Robert (Bob) Roberson celebrates 60 years

When David Allen Company planned it’s new national headquarters in the center of Raleigh, North Carolina, the proud owner wanted to put a spotlight on a building that would come to inspire the design community for years to come. The result is a building space far different in scale than the one used by the company’s founder, David G. Allen in 1920. When Robert (Bob) Roberson joined the company in October 1957, he would have no idea that he would be buying the company ten years later from Mr. Allen. As its new owner, Bob would begin implementing his own management style while retaining Mr. Allen’s core values, work ethic and keen focus on craftsmanship that had made such an impression upon him. Under Bob’s leadership and guidance, that legacy has remained intact throughout the next sixty (60) years.

Bob’s reputation steadily progressed as a leader in the growing industry of terrazzo, stone, tile and high-end floor finishes over those 60 years. He has become recognized as a mentor to the next generation of leaders that will be needed to meet the ever-escalating demands upon skill levels and the seemingly exponential expansion of product knowledge that will be required for those following that path in their own leadership roles. Bob brought master craftsmen from Italy to train local craftsmen, expanding the style and flair of their culture here as well. The company reflects upon 97 years of history as Bob celebrates 60 years with the company. Under his guidance, the company has been featured in many publications and enjoyed many awards. David Allen Company’s 2015 Associated Building Contractor’s (ABC) Contractor of the Year award capped Bob’s ascendance, in many respects, as a leader for the ages.

Since it’s founding, David Allen Company has influenced and encouraged the design community to exceed accepted standards and inspired by David Allen Company’s emphasis on quality of materials, superior craftsmanship and attention to details, accept that challenge. Like those durable materials and finishes so proficiently delivered time and again by his company, Bob Roberson himself has stood the test of time. As the company approaches a century of continuous business, Bob’s legacy continues as well. As Bob is happy to remind observers, as in his mission statement, Where there is no vision, the people will perish (Proverbs 29:18).

ON THE COVER: LATICRETE International – August 2017 GREEN Feature

Waiea Tower represents a new level of architectural sophistication


HYDRO BAN was used to support the heaviest materials, including Jade Green Onyx, seen here in the 36th floor penthouse shower. Photo credit – BMK Construction.

From the top of the mountains, all the way out into the ocean, every aspect of life in the Kingdom of Hawaii aims to be synergistic and sustainable, including its residential communities. With the goal of becoming the largest LEED for Neighborhood Development Platinum (LEED-NP) certified community in the country, building owner Howard Hughes Corporation hired James K.M. Cheng in collaboration with Rob Iopa and WCIT Architecture to design Waiea Tower, the flagship building of what is to be Honolulu’s most distinguished neighborhood, Ward Village.

The 60-acre coastal master planned community allows for up to 9.3 million square feet (approximately 863,998 m2) of mixed-use development and offers numerous outdoor gathering spaces that embrace Hawaiian culture, the perfect mix of urban and eco-friendly living. At completion, the community will include more than 4,000 residences and over one million square feet (92,903 m2) of retail shopping. To complete the construction of the 36-story tower, BMK Construction was enlisted to handle the tile and flooring installations for all of Waiea’s units and public spaces including the pool deck, level one lobby, porte cochere and four levels of penthouses.

“The Waiea Tower represents a level of architectural sophistication never before available in Hawaii, so it was exciting to be a part of history,” said BMK Construction project manager Kent Amshoff. “With the design team utilizing only the highest luxury elements, BMK Construction chose to use a range of LATICRETE® products to ensure long-lasting, quality installations that were also good for the environment.”

For centuries, water has been one of the most treasured resources of the Hawaiian people. As is typical of the entire community’s tie to Hawaiian culture and history, Waiea’s design pays homage to the Hawaiian term for “water of life” that links the structure to the importance of water in Hawaii’s coastal landscape.

BMK Construction used 255 MULTIMAX as a large-and-heavy-tile adhesive mortar to install the Kenyan Black Onyx backsplash. Photo credit – BMK Construction


For waterproofing bathrooms, HYDRO BAN  was used as a thin, load-bearing waterproofing/crack-isolation membrane. Photo credit – BMK Construction

Logistical Procurement: High-end design materials from around the world were brought in from countries such as Italy, Portugal, China, Kenya, Turkey and the U.S. mainland. This proved challenging to assure proper quantities and specifications of each product would be delivered in time for installation.

Quality Control: Maintaining stringent levels of quality was a major concern during construction as multiple delays occurred due to massive rain storms in the summer of 2016. This mostly affected the installation of the pool deck, as contractors were not able to perform duties outside. Additionally, due to the high-end design elements, such as custom marble walls in the penthouse bathrooms, all plumbing work and leveling work needed to be performed with precision, as there would not be a second chance to get the installation right.

A LATICRETE solution: 

PERMACOLOR Grout was used for its high-performance properties, which provide a grout joint that is dense, hard and will resist cracking. Photo credit – BMK Construction

To meet the goal of acquiring LEED certification, all LATICRETE products chosen for the construction of Waiea Tower were those that have received multiple certifications and declarations including Health Product Declarations (HPD), Environmental Product Declarations (EPD) and UL GREENGUARD Gold Certifications for low chemical emissions.

“LATICRETE is currently the only company with a full product-specific EPD for its cement self-leveling underlayments, cement grouts and cement mortars that includes both 255 MULTIMAX and PERMACOLOR® Grout,” said Amshoff. “These certifications gave Howard Hughes Corporation the peace of mind that LATICRETE is on the leading edge of sustainable innovation by providing transparency about the life-cycle impacts of their products.”

3701 Fortified Mortar thick-bed mortar was used to slope the pool deck to the area drains. Photo credit – BMK Construction

LATICRETE HYDRO BAN was carefully applied to make sure the shower updates are long-lasting. Photo credit – BMK Construction

To set all tile, BMK Construction used 255 MULTIMAX as a large-and-heavy-tile adhesive mortar. The patented, versatile polymer-modified thin-set was chosen due to its exceptional non-sag performance on walls, build up of 3/4” (18 mm) without shrinkage for floors, and maximum coverage due to its lightweight, creamy and smooth consistency. In addition, 255 MULTIMAX is reinforced with Kevlar® to provide maximum strength and durability, and now contains less than 10% post-consumer recycled content.

For waterproofing bathrooms throughout the entire building, including the 500 square feet (46 m2) of penthouse master bathrooms’ showers and toiletry areas, BMK Construction used HYDRO BAN® as a thin, load-bearing waterproofing/crack-isolation membrane. Thanks to its “Extra Heavy Service” rating per TCNA performance levels (RE: ASTM C627 Robinson Floor Test), HYDRO BAN was able to support even the heaviest materials, including Jade Green Onyx, which is seen in the 36th floor penthouse shower.

3701 Fortified Mortar thick-bed mortar was used to slope the showers, baths and pool deck to the area drains. Additionally, 3701 Fortified Mortar was used on the drive line where granite paver stones were present and applied on top of HYDRO BAN for the installation of structural concrete slabs. Chosen for its ease of use, 3701 Fortified Mortar is a polymer-fortified blend of carefully selected polymers, Portland cement and graded aggregates that does not require the use of latex admix. Water is the only element needed to produce thick-bed mortar with exceptional strength.

To grout, PERMACOLOR Grout was used for its high-performance properties, which provide a grout joint that is dense, hard and will resist cracking. Additional benefits include consistent color, fast setting and improved stain resistance for a cement-based grout.

255 MULTIMAX, the patented, versatile polymer-modified thinset, was chosen due to its exceptional non-sag performance. Photo credit – BMK Construction


“With the help of LATICRETE, Ward Village is now the largest LEED-ND Platinum certified development in the country,” said Amshoff. “This building is at the forefront of sustainable development and solidifies the LATICRETE commitment to environmental responsibility.”  Waiea, the first completed residential tower, welcomed its first residents and anchor tenant Nobu in late 2016. Three high-rise residential buildings are currently under construction – Anaha, Ae‘o and Ke Kilhoana – and will be home to internationally acclaimed brands such as Merriman’s Restaurant and a flagship Whole Foods Market®.


The National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA), attended the R.I.S.E. home dedication of Jared and Jessica Bullock and their son Aidan, in Carbondale, Illinois on Thursday, June 29th, 2017. NTCA partnered with Crossville and MAPEI to provide all of the porcelain tile and setting materials for this home, installed by California Flooring.

The concept, developed by the Gary Sinise Foundation, was to build a custom, specially-adapted smart home, assisting Jared in “Restoring Independence and Supporting Empowerment” (RISE), as he transitions back into civilian life. Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) Regional Evaluator Coordinator Kevin Insalato, also a U.S. Army veteran, commented, “It was my honor to donate my time and money to help Jared transition to an active lifestyle with his family. The most impressive feature of Jared’s recovery is his ability to view his injury as just another obstacle he will overcome.”

U.S. Army SFC Jared Bullock served two tours in Iraq and trained for Special Forces and received his Green Beret on October 13th, 2013. Jared was deployed to Afghanistan and one month later his ATV ran over an improvised explosive device (IED). The blast took the life of his best friend and though he survived, Jared lost his right arm above the elbow and his right leg above the knee.

“The opportunity to work on Jared’s home was an easy decision for me,” Insalato said. “I’m an active board member of NTCA. I worked very closely with both Crossville and MAPEI and they requested I represent them at the home dedication. My company, California Flooring is located only five miles north of the home in Chicago. My employees are all Certified Tile Installers (CTIs) and they all took turns installing the different areas we tiled. This was a labor of love we will all remember for a very long time,” he said.

NHL Arena targets LEED Silver goal with a high-scoring tile installation system from CUSTOM

Rogers Place, the new home of the Edmonton Oilers, anchors a 25-acre development downtown that has been dubbed the “ICE District” in honor of the hockey team.

Spectacular, iconic and inspiring are just some of the words being used to describe the new home of the Edmonton Oilers hockey team.  Rogers Place expects to be the first LEED Silver National Hockey League arena in Canada – yet another glittering achievement for the five-time Stanley Cup champions.  To protect 130,000 sq. ft. of tile, at the Edmonton, Alberta, Canada facility, a complete tile installation system from CUSTOM was specified and installed throughout the project.

All levels of the new indoor sports arena and entertainment venue, designed by Calgary, Alberta-based HOK, display highly decorative tile work.  Large-format porcelain and glass mosaics are prominent in the public as well as private team spaces.  However, tile dimensions reach their pinnacle in the Oilers’ locker room showers and steam room.  These distinctly designed wet rooms were set with Ergon Cornerstone porcelain tile in 18″ x 36″ and 12″ x 48″ formats.

Surface preparation

Surface preparation began with crews shotblasting all floors to a level 3 roughness prior to application of primers or membranes.  Leveling was also required in some areas to attain the completely flat surface required by large-format tile.  To improve the bond and seal the surface, LevelQuik® Latex Primer was roller-applied to these floors.  Then, LevelQuik® RS Rapid Setting Self-Leveling Underlayment was bucket poured from a feather edge up to 1-1/2″ deep.  LevelQuik RS achieved an extra heavy duty service rating for this high-traffic commercial venue and cured in just four hours to allow same-day tiling.

The facility’s many shower floors in the home team, visiting team and other locker rooms were floated with CUSTOM’s Thick Bed Bedding Mortar.  This 3:1 pre-blended underlayment provided an easy to install, high strength surface.  Non-porous substrates on the site were treated with MBP Multi-Surface Bonding Primer before setting tile.  MBP is formulated with aggregates that improve mechanical adhesion where proper bonding can otherwise be difficult.

“MBP worked very well.  It was easy to use and the ‘stick’ was great.  We are already using it on other jobsites,” said Craig Henkelman, president of Cralan Enterprises, the tile contractor at Rogers Place.

Waterproofing, vapor barrier and crack isolation

Throughout this large project, RedGard® Liquid Waterproofing and Crack Prevention Membrane was applied on floors to help protect tile by isolating cracks from in-plane substrate movement.  RedGard liquid is a ready-to-use, elastomeric membrane that creates a continuous waterproof barrier behind tile in addition to reducing transmission of cracks up to 1/8″.  Structural slabs were treated with RedGard in compliance with TCNA F125 and ANSI A118.12.

RedGard was also extensively applied on walls and floors to waterproof all showers and other wet tile assemblies in the facility.  This versatile membrane exceeds the requirements of ANSI A118.10, is listed with IAPMO as a shower pan liner and delivers outstanding adhesion to drain assemblies for monolithic protection.

“It was very important to us to have RedGard specified for both crack isolation and waterproofing on this job,” offered Henkelman.

RedGard is the first liquid-applied membrane to exceed industry standards as a low-perm moisture vapor barrier for continuous-use steam showers.  Treatment with RedGard ensures the highest level of impermeability in the Oilers’ steam room.

To ensure the team’s steam room looks great for years to come and to guard against movement from thermal cycling, specifiers selected MegaLite® Ultimate Crack Prevention Large Format Tile Mortar.  MegaLite was perfect for these very demanding requirements, as well as setting the large 12″ x 48″ tiles on the ceiling.  In accordance with industry standards, the steam room ceiling is sloped 2″ per linear foot towards the back wall to manage condensation.  MegaLite performance was also called on to install the massive “Blue Jeans” marble slabs measuring 4’ x 6’ on a wraparound fireplace in the hockey team’s executive offices.

Tile setting

The high percentage of large and heavy or difficult-to-bond tile drove most the mortars chosen for Rogers Place.  ProLite® Premium Large Format Tile Mortar was the most frequently and diversely specified.  A lightweight formula with excellent handling characteristics, ProLite offers high flexibility and bond strength.  ProLite® will not slip on walls or slump on floors, and can be placed up to 3/4″ thick to support heavy tile.  ProLite was used to install up to 48″ tile on walls and for select floor tiles up to 18″ x 36″ throughout the project.  Because of its tenacious bond, ProLite was also specified for installing 20,000 sq. ft. of glass mosaics.  Both MegaLite and ProLite meet ANSI A118.15TE for thixotropic and extended open time performance.

“Our employees really like using ProLite and we use it everywhere we can.  It performs especially well on walls,” said Henkelman.

The balance of the ceramic and porcelain tile was set on floors with VersaBond® Flex Professional Thin-Set Mortar or VersaBond®-LFT Professional Large Format Tile Mortar, depending on size and location.   This included traditional quarry tile at concessions, dramatic black ceramic tile in washrooms and wood-look planks to add a sauna-like feel to the hydrotherapy room.  The tile contractor mandated optimum mortar coverage throughout the installation, which was achieved by backbuttering and ensuring that all tile in wet areas reached 95% coverage.


Four CUSTOM grouts in 12 different colors were used to complement 40 types of tile materials and formats.   Most of the dry and intermittently wet areas received PolyBlend® Sanded Grout.  Non-sanded PolyBlend was chosen to grout the extensive mosaic installations to prevent any scratching of the glass.  Prism® Color Consistent Grout was applied in some of the high-traffic wet areas like the community ice rink showers and public bathrooms.  CEG-IG 100% Solids Industrial Grade Epoxy Grout was used in spaces such as the steam room for its resistance to high temperatures.  Movement joints within the tile assemblies will remain permanently flexible after treatment with color-matching CUSTOM Commercial 100% Silicone Sealant.

The project was completed in 2016, with expert assistance from Custom Building Products team John Alley, commercial architectural services representative; Jamie Tilbury, territory manager; and Michael Mastel, regional technical sales representative.

Building Green with CUSTOM’s Emerald System™

The use of sustainable, lightweight products such as ProLite mortar and Prism grout help to meet environmental standards and LEED goals at projects like Rogers Place.  Both ProLite and Prism are part of the Emerald System, a green building program with a proactive approach to stewardship and compliance.

Custom Building Products is committed to environmental responsibility in both products and manufacturing practices.  Over 100 CUSTOM Build Green® products contribute to LEED certification with low emissions, recycled content and regionally sourced materials.  To help ensure the beauty and integrity of the tile assemblies, an Aqua Mix care and maintenance system was implemented.  The Aqua Mix line of low VOC, pH neutral and biodegradable cleaners are formulated for safe every day as well as deep cleaning of tile, stone and grout.


PCL Construction, an international firm known for its expertise with airport and entertainment projects, served as construction manager.  Edmonton-area large commercial specialist Cralan Enterprises, Ltd. was the tile contractor at the arena.  Both of these construction partners worked closely with CUSTOM to ensure that every detail of the tile installation at Rogers Place exceeded expectations.

In describing the level of service the contractors received on the project, Cralan’s Henkelman offered, “I was very impressed with how responsive CUSTOM was and how quickly they could get us product when we needed it.”

The steam shower was set with 18″ x 36″ and 12″ x 48″ Ergon Cornerstone using MegaLite® Ultimate Crack Prevention Large Format Tile Mortar to protect the tile from movement due to thermal expansion. CEG-IG 100% Solids Industrial Grade Epoxy Grout was used for its resistance to high temperatures.

Ready-to-use RedGard® Liquid Waterproofing and Crack Prevention Membrane was applied on floors to help protect tile by isolating cracks from in-plane substrate movement. RedGard was also used to waterproof all showers and other wet tile assemblies in the facility.

Quarry tile in all bar and kitchen areas was set over RedGard® with VersaBond® Flex Professional Thin-Set Mortar.

Installers used ProLite® Premium Large Format Tile Mortar for setting the extensive glass mosaics as well as large format wall tile. ProLite offers high bond strength, superior handling and a thixotropic formula for non-sag performance on walls.

Four durable CUSTOM cement and epoxy grouts in 12 different colors were used to complement 40 types of tile materials and formats.

The Oilers’ team shower features luxurious 18″ x 36″ Ergon Cornerstone and Viva Ceramica Hangar porcelain tile, both imported from Italy.

This scene from the Curve bar is representative of the variety of tile and tile setting materials used throughout the Rogers Place project.

Even the washrooms at Roger Place gleam with floor-to-ceiling tile.

Attractive and interesting juxtapositions of tile enhance the visitor experience throughout Rogers Place.

Porcelain tile in front of the bar was set with VersaBond®-LFT Professional Large Format Tile Mortar.

Curvilinear walls covered with glass mosaics are a hallmark of Rogers Place.

The evolution of the tile membrane

By Sean Gerolimatos, technical services manager, Schluter Systems, L.P.

In the beginning

Membranes for tile installation have come a long way since their introduction in the 1980s.  New products with different functions have since been introduced and the range of applications has exploded.  Membranes have created entirely new installation methods in the past decades, leading to improved performance of the assemblies and increased productivity for tile setters.  In recent years we have seen further evolution of this product category with multi-functional membranes, offering tile setters more versatile solutions.

Bonded waterproofing

Bonded waterproofing membranes were among the first tile membranes on the market.  They allowed for the direct application of tile, eliminating the secondary mortar bed.  This made for faster installation and increased productivity in addition to minimizing water intrusion, decreasing drying times, and reducing the risk of mold growth in wet areas.

Preventing cracked tiles and grout
Crack-isolation and uncoupling membranes soon followed, with the primary benefit being prevention of tile and grout damage due to substrate movement.  Crack-isolation membranes are dependent on flexibility from the elastomeric properties within a flat sheet, whereas uncoupling membranes are geometrically configured to limit stress transfer from the substrate to the tile covering.  Applications include tile floors in nearly every environment in both residential and commercial settings.

Sound control
In multi-story construction like apartments and condominiums, controlling sound transfer through the floor/ceiling assembly is essential.  There are requirements for sound control in building codes, and housing authorities may impose stricter requirements.  Both airborne sound (conversation, music, etc.) and impact sound (footsteps, dropped items, etc.) are of concern, but in general the tile assembly has the greatest effect on impact sound.  There are ASTM standard methods for testing and calculating impact sound transmission through a floor/ceiling assembly, with the result being a single-number rating— this is called impact insulation class (IIC for short).

A new ANSI specification
Tile can actually increase impact sound transfer through floors so the sound management challenge is significant.  In general, impact sound control is best achieved with floating systems such as mortar beds, poured gypsum, or lightweight concrete toppings that incorporate resilient materials underneath.  However, progress has been made in developing relatively thin assemblies to help control impact sound.  The first such products came from manufacturers outside the tile industry and didn’t necessarily accommodate the requirements of tile coverings, which are different from other floor coverings like engineered wood or vinyl.  An ANSI specification was developed to qualify sound control membranes for use under tile.  ANSI A118.13 includes various requirements for bonded sound membranes, such as bond strength, Robinson floor test performance, and impact sound reduction performance.

ΔOne key feature of the specification is that the Robinson floor test and impact sound transmission tests are specified to use the same materials so owners and design professionals won’t be misled by the use of different assemblies to maximize performance in each test.  Only one assembly can be installed on a particular job and the owner must be assured that the assembly will provide the expected sound control and still support the tile covering.  Another key feature is that the contribution of the floor covering itself to impact sound control over a standard concrete slab is tested and quantified with a value denoted ΔIIC (delta IIC).  This value can’t be added to any floor/ceiling assemblies other than concrete with no ceiling below.  However, it allows design professionals to compare sound control membrane assemblies directly, without the potential to be misled by other elements in the floor/ceiling assembly tested, such as a sound-rated ceiling.  Still, the design professional will require full floor/ceiling assembly testing to validate specific assemblies will satisfy building code or housing authority requirements.

Warm tiles for comfort

Tile coverings can be cold underfoot, but there are various floor warming systems available to improve comfort and add a touch of affordable luxury.  The heat source for most electric floor warming is a cable system where resistance of the wire causes electrical energy to be converted to heat energy.  Originally, cables were purchased on a spool and anchored to the floor at manufacturer-specified spacing using clips or tracks.  Cable might also be mounted on a mesh or within a sheet and attached to the floor.  Best practice has been to embed the heating cables in a self-leveling underlayment and let it set before installing tiles.

The latest innovation in floor warming is a new form of uncoupling membrane which features studs to secure cables without clips or fasteners.  Cables can be placed wherever heat is desired without creating height differences and self-leveling compounds are not required to encapsulate the cables. Tile can be installed immediately after the cable is placed, thereby significantly reducing installation time.

Swiss Army membranes

With the range of tile membranes growing, we have seen a trend toward multi-functional products.  For example, crack-isolation and uncoupling membranes have often performed as waterproofing  membranes.  The combination of uncoupling, waterproofing, and floor warming in a single membrane is available as mentioned above.  The latest innovation is the addition of sound control and thermal break layers to the existing uncoupling/floor warming membranes.  A thicker bonding fleece on the underside performs two functions: it reduces impact sound transfer through floor/ceiling assemblies and reduces heat loss to the substrate for faster warm-up times.  This type of membrane can be the “go to” product for almost any tile installer, as seen in the project feature below.

Project feature

Mike Gwizdala of Mike’s Custom Tile Company in Bay City, Mich., recently completed a project for Shaheen Development using one multi-function membrane that allowed him to address a range of project requirements.  THE H Residence is an 85,000 sq. ft., mixed-use development in downtown Midland, Mich.  The first floor is home to an art gallery, convention center, and a restaurant.  The second floor features the H Hotel, the third floor luxury condominiums, and the fourth floor residential penthouse suites with an elaborate common area and patio space.

Gwizdala’s team installed porcelain and marble tile over concrete with sound-rated ceilings in all bathrooms, laundry rooms, entries and some kitchens.  The Schluter®-DITRA-HEAT-DUO uncoupling membrane and floor warming system with integrated sound control and thermal break was used under all floor tiles.  “DITRA-HEAT-DUO provided all the functions we needed in a single layer,” said Gwizdala.  “This was critical for us because it reduced our labor, making it a more cost-effective solution than any other sound control system.”

The membrane is relied upon for both uncoupling and sound control in all areas so it provides the performance results required throughout the building.  By using the same membrane throughout, the team knew they would have consistent floor thickness in all tiled areas.  Once the membrane was installed they had the flexibility to install heating cables only in areas where floor warming was specified.  In the bathrooms, membrane seams were sealed with Schluter®-KERDI-BAND for waterproofing.

The bottom line

Tile membranes have changed installation practices significantly by reducing assembly thickness, weight, and labor to produce high-performance applications and increased productivity.  Membranes have evolved from single-function products to highly innovative, multi-function solutions for virtually any application.  Consistent use of a single product or system can simplify planning, bidding, purchasing, and installation from project to project.



The tile inlay in the entryway was carefully laid out.  The inlay was surrounded by a frame of rectangular marble tile.

The Pinnacle Design exterior of THE H Residence in Midland, Mich., a highend mixed use facility that opened in spring of 2017.


Gwizdala always takes photos of the placement of items like thermostat wires for heating cables so he knows where things are after the tiles are installed.

 Tiles are installed over the waterproof membrane in one of the showers.

This is the completed shower


In the bathrooms, DITRA HEAT DUO membrane seams were sealed with Schluter®-KERDI-BAND for waterproofing.

CoolSprings Galleria: wide array of LATICRETE products and Tennessee-sourced tile make massive fast-track mall installation a success

CBL Properties, owners of the CoolSprings Galleria shopping mall, a massive complex located in Franklin, Tenn., were planning to renovate the 1.1 million . sq. (102,193 sq. m.) facility, which houses a total of 165 tenants. Areas to be remodeled included a 500-seat Oasis Court, path- ways and bathrooms encompassing more than 147,000 sq. . (13,656 sq. m.) of space.

The project was a two-level mall renovation highlighted by a full demolition of both upper and lower levels, all receiving new tile. The project used two different subcontractors – both NTCA Five Star Contractors – David Allen Company (DAC) for level two and Profast Commercial Flooring on level one.


So what was the project’s main dilemma? How to get the job done in a fast and comprehensive fashion without interfering with the mall’s huge amount of foot traffic, a.k.a., thousands of daily shoppers. The solution was a plan to do the bulk of work at night, using highly skilled teams of installers and craftspeople to bring the ambitious project to completion.

“The unique challenge for the CoolSprings Galleria project was how quickly the work that was taking place throughout the night had to be turned around for typical mall use,” noted Mark Brooks, technical services manager, LATICRETE INTERNATIONAL.

The CoolSprings Galleria project was a two-level mall renova on high- lighted by a full demolition of both upper and lower levels, all receiving new tile.

“CoolSprings Galleria has many dedicated mall walkers and, in order to accommodate them,” he explained, “the mall opens its doors at 6:30 a.m. This means an extremely short timeline to complete work during the night.”

Harold Waid, division manager, Mid-South region for DAC, agreed with Brooks, no ng that while there were many challenges during the project, the main one was “installing the project a er hours in a relatively short me frame with no disrup on to the mall tenants or shoppers, with all work areas being required to be open to mall traffic the next morning.”

The Profast Commercial Flooring crew installs Shades porcelain tile from Crossville over FRACTURE BAN crack isolation membrane from LATICRETE

To accomplish this, he recalled, all tile and setting materials were brought in from an outside storage area each night. “We would prep the floor area and install crack isolation membrane, perform the layout and install tile using a rapid-set thin-set, clean the installed tile and work area, prep the edge of the installed tile with transition strips, and remove any tile over material back to the storage area.”

Kevin Killian, president of Profast Commercial Flooring, said that on-site project manager Jimmy Roue and head superintendent Tyler Lekki were con dent that the company’s experience and expertise would allow them to “ finish the installation ahead of schedule.” Working with LATICRETE made the process run smoothly. “The LATICRETE materials were always delivered on me and were very easy to work with,” he said. “The LATICRETE support team checked in with our field team on a regular basis to see if everything was working properly. This was a very successful project for us and I believe all par es involved – including the owner – are pleased with the finished product.”

Crossville, Inc., supplied its Shades porcelain tile in honed Frost, unpolished Mist, Ash and Thunder, in 6” X 24” (150 mm x 600mm) and 12” X 24” (300 mm x 600 mm) formats, as well as its Laminam by Crossville porcelain tile wall panels.

The project had to be installed after hours in a relatively short time frame with no disruption to the mall tenants or shoppers.














In the mall and food court, LATICRETE® NXTTM Level or DRYTEK® LEVELEXTM self-leveling underlayments, NXTTM Skim skimcoat and patching compound, FRACTURE BANTM crack isola on membrane, 4-XLT Rapid or 4-XLT large-and-heavy-tile mortars, PERMACOLOR® Select high-performance, cement-based grout and LATASILTM silicone sealant were utilized. In the bathrooms, NXTTM Level or DRYTEK LEVELEX, NXT Skim, HYDRO BAN® waterproofing and crack isolation membrane, 4-XLT, SPECTRALOCK® PRO Premium Grout epoxy grout and LATASIL were used.

Crossville, Inc., another major player in the remodel, provided its Shades porcelain tile collection in honed Frost, unpolished Mist, Ash, and Thunder, in 6” X 24” (150 mm x 600 mm) and 12” X 24” (300 mm x 600 mm) formats, as well as its Laminam by Crossville porcelain tile wall panels.

To facilitate the successful installation of the Crossville porcelain tile, LATICRETE products were used across the installation. Said Brooks, “The LATICRETE products that were used on the project were all fast-setting in order to return the main mall areas back to service in a timely manner.”’


The project, which began in April 2016, would be completed on time almost six months later on the eve of the holiday shopping season. Project designer Suzy McHenry of Omniplan gave some insight into the CoolSprings vision, noting, “In our design, we sought to express Franklin’s unique regional influences with a contemporary aesthetic that stays true to the area.

“Our design resolves authenticity with modern materials that elevate the shopping experience,” she added. “These finishes include stainless steel handrails, porcelain tile pattern from material manufactured in Tennessee, and quality stone.

“We went with a much darker floor than our client has ever used on other properties,” McHenry noted. “Rather than using a beige tone, we opted for the cool palette of the grays with a pop of white.”

For the wet walls of the bathrooms, the design team utilized Laminam by Crossville for its clean look and durability, especially for the harsh and wet conditions of a public bathroom. The remaining bathroom walls feature Crossville’s Ready to Wear in unpolished Button Up with accents of Groove Glass in the grey Rumba tone.


David Allen Company was another installation crew, here installing the Crossville Shades porcelain over skim-coated FRACTURE BAN crack isolation membrane.

Like McHenry, Corbett Drew, senior property manager, CBL, noted the project featured all things Tennessee. “Some may find it interesting that CBL’s headquarters, Crossville’s plant and CoolSprings Galleria are all separated by a couple hours’ drive time, making this floor bought, produced and placed in the state of Tennessee.”

As a senior property manager for the owner, Drew endeavored to involve all of the flooring system suppliers well ahead of procurement. “From design input to drawing and specification review to mock ups to instal- lation to system warranty discussions, LATICRETE had a seat at the table at every step of the project.”

As Heidi Vassalo , strategic accounts, Crossville, noted, CBL takes a very collabora ve approach to their projects “by bringing all parties to the table to review/cross analyze information being brought forth. Crossville’s technical team has been very active in working beside LATICRETE on this project.”

“This new floor was very much a product of strong team collaboration,” Drew concluded, “and LATICRETE’s sales and technical representatives were right there in the mix throughout.”


The National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) recognized industry leaders at its fifth annual awards ceremony during Coverings 2017 in Orlando. Among the awards presented were the Five Star Contractor Grand Prize awards for both commercial and residential tile installation projects.

Submissions were judged based on project size, challenges involved, resolution of challenges, design and overall presentation. “When we are reviewing all the amazing submissions I feel immense pride in the proficiency in which our Five Star Contractors achieve. These projects are not only technically complex but artistically beautiful as well,” said NTCA Five Star Program Director Amber Fox.

“The Ratner Residence”

Heritage Marble and Tile of Mill Valley, California received the Five-Star Grand Prize for residential tile installation. The firm was tasked with the Ratner Residence, a project consisting of handmade glass made by Fireclay Tile of San Jose. The project was challenging in the fact that the install involved a curved wall, soaking tub and an integrated shower stall with a curbless application. With oversight from the homeowner, a qualified crew of CTI and ACT certified installers exceeded expectations.


US Bank Stadium, home of the Minnesota Vikings

The Five-Star Grand Prize for commercial tile installation was presented to Grazzini Brothers & Company of Eagan, Minnesota for the completion of their project, the 1.75 million square foot U.S. Bank Stadium, home of the Minnesota Vikings. The installation incorporated 56 different types and sizes of tile, from the marble stairs, to the glass walls and porcelain plank flooring. Having multiple architects on a project this size gave crews the opportunity to showcase their skills from layout to install of different ideas and design under one roof.

Both Five Star winners were awarded $2,500 in prize money, sponsored by Daltile Corporation.

ON THE COVER: Merkrete

Ilani Casino Resort center nears completion

Merkrete products allow installers to adhere to fast-track schedule

Developed by Salishan-Mohegan LLC in collaboration with the Cowlitz Indian Tribe, ilani will be the premier gaming, dining, entertainment and meeting destination in the Pacific Northwest. Construction began in September 2015, and ilani is scheduled to open during the spring of 2017. When it opens, the design of the 368,000 sq. ft. casino resort will project the culture of the Northwest and pay tribute to the heritage of the Cowlitz Tribe.

When Keystone Masonry was awarded the contract for the adhered stone cladding installation at the Ilani Casino Resort in La Center, Wash., (commonly referred to as the Cowlitz County Casino), Keystone’s president, Steve Borman, was well aware of the inherent challenges when considering a direct-bond exterior stone assembly, particularly in the frequently-unfriendly climate conditions of the Pacific Northwest region. Steve and the Keystone Masonry team knew that a robust waterproofing and installation mortar would be critical to the success and sustainability of the project, and reached out to his long time ‘go-to’ resource for tile and stone installations – Merkrete, a division of Parex USA for the Northwest Region, as challenging bonding agents are often specified in the adhered-veneer masonry sector.

Merkrete products support 137,000 sq. ft.+ of exterior stone cladding

Representatives from Merkrete, in collaboration with Steve and the Keystone project team, submitted a complete installation system from Merkrete, inclusive of both primary Merkrete HydroGuard SP-1 waterproofing membrane and 820 Merlite, a high-performance setting mortar, providing excellent non-sag characteristics for vertical stone applications in exterior conditions. This sole-sourced Merkrete installation system was submitted and approved by the architectural and design team at Friedmutter Architects of Las Vegas, NV. The Merkrete team was available as a resource to the project design team at Friedmutter to answer any questions or address concerns relating to the installation system as recommended from Merkrete. The HydroGuard SP-1 / 820 Merlite System was approved as submitted, and stone installations commenced in late August of 2016.

As is often the case when installing adhered veneer masonry or tile in a stacked stone method, the first courses of stone directly above the ledger board at the base of the installation cannot immediately have additional stone courses stacked on top of them. That’s because the bond coat will not cure rapidly enough to allow the installation to proceed with more than two to three courses of stone installed per day. This is where collaboration with the Merkrete team was critical. Merkrete Burst rapid setting additive was recommended and used with 820 Merlite, providing a rapid initial set, which allowed the entire installation to proceed quickly and far more efficiently than it would have with a standard-cure setting mortar.

As Brian Tuller, Keystone Masonry’s project manager for the installation described it, “Merkrete’s Burst was vital to our ability to keep this project on schedule, particularly when you consider the extremely fast-track work schedule that the general contractor assigned to the project. Had it not been for inclusion of the Burst Additive, we wouldn’t have been able to install anywhere near the amount of square footage of stone that we would have with a standard mortar without the rapid setting characteristics that Burst provided.”

Merkrete, Keystone Masonry teams collaborate to overcome weather challenges

Merkrete sales and technical teams worked directly with contractors to ensure the products were applied correctly to meet the projects specifications. Even in the face of rain, which it did on most days, the team came together with proper tarps and covers to make sure the exterior was secure and completed on time. Clint Anna, National Sales Manager for Merkrete observed that despite weather challenges, the project was completed seamlessly and Merkrete is proud to have been involved with this project.

In summary, Keystone Masonry and Swinerton Builders have been very pleased by the performance of all Merkrete materials used to complete the installation, and look forward to using Merkrete as their primary resource on future adhered veneer installations.

Project Information

  • Architect: Friedmutter Architects – Las Vegas, Nev.; Bergman Walls Associates – Las Vegas, Nev.
  • General contractor: Swinerton Builders – Portland, Ore.
  • Tile and masonry sub-contractor: Keystone Masonry – Yelm, Wash.
  • Merkrete products distributor: Emser Tile & Stone – Seattle, Wash.

Merkrete products used

  • Hydro Guard SP1 waterproofing membrane
  • 820 Merlite high-performace setting mortar
  • Burst rapid-setting additive

TISE West: positive mood, effusive showing of NTCA members

Activities for contractors amplify in 2017 Surfaces/TISE West show in Las Vegas

By Lesley Goddin

Last month, my editor letter gave a preview of the Surfaces/The International Surface Event (TISE) West show in Las Vegas. The International Surface Event (TISE) is comprised of: SURFACES | StonExpo/Marmomac | TileExpo events.

Here’s a bit more of what went on there, particularly regarding NTCA/CTEF events. I’m writing this just a few weeks before the Coverings show in Orlando – sometimes I feel our lives are strung together from industry event to industry event – just return from one and it’s time to get ready for the next.

Optimism and crowds were evident in Vegas this year, whether it was at the conference sessions, the NTCA booth, the Certified Tile Installer exams or at the many exhibits for tile, stone and setting materials that populated the show floor.

There are many other positive indicators at the show as well. The  420,000 sq.ft. show floor was over 32,000 sq. ft. larger in 2017 than in 2016, with 800 brands exhibiting – more than 200 of which were new and had not exhibited at TISE before.  Over 100 countries were represented.

Attendance  jumped 7% in 2017 over 2016 – even more significant since 2016 showed a 10% growth over 2015. Exhibitors are pleased, evidenced by on-site rebooking for the 2018 event that accounted for nearly 80% of the 2017 show.

NTCA Executive Meetings

For NTCA, the whole show kicked off with an executive committee meeting, followed by a well-attended Training & Education Committee gathering, led by Training & Education Committee chair Dave Rogers of Welch Tile and Marble.


The Training & Education Committee meeting was very well attended.

NTCA State Ambassador Reception

That first evening of TISE West, NTCA held a reception and dinner in appreciation of its members and State Ambassadors with an address by NTCA president Martin Howard, presentation by Eric Astrachan of TCNA and a video on the history of NTCA and its accomplishments in the last 15 years, introduced by Will White of Custom Building Products.

David Allen Company’s Martin Howard, NTCA president, addressed the State Ambassador and Member Appreciation Dinner. 

NTCA Five Star Contractor Jan Hohn (l.) of St. Paul’s Hohn & Hohn, Inc., with Jen Hoff of Taffy Event Strategies, the management company for Coverings at the NTCA dinner.

Amber Fox (l.) NTCA Five Star Contractor Coordinator with TCNA’s Stephanie Samulski.

Rod Owen of NTCA Five Star Contractors C.C. Owen in Jonesboro, Ga., with wife Melinda (l.) and daughter Olivia, who was in Vegas for the very first time. 

Robb Roderick (l.) NTCA Technical Trainer/Presenter with Kyle Maichel of Fox Ceramic Tile. 

John Cox of Cox Tile, past NTCA president, turned 60 years old during TISE West – NTCA celebrated with a special cake during the dinner. He’s shown here with TileLetter editor Lesley Goddin. 

Demos, talks and meetings abound

One of the most valuable aspects of the show is seeing products and methods in action, getting a chance to see products close up and meeting new people. NTCA had a full schedule of demos on the installation stage, and exhibitors also ran their own demos at their booths, and took time to tour TileLetter through their products.

Crowds flocked to demos on the installation stage by NTCA technical trainer/ presenters Robb Roderick (standing) and Mark Heinlein.  

At the CUSTOM booth, Expert Care and Maintenance Senior Technical Advisor Sole Alcaino demonstrates the AquaMix Cement Grout Haze remover.


At Progress Profiles, Domenico Borelli and Dennis Bordin demonstrate Prodesso Heat Grip mat for floor warming/uncoupling/waterproofing. 

Adrian and Alma Flores of Cement Pro

One of NTCA’s newer manufacturer members, Mexico-based Cement Pro has over 40 years of experience manufacturing mortars, grouts, tile care products and bonding agents. Adrian and Alma Flores (pictured l-r) explained that Cement Pro also began manufacturing in 2009 in Riverside, Calif. 

Broadcasting direct on Facebook Live during the show was Lindsey Waldrep (c.) of Crossville, moderating a discussion with Lisa Mende of Lisa Mende Designs (l.) and Patricia Gaylor of Patricia Gaylor Interior Design. (see the A&D feature in TileLetter TRENDS issue for more on this interview).

NTCA booth – a meeting place

Seven new members joined NTCA during TISE West. There was a frequent  crush of people at the NTCA booth, where State Ambassadors, members and curious showgoers clustered to talk about tile, education, business and membership.

Christine Kotara (l.) Johnny Kotara and Erin Albrecht of J&R Tile in San Antonio stopped by the NTCA booth during a tour of the show. 

Jamen and Chanel Carrizosa of Icon Tile & Design talked about learning, training, design and installation while at the booth. 

NTCA Florida State Ambassador Michael Weaver of Trendsetter Tile & Stone, Coral Springs, Fla.

Stoneman Construction’s Jason (l.) and Shawn McDaniels – brothers from Portland, Ore.

Certified Tile Installer testing and Regional Evaluator training

There was a strong showing at TISE West for Certified Tile Installer testing, with nine installers taking a timed test to lay tile on the CTI modules. The effort was supported by several of the new Regional Evaluators which will allow more frequent CTI tests to take place with smaller class sizes across the country. Twelve new Regional Evaluators are on the job, led by Kevin Insalato of California Flooring.

Nine installers took the CTI test at TISE West.

NTCA Arizona State Ambassador John Mourelatos of Mourelatos Tile, Tucscon, Ariz., took (and passed!) the CTI test at TISE West. At Coverings, he will train to become a Regional Evaluator.  

Next year, TISE West will be held at Mandalay Bay from January 29- February 1, with educational sessions beginning January 28. For more information, visit


Bostik Inc. – February 2017 Feature

To many, Snowbird, Utah is known as a multi-facility resort community. 150 years ago, it was known for its adjacent silver mines, but the shining draw today is top-shelf winter powder skiing and snowboarding.

One major magnet, The Cliff Lodge and Spa, not only enjoys an outstanding Snowbird location near loads of Utah’s finest ski resorts, golf clubs, and other attractions, it also boasts some of the most unique and progressive architectural and design treatments one could imagine. Featuring wall-to-wall windows with awe-inspiring mountain or canyon views, Cliff Lodge vistas are modern, spacious, and sumptuously well equipped. Cliff Lodge owners wanted some new indoor visuals, which resulted in two very large mosaic murals installed, designed by Edge ID.

Kari Bennett is principal/interior designer at Edge ID, a full-service hospitality design company, located in Salt Lake City. Bennett prides her firm on “researching, planning, designing, involving and orchestrating all projects to the last detail.” Such was the case for this highly innovative mosaic mural installation at The Cliff Lodge and Spa.

Close up of the individual vitreous glass mosaics used to create the aspen tree mural, incorporating Bostik’s Dimension® RapidCure™ Glass-Filled, Pre-Mixed, Urethane Grout. The custom mosaic was designed by Artaic Innovative Mosaic.

Creating an aspen tree “wow factor” for the interior

“We wanted in some way to bring the outdoors indoors,” declared Bennett. “There are so many beautiful vistas surrounding The Cliff Lodge. In particular, there are exquisite aspen trees indigenous to this part of the country, which look good year-round. So we made the collective decision to create an amazing aspen tree ‘wow factor’ motif on two large walls, one being in the ballroom lobby, and the other in the ballroom mezzanine. These were to be very large murals, each thirty feet wide by four feet high… 120 sq. ft.… each consisting of over 166,000 individual vitreous glass mosaic pieces.

“We knew a bit about Artaic, and how the firm offered a unique, space-age service of creating mosaic murals using computer-driven robots,” she added. “Artaic provided us with its mosaic depiction of an aspen tree motif. We immediately liked it, but wanted to change the color of the trees from black-grey to more of a sepia tone, which was more relevant to the Snowbird landscape’s colors. Artaic had no trouble whatsoever accommodating our request. The people there were without question, very professional and a joy to work with.”

The Cliff Lodge and Spa, Snowbird, Utah, 30’ x 4’ mosaic utilizing 166,000 individual vitreous glass mosaic pieces creates an aspen tree motif in colors that more perfectly fit the sepia-toned interior design scheme.

Inventor and scientist, Artaic’s Dr. Ted Acworth, added, “When Artaic was asked to design a beautiful custom mosaic for the Cliff Lodge renovation, we learned the designer was looking for a custom mosaic that really reflected the beautiful natural environment of the Utah landscape. We were provided with a photograph of a stand of aspen trees… loaded that image into our proprietary design software, and subsequently designed a beautiful custom mural out of glass tile from that image. This was not hard to do, especially when working with clients who knew what they wanted and understood our process.”

NTCA member Katwyk Tile handles the installation

Bennett went on to say that the tile installation contractor, NTCA member Rod Katwyk, owner of Katwyk Tile, was quite stoked about using Bostik materials for this massive mural project. “We believe we were hired because of the ‘touch and finesse’ we offer,” he said. “The people at Artaic highly recommended, Bostik’s Dimension® RapidCure™ Grout, which we had used previously and were confident would be ideal for this project. To begin with, we used exterior grade plywood, perfectly fitting it on the walls. Once it was glued and screwed in, we used Bostik’s GoldPlus™ crack isolation product, (ready-to-use, roller-applied latex waterproofing and anti-fracture membrane for use beneath thinset ceramic tile installations) which also served as a good primer and bonding agent to the plywood. After applying two coats, we started installing the Artaic mosaic sheets from the center of each mural. To do so, the thinset we chose was Bostik’s Glass-Mate™, using it one bag at a time. We were very happy how the material ‘stayed active’ in the bucket, which gave us time to adjust each sheet if need be. By far, this is my favorite glass tile thinset!”

The installation crew from Katwyk Tile use Bostik’s Dimension® RapidCure™ Glass-Filled, Pre-Mixed, Urethane Grout to grout the glass mosaic mural.

Bostik Glass-Mate is a premium, polymer-modified, thin-set mortar that exhibits superior bond strength, durability, non-sag properties and workability. Its bright white color and high polymer content make it ideal for installations such as that at The Cliff Lodge and Spa.

Katwyk added that grouting was accomplished with Bostik’s Dimension RapidCure Grout, which his company knew well. “We reached out to Bostik for advice, and Bostik came through,” he said. “All their products are easy to use, their customer service is great!”

Bostik grout offers “another light source” to the project

Acworth added, “Our relationship with Bostik began when we started using Dimension RapidCure Grout – their unique formulation that contains 60% recycled glass content – in our productions. The product is easy to apply, highly durable and most of all, actually adds more luminosity to mosaic productions. For example, if a project contains glass mosaics, imagine another light source being incorporated: that’s what Dimension RapidCure offers.”

Designer Bennett remarked, “We believe great design should be simple, so our process is one of honesty and communication throughout. Not only do we think it’s the right way to do business, but it does wonders for keeping efficiency up and costs down. Working with great suppliers such as Bostik, Artaic and Katwyk Tile, we were able to once again implement our philosophy for the mosaic murals at The Cliff Lodge.”

Scott Banda, Bostik’s director of Marketing and Business Development, summed it all up. “Along with our strategic partner, Artaic, Bostik is on a mission to resurrect the ancient art of mosaic design,” he said. “We’re bringing it back worldwide. The two murals at The Cliff Lodge and Spa are perfect examples of how mosaic masterpieces can once again be specified by the architectural and design community. We are proud and pleased to be an active participant in this ongoing, successful global quest.”

A video has been produced of this world-class project by Bostik. You may view it by clicking on

Kari Bennett, principal/interior designer at Edge ID, a full-service Salt Lake City hospitality design firm wanted to bring the outdoors indoors, drawing on the beauty of the stunning vistas surrounding the lodge. The indigenous aspen trees in the area inspired the “wow factor” mosaic.

1 2 3 15