CASE STUDY – Tile Labyrinth

Tile labyrinth provides interaction and learning at historic L.A. school

Black basalt stone, installed with custom-designed French encaustic tiles, provide canvas for schoolchildren’s expression

In 2006, the Ambassador Hotel – site of both the famed Cocoanut Grove nightclub and the 1968 assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy – was razed to make room for a new set of six pilot schools to be known as the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools.  The namesake schools now feature a marble memorial depicting the late Senator Kennedy, a manicured public park, and a state-of-the-art swimming pool, and include the Ambassador School of Global Education, Ambassador School of Global Leadership, NOW Academy, UCLA-CS, School for the Visual Arts and Humanities and Los Angeles High School of the Arts.

The schools, which occupy 24 acres, are intended to serve the Pico-Union and Koreatown neighborhoods, with a robust and personalized program that embodies the social justice legacy of the late Senator Kennedy. Four thousand students in grades kindergarten through 12 will be served in this 2011-2012 school year.

Artist Lynn Goodpasture ( was commissioned by Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD)  to develop an original public artwork for the new schools. She designed the 690 square-foot hexagonal labyrinth as a remembrance of the landmark hotel. The labyrinth, is titled Keeley’s Garden, Labyrinth 1, after Goodpasture’s daughter, who grew up in and around her mom’s studio. The labyrinth is paved with custom-designed French encaustic tiles, derived from the classic decorative motifs found throughout the Ambassador.

The labyrinth is a symbolic archetype that has fascinated people for thousands of years. Petroglyphs and artifacts inscribed with labyrinths that were discovered in Egypt, Greece, and Europe are thought to date from the late Neolithic or Early Bronze Age.

Keeley’s Garden, Labyrinth 1 was conceived to provide children with opportunities to express creativity, be contemplative, and have fun.  It also provides educators with a unique instructional tool that integrates art with education. Eleven large slabs of black basalt stone along the labyrinth’s path offer students surfaces on which to create their own chalk artwork, write poetry, or illustrate a sequential lesson in history, literature, and science, using bright washable chalk. The labyrinth’s hexagonal shape provides teachers with a large tactile example of geometry, which may be used to illustrate certain math concepts. Students can walk the labyrinth to absorb and learn from one another’s work.

Installing the labyrinth

Goodpasture worked with Gardena, Calif.-based Classic Tile & Mosaic (CTM), run by Vincent and Bonnie Cullinan, to supply the tiles, which were made by Original Mission Tile, San Luis Potosi, Mexico, according to Goodpasture’s direction from the original designs in the Ambassador.

“It was exciting for CTM to collaborate with an artist and through months of preparation to be able to see Lynn’s vision translated through our tile,” said Vincent Cullinan, CTM owner.

CTM fabricated the labyrinth, with Gardena-based Stone Etc. carrying out the complex installation which was completed in November 2009. The challenging

project was based on precise geometry without any allowances for cut-tile


adjustments, fitted into an irregular recess. Meticulous planning and execution was required to install the 12”x12”, 12”x6”, 6”x6”, and 2”x6” tiles and basalt slabs. The unsheltered exterior installation of approximately 1,500 tiles and 11 heavy slabs of basalt (134 square feet) took place in 100-degree heat, but resulted in a truly unique application of tile and stone, with Goodpasture working with Stone Etc., on the installation every step of the way.

Setting materials provided by Stone Etc., of Gardena, Calif., included 2”x2” 16/16 welded galvanized wire reinforcement, Noble Deck Exterior Thin-Bed Waterproofing & Crack Isolation Membrane, LATICRETE 254 Platinum, followed by Portland Cement Float by Riverside Cement Co., Custom Building Products’ Polyblend Sanded Grout, and Aqua Mix Enrich N Seal.

“The labyrinth is a functional piece of art that not only adorns our beautiful RFK campus, but provides an opportunity for kinesthetic learners to explore math and art simultaneously,” said Danny Lo, assistant principal of the UCLA Community School, one of three elementary schools on the RFK campus.

Located at the base of the amphitheater and just in front of the indoor/outdoor stage at the elementary school, the labyrinth is a focal point from the upper elevations of the middle and upper school areas, as well as the lower elevations of the expansive playground shared by three elementary schools. The pure geometry of the hexagonal labyrinth was designed to relate to the clean lines and generous volumes of the architectural environment by Gonzalez Goodale Architects.

“Working with Bonnie and Vincent at CTM was a true pleasure,” Goodpasture said. “From the start they understood the intention and helped me find a way to translate my concept into 690 sq. ft. of precisely laid tile and stone, resulting in a labyrinth unlike any other.”

This $99,143.00 original tile installation was designed to inspire students to learn through art that is seamlessly integrated into the built environment. It provides a place for young students to express their own creativity in a public space. The contemplative aspect of the labyrinth also makes it a fitting art form here, given the historical significance of the Ambassador site. Keeley’s Garden, Labyrinth 1 offers endless creative interaction.

2012 developments in ANSI Standards

DCOF, glass tile, highly-modified mortars, saw tooth soft joint/caulk joints join the standards

By Chris Walker, vice president, Northeast region, David Allen Company

Our industry is changing at a rapid pace. Installation professionals and project designers have access to practically unlimited choices of tile, stone and glass tile materials. Many of these materials require specialized installation products, methods or preparation.

For answers to unique product installation requirements, your first resource should always be the product manufacturers’ recommendations. But for the installation and design professional, the industry’s best resources are the ANSI A-108 Material and Installation Standards and the TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation.

Both documents are under constant review. Fifty-eight industry professionals, representing the manufacturing, allied-products and installation community, volunteer countless hours revising and updating the manuals. The documents evolve with the industry to provide usable information and specifications for real-world installation applications. They are guides to assist the industry, providing useful information to ensure successful and beautiful installations with longevity and tangible life cycle advantages.

A few important changes are included this year in the ANSI A108 Standards and are outlined below. For the precise language and definitions, please refer to the ANSI A-108, A-137.1 and A-137.2 documents.

Static vs. dynamic co-efficient of friction

An eminent change in the testing/reporting requirements are about to be incorporated into A137.1 Section Co-efficient of Friction.

“Tiles suitable for interior wet application shall have a WET DCOF of 0.42 or greater”. This standard is for “Interior Commercial Tile Installations, frequently walked on while wet”.

For years the static co-efficient of friction was measured by pulling a weight across various surfaces with a particular type of shoe leather (which is no longer used) by someone who could not possibly perform the test in exactly the same way every time. Test results varied widely, in part due to the irregularities of the method and person.

Now an automated testing device (BOT 3000) more accurately mimics how people actually walk on a floor and when they begin to slip. This should provide consistent results with a regulated test for tile materials produced for our market. Instead of being a recommendation, this measure will now be a requirement.

The wet/dry values, area of use, and intended contaminants all play a role in determining the suitability of a particular material for an intended application. The decision for the appropriate specification of any material is the project designer or architects.

Currently, specifications reference an advised standard (not required) of: 0.6 Level/Wet; 0.6 Tread/Wet; 0.8 Ramp/Wet as measured by ASTM C-1028.

Now that standard will change to a mandatory Dynamic Co-efficient of Friction (DCOF) value of 0.42 vs. the current advised Static Co-efficient of Friction (SCOF) indicated above.

The testing and reporting requirements will be outlined in a revised proposed standard for ANSI A-108, in the A-137.1 manufacturing standard. This method has been balloted and approved by the ANSI A-108 committee, but is not official until it has been acknowledged by the ANSI Review Board. That process will likely be completed by June.

ANSI A-137.2 Specification for Glass Tile

The popularity of these materials is evident and continues to grow as manufacturing technologies evolve and creative influences drive these products into all types of residential and commercial applications. Successfully undertaking and passing this manufacturing standard was a huge undertaking and should be recognized as a major accomplishment for the industry.

Defining and categorizing glass tile materials was a monumental task on its own. What resulted after years of collaboration by the manufacturers and Tile Council of North America (TCNA) is the introduction of the A137.2 Glass Tile standard.

The Glass Tile standard is similar to the A137.1 Ceramic Tile Standard and provides multiple classifications by type, size and manufacturer requirements. It is a manufacturing standard and as such, is mostly technical information. For the installation community there is useful information to help you determine how to evaluate the material you are installing and may assist in your decision on how to prepare, cut and work the material for a particular installation application. Manufacturer’s recommendations are extremely important for glass tile installations. Decisions on design, expansion/control joints, preparation and installation can be quite different than traditional ceramic tile installations.

Revised mortar definitions: 

Highly Modified Mortars

ANSI A-118.4 & A-118.15: This year a new classification of Highly Modified Mortars; A-118.15, identifies modified mortars with improved performance characteristics. As you are probably aware, there is a tremendous difference in price and performance between the least expensive and most expensive A-118.4 modified mortar.

Providing another level of classification for improved performance allows the specifier and installer to assure specific performance criteria are met. It also assures that similar materials are being included in determining the value of the installation in a competitive bid situation.

Saw tooth soft joint/caulk joints

The ANSI standard this year will allow saw tooth soft/caulk joints for use as expansion breaks for vertical and horizontal applications.  This should not be confused with soft joints at control, movement or shrinkage cracks. The recommendation of installing the soft joint to respect or be placed “directly over” a crack/movement joint still applies. This allows “a generic movement joint in a saw tooth configuration in a broken joint tile pattern, continuously following the grout joint for the designed span.”

TCNA, ANSI and NTCA committees: developing new standards

The development of new standards can be a lengthy and arduous process. Witness the recent Green Squared initiative by TCNA – the first sustainable standard for tile and setting materials, known at ANSI 138.1. TCNA put an  incredible amount of work and effort into developing the ANSI and TCNA documents (which you can read about in the Green Tip feature by TCNA spokesperson Bill Griese in each issue of TileLetter) – and it is a major accomplishment.

In addition, it’s difficult to keep pace with rapid advancements in materials and construction techniques.

In an effort to accomplish this, the NTCA Methods & Standards Committee works with its membership to address clarifications, revisions or additions to both the ANSI document and the TCNA Handbook. ANSI also appoints Ad-Hoc Committees to develop preliminary language for submission to the full committee, in between the regularly scheduled meetings. There are also TCNA Sub-Committees which are very active in the review and testing of materials for the industry. These committees are intended to utilize the expertise of interested parties, collaborating in the development, refinement and introduction of industry standards.

Some of the items currently being considered by these committees are:

  • Large Format Glass Tile
  • Installation Specifications
  • Definition Review: Required Plane – its relevance to floor flatness requirements and large module tiles
  • Thin Tile – installation, substrate and methods requirement for “Thin Tile.” The current consensus definition for thin tile is a tile module thinner than 4.5 millimeters
  • Barrier Free Shower/Handicap-ped Shower-Installation Detail
  • Steam Showers; Perm Ratings/Vapor transmission; Classifications/Definitions of Membrane Requirements-Definition/Clarification
  • Minimum Coverage; Coverage percentages on large and thin tile
  • Medium Bed Mortars;  Classification/Definition


Christopher Walker, vice president, Northeast region, David Allen Company, Inc., also serves the industry as chairman of the ANSI A-108 committee chairman of the US Technical Advisory Group; ISO T-189 committee; chairman of the NTCA Methods & Standards committee; voting member of the Tile Council Installation Handbook committee; voting member of the NTCA Technical committee.

Tile of Spain showcases innovative technology, fashion-forward designs and sustainability at CEVISAMA 2012

VALENCIA, SPAIN – This February, the Spanish ceramic tile industry revealed its newest and most innovative products at the 30th edition of CEVISAMA, the largest annual international exhibition for architectural ceramic, kitchen and bath furnishings, raw materials, glazes and frits.

Raising the international profile 

Held at the Feria Valencia Centre in Valencia, Spain, CEVISAMA 2012 welcomed 71,540 visitors over five days. This was a slight decrease from last year’s attendance, but visitors to the show included an impressive 12,880 international buyers originating in 140 countries – a 3.13% jump in international participation over last year’s show. The fair also welcomed a large group of 70 international trade journalists, which helped to bolster CEVISAMA’s international profile.

Among the more than 700 exhibitors, Tile of Spain manufacturers once again dominated the show with more than 200 Spanish tile manufacturers in attendance. “Home Skin,” the slogan of CEVISAMA 2012, was chosen to symbolize the “skin that covers the home” and communicate ceramic tile’s infinite possibilities in cutting-edge architectural solutions, non-residential architectural projects and urban spaces.

Spanish tile: an industry force

Spain’s ceramic tile manufacturing industry is one of the most innovative. It’s an international leader in technological development, design and quality in materials and services. This has led to an expansion in research and development, partnerships with international universities (such as Harvard) and notable growth in exports and sales.

Despite the economic downturn, Spain’s ceramic tile sector exports grew by 7% in 2011. Today, Spain is the second largest exporter of ceramic tiles in Europe, and the third largest in the world. It is estimated that 2011 total sales by the Spanish ceramic tile industry will have hit 2,570 million euros, equating to 1% increase over 2010 figures.

New product highlights

Following are some of the hottest trends seen at CEVISAMA from Tile of Spain manufacturers.

Recycled Content

‘ECO-LOGIK’, introduced by Plaza Ceramicas, is a porcelain tile made from 85% recycled material. The combination of recycled porcelain floor tile and glass has led to the creation of this new durable material, which is non-porous, easy to clean and nonslip.

The new ECOWOOD series offers a rustic, soft wood look. This long-lasting tile will never need staining or sanding to remain its appearance over time.


Fashion-inspired and custom imprints  

Advances in inkjet printing have led Spanish tile makers to partner with fashion and design icons to make fashion-inspired tile patterns. From the runway to the stairway, Spanish tile and materials can be imprinted with almost any design from photography to artwork, murals, faux wall coverings, signage and more.

EMAC launched the Francis Montesinos Collection 2012 of profiles including Novopeldaño® Arte (shown) featuring embellishments and designs inspired by haute couture.


Technology behind the tile  

Spanish tile makers are now able to hide technology behind the wall in both home and commercial settings. Tau launches innovation in its S3 collection: Smart Surface Systems. At a touch, the air can be cleaned of harmful VOCs, heating or cooling can occur, television/music or other electronics can be controlled and far more. S3 utilized on a table surface can call a waiter with a single touch or heat the table when temperatures cool at night.

Tau launches innovation in its S3 collection: Smart Surface Systems. S3 turns tile into a control center for a range of home operations.


Recognizing top design in Spanish tile 

This year marked the tenth edition of Tile of Spain’s Ceramic Tile in Architecture and Interior Design Awards, which presents design awards in the categories of Architecture, Interior Design, Degree Project and Journalism.  Both the prestige of its successive juries and the quality of the prize-winning projects has made these awards, organized by ASCER, a reference point on the national and international architectural circuit. A jury chaired by internationally-renowned architect Benedetta Tagliabue judged the awards, and the selected projects displayed an amazing array of applications for ceramic coverings.

The first place honor in the Architecture category was awarded to “MUCA,” a project by the COR Jesus Olivares + Miguel Rodenas studio.

Iridescent ceramic tiles are the key players in this design, which won first place in the Architecture category in Tile of Spain’s Ceramic Tile in Architecture and Interior Design Awards.

About Tile of Spain

In Spain, tile makers labor as they have for centuries – pushing their passion for design and innovation to new levels of artisanship. With one of the purest and strongest domestic clays available, Spanish manufacturers have an unparalleled ability to make the end product more diverse. This diversity stretches from rustic handmade forms, to technical facades that cool buildings and clean the air, to the impossibly slim, sustainable recycled and ink jet masterpieces that fire the imagination. The Spanish Ceramic Tile Manufacturer’s Association (ASCER) is the private organization whose primary objective is to support Spain’s ceramic tile manufacturers and the industry as a whole by stewarding and promoting the Tile of Spain brand worldwide. A strong global leader, the ceramic tile industry of Spain comprises 200 manufacturers concentrated primarily in the province of Castellón. For more information about tile produced in Spain, contact Tile of Spain Center at the Trade Commission of Spain, 2655 Le Jeune Road, Suite 1114, Coral Gables, FL 33134. Call 305-446-4387 or visit

Hilton Garden Inn welcomes Merkrete solutions for working smart, working fast

By Randy Schultz

Today’s commercial construction requires a juggling act worthy of Cirque du Soleil. Not only does it command attention to detail with the eye of an experienced craftsman, but it also demands logistical expertise and speed, speed, speed.

The recently-built Hilton Garden Inn – just a short distance from the University of Texas El Paso (UTEP) campus – typifies this type of project, with the added challenge of an issue with the sub-floor. But besides benefiting from the skills and expertise of a highly-capable tile installation team that knew how to work fast and work efficiently, it had another distinct advantage: quality tile-setting products from Merkrete Systems, part of the worldwide Parex Group.

Preparing the team and the plan

Castle Rock Interiors, an Orem, Utah-based flooring company specializing in hotels and commercial buildings throughout the west and southwest, was contracted to install approximately 31,000 square feet of tile in this new five-story Hilton hotel. Included in the installation were 4,000 square feet in the main lobby and interior common areas, as well as additional work in the entryways, kitchens and bathrooms for about 150 guest suites. The installer even set flooring for a small 4’x8’ patio that connected to the hotel restaurant.

All tile and setting products were purchased through Emser Tile, at the company’s El Paso location. Los Angeles-based Emser, the largest privately-held designer and marketer of tile and natural stone products in the United States, is a valued Merkrete distributor. Established in 1968, Emser offers an extensive line of ceramic, porcelain, natural stone and decorative products to meet the needs of commercial builders, contractors, architects and homebuilders looking for distinctive style and reliable service.

“The relationship between Emser and Merkrete makes servicing the installer and the end-user flawless,” said Bob Baldocchi, director of marketing for Emser Tile. “The excellent rapport that we have with the Merkrete reps allows us to offer a variety of options.”

Ryan Petersen, part-owner of Castle Rock and the job supervisor for Hilton Garden Inn, felt confident from the outset. “We had worked with both Emser and Merkrete many times, with excellent results,” Petersen noted. “Even though this was a project that demanded quick turnaround, we felt like we had a great team and products to get the job done on time and done right.”

A solution for every condition

Castle Rock selected Merkrete 7d10 Dust Less Thin Set as the setting agent. This premium grade polymer-modified Portland cement thin-set mortar not only offers excellent workability, rapid curing and superior bonding, but it emits 80% less dust than ordinary thin-set mortars. Installers such as Castle Rock Interiors like the fact that it reduces mess and accelerates cleanup, thereby lowering total application costs.

“Ray Hunt, Merkrete’s sales contact for the job, is someone we value for his honest, straightforward approach” noted Petersen. “So when he suggested that we use 7d10 for this job, I was eager to try it, and it really delivered. It spreads easily, there’s virtually no dust in the close quarters of a hotel room and its adhesion strength is outstanding.”  

Merkrete Hydro Guard 1, a thin, load-bearing membrane featuring a modified elastomeric copolymer, was chosen for its waterproofing and crack-resistant properties.

“I had used Hydro Guard on numerous occasions before, and I prefer it over anything else,” said Petersen. “Toward the end of the project, we ran into some pretty cold weather, and the Hydro Guard 1 really held its temperature well, as always. It’s easy to install, fast-drying and serves the dual purpose of protecting against both water and cracks.”

Castle Rock installed strong, porcelain-grade tiles in various sizes ranging from 12”x12” to 24”x24”. The tiles provided by Emser were exclusively earth tones, such as the Madrid Series, a dark, ridged travertine, and Pietra del Nord, a bright gloss in a cream hue.

A cure for that sinking feeling

When the tile installation team began its work, it first utilized Merkrete’s Prep Seal PNS water- based latex primer, followed by the Merkrete Sound Shield PNS 40 rubberized asphalt membrane.

Because the subfloor had some issues with chipping, the simple-to-apply peel-and-stick membrane provided a nice, smooth base for the thin set and stabilized the floor against additional cracking.

“We were dealing with kind of a rolling floor,” said Petersen. “We had to keep it flat and avoid creating lifts. The combination of Merkrete products enabled us to build up the floor so that it wasn’t sinking, and at the same time keep it level. It was a really good solution because we didn’t want to be ripping up any floors.”

Tim McDonald, Merkrete vice president, is a firm believer in the “total systems” approach, so effective in meeting challenges such as those at the Hilton Garden Inn.

“We’ve developed our products to work together as a complete system,” noted McDonald. “They not only offer excellent stand-alone performance, but they also enhance other Merkrete products and include multiple characteristics for a comprehensive line of protection.”

The system to preserve and protect

Merkrete offers a full line of tile-setting and protection products, including waterproofing, elastomeric coatings, flooring and underlayments. The company continues to expand its base of eco-friendly products such as 7d10 Dust Less Thin Set, as well as unique premium performance innovations like ProGrout, a fast-setting grout for all types of ceramic stone tiles on walls and floors.

The Hilton Garden Inn, in El Paso, Texas, now serves a variety of hotel guests, including many who come to visit the UTEP campus and sporting events, sample the local Tex-Mex cuisine or enjoy the natural wonders of this gateway city to the west. With so many travelers setting foot in the facility, it’s reassuring to know that underneath all of this hustle and bustle is not just a floor, but a proven system.

Mammoth Mosaic Tile Chandelier Hangs Tough with LATICRETE Products

Paul Pearman is an accomplished mosaic artist who works out of his studio in Augusta, Ga. Known for his attention to detail and for using the tiniest of mosaic tiles within his creations, Pearman’s projects can range in size from miniscule to mammoth.

“From small projects such as mosaic designs on belt buckles to immense projects such as three-dimensional mosaic-clad hanging chandeliers, I want my artwork to be of the highest quality,” Pearman said. “And I want the designs I create to last for generations. That’s why I depend on the LATICRETE system. There is no other product line which offers mosaic tiles the bonding strength of LATICRETE materials.”

One of Pearman’s most recent creations is an incredibly intricate, ornate, and one-of-a-kind sculpted chandelier, which is suspended above the lobby at Georgia Health Sciences University’s new College of Dental Medicine. According to Pearman, who was commissioned by the university to produce this unique, abstract piece of art, “It took nine months to build and quite frankly, drove all of us including family and friends to near insanity. But, the final outcome was of such a strong image, was so visually appealing, that right now people are colliding into each other taking pictures of it. There have been two film documentaries chronicling the building of this mosaic chandelier. There is even going to be a competition held in the near future to give it a name. I am very proud and thankful to have been given the opportunity to create this design.”


Inspired by Dali

Pearman’s initial ideas were inspired by the world-famous Salvador Dali painting, 
Geopoliticus Child Watching the Birth of a New Man. “In that painting,” he stated, “you see a man breaking out of an egg, with an amazing warped draping of gilded colors hanging directly above him. That draping really got my mojo working.”

Pearman subsequently assembled a team of skilled laborers to work on the sculpture, which began directly after a new building was erected just for this project in the artist’s backyard. The sculpture’s steel foundation was covered with carved foam and fiberglass. Thousands upon thousands of pieces of reflective glass and metal, some extremely minute, were cut with tiny nippers and then bonded via LATICRETE materials to the structure’s “body,” all by hand. In some cases, because the pieces were so small, affixing them to meet the extremely-high creative standards of the artist required the use of dental utensils. The final abstract design, which to some is reminiscent of a gigantic jellyfish, has a surface consisting of four separate hanging tiers all covered with an ongoing design incorporating three brilliant colors of iridescent and non-iridescent glass mosaics. “In the middle tier,” declared Pearman, “there is more than $20,000 worth of hidden LED’s to add illumination.”


Easy-to-use, permanent bond

When bonding the mosaic tiles to the body of the sculpture, Pearman was emphatic about only using installation materials produced by LATICRETE. “I prefer using LATICRETE® products; I’ve used them successfully for quite awhile. For this mosaic sculpture, we used LATICRETE SpectraLOCK® PRO Grout (United States Patent No.: 6881768 and other patents) as both the adhesive and the grout. Typically, LATICRETE SpectraLOCK PRO Grout is not used as an adhesive. However for unique pieces of art it is common to use this method of installation. It’s easy to use, the colors are extraordinary and in particular, the product is unbelievably strong,” exclaimed Pearman.

The multi-tiered sculpture, with its blue, gray and white colors, at its lowest level has a teardrop pendant wrapped around a brushed chrome globe, containing a clock. The sculpture is 28’ tall from top to bottom, and its lowest point is 9’ from the floor. Initially, the sculpture was funded as a gift from Emile Fisher, a patron of the dental school and via other private donations.

“We did not want our new building to have the look of an institution or a hospital,” said Connie Drisko, dean of the College of Dental Medicine (and the person who initially asked Pearman to make his chandelier production proposal to the school). “We wanted a warm, inviting environment. We wanted unique artwork.” Pearman’s sculpture actually fronts the beginning of a larger program jumpstarted by Drisko, which is slated to add more art pieces inside the new dental college in the future.

“When we use LATICRETE SpectraLOCK PRO Grout, we know the mosaic tiles that are put down are there for life,” Pearman said. “Whether we’re working with micro-mosaics or large-format mosaics, even if we used the highest quality dental tools to pull out a tile that was set in LATICRETE SpectraLOCK PRO Grout, it probably wouldn’t come out and ultimately, the tools would be ruined.

“And,” continued Pearman, “you should note that LATICRETE SpectraLOCK PRO Grout was a very easy product to use. After the installation, there was no grout haze; it was very easy to clean up. And, once it cured, everything looked perfect. Frankly, it provided a permanent, trouble-free installation!”

Steve G. Rampino, LATICRETE Technical Services training supervisor added, “This sculpture was a one-in-a-million piece. The artist wanted top-quality installation material for his mosaic designs. And because the fabrication consisted of a large item suspended up in the air with people walking below, it was imperative that all mosaic tiles were adhered with the highest overall bonding strength, minimizing any risk of de-lamination. LATICRETE SpectraLOCK PRO Grout was ideal for this project because of that.”

Tile of Spain offers a festival of innovative technology, brilliant design and sustainability at CEVISAMA 2012

Spain’s ceramic tile sector grew by 7%, now the third largest exporter of tile in world – at the forefront of technology, design and innovation.

Miami, FL, March 2012 – The International Ceramic Tile Fair known as CEVISAMA recently took place from February 7-10 at the Feria Valencia centre in Spain. While Spanish tile makers dominate CEVISAMA, there is a growing international presence among the more than 700 exhibitors. One of the characteristic features of Spain’s ceramic tile manufacturing industry is that it is one of the most innovative and dynamic and, in the international arena, is at the forefront of both technological development and design and quality in materials and services. This has led to an expansion in research and development, partnership with international universities (including Harvard University in the U.S.) and growth in exports and sales.

Topline Figures from Spain’s Ceramic Tile Industry in 2011
Despite the economic downturn, Spain’s ceramic tile sector exports grew by 7%. Today, Spain is the second biggest exporter of ceramic tiles in Europe, and the third in the world. It is estimated that total sales by the Spanish ceramic tile industry will have hit 2,570 million euros by the end of the 2011 exercise, equating to 1% increase on the previous year.
Key Trends/New Products Featured

The following provides a brief overview of some of the key trends and new products featured

1. Recycled Content

‘ECO-LOGIK’, introduced by Plaza Cerámicas (Tile of Spain) is a porcelain tile made from 85% recycled material. The combination of recycled porcelain floor tile and glass has led to the creation of this new durable material, which is non porous, easy to clean and nonslip. The new ECOWOOD series is a rustic soft wood look available in 4 different sizes and 3 colors. Compared to actual wood, this tile is long lasting and will never need stain to maintain its rustic look over time.

2. Marble, Stone, Cement or Concrete Looks

Spanish tile is inherently more durable for interiors and exteriors than marble, stone or cement. The Spanish tile manufacturers have taken advantage of this opportunity – along with advances in finishes and ink jet printing to make tiles that look identical to marble, stone or cement. Spanish tile also offers designers flexibility in finishes including gloss, semi-gloss, anti-slip and matte. Durable thin tile provides an advantage in ease of installation and lower cost for transport. PAMESA CERAMICA (Tile of Spain) recently introduced a rustic cement/wood combination that has proved popular as well as several marble and stone looks. KERABEN GRUPO (Tile of Spain) introduced the stunning Afrika – inspired by the relief pattern of natural slate.

3. Fashion-Inspired and Custom Imprints

Advances in ink jet printing have led Spanish tile makers to partner with fashion and design icons to make fashion-inspired tile patterns. From the runway to the stairway – Spanish tile can be imprinted with almost any design opening up to photography, artwork, murals, faux wall coverings, signage and more. EMAC (Tile of Spain) launched the “Francis Montesinos” Collection 2012 featuring Haute Couture dresses. CERACASA (Tile of Spain) expanded the flexibility of their EMOTILE series making affordable custom wall designs for interiors and exteriors a reality.

4. Advances in Slim Tile

INALCO (Tile of Spain) is taking thin tile technology to the next level with their SLIMMKER tile in a floor product noting that there is almost no reason for them to produce thicker tile any longer. These tiles are being used in commercial and residential situations. And because of their slimline body and high mechanical strength – they can be used to overlay existing surfaces so long as they are level.

5. Dimensional Designs

Tile that bends or curves in dimensional and exciting new forms were present at CEVISAMA. Architects want tile that visually moves and manufacturers like NATUCER (Tile of Spain) and APAVISA PORCELANICO (Tile of Spain) are pushing the envelope with new dimensional product collections targeted to designers and architects.

6. Technology behind the Tile

With the advent of mechanically fastened floors and walls, tile makers can now hide technology behind interior walls in both home and commercial settings. Tau (Tile of Spain) launches innovation in its S3 collection: Smart Surface Systems. S3 hides technology behind the tile. At a touch, the air can be cleaned of harmful VOCs, heat or cooling can occur, television/music or other electronics can be controlled and far more. S3 utilized on a table surface can call a waiter, or heat the table when temperatures cool at night.

Other Event Details:
Tile of Spain Awards
This year marked the tenth edition of the Tile of Spain Awards. Both the prestige of its successive juries and the quality of the prize-winning projects have made these Awards, organized by ASCER, a reference point on the national and international architectural circuit. To view the impressive projects that won – download of images, plans and memos at

All of the information on the prize awards is online at


For the eighth year running the fair featured the TRANS/HITOS Architecture and Interior Design in Ceramic exhibit. The 2012 display has been subtitled “SPACES” because in it converge different groups which show architectural applications of ceramics, as well as new uses of ceramic tiles for both urban areas and for domestic areas.


Internationally renowned architects, designers and interior designers have been involved in CEVISAMA’s Architecture and Design Forum since its inception. Over a three-day period the
Forum turns the spotlight on experiences and projects centered on the use of cerami

Form Meets Function

The 9 x 4 bathroom features 57 sheets of Voguebay optic white teardrop glass tiles for the bathroom walls, 60 sheets of 5/8 " x 2" Voguebay jade green, glass-and-stone mosaic tiles accenting the front of the shower bench.

Total Interiors’ Mike Martin collaborates with renowned artist Cristina Reverdy to create 
‘functional art’ for homes and commercial spaces – luxurious kitchens and bathrooms anchored by breathtaking tile and stone works of art.
By Marty Whitford, Contributor

Here are dreamers and there are realists. Dreamers help create new realities and realists help ensure dreams don’t become nightmares. When a dreamer partners with a realist, and the two capitalize on their differing strengths, many things of beauty are born.
That’s precisely what happened when left brain-dominant Mike Martin, owner of Total Interiors, partnered with right brain-dominant Cristina Reverdy, a renowned artist and owner of Brush Studio & Gallery.

Best of both brains
Martin excels at functional space design and related product specification, selection and installation. Reverdy, on the other hand, is heaven-bent on form – color, texture and aesthetic appeal – and conceiving one-of-a-kind, breathtaking bathrooms and kitchens.
As fate would have it, in July 2009 Reverdy opened her art studio/gallery just a few doors down from Martin’s office in Sandwich, Mass. on Cape Cod. Running into each other on a daily basis, the two decided to tether their left and right brains and launch Resource.
Resource pools the people and product resources stemming from the duo’s combined 50-plus years of experience experimenting with tile and stone and other creative media. From inspiration to installation, Resource draws on the talents of everyone from artists, sculptors, stain glass crafters and welders, to tile contractors, plumbers, carpenters and project managers.
“We have an amazing pool of talent – true professionals who love what they do, thoroughly enjoy the collaborative process and can create anything we can dream up,” Reverdy said. “We’re limited only by our imaginations.”
In November 2010, an 1,100-square-foot, two-story space right beside Brush Studio & Gallery became available. Martin and Reverdy seized the opportunity to expand the gallery on the second floor and create a home for Resource on the first floor.

Hot kitchen design
Around the island in Resource’s kitchen, a frame of random tumbled marble/stone tile visually separates the floor and cherry island and connects the blue-gray colors of the main cabinetry. Three sides of the island feature a 9” frame of island stone; the fourth side, where stools sit, features a 15” frame of the tumbled marble/stone.
And what a splash the backsplash makes! Forty sheets of Northstar’s Brooklyn Bridge tile are framed by two sheets of Voguebay’s antique copper. Martin – along with Todd Coy, his right-hand tile man – delicately took apart some of the Brooklyn Bridge tile pieces to accommodate cut-ins of three 15”tall x 2”wide by 1.5” deep custom-cast copper mermaids. The backsplash’s herringbone tile pattern creates a mesmerizing water effect around the mermaids – naturally huge hits on Cape Cod.

Bathroom goals and resources
Martin and Reverdy note the project goals for Resource’s showcase bathroom were simply stated, but not easily accomplished, and included among many other “to-dos”:
1. Keep maintenance at an absolute minimum.
2. Use Schluter-DITRA to overcome the zero-pitch floor issues and provide waterproofing and drainage with such success that no shower door is needed.
3. Convert the 9’deep x 4’wide bathroom into a true work of art thanks to:
• 57 sheets of Voguebay optic white teardrop glass tiles for the bathroom walls
• 60 sheets of 5/8”x2” Voguebay jade green, glass-and-stone mosaic tiles accenting the front of the shower bench, both sides of the arch and inside the angles of the vaulted shower walls
• 17 sheets of Voguebay glass bubble tiles for the bathroom ceiling
• Three 18-lb. containers of Bostik’s DimensionTM Translucent Grout, specially formulated for glass and metal tile installations and offering translucent, three-dimensional and reflective colors. “In this case, Diamond-hue Dimension grout helps outline but not overpower the delicate glass tile work, while also capturing light to make the teardrop- and bubble-shaped glass tiles and glass-and-stone mosaic tiles pop like wall art,” Martin notes.
• Last but not least, a single flooring piece – fabricated offsite and then installed – features Florida Tile black pearl polished pebbles hand set in a proprietary, non-porous, maintenance-free resin – creating an amazing look of water running through stone.

Mission possible: beautiful,
functional bathroom

“Almost every aspect of our bathroom renovation required that we overcome a number of obstacles,” Martin said. “This was a tile job for the ages.”
Tile Mission 1: Install tiny, delicate glass tiles on the shower front, and bathroom walls and ceiling, in a way that embodies art, yet is built to last under hot, moist conditions.
Obstacles: In total, 134 sheets of glass tile were needed to complete the job, but not even one sheet could be used completely “as is” because of the space’s numerous curves and inlets.
“Most of these tiles were the size of an eraser or smaller,” noted Coy, owner of GT Installations and Martin’s top glass tile installer for more than 20 years. “I worked in that tight space for two weeks, sometimes with Mike. Some days, I had to go home because my eyes, hands and mind couldn’t take it anymore. Cutting out and setting all of those tiny teardrop- and bubble-shaped glass tiles starts to get to you after a while. But looking at that beautiful bathroom now, I can’t wait to do it all over again – for the next Resource customer.”
Solutions: “The teardrop tiles were particularly torturous,” Martin added. “We had to ensure none of the white thinset extended beyond the glass tiles because it would create an undesirable, cloudy effect. So we removed excess thinset with a Dremel and hand pick. Todd and I felt like dentists cleaning teeth – only our patient’s mouth was four feet wide, 7’ tall and 9’ deep!”
Tile Mission 2: Grout in a way that enhances but not overpowers the glass tiles.
Obstacles: The grout must be zero-staining and maintenance-free.
Solution: Bostik’s Dimension Translucent Grout (Diamond hue): “Dimension is incredibly easy to work with; cleans up great and met our need for a non-staining, zero-maintenance grout that enhances – rather than detracts from – the glass tiles,” Martin said. “This was my first time using Dimension and now I can’t imagine ever trying to grout glass tile without it.”
“Dimension really brings the light in and under the bathroom’s glass tiles,” Reverdy noted. “The grout complements glass tile phenomenally. Dimension also is the perfect solution to grout around metal, so we’re going to use it to enhance the kitchen’s backsplash, too.”
Dimension works well with all tile jobs: interior and exterior installation of ceramic, porcelain, glass, metal and natural stone tiles on walls and floors.
“Dimension had me at easy cleanup and zero staining and maintenance,” Coy said. “Add in Dimension’s one-of-a-kind, upscale, artsy look, and the fact that it helps contractors earn LEED credits, and it quickly becomes a must-have grout for every tile installer’s tool kit.”

Five minutes with Nick Tsangaris, SpongaUSA

This recent interview with Nick Tsangaris, owner of SpongaUSA, details the company’s history, product line and plans for growth.

Nick, thanks for staying up so late in Greece to do this interview.
Thank you for giving your readers an opportunity to learn about our new/old company, SpongaUSA, LLC. And, yes in Calymnos we are eight hours ahead of Jackson, Miss., where TileLetter is based.

What do you mean “new/old” company?
I’m glad you picked up on my comment! My family started in the sponge business long before I was even born. My great grandfather was a natural-sponge boat captain. Both my grandfather and father became natural-sponge traders.
In the 1950’s my father recognized the opportunity to move from natural sponges to synthetic sponges for a myriad of industries world-wide such as saddlery, paint, cosmetics, bath, pottery and of course the tile and stone industry. We built our first manufacturing plant here in Calymnos back in 1956. Calymnos was known as “the sponge-divers’ island.” The factory has been expanded a number of times since then, but we are still on the same piece of land my father started on. And while we are very much focused on the tile and stone industry in the U.S., we supply sponges to at least 25 other countries in virtually all the other industries my father envisioned back in the 60’s. He was quite a visionary and absolutely loves the sponge business to this day. As a matter of fact, even though he is in his 90’s, my father still likes coming to the factory nearly every day to tinker around. So as you can see, while SpongaUSA is relatively “new”, our roots are very “old” and deep in the sponge industry.

Nick Tsangaris

You are operating out of Greece, but I notice you are very fluent in English.
Thank you. While Greek is my natural language and it is the language I speak at home with my family and at the factory, at a very young age I learned to speak French as well as English. However, it was not until I came to the U.S. to earn my MBA at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., that I got pretty proficient in English.

Okay so back to the sponge business. So how did you originally get started here in the U.S. in the tile and stone industry?
In 1970 we introduced the Tile Grout Sponge in the U.S. through Hydra. That relationship went well until about 1991 when they decided to set up their own factory in the U.S. That left us without a U.S. distribution partner.
However, after meeting the Maggio family at Superior Featherweight Tools, we were soon able to establish a great partnership with them distributing our sponges along with the tile, stone, concrete and masonry tools they manufactured. Again that relationship went very well for a number of years. The Maggios are great people. Even after they sold Superior Featherweight Tools to Custom Building Products, we continued to supply our high quality Greek sponges to the U.S. market for a number of years.
As fate would have it, Custom Building Products decided to change their sponge source. Once again, I was left without a U.S. distribution partner. So having had such a great relationship with the Maggio family and knowing Rich had recently left Custom to start his own tool business (, I contacted him. And as it turns out, he was exploring opportunities with Rick Baldini who had recently sold Aqua Mix, coincidentally to Custom. I wanted to do something a little different with my trading partners this time around, so in a relative short period of time, Rich, Rick and I were able to structure and capitalize SpongaUSA, LLC into a balanced partnership.
It has been a great partnership. One of the best things about our partnership is that while all three of us are strong-willed and individually capable of running the business, we work very well together as our skills are wonderfully complimentary. And we have a broad customer base in the U.S. that appreciates the craftsmanship in our Greek sponges. Since first introduced we have sold well over 40 million sponges here in the U.S. alone.

How difficult is it to have U.S-based partners while you live in Greece?
Truthfully it is not difficult at all –especially with the internet. Both Rich and Rick start their work days very early and I tend to work late into the evening, so we have our bi-weekly meetings as they start their day and at the end of mine. We use a great virtual office product called Go-To-Meeting. The three of us are able to communicate through the speakers and microphones on our computers, but more importantly, we are able to see what is on each other’s computer screen. Pretty cool! And now the service has expanded to include video so we can actually see each other while we talk and work. We keep meticulous notes and are great about following up. We also physically get together regularly. I come to the U.S. at least once a year for trade shows and both of them came to the factory last year.

With everything we read in the papers and see in the news about Greece’s financial crisis, is it a stable place to own and operate a business?
That’s a fair question. The reality is that Greece is going through some very difficult times right now, as are number of other countries — including the U.S. I personally believe our political leaders are trying to do the best they can to overcome the effects of our historical socialistic policies. I also believe that the majority of the Greek citizens understand that things had to change and for the most part they are willing to endure some of the requisite sacrifices.
On our little island of Calymnos we are a bit insulated from some of the things you see in the news regarding Athens. At our factory, our employees are very hard working; they take great pride in the quality of their craftsmanship and have been with us for a number of years. I believe the average tenure of our employees at the factory is around 25 years (not counting my father) and some of them are even second generation, meaning the mother or father worked with us.

So how can you produce a sponge 6,000 miles away and be competitive with domestic sponge manufacturers or Asian manufactures for that matter?
We have several things going for us in that regard. First and foremost is the quality of our sponges. Our Premium Grout Sponges are made of an exclusive high-quality, polyester-base material design specifically for the tile-and-stone industry. We utilize a proprietary “gas-explosion” or “thermal” reticulation process to create the optimal number of open cells, while assuring highest level of durability. The reticulation process involves the placement of a “base bun of foam” in a very large vacuum-pressure vessel. The vessel is evacuated and filled with an explosive gas mixture. The gas is ignited and a controlled-flame front passes through the foam. To use an analogy, think of the base material as if it were a French window pane. With gas-explosion reticulation, we break all the glass to make it porous, but the wood frames are not affected. The benefit of gas-explosion reticulation process is a smooth, clean polish sponge cell which provides the maximum absorption, retention and release of water and sand for faster and better grout clean-up.
Many domestic sponge manufacturers and most of the Asian sponge manufacturers utilize a chemical- dip reticulation process. Continuing with my French window pane analogy: in the chemical-dip reticulation process, the chemical cannot differentiate between glass and wood. The chemical attacks the entire base material, so a trade-off or compromise must occur between opening up enough pores and weakening the sponge. In additional being less porous and less durable, chemical-dip reticulation also tends to harden. SpongaUSA’s gas-reticulated sponges can be both soft and strong. Now I would not be able to say that if I did not have test result to support my position. We have posted results on our website detailing our superior comparative water absorption and release. New independent test results are just being completed that further validate our superior water absorption and release, and also demonstrate the superior strength and durability of our sponges.

Sponga's foam bun that produces a high-quality sponge using a gas-reticulation process.

It sounds like your sponges may in fact be high-quality, but what about price, especially in today’s difficult economy?
That is another good question. In most cases, the initial purchase price of our Premium Grout Sponges, for example, is going to be a few cents more that other sponges. But over the years, quality contractors have recognized and appreciated how much better our sponges perform. And with better-performing sponges, the job of cleaning newly-installed grout is both easier and faster. Not to mention that SpongaUSA sponges are more durable and longer lasting. So while the initial purchase price might be slightly higher, SpongaUSA provide much more value as they work better and last longer.

Okay, but it still feels like it could be a hard sell in today’s tough economy.
I am not so sure it is as much a tough sell as it is a recognition that not everybody purchases the top-of-the- line products, such as our Premium Grout Sponges. For a long time we resisted introducing a lower priced chemical-reticulated sponge like the domestic and Asian manufacturers. But after a while we realized that there could be an opportunity for our “Cadillac” and “Chevrolet” sponges, so we introduced our Economy Sponges. They work well and are very competitively priced. We still sell significantly more of our Premium Sponges than we sell of our Economy, but we have both versions available to meet more of the market demands.

Sponga's Extra Large Premium Sponge.

That makes sense. But I also noticed some specialty sponges on your website. Tell me a little bit about them.
Well for years we really only sold our Premium Grout Sponge for virtually every type of job. But as cementitious grout formulas evolved with the addition of latex additives, not only were they stronger and more durable, but in some cases the installation clean-up got a little more difficult. That’s when we developed our Scrubber Sponge. We were the first manufacturer ever to bond a white scrubbing pad on one side of a Premium Sponge. With the Scrubber Sponge, not only do you have an absorptive and durable sponge on one side, but you have an abrasive scrubbing pad on the other side. This is especially helpful when /if grout gets a little dried on the surface of the tile or stone surface. And the abrasive pad will not harm or scratch the tile or stone surface.
Another grout evolution was the growing popularity of epoxy grouts. Manufacturers have made them so they are much easier to work with than when they were first introduced. But even with the wonderful improvements with epoxy grouts, they are still a little more difficult to clean-up than cementious grouts. That’s why we developed our Epoxy Grout Sponge. It was designed to be much more abrasive than even the white scrub pad we bond to our Scrubber Sponge. Our Epoxy Grout Sponges will still not scratch or harm the surface of tile or stone, but they do a great job of cleaning epoxy grout from the surface of the tile. The sponge itself also cleans up will for multiple uses.
My partner Rick Baldini has a background in the sealer business. He really likes our Sealer Sponge. We designed it to be very dense and highly absorptive so it will hold a lot of sealer, which helps make the sealing project go faster. The sponge itself is very smooth so when used with a coating sealer, it minimizes any surface bubbles or fish-eyes. Our Sealer Sponge works equally as well with water-, solvent-, or acrylic-based sealers.
We have one more sponge in our line we call our Float Sponge. With this product we bond a hard grout float material to one side of a grout clean-up sponge. Primarily for the DIYer and/or small jobs, the Float Sponge can be used to install grout much in the same manner as grout is installed with a traditional grout float. Then the Float Sponge can be flipped over and the sponge side is used to clean and tool the grout joint. You would be surprised how many of the Float Sponges we sold to DIYers through a major home center.

That’s quite a wide range of sponges. How are you getting the word out about all the products you offer?
We would like to think that our website will help a lot. And the fact that you said you saw the variety of sponges on our website is encouraging. But we do not think the website alone will be enough.
So, we engaged a display-design firm out of Atlanta called Retail One to help us address the issue. They were great at listening to us and understanding our concerns. They even did their own market research to help us design a display system that we are calling the “Right Sponge for Every Job” display. After a number of prototypes and with lots of input from a number of our customers we created a display system that we think will do a great job of communicating our sponge offering. Retail One came up with an eye-catching corrugated display with large color pictures and easily-understood text that helps distributor showroom personnel as well as contractors determine the right sponge for every job! They also developed feature and benefit cards that are attached to each of the displays.
The system affords us the opportunity to print our customers’ logos right on the cards to help personalize the displays. But probably the coolest feature the display system has is that it is modular or flexible. Our customers can use a half-round display that is 39” X 42” X 22” and holds 274 sponges or they can use two displays back to back as a full round system. The latter option obviously requires twice as much space, but it will also hold twice as many sponges. We really think this display system will be a tremendous help as we build our brand of the “World’s Greatest Grout Sponges.” We also have the more traditional wire rack and sign that we find works well in warehouse locations.

Is there anything else about SpongaUSA that you would like our readers to know?
Yes, thanks, there are a couple of things. Well, we like to think we listen to our customers and adjust our products offering accordingly. We have a great distributor customer in Southern Florida, D&B Tile Distributors, and they asked us to come up with bags that hold multiple sponges. We now offer our Premium Extra Large sponges in multi-pack bags of three or 12 sponges per bag. We thought it would be “cuter” to put the sponges in bags that look like scuba diver bags. We are so glad we listened to D&B, as they now buy several bales of the 12- piece multi-pack sponges on a regular basis. We also have other customers that like the multi-packs for their large contractors.
We had a couple of other customers, Tiles International in New York and Mid- America Tile in Illinois that liked both our Sealer and Epoxy Grout Sponges, but they found that the volume is not as great as our Premium Grout Sponge. They asked if we could provide both products in smaller quantity bales. So we created mini-bales of 100 sponges each for both products. We still have available the full 400 piece bales of our Epoxy Grout Sponges and 500 piece bales of Sealer Sponges, but we are now selling the mini-bales to a number of customers. It really helps the “turn and earn” equation.

Any final comments?
Yes three quick ones: There are a few sales territories still available for quality independent reps, so if what we discussed here about SpongaUSA is of interest to any of your rep readers, we would like them to contact us. Second, we are had a great showing at Total Solution Plus in Arizona last November and plan participating again in 2012. Third, thanks for taking the time to learn about SpongaUSA!

For more information on SpongaUSA, visit or phone 949-766-5105.

Mountain Star Bath Project Shines with Variety and Precision

Five-Star contractor Lambert Tile & Stone tackles eight-bathroom project.

This beautifully-designed home by J.L. Viele Construction has eight bathrooms that offered NTCA Five-Star contractor Lambert Tile & Stone, Inc. of Eagle, Colo., ( many challenging and complex layouts that had to be carried out with precision.

Each individual piece of matte and polished glass on both return walls has to be polished to create a seamless finish.

For instance, in the Blue Glass Bathroom, not only did the random-sized glass tile from Interstyle have to match perfectly at the corners and around the window, but each individual piece of matte and polished glass on both return walls had to be polished to create a seamless finish.

In the Stone Pebble Bathroom steam shower, Lambert waterproofed the entirety of the shower walls with RedGard® from Custom Building Products. To ensure a seamless flow of pebbles, each piece of 12” x 12” mesh was cut out around the pebbles and pieced together during the installation.

Cutting the mosaic from Granite & Marble Resources in the Stone Basketweave Bathroom was a huge challenge. Not only did the mosaic have to match the pattern and layout, but it also had to match the color of the sheet next to it. Lambert had to order extra tile to source enough individual pieces and create this continuous flow. Only the corners of the shower were caulked with sanded caulk because the tightness of the pattern didn’t allow room for grout.

In the two hallways, Lambert had to continue a seven-piece, random pattern of Peacock Pavers’ concrete paver tiles from a larger floor in a radius. After the tile was installed, each of the 14 4” x 24” vents and 12 floor lights had to be individually cut with an angle grinder and hole saw. To meet the elevation of the hardwood floor, the contractor built up the floor with a pallet of fiber bedding mortar and LATICRETE antifracture fabric.
The steam shower in the Master Bathroom was prepped using Durock®, and 2” x 8” stone tile from Ann Sacks was installed in a herringbone pattern. In this time-consuming process, corners needed to be exact. Lambert’s crews invested additional time to do a dry layout to insure minimal small cuts around window sills, above windows, bench, shower floor and ceiling.

In the Porcelain Black Exercise Bath, crews installed a mesh-mounted hexagon pattern from Ann Sacks on the floor that was cut and adjusted during installation to minimize sheet confluence. Every single piece in the shower was inspected and tested against the pattern to make sure if flowed properly with the tile before it.

Lambert used silicone to install striped glass tile from Waterworks over the wood cabinet face in the Powder Bath, creating a tenacious bond that won’t break down over time. The back wall featured Rex’s Matouche large-format 24” x 24” porcelain tile with elephant-skin finish, installed to a height of 11’.

The living room wet bar backsplash features a sandstone mosaic that looks like corks from wine bottles, creating a visually interesting background.

Finally, in the Living Room Wet Bar backsplash, Lambert Tile & Stone installed a sandstone mosaic that looks like corks from wine bottles , creating a visually interesting background.

Suppliers included: Ann Sacks, Walker Zanger, Decorative Materials, American International, Peacock Pavers, Island Stone, and Waterworks. Setting materials – sourced through Capco Tile – included RedGard from Custom Building Products, LATICRETE anti-fracture fabric; Durock and Denshield backer boards; mortar and grout from Custom and DuPont Stonetech Bulletproof stone sealer.

To Your Health – Luxury Resort Spas!

Luxury resorts frequently offer their patrons deluxe spa treatments in well-appointed, aesthetically pleasing surroundings. Such is the case at two mountain resort spas that chose to make a statement with glass and mosaic tiles installed by master craftsmen.

Sparkling Hill Resort – Vernon, British Columbia

Sparkling Hill Resort is owned by Swarovski and combines the magic of more than 3.5 million crystals in all its designs, including Swarovski luminaires and lighting products, crystal strands, crystal art pieces and architectural elements. The Western Canada location features tranquil views of Lake Okanagan near Vernon, BC.

Plouto’s Enterprises of Kelowna supplied and installed various tile products in the pool, change rooms and sauna areas, and installed 40,000 square feet of tile and other flooring throughout the resort.
Begun in 2009, the majority of the work was done from February through May 2010. A crew of 45-60 began the job, swelling to 80 in the last two months, led by project manager Rob Kormish.

The KurSpa whole-body health and wellness area was a huge project with many challenges – from the waterproofing of pools and hot tubs to the typical tile- and stone-related issues common in fast-paced construction. To ensure success, all the lead installers on the crews had a set of plans with everything mapped out; Kormish constantly updated the book and conferred with his lead installers. Waterproofing was done with Mapelastic AquaDefense and tiles set with Kerabond/Keralastic and Granirapid mortar systems.

The pool deck and walls in the spa area were installed with mosaic tiles, and larger tiles in the treatment rooms.

The ultra-elegant Kneipp pool consists of a walking pool area, festooned with many curves. Slip-resistant European pool tiles by Agrobuchtal varied between 2” x 2” and 4” x 4”. The crews installed many cove caps and inside-outside corner pieces to meet stringent health code requirements, such as eliminating 90-degree corners.

“It was a lot like doing a negative-edge pool,” Kormish said. “The big deck sits in the middle, then large troughs of water fill the area where you walk around. Water must fall across gutters on both sides of the walking area at the same rate. There was a lot of work just to prepare the pool before we started tiling.”

A great deal of cut work was needed because of the detail requested by the owners.

The hot tub also presented challenges. “The water falls into gutters and grates all at the same rate,” Kormish said. “A lot of grinding, patching, filling and mathematics were required to get everything at the correct angle and at the right pitches to bring it all together.”

Kormish’s crews tiled the tub first; later when the grates arrived from a company in Europe, they were precisely installed to achieve a perfect fit.

Plouto’s tiled primarily the spa sauna floors since the cabins — which were pre-made in Europe and shipped to the site — already contained some tile. Workers came from Europe to install the cabinets, but wherever they ran out of installation products, Plouto’s crews finished the work for them, using the same MAPEI products, supplied locally.

The Orient room, featuring massage and hot mud areas, were installed with marble using Kerabond/ Keralastic on floors and walls. Installers also set tile on the floors surrounding this, North America’s first cold sauna, which operates at a temperature of minus 166 degrees Fahrenheit. Marble was installed on the walls of the wellness treatment areas, the pool areas and all the changing rooms.

Thousands of square feet of glass mosaic were used throughout the spa and the rest of the resort. Plouto’s crews used Kerabond/Keralastic to wrap huge pillars near the pools in glass mosaics, plus common areas and rest rooms.

“I’ve been in the flooring business since 1976, and I have never been faced with a challenge of this scale and scope detail before, especially the saunas and pool areas,” Kormish said. “However, I think our crews did an exceptional job and brought real luxury to Sparkling Hill Resort.”

Montage Resort – Park City, Utah
Caffall Tile & Marble of Salt Lake City, Utah, created another masterpiece at the Montage Resort at Deer Valley in Park City, Utah. After winning a very tight competitive bid, they began this project at a time when the market had just changed dramatically. Caffall’s prior experience with several other resorts in the Park City area gave them the background needed to win the job.

Caffal’s crews worked both summer and winter on the resort’s interior tile work, tenting and heating the area in the winter. The general contractor resolved minor difficulties with propane heaters that brought the area to the necessary temperatures for tile installation.

Caffall’s biggest challenge was the limited staging area, requiring precise coordination to get needed materials in place on specific dates. Still, the project ran smoothly under the direction of project manager Jeremy Drake.

The pool deck and walls in the spa area were installed with mosaic tiles, and larger tiles in the treatment rooms. Most of the mosaics were mounted on 12” x 12” sheets, but liners were all individual pieces.

After waterproofing with Mapelastic AquaDefense, crews installed the floors with MAPEI’s Ultraflex 1 mortar and the walls with Ultraflex LFT, and then grouted with Keracolor S. In the spa rooms containing large soaking tubs, the large-format floor tile was also set with Ultraflex 1.

The resort’s interior designer supplied all the drawings with the details for the spa column and wall tile. Drake frequently consulted with the designer and architect to ensure everyone was on the same page. Call-outs showed the placement of materials, and Drake color-coded his crew’s drawings for clarity to facilitate the installation.

The completed project wowed everyone. “This turned out to be a great project for Caffall,” said Drake. “We worked very well with the owner and contractor. The job took from January to December 2010 to finish, and the whole project included over 100,000 square feet of flooring. We are celebrating our 100th year in business in 2011, and this was a great project to introduce our centennial anniversary year. We are sure it will lead to future work of this caliber.”

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