Tech Talk – January 2018

The TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation

By The CTEF Blog

This article is the first of three articles that examine, explore and explain the documents and publications essential to the health of our industry: The TCNA Handbook, the ANSI Standards and the NTCA Reference Manual.

If you spend time with anyone involved in the proper installation of ceramic tile, the TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass, and Stone Tile Installation will be the focal point of the conversation. Why? Because this useful guide assists in clarifying and standardizing installation specifications for tile.

In addition to providing a selection of numbered installation “methods” for differentiating and easy reference, the Handbook includes various product selection guides for ceramic, glass, and stone tiles; guidelines for wet areas; field and installation requirements, and more.

Produced by the Tile Council of North America (TCNA), the TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass, and Stone Tile Installation has been published on a continuous basis since 1963.

Here’s an overview:

First, what is the TCNA?

Tile Council of North America is a trade association representing manufacturers of ceramic tile, tile installation materials, tile equipment, raw materials, and other tile-related products. It was established in 1945 as the Tile Council of America (TCA). In 2003, it became TCNA reflecting how its membership has expanded to include all of North America.

Tile Council is recognized for its leadership role in facilitating the development of North American and international industry quality standards to benefit tile consumers.

Additionally, TCNA regularly conducts independent research and product testing, works with regulatory, trade, and other government agencies, offers professional training, and publishes industry-consensus guidelines and standards, economic reports, and promotional literature.

One of the highlights of the yearly Coverings show is hearing TCNA Executive Director Eric Astrachan review the state of the ceramic tile industry – from an economic perspective as well as from a creative and trend perspective in North America.

TCNA also strongly supports the mission of the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation.

What is the TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass, and Stone Tile Installation?

The TCNA website describes the Handbook as follows:

“A guide to assist in clarifying and standardizing installation specifications for tile. Each installation recommendation, or method, requires a properly designed, constructed, and prepared substructure using materials and construction techniques that meet nationally recognized material and construction standards. Included are: product selection guides for ceramic, glass, and stone tiles; guidelines for wet areas; ISO mortar and grout specifications; information on substrate flatness requirements; information on grout joint sizes and patterns, and workmanship standards excerpted from ANSI installation standards.”

The TCNA Handbook provides installation methods from which to choose, based on the requirements of the installation or the types of applications in which they may be used.

For example, will the tile be installed inside or outside? In a wet area such as a shower or steam room? Or in a dry area such as an entry foyer? Each method includes a generic drawing that shows each component or material required as you can see in the image below, which addresses installing stone floor tile.

How is the Handbook organized?

The TCNA Handbook works hand-in-hand with the ANSI Specifications to provide tile installations that are proven to stand the test of time.

In addition to detailing tile installation methods for ceramic and glass tile and natural stone tile, the Handbook includes:

  • Product selection guides for ceramic tile, glass tile, natural stone tile, setting materials, grout, backer board, membrane, additional products and Green Building
  • Field and installation requirements (i.e., substrate requirements, lighting, mortar and mortar coverage, flatness and lippage, grout joint size and pattern considerations, finished tilework, accessibility and wet areas guidelines)
  • Floor tiling installation guide
  • Environmental exposure classifications
  • Using the TCNA Handbook for specification writing
  • Installer and contractor qualifications guide
  • EJ171 Movement Joint Guidelines for Ceramic, Glass and Stone
  • Appendices and method locators

Each tile installation method details:

  • Recommended uses
  • Service rating
  • Environmental exposure classifications
  • Typical weight of tile installation
  • Limitations
  • Membrane options
  • Requirements
  • Materials (including for Green/Sustainable design)
  • Preparation by other trades
  • Movement joint requirements
  • Installation specifications
  • Notes
The evolution of the TCNA Handbook

The Handbook is truly a living, breathing entity that evolves in lock-step with the tile industry. As new products get introduced – for example, new tile formats and new mortars and tools to support those formats – new installations methods quickly follow to ensure best practices.

As a result, the Handbook has increased in size. A press release detailing changes in the 2017 issue includes the following:

  • The new sections “Tile Layout Considerations” and “System Modularity” are geared more toward those involved in tile selection and design. As an example of the various revisions to Handbook existing language, (Astrachan) noted the further explanation this year of substrate flatness requirements, which (he) calls “essential but too-often ignored.”
  • A prime example is the new Handbook section to address the newer type of steel studs commonly referred to as “equivalent gauge” or “EQ” studs. The new Handbook language helps people understand the most important considerations for avoiding tile problems when these thinner studs are used. Stephanie Samulski, Handbook Committee Secretary and Technical Content Manager, noted that “the specific design criteria that are ultimately needed will likely get hashed out in ANS.”
  • Other noteworthy changes that 2017 Handbook users will see include significantly more information on how to avoid the undesirable effects of wall-wash lighting on tile installations, new “Visual Inspection of Tilework” and “Design Considerations When Specifying Tile” sections, significant changes to the EJ171 movement joint guidelines, and a new method for tiling an exterior deck or balcony over unoccupied space (tile and stone versions).
What makes the Handbook unique?

The Handbook comes to life each year thanks to the Handbook Committee that includes representatives from the entire tile industry and all those touched by the tile industry – backer board, mortar, grout, membrane, tile and more manufacturers, industry associations, standards groups, construction specification groups and regional groups. It’s a balanced assembly of stakeholder voters that comes together to prioritize and address topics of concern.

The TCNA Handbook Committee determines Handbook content through significant group discussion and consensus efforts, and through meetings in person biennially and more frequently in workgroups.

As Astrachan explained, “The Handbook is a vehicle for providing industry consensus, but it’s not a standard and therefore not set up like one, enabling the committee to provide information in non-mandatory language when needed. It’s a particularly useful means of addressing conflicting recommendations or specifications, as can easily occur when a producer or another trade makes a major shift in product or practice in a way that impacts tile installations.”

Proposals for changes, often referred to as “submissions,” are welcome from any individual or organization.

Would you like to become involved in the TCNA Handbook?

All Handbook meetings are open to non-members, who are encouraged to participate in the discussions. If you would like to become involved, you can find meeting dates and locations posted on

January 2018 Feature Story – MAPEI

Anaha® (which means “reflection of light” in Hawaiian) is a magnificent new condominium complex on the island of Oahu. Made of concrete, glass and steel, it is part of the Ward Village master-planned community near Kewalo Harbor in Honolulu. This new luxury high-rise was planned by Howard Hughes Corporation and designed by architects Solomon Cordwell Buenz of Chicago and Ben Woo Architects of Honolulu. The interiors were designed by global design leader Woods Bagot Interiors.

The complex is composed of the Anaha Tower, housing eight residences per floor plus penthouses on Levels 36-38, as well as the Podium townhouses and flats, which occupy the first six floors and extend from the tower. The roof of the Podium (adjacent to the seventh floor of the tower) hosts an amazing selection of indoor and outdoor activity areas, including a cantilevered pool that extends 13 feet beyond the building’s edge and features a glass bottom.

The LEED Platinum building was designed with the environment in mind – harmonizing with sea, sky and mountains. The exterior of the entrance area sports a “living wall” of plants and water elements framed with lava stone veneer that surround tile walkways forming the signature “W” for Ward Village. The interior of Anaha is just as awe-inspiring, with floor-to-ceiling windows that open every residence to views of the Pacific Ocean or the Honolulu skyline. Some expanses even look out toward the historic Diamond Head landmark.

Floor and wall coverings received all manner of treatments, including stone and stone veneer in public areas indoors and out; (at the owner’s option) carpet, wood and tile in living spaces; stone and tile in bathrooms of the residences; and resilient floor coverings in service areas.

The Hawaii branch of A-American Custom
Flooring, Inc. (a member of the Tile Contractors Association of Hawaii), was in charge of all aspects of the tile installations for interior and exterior walls, floors and specialty elements with the exception of the interior tile walls of the pool on the amenities deck. Their installers also handled moisture mitigation work and installation of wood, carpet and resilient floor coverings. A-American worked closely with General Contractor A. C. Kobayashi, Inc., to complete all the aspects of the installations on schedule, including the mega-challenge of zero tolerance in transitions between flooring types.

Zero tolerance transitions moisture mitigation and waterproofing

Anaha’s 236-unit residence tower and 81 townhomes and flats were architecturally designed with a zero tolerance scheme for all finishes in the flooring landscape of the building. From interior to exterior, zero tolerance requirements meant that all transitions could hold no change in height from tile to wood to carpet to resilients, to respect accessibility for disabled persons according to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

This zero tolerance created building and flooring challenges that were met by a wide variety of MAPEI’s concrete repair and flooring installation systems products for construction, surface preparation and floor-covering solutions. The fast-track schedule of the 38-story tower and the six-story podium required coordination and solutions for arising jobsite problems involving moisture mitigation and slab deformation involving post-tension concrete pours.

A-American used MAPEI’s Planiseal VS alkali-resistant, epoxy moisture-reduction barrier for moisture mitigation throughout the complex. Planiseal VS expedites floor-covering installations by eliminating the traditional wait time required for new concrete slabs to reach moisture levels suitable for installations. After the concrete surface was properly profiled, the Planiseal VS was poured to cover each level in the building.

After moisture mitigation, the floors were primed with one of three primers – Primer L, Primer T or ECO Prim Grip – where appropriate. Then the installers selected two MAPEI self-leveling underlayments – Novoplan® 2 Plus and Ultraplan® 1 Plus – to use in appropriate areas in order to produce a smooth, level surface for installing tiles and stone. Both of these products are quick-setting, self-leveling underlayments and repair mixes for interior concrete and engineer-approved floors.

MAPEI’s Mapelastic cementitious membrane was used for waterproofing and protecting exterior horizontal and vertical concrete spaces, while Mapelastic AquaDefense with Reinforcing Fabric, an advanced liquid-rubber, extremely quick-drying waterproofing and crack-isolation membrane, was used on interior surfaces before the tile and stone installations. Mapelastic AquaDefense dries after about 30 to 50 minutes and is then ready to receive any MAPEI polymer or epoxy mortar.

Range of mortars and grouts meet varying project demands

Installation of exterior and interior tile and stone also used a variety of MAPEI’s mortars and grouts. For the ultimate bond, Lava Stone Veneer pavers and curbs surrounding the building were installed with MAPEI’s two-part Kerabond/Keralastic system – a premium dry-set mortar that is combined with a flexible acrylic latex additive.

Where there was a need for speed, the A-American crews used the Granirapid® fast-curing system. Outdoor walls and benches that used Lava Stone Veneer and Cremino Stone Veneer in all sizes from mosaics to large-format tile were also installed with these two systems. All of these installations were grouted with MAPEI’s powerful Ultracolor® Plus FA – an ultra-premium, fine aggregate, fast-setting, polymer-modified, color-consistent, non-shrinking, efflorescence-free grout that can fill joint widths from 1/16” to 3/4”.

In the residences and townhouses, tile and stone played a dramatic role as field tile and accents on floors and walls. Types and brands included Caesarstone for countertops; Atlas Concorde floor tile in Seastone Greige and floor, wall and door accent tiles in Black for residences and public areas; Marmi porcelain wall tile in “Thassos”; Natural Stone Design’s porcelain floor and wall tile in Dark, Basaltina, plus mosaic tiles of the same material for residences and public spaces; Daltile’s quarry tile in Arid Gray for laundry rooms in residences; “Luce Glass” glass wall tile from North Shore for public restrooms; Ann Sacks’ 2” x 8” “INCA” brushed aluminum tiles for kitchen backsplashes; stone tiles in travertine, basalt, tundra stone and granite; “Nublado Light” and “Walnut Brown” wall base tiles from Stone Source; and many additional tile and stone selections that were optional for residents at time of purchase.

All interior tile and stone was installed with MAPEI’s thixotropic mortar, Ultraflex™ LFT. This mortar has a high content of unique dry polymer, resulting in excellent adhesion to the substrate and tile and is formulated with Easy Glide Technology™ for ease of application. Both wall and floor tiles were grouted with Keracolor® S (sanded) and Keracolor U (unsanded) grouts from MAPEI’s grout color collections. The quarry tiles in laundry rooms and in the kitchen and prep rooms on the Amenities level were grouted with Kerapoxy CQ. This grout uses a proprietary aggregate to achieve its durable color, making it excellent for countertops, high-traffic areas, and areas needing stain and chemical resistance. Easy to maintain, Kerapoxy CQ will clean to the original color and contains BioBlock® technology to help protect against mold and mildew.

High anxiety?

The A-American installers performed exceptionally well with the many different types of installations in many different parts of the project, but they truly excelled on the installation of the tile on the inside and outside of the cantilevered leisure/lap pool extension on the Amenities level. Working on a crane that lifted them seven stories into the air, the crew set sheets of black glass mosaic tiles on the interior and exterior sides of the glass-bottomed portion of the pool that extends 13 feet out from the building. They used MAPEI’s Adesilex P10 bright white, multipurpose thin-set mortar formulated with non-sag properties to set the tiles. The Adesilex P10 was mixed with Keraply for increased performance in a submerged installation. After removing the protective cover sheets, the tiles were grouted with Ultracolor Plus FA.

A total of 40 different products supplied by MAPEI – from substrate preparation to installation of all types of finished flooring – allowed the owners, architects, general contractors and installers, the peace of mind of sourcing all their needs from a single manufacturer to create a true island beauty.

Business Tip – January 2018

Cyber Insurance: can you afford to ignore it?

If you’re in business, here are five reasons why you really do need cyber insurance

By Marc Rosenkrantz, Schechner-Lifson Corporation

Think identity theft and cyber crime can’t happen to you? Think again. Read on for reasons cyber insurance protects you, your business and your customers.

1. Everyone has and uses a computer

Cyber insurance (also known as cyber liability insurance) was unheard of 15 years ago. Today, it’s as necessary as worker’s comp. If you lived in a flood plain would you not purchase flood insurance?

If you rely on a computer – in any way – to run your business, you need cyber insurance. Consider what would happen if your computer was hacked, and someone gained access to the private information of all of your customers, including their credit card details? Even if you do not do credit card transactions, your data is at risk.

The fallout could put any operation out of business, which is especially scary given hacking is a significant and real risk.

2. You don’t have an IT department or a risk management team

Big corporations can have whole departments dedicated to creating policies and action plans, which deal with potential risks, including cyber crime. If you’re a small or even a medium-sized business, chances are you don’t have a risk management team.

A good cyber insurance policy bridges the gap for businesses that don’t have the luxury of a risk management team. Many carriers offer preventive guidelines and services that will help reduce the chance of a cyber attack. In addition, they will be there to provide the necessary people and specialists and more importantly supply the funds should you have a breach.

3. Your general liability policy will not cover cyber crime

Most general liability policies do not include losses incurred due to the Internet. A comprehensive cyber insurance policy fills this important gap.

You might be wondering why a general liability policy doesn’t cover you for cyber-related injury. A general liability policy covers your legal liability for 3rd party property damage and personal injury. This means someone needs to be identified as responsible for the loss, and some physical damage needs to occur.

As electronic data is not considered to be “physical property”, it cannot be physically damaged. Cyber insurance offers tailored coverage for your business for 1st party and 3rd party losses, breaches to the Privacy Act and loss of profits following the insured event.

4. You may be responsible for data, even if you use a 3rd party cloud provider

If you have information stored on a cloud database, you may be surprised to know that in many cases, you are still legally responsible for how this information is handled.  Your 3rd party vendor has very little protection for you, and at the end of the day it is your responsibility to get a problem fixed and pay for the damages.

This is why it is important to read the fine print of your cloud hosting contracts. If you do find that your cloud provider is not responsible for mistakes or breaches to your data, at least you are protected.

5. It’s affordable

Securing a cyber liability policy doesn’t have to break your budget. With the right broker, such as NTCA Affiliate Member Schechner Lifson Corp., and partner insurers, you can secure affordable coverage that will provide the level of protection that is needed in today’s fast-paced world.

In fact, Schechner Lifson Corp., has been helping NTCA members for years for cyber security issues and a range of other business-related issues as well. For instance, Marci Miller of Infinity Floors recently praised the work of this company and its staff:

“I have been a member of NTCA for several years,” Miller said. “We take advantage of our annual rebates, we learn from the newsletters and TileLetter, on a few occasions we have even called and spoken with someone for technical support regarding installation.

“Recently we experienced the most valuable benefit of all. We were having a terrible issue with our workman’s comp – that is a problem that can cripple any tile contractor,” she added. “We had a broker who was completely useless and refused to help. I contacted NTCA to see if there was a comp policy or agency available to members. I was given the name of Schechner Lifson Corp. I called and was put in contact with Roseanne Gedman. We stayed with the same insurer, but had Schechner Lifson become our broker. Roseanne has worked with me and has been amazing! They are extremely professional and understand the market and the client’s needs. I highly recommend them to all NTCA

Schechner Lifson Corporation is a large regional insurance and financial company, based in New Jersey. Its mission is to provide superior insurance and financial services to customers through a diverse, highly creative and intellectual staff of over 40 associates who have the unique capacity to deliver a total insurance and investment program to customers. As both broker and agent, Schechner Lifson Corporation writes all forms of property and casualty coverage, life and group insurance, supplemental compensation plans, business continuation programs and qualified plans. For more information, contact Marc Rosenkrantz, CRM, CIC, AAI, President, Schechner Lifson Corporation, (w) 908-598-7813, (c) 973-766-3914 or email
[email protected]

Ask the Experts – January 2018


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


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

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

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

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

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

I hope this helps.

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Robb Roderick, NTCA Trainer/Presenter


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

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

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

The Tile Council of North America (TCNA) has the new standards available on its website for electronic download and it is taking pre-orders for a limited-edition hard copy. You can find the information to purchase an electronic version or reserve your hard copy on the TCNA website or

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

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

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

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

President’s Letter – January 2018

Respirable crystalline silica – get ready for the new OSHA regulations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep on tiling!

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

Editor’s Letter – January 2018

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

Happy new year, NTCA members!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God bless,

[email protected]

Members only: NTCA Regional Training Program schedule set for 2018

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

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

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

The curriculum will address either of the following topics:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Qualified Labor – December 2017

Cersaie’s “Tiling Town” showcases qualified labor

By Chris Woelfel, Contributor

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

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

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

Tiling Town at Cersaie is dedicated solely to installation.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


Several workshops focused on large panel tool use.

Tiling Town displays proper installation

NTCA President Martin Howard examines thick tiles on display. 

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

A designer visiting Tiling Town examines the installation process.

Tech Talk – December 2017

Have you added tile edge protection to your installation project?

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

By Scott Carothers,
CTEF Director of Certification
and Training

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

Thinking about protecting tile edges is a perfect example.

What is tile edge protection?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t skip the little details!

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

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

To provide a pleasing transition to the adjacent floor finish

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

Lack of edge protection means chipped tile

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

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

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

Consider exacerbating conditions

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

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

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

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

Proactive input eliminates problems

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

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

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

Certification signals your commitment to details like tile edge protection

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

Do it right the first time and get paid accordingly. Visit for details.

Business Tip – December 2017

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

By Daniel A. Dorfman,

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

Case study

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lessons learned 

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

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


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

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

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