Importers Challenge Ceramic Tile Antidumping Petition

Washington, DC: May 17, 2019 – On April 10, 2019, the Coalition for Fair Trade in Ceramic Tile filed petitions with the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. International Trade Commission seeking antidumping and countervailing duties on imports of ceramic tile products from the People’s Republic of China. The Coalition consists of U.S. ceramic tile producers American Wonder Porcelain, Florida Tile, Inc., Crossville, Inc., Florim USA, Dal-Tile Corporation, Landmark Ceramics, Del Conca USA, Inc. and StonePeak Ceramics (all members of the Tile Council of North America).

In response to that filing, a broad representation of North American based importers, distributors, retailers, and design professionals have formed the Ceramic Tile Alliance.  The group (CTA) is strongly opposed to the tariffs and believe they jeopardize the long-term health and growth of the entire ceramic tile industry against other competing floor and wall products. The group (CTA) is united in a single effort to save American businesses and the thousands of American jobs which will be at risk if these tariffs are imposed.

The focus of the Ceramic Tile Alliance is to both inform the industry through an awareness campaign and present a united front in the legal proceedings regarding the petition. The (CTA) believes it is important highlight the fact that these tariffs will only benefit domestic ceramic tile manufacturers at the expense of ceramic tile distributors, retailers, installers and design professionals. This campaign is supported by counterclaims against the antidumping and countervailing petition; which shows that Chinese imports have not negatively affected the growth of domestic manufacturing and Chinese imports are not the lowest-cost products imported into the market.

The Ceramic Tile Alliance has started a petition at in hopes of giving a voice to the tens of thousands of ceramic tile industry professionals that will be negatively impacted by these tariffs.

For more information visit

Taos Ski Valley slopeside residences benefit from foam building panels

In November 2018, I contributed a technical feature to TileLetter that covers the many advantages multifunctional foam building panels offer tile setters. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to check it out. In this issue I’ll present applications where foam building panels were used to realize those benefits in a condominium development.

The Blake Residences

The Village of Taos Ski Valley is a year-round resort destination in New Mexico. It was founded in 1955 by a Swiss-German named Ernie Blake, his wife Rhoda, and friends. This group brought a European atmosphere to the historically Native American- and Spanish-influenced area. Taos came under new ownership in 2014, which ushered in a new era of development including new lifts, runs, restaurants, shops, and living spaces. One such example is The Blake Residences, a slopeside six-story building with 24 fully appointed residences including nine penthouse suites with four bathrooms each. Ski valet, heated outdoor pools and hot tubs, fitness center, spa, and other luxury amenities are available.

foam building panels were used on open stud walls while waterproof membrane was applied over existing wallboard

In the shower areas, foam building panels were used on open stud walls while waterproof membrane was applied over existing wallboard.

The builder and the tile contractor

Upfront Construction, founded by President Bob Orner, is the general contractor responsible for interior finishes at The Blake Residences. Zsolt Szilagyi of Homeworks Tile & Natural Stone was contracted to tile all of the bathrooms, laundry rooms, and kitchen backsplashes. Zsolt began work in June 2018 and expects to finish the project in the fall of 2019.


Zsolt chose the Schluter®-KERDI-BOARD foam panels as the primary substrate for the bathroom applications, including the bathtub platforms and showers. In general, this decision was based on the product being very light and easy to work with. For example, he can save time by cutting KERDI-BOARD in the room where he is working, rather needing to go to another area or outside. He finds this process is much faster and requires fewer tools than traditional framing methods. Other benefits are described in the applications’ descriptions below.

Bathtub platforms

Foam panels can be cut to size to create the supports, decking, and apron for the structure, all to the exact dimensions required by the tile setter. Thin-set mortar or adhesive can be used to install the panels, although mortar will provide more adjustability to ensure plumb and level surfaces and square corners.

1-1/2” Kerdi-Board legs supported a 2”-thick platform for the tub deck

1-1/2” Kerdi-Board legs supported a 2”-thick platform for the tub deck. Blocking was installed on the floor between the legs for added strength and stability.

Zsolt used KERDI-BOARD to build the entire platform surrounding the previously installed bathtub. Thin-set mortar was used to install the 1-1/2˝-thick supports and screws were used as temporary anchors while the mortar was still in the plastic state. In fact, Zsolt prefers to complete construction of the entire platform while the thin-set mortar is still in the plastic state. In this way adjustments can be made throughout the process and he is confident that all connections within the structure are solid. He also installed scrap pieces of board as blocking on the floor in-between supports. While not required in general, this practice provided additional strength and stability of the assembly and reduced waste. Zsolt said when using KERDI-BOARD he “doesn’t throw anything out” meaning the product helps him work as efficiently as possible. Two-inch-thick board was installed on the supports and made flat, level, and flush with the surface of the bathtub. 

Waterproofing membrane was wrapped from the wall to the tub deck to create a waterproof splash zone for the tub area.

Benches and tub decks were built to the same height – flush with the top of the tub. Waterproofing membrane was wrapped from the wall to the tub deck to create a waterproof splash zone for the tub area.

Granite slabs were installed leaving a 1/4” reveal on the inside edge of the bathtubs to create the appearance of an undermount tub. This approach produced an application that was both aesthetically pleasing and easy to clean. KERDI-BAND waterproofing strips were installed on the wall above the platform to protect the gypsum board from intermittent water exposure and covered with tile that complements the look and feel of the granite. The entire assembly was integrated with the adjacent shower waterproofing system to provide the most reliable solution and ensure long-term performance. These bathtub platforms are perfect examples of what can be easily achieved when the tile setter has complete control over the substrate and builds it to suit the specific needs of the application.


undermount bathtub

The granite was fabricated to leave a reveal of approximately 1/4” to create the appearance of an undermount bathtub.

The showers were waterproofed using the comprehensive Schluter®-Shower System. For the walls, 1/2″ or 5/8″-thick KERDI-BOARD was fastened to the steel framing, depending on the thickness of the adjacent wall board. For such areas within the shower, KERDI membrane was applied over the gypsum board. All seams and fastener penetrations were sealed with the KERDI-BAND waterproofing strips, and the showerhead and mixing valve were treated with the KERDI-SEAL-PS/-MV seals to complete the wall applications. 

Zsolt appreciates the ability to use the foam board directly over the framing or the membrane over wall board previously installed by the GC. In general, he said, “I really like the flexibility of the system.” The bases were constructed using the prefabricated KERDI-SHOWER tray and KERDI-DRAIN and waterproofed with the KERDI membrane. Similar to the bathtub platforms, custom shower benches and curbs were built using KERDI-BOARD and sealed to the rest of the shower waterproofing system.

A “win-win-win” scenario

Using foam building panels to create substrates for tile can produce excellent results for everyone involved in the project. The end user receives a high-quality installation. The tile setter can earn higher margins while maintaining a fair price in his or her market as a result of being more efficient and productive on each job. And the general contractor gets an efficiently-run project with consistent, reliable results.

Why do manufacturers require a 33% offset brick pattern?


Greetings! I was wondering if you could solve a mystery for me. On numerous jobs, for both walls and floors, we are asked by interior designers to install 12 x 24 or similar tiles in a standard brick aka 50% offset pattern. However, for many of these, printed on the box of tile or stated on the order sheet by the distributor, it clearly states in one way or another, “Brick joint pattern to be offset 33%.” When we point this out, the designer doesn’t care and won’t approve a mockup (because they don’t want to order any extra tile). Most of the time the 50% offset on the floor doesn’t end up becoming a lippage or shadowing problem, though we also use a leveling system so perhaps that helps mitigate it. On walls, however, especially depending on the lighting, it can be a real problem.

I would like to know why manufacturers recommend this if it often isn’t followed (I see plenty of tile jobs installed with the 50% offset)? And why do most of the distributors display the tile on a display board with 50% offset if the manufacturer requests a 33% offset? Is everyone just trying to cover their butts on potential lippage and/or shadowing issues? And since tile setters are “the experts,” not designers or customers, is a mockup the only true way to relieve yourself of culpability if shadowing and lippage do result from disregarding a manufacturer’s recommendations?


Thanks for getting in touch and thanks for asking an excellent question.

At Coverings ’19, NTCA Training Director Mark Heinlein presented a demo about wall wash lighting and lippage, citing information from the ANSI standard, as two teams installed wall tile.

It is my guess that the designers you are working with may not be familiar with the requirements of tile industry standards and the reason why those standards exist and why manufacturers require certain offsets for tiles they produce.

Listed below are the tile industry installation standards that relate to this discussion:

  • ANSI A108.02 section 4.3.7 – Lippage – Guidelines, Explanation, and Caution
  • ANSI A108.02 section 4.3.8 – Grout Joint Size
  • ANSI A108.02 section – Running Bond / Brick Joint Patterns
  • ANSI A108.02 section Running Bond / Brick Joint and Any Offset Pattern (for your convenience, I have quoted this section here): 

As you can see, ANSI A108.02 is very clear. When this requirement is followed along with installing tile that meets the manufacturing standards of ANSI A137.1 and when the substrate flatness standard for tiles with at least one edge 15” or longer is applied, the correct mortar is selected and mixed properly, the correct trowel is selected and used properly by an adequately trained and skilled installer, a successful finished installation should occur. (Note: the substrate flatness requirement for a 12” x 24” tile only allows a maximum permissible variation of 1/8” in 10’ from plane with no more than 1/16” variation in 24” when measured from the high points in the surface.)

Lippage can become a real problem when the lights are turned on.

Allow me to state this another way:

  • Using tile that meets the requirements of ANSI A137.1 for Nominal Size, Caliber Range, Warpage and Wedging
  • Installing that tile on a substrate that meets the ANSI A108 requirements for flatness
  • Following the ANSI A108.02 and/or the tile manufacturer’s requirements for maximum offset
  • Following the details of the appropriate method selected from the TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass, and Stone Tile Installation
  • Selecting the correct mortar or adhesive for the type of tile being installed and application it is to be installed in
  • Mixing the mortar or adhesive per its manufacturer’s instructions
  • Selecting the correct trowel and using it correctly to achieve the bond coat coverage rates required for the system equals a successful, long-lasting installation that will please the owner and end user.

Note that ANSI A108.02 states “…specifier and owner must approve the mockup and lippage.” In my opinion, the expense of purchasing an adequate percentage of tile to install the required offsets can be very minimal when weighed against the potential for lippage and lighting-related failures that can occur when manufacturer instructions and tile industry standards are not followed.

Industry standards and manufacturer recommendations of 33% or less offset for tiles with one or more sides 15” or greater are required because of the manufacturing process for tile. When ceramic tile is heated and cooled in the kiln, warpage can occur. This is a normal result of the manufacturing process. Many tile factories are excellent at controlling warpage, but it cannot be completely removed. That is why there are limits for how much warpage a tile can have detailed in ANSI A137.1 for tiles that are manufactured to meet that standard. Whether or not a given tile meets the warpage limit of ANSI 137.1 can be found in the information printed on the carton or on the manufacturer’s technical data sheet, or by contacting the manufacturer.

The NTCA Reference Manual contains valuable information about wall lighting and lippage control devices.

You are absolutely correct in noting that lippage resulting from a layout or offset pattern or other factors can become a real problem when the lights are turned on. This is especially true for walls when the lighting grazes the face of the wall or when there is a sharp angle of incidence from natural light on a floor. I have listed references on the following page for more information on this topic.

You are also correct in noting that lippage tuning devices can help mitigate these issues. The job of these devices is NOT to take the place of any of the standard requirements I described above, but they can be a useful tool to help installers remove the last bit of human error (typically a maximum allowed 1/32”) and to hold the tiles in place while the bond coat cures. I have listed references below for more information about these devices.

I do not know why manufacturers or distributors might show tiles in an offset pattern that is different than what is required for a specific tile or by industry standards. It could be oversight or lack of knowledge by the person designing or creating the mockups.

You are correct that it very often falls to the tile installation contractor and installer to be the industry expert that understands everything I have described above. The installing contractor and the installer are the last line of quality control before the installation goes in. When or if there is a problem after installation, it is the installer and installation contractor that gets the call. The installation contractor needs to have an excellent working knowledge of the industry standards, methods and best practices to be able to adequately communicate the potential issues during the bidding process and BEFORE the installation takes place. To avoid issues, contractors and installers should empower themselves with this knowledge and know how to identify problems and to stop and identify a resolution before proceeding with the installation. Other trades and professionals such as general contractors, architects, specifiers and designers will respect a knowledgeable tile contractor that is able to clearly communicate what must be accomplished and why. Mockups are a key element of this process and are strongly recommended.

I described the key elements of the ANSI standards that pertain to this discussion of your questions. In addition, there are several other key areas you can use to inform yourself and communicate to other about this subject. They include:

  • 2018/2019 NTCA Reference Manual section on Critical Lighting Effects on Tile Installations on pages 125 – 132.
  • 2018/2019 NTCA Reference Manual section on Lippage Control Devices and Edge and Lippage Mechanical Tuning Devices on page 172.
  • 2018 TCNA Handbook section on Substrate Requirements.  See the section on Substrate Tolerances and Large Tile on page 31.
  • 2018 TCNA Handbook section on Lighting and Tile Installations on page 34.
  • 2018 TCNA Handbook section on Flatness and Lippage on page 36.
  • 2018 TCNA Handbook section on Grout Joint Size, Layouts, and Patterns on pages 37-38.
  • 2018 TCNA Handbook section on Finished Tilework on page 39 (especially the section on “Visual Inspection of Tilework”)

I encourage you to read and become familiar with all of the standards, methods and best practices I’ve described above in your NTCA Reference Manual, TCNA Handbook and ANSI standards. This will help you be even more confident in describing why installation standards and manufacturer instructions must be followed. Any deviation outside of following them often becomes risk accepted by the installation contractor because at the beginning, middle and end of every job, the tile contractor is the industry expert.

As you and I know, tile isn’t simple or easy. Sometimes, for very good reasons, we can’t always give the owner or specifier what they think they want. Contractors such as yourself that have access to the NTCA member benefits of technical support and education can better communicate the need to apply recognized industry standards, methods and best practices for successful installations. As you know, membership in the National Tile Contractors Association is a major source for help in understanding the standards and how to apply them and avoid issues BEFORE they happen.

We encourage designers, architects, GCs, and specifiers to attend our many workshops and other education programs, or to become an NTCA member themselves. Please feel free to direct them to our website and calendar of events at and click on the Free Educational Workshops link under Education & Certification on the home page. You are doing a great job in asking the right questions. I hope this helps. 

Perception vs. reality – the truth behind PBM flooring claims


ORLANDO, Fla. — At the Tile Council of North America’s (TCNA) Coverings press conference, held here last week, TCNA executive director Eric Astrachan shared information about current research into flooring made from plastic-based material (PBM). This included luxury vinyl tile (LVT), wood polymer composition (WMPC) flooring, stone polymer composite (SPC) flooring, clay polymer composite (CPC) flooring, and rigid core board (RCB) – the common denominator being plastic composition.

The study compared some of the popular beliefs about PBM flooring with the reality, as revealed in lab testing done in Clemson, S.C. The top beliefs of consumers about PBM flooring, derived from preliminary results from independent market research, include:

  • Belief of scratch resistance
  • Belief of wet area usage
  • Belief of durability, in general
  • Assumption of competitive pricing
  • Assumption of health and safety
  • Assumption of comparability to ceramic tile

As testing revealed, the perception and reality differ. Though many PBM floors claim to be “worry-proof,” “scratch-proof”, “life-proof” and “pet-proof” among other claims, virtually all warranties exclude scratching, indentation and pet damages, including, in some warranties, “loss of gloss/scratching,” “…damage caused by vacuum cleaner beater bar, indentation or damaged caused by spiked heeled shoes, improper rolling loads, caster wheels, chairs or other furniture without proper floor protectors and cuts from sharp objects,” and “scratches, indentation or reduction in gloss level is not considered wear.” In addition, manufacturers recommend the use of furniture pads, which are not depicted in advertising.

A predominant belief about PBM floors is that they are waterproof, and in fact are often advertised as such and encouraged for use in bathrooms, wet areas, and to combat spills and leaks. The study found, however, that warranties routinely exclude all water damage resulting from water passing through and around floor covering to the subfloor and other structural elements of the building.  The testing showed that, according to two international standardized tests for waterproofing, all the samples tested leaked through the seams to the subfloor below. What is ACTUALLY being warranted is that the plastic floor itself is unaffected by water. It does not take into consideration leaking through seams and damage to subfloors.

In addition, the study found that  90% of PBM floors tested supported the growth of mold, due to water leakage through seams into the subfloor, and the organic materials in the plastic provided nourishment for mold spores to grow. Mold spores in the seams can also be pushed into the breathable space which can contribute to respiratory and allergic effects.

PBM flooring is also believed to be slip resistant, though there is no standard for slip resistance testing in LVT flooring used by the resilient industry on wet surfaces. Using the ANSI standard A326.3 with a reference value of .42 DCOF, 16 samples – 82% — measured below .42 DCOF in all or some directions. Finally, the study tested hardness of plastic flooring relative to ceramic tile and other substances. PBM flooring rated #3 on the Mohs scale, just above talc and gypsum and equivalent to calcite, which is scrapeable with a copper coin. Ceramic tile, on the other hand, rates #7-#8, equivalent to quartz – which scratches window glass – and topaz, which scratches quartz.

Testing results shine a light on the differences between actual performance, advertised claims, and warranty exclusions by the PBM flooring industry.  For more information, contact TCNA at 864-646-8453.





Coverings, the largest international tile and stone exhibition in North America, today announced the 10 projects that received the coveted Coverings Installation & Design (CID) Awards. The CID Awards celebrate outstanding achievements in the design and installation of tile and stone in both residential and commercial projects. Projects were evaluated on their execution, original usage and overall design and purpose by a panel of industry experts, prominent editors and designers.

“We were amazed at the extraordinary project submissions the CID Awards garner, which truly demonstrates the versatility of tile and stone,” said Jennifer Hoff, president of Taffy Events, the management company for Coverings. “As North America’s largest industry show, Coverings is honored to offer these annual awards to recognize the range of creative ingenuity and sophisticated applications that showcase the latest industry advancements.”

Winning projects were honored on April 10, in an award ceremony and reception at Coverings 2019 in Orlando Sponsored by TileLetter, Contemporary Stone & Tile Design and Tile Magazine, grand prize winners were awarded $3,000, while eight category winners received a $2,000 prize. All winners were provided with a one-night stay in Orlando to attend Coverings 2019, where their projects were featured on display.

2019 CID winners and special recognition honorees are as follows:

Special recognition awards included 55+ TLC Interior Design, LLC in Scottsdale for New Aging in Place shower; Ironstone Strong Ltd., of San Antonio for 12 x 12 porcelain tiles used as roofing shingles in the Innovation in Tile Category; Trish Metzner and Oscar Sosa of Philadelphia for the Fractured Fantasies Mosaic that involved creative professionals on both sides of the US/Mexico border; LATICRETE INTERNATIONAL for the Lucile Packard Childrens Hospital Stanford in the Institutional category; and Andru Eron and N.Y. Tilemakers for a mosaic mural for P.S. 19 in Brooklyn that included many elements from the 1964 World’s Fair that was held nearby.

Special Recognition: Aging in Place – 55+ TLC Interior Design, LLC

Special Recognition – Innovation in Tile, Ironstone Strong, Ltd.

Special Recognition Mosaic: Trish Metzner and Oscar Sosa for “Fractured Fantasties.”











Special Recognition, Education: Andru Eron and N.Y. Tilemakers









Special Recognition Institutional to LATICRETE INTERNATIONAL for the mosaics at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford


The 2019 CID Awards judging panel included Metropolis Managing Editor, Lila Allen; Stone World Managing Editor, Jennifer Richinelli; Tile Council of North America Executive Director, Eric Astrachan; Heritage Tile and Marble Owner and Founder, Martin Brookes; Chris Abbate and Kristin Coleman of Novità Communications, representing Ceramics of Italy; Lori Dolnick of Frank Advertising, representing Tile of Spain; Tile Council of North America Director of Marketing, Kathy Meyer; Artcraft Granite Marble and Tile Vice President James Woelfel; Natural Stone Institute Architect & Design Community Liaison, Dacia Woodworth and Designology Co*Operative Founder, Kadie Yale. Together, they selected winning projects demonstrating outstanding tile and stone applications.

To learn more about the latest in the tile and stone industry,  visit

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About Coverings

Coverings is the largest and most important ceramic tile and natural stone trade fair and expo in the United States. It features exhibitors from over 40 countries and is the stage for introducing some of the most innovative tile and stone products in the world.

The exposition serves as a valuable resource for continuing education for all segments of the industry, with more than 45 informative, accredited seminars and live demonstration sessions throughout the show, all free of charge. Coverings attracts thousands of distributors, retailers, fabricators, contractors, specifies, architectural and design professionals, builders and real estate developers, as well as journalists and bloggers who cover this vital and dynamic industry.

Sponsors of the show are The Ceramic Tile Distributor Association (CTDA), Tile of Spain/Spanish Ceramic Tile Manufacturer’s Association  (ASCER), Ceramics of Italy/Confindustria Ceramica, National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) and the Tile Council of North America (TCNA). The show is managed by Taffy Event Strategies, LLC.

Coverings 2019 takes place April 9-12 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL. For more information, visit or contact Taffy Events, Coverings Show Management, 703-539-5504.

Merkrete Systems provide installation innovation

It’s hip to be at Santa Clara Square 

After years in the making, Silicon Valley’s Santa Clara Square combines innovative office space, vibrant dining, shopping and modernized living all in one integrated community. Santa Clara Square occupies a strategic location in the heart Silicon Valley, with convenient access to a range of air, road, light rail and public transportation, as well as a variety of dining and retail options at Santa Clara Square Marketplace. One can walk the pathways of this dynamic community and find places to explore, connect and recharge including such amenities as resort-style

Merkrete 820 Merlite mortar used for installing coping and LHT natural stone throughout the pool and exterior patio areas.

pools and spas, and state-of-the-art fitness offerings. The community is designed with innovative social, work and meeting spaces with easy walking to everyday conveniences. 

Silicon Valley is known for being the epicenter of the world’s most forward-thinking companies, attracting a highly skilled, knowledge-based workforce dedicated to helping businesses prosper. This region is home to headquarters of Intel, Applied Materials, NVIDIA, Agilent Technologies, and many other high-tech companies.

Befitting its prestigious location, the Irvine Company created this community to include 1.7 million sq. ft. feet of office space, and 1,800 apartments. The retail’s first phase, Santa Clara Square Marketplace, totals 125,000 sq. ft., including the 50,000-square-foot Whole Foods. The second phase of the retail will total 40,000 sq. ft. and serve as a town center for the complex. 

Showers installed using Merkrete’s Hydro Guard SP-1 Waterproofing Membrane and 820 Merlite Mortar.

The community contains LEED®-certified design standards to improve air quality, support conservation efforts and provide a fresh, healthy workplace. It also has electric vehicle (EV) charging stations to respond to the demand for alternative energy vehicles.

Modern high tech and timeless design

The remarkable style combines a refined, inspired design reminiscent of the city’s high-tech culture with a modern perspective. Designed by Pei Cobb Freed and Partners, Inc. Architects, Santa Clara Square sets the standard for the blending of both new and innovative styles. The tile and stone installations throughout the complex perfectly match this modern, high-class, innovative aesthetic, as each piece was carefully chosen and strategically placed for an extra touch of charm and guaranteed functionality.

Contractors Flooring Service of California, based in Santa Ana, is one of the state’s most trusted and respected tile, stone, marble, and granite contractors. So, when Joe Ott, President of Contractors Flooring Service of California, was approached by Hathaway Dinwiddie to supply the cost-efficient, innovative, high-performing materials they desired, Contractors

Showers installed using Merkrete’s Hydro Guard SP-1 Waterproofing Membrane and 820 Merlite Mortar.

Flooring Service of California Project Manager David Corona knew they’d need a trusted and top-quality installation system to ensure a job well done. Upon reviewing the scope of the 680,000-sq.-ft. installation project, all answers pointed definitively to Merkrete, a leader in waterproofing, crack-isolation and DUSTLESS setting materials technology.

A flexible solution 

When it comes to the critical waterproofing under tile in both interior showers, pool areas and surrounding areas, Merkrete’s Hydro Guard SP-1 waterproofing membrane system was a key solution. Fast drying, durable and long lasting, this waterproofing membrane system is designed for fast applications, promising zero leaks or cracks, even with severe exposure and high amounts of traffic. 

Merkrete sales and technical team Heather Campiotti and Sergio Flores worked directly with Contractors Flooring Service of California to provide the right products and ensure they were applied correctly to meet the project’s specifications. 

Since the specifications called for crack isolation and waterproofing in nearly all of the exterior parts of installation combined with an aggressive project schedule, work began using Merkrete Hydro Guard SP-1. A liquid-applied, fast-drying product, Hydro Guard SP-1 combines crack isolation up to 1/8” and a waterproof system to enable crews to prepare the substrate for setting tile at a faster pace. Hydro Guard SP-1 contains excellent elongation, adhesion and high strength properties providing a 100% waterproof membrane that prevents the transfer of substrate cracks to the finished ceramic or stone tile surface. 

Interior backsplashes installed with Merkrete’s patented DLT Technology, 705 DUSTLESS Pro Set Plus Mortar.

“Merkrete’s liquid membranes have been a staple in the industry and contractors rely on its performance,” said Flores.

Also used was Merkrete’s Fracture Guard FD, a low-VOC, fast-drying, crack-isolation membrane for same-day tile installations. Fracture Guard FD provides a thin protection layer to inhibit substrate crack transfers up to 1/8” in interior and exterior applications.

Versatile mortar supports large tiles

Because of the size of the tiles for the pool decks and coping – as well as the vast number of exterior patio decks and walkways –Corona needed a versatile product that could address several specific needs at the same time. Merkrete demonstrated the perfect match for a specific challenge again considering the strength of the mortar it called for. 

“We used very large-and-heavy natural stone, which requires a mortar with a super-high bondability that can handle the weight of the stone,” said Corona. Merkrete 820 Merlite is a one-step, polymer-modified, lightweight setting adhesive for installing extra-large-format porcelain, ceramic tile and natural stone for both floors and walls. Merkrete proved it could hold its weight. 

In addition to the exterior installations throughout the complex, Merkrete was the reliable source in providing innovative and high-performance setting materials throughout the interior installations. Interior shower areas and common spaces contained large-and-heavy porcelain tile and planks. These types of materials can present their fair share of installation challenges. Planks in particular demand tighter tolerances to maintain the beauty of the tile and overall aesthetic of the installation.  

Cleaner jobsite with DUSTLESS technology

Porcelain tile in common hallways and walkway areas installed using Fracture Guard FD and 720 DUSTLESS LHT Mortar.

Selection of the proper setting material is critical, especially when installing large-and-heavy tile (LHT). LHT mortars are not for leveling or truing the substrate; instead they are intended to help fill the irregular space between the tile and the underlayment providing a strong bond. 

Vincente Acosta of Contractors Flooring Service of California immediately preferred MERKRETE’s new and innovative 720 DUSTLESS™ LHT Mortar. Merkrete’s 720 DUSTLESS LHT Mortar, features new, innovative and patented DUSTLESS™ Technology (DLT) producing approximately 80% less dust than ordinary thinsets and is designed to promote cleaner working conditions and reduce mess. It uses less water and is creamier and easy to spread. 

“Not only does this mortar emit less dust, the smooth and creamy material makes for easy spreading, especially when speed is a factor,” said Acosta. 720 DUSTLESS LHT Mortar works great for both floors and walls and offers high strength, flexibility and a cleaner work environment.

Interior areas and backsplashes were installed using 705 DUSTLESS Pro Set Mortar. “The DUSTLESS feature is a tremendous advantage especially in interior applications,” said Corona.

As with most installations, timelines are always important, and Santa Clara Square was no different. It was critical that Ott chose a company that would be able to get the products delivered and the job completed on time. Merkrete is a brand of Parex USA, 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 our products to the jobsite on a timely basis were no problem,” said Campiotti. 

Silicon Valley’s unique appeal is further enhanced by the striking Northern California Coast, lush Napa Valley wine country and downtown San Francisco – all within driving distance. With the opening of Santa Clara Square in the Fall 2018, new tenants and guests now enjoy the experience of shopping, fine dining, luxurious pools and resort-like living accommodations, and embrace the modern setting and innovative architecture. Santa Clara Square combines the best elements of a lively cultural center and a sophisticated technology hub – creating a forward-thinking community unlike anywhere else. The Square is the place to be.

NTCA contractors contribute to R.I.S.E. program home

NTCA and members of the tile industry have been strong supporters of the Gary Sinise Foundation’s Restoring Independence Supporting Empowerment (R.I.S.E.) program, which builds specially-adapted smart homes tailored to the needs of wounded veterans across the nation.

NTCA contractors John Mourelatos (l.) and James Woelfel at the home dedication.

NTCA contractors John Mourelatos (l.) and James Woelfel at the home dedication.

Recently, a 3,300 sq. ft. smart home was constructed in Tucson, Ariz., for United States Army Sergeant First Class (Ret.) Caleb Brewer and his family. Two Arizona-based NTCA contractor members – Mourelatos Tile Pro from Tucson (also a NTCA State Ambassador) and Artcraft Granite, Marble and Tile, a NTCA Five-Star Contractor from Mesa — donated tile installation services, with materials for the project donated by Arizona Tile, and setting materials by MAPEI.


United States Army Sergeant First Class Caleb Brewer (Ret.) , with wife Ashley and daughters Evelyn and Emily at the groundbreaking.

United States Army Sergeant First Class Caleb Brewer (Ret.) , with wife Ashley and daughters Evelyn and Emily at the groundbreaking.

Sgt. Caleb Brewer

United States Army Sergeant First Class Caleb Brewer (Ret.) joined the armed forces while in high school and served as an Intelligence Analyst in the Army Reserves and a Green Beret. On December 4, 2016 (his 31st birthday), while deployed to Afghanistan, an explosion at a Taliban improvised explosive device (IED) factory resulted in Caleb losing both legs and sustaining other serious injuries. Yet just three months later, Caleb learned to walk on a single prosthetic leg and went on to relearn surfing, shooting, running, and rock climbing with his new prosthetic legs. He’s even completed events such as the Army 10 Miler run and the Bataan Memorial Death March.

Caleb and his wife Ashley live with their two daughters, Evelyn and Emily, in Tucson, where he is currently taking care of his two daughters full time at home. The 100% mortgage-free, specially-adapted smart home provided by the Gary Sinise Foundation will greatly increase his ability to perform necessary daily functions with ease.


A customized home for a wounded veteran

The Gary Sinise Foundation worked with Caleb to determine what challenges and obstacles he faced in his previous home, and custom designed a new home so that Caleb could function as independently as possible.

In the kitchen, a French door oven was placed at an accessible height so Caleb could roll up, open the doors, and use the oven as anyone else would; ditto the microwave.  The kitchen design included roll-under areas below the sink and cooktop and custom pull-down shelving in the cabinetry to give Caleb complete access to everything in the kitchen.

The master bath shower design was customized so Caleb could pull his wheelchair up and transfer onto a bench with accessible controls and a hand-held shower faucet.  Mourelatos Tile Pro constructed a large masonry bench in the shower and installed Sun Touch wire heating system, purchased from Emser Tile, to heat the top surface of the bench.

Caleb in the shower installed by NTCA member Mourelatos Tile Pro of Tucson.

Caleb in the shower installed by NTCA member Mourelatos Tile Pro of Tucson.

“We worked closely with him on the finished height of the bench so that he can transfer to the bench from his wheelchair,” Mourelatos said. “We installed his shampoo niche lower above the bench and his wife’s shampoo niche higher up on the opposite wall.” Plenty of space allowed Caleb to maneuver in his wheelchair in the bathroom, including a roll-under area below his sink.

A home gym and workshop areas were also incorporated into the design of the home for Caleb, so he could maintain a healthy lifestyle and work with others with disabilities in the community who are looking for innovative ways to stay in shape.  A workshop area was also incorporated into the design of the home so he had a dedicated area to pursue this hobby and passion.

A home automation package allows Caleb to control various functions of the home from an iPad or phone, such as: video surveillance, automated blinds/shades, security system, automatic door locks, climate control, audio, and video.


Tailoring tile for transitions

In addition to normal considerations such as wider hallways, doorways, zero clearance thresholds, and oversized rooms in general, it was key to make sure transitions between hardwood and tile were smooth. The durability and timelessness of the tile in the entries and bathrooms were important considerations in the home.  And this is where our NTCA contractors came in.

It was important that transitions - like this one in the the master bathroom -- were smooth between different floor coverings.

It was important that transitions – like this one in the the master bathroom — were smooth between different floor coverings.

Jim Olson, NTCA assistant executive director, contacted John Mourelatos of Mourelatos Tile Pro and the Gary Sinise Foundation contacted James Woelfel of Artcraft Granite, Marble and Tile to determine if they were both interested in the project. After an enthusiastic affirmation, builder Hayes Construction began working with Mourelatos and Woelfel on an estimate.

The contractors studied the plans and decided among themselves what areas of the home they would tackle: Mourelatos would install tile in the master bathroom, which included floor and shower;

Artcraft would take the kitchen, the laundry, Caleb’s training area restroom and his children’s bathroom. The builder, both contractors and Caleb met with Scott Kuzma at Arizona Tile to select the tile material; later on Mourelatos met with the Brewers to select grout colors for all the tiled areas.

John Mourelatos, being local in Tucson, helped out with planning and coordinating of material and selection to minimize the need for Woelfel to drive up from Mesa, and the companies communicated about details via phone and email. “I kept James updated about the progress of the build and sent him pictures along the way prior to our start date,” Mourelatos said. “Ed Siebern worked in the master bathroom while the three installers from Artcraft worked in the guest bath and kitchen.”   Siebern, a Certified Tile Installer, was at the job full time to complete prep work and tile installation.

The Mourelatos Tile Pro crew includes (L. to r.): Certified Tile Installer Ed Siebern, John Mourelatos, Caleb and Ashley Brewer and installer Cody Elmer.

The Mourelatos Tile Pro crew includes (L. to r.): Certified Tile Installer Ed Siebern, John Mourelatos, Caleb and Ashley Brewer and installer Cody Elmer.

Eager to serve

Both contractors were eager to donate their time on this project as a debt of gratitude.

“We as a nation cannot do enough for our veterans, especially our wounded heroes,” said Woelfel, who added that he was gratified by “the look on [Caleb’s] and his family’s face when they saw the finished product.”

James Woelfel, of NTCA Five-Star Contractor Artcraft Granite Marble and Tile Co., Mesa, Ariz., speaking at the home dedication

James Woelfel, of NTCA Five-Star Contractor Artcraft Granite Marble and Tile Co., Mesa, Ariz., speaking at the home dedication

Mourelatos said over the years, he’d watched the work done on the R.I.S.E. program homes; so when he discovered one was being built “less than five miles from my house, I became excited about the opportunity,” he said.

“After meeting the Brewers, and learning about their story of service, family, and faith, I knew this was a project I wanted to be a part of,” Mourelatos continued. “We have donated our time for tile installation in the past (Extreme Makeover House here in Tucson), but this project meant so much more. My installer [Ed Siebern] has a son that is in a wheelchair, born with Cerebral Palsy, and he was very passionate about being involved in this installation. This was an opportunity to do something for a family that has given so much, and continues to give back to the community.”


Donated products include:

Arizona Tile

  • 12” x 24” Cemento Cassero Grigio Porcelain Tile
  • 3” x 12” Bullnose tile
  • 12” x 12” Flat Pebble Cool Blend Stone Mosaic
  • 16” x 24” Regis Porcelain Tile
  • 12” x 24” WF Jog Porcelain Tile
  • 1”x 4” Shimmer Abalone Glass Tile
  • 8”x 8” Marrakesh Grey Matte Porcelain Tile



  • Aquadefense waterproofing membrane
  • LFT Mortar
  • Flexcolor CQ grout
  • Mapesil T silicone
  • Linear drain
  • Adesilex P10 White Mortar
  • 4 to 1 Mud Bed Mix
  • Planitop 330 Fast
  • Mapelastic CI

MAPEI helps welcome wounded hero to new smart home

Deerfield Beach, Florida – Over the past few years, MAPEI has provided assistance to the Gary Sinise Foundation’s R.I.S.E. (Restoring Independence, Supporting Empowerment) program, which builds custom smart homes for wounded veterans. MAPEI’s support was on display March 14 when company representatives helped welcome United States Army Captain (Ret.) Jake Murphy to his new smart home in Flower Mound, Texas.

A West Point graduate, Murphy was deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan, as a commissioned infantry officer; he served as the executive officer for his platoon. On July 23, 2011, while on a mission in the Regional Command South area, Murphy stepped on an improvised explosive device (IED). The resulting blast cost Murphy both of his legs and caused a brain injury that put him in a month-long coma.

“This new smart house will make life a little easier,″ Murphy said. ″I can’t say enough how great this place is.″

In the kitchen of the Murphys’ new smart home (L to R): MAPEI Business Development Leader Dale Penland, MAPEI Marketing Communications Manager Jennifer Kramer, United States Army Captain (Ret.) Jake Murphy, Jake’s wife Lisa Murphy and MAPEI Central Area Sales Director Kyle Murphy

″It is an honor and a privilege to work with the Gary Sinise Foundation, and to help soldiers like Captain Murphy and his family who have sacrificed so much in order to protect us,″ said Jennifer Kramer, MAPEI Marketing Communications Manager. Kramer attended the welcome-home ceremony with Kyle Murphy (not related), MAPEI Central Area Sales Director, and Dale Penland, MAPEI Business Development Leader.

MAPEI first became involved with the R.I.S.E. program through the National Wood Flooring Association’s (NWFA’s) efforts to ″play it forward″ (growing members’ businesses through service to others) at the 2015 NWFA Wood Flooring Expo. Since then, MAPEI has volunteered to donate installation materials for all of the floors in the program’s smart homes. These materials include surface-preparation products, mortars and grouts for tile and stone, adhesives, and finishes and care and maintenance products for wood, as well as adhesives and installation accessories for carpet and vinyl flooring.

″Due to our wide and varied product lines, we are in an unique position to provide products that will help make our returning vets’ lives more comfortable,″  MAPEI’s Murphy said. ″This opportunity to work with our industry partners, including the NWFA, NTCA [National Tile Contractors Association] and NAHB [National Association of Home Builders], as well as the Gary Sinise Foundation, is a great way to support a worthwhile cause.″









Customized parking garage completes shopping center makeover

Close up image of EFFE.ESSE COSTRUZIONI SRL beginning work in the La Plaia Shopping Center parking garage. They were allotted less than two weeks to install the SPARTACOTE flooring system throughout the entire space.

On the island of Sardinia, Italy, in the heart of Cagliari, tourists and locals alike are subject to anything one could ever want in a vacation or life of leisure: history, art, views of the Mediterranean, fine cuisine, and of course, shopping. 

While highlights of the city include 13th-century architecture, La Plaia – Centro Commerciale, a prominent shopping center in the middle of town, was seeking restoration to update and modernize, after not having any renovations since the shopping center was built in 1983.

To kick off the nearly two-year construction project, which began in 2016, the eponymous architectural firm Mario Dal Molin and general contractor SIGEF SRL set out to renovate and expand the shopping center by 13,993 sq. ft. (1,300 square meters). The goal behind the changes would be to offer customers a vaster selection of retail options, and provide the community with areas for socialization, such as a new on-site bar. In addition to the interior shopping center updates, 64,583 sq. ft. (6,000 square meters) of parking garage space would need to be reconstructed since the concrete screed in place had been completely destroyed. 

The installing contractor, EFFE.ESSE COSTRUZIONI SRL, using measuring tape to ensure straight line work.

“After briefly meeting Mario Dal Molin at an industry event, we were quickly able to convince him that the LATICRETE® SPARTACOTE™ product line was the top choice to repair the garage,” said Antonella Mura, the LATICRETE Sales Area Manager for Sardinia. “We educated his firm on the product lines’ technical features and demonstrated how the resinous flooring could enhance the parking garage experience by extending the overall design of the building to an unlikely place. Ultimately, the parking garage would be a huge part of elevating the entire shopping experience at La Plaia – Centro Commerciale.” 

Utilizing resinous flooring in projects is increasing in popularity with tile contractors, due to the ease of install and variety this type of floor coating offers to customers as an alternative to large-format or more traditional tile or stone floors.

The Challenges 

White lines of SPARTACOTE FLEX SB to guide traffic.

Customized design: In the past, aesthetics were often not considered when selecting floor coatings for parking areas. However, studies show that floors can elevate the overall shopping experience and boost morale. To liven up the space more than a standard concrete floor could, the design team was able to customize the look and finish of the floors with a pop of color using the LATICRETE products – allowing them to pull the shopping center’s desired experience through the entire development, from arrival to departure. 

Tight time frame: Although the shopping center would undergo a multi-year renovation process, the installing contractor EFFE.ESSE COSTRUZIONI SRL was allotted less than two weeks to install the SPARTACOTE flooring system throughout the entire parking garage before the grand re-opening. To ensure a successful installation within the desired time frame, the execution needed to be exceptional and the product performance needed to hold up the first time around. 

A LATICRETE solution 

To maintain the desired appearance of the yellow safety lines and deter any color fading or peeling, SPARTACOTE FLEX SB was used.

To maintain the desired appearance of the yellow safety lines and deter any color fading or peeling, SPARTACOTE FLEX SB was used.

One of the unique benefits that piqued the architect’s interest in installing resinous flooring in the parking garage is the product’s ability to customize the look and finish of any environment. The SPARTACOTE line of resinous flooring also offers reduced floor maintenance, which is beneficial in high-traffic areas, and superior chemical and stain resistance, making this system an excellent choice to uphold a fresh-looking appearance. 

With a team of six, EFFE.ESSE COSTRUZIONI SRL used LATAPOXY® 309, a two-component epoxy adhesive, to close several joints throughout the parking garage. LATAPOXY 309 is solvent-free and possesses high adhesion and anti-slip agents, ideal for this type of environment. Additionally, this product can cure in difficult conditions, such as those with a high presence of moisture, which can be typical for garages. 

To coat the floors, EFFE.ESSE COSTRUZIONI SRL applied SPARTACOTE FLEX SB™ across the entire 64,583-sq.-ft. (6,000-square meter) garage in a light blue finish. On top of the coating, the team also applied white lane dividers and yellow safety lines to guide traffic. To maintain the desired appearance, SPARTACOTE FLEX SB is UV-resistant, which will help to deter any color fading or peeling in the sunlight. 

Thanks to the products’ rapid cure rates and user-friendly working times, EFFE.ESSE COSTRUZIONI SRL’s team of six efficiently finished nearly 4,305 sq. ft. (400-square meters) per hour – allowing the garage surface to be completed in only 11 days! 


La Plaia - Centro Commerciale opened its doors for a grand re-opening celebration in March of 2018.

La Plaia – Centro Commerciale opened its doors for a grand re-opening celebration in March of 2018.

“Everyone involved in the La Plaia – Centro Commerciale renovation was pleased with the high-quality result of the LATICRETE products used in the parking garage,” said Roberta Marchi, LATICRETE Regional Director Europe Assistant. “The new garage floor is a showstopper, and something memorable for visitors to see when they first visit. Our team received many thanks for the support provided on the jobsite. Whether it was outlining product features or providing installation tips, LATICRETE was there to lend a helping hand every step of the way.” 

Completed in 2018, La Plaia – Centro Commerciale opened its doors for a grand re-opening celebration on March 27 and to the public on March 28. 

The completed La Plaia Shopping Center parking garage.

The completed La Plaia Shopping Center parking garage.

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