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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!”
One-to-One with Bart Bettiga
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.
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.
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.
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.
In the greater New York area, more than eight million people use the subways, commuter trains and buses of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) each day to navigate the busy city.
The founders of the New York City subway believed that every design element in the system should show respect to its customers and enhance the experience. Continuing that tradition during a massive rebuilding of the system, MTA launched an Arts & Design division in the 1980s. This division oversees the selection of artists and installations that are permanently installed throughout the MTA system, “creating a first-rate museum filled with more than 300 works by world famous, mid-career and emerging artists,” and connecting commuters with people, sites and surrounding neighborhoods.
As part of major renovations to nine stations along the Sea Beach Line (N) in Brooklyn, artists were selected to create permanent artwork for inclusion in the station renovations. The nine stations under construction were originally opened in 1915, and the now-completed capital construction included improvements to each station’s platforms, overpasses, stairways, canopies and columns, in addition to permanent artwork.
Four of the artists selected for the Sea Beach Line projects – Sally Gil, Karen Margolis, Eamon Ore-Giron and Emilio Perez – selected Mosaicos Venecianos De México, a member of TCNA Mexico, to translate their designs into smalti (enamel glass mosaics). The pieces were fabricated with LATICRETE® products and shipped to New York for their installation along the platforms at MTA New York City Transit Authority’s 86th Street, Avenue U, 18th Avenue and Bay Parkway stations.
“Given the architectural requirements of these stations, we pre-mounted and grouted the designs on aluminum panels using products from LATICRETE, a prestigious brand leader in installation systems that we knew were tested and guaranteed for high-performance and ideal for exterior applications,” said Malena Perdomo of Mosaicos Venecianos De México.
High-traffic and extreme temperature challenges
High-traffic installation: Just like New York City, the MTA stations never sleep. Even though the company pre-mounted and grouted the artwork on aluminum panels ready for mounting to each station’s platform walls, the installations needed to be done quickly to minimize interruption to MTA customers.
Extreme temperatures: New York City can range in temperatures from -15 degrees Fahrenheit (-26 Celsius) to upwards of 106 degrees Fahrenheit (41 degrees Celsius), so it was important that the installation products chosen would be able to thrive in extreme climates to resist fractures and possible humidity issues.
A LATICRETE solution
Artists Karen Margolis and Sally Gil focused their artwork on pieces that reflect the local landscape. At the Avenue U station, artist Sally Gil’s work was recreated in a series of 14 mosaic panels titled “Edges of a South Brooklyn Sky.” Each of the pieces she created reflects the surrounding Gravesend neighborhood. For the 86th Street station, artist Karen Margolis created “Cerebration,” a glass mosaic artwork that similarly connects people and place by transcribing destinations of the surrounding area into the mosaic work.
Artist Eamon Ore-Giron created an expansive mosaic project entitled “People’s Instinctive Travels: Homage to The Tribe” that was based on six, original oil-on-linen paintings that were translated into 24 glass mosaic panels at the Bay Parkway station.
At the 18th Avenue station, artist Emilio Perez’s work was made into 22 abstract mosaic murals called “Fluxus/Rhythmus.” In an email conversation with Cuban Art News, Perez credited this installation as the first of his works to be translated into mosaic panels.
“It was important for the mosaic to reflect the variations of color in a brushstroke to create the sense of movement,” said Perez. “What I discovered is that the process used for making the different color glass creates variations of tone much like a brushstroke. This made for a seamless transition of materials.”
Each of the art installations was adhered to aluminum panels with LATAPOXY® 300 Adhesive, a chemical-resistant epoxy adhesive that is easily spread and tenaciously bonds to challenging substrate types. With this adhesive, the mosaic panels stayed perfectly in place while on their excursion to New York, as well as during the fast installations that took place once onsite at the stations.
SPECTRALOCK® PRO Grout, a patented, high-performance epoxy grout, was used to finish off the pieces. SPECTRALOCK PRO Grout is designed for use on glass tile applications and is great for exterior installations like those at the stations. This product also offers superb color uniformity, durability and stain resistance that will stand the test of time. Additionally, the grout is crack resistant and ideal for installation in areas with a wide range in temperatures – perfect for outdoors.
Each of the products used received UL GREENGUARD Gold Certifications for low chemical emissions for sustainable building and Health Product Declaration (HPD). This open standard provides complete, transparent disclosure of the potential chemicals of concern by analyzing and comparing all product raw materials to authoritative chemical hazard lists from around the world.
“Mosaicos Venecianos De México is a talented fabricator that brought the artists’ work alive,” said LATICRETE Strategic Innovation Manager Samantha Rothberg. “More than eight million people will get the privilege to enjoy the mosaic panel designs daily and LATICRETE products helped make that possible.”
The work of Sally Gil, Karen Margolis, Eamon Ore-Giron and Emilio Perez, commissioned by MTA Arts & Design and recreated by Mosaicos Venecianos De México is displayed prominently and permanently at their respective stations.
Humility, homework, determination, and documentation lead to success for women in the industry
According to a March 2019 story on Construction Dive (https://bit.ly/2HhWLkN), women comprise approximately 9.9% of construction jobs, including administrative, office and executive positions, but only 3.4% of construction field positions. Women are on the rise as construction managers with numbers growing from 5.9% in 2003 to 7.7% in 2018.
In our tile industry, women are seen at every level, from administrators and owners to tile setters and representatives for tile-related suppliers. This month, we take a look at three extraordinary women in our industry and explore how they have carved out a niche for their own careers and contributed to the good of the industry as a whole: Shannon Huffstickler, Schluter Systems; Heidi Cronin, CTEF; and Janet Kozey, Stuart Tile Company.
The Tile Girl/Schluter Systems
Shannon Huffstickler has made a name for herself in the tile industry over the last 20 years, from her days of doing hands-on labor for her dad’s tile installation business, to her work as Territory Manager for Schluter after 13 years of running The Tile Girl business, to a recent upgrade as Schluter Liaison to the Social Media Community, grounded in her love of being part of online communities and helping people in any way she can.
Working for her dad, she discovered her enthusiasm for being on a jobsite, “where both my head and my hands could be fully engaged and challenged.” In 2012, she was initially reluctant to walk away from her business and make the leap from tile setting to being a rep when her beloved Schluter rep Dan Wagner let her know about an opportunity. For Huffstickler, it was an opportunity that “just felt like the right thing to do for the right reasons.” Her rep position – and her territory – changed this past spring to Liaison to the Social Media Community, where she meets the demand for fast, reliable access through social media to information about Schluter products. Now her territory encompasses the internet and face-to-face meetings with customers.
A raft of skills and talents set the stage for her career path – “Late nights on the John Bridge Forum, reading hand-me-down TileLetters, trips to the classes available at Coverings, being mentored by a successful builder-friend about time management, knowing my value/pricing and scheduling, and good old-fashioned, on-the-job training with my dad and uncle,” she said. Having a degree in English/writing also has come in handy to “convey technical knowledge in a way that’s understandable to people from any background or skill/experience level.”
Huffstickler credits her work ethic with her success. “Because I’ve always worked hard and done my homework, it’s been relatively easy to dispel anyone’s questioning of my credibility,” she said. “I never had a chip on my shoulder or was too quick to respond to anyone’s doubt in my abilities in any way other than to let my work or my knowledge prove itself valuable. I just show up, do good work and let those in the peanut gallery sort themselves out.” Some preconceptions about keeping a neater jobsite or being a more sympathetic listener as a woman did work in her favor as a tile setter. And at Schluter, the perception that Huffstickler will be “helpful and nurturing” makes it easier for customers – especially men – to reach out when there’s a gap in “their knowledge base.”
Her advice for women considering a tile career? “Don’t get distracted by people who try to make your gender into a big deal,” she said. “Be about the work. Do your homework, learn your lessons, take your lumps and stay humble. Just keep showing up and doing your honest best at whatever role you’re in – and if things get tough, reach out to someone who’s been there before you and ask for help; we’re out here.”
CTEF Industry Liaison and Promotions Director
Heidi Cronin entered the tile industry 26 years ago, working from the ground up in the family business of distributing tile and setting material. She’s also installed tile but said, “Did I do it well? NO! I started making ceramic tile sample boards after crashing the car when I was 15 to pay off the debt. I have worked every aspect of a company: customer service, warehouse, purchasing, sales, accounting, truck driver and management in numerous areas.”
Part of her education has been her involvement in industry associations. “I surrounded myself with people who know more than me,” she said. “I listen, learn, and let them mentor me.”
While she acknowledged that “flooring and tile have been a male-dominated field, in reality we women are the consumers you are selling to.” So, speaking the same language and being a woman is a plus. “I know what influences us, I see and pay attention to surroundings, I ask questions. I don’t sugar coat anything. I am blunt and to the point.”
She recognized that “women will always have to prove themselves. Growing up in male-dominated industry and as the boss’s daughter, there has been a constant proving of self. Can we be respected? Of course! But if we push for change or challenge a male counterpart we are considered irrational, unapproachable and too emotional.” Sadly, she noted that for women, “it is easier to influence change if you make it look as if it is someone else’s idea.” And yet, she said, “The definition of insanity by Albert Einstein says it all: ‘Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.’ Life and technology are moving at an excessive rate; better keep up or you will be left behind.”
Many mentors and friends in the industry provided valuable input and support when Cronin faced challenges. “You learn who those people are in good times and bad,” she said. “In this industry there is plenty of support no matter where you look.”
Cronin encourages women to pursue a career in tile, half-joking that a “thick skin” is an essential quality for working in this industry. “Tile is timeless,” she said. “It has been around for thousands of years. I am amazed at how advanced technology has become, whether it is manufacturing tile or advancements in setting materials. The knowledge needed to properly prep and install these advancements is huge. I support anyone going into the trade. Qualified labor is what will keep the industry strong.”
She added, “You can do whatever you set your mind to; nothing anyone states can take away your ability, determination and worth.”
Stuart Tile Company
Janet Kozey, owner of Macomb, Mich.-based Stuart Tile Company, credits organization, professionalism, and listening – to the customer and one’s inner voice – among the essentials to succeed in this world of tile. That combination of skills has served her well since 1975 when she quit her job to go into the tile business with her husband.
She got her start being precise and organized in her dad’s business. All eight children were trained from the age of four how to speak on the phone professionally. “My dad was kind of an army sergeant with all of us. Mom was ill. So we were very organized, had to get things done.” These skills translated well into her tile business, especially when it comes to collections.
“My main suppliers told me if I ever retire, they want to hire me to be a collector,” she said. “I do my homework way ahead: look and see who the architect is, the principals and the owners of the project. I don’t take some jobs if principals, etc. had a bad reputation or had problems in the past.” She also relies on a “gut feeling” she gets about the jobs, sometimes a “weird or bad feeling” she’s learned to listen to about a contract that helps her avoid trouble. And her excellent long term memory is an asset, too – recently she recalled the address of a troublesome builder her company did business with years ago. They started up again with a new name, but the same address.
She advised being personable and a good listener – even to topics unrelated to the job – to build a rapport with customers. If action is needed collecting money, she said, it’s “sugar across the telephone – all sweet” – until she takes legal action once the invoice goes unpaid 35 days. This includes having her supplier put a lien on the building. Within three to four days, she gets a response.
Kozey said dedication and sacrifice are key, too, sometimes forgoing vacations because you need to be there for the work. Equally important is keeping up with technology and training. “My guys went through training with Laminam panels,” she said, resulting in the smooth running of subsequent jobs. “We are a finish trade – the type of tile company that wants perfection,” she said. “You’ve got to know your math, pay attention and listen.”
Kozey copiously documents EVERYTHING and is keeping a journal for son Philip to refer to 15-20 years down the road. She feels documentation is the foundation for troubleshooting, so this journal is a way to pass on wisdom to the next generation.
Getting support from other women is important too. Years ago she was a member of Women in Construction and met with about 30 women monthly to exchange ideas.
In the beginning of her time with Stuart Tile Company, she said she “got a lot of disrespect. People didn’t want to talk to me – they wanted to talk to my husband; like I was a dummy, because I was a girl,” she said. But that has changed, especially in the last five to seven years, where being a woman works to her advantage. “We got jobs in the past due to being woman owned,” she explained.
As for women interested in a tile career, Kozey cautions, “You can be great at design and color – but you have to be organized, and serious. If you give it 110%, you’ll still be around in years to come.”
The year was 1925. Bathtub gin, the Charleston and a new form of entertainment called “motion pictures” were all the rage. Money and people were flowing into California in search of a new gold rush – Hollywood fame. Those newly minted movie stars, as well as their wannabes, made the trek down the coast from Los Angeles to a sleepy little seaside town called San Diego in search of rest and relaxation. The unspoiled waters offered fishing. The mountains provided hiking. And San Diego’s Mission Beach featured the West Coast’s version of Coney Island, The Mission Beach Amusement Center.
Built on the sands of Mission Beach by one of San Diego’s leading developers, sugar magnate John D. Spreckels, The Mission Beach Amusement Center was designed to draw tourists to San Diego. The center promoted the city and – not so coincidentally – Spreckels’ real estate ventures. It featured the Giant Dipper Roller Coaster, a 2,600-ft.-long wooden thrill ride with two 18-passenger trains.
The center’s other main attraction was The Natatorium, an indoor swimming pool constructed from stucco and steel in Spanish Renaissance style as the centerpiece of the park. Later renamed The Plunge, the pool measured 60’x175’ with a capacity of 400,000 U.S. gallons, making it the world’s largest saltwater pool for its time.
By 1940, however, the saltwater had begun to damage The Plunge’s filtration system. So with a few modifications, it became the largest indoor, heated freshwater pool in Southern California. The center was sold to private owners in 1955 and renamed Belmont Park. Over the years, due to outdated safety codes, The Plunge closed and then was revamped in 1988 with modern safety codes. Although much of the original tile work was removed, some historic features were left intact, including steps leading into the pool and a pedestal at the bottom of the steps. But in 2014, the waters of The Plunge once again, became troubled, and the historic public pool was closed for “unexpected repairs.”
MAPEI products on the jobsite
Pacifica Enterprises (a San Diego-based development company) owned the property since 2012 and used the closure as an opportunity to completely renovate the natatorium literally from the ground up, or rather from the roof down. Pacifica spokesman Chris Wahl said that initially the company believed that they could simply repair the building and the pool, but deeper inspection revealed other issues besides the leaking roof, such as corrosion in the structure’s steel columns and beams.
As the inspections progressed, it was determined that all 21,000 sq. ft. of the building had to be demolished, leaving only girders surrounding the historic pool. The new natatorium features a glass facade instead of the original Spanish Renaissance stucco walls that did not withstand the constant buffeting from saltwater spray. The historic pool was also given a facelift and returned to the splendor of the past – courtesy of Lusardi Construction and NTCA Five-Star Contractor Christian Brothers Flooring & Interiors, working with MAPEI.
“From the beginning, Pacifica and the general contractor, Lusardi Construction, knew that they wanted a period-correct feel for the tiling in the pool and the surrounding rooms,” said Dennis Sandell, MAPEI’s TSIS sales representative for San Diego and Palm Springs. “They contacted Mark Columbus at Christian Brothers to act as the consultant and installing contractor. It was Mark who brought MAPEI on board early on. In fact, he and I helped to put the specification together.” Columbus and Sandell proposed using MAPEI for a full system that would allow the pool to be filled with water 72 hours after the tile was installed.
“The pool’s surface was shotcrete,” Sandell continued. “It was in bad shape. The Christian Brothers crew had to float the substrate with a dry pack of Mapelastic 315 with Planicrete AC in the mix to adhere to the surface, as well as to add flexibility to the mortar bed.”
The spec from architect Fredrick Clemeshaw called for period-correct 3/4” x 3/4” (19 x 19 mm) tiles, which were installed using MAPEI’s Granirapid System. The rapid-setting, flexible tile mortar allowed for the “quick” installation of 1,700 sq. ft. of mosaics in the Olympic-sized pool. The tiles were grouted with Ultracolor Plus FA. The pool’s perimeter was caulked with Mapesil T. “The tiles mark the water line, they mark the depth, they decorate the historic pedestal, in addition to tiling the pool,” Sandell explained.
In the showers, steam rooms, bathrooms, pool area and a gym rechristened with the name “Fit,” the Christian Brothers crew first roller-applied Mapelastic AquaDefense waterproofing membrane. They then installed large-format tiles with Ultraflex LFT mortar and grouted them with Ultracolor Plus FA. For the exterior cladding, the large panel tiles were installed with MAPEI Ultralite S2 mortar and grouted with Ultracolor Plus FA.
The tile installation portion of the sprawling renovation took one year from start to finish, beginning in 2018 and ending in 2019.
“The biggest problem actually gave us a great opportunity to provide a solution,” Sandell said. “After the tile contractor waterproofed the pool, the GC had to cut out several holes in the pool walls to raise the drains. We specified Planitop 330 Fast for the vertical repair. This product allowed them to achieve a quick cure so that they could quickly turn around and re-waterproof these areas.”
The Plunge at Fit is now open to the public in all its former splendor, thanks in large part to MAPEI products, the Christian Brothers Flooring & Interiors installers and Lusardi Construction.
At 18 stories high, Atlanta’s 7000 Central Park office tower occupies a prominent position in the city’s central perimeter skyline.
To reposition the tower as a top-tier office building, former building owner CBRE Global Investors revealed ambitious renovation plans in June 2017 for the 30-year old tower. The plans included a front lobby renovation, a full-service and high-tech fitness center, a collaborative co-working space and conference center, an expanded café area, a meeting space and a trendy outdoor “living room” to provide a gathering space for tenants to socialize.
With architect tvsdesign leading the way on the front lobby design, which included 2,000 sq. ft. (approximately 186 sq. m.) of large-format gauged porcelain panels climbing 30 feet (9 meters) up the walls, general contractor Hitt Contracting Inc. enlisted the help of installing contractor David Allen Company to get the job done. With green and sustainable construction currently an industry wide practice, NTCA Five-Star Contractor David Allen Company chose to utilize products that not only benefit the environment, but are top quality and aesthetically enhanced.
“Immediately when we landed 7000 Central Park, we decided to use LATICRETE® products for the installations,” said David Allen Company Project Manager Eric Knight. “We’ve worked with LATICRETE for years and can always rely on their quality of product and high-end customer service. The products we used were instrumental in making sure the large-and-heavy gauged porcelain panels specified for the walls of the lobby would hold up.”
Defying gravity: Not only did the large-format panels extend 30 feet (9 meters) up the walls, the enormous panels themselves were 5 feet (1.5 meters) by 10 feet (3 meters) in size. To make this installation possible, David Allen Company needed the specified LATICRETE products to deliver superb bond strength.
Installation interference: During the renovation process, 7000 Central Park remained open for tenants to conduct business, requiring David Allen Company to work during the night. Products used needed to be formulated with fast return-to-service properties to be able to withstand the high traffic of the office building within hours, rather than days, for public use.
A LATICRETE solution
To adhere the large-format gauged porcelain panels to the wall in the front lobby, David Allen Company chose 257 TITANIUM™. Selected for its strong bond and ease of use to work out air pockets, 257 TITANIUM exceeds ANSI A118.15, the industry’s highest performance standard for a cementitious-based adhesive mortar, providing durable, worry-free installations. 257 TITANIUM is also silica sand-free, which both reduces exposure to respirable silica and contributes to the easy-to-spread creamy consistency. For added security to ensure the installation would cure in time, 257 TITANIUM utilizes LATICRETE HYDROMATIC CURE CHEMISTRY™ that accelerates the hydration process to rapidly consume water in the system – allowing the material to cure in a predictable manner and providing peace of mind for David Allen Company.
The steel stairs used LATAPOXY® 300 Adhesive, a chemical-resistant epoxy adhesive that is easily spread and cleaned with water while fresh, and tenaciously bonds to challenging substrate types. The floors utilized 4-XLT, a multi-use, polymer-fortified adhesive mortar. 4-XLT boasts a smooth and creamy consistency, making tile installation applications of this product faster and easier.
Customer-favorite PERMACOLOR® Select was used to grout tiles throughout the lobby. This advanced high-performance cement grout offers the industry’s first dispersible dry pigment solution and offered David Allen Company increased productivity and time savings on the jobsite, thanks to a faster time-to-grout, with foot traffic permitted in as little as three hours.
All of the products used received UL GREENGUARD Gold Certifications for low chemical emissions for sustainable building. Additionally, each of the LATICRETE products used has a Health Product Declaration (HPD), with the exception of LATAPOXY 300, which has Product-Specific (Type III), and Environmental Product Declarations (EPD), which help manufacturers create – and helps buyers identify – tile and flooring installation materials’ impact on the environment.
“Just as expected, the LATICRETE products selected for the 7000 Central Park lobby renovation worked like a charm,” added Knight. “Adam Marks, the local LATICRETE representative, was with us every step of the way. At any given time, we were able to meet with Adam onsite, resulting in yet another job well done for both our company and LATICRETE.”
7000 Central Park was recognized as Georgia’s 2018 Outstanding Building of the Year.
It’s hip to be at Santa Clara Square
After years in the making, Silicon Valley’s Santa Clara Square combines innovative office space, vibrant dining, shopping and modernized living all in one integrated community. Santa Clara Square occupies a strategic location in the heart Silicon Valley, with convenient access to a range of air, road, light rail and public transportation, as well as a variety of dining and retail options at Santa Clara Square Marketplace. One can walk the pathways of this dynamic community and find places to explore, connect and recharge including such amenities as resort-style
pools and spas, and state-of-the-art fitness offerings. The community is designed with innovative social, work and meeting spaces with easy walking to everyday conveniences.
Silicon Valley is known for being the epicenter of the world’s most forward-thinking companies, attracting a highly skilled, knowledge-based workforce dedicated to helping businesses prosper. This region is home to headquarters of Intel, Applied Materials, NVIDIA, Agilent Technologies, and many other high-tech companies.
Befitting its prestigious location, the Irvine Company created this community to include 1.7 million sq. ft. feet of office space, and 1,800 apartments. The retail’s first phase, Santa Clara Square Marketplace, totals 125,000 sq. ft., including the 50,000-square-foot Whole Foods. The second phase of the retail will total 40,000 sq. ft. and serve as a town center for the complex.
The community contains LEED®-certified design standards to improve air quality, support conservation efforts and provide a fresh, healthy workplace. It also has electric vehicle (EV) charging stations to respond to the demand for alternative energy vehicles.
Modern high tech and timeless design
The remarkable style combines a refined, inspired design reminiscent of the city’s high-tech culture with a modern perspective. Designed by Pei Cobb Freed and Partners, Inc. Architects, Santa Clara Square sets the standard for the blending of both new and innovative styles. The tile and stone installations throughout the complex perfectly match this modern, high-class, innovative aesthetic, as each piece was carefully chosen and strategically placed for an extra touch of charm and guaranteed functionality.
Contractors Flooring Service of California, based in Santa Ana, is one of the state’s most trusted and respected tile, stone, marble, and granite contractors. So, when Joe Ott, President of Contractors Flooring Service of California, was approached by Hathaway Dinwiddie to supply the cost-efficient, innovative, high-performing materials they desired, Contractors
Flooring Service of California Project Manager David Corona knew they’d need a trusted and top-quality installation system to ensure a job well done. Upon reviewing the scope of the 680,000-sq.-ft. installation project, all answers pointed definitively to Merkrete, a leader in waterproofing, crack-isolation and DUSTLESS setting materials technology.
A flexible solution
When it comes to the critical waterproofing under tile in both interior showers, pool areas and surrounding areas, Merkrete’s Hydro Guard SP-1 waterproofing membrane system was a key solution. Fast drying, durable and long lasting, this waterproofing membrane system is designed for fast applications, promising zero leaks or cracks, even with severe exposure and high amounts of traffic.
Merkrete sales and technical team Heather Campiotti and Sergio Flores worked directly with Contractors Flooring Service of California to provide the right products and ensure they were applied correctly to meet the project’s specifications.
Since the specifications called for crack isolation and waterproofing in nearly all of the exterior parts of installation combined with an aggressive project schedule, work began using Merkrete Hydro Guard SP-1. A liquid-applied, fast-drying product, Hydro Guard SP-1 combines crack isolation up to 1/8” and a waterproof system to enable crews to prepare the substrate for setting tile at a faster pace. Hydro Guard SP-1 contains excellent elongation, adhesion and high strength properties providing a 100% waterproof membrane that prevents the transfer of substrate cracks to the finished ceramic or stone tile surface.
“Merkrete’s liquid membranes have been a staple in the industry and contractors rely on its performance,” said Flores.
Also used was Merkrete’s Fracture Guard FD, a low-VOC, fast-drying, crack-isolation membrane for same-day tile installations. Fracture Guard FD provides a thin protection layer to inhibit substrate crack transfers up to 1/8” in interior and exterior applications.
Versatile mortar supports large tiles
Because of the size of the tiles for the pool decks and coping – as well as the vast number of exterior patio decks and walkways –Corona needed a versatile product that could address several specific needs at the same time. Merkrete demonstrated the perfect match for a specific challenge again considering the strength of the mortar it called for.
“We used very large-and-heavy natural stone, which requires a mortar with a super-high bondability that can handle the weight of the stone,” said Corona. Merkrete 820 Merlite is a one-step, polymer-modified, lightweight setting adhesive for installing extra-large-format porcelain, ceramic tile and natural stone for both floors and walls. Merkrete proved it could hold its weight.
In addition to the exterior installations throughout the complex, Merkrete was the reliable source in providing innovative and high-performance setting materials throughout the interior installations. Interior shower areas and common spaces contained large-and-heavy porcelain tile and planks. These types of materials can present their fair share of installation challenges. Planks in particular demand tighter tolerances to maintain the beauty of the tile and overall aesthetic of the installation.
Cleaner jobsite with DUSTLESS technology
Selection of the proper setting material is critical, especially when installing large-and-heavy tile (LHT). LHT mortars are not for leveling or truing the substrate; instead they are intended to help fill the irregular space between the tile and the underlayment providing a strong bond.
Vincente Acosta of Contractors Flooring Service of California immediately preferred MERKRETE’s new and innovative 720 DUSTLESS™ LHT Mortar. Merkrete’s 720 DUSTLESS LHT Mortar, features new, innovative and patented DUSTLESS™ Technology (DLT) producing approximately 80% less dust than ordinary thinsets and is designed to promote cleaner working conditions and reduce mess. It uses less water and is creamier and easy to spread.
“Not only does this mortar emit less dust, the smooth and creamy material makes for easy spreading, especially when speed is a factor,” said Acosta. 720 DUSTLESS LHT Mortar works great for both floors and walls and offers high strength, flexibility and a cleaner work environment.
Interior areas and backsplashes were installed using 705 DUSTLESS Pro Set Mortar. “The DUSTLESS feature is a tremendous advantage especially in interior applications,” said Corona.
As with most installations, timelines are always important, and Santa Clara Square was no different. It was critical that Ott chose a company that would be able to get the products delivered and the job completed on time. Merkrete is a brand of Parex USA, one of the largest companies and a worldwide leader in tile-setting materials, façade finishes and technical mortars, established in 22 countries with 68 manufacturing plants and over 4,100 employees. “Merkrete was perfect for this project’s requirements, because we have plants and distribution centers all over the country, so our turnaround time and ability to get our products to the jobsite on a timely basis were no problem,” said Campiotti.
Silicon Valley’s unique appeal is further enhanced by the striking Northern California Coast, lush Napa Valley wine country and downtown San Francisco – all within driving distance. With the opening of Santa Clara Square in the Fall 2018, new tenants and guests now enjoy the experience of shopping, fine dining, luxurious pools and resort-like living accommodations, and embrace the modern setting and innovative architecture. Santa Clara Square combines the best elements of a lively cultural center and a sophisticated technology hub – creating a forward-thinking community unlike anywhere else. The Square is the place to be.
On the island of Sardinia, Italy, in the heart of Cagliari, tourists and locals alike are subject to anything one could ever want in a vacation or life of leisure: history, art, views of the Mediterranean, fine cuisine, and of course, shopping.
While highlights of the city include 13th-century architecture, La Plaia – Centro Commerciale, a prominent shopping center in the middle of town, was seeking restoration to update and modernize, after not having any renovations since the shopping center was built in 1983.
To kick off the nearly two-year construction project, which began in 2016, the eponymous architectural firm Mario Dal Molin and general contractor SIGEF SRL set out to renovate and expand the shopping center by 13,993 sq. ft. (1,300 square meters). The goal behind the changes would be to offer customers a vaster selection of retail options, and provide the community with areas for socialization, such as a new on-site bar. In addition to the interior shopping center updates, 64,583 sq. ft. (6,000 square meters) of parking garage space would need to be reconstructed since the concrete screed in place had been completely destroyed.
“After briefly meeting Mario Dal Molin at an industry event, we were quickly able to convince him that the LATICRETE® SPARTACOTE™ product line was the top choice to repair the garage,” said Antonella Mura, the LATICRETE Sales Area Manager for Sardinia. “We educated his firm on the product lines’ technical features and demonstrated how the resinous flooring could enhance the parking garage experience by extending the overall design of the building to an unlikely place. Ultimately, the parking garage would be a huge part of elevating the entire shopping experience at La Plaia – Centro Commerciale.”
Utilizing resinous flooring in projects is increasing in popularity with tile contractors, due to the ease of install and variety this type of floor coating offers to customers as an alternative to large-format or more traditional tile or stone floors.
Customized design: In the past, aesthetics were often not considered when selecting floor coatings for parking areas. However, studies show that floors can elevate the overall shopping experience and boost morale. To liven up the space more than a standard concrete floor could, the design team was able to customize the look and finish of the floors with a pop of color using the LATICRETE products – allowing them to pull the shopping center’s desired experience through the entire development, from arrival to departure.
Tight time frame: Although the shopping center would undergo a multi-year renovation process, the installing contractor EFFE.ESSE COSTRUZIONI SRL was allotted less than two weeks to install the SPARTACOTE flooring system throughout the entire parking garage before the grand re-opening. To ensure a successful installation within the desired time frame, the execution needed to be exceptional and the product performance needed to hold up the first time around.
A LATICRETE solution
One of the unique benefits that piqued the architect’s interest in installing resinous flooring in the parking garage is the product’s ability to customize the look and finish of any environment. The SPARTACOTE line of resinous flooring also offers reduced floor maintenance, which is beneficial in high-traffic areas, and superior chemical and stain resistance, making this system an excellent choice to uphold a fresh-looking appearance.
With a team of six, EFFE.ESSE COSTRUZIONI SRL used LATAPOXY® 309, a two-component epoxy adhesive, to close several joints throughout the parking garage. LATAPOXY 309 is solvent-free and possesses high adhesion and anti-slip agents, ideal for this type of environment. Additionally, this product can cure in difficult conditions, such as those with a high presence of moisture, which can be typical for garages.
To coat the floors, EFFE.ESSE COSTRUZIONI SRL applied SPARTACOTE FLEX SB™ across the entire 64,583-sq.-ft. (6,000-square meter) garage in a light blue finish. On top of the coating, the team also applied white lane dividers and yellow safety lines to guide traffic. To maintain the desired appearance, SPARTACOTE FLEX SB is UV-resistant, which will help to deter any color fading or peeling in the sunlight.
Thanks to the products’ rapid cure rates and user-friendly working times, EFFE.ESSE COSTRUZIONI SRL’s team of six efficiently finished nearly 4,305 sq. ft. (400-square meters) per hour – allowing the garage surface to be completed in only 11 days!
“Everyone involved in the La Plaia – Centro Commerciale renovation was pleased with the high-quality result of the LATICRETE products used in the parking garage,” said Roberta Marchi, LATICRETE Regional Director Europe Assistant. “The new garage floor is a showstopper, and something memorable for visitors to see when they first visit. Our team received many thanks for the support provided on the jobsite. Whether it was outlining product features or providing installation tips, LATICRETE was there to lend a helping hand every step of the way.”
Completed in 2018, La Plaia – Centro Commerciale opened its doors for a grand re-opening celebration on March 27 and to the public on March 28.