Register now for Virtual Total Solutions Plus, October 26-30, 2020

October 26-30, 2020 | Visit TSP WebsiteRegister Today

CTDA, NTCA, TCAA and TCNA have teamed up again this year to deliver an even bigger joint VIRTUAL Conference in 2020. Total Solutions Plus will provide several educational sessions, networking opportunities and feature a Virtual Exhibit Hall!

The Virtual Conference takes place Monday, October 26th through Friday, October 30th. Click here to view the schedule. Register Today

How To Attend a Virtual Conference  

TSP will be utilizing a virtual platform to host the conference. For a quick demo of how to attend an educational session in the platform, check out this video .     

Virtual Exhibit Registration Now Open
Don’t pass up this opportunity to network with attendees and conduct business transactions. As a Virtual Exhibitor, you will be able to customize your virtual booth to showcase products & services you offer. This can be done through text, links, videos, images, and file downloads. There will also be chat and video call functionality to meet with attendees directly.
One of the major benefits of a virtual event is the data it will produce, such as being able to see data on who visits your booth. The cost per Virtual Exhibit is only $1,800 and includes one complimentary full-conference registration. For a quick demo showing how the virtual platform will work for Virtual Exhibitors, view this video. Click here for more information about registering as a Virtual Exhibitor.

Sponsorship Opportunities
Don’t miss out on these exclusive and package sponsorship opportunities. Sponsorship allows your brand to reach key decision makers with a variety of marketing opportunities. There are many different levels of sponsorship available, each with different benefits. Find out more about Sponsorship Opportunities here.

Questions? Contact CTDA at 630-545-9415 or [email protected].  

Partners in ProgressTotal Solutions Plus is brought to you by the Ceramic Tile Distributors Association, the National Tile Contractors Association, the Tile Council of North America, and the Tile Contractors’ Association of America. To learn more about these organizations, click on their logo above.  © 2020 Ceramic Tile Distributors AssociationNational Tile Contractors Association, Tile Council of North AmericaTile Contractors’ Association of America. All Rights Reserved.  Unsubscribe

One-to-one exclusive with Dave Gobis

Industry icon and NTCA Recognized Consultant

Headshot of Dave Gobis
Dave Gobis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reclaimed marble panels honor the past while embracing the future

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

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

Cover of August 2020 TileLetter Magazine

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

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

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

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

The marble panels were installed using MULTIMAX™ Lite.

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

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

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

The challenges 

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

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

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

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

A LATICRETE solution

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Shield Stone Floors against stains with FILA FOB XTREME SEALER

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

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

FILA FOB XTREME SEALER protects stone floors against stains

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

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

OSHA Issues Inspection Guidance for Enforcement of Respirable Crystalline Silica Standard

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

Beginning of the Inspection

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

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

For construction employers in particular:

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

Citation Guidance

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

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

“For construction employers:

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

Compliance Checklists

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

Key Takeaways

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

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

Braxton-Bragg Changes Name to BB Industries, LLC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Waterproofing for exterior balcony


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


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

TCNA Handbook (2019 Edition)

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

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

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

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

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

NTCA Reference Manual (2019/2020 Edition)

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

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

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

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

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

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