fbpx

One-to-one exclusive with Dave Gobis

Industry icon and NTCA Recognized Consultant

Headshot of Dave Gobis
Dave Gobis

As a leading trade association of tile installation contractors, the NTCA is constantly asked for recommendations for individuals who are qualified to perform inspections of workmanship and performance. The list of who we can consistently rely on for this work is very select. NTCA Recognized Consultants can be found on our website at www.tile-assn.com. They possess a unique skill set that takes years to develop, especially if they are to be trusted for complex and large-scale projects. 

One such individual is Dave Gobis. Dave is the former Executive Director of the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation and was a successful tile contractor in Wisconsin for many years before becoming one of the tile industry’s leading consultants. He also generously donates his time to offer advice to many consumers and industry professionals. Many excellent consultants like Dave are nearing the end of their careers in this important sector of our industry, so I caught up with him to gain insight into considerations and training one should take if they wish to venture into this area of work. Part I of our interview is presented here; Part II will be published in the September issue of TileLetter.

As a former tile contractor, how did you transition into consulting work? What specific skills did you have that qualified you to become a consultant, and what steps did you take to educate yourself about codes, standards, proper inspection reporting, and writing, etc.?

Given I am in the process of retiring and not actively looking for work, I am going to be a little more candid in my response than I would normally be.

Photo of Dave Gobis
Gobis was a successful tile contractor for many years and member of the NTCA Board of Directors before working for the CTEF and then venturing into consulting.

I would ask that readers consider my comments not offered as a road map, but rather how things worked for me. I have always been a technically-oriented guy. Early on, I even lost accounts because I was “too difficult” to deal with. One of the ironies of that was years later, as my competitors bit the dust, I didn’t appear so difficult. 

I have always been a voracious reader and always wanted to know why something did or didn’t work. In the mid-80s, I joined NTCA and was an active member, attending all the shows and blocking out time for back-to-back technical seminars on the front end of the show. NTCA and trade shows also allowed me to meet and interact with all the industry players. Relationships I developed years ago are still active today and have always served as a resource over the length of my career. 

Learning codes and standards are a bit of a challenge. You have to endure some very dry reading and learn how to deal with frustration. You also need to understand them. I personally read each industry-related code or standard a minimum of two – and occasionally three – times. I have had to refer to TCNA methods or ANSI standards since taking a job at CTEF in 1998, so after 22 years of near-daily referencing methods and standards, I know what they are and where I can find what I am looking for most of the time. Plus, the benefit of serving on various committees is that I get a chance to review and sometimes vote on changes. 

In terms of proper inspection, that is certainly a quagmire. If someone hires me to look at a job and figure out a problem, I absolutely have to be able to do what it takes to determine a cause beyond a reasonable doubt. This often means deconstructing the installation. 

For instance, in my most recent project, the client said a liquid-applied crack-isolation membrane was used over concrete and the floor tented in various areas. We can assume there is a lack of expansion joints, but there has to be something else. As long as I have been doing complaints I have never seen a floor fail based on a single issue. 

My client was averse to doing any demo. The manufacturer already denied the claim based solely on no soft joints. I’m not willing to risk my reputation on that speculation. They relented and gave me three areas to remove tile, which showed a silky smooth slab. 

End of search? Not quite. It was also very green and the drops I put on from my water bottle went nowhere. Then we had to core the slab. Analysis of three cores showed the slab was burnished to an average of 3/16” deep. That is what it took to figure out the problem. Something like coring the slab I hire out, though I used to have a core drill In addition to regular old tile tools. I have a fair amount of additional specialized equipment I use in failure analysis. I want to use the least intrusive means to fully examine the installation, but it must be thoroughly examined. If you make an incorrect diagnosis, your future is not so bright. News travels fast. 

I have yet to meet anyone who likes inspection report writing. I spent years developing my format. Writing is an art form in itself. You become a content writer. Like a good novel, readers hang on your every word. There will be those who love it and those who hate it. 

Photo of floor tile installation in a bathrooom
Successful tile consultants like Dave Gobis work tirelessly to determine the cause of the problem and to develop a strategy for remediation.

Reports must be accurate and without speculation. When speculation is unavoidable – which is rare – the steps needed to resolve it, as a matter of fact, should be explained. There are many things we may think we know but don’t have facts to support them. There is usually some type of test that can provide facts to support your opinion, however, in some instances, the testing protocol can cost more than the claim. Still, it should be offered in the report if you are speculating based on your experience. 

You also need to keep away from assigning responsibility, which is for judges and juries. It can also create a liability issue for you if you end up being wrong. Your job is to either find or identify the cause of the problem, not to assign responsibility for it. That said, the majority of my clients want me to do just that, and I simply won’t. The specifics of the report writing process are quite lengthy. It is more than a short article but probably less than a book. Just remember, whatever you write is a matter of permanent record. If it goes into litigation, any errors will be used to discredit you, making the report worthless to your client and possibly producing a negative result.

We have many installers and manufacturer and distributor representatives who aspire to be inspectors or consultants. What advice would you give them as they get started?

You really need to be the go-to guy before you start, not after you start. It is not an occupation where you just decide this is what I shall be and hang out your shingle. It is also not one full of riches, as many are surprised to find out. This is particularly true when you start out with no track record. I am currently charging five times what I was when I started, for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, I have a track record, having done 2,864 inspections. Second, I am trying to retire; otherwise, it would only be four times as much. 

Photo of Dave Gobis receiving an award
Dave Gobis has received numerous awards for career achievement, including the TCNA Tile Person of the Year in 2015 and the NTCA Joe A. Tarver Award in 2009.

You have to like flying. I have done probably fewer than 12 inspections in my home state. For the first 10 years, I flew to a different city every week, did my inspection, came back and wrote my report, and moved on to the next one. 

The other consideration is: what is it you think you know better than anyone else? You need to have some type of knowledge that sets you apart. Anyone can be the “doesn’t-have-any-expansion-joint guy.” That doesn’t pay much either. 

Where are you going to sell your services? Because you and the manufacturer are buddies does not mean he is going to send you his work. Manufacturers are not going to allow you to control their customer or budget. I have heard more than once, “We don’t call you because we can’t predict what you’re going to say.” Manufacturers will also not open the door to finding they have a defective product, which is rare, by the way. 

Distributors operate on razor-thin margins, which they make by associating with a select group of manufacturers, so not much chance of work there either. The only time either one has given me work is when they are ready to “burn the bridge.” That means they are prepared to lose the business typically from a contractor, who is about to find out that liability insurance doesn’t cover in-place work. 

The other thing that amazes me about people wanting to get into inspecting or consulting is that many have never been involved in any technical aspects of the industry. Recently, I had a project where the guy’s qualifications were attending Schluter, wedi, and MAPEI schools. It’s great to know how to install these products, but it takes more than that. Inspection and consulting really need to be career goals, not something you just one day decide you want to be.

Join us next month for Part II of One-to-One with Dave Gobis.

Reclaimed marble panels honor the past while embracing the future

Photo of the exterior of the Mayo-Underwood Building - Frankfort, Kentucky

New Mayo-Underwood Building pays homage to honored past of architectural landmarks

Cover of August 2020 TileLetter Magazine

When a historical landmark is demolished, it can be a devastating experience for the community. For the citizens of Frankfort, Ky., it would be the promise of a new future. The 1970s-era Capital Plaza Tower, a building that has loomed over downtown Frankfort for nearly 50 years, would be replaced with a state office building. This new four-story building would be designed to house nearly 1,600 state employees. 

The site has an even deeper history – from 1929 – 1963 it was the site the Mayo-Underwood School, Frankfort’s esteemed high school for African-American students. 

The Commonwealth of Kentucky in downtown Frankfort tapped CRM Companies and D.W. Wilburn, Inc. to spearhead the massive project. CRM would act as the developer and D.W. Wilburn would serve as the general contractor and part-owner of its redevelopment. The project would include the relocation of site utilities and demolition of the existing 28-story, 330-ft.-tall Capital Plaza Tower and Frankfort Convention Center. It also would involve the site design as well as construction of a new office building, parking garage, and plaza configuration. Plans for a parking garage required a four-story building to accommodate more than 1,000 parking spaces. A 388,000-sq.-ft. (36,046 m2) office building would include a spacious lobby, hearing rooms, a health clinic, a sundry shop, mechanical and electrical rooms, as well as a loading dock area.

Designed by EOP Architects of Lexington, Ky., the LEED-certified structure would be constructed with the future in mind. It was built with state-of-the-art technology in an environmentally-friendly, energy-efficient, and employee-centric design. The construction team was instructed to salvage large vintage marble panels that lined the original Capital Plaza Tower’s lobby walls. Reclaiming the slabs for the new building’s lobby, the design would embrace the future while honoring the past. Martina Bros. Co., Inc., was tapped to be the contractor responsible for the retrofitted marble as well as the tile flooring in the lobby.

The marble panels were installed using MULTIMAX™ Lite.

“We were tasked with salvaging all the marble panels from Capital Plaza Tower and repurposing them for the new government building,” said Dino Martina, President of Martina Bros. Co., Inc. “LATICRETE recommended LHT™ polymer modified large-and-heavy-tile mortar and MULTIMAX™ Lite, a lightweight versatile polymer modified thin-set, which delivered the results we were looking for on this project.”

Besides recycling the marble panels, other sustainability efforts would be taken in this project. Most of the rubble from the demolition of Capital Plaza Tower would be used to construct the new building’s foundation. In addition, materials from the tower would be utilized to create an artistic tree sculpture for the lobby.

EOP Architects designed the Mayo-Underwood Building.
The Commonwealth of Kentucky tapped CRM Companies and D.W. Wilburn, Inc., who spearheaded the massive project.

The challenges 

Retrofitting vintage marble: The project team needed to reclaim all the vintage marble from the Capital Tower Plaza before implosion. Each slab had to be cut and retrofitted for the new structure. This laborious process included taking down each of the marble panels, delivering them to the shop, and recutting each of them to retrofit the new design.

The project utilized salvaged marble panels from the demolished Capital Plaza Tower.

Fast-tracked phased design: The project required a phased design including a demolition and construction schedule. The marble panels and tile installation needed to be completed on track with the rest of the structure.

Withstanding the test of time: The new government facility would replace the near 50-year-old, historical state building. It was essential that the new structure and its features be long-lasting and enduring for generations to come.

A LATICRETE solution

Because of the laborious process of cutting and retrofitting each marble slab, a solution needed to be made that was effective and durable. LATICRETE provided the installation and setting materials that would ensure the flooring and marble panel walls would be applied on time and within the parameters of the phased schedule. Combining excellent workability with optimum large-and-heavy-tile performance, LATICRETE® products solved the crucial needs for both the tile flooring and marble slab walls.

Martina Bros. Co., Inc. retrofitted the marble panels and installed the tile flooring in the lobby.

The tile flooring of the lobby was installed using LHT, a polymer modified, large-and-heavy-tile mortar. Specifically formulated to provide a one-step installation for large-format ceramic tile, porcelain tile, marble, and stone on floors, this solution provided a painless and long-lasting application. LHT exceeds ANSI A118.4 H standards and is effective at supporting heavy tile and stone while reducing lippage problems. It has a buildup of up to 3/4” (19 mm) without shrinkage or set-up time issues.

The marble panels were installed with MULTIMAX Lite, a patented, lightweight versatile polymer modified thinset that provides maximum non-sag performance on walls. It has a maximum buildup of up to 3/4” (19 mm) without shrinkage and provides maximum coverage due to its lightweight creamy-smooth consistency. In addition, MULTIMAX Lite is fiber-reinforced for maximum strength and performance. MULTIMAX Lite is also GREENGUARD certified and contains more than 10% post-consumer recycled content. To top it off, the revolutionary patented formula is equipped with Microban® antimicrobial protection, which eliminates damaging microbial growth on surfaces without impacting aesthetics or functionality.

“We selected LATICRETE products because of the outstanding support from their team,” said Martina. “They went the extra mile to give support and even came out to the project to make sure everything was in working order. They went above the call of duty.”

Outcome

With the phased design, the implementation of quality materials combined with the tireless efficiency of the teams involved led to a successful completion. The project was finalized almost five months ahead of schedule while achieving budgetary expectations and exceeding required safety standards. 

A tree sculpture for the lobby was made using rebar from the demolished Capital Plaza Tower.

In August 2019, during a dedication ceremony, the state government building was officially given its name. Standing on the former site of the Mayo-Underwood School, which served as Frankfort’s African American educational institution for 34 years prior to the construction of the Capital Plaza Tower, the Mayo-Underwood Building name sealed the legacy of the structure. The important link to the city’s past is further recognized with a monument and plaque standing outside the entrance, paying tribute to those who attended the school, and forever memorializing what the structure stands for.

“By naming the Mayo-Underwood Building, my intent was to remember and recognize what was here before, to honor the past while we move into the future,” Finance and Administration Cabinet Secretary William Landrum III said at the ceremony, as recorded by The State Journal


Photos courtesy of Mike Matthews Photography, Bluegrass Commercial Images, bluegrasscommercialimages.com.

Shield Stone Floors against stains with FILA FOB XTREME SEALER

Want to keep your stone floors clean and protected? Shield them with FOB XTREME SEALER.

Stone floors, if left unprotected, can absorb oil and dirt, making the stone unsightly and stains difficult to remove. The best way to keep stone surfaces in good condition is to seal them against stains. 

FILA FOB XTREME SEALER protects stone floors against stains

FILA’s  FOB XTREME SEALER  is the ideal natural look, penetrating sealer for all natural stone, grout, concrete, quarry tile and terracotta. It forms a protective barrier resistant to moisture and stains while still allowing water vapor to escape. The long-lasting protection does not yellow or discolor and it’s safe in food preparation areas. 

 Order FOB XTREME SEALER and FILA will provide training on how to use it. Email [email protected] 

OSHA Issues Inspection Guidance for Enforcement of Respirable Crystalline Silica Standard

On June 25, 2020, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued Inspection Procedures for the Respirable Crystalline Silica Standards. The new procedures, 124 pages in length, went into effect immediately.

Beginning of the Inspection

The new procedures set forth the following “playbook” for inspectors:

  • Conduct and “collect personal breathing zone samples on the first day of the inspection.” If no silica-generating work is being performed at that time, the procedures state that the inspector should ask the employer for the next available time such work will resume.
  • “Request and review” standard documentation, including:
    • the employer’s written exposure control plan;
    • the employer’s exposure records (such as air monitoring records) or “other data the employer used to assess exposures to determine what exposure levels might be expected before entering the work area”; and
    • “laboratory analytical results or chain of custody sample forms.”

For construction employers in particular:

  • If the employer is not fully and properly implementing “the specified controls for a Table 1 [Specified Exposure Control Methods When Working With Materials Containing Crystalline Silica] operation or task,” or is performing a task or using equipment not listed in Table 1, the procedures instruct inspectors to assess the employer’s efforts to assess compliance with the permissible exposure limit (PEL).
  • If the employer is fully and properly implementing Table 1, the inspector “does not need to collect personal air samples.”
  • Under the guidelines, an inspector generally should avoid a regulated area or other areas where anticipated exposures are above the PEL, unless there is an absolute need to do so, the inspector is wearing proper personal protective equipment (PPE), and the inspector has “discuss[ed] the need with [his or her] Area Director (AD) or supervisor prior to entering a regulated area.”

Citation Guidance

The procedures set forth the following for general industry and maritime employers:

  • “If samples collected show employee exposure above the PEL of 50 µg/m3, cite 29 C.F.R § 1910.1053(c).”
  • “[B]ut [if] the employer has instituted all feasible engineering and work practice controls and employees are adequately protected by an effective respiratory protection program, then there is no PEL violation.”

“For construction employers:

  • Where the employer has fully and properly implemented the engineering controls, work practices, and respiratory protection specified on Table 1, then there is no PEL violation.
  • Where the employer has not fully and properly implemented the engineering controls, work practices, and respiratory protection specified on Table 1 and sampling shows exposure over the PEL, the inspector should cite § 1926.1153(c)(1) and paragraph (d)(1) as grouped violations.” (Emphasis added.)

Compliance Checklists

Near the back of the inspection procedures are compliance checklists, one for the construction industry and one for general industry and maritime. Each checklist contains specific step-by-step checkboxes for all topics covered in the inspection procedures. Employers may want to print copies of these checklists and utilize them to enforce their compliance efforts.

Key Takeaways

  • The checklists at Appendix F may offer employers the best measure of compliance assurance. Employers may want to incorporate the checklists into their safety compliance programs and have their internal health, safety, and environmental personnel utilize the checklists and inspection guidelines to simulate OSHA inspections of their own worksites and take any appropriate corrective action.
  • As noted in our previous analysis of OSHA inspection data, inspectors enforcing the silica in construction standard generally took an either/or approach when an employer did not follow Table 1: cite under either 29 C.F.R. 1926.1153(c)(1) or 29 C.F.R. § 1926.1153(d)(2)(i) for not conducting an exposure assessment (which is only required only if the employer did not follow Table 1). Here, OSHA is suggesting the best approach is to cite employers for violations of both sections, not just one.
  • Most inspectors conducting construction inspections, however, do not appear to conduct any sampling; instead, they observe the workplace and determine if the employer is following Table 1. If the employer was not following Table 1, the inspector would recommend a violation for 29 C.F.R. 1926.1153(c)(1). Now OSHA is advising inspectors to also cite employers under 29 C.F.R. § 1926.1153(d)(2), which is a violation for exceeding the PEL. But if the inspector never conducts sampling, OSHA has no evidence that the employer was actually exceeding the PEL at the time of the inspection. The updated procedures suggest inspectors should now always conduct sampling at all construction sites.
  • OSHA clarifies that while general industry and maritime employers can use Table 1 for tasks indistinguishable from those set out in Table 1, it is only meant for uncommon and non-routine situations. “This exception is intended for situations where the tasks will be performed in different environments and conditions, rather than in a stable and predictable environment.”
  • OSHA’s silica standards removed proposed prohibitions against employee rotation, after much criticism from the stakeholder community. But now OSHA is stating that “this practice is discouraged,” and warns employers it may potentially increase the number of employees subject to the medical surveillance requirements.
  • OSHA’s interpretation of “under any foreseeable conditions” appears to render the “objective data” exception to silica compliance moot and effectively reads it out of the standard. Employers in general industry and maritime industries are exempt from the silica standard if they possess “objective data demonstrating that employee exposures to respirable crystalline silica will remain below [the action level] … under any foreseeable conditions.” OSHA then interprets “under any foreseeable conditions” to include “failure of most controls.” But if that never happens in practice, how can it be a “foreseeable condition?” Technology is constantly improving. Engineering controls and their reliability are getting better, not worse.
  • OSHA also suggests that any objective data proffered by employers should “reflect[] ‘worst case’ conditions.” But industry surveys are typically conducted under common and representative What’s a “worst case” scenario? The answer is largely left to the imagination of the inspector, who may envision an unlikely parade of horribles to call into question and reject the employer’s objective data. This would force all employers, large and small, to conduct exhaustive air sampling for each work site, something OSHA insisted the silica standards would not require.

Written by Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C.

Braxton-Bragg Changes Name to BB Industries, LLC

Braxton-Bragg, one of the most respected distributors in the stone industry for the past 26 years, has changed its name to BB Industries/BBI, to reflect the company’s explosive growth in people, products and partnerships.

 “As our company has grown and evolved to the point where we are nearly unrecognizable, so now it is time to mirror that change in our name,” said CEO Rick Stimac. “We have added some of the most experienced sales consultants in the industry to our team, brought thousands of premium products to our offering, as well as partnered with top industry brands. This massive growth and transformation warrants a name that matches our innovation. We are committed to being the best product supplier and a true partner in the stone industry.”

BBI represents the company’s tagline Better Service, Better Value, as well as adds industry to symbolize the group’s larger footprint.

 “Nothing is changing but our name and our growth objectives,” added Stimac. “We have been very strategic with our company growth since I took the helm three years ago, and have reconstructed our organization in nearly every aspect from staff to offering. BBI will not waver from our total dedication to world class service, top-of-the-line products, industry education, expanded CNC offering and the industry’s only 30-day money-back guarantee. We feel the BBI image represents our 26 years of experience, while embracing all of our changes, and striving to meet our new objectives.”


Since its beginning in 1994, BBI’s philosophy has been to offer the best customer service and the best value for the money. This is accomplished by delivering exceptional products and first-class service to our partners in the stone, tile, and concrete industries. For more info, visit BBIndustriesLLC.com,facebook.com/BBIndustriestwitter.com/BBIndustriesLLC,pinterest.com/BBIndustriesLLC, or linkedin.com/bbindustries.
Questions? Contact us today 1-800-575-4401

Contractor Perspective: Lambert Tile and Stone, Eagle, Colo.

Dan and Elizabeth Lambert of NTCA Five-Star Contractor Lambert Tile and Stone in Eagle, Colo., share their experiences and struggles with work during the time of COVID-19.

Dan and Elizabeth Lambert of NTCA Five-Star Contractor
Lambert Tile and Stone in their Eagle, Colo. showroom

2020 has definitely been a different year than we had planned for. We operate our tile installation business in the mountains of Colorado. We were one of the first counties in Colorado to go into a Stay at Home order in early March because some of the first cases of COVID-19 were traced to our international guests that came for the ski season in the Vail area. With that came the unknown on how our jobs would be affected.

Construction turned out to be an essential job in Colorado, so we were able to follow our county guidelines and have up to 10 people working on a job site. Luckily, we were on a new construction residential project and each of our employees could work in a separate area and have their own tools. There was no pressure by any builder to require anyone who felt comfortable to stay on the job. Schedules were thrown out the window. We had a few of our employees out sick, which of course caused us to worry about how we would pay the bills. When they returned, we started them out slowly on projects they could be on by themselves, or we had them do creative work like cleaning and inventorying our warehouse. We started to have a few jobs cancel not just because of the virus, but because of the fluctuation in the stock market. We did qualify for the PPP program which took away some of the stress of the unknown.

Another issue we had was finding masks and sanitation products for our employees to feel safe on the job site. This required calling everyone we knew and searching the Internet in order to find a few things here and there.

As a business owner, we had to think differently about the way we have operated for the last 20 years. We participated in multiple Zoom Meetings and webinars in order to use our down time to either educate ourselves or stay in contact with our manufacturers and distributors. We also learned about all the new tile lines coming up through Zoom and webinars since Coverings was not able to take place this year.

We also encountered a disruption in the tile supply chain. Tile from Italy was taking way longer than the normal 12-week lead time, which forced us to reselect tile on multiple jobs.

Our phones have actually been ringing off the hook this past month with homeowners who have been home for months and would now like to upgrade their bathrooms. In fact, Lambert Tile and Stone is currently looking for a high-end residential tile installer/employee to join our team in the beautiful mountains of Colorado. So, if anyone is thinking of relocating please send us an email at [email protected]  Our employees were sometimes spoiled on the jobs for homeowners — one homeowner made them some kind of homemade treat each day (we think our employees wanted that job to last forever). We have been fortunate that a few of our jobs are exterior installations, which made our employees feel more comfortable by working outdoors.

One positive thing we observed through the months is that everyone treated each other with more kindness and compassion. We are all in this together. Our silver lining was all the time we spent with immediate family, which forced us to look at our work/life balance and truly look around and see the amazing place we live and work, and to help those in our mountain community. 

Waterproofing for exterior balcony

QUESTION

I have a customer with an exterior balcony that is tiled on the floor and walls. The space below the balcony is conditioned space (front hall). The waterproofing has failed and he’s getting water in the room below when there’s rain. I don’t know what the existing waterproofing system is. He has asked me to remove and replace everything, but I’m not sure what kind of substrate/waterproofing to use. The rep of the company whose products I usually use tells me that they’re not approved for exterior use. The balcony has walls on four sides, so I need to be able to incorporate drains to let the water out. Is there a product that you can recommend for this application?

ANSWER

I am glad you have asked questions about this installation before proceeding. An exterior balcony over occupied space is among the most critical types of installations a tile contractor can face. There is very much information to consider, more than can be addressed here, so I will begin by listing the applicable reference material and asking you to take a look through the information listed below.

TCNA Handbook (2019 Edition)

  • Wet Areas Guidelines (Page 41)
  • Environmental Exposure Classifications (Page 44). See the definition for Res6 (Residential Exterior) and the charts for Floors and Walls on pages 46 and 47.
  • Methods for Exterior Roof/Deck and Balcony/Deck Floors: F103; F103B; F104; F105 (Pages 60 – 67).
  • Methods for Exterior Walls: W201 (Page 186); W202E (Page 188); W244E (Page 190)
  • EJ171 Movement Joint Guidelines for Ceramic, Glass, and Stone (Page 430)
  • Appendix B. Estimated Weights for Floor Installations (Page 444)

When reviewing the TCNA Handbook methods for Exterior Roof/Deck and Balcony/Deck Floors that I’ve listed above, please make note of this statement in the Preparation By Other Trades section: “Roof drains and membrane by other trades – provide completed drainage at roof membrane level by use of weep holes as shown or other methods.”

Regarding movement joints, please note of the Movement Joint section states: “…architect must specify type of joint and show location and details on drawings” and Method EJ171 states: “Because of the limitless conditions and structural systems on which tile can be installed, the design professional or engineer shall show the specific location and details of movement joints on project drawings.”

ANSI A108 / A118 / A136 (July 2019 Release date)

  • There are multiple sections in A108 and A118 that pertain to exterior and wet area installations, movement joints, thick bed system requirements, etc.

NTCA Reference Manual (2019/2020 Edition)

  • Prerequisites and Considerations for Successful Balconies, Courtyards, Patios, Plaza Decks, Roofs, Exterior Walking Surfaces and Swimming Pool Decks (Pages 156 – 157)

The section I’ve noted in the NTCA Reference Manual is extremely informational – please read it first. At the end of that section you will read this: “DISCLAIMER: The tile contractor is not responsible for the design of the system. To avoid potential liabilities use a general contractor and certified roofing contractor when waterproofing over occupied living space.”

There is no simple product recommendation or set of instructions or solution I can offer. The best advice I can give you is:

  • Follow the guidance of the NTCA Reference Manual and the TCNA Handbook, which recommend employing a general contractor, architect, structural engineer as needed to properly design and specify the structural support; mechanical (drainage) systems; movement/expansion details; waterproofing system and other elements of this very complex installation.
  • Hire a roofing contractor and mechanical contractor to install the primary roofing membrane and the mechanical/drain-waste-vent system.
  • Ensure considerations are made for any railings/balusters to not puncture the primary waterproofing layer unless they can be adequately sealed.
  • Ensure all of the waterproofing and membranes are flashed onto the walls and – since the walls are being tiled – are fully waterproofed or the water managed as outlined in the wall methods I’ve listed.
  • After the project has been engineered and designed by structural and mechanical professionals, contact and involve setting material and membrane manufacturers that will assist you in product selection and ask them to provide you detailed installation instructions for their products and a written system warranty that covers their products in this installation.
  • Follow all manufacturer instructions and guidelines in the TCNA Handbook, ANSI A108 and the NTCA Reference Manual.
  • Clearly communicate the complexity of this project to the homeowner and inform them what it will take to ensure their project is a success.

I hope this gets you started. After reviewing this information please contact me again with any questions you might still have and I will help as best I can. 

One-to-One with Crossville Inc.

Mark Shannon and Noah Chitty

Crossville Incorporated is a leading manufacturer of porcelain ceramic tile located in the heart of Tennessee. In recent years, it has expanded its operations by acquiring and opening strategic distribution locations, to support markets where traditional distribution channels were not their best option.

Crossville has a proven track record of producing quality tile and supports the industry in numerous ways. As active members of the NTCA, CTDA and TCNA, among others, Crossville leaders work closely with association staffs and volunteers in standards development and in promoting and developing training, education and certification programs. 

As a proud sponsor of the NTCA Five-Star Contractor Program, Crossville worked closely with director Amber Fox to reach out to our members during the COVID-19 pandemic to initiate best practices discussions on a number of topics. Mark Shannon is the Executive Vice President of Sales for Crossville, and recently was named Chairman of the Board for the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF). Noah Chitty is the Director of Technical Services and was recently appointed as Chairman of the ISO TC-189 Committee, the international development body for global standards related to ceramic tile and affiliated materials. 

I was able to sit down with these two dynamic leaders to gain some insight on many issues. The first bank of questions is directed to Mark Shannon, followed by questions for Noah Chitty. 

The coronavirus pandemic has radically impacted all of our lives. How has it affected Crossville as it relates to effectively communicating and interfacing with your customers? What steps have you taken to reach out to them and have there been any positives you can take out of this challenging situation?

Mark Shannon

Mark Shannon: COVID-19 has challenged us all on every level, first and foremost, in keeping our people and their families safe while ensuring the enterprise continues to move forward. We have adopted a very vigorous digital platform for our sales team, one that is filled with new content that targets key stakeholders in the construction pipeline: architects, designers, contractors, and our distributors. We are all becoming experts on Zoom and Webex. This content is being delivered in a regular cadence that respects the customers’ work-from-home challenges. 

We are also reaching out through our Technical Services Team to provide training on industry updates on standards, the TCNA Handbook for installation, and CEUs. Our team has been reaching out to contractors, particularly residential and commercial NTCA Five-Star contractors – to check in and stay in touch. These calls are to see if there are opportunities where the pandemic has impacted their business, and if there are industry best practices we can share such as sourcing PPE and PPP challenges. The good that is coming out of this is the opportunity to connect with our friends who we do not get to see due to the travel restrictions, and letting us all continue to show support for the industry and people we all love.

The recent news that the Department of Commerce has affirmed a final ruling on anti dumping and countervailing subsidies related to Chinese imports to the U.S., is creating an opportunity for manufacturers to take advantage of the tariffs and duties on these products and replace the gap left by them. What is Crossville doing to take advantage of this opportunity?

Mark Shannon: The recent rulings by the Commerce Department and the ITC have created a window of opportunity. There are projects that the domestic manufacturers can supply to fill the gap. More importantly, the decisions were fairly clear that damage had been done to the coalition partners. There will be other offshore supply chains that will also step in to fill some of the voids, but not all.

We are focusing on our customers to offer solutions that support the domestic customer base with inventory and manufacturing flexibility to meet these needs.

More than ever before, consumers, designers and specifiers will look to products that are environmentally friendly and easy to clean and sanitize. How will Crossville market this and do you have products available or in development that can meet this need?

Mark Shannon: We are currently working on our messaging for porcelain tile from the durability and ease-of-maintenance perspective. We all know porcelain tile is impervious and easy to clean. The inherent properties of the product in a well-installed system make for a perfect surface due to the ability to withstand any necessary cleaning and sanitizing materials or methods. This product offers cleaning solutions that other surfacing products do not. There are a number of products that we make with our Cross-Sheen surface – which imparts a subtle glow that enhances the color of the tile and allows graffiti, stains and scuff marks to be easily wiped off the surface – that go above and beyond when it comes to maintenance. 

As the newly-appointed Chairman of the ISO Committee, what are your plans moving forward to lead an international group of volunteers in a collaborative process, especially as it is now affected by challenges related to travel with the COVID-19 situation? How do you plan on working through this, and what are your next steps?

Noah Chitty

Noah Chitty: Well, I was just getting my feet wet when COVID first started to spread. The meeting in Berlin in November 2019 was my first as Chairman. Of course, I would have preferred to figure out how to be a good leader in a non-pandemic time, but that matters little now. So far, we have moved our end-of-July meeting in Indonesia to December and we are just waiting to see if that will be possible; we hope so.

One of our biggest hurdles seems to be that we have too many projects that get started, but then there is a struggle to get them completed. The ISO timelines are pretty strict. So, I hope to be able to add some additional focus to the working groups and really concentrate on the most important things and get them done before adding new priorities to the list. Also, if necessary for the near future, we may need to figure out how to do this virtually. It will be tough to get representatives from 30 or so countries together virtually at the same time, both from a technology and time zone standpoint. For now, there are countries still struggling and we don’t intend to put anything additional on their plate, but hopefully as we get into summer we can start to move things ahead.

What are the main objectives or goals you have established that you feel ISO can accomplish in the next year and beyond as it relates to tile manufacturing standards?  How does installation factor into this, if at all?

Noah Chitty: We have 11 working groups that span a broad array of issues related to the tile industry. From COF, membranes, large thin panels, to sustainability and more – we have much going on. I would hope this next year we move the ball on the thin panel information; I would like to see that progress. But, all of the working groups have active projects, so things will have to be accomplished or they will have to make the case to the committee as to why they deserve a new time clock.

For manufacturing standards, the ISO and our ANSI A137.1 are pretty well harmonized, so we are continuing that effort of harmonization and also looking to see if there is any interest in moving more towards ISO for any of this work.

There is an installation working group, WG6. So far they have produced two technical reports and are now working on one about mechanically-fastened exterior tile work. Traditionally, due to the wide range of construction practices around the world, ISO has not had a huge push on the installation standard front. I’d like to explore this more and see if there are in fact some opportunities where we could collaborate as a committee.      

Crossville has been at the forefront of leadership when it comes to the development of training and education programs for their products. How do you see this evolving in today’s environment and what are you doing to plan for this?

Noah Chitty: This is still a main focus for our team and we don’t plan to let it become less of a priority. But what the future brings is still something to be seen. We are holding – for now – the belief that hands-on training can’t be replaced by videos and virtual meetings. But we are talking about it regularly, and I have spoken with our setting-material manufacturer partners. We are all trying to figure it out with as much of a crystal ball as we can right now. We very much hope the NTCA programs will continue eventually. Our plan for porcelain panel training is to continue to work with NTCA and our setting-material partners to further these training initiatives. We are also trying to figure out how we can bring new-found use of virtual technologies to create things we have not done before, and can bring value to our customers and the industry.

Marble moisture discoloration: don’t blame the stone!

Carrara marble moisture discoloration on shower floors is a common problem that has been experienced by many professional tile and stone installers in the U.S. Cases when white or light-colored stone gets random, blotchy-looking dark spots are often posted and discussed at social media groups and online forums. The lack of technical information on cause and prevention of the above-mentioned problem seems to result in a rapidly-growing rejection of white marble as a finish suitable for wet areas. Stone is often blamed for its “poor quality,” “inappropriate mineral composition” and, thus, its inability to provide predictable results when it is installed on shower floors.

Such opinion is often based on the fact that light-colored marble is subject to moisture discoloration not only in cases when a tile and stone mechanic does obvious installation mistakes such as failure to provide proper pre-slope and/or final slope to drain, clogged weep holes, or not fully collapsed mortar ridges, but also in situations when the installer strictly follows the above-mentioned requirements.

This provides a controversy in the light of the fact that white marbles have been successfully used for wet room applications – for example in Europe – for a long time.

Ten Carrara shower modules were tested, with help and support from many industry professionals. Results showed that most of the problems with light-colored marble arise due to inappropriate installation methods/techniques that often result from the insufficiency of the technical information on this subject.

The research has helped to determine two main methods that, if properly followed, will provide great results for white marble at shower floors.

Method #1: traditional dry pack mortar bed shower pan

Before the surge of the discussed problem in late 2000s, marble was mostly installed in shower floors with a traditional water-in water-out system. A dry-packed mortar bed, consisting of one part Portland cement to four to five parts sand, not compacted too tightly and not finished too smoothly, provides a subsurface of connected and very high porosity allowing water to quickly be “taken away” from the underside of marble mosaic. If stone is bonded to substrate with a basic thin-set mortar (preferably unmodified due to its higher porosity), grouted with a simple grout, has no adhered fiberglass mesh reinforcement (an impervious coating on the back of stone also known as “resin backing”) and is not treated with an impregnating/penetrating sealer, the water absorption, migration and evaporation should not face extra complications. The above-mentioned shower system will provide exactly what it was designed for – a proper water evacuation, both topically and internally. 

Method #2: bonded waterproof membrane shower pan with epoxy adhesive and grout

According to our reasonable testing, the bonded waterproof membrane method also provides great predictable results with translucent stone like marble when it is properly installed with a suitable epoxy adhesive, epoxy grout, and very permeable (breathable) impregnating sealer. While the “dry pack” system enables great drainage and internal water evacuation, the second method provides marble with a highly hydrophobic/water-repellent subsurface, almost waterproof grout joints, and a reduced-to-minimum presence of moisture inside its pores, which enables relatively quick topical water evacuation, evaporation of moisture, and drying of the stone.

The problem with bonded membrane pan systems installed with modified mortar and grout

Integrated bonding flange drains create a little dam around the drain opening; not what you want in your marble tile shower installation. 

It is important to understand that the reduced porosity of modified mortars and many modern “stain-resistant” grouts – as well as the design of integrated bonding flange drains (that creates a little dam around the drain opening) within a bonded waterproof membrane system – not to mention the application of penetrating/impregnating sealers – do not contribute to proper internal water evacuation and evaporation. Water still penetrates the stone mosaics, whether sealed or unsealed, either as liquid or gas/vapor and moisture gets trapped below and/or inside stone. 

Saturation of the anchoring fleece in the top layer of a waterproof sheet membrane or dampening of the cementitious coating of a foam pan only reinforces the moisture discoloration. The close distance from the waterproof membrane to the stone on shower floor with a thin layer of mortar – that is much less porous than dry pack sand – does not allow water to be “taken away” from the underside of stone. If the shower is used somewhat moderately, marble and its subsurface do not get really saturated and can dry relatively quickly. However, if the shower is used “heavily” (for example, by a few people in a row), the chances of stone/mortar/membrane saturation are much higher, causing a gradual moisture entrapment within the shower floor assembly installed with the topical waterproofing method.

All the bonded membrane Carrara modules were constructed with full mortar coverage and 2% slope to drain and only one – installed with the “epoxy” method – has shown incredibly quick drying time (from two to three hours to return to the original light color). Other modules, whether sealed or unsealed, have all shown some sort of moisture discoloration that would not fully go away for days.

Trapped moisture under the translucent glass tile installed over a bonded membrane pan.

Again, the reason for such discoloration is the inability of a bonded membrane system to “hide” moisture entrapment under translucent stone when it is installed with materials that still absorb moisture and are not as highly water-repellent as epoxy. 

This conclusion is indirectly supported by the following remarkably interesting statements found in the TCNA Handbook in regards to translucent glass tile installation: “Bonding translucent glass tiles directly to membranes or other impervious surfaces is not recommended because any moisture trapped between the tile and membrane would be visible. Membranes should be placed behind or below the tile setting substrate where translucent glass tile will be installed” (TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass, and Stone Tile Installation 2019, page 7)

The research on the subject continues. Next step will be testing eight new Carrara marble modules installed with different products within the two above-mentioned methods (“dry pack” and “epoxy”).

Merkrete ensures style and sustainability in historic Washington, D.C. hotel

Riggs Washington DC, a brand-new independent hotel from Lore Group in the capital’s thriving Penn Quarter neighborhood, opened on February 6, 2020 with fanfare, only to have to temporarily dim its lights six weeks later, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Riggs, the first U.S. property from the international hospitality company behind renowned hotels Sea Containers London and Pulitzer Amsterdam, is located on the downtown corner of 9th and F Street in a historic building once home to Riggs National Bank, known as the “Bank of Presidents.”

In conceptualizing and designing the property, Lore Group invoked the spirit of the former bank while preserving and restoring much of the property’s original design features to reimagine the storied building for the modern traveler. The 181-room property features nostalgic gestures to the building’s rich past, drawing on the parallels between the activities that take place in banks and at hotels to offer something personal and unexpected around every corner.

Style and functionality come together

Upon entering Riggs, guests are welcomed into the building’s original barrel-vaulted lobby where the hotel’s expansive ceilings are adorned with
impressive and elaborate coffers.

Upon entering Riggs, guests are welcomed into the building’s original barrel-vaulted lobby where the hotel’s expansive ceilings are adorned with impressive and elaborate coffers. A medallion of Juno Moneta, the Goddess of Money, presides over the room, while original features have been given a new lease of life and the grandeur of the building embraced to create a welcoming and inspired hotel that is deeply rooted in D.C. and its impressive history.

In the rooms and suites, guests will find the minibar and safe hidden within a design aesthetic that mirrors a traditional steel safe, with a brass plaque of Juno Moneta on the front. Terracotta orange painted walls complement a striking headboard and wall covering pattern and the bathrooms feature a classic navy palette, Italian Carrara marble, chrome hardware and amenities.

As Washington, D.C., becomes even more revered for its flourishing food and drink scene, Riggs brings something unexpected to the current offering. The hotel’s restaurant Café Riggs is an all-occasion affair inspired by the grand brasseries of Europe, with a modern and reimagined approach that focuses on sustainable products. The bright and airy space features a variety of custom furniture pieces, artworks, and mirrors nestled amongst the building’s original architectural features, including historic Corinthian columns, expansive ceilings, and classically inspired stonework.

Riggs offers a multitude of meetings and event spaces suitable for everything from intimate private dining to grand weddings and parties on the rooftop. The crown of the building is Rooftop at Riggs, a 2,500-sq.-ft. space with panoramic views over the city and an impressive roof enclosure complete with a 1,500-sq.-ft. terrace. The largest of the meetings and event spaces, Rooftop at Riggs can accommodate 200 seated and up to 250 for a reception.

Working with waterproofing

Bathrooms feature a classic navy palette, Italian Carrara marble, chrome hardware and amenities.

When ProFast Commercial Flooring, LLC was approached by Whiting-Turner General Contractors to supply the cost-efficient, high-end materials they wanted from around the world, ProFast President Kevin Killian knew they’d need a trusted and top-quality waterproofing system to ensure a job well done. Upon reviewing the scope of the project, all answers pointed definitively to Merkrete, the leader in waterproofing, crack-isolation and underlayment technology. The expertly-chosen stone tiles grace the hotel’s grand lobby floors, every guest bathroom on the shower walls, shower floors, shower curbs, stone base, stone flooring and stone backsplash, along with throughout the restaurant and bar floors, interior and exterior fireplaces and public bathrooms. To prevent any leaking in such highly-utilized areas, Merkrete’s trusted system won them the contract.

ProFast Commercial Flooring, LLC is an elite NTCA Five-Star Contractor and has been in business since 1998. It has a dedicated, knowledgeable and professional staff both in the office and field to provide the best-installed product in the commercial flooring business. ProFast covers a wide range of flooring from ceramic tile, porcelain tile, marble, granite and limestone to any special-order material throughout the world.

A versatile solution seals the deal

Café Riggs is an all-occasion affair inspired by the grand brasseries of Europe, with a modern and re-imagined approach that focuses on sustainable products.

When it comes to the critical waterproofing under tile in the stone-clad bathrooms, guest and public, Merkrete’s HydroGuard SP1 waterproofing membrane was the perfect match and only solution. Durable and long lasting, this membrane system is fast drying, promising zero leaks or cracks, even with high amounts of traffic.

Because of the size of the showers in the guest bathrooms, Killian needed a versatile product that could address several specific needs at the same time: a pre-mixed product that could be used to form the shower pans while also repairing imperfections in the floors. Merkrete’s Sales Representative on the job, John McIntyre, said he immediately knew that Merkrete’s “Underlay-C was the perfect product for these requirements. Its versatility allows you to build up to 3/4” thickness and practically spread out to a feather edge. You don’t usually get that in a single product.”

Merkrete proved the perfect match for a specific challenge again considering the strength of the mortar it called for. “We used very large stone panels, which require a mortar with a super-high bondability that can handle the sheer weight of the panels,” said Killian. Merkrete 820 Merlite is a one-step polymer-modified lightweight setting adhesive for installing extra-large 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. 

In addition to the waterproofing membrane system the hotel required, Merkrete was the trusted source in providing high-performance, sustainable grout in the lobby and bar floors. “Our Pro Epoxy grout is a 100% solids epoxy compound developed for sanitary applications,” said Merkrete Sales Rep, Greg Meiklejohn. “It can be used for setting and grouting porcelain, ceramic and quarry tile, pavers, mosaics on horizontal and vertical surfaces. It produces a high-strength mortar that is stain resistant, impermeable, and shock resistant.”

As with most projects, one of the challenges in this project involved the fast-track timeline, so it was critical that Killian chose a company who would be able to get the products delivered and the job completed on time. “Fortunately for this project’s requirements, we have plants and distribution centers all over the country, so our turnaround time and ability to get our products there quickly were no problem,” said Meiklejohn.

With the Riggs Hotel having just recently celebrated its grand opening, guests flooded in to experience the fine culinary offerings and embrace the historical setting and incredible architecture Riggs has to offer. Located in the heart of downtown D.C., Riggs is ideally situated opposite the National Portrait Gallery and within walking distance of many of the capital’s must-see attractions including The White House, Capitol Hill, the National Mall and Memorial Park. Having been rejuvenated over the last two decades, Penn Quarter is having a moment, offering a host of innovative restaurants and bars. In the years to come, more renovations may take place, but thanks to ProFast Commercial Flooring, LLC and Merkrete, you can be sure the stone tiles will be standing strong.

1 2 3 38