moilanen, Director of Architectural Services, The Noble Company


“We are very aware of the various prefabricated foam trays and pans available for shower pan waterproofing, and they are not created equal. Strength and durability of the tile substrate is paramount in our selection process.”

– Michael Lee, Senior Associate, CDC Consultants


Back in the 1940s, when Ray McIntire of Dow Chemical was laboring to create flexible electrical insulation, he could not have foreseen that his efforts would someday evolve into routine tile-setting practices such as prefabricated foam shower pans and other shower waterproofing elements. McIntire’s experiment involved gases directed into heated polystyrene – and a “happy accident” resulted: a product that was 95% air! This product became best known for use in disposable cups, coolers, and packing materials: “Styrofoam” was the end result.

From these humble beginnings, Styrofoam™ (aka EPS or expanded polystyrene foam) is now used extensively in construction, from road building to home building. In the late ‘90s a U.S.-based company and another in Europe started to explore ways in which EPS foam might be used as part of the shower pan waterproofing system.

The practice of using EPS foam as a substrate for tile and stone which functions as a suitable foundation for a shower pan, has grown to become a legitimate alternative (not replacement), to conventional dry-pack mortar substrates. Product offerings have increased as more vendors offer EPS foam shower pans and trays as part of their waterproofing solutions. Their growing use in a variety of residential and commercial applications is driving the demand for a method in which established norms of performance can be determined, (good, better, best), amongst the various offerings.

One of the earliest offerings focused on creating the required “pre-pitch” beneath loose-laid shower pan. EPS foam was prefabricated to create the sloping 1/4” per foot template, and when glued to a laminated/corrugated “shell,” it replaced the traditional dry-pack, pre-pitched mortar bed. The EPS foam pre-pitches were typically offered in a variety of popular shower pan dimensions. A shower pan was loose-laid over the foam template pre-pitch, and a mortar bed was then installed over the shower pan.

Prefab molded EPS trays: scrutinizing performance

By 2002, the next step in the foam shower pan evolution came from Europe, in the form of a molded EPS sloped shower tray onto which a sheet membrane would be directly bonded. Thinset was used to bond both the tray to substrate, and sheet membrane to the foam tray.

As acceptance and popularity of this European offering grew, a number of similar, competitive products were introduced, in some cases offering a significant difference: a waterproof “skin” or membrane, already bonded or adhered to the foam tray by the manufacturer, which eliminated the need for the installer to apply a waterproof membrane. The shower walls still need to be waterproofed according to industry standards.

XPS (extruded polystyrene) has also been introduced as a material solution, with a cementitious/fiber mesh exterior coating on the foam surface. This coating adds a higher compressive strength value to the waterproofing attributes of the foam core. 

Initially, the majority of these products found acceptance and success in the residential, remodeling, and custom home market. These lightweight, prefabricated foam trays/pans reduced installation time, and promised more consistent end results, with regard to slope to drain.

As the ranks of competitors offering these products increased, and scrutiny with regard to product durability and performance intensified, the need for a more codified system of evaluating the products grew. 

Part of this increased scrutiny was also due to heightened marketing and sales efforts for these products on commercial projects such as hotel showers where architectural and design professionals raised concerns about durability, point loading, compression, etc. Currently, there are no ANSI standards, or TCNA installation methods that address the needs of a contractor or architect seeking to ascertain performance variables amongst various foam tray offerings. The primary concerns are focused on these products’ ability to withstand point loading and compression forces that may occur during installation, as well as when the completed wet areas are put into service.

Michael Zafarano, Project Architect, Station Casinos, observed, “Many of the foam pans and trays we review appear to be suited for residential projects, and we question the resilience and compressive strength of some of these products. Our projects demand these types of products will hold up in a demanding hospitality environment on a long term basis.” 

This growing awareness of the need to accurately identify the performance variables that may exist between different available products has not gone unnoticed by the industry. What’s needed is a way to standardize and identify acceptable levels of performance amongst the numerous tray/pan offerings. This would help to erase skepticism that still lingers among some in the design and construction community.

Towards establishment of an ANSI standard

Maribel Campos, Director of Standards, ICC-ES PMG (International Code Council Evaluation Service for Plumbing Mechanical and Fuel Gas), in particular has been a driving force in her efforts to establish an ANSI standard for a “field fabricated tiling kit.” In her previous role at IAMPO (International Association of Mechanical and Plumbing Officials), and in her current position at ICC, she has worked with industry contacts to create an ANSI standard that includes prefabricated foam shower pans/trays as part of the system.

Campos’s efforts have their origin in IAMPO standard PS106, which has a number of test criteria and requirements. Perhaps one of the most critical and scrutinized portions of this standard focuses on the means and methods to evaluate and assign compressive strength and point loading characteristics of these foam trays.

Campos’s efforts to develop an ANSI standard are now part of a committee review for a new ANSI standard for a field fabricated
tiling kit. Elements of IAMPO PS106 are part of a proposed ANSI standard for these products.

As with any proposed ANSI standard, divergent, opinionated, and sometimes differing viewpoints need to come into alignment. While this proposed ANSI standard is a work in progress that is still in committee, all agree there needs to be more work done to finalize standards and methods that ensure the right product for the job is installed the right way.

So, what to do in the meantime? The awareness that some of the foam pans and trays available may have compression/point loading issues, which could impact tile selection, is a good start. Your own survey of the products available might be required to vet the tray or pan that meets your needs: some pans have the waterproofing built in, while others require you to tackle the task. There are also varying methods of pan or tray construction, with reinforced or multilayer systems offering higher compressive strength.

In most parts of the US the concept of an EPS or XPS foam shower pan or tray is viewed as yet another accepted installation method. Whether you are a staunch advocate of this product/method, or just contemplating the concept, it is beneficial to be aware of the issues, concerns, and innovative advances associated with this product in your
installations. 

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