April 2018 Feature – Merkrete Systems

Theatre is considered a collaborative form of fine art that uses live performers to present the experience of a real or imagined event before an audience in a specific place, often a stage. The performers may communicate this experience to the audience through combinations of gesture, speech, song, music, and dance.

In a project where collaboration is the name of the game, each and every detail, no matter how large or small, makes all the difference in the final presentation – or the final act. The Engelstad Shakespeare Theatre in Cedar City, Utah, celebrated its opening night on July 7, 2016 and the collaborative efforts of all involved shaped the debut into a resounding success.

An open-air space, The Engelstad Shakespeare Theatre is reminiscent of Elizabethan theaters but with modern amenities and technology. As the symbolic home of the Utah Shakespeare Festival (USF), it features plays by Shakespeare and other playwrights whose works are appropriate for its outdoor Elizabethan-inspired architecture.  It is also used for educational programming for Southern Utah University. 

The new outdoor Engelstad Shakespeare Theatre is the centerpiece of Southern Utah University’s $39 million Beverley Center for the Arts (named for the late philanthropist Beverley Taylor Sorenson), which also houses USF’s new 200-seat Eileen and Allen Anes Studio Theatre and the $8 million Southern Utah Museum of Art.  The arts complex, built around the existing Randall L. Jones Theatre, spreads across two city blocks. Theater company facilities include a new ticket office, administrators’ offices, costume and scenic shops and rehearsal halls, as well as company dressing rooms and a multiplicity of patron restrooms.

Developed in collaboration between Big D Construction, NTCA Five Star Contractor Superior Tile & Marble, and Blalock & Partners, the theater seats approximately 921 and is named for the Ralph J. and Betty Engelstad family, which was a major donor toward the building.  

Vision and functionality come together

Blalock and Partners teamed with Brooks + Scarpa, and Coen + Partners to create the new arts campus, which includes the new USF facility, the new Southern Utah Museum of Art (SUMA), and the existing Randall Jones Theater. The three buildings are connected by an intricate landscape design inspired by medieval gardens of England and France. The new Engelstad theater pays respect to the old Adams Theatre in its overall configuration, yet adds a touch of refinement and modernism in its execution.

The exterior tile and stone installations throughout the building perfectly match this high-class, theatrical aesthetic, as each piece was masterfully chosen and strategically placed for an extra touch of glamour and ensured functionality.

When Superior Tile & Marble was approached by Big D Construction to supply the high-performing materials they required, Superior knew they’d need a trusted and top-quality installation system to ensure a job well done. Upon reviewing the scope of the project, all answers pointed definitively to Merkrete, a leader in waterproofing, crack-isolation and setting-materials technology. 

Superior’s work on the exterior of SUU’s Shakespeare Theatre consisted of over 15,000 sq.ft. of bush-hammered granite, 2,000 sq. ft. of 6” thick cubic granite, and almost 1,800 sq.ft. of mechanically anchored granite. Due to the exceptionally harsh weather, Superior partnered with Merkrete for versatile and high-performing installation products they can trust.

A versatile solution fastens the deal

The stone cladding provided elegance and durability on the walls and entryway to the building. “For those types of exterior installations, we generally use Merkrete’s 200/211 System,” said Casey Stewart, Superior Project Manager. “This easy-to-use, two-part system has excellent physical properties in adhesion, resiliency, water resistance, and shock and weather resistance.” 

Operations Manager Todd Robinson added, “The 200/211 System from Merkrete has excellent results when used in challenging exterior facade installations. For many projects, particularly this one, we relied on Merkrete for their technical expertise.”

Because of the size and thickness of the stone (up to 24” x 36” x 1” thick), Superior needed a versatile product that could address several specific needs at the same time: a high-performing adhesive product that will stand up to the extreme weather conditions and also double as a grout. Since both Robinson and Stewart have experience with Merkrete’s Integra, an all-in-one thinset and grout product, he knew Merkrete could assist with a solution.

Merkrete’s Sales Representative on the job, Railin Hunt, said, “I immediately knew that Merkrete’s 200/211 System could be modified in color and would be the perfect product for these requirements. Its flexibility allows it to perform as a grout and the color could be matched to the jobsite requirements. You don’t usually get that in a single product.” 

This solution was tested and perfected prior in another Superior Tile & Marble installation when the term, “The Lombard Method” was coined because the walls were spread with the adhesive, then mortar was placed on two sides of each tile and set, similar to the methods of striking brick. 

Merkrete proved the perfect match for a specific challenge again, considering the strength of the mortar it called for. “We used large and heavy natural stone, which requires a mortar with a super-high bondability that can handle the weight of the panels,” said Robinson. Hunt added, “Merkrete 200/211 System is a two-component, multi-purpose, polymer-modified setting adhesive for installing extra-large-format porcelain, ceramic tile and natural stone for both floors and walls, and can be used as thin- or medium-bed setting adhesive for stone. Merkrete proved it could hold its weight, eliminating the need for different grout products and allowing Superior the versatility it required.”

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night…

Part of the challenge in this project involved extreme weather. It was critical that Superior chose a company who would be able to get the products delivered when required and the job completed on time. Merkrete is a member of ParexGroup, one of the largest companies and a worldwide leader in tile setting materials, façade finishes and technical mortars, established in 22 countries with 68 manufacturing plants and over 4,100 employees. “Merkrete was perfect for this project’s requirements, because we have plants and distribution centers all over the country, so our turnaround time and ability to get customized products there quickly were no problem,” said Hunt. 

The Festival now plays to over 110,000 patrons who view nearly 300 plays each year in three theaters over a 16-week season. Each year the Festival produces eight or nine professional plays. In keeping with its mission to entertain, enrich, and educate its audiences, the Festival also offers a variety of activities such as orientations, literary and production seminars, classes, workshops, and backstage tours – making it a true destination theater, and one of Utah’s cultural treasures.

Best Practices – Evaluating bid opportunities

President’s Letter – April 2018

Last month we talked about best practices for estimating. This month, let’s look at procedures that can help us reduce estimating costs, making us more focused and profitable. 

As we all know, our trade is often price-driven when that’s all the homeowner or a general contractor wants to consider. Rather than joining the rush to the bottom by competing on price alone, look at your company and evaluate its strengths in your marketplace. 

Now let’s take a closer look at one of the common practices of companies that are high-performing “Best in Class” contractors and take the challenge of joining them: evaluating bid
opportunities.

Keep in mind the 80/20 rule: most of your profit is probably coming from a smaller segment of all your projects. Begin looking at projects and evaluating their compatibility with your strengths. Let’s face it, some types of projects are a breeze and some are a struggle from day one. All that’s needed is to begin to move away from those that seem to always be a challenge. The three largest components of this filtering process are easy to follow.

  • Determine what market segments hit your sweet spot. Is it new residential or remodel? Is it custom homes or tract homes? If you’re in the commercial area, is retail up-fit and restaurant your best fit or office and institutional? 
  • Determine your best geographic range and project size. If your team is not designed for a continuous flow of out-of-town work, then you should keep them close to home most of the time or suffer the consequences of high turnover and low margins. I’ve seen the advertising pitch, “No Job Too Small or Too Big” many times. If you can make the same profit margin on a $2,000 and a $1,000,000 job, you are a unique company. Yet you should still ask yourself the question, “Where in this range do I most often make the most margin?” That’s the range where you should focus
    your efforts.
  • Determine your best customers. Simply identify which customers you almost always make profit working with and which ones you frequently lose money working for. This is simple and easy to figure out, and you can probably name the good customers off the top of your head. All you need to do now is stop working for those that cost you money on every job.

Analyze your approach to business and see if you are scattering your resources or homing in with laser-like focus. If you scatter your resources aiming at everything that moves, you will sell less and efficiency in your organization will only be a dream. The more focused you can be in directing your job procurement efforts, the more efficient and effective the results, with a higher return on investment.

The goal is to know your strengths as much as possible and put yourself in position to capitalize on them more frequently. This requires some analysis and study of where you have been in the last year or two so that you can chart a course toward higher profitability, team morale and success. This is a trait of “Best in Class” contractors. My goal is to help every NTCA member raise the bar in professionalism, craftsmanship and integrity to become more successful.

Keep on tiling!

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

TileLetter brings information that makes day to day operations successful

Editor’s Letter – April 2018

“The spring wakes us, nurtures us and revitalizes us. How often does your spring come? If you are a prisoner of the calendar, it comes once a year. If you are creating authentic power, it comes frequently, or very frequently.”  Gary Zukav


By now, hopefully, weather has stabilized around the country, and the folks on the east coast who have been battling nor’easter after nor’easter are reaping the benefits of all that moisture in beautiful buds and blooming flowers and all of the glories of spring.

The tile industry is also reaping the benefits of budding ideas and emerging products. In this issue, you’ll read a summation of an in-depth paper on gauged porcelain tile panels that TCNA’s Bill Griese and Crossville’s Noah Chitty presented in Spain at the Qualicer 18 conference. This Tech Talk selection updates you on the evolution of GPTP and the standards that now guide successful manufacturing and installation of these products. 

Our product section in this issue presents a new crop of tile and accessory materials that blossomed at the TISE West/Surfaces show in Las Vegas in January. Many of these were shared on the TileLetter and National Tile Contractors Association Facebook pages during the show (so stay tuned to those social media outlets for the upcoming Coverings show), but we’ve gathered a sampling of them here, for the convenience of reading in print. 

In NTCA University Update, Becky Serbin has presented a number of testimonials from students who have taken the first wave of apprentice courses. Her article demonstrates how these courses are being used for personal enrichment and also for overall training within a company.

It’s no surprise that tile sizes are growing (and shrinking, but that’s a different story) and that large-format product is here to stay. In our Large-Format section, we present three case studies of challenging large-format installs and how the NTCA member contractors – all of whom are Certified Tile Installers or employ them in their crews – obtained high-quality, high-performance results. 

In Hot Topics, we again go to the field to present the follow-up to our February exploration of dealing with substandard tile. We explore suggestions for avoiding problems with tile that doesn’t comply with the manufacturing standards and that is sure to cause headaches if installed. 

We present information that makes your day to day operations successful, but what about when you are ready to retire? Read Vincent Mastrovito’s Business Tip story about wisely planning for your exit, and clearing the path of any obstacles that might interfere with you taking your leave.

Hopefully content this month will give you food for thought. Have opinions about what you are reading, or even suggestions for future articles? Feel free to pen a letter to the editor and send it to me at [email protected] We’re always willing to give respectful discussion a voice!

God bless,

Lesley

[email protected]

Installation companies applaud benefits of NTCA University online courses

I am always asked how people are using the online NTCA University courses, how they like the courses, what type of feedback I am hearing, etc. So this month I reached out to 10 companies for feedback. With everyone’s busy schedules, I didn’t hear back from everyone but here is the feedback that I did receive.


“We are excited that the finisher courses on NTCA University are 100% complete. We have made the training a part of our orientation process as well as making it available to our existing employees. It is a great tool to introduce new hires to the trade, as well as a great supplement to the hands-on training existing employees are already receiving. We have also assigned some of the training to our showroom sales team to increase their knowledge of product and processes that are used in the field. We believe that continuing education is what sets us apart. The feedback from the team has been very positive.”

Sally Perez,
Human Resource Director,
Visalia Ceramic Tile, Inc.


“At Hawthorne Tile we’ve been really excited about the NTCA University. We feel that education is the most valuable asset we can pass on to our employees. I’m in charge of the education of our apprentices, and being able to customize the courses we have them take based on both skill set and the projects that they’ll be working on has been really helpful. I’ve been going through taking courses myself and have been very impressed with the thoroughness of each course. There is valuable information on there for everyone, from the day-one apprentice to management. This is something our trade has been lacking and I’m excited to see it come to fruition.”

Ryan Willoughby,
Project Foreman,
Hawthorne Tile


“I subscribe to NTCA University because we started this business just over a year ago and, well, – let’s face it – we had A LOT to learn. We joined the NTCA, as I am a big believer in following procedures and standards and want to leave my customers with the peace of my mind that I do indeed know what I’m doing and deserve to get the prices I quote.

“I’m currently taking Tile Standards, Just in Time and Cleaning Agents and Maintenance. I love the courses! Educational, cost effective, and convenient. Just one of the benefits this offers tile installers: an opportunity to actually learn how to do things the ‘right way.’ This only makes you better at your job.”

Tracey Guile,
Flawless Floorz


Since Flawless Floorz is new to NTCA, I reached out further to ask what types of courses she may need. And Tracey’s response was, “I have not looked through the course list in detail but one of the biggest problems I have is estimating, so I’d like a guideline to follow from measurement to preparing the estimate. Also, how to deal with all the online ‘find a (fill in the blank)’ services they have everywhere.” This is the type of feedback that I need from all members. In fact, the Training and Education Committee is working on courses for estimating that will be published soon.

To purchase your subscription, you can visit the NTCA store at https://tile-assn.site-ym.com/store/ListProducts.aspx?catid=490398 or  http://bit.ly/2taYmOO to make your purchase. If you have any questions or ideas of courses that we should have available, please give me a call or send me an email. 770-366-2566 or [email protected]

Trio of contractors shares large-format tile-setting successes


For our Large-Format Tile section this month, we take a look at three individual jobs that utilized large-format tile, and we explore the procedure and materials needed to achieve a quality, high-performance, long-lasting job. All contractors are NTCA Members, and all either are themselves Certified Tile Installers, or employ them in their crews. 


Charles Nolen, Carpet Corner of Indiana

This 1,500-sq.-ft. job by Charles Nolen for Carpet Corner of Indiana utilized 30” x 30” large-format porcelain tile from Atlas Concorde’s Brave line at the Lilly Company in downtown Indianapolis. 

To get a level floor, the three-person crew used a diamond-head grinder to open the pores in the slab, then Nolen – a Certified Tile Installer since 2016 – said they shot it with a 360-degree laser to find the lowest point. They then gridded the floor in 4-ft. sections, and placed a pin at every intersection of chalk lines. Pins were trimmed to the lowest level height measurement, and a special solvent-free, acrylic primer was poured, followed by a self-leveling underlayment to the determined height, assuring a “dead level and perfectly flat floor.” 

The crew – Nolen, along with his son Caleb Nolen and Reece Stepler – used expansion foam around the perimeter of the room, and applied three coats of a topical crack-isolation membrane. Only then were the 30” x 30” tiles installed with a multi-use, polymer-fortified adhesive mortar to “achieve a flawless tile assembly that will stand the test of time,” Nolen said. 

Erin Albrecht, M.Ed., J&R Tile

“We are especially proud” of this design build at Trinity University that features Florida Tile Level 10 HDP-High Definition Porcelain 18” x 36” in Pearl Atrium installed with a 1/8” joint, said Eric Albrecht, M.Ed., of J&R Tile.

The project was a total $8 million renovation. J&R saved the client “loads of money on an epoxy grout spec, and the [originally] speced tile was thicker, smaller and more expensive,” she added.

J&R’s  Adam Arrellano, who holds CTI and Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers credentials, was the working foreman on this project and also was responsible for the layout and design. He centered and balanced the tile with no less than 1/2” the cut per industry standards. Tile was installed with large-format tile adhesive and two-component 100% solids epoxy grout on a 1/8” joint. J&R utilized a lippage tuning system to achieve desired lippage tolerances.

The cinderblock substrate was waterproofed with two coats of liquid-applied waterproof over concrete masonry units (CMU). J&R used deck mud and custom floating for positive drainage to over 20 integrated bonding flanges to achieve point drainage. Florida Tile’s  2” x 2” mosaic hex was also installed on floors, and  extruded aluminum profiles were chosen as an elegant cost-saving solution instead of bullnose and sanitary cove.

Robert Davis, Davis Solutions

Robert Davis, owner of Davis Solutions in Lebanon, Oregon, shared this recent shower project. “It was  a lot of fun to have free rein with design.”

The tile is 14”x 28” ceramic from Love Ceramics. “Big tiles mean perfect prep,” he said. This included lightweight, extruded polystyrene core waterproof board walls that were wet-shimmed with high-performance, rapid-set, rapid-dry mortar with extended open time and build characteristics, which allowed the crew to run screws and sealant after lunch. The curb is built from 2” x 4” x 8” concrete block with the same mortar, and the top has a mortar screed so the topical waterproofing is pitched in.

The pan is a divot float of floor mud waterproofed with rapid waterproofing/crack-isolation liquid membrane and mesh reinforcement.

Tile is set in lightweight, non-sag mortar designed to accommodate large-and-heavy tile, and grouted using specialized cement grout, with silicone caulk at all changes of plane.

Davis noted that all straight cuts were made on a Montolit Masterpiuma 93p3, and edges broken with a diamond hand pad. The L-cuts around the niche and the miters on the curb were made on a wet saw.

Hex scribe layout is full tile at the ceiling. While marking it, Davis checked the distance between points to ensure the pattern wasn’t drifting. Cuts were done with a Metabo grinder and a respirator, edges eased on a variable speed.

“I cut the scribes in full tiles and then ripped them on the cutting board, and you’d better believe I held my breath while I made those scratch cuts,” he said.

Trims were fabricated on a 10” chop saw with a non-ferrous metal cutting blade. Erick Hendricks handled all the trim work, including the niches.“The shelves in the niche are what we’ve taken to calling the ‘miter sandwich’ – three mitered pieces fabbed from one piece of field tile so the grain wraps,” he said.

The right hand niche in the project is in an exterior wall, so Davis hung 2” polystyrene waterproof backer board walls on the sub-siding as a thermal break. 

“The exterior wall precluded framing modification, so that niche’s placement dictated vertical layout,” Davis said. “Also, the tiles above and below the right niche are ripped so there would be no slivers or L-cuts. That focal niche was very important to the client, so we built the entire shower around it.”

The entire installation took Davis and Hendricks five and a half crew days.

“I love setting tile,” Davis said, “and I am truly blessed to have the opportunities tile is offering.”

Benefits Box – April 2018 – Insperity

Insperity System Integrator Program: a new HR solution from NTCA

Business challenges have HR solutions. Insperity®, a trusted advisor to America’s best businesses for more than 31 years, provides an array of human resources and business solutions designed to help improve business performance. Insperity® Business Performance Advisors offer a comprehensive suite of products and services. Insperity delivers administrative relief, better benefits, reduced liabilities and a systematic way to improve productivity through its premier Workforce Optimization® solution. 

Additional company offerings include Human Capital Management, Payroll Services, Time and Attendance, Performance Management, Organizational Planning, Recruiting Services, Employment Screening, Financial Services, Expense Management, Retirement Services and Insurance Services. Insperity business performance solutions support more than 100,000 businesses with over 2 million employees. With 2017 revenues of $3.3 billion, Insperity operates in 68 offices throughout the United States.

The partnership between Insperity and NTCA provides preferred member pricing on select Insperity® HR solutions.  As an NTCA member company, you can customize your back office from the many products and services Insperity offers. Visit http://bit.ly/2HPDyF3 and scroll down to learn more about Insperity while exploring member benefits on the NTCA Why Join? For information about membership, contact Jim Olson at [email protected]. 

Member Spotlight – Gemini Home Remodeling – April 2018

Third generation tile setter carries on a tradition of quality and artistry

Gemini Home Remodeling
Yardley, PA

Jon Vanarthos started Gemini Home Remodeling three years ago with one additional employee, specializing in mostly residential remodels. Building from the ground up, today, the company has more manpower to provide the highest possible quality while meeting industry standards. 

“As the owner and CEO, I try to incorporate something different from ‘the run of the mill contractors’,” Vanarthos said. That ranges from crafting his own bullnose for jobs, mitering edges, or hand scribing in designs.

Vanarthos grew up around tile, since his grandfather and father had a tile shop located in Kennett Square, Pa. “I remember going on jobs with my grandfather, passing him tools and cleaning his trowels as soon as he put them down,” he said. “Every summer I was working, learning a trade that I never knew would turn into my passion. I named my company Gemini Home Remodeling in memory of the two role models in my life, considering they passed away over a decade ago.”

Vanarthos has set the bar high for his business. “Each day I strive to gain as much knowledge as possible and utilize what I’ve learned to be a better contractor,” he added. “I am not only the owner, but the designer and installer on all jobs to assure each and every client’s dreams comes true.”

Gemini Home Remodeling is doing something right, with all its work coming from word of mouth without any type of advertisement.

In February 2017, Vanarthos decided to join NTCA after attending a NTCA Workshop presented by Mark Heinlein. “After talking with him for 10 minutes, I knew there was a whole other world of knowledge out there I was missing,” he said. The greatest value of being a NTCA member, he said, is “the knowledge gained from this industry – all of the help and support provided by this vast industry to be successful.” What drives Vanarthos to do quality work every day? “The joy of knowing I am carrying along the family tradition keeps me pushing forward every day to better myself as a tile installer,” he said. “Every year I set the bar higher for myself and my employees. I am not only pursuing a passion for myself but I am also providing joy to those who trust in my work to redesign their homes.”

Hot Topics: Substandard Tile, Part 2

By Lesley Goddin

In part 1 of our Hot Topics story on substandard tile in February, we looked at the struggles tile contractors and setters had with substandard tile and shared a bulleted list of suggestions to address these challenges. 

In this installment, we look at these suggestions in more detail, some of them together, since they logically are part and parcel of the same process:

Understand the standards, and know the TCNA Handbook

Mark Heinlein

Mark Heinlein, NTCA Training Director, Trainer/Presenter, and formerly a contractor in his own right, points to standards as the first line of defense, calling them the “alphabet soup of organizations and publications that guide our industry.”

The two to be most concerned with are: ANSI 137.1, the manufacturing standard for ceramic tile; and ANSI A108, the installation standard for ceramic tile that defines specifications for substrate flatness, maximum allowable lippage, grout joint size and other installation components, Heinlein said. And the TCNA Handbook contains the methods, details and best practices for installing ceramic and stone tile in dozens of applications.

Though these standards and methods are not law nor REQUIRED to be used, they are “highly regarded standards for tile industry materials and installations and hold up as such in courts of law,” he said. They work better when used in tandem.

“Here is my point: a certain tile may not meet some or all of the ANSI A137.1 specifications,” he said.“If it doesn’t meet certain specifications, it is going to be difficult for the installation contractor to meet the requirements of ANSI A108.” Heinlein observed that though these standards and specs are designed to help the contractor, many times they are unknown or ignored, much to the contractor’s peril if the installation is called into question. 

Woody Sanders

Woody Sanders of D.W. Sanders Tile & Stone Contracting in Marietta, Ga., takes the standards seriously, engaging in ongoing study of industry documents and publications including A137, the TCNA
Handbook
and the MIA Dimensional Stone Design manual. “Understand it is a voluntary standard, so educating your client to use an A137 tile is just like educating them on why they need to use qualified labor,” he said. 

Don’t buy the tile yourself

Sanders also shared a strategy that works well for his company: “In our business model we work hard not to buy the tile or stone product. This is and will always be a hot topic but we do not have a showroom and our bidding strategies are different than others. We are a unique labor force whose focus is on tile and stone installation.  We focus on billable service items, like delivery of tile. If a tile selected and furnished by others is out of spec or is not suitable, we work hard to find a resolution to our customer’s best interest, at the same time charging them for having to move the tile around or work on the resolution.”

Work with reputable distributors; order extra and do mockups 

These two suggestions go hand-in-hand, along the lines of the proverb “Trust God and tie up your camel.” It’s great to trust that things will work out when you work with a reputable vendor, but it’s also wise to hedge your bets. 

It is a no brainer to work with distributors you can trust. Even so, you may wish to inspect the tile when you pick it up. Sanders said, “I review lot numbers and calibers to see that they match or look at a few cases of stone if at all possible.” But he is clear that he is not the quality control on the manufacturer or distributor – and quality is THEIR job. 

“That said, we work and have developed relationships with our vendors [so they understand] that we are not crying wolf,” he said. “We are looking for a quick and as painless resolution for all. But an uninstalled

Jeremy Waldorf

tile is their problem. This is why we order extra and do mock ups in some cases on new tiles we have not seen before.”

Jeremy Waldorf, Legacy Floors in Howell, Mich., said, “It’s not truly possible, in my experience, to safeguard against substandard tile by going to the distributor and inspecting the tile in advance. The warehouses aren’t really set up like that, and even if they were there are way too many selections and not enough time. Often you can’t tell there’s something wrong until your layout runs off, you start seeing excessive lippage, or tiles start breaking funny while you’re cutting them.” 

Bradford Denny

Bradford Denny, Nichols Tile & Terrazzo, Joelton, Tenn., added, “We greatly rely on our distributors to be looking out for the quality of the materials. If we can’t install it, they really can’t sell it. Additionally, it is a huge help when they educate the consumers in advance about the importance
of choosing tiles that meet
standards.”

Stay ahead of the job; request technical information before starting a project when working with unfamiliar suppliers or owner-supplied material; and clarify that numbers for the project are based on it meeting standard

Staying ahead of the job means having everything you need at your disposal to launch into the project full speed ahead. As the subhead says, that means ensuring you have technical information on the project and materials and that the tile meets the standards for the application. 

Sanders recommended troubleshooting in advance by having distributors send over tile cut sheets, SDS sheets, and manufacturers’ installation sheets during the bidding process – or getting them as soon as selections are made before ordering. “Look at them and look for problems,” he said. “Understand the tile types and their limitations.” 

Denny added, “We try to circumvent this on the front end of a project. Working with reputable distributors can alleviate much of the problem, but when working with unfamiliar suppliers or installing owner-supplied material, we request all technical information in advance of starting a project, and any numbers given for the project are based upon it meeting the
standard.”

Do not INSTALL substandard tile – and keep clients informed of the progress of the job

These two tips are also related. So you discover – on the job – that the tile you are working with is defective and is not going to fly. Now what? Is it something you can work around? Or do you need to order new material?

Contractors agree on letting clients know immediately if a problem arises. “As a general rule in every job I do, I am always diligent with keeping my clients informed throughout the entire process, whether good or bad,” Waldorf said. “I let them know the challenges I’m up against and how I plan to solve them. I also let them know when it’s an issue I can’t solve.”

Denny said, “Depending on the actual defective or unsatisfactory aspect of the material, we would outline the issues and discuss it with the client before proceeding, which could result in a new material being selected.” 

Dave Karp

Dave Karp, of Tile Fusion in Shakopee, Minn., said on some jobs where he has to deal with sizing or minor warping, he can open joints up more. “Worst case I’ll completely reject the tile,” he added, saying, “I also avoid certain distributors knowing there’s a high risk of [bad] tile.”

Be wary of homeowner-purchased product from big box stores

Though you may escape responsibility for bad product if you are not the one ordering it, if the homeowner orders the tile, other issues may arise. 

“As a small two-man company, I run into some homeowners trying to ‘save a buck’ by going to big box stores when looking for tile samples,” said Phil Green, owner of P.G.C. Construction, Remodeling and

Phil Green

Design in Gilberts, Ill. “In many cases, the tiles that are purchased from these stores have their share of issues. The worst of these are the 2” x 2” mosaics on mesh backing. Sometimes the way they were shipped and stored, the sheets are deformed and tiles twisted on the sheet. We as the professionals are supposed to not only be the tile setter, but part magician as well.”

Problems Green has encountered aren’t limited only to mosaics – larger 12” x 24” tiles also have their share of problems. “Although I can understand that an ‘allowable’ warpage may exist in every large-format tile due to manufacturing  BUT, out-of-square tiles and tiles that vary in size by 1/64” – 1/32” are very difficult to deal with.”

Educate the client to have reasonable expectations of what to expect from the job

This also applies to showroom personnel who often aren’t as knowledgeable about tile – and especially standards – as you’d hope. 

Sanders had a recent experience with $15,000 of glass tile purchased for a steam shower. When he inquired about the thermal shock rating and whether the glass met ANSI, the tile distributor owner replied, “Can’t all glass tile be used in showers?” Clearly, it can’t, and the tile had to be reordered. 

Sanders said, “We make an effort to be present with the designer and owner at the showroom or in early design meeting as much as possible to educate the owner as to the suitability of the tile and its intended use. Many times the showroom personnel do not know the standards.”

Waldorf explained, “I feel it’s extremely important to set reasonable expectations up front. I save a lot of headaches and problems by being honest and transparent with clients. ‘Under-promise and over-deliver’ is my motto. Like you and me, clients just want to know what’s happening with their home, and each challenge is an opportunity to build trust with them. This is why they hired a qualified professional, and sometimes you can be their hero just by delivering a quality service.” 

Will following these tips make the substandard tile problem go away? Probably not, but they may reduce your liability and contribute to a smoother-running job and continued trust by your client. 

The same way tile setters need to take responsibility for following installation standards and best practices when installing tile, tile manufacturers and distributors need to monitor their products to provide the best-quality products for contractors to work with. 

“The tile manufacturers and distributors should have an active role in making sure the tile setter has an acceptable product that the end user will be happy with,” Waldorf said. “We should be working together as a team, and our end goal is complete satisfaction with the product and installation. If we don’t achieve that, another hard surface product will certainly take advantage of the opportunity. Many of us already fight a negative stigma about tile because of poor installations that consumers have had to live with. The manufacturing end of the trade needs to keep a reasonable pace and approach as we push the limits of size and speed.”

Tech Talk – April 2018

Thin gauged porcelain tile – North American research, collaboration, and standardization

By Bill Griese, Director of Standards Development, Tile Council of North America and Noah Chitty, Director of Technical Services, Crossville Inc.

In February, TCNA’s Bill Griese and Crossville’s Noah Chitty traveled to Castellón, Spain, to lecture to the Congress of Qualicer 2018 on research and standardization of thin gauged porcelain tiles and tile panels (GPTP) in North America. Following are highlights of their white paper on this subject, which was presented at Qualicer 2018. The paper, in its entirety with works cited, is available online at tileletter.com.

ANSI A 137.3 and ANSI A108.19

 

In 2017, the North American tile industry released two new standards: ANSI A137.3, American National Standard Specifications for Gauged Porcelain Tiles and Gauged Porcelain Tile Panels/Slabs, and its companion, ANSI A108.19, Interior Installation of Gauged Porcelain Tiles and Gauged Porcelain Tile Panels/Slabs by the Thin-Bed Method bonded with Modified Dry-Set Cement Mortar or Improved Modified Dry-Set Cement Mortar. These standards, developed for the benefit of all tile consumers, are the result of a multi-year research and consensus process of the ANSI Accredited A108 Standards Committee, which includes participants from all industry sectors. 

These efforts aimed to establish a framework for specifications of products that are intentionally “gauged” to a specific thickness. Currently two classes of gauged tile products are defined by the standards: 

Those for wall applications from 3.5mm to 4.9mm and 

Those for floor and wall applications, from 5.0mm to 6.5mm. 

Other products, which either fall outside of these ranges or for which the manufacturer has not specifically provided a gauged-thickness designation, continue to be standardized under traditional tile specifications.

Terminology and strength criteria

One of the earliest topics on which the North American industry debated was terminology. These products were called “thin” tile, but since the same technologies are also used to create thick tiles – and end-users had increasingly prioritized tile thickness as a key characteristic – a new moniker was needed. Hence, the term “gauged” was born, basing the term on one used for other construction products – such as electrical wire and sheet metal – which carry different load capabilities and usage parameters across a variety of gauges. The group agreed to further differentiate gauged products based on their size, with gauged tiles being less than a square meter and gauged tile panels/slabs being greater than or equal to one square meter. 

In developing product performance criteria, the first key concern was breaking strength, as the North American requirement for traditional tiles was 250 lbf. Initially, very few – if any – thin gauged products met the requirement. Therefore, installed strength became the key to achieving performance levels comparable to those of traditional tiles whose exceedingly high breaking strength could often make up for flaws in mortar coverage or quality. With thin gauged tiles, though, the group chose to scrutinize how lower breaking strength may be offset by installation rigidity and increased mortar coverage.

Key provisions of the installation standard

To develop ANSI A108.19 Interior Installation of Gauged Porcelain Tiles and Gauged Porcelain Tile Panels/Slabs by the Thin-Bed Method bonded with Modified Dry-Set Cement Mortar or Improved Modified Dry-Set Cement Mortar, a group of installers, architects, and manufacturers conducted countless experiments to discover application and embedding techniques that make possible maximum mortar coverage, particularly for tile panels/slabs. Through these experiments, standard setting procedures for gauged porcelain tiles and tile panels/slabs were developed that facilitate optimal workmanship and system integrity. 

Mortar application: It was determined that applying a layer of mortar to both the back of the panel/slab and the substrate would result in the necessary bond coat thickness of 3/16” (4.8mm) and would allow for full encapsulation of lippage control systems. Anything less than this method would result in an embedded mortar layer thickness that was insufficient to achieve the agreed-upon substrate tolerance of a maximum deviation of 1/8” in 10 horizontal feet (3mm in 3m) from the required plane when measured from the high points in the surface for floors.

Mortar properties: Mortar properties such as extended open time, flow to achieve coverage, and curing parameters appropriate to the application, as well as a requirement for suitable mortar identification through consultation with the tile and setting material manufacturer are specified in the standard. 

Trowels: Only Euro-trowel, Flow-Ridge trowel, and Superior notch trowel can facilitate ridge collapse without the need to press and slide the tile. The group agreed to standardize the use of such trowels.

Embedding procedures: For floors, physically walking on the surface in the following pattern produces the greatest supporting mortar coverage: 

1) walk down the centerline of the tile; 

2) take small shuffling steps left and right from center to push air toward the edges.

This standardized procedure is listed in ANSI A108.19 for embedding tile panels/slabs on floors. For walls, a vibration tool and weighted beat-in paddle are specified in order to achieve optimal coverage.

For walls and floors, a vibrational tool used at the perimeter, achieved full coverage on the edge, critical for overall durability in flooring applications, and also facilitated full encapsulation of lippage control systems. For these reasons, edge coverage achieved through vibration is a provision of ANSI A108.19. The standard minimum required coverage is 80% for walls and 85% for floors. Additionally, maximum void size was established as 2 square inches (1290 square mm).

Coverage calculation: A standardized evaluation to calculate coverage was developed. ANSI A108.19 states, “In any single square foot under the embedded tile, coverage… is calculated by measuring the voids and the marked off square foot and dividing by 144 square inches (929 square cm) where the dry set mortar is not in full contact from the back of the tile to the substrate.”

Substrates: Standardized suitable substrates for the installation of gauged porcelain tiles and tile panels/slabs are mostly consistent with those of traditional tile, with the exception of direct bonding to plywood floors, which requires the use of a mortar bed or specified backer board and referencing floor rigidity requirements established by building codes and other widespread industry specifications. 

Applicable to all substrates, ANSI A108.19 details required flatness as maximum deviation of 1/8” over 10’ (3mm in 3m) from the required plane when measured from the high points in the surface.

Material handling: Qualified labor and other provisions also taken into account through discussion and A108.19 standardization were adequate jobsite storage, space to maneuver panels, prevention of damage while handling and time for mortar curing. Another critical aspect of ANSI A108.19 involves usage of properly qualified installers who are equipped with proper tools and have acquired sufficient product knowledge and installation experience. 

There are several other key provisions contained within ANSI A108.19, including grouting, workmanship, movement accommodation, and maintenance, completing a very comprehensive specification for how to install products defined by ANSI A137.3. 

See link here for the full paper, including footnotes. 

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