MAPEI makes a splash

The Kartrite Resort and Indoor Waterpark – Monticello, NY, U.S.A.

MAPEI’s tile and stone installation and waterproofing products are used throughout the indoor waterpark and adjoining hotel at one of the Catskills’ newest resorts – thanks to intuition and persistence.

In an area known for resorts, New York’s Catskill Mountains, the Kartrite Resort and Indoor Waterpark is unique. In fact, the Kartrite is unique in the world of resorts in general. Not only is it the largest indoor waterpark in the state of New York, it is one of the largest in the world. According to the resort’s website, the waterpark is comprised of 80,000 square feet, featuring 11 water attractions – which run 318,000 gallons of water through them. And, even in the dead of winter it is always a balmy 84º F inside thanks to the structure’s transparent Texlon roof, which ensures that sunlight is filtered in and that the comfortable heat stays in as well.

The fun at this state-of-the-art waterpark is included for guests of the Kartrite Resort, the luxury hotel/spa that is attached to the indoor waterpark. The all-suites hotel features 324 rooms with all of the expected high-tech conveniences. The hotel also features a spa, restaurants, and shopping and fitness activities designed to fill a weekend or an entire vacation with adventure. And, the resort and the waterpark both feature MAPEI products. But, the story behind how MAPEI came to be included on the specification is as wild as any tale from an adventure novel – and highlights the importance of perseverance and trusting your instincts.

MAPEI on the job

As MAPEI sales representative Darin Shocker related, prior to coming to MAPEI, he used to install tile. He said, “One day I received a call about a large job asking if I was interested in installing some tile on a 100,000 sq. ft. project. I explained that I wasn’t installing anymore. And that was that. But the project still was on my mind. I thought that I should go and see if maybe it could be an opportunity for MAPEI. When I arrived at the jobsite trailer, it turned out that MAPEI wasn’t even on the specification. Since I was new to the company, I contacted my supervisor, Matt Hess, Sales Director – Northeast Area. We were able to get equal representation on the spec. From that point, BK Tile, the project’s installing contractor, began using MAPEI products on the project.”

He continued, “They began by using MAPEI products in the hotel bathrooms and foyers. At this point, BK primarily used another manufacturer’s products in their installations. But, when they began to use our products on this job, we began to gain their trust. They proceeded to use MAPEI products in all areas of the hotel until eventually this job was 100% MAPEI systems throughout both the hotel and the waterpark.”

What were those “or equal” products that Shocker’s persistence got included on the spec?

The specification called for large quantities of products to be used between the hotel and the waterpark: 430,000 sq. ft. of waterproofing to be installed in the interior floors and shower walls of the hotel and the waterpark (Novoplan 2 and ECO Prim Grip self-leveling as needed, Mapesil T and Mapelastic Aquadefense), as well as 100,000 sq. ft. of ceramic/porcelain/quarry installation products (Ultracolor Plus FA Grout, Mapelastic Aquadefense, Ultraflex 2, Ultralite, Ultraflex LFT, Kerapoxy CQ, ECO Prim Grip to prime for Novoplan 2 Plus). “The hotel has 324 suites with restrooms and kitchens all using MAPEI systems. It also has a large lobby and other foyer areas,” Shocker said.

Located in a rural area of Sullivan County, New York, the large-scale commercial construction project required a 15-man crew and a year’s work to complete.

Shocker explained that whether working on the hotel or the waterpark, to complete this massive project, the BK Tile & Stone, Inc. crew, “trowel-applied the thin-set materials and used rollers and/or spray equipment to apply the waterproofing depending upon the application.”

The project ran from July 2018 to January 2019, with the resort and waterpark officially opening on May 10, 2019. “This project uses a complete MAPEI system,” Shocker said. “It is also a great example of providing customer service and product deliveries to a remote location. Both the contractor and the owners are happy with the MAPEI experience – people and products.” 

But perhaps the main lesson of this project is to trust your instincts and to visit those jobsite trailers. Shocker concurred, “Boy, am I glad I took the ride to check up on the jobsite that day!” 

Michael Kephart, President American Wonder Porcelain

One-to-One with Bart Bettiga

Michael Kephart, President
American Wonder Porcelain

While attending Total Solutions Plus in Nashville recently, I had the opportunity to tour the American Wonder Porcelain plant with its president, Michael Kephart. This state-of-the art plant that opened in 2017 and employs more than 200 people in the Nashville area, continues the trend of international investment in domestic tile manufacturing plants on U.S. soil. There are many distinct advantages these manufacturers enjoy, and this is especially true recently with the impact that tariffs have had on imported ceramic tile from China. 

Kephart was hired as president to oversee the development of the plant and to strategically launch the products into the U.S. market. He is uniquely qualified to lead this operation, with many years of experience in production and product development in the tile industry. While we toured the plant on an enjoyable fall Tennessee day, Kephart and I took the opportunity to chat about producing tile, strategy, and the tile industry.

What are the advantages you see of producing high-quality porcelain tile domestically in Tennessee and how have you taken advantage of this in today’s competitive market?

The technical aspects of delivering high-quality porcelain tile to the U.S. market from Tennessee are as normalized today as ever. The domestic production materials are stable and plentiful, the vertical sources for design and application are localized, the energy source is among the lowest in world cost level, innovation is where innovators are, the latest modernized equipment is readily available and domestic ceramic unit production scale has and will continue to grow. Capital intensive projects like tile factories require market demand and acceptance, segment growth, great teams of people working hard and smart, mix management, patience and a little luck. Heavy, large units are most effective produced closest to the customer base desired.

Explain your strategy towards growing your market share. Do you sell through independent distribution, specialty retailers, etc. and how do you see this evolving over the next few years?

We started our company with a simple but unique message. We are the “brand behind the brand” in the market. We worked to promote our customers’ brand as the prevailing factor with our tile in the box. The tile distribution market is changing and evolving quickly in the U.S. We are invested in manufacturing, not end-use promotion. Our assets are centralized to leverage this concept and not compete with the distribution or retailer unlike most of our competition. We believe the need for promotion, education and presentation of the broad use of ceramic tile today and in the future requires localization and investment to reach the end user or specification driver residentially and commercially.

What investments in technology are you making to continue to manufacture products that will appeal to consumers, specifiers and designers. What trends do you see developing in popularity, including patterns and sizes, and types of finishes that can be applied to porcelain tile?

American Wonder Porcelain has invested significantly in technology and resources to develop sophisticated, high-styled, market-driven products. We are innovating with glaze, graphics and finished surfaces to develop a realism and versatility in tile that energizes our customer. The “skin” of our new tile surface can be as smooth as satin yet react with high slip resistance when wet. The gloss of our polish is glass-like transparent, yet resistant to chemicals and staining. Clean rectified edges with mono-caliber matte, polished and honed options allow for wall and floor alignment with low maintenance versus natural stone. Combining digital graphics with new surface options, all in square or plank units up to
24” x 48”, we provide great value to our customers and capture the style and trend imagination of the market.

What are the biggest threats you see to growing tile market share and what is your company doing to address this?

The biggest threat to growing ceramic industry market share is ourselves (and LVT growing faster)! With an unprecedented tariff action pending against China for our U.S. tile industry, we must act to gain the domestic customer’s confidence as cost-effective, capable and reliable suppliers of the most sustainable, durable and fashionable floor and wall product on the planet. We have long been an industry “behind the curtain” with imports driving the development of our U.S. market and other floor and wall material options more heavily promoted than ceramics. Investment has been made and more will be made to grow a U.S.-based sustainable ceramic tile industry, supplying the U.S. consumer. Our retail and distribution customers are presenting tile in more creative and visually inspiring ways. Internal industry promotions such as “Why Tile” through TCNA are gaining traction to promote the positive sustainable facts of ceramic tile. More needs to be done. More industry alignment among the major labor, distribution and technical affiliations in the U.S. working with our international affiliations is needed to unite around promotion of ceramic tile features and benefits to the consumer. The current LVT category growth is certainly impressive. The plastic products, however, are simply not comparable in technical quality, sustainability, durability and safety with high-quality porcelain tile. It is exactly what it is.

How does American Wonder Porcelain Tile support the installer to ensure your innovative products are installed correctly?

American Wonder Porcelain is proud to support all of our industry affiliations in labor, distribution and technical services. We have doubled our Platinum Level commitment for 2020 to CTEF for certification of high-quality labor. We participate in the TCNA Technical Committee with labor for higher-quality standards in tile production. And, in 2020, we will host an NTCA training seminar supporting labor. All of the wonderful tiles we produce and our valued distribution and retailer may stock are unproductive in the warehouse without high-quality labor to install and light the torch of fashionable sustainability for our customers with ceramic tile.

Element Dallas Downtown East location provides high-end hospitality experience with custom design aesthetics from Marazzi

The lobby of the Element Hotel features a custom installation of Classentino Marble in Imperial Brown and Corinth Beige.

When the doors of the Element Dallas Downtown East publicly opened in December 2018, not only were visitors to Dallas offered a high-end hospitality experience, but they were also greeted with an outside-of-the-box approach to the design of the short-stay hotel experience. 

Prior to this location’s conversion, it provided senior citizens a place to rest their heads as the Baylor University Medical Center’s Memory Care Center. The journey from healthcare to high-end hospitality is one that required a ground-up approach and custom curation to strike the right balance of accommodations and internationally-inspired finishes to delight the business and entertainment-focused guests, alike.

The building’s owners, brothers Salim and Perry Molubhoy, own and manage more than 20 high-end hotels across the United States and saw this location as a challenge to bring a unique hospitality experience to the Dallas area. Salim Molubhoy oversaw the more-than-two-year building transformation beginning with demolition down to the structure’s concrete, and rebuild of the hotel. With one of the primary goals of this Element location being to remove the feeling of a prototypical short-stay hotel, so much time and planning was dedicated to designing bright and dynamic spaces where details feel thoughtfully hand-picked.

Element Hotel, Dallas, TX exterior façade.

Given the nature of the building being hospitality with high-traffic, the Molubhoy brothers knew durability would be key, making tile the best solution for the central surfaces. After being presented with several tile options by their interior designer, the brothers ultimately opted for Marazzi over a different brand because of the total amount of options as well as a previous partnership. Salim Molubhoy raved about the customer service he experienced with Jarrod Smyth, the Anaheim Branch Manager for Marazzi, thus beginning the process for materials selection. The Anaheim team hosted Molubhoy, and in one day, he selected all the tile needed for the project.

The hotel’s dining area features a custom installation
of Classentino Marble in Imperial Brown and Corinth Beige.

The hotel’s elevator bank wall features Classentino Marble Classic Weave Mosaic, complemented by Classentino Marble in Imperial Brown and Corinth Beige on the floor.

“Jarrod provided the ultimate in customer service,” said Salim Molubhoy. “Personalized service is key and the fact that Marazzi not only provides the bold, internationally-inspired designs I’m looking for, but that the sales team is available at all hours, goes so far in continuing the excellent impression,” he continued.

Upon entry, guests immediately notice Classentino Marble™ on the lobby floors. This particular collection provides the bold, realistic look of marble in a porcelain tile for the durability the design team was seeking for a busy hotel entrance. 

Classentino Marble is what Marazzi calls, a Colorbody™ Porcelain, which means that the tiles are created with continuous colored stains from the glaze surface throughout the body of the tile. This is important for high traffic areas in the case of any impact chipping that may occur, visibility will be lessened due to the consistent color throughout. 

As guests make their way to the second floor lobby, they encounter Castellina™ Trellis that adorns the wall behind the buffet. This stunning natural stone offering features a combination of stone and porcelain mosaics, with contemporary color tones. Attractive patterns vitalize with beautiful abstract shapes. A curated selection of elegant mosaic patterns brings bold design complementing the entry flooring.

Hotel lobby featuring a custom installation of Classentino
Marble in Imperial Brown and Corinth Beige.

As guests progress to their rooms, they are visually impacted by the stunning Classentino Marble Weave Mosaic that accents the elevators which distinguish it from other area hotels. “People love it” says Salim Molubhoy. “Whenever people come in they love the wow factor.”

Not only are the Marazzi collections featured front-and-center for guests to enjoy, but these bold palettes and timeless designs are also featured in the Hotel Penthouse. “I am a big fan of great products and as a world traveler I want guests to enjoy the best,” added Salim Molubhoy. 

The Penthouse features Materika™ and boasts muted, powdery hues of concrete fashioned into elegant 16″ x 48″ over-sized wall embellishments with a texture for added visual intrigue. Castellina Diamond natural stone mosaic enhances the drama for a dramatic accent wall with classic design.

Cafe area feature wall showing Castellina Trellis in Gray.

In total, more than 8,300 sq. ft. of Marazzi tile is featured in the hotel in both floor and wall applications, pushing the envelope on tile capabilities and capturing the form and function with exceptional quality.

Located within a brief walk of Downtown Dallas lies one of the newest hotels in the area – with a history all its own. The public response has been positive since the public opening in December. The hotel is a comfortable setting for business and leisure travelers alike who want to feel at home in modern accommodations. Molubhoy and staff invite you to visit and enjoy your stay as you travel for business or explore Downtown Dallas during your next trip.

Backsplash features Castellina Modern Arabesque in Gray and Fawn.

The importance and value of qualified labor

In the world of design, like so many other arenas of business, getting the job done right the first time is critical. The success or failure of a design company depends greatly on the people in the trenches in order to translate the vision the design team has for any given project. 

“With this project, the client loved a large format tile that I had installed in my showroom in Hudson, Ohio. We incorporated this into the project. The tile needed to have less grout lines and act as a backdrop for the custom made hood. The tile had a beautiful ‘stamped floral’ design that was all one uniform color and allowed the hood to shine but yet still introduce a uniqueness in its design and format that was unusual at the time it was installed in our area,” said Dostal.

As the professional liaison to her clients, Amber Clore, owner, A. Clore Interiors, Sanford, Fla., said there are several reasons her firm hires qualified installers to perform the trade work needed for its projects. The first is to effectively communicate and translate her design ideas, whether verbal or digital. 

The second, she explained, is the end result and quality of installation. “The methods used are important to the project budget and timeline. Using a qualified and trained contractor who continues educating is a must when working with our clients.”

Rose Dostal, principal, RMD Designs, Hudson, Ohio, is also concerned about who works on her projects. ”It is critical to know if they are qualified laborers so that I know they will adhere to our requirements to build the project, know the local codes and most current methodology, and are up to speed with the latest standards.”

Chanda Seymour, owner, Chanda Seymour Design, San Francisco, agreed with Dostal, and noted designers include qualified labor in their specs to avoid costly mistakes, and ensure correct implementation of their designs.

Clore knew early on in her career it was important to have a high-quality team of professionals who “add value to our services and cater to our clients the same way we do in preliminary design phase.”

The bathroom shower pictured here was part of a full gut remodel undertaken by Chanda Seymour Design, San Francisco. The original space was from 1982, according to Seymour, who also noted the product used in the bathroom shower consists of Ashen Grey marble, 6″ x 24″ honed tiles by Bedrosians Tile & Stone.

In the world of design, she added, there are many challenges when it comes to the built environment. “There have been many difficult design dilemmas we’ve faced, but with the right contractors, creative solutions can be created.”

As for Dostal, working with those she knows is a must. “Since I only use who I know, the contractor and I are in constant communication with what is current in the market place. I go to tradeshows once a year. If I have any takeaways from the tilesetter’s point of view, I always share them with my trades. 

“Before we start a project,” she explained, “there’s always a conversation about what’s new, what’s not, what is the most applicable product before it is written on the drawings. This process is very different from when I used to do commercial projects.”

For Seymour, after working in commercial design where qualified labor is typically required, she began doing more residential design in the early 2000s. “Many general contractors were hiring sub-contractors who weren’t licensed or certified,” she said. “As a result, mistakes were made, the wrong product was used, and the quality of the work was lacking.”

With the finished product being the most important element of any project, all believe using qualified people makes a difference. “Your project depends on qualified labor,” said Dostal. “Your design is only as good as its proper installation. Clients remember the end results. It’s in my best interest to have a critical eye in terms of who is working on my projects, as the trades who work on my project are a reflection on my work.”

Part of the same Chanda Seymour Design project, the kitchen backsplash shown here features honed Skyline marble, cut to size 3″ x 9″ by Country Floors.

Since the designer isn’t always on the jobsite to oversee the installation, explained Seymour, if a sub-contractor isn’t reviewing the specs or drawings, tile can get installed incorrectly, and the wrong technique or product can get used. Incorrect work often needs to be redone. Tile, needs to be re-ordered, resulting in increased costs and delays.  

“Qualified labor matters because they read and follow the specs and plans,” she explained. “They work collaboratively, and question the design intent if something isn’t clearly called out. They take pride in their work. It makes all the difference as to whether a project runs smoothly, is completed on time, correctly, within budget, and looks great.”

Clore believes working with skilled professionals sets her design firm apart from others. “When we’re able help a client from inception to completion, they’re assured the design intent will be carried through and any issues will be mitigated in a timely manner. This shows…that we are able to create a home or space to live in and love.”

NTCA 2019 Review and Industry Forecast

As we look to close out 2019 and look forward to a new decade starting in 2020, I would like to use one word to express how I feel as NTCA Executive Director about our industry and our association – GRATITUDE. There is so much to be thankful for, and it starts with a dedicated board of directors and executive committee and ends with enthusiastic support from members around the country and a dedicated staff of association and industry leaders. Thanks to all of your efforts, NTCA continues to make a positive impact on the ceramic tile industry. 

NTCA’s formal acceptance into the National Apprenticeship System from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).

Highlighting NTCA’s 2019 year was the announcement that the U.S. Department of Labor approved our application for Federal Apprenticeship Guidelines, allowing us to assist our members in training and recruiting new workers. These same guidelines can potentially enable members to apply for workforce development funding assistance in their state. To help in recruitment efforts, NTCA introduced several new videos and promotional materials to support members to promote the ceramic tile trade in their community.  

The biggest impact NTCA makes in our industry usually centers around the training programs we provide for our members. In 2019, we embarked on our most ambitious effort in our association’s history, adding multiple regional training events and roundtable membership meetings, in addition to continuing our traditional workshop seminars. The trainers at NTCA do an incredible job in educating installers and industry professionals, and in 2019, NTCA pledged to help grow the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation Certified Tile Installer (CTI) and Advanced Certified Tile Installer (ACT) programs.  

Membership growth continues to be a focal point of our association. NTCA Training Director Mark Heinlein with new member Gabriel Hanceri at a NTCA workshop in Sterling Heights, Michigan.

2019 was not without challenges. Leading the way this year is a growing concern that plastic-based materials, like LVT and others, are taking industry market share. Rising tariff costs, concerns that economic growth is slowing down, and the continued lack of trained and certified tile installers are still at the forefront of challenges our industry faces. NTCA is committed to addressing these concerns but is additionally forging ahead to promote new opportunities that will help our members continue to thrive in the years ahead. We see the ceramic tile market as one with endless potential, with products helping us to grow per capita consumption for walls and floors and in interior and exterior applications.  

Membership continues to grow thanks to strong support from an active board of directors who helps to spread the word about the value of NTCA to their peers in their region. We will continue to add value by introducing new programs and benefits, and we hope to continue on our path towards 2,000 members in the next few years. 

In an effort to increase value for membership and serve our industry, NTCA added benefits programs for health, life and supplemental insurance, dental and vision plans, 401(k) plans, and more. We urge you to check out the NTCA website for detailed information on all of these programs.  

As NTCA Executive Director since 2002, I am honored to continue to serve this vibrant and growing association. 

NTCA Board Advisor Dan Welch in Michigan taking part in recruitment and training efforts to high school students.

NTCA has committed to a stronger level of support to the CTEF. NTCA and CTEF staff with CTI test takers.

Timeless natural stone showcases luxury retail with a full system from CUSTOM

Westfield Valley Fair is the highest sales volume shopping center in California – the state with the most space dedicated to retail. Over the course of three years, $1.1B was spent to renovate this property in the heart of Silicon Valley, and expand the mall from 1.5M to 2.2M total square feet. Already a highly popular tourist attraction, the upscale center added 150 new stores with a focus on luxury brands. This extensive enhancement included installing 360,000 sq. ft. of natural stone, porcelain and glass tile with a full system from Custom Building Products. 

The objective for Valley Fair was “contemporary yet timeless,” which is the very essence of designing with natural stone. Over 240,000 sq. ft. of limestone, marble and sandstone were imported from Italian and Tunisian quarries in 90 full-sized shipping containers. Most of the stone was fabricated into honed 24” equilateral triangles and laid out in solid color, full-diamond and diamond bleed-out patterns that add tremendous sophistication to the site. 

Northern California Tile and Stone (NCTS), an NTCA Five-Star Contractor based in Sacramento, Calif., performed the work on both the renovation and expansion phases of the project. Performing demolition work, preparing the surface and setting pavers while the center remained open for business required tightly coordinated night work. To meet the aggressive schedule and minimize the impact on shoppers, a high-performance, rapid-setting system of tile installation products was chosen. 

Surface preparation

After removing existing tile, the slab was lightly shot-blasted to ICRI Concrete Surface Profile 3. This opened up the concrete to provide a clean surface for bonding an underlayment to bring the floor within tolerances for large-format stone tile. The low-prep CustomTech® flooring preparation products selected for the project do not always require this step, but given the age and condition of the slab, shot blasting was recommended to ensure the best bond to the substrate. TechPrime™ A Advanced Acrylic Primer was diluted 3:1 with three parts water and applied with a soft-bristle push broom to help drive the mixture into the substrate. This highly versatile primer and sealer can be used to prepare both porous and non-porous substrates for leveling. 

TechLevel 150 Self-Leveling Underlayment was pumped throughout the project to achieve a truly flat floor.

A smoothing tool is used to take TechLevel 150 Self-Leveling Underlayment to a feather edge at low spots in the slab.

After the primer dried, TechLevel™ 150 Premium Calcium Aluminate Based Self-Leveling Underlayment was poured to an average depth of 1/4”. High flow TechLevel 150 was pumped over the extensive concourses but also barrel mixed in the smaller areas as the prep work drew to a close. This super-fluid leveler can be batch mixed or inline mixed to scale for jobs of all sizes and the leveling work was self-performed by installers from NCTS. With a compressive strength greater than 4300 psi, TechLevel 150 is suitable for most projects and can be poured up to 1.5” per lift while resisting cracking. 

“We had great feedback from installers that had used other leveling products,” offered Erik Johnson, Project Superintendent with NCTS. “TechLevel 150 was a big factor in the successful outcome of the whole project. The tolerances were tighter, and we were not fighting substrate differences or seeing lippage.” 

To protect the natural stone on the mall’s busy concourses, RedGard® Waterproofing and Crack Prevention Membrane was specified throughout the project. RedGard controls in-plane crack transmission up to 1/8” in tile and stone floors and exceeds the requirements of ANSI A118.12 for crack isolation. This ready-to-use elastomeric membrane was primarily applied with an airless spray rig due to the immense size of the shopping center. A thickness of 40 wet mils of RedGard was achieved with two coats and subjected to quality control inspections with digital calipers. RedGard was also used in the new and renovated restrooms to provide waterproofing protection exceeding ANSI A118.10.  

Tile installation 

Both the renovated and new areas of the mall were set with 24” marble and limestone triangle pavers as well as 18” sandstone. All of the large-format stone on floors was set with Complete Contact-LFT Premium Rapid Setting Large Format Tile Mortar. This polymer-modified full contact mortar is especially designed for installing large and heavy materials on floors where it can eliminate back buttering with improved mortar transfer. Complete Contact is quite fluid to help wet out the back of the tile, yet holds ridges to support large pavers and the deeper notch trowels needed to install them. Crucial to fast-track renovations like Valley Fair, tile can be grouted in two hours and light foot traffic can be allowed in as little as four hours. High-performance Complete Contact-LFT also exceeds ANSI A118.15F for demanding, heavy duty applications like the mall. 

Complete Contact-LFT Mortar allowed installers to meet the minimum 95% coverage required for natural stone.

Directional troweling and SuperiorBilt Premium Notch trowels helped prevent voids beneath the tile.

The NCTS installers on the project employed back buttering and then lifted each tile to ensure the 95% minimum mortar coverage rate needed with natural stone. They used SuperiorBilt® Premium Notch trowels that are designed to promote ridge collapse and mortar transfer. Crew members were impressed by the strength of the SuperiorBilt margin trowel’s weld points, which held up over months of lifting the heavy, fully embedded stone.

“We had a quality end product and a minimal punch list because of good coverage with the right product, the right trowels and proper technique,” said Eric Witcher, General Manager of NCTS. “This was huge!”

Installing both glass mosaics and 12” x 24” porcelain tile on walls called for a versatile, high-performance, polymer-modified mortar. ProLite® Premium Large Format Tile Mortar was specified for both of these hard-to-bond-to materials in vertical assemblies that were installed in restrooms and accent areas off the main concourses. ProLite offers high bond strength in a lightweight formula with excellent handling characteristics. 40% lighter than traditional mortars, ProLite will not sag on walls or slump on floors, and exceeds ANSI A118.15TE for thixotropic performance and extended open time for adjustment.  

“We love ProLite!,” said Witcher. “It is so versatile – just a great product.” 


Nearly all the tile on the project was grouted with Prism® Ultimate Performance Cement Grout.  Prism’s calcium aluminate-based formula delivers consistent color without mottling or shading and it will not contribute to efflorescence. Recycled content and fine aggregate sand provide a smooth consistency that is easy to clean as well as 30% lighter than other grouts. With high early strength and dense, stain-resistant joints, Prism was the perfect choice for Valley Fair’s rapid-setting requirements.  

Prism Ultimate Performance Grout was installed on walls as well as high-traffic floors in all concourses.

“I have used a lot of grout in my lifetime and Prism is awesome stuff!” offered Johnson. “We had great production rates because it is so easy to use and the rich color was completely consistent throughout.”  

“We had no issues due to traffic,” added Witcher. “Any other product would have been damaged; I was shocked to see how well it held up.” 

Soft movement joints at perimeters and intervals in the field were placed and filled with permanently flexible sealant per TCNA Detail EJ171.

Prior to grouting, the honed – and therefore more porous – natural stone pavers were sealed with Aqua Mix® Sealer’s Choice® Gold. Sealer’s Choice is a premium, natural look, water-based penetrating sealer that provides maximum stain protection while allowing moisture vapor transmission. After curing, the Prism cement grout was also sealed. For added chemical resistance due to cleaning regimens, restroom floors were grouted with CEG™-Lite 100% Solids Commercial Epoxy Grout. 

TCNA guidelines were carefully adhered to throughout the project, including Detail EJ171. In accordance with EJ171, movement joints were placed every 20 feet on ground and every 12 feet on suspended slabs. Soft joints were included at all perimeters and changes of plane, with additional accommodation made for tile exposed to sunlight. Joints were filled with Commercial 100% Silicone Sealant, which remains permanently flexible to protect tile and grout in the assembly from expected movement. “The silicone was an excellent color match to the grout,” said Johnson. “It is hard to see the movement joints – just as it should be.”

24” equilateral triangles of marble and limestone were set in full diamond and diamond bleed patterns.

With a full system of surface preparation, tile-setting, grout and care products from CUSTOM, Westfield Valley Fair qualified for a 20-year installation warranty. 

“Custom’s technical rep invested a lot of time with our general contractor and our architect, and they utilized all of their assets and resources to help wherever needed,” said Witcher. 

“I’ve worked with Custom for 30 years,” added Johnson. “They show support and advocacy from beginning to end on every project.”

Six different natural stones featuring Italian marble were used to create the signature atrium mosaics.

Westfield Valley Fair is the perfect luxury showcase for designing with natural stone.

Tile Applications are “Grout-Ready” in just 4 Hours with Bostik’s BAM™

Introduced to the market during Total Solutions Plus was Bostik’s new, fiber-reinforced, RapidCure Mortar for large and heavy tile mortar.

Introducing BAM, Bostik’s latest high-performance, fiber-reinforced tile mortar. Formulated with RapidCure™ Technology, BAM™ offers maximum performance for installations of large and heavy tile, glass tile, mosaics, quarry, porcelain, ceramic, most natural stone tiles, and even gauged porcelain tile / panels.

Most notably, its RapidCure Technology allows for a consistent cure resulting in tile being ready for grouting in just 4 hours. Additionally, BAMdelivers exceptional bond strength that exceeds ANSI 118.15 requirements.

Ideal for use over various sheet membranes, BAM can also be used over properly prepared concrete; cement backer boards; masonry; concrete block; mortar beds; cement terrazzo; structurally sound exterior grade plywood (interior / dry use only); existing, well-bonded vinyl composite tile (VCT); existing tiles; cutback adhesive residue (dry only) and various anti-fracture and waterproofing membranes.

According to Adam Abell, Bostik’s Market Manager, Tile & Stone Installation Systems, “As our industry advances, the ‘need for speed’ becomes more and more of a reality. BAM not only cures rapidly, it may be installed on top of a wide variety of substates. Installations with BAM make it possible for tile contractors to confidently leave the jobsite on or even before scheduled completion times… and get right over to their next project. Floors can be ‘traffic-ready’ in record time.”

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