Tech Tip – unsanded grout

QUESTION: 

I am looking for assistance finding an non pigmented unsanded grout for Riad hand made concrete tiles. I installed the tiles without any problems according to the manufacturers instructions, sealed them with the recommended sealer and when grouting they stained. The manufacturer is vague about grout color, further research says non pigment and unsanded grout. Where could I find this and who would be the manufacturer of it? Please see attached information on the tiles. I have already removed the floor and am starting over as the tiles could not be cleaned to meet the customers satisfaction.

ANSWER: 

Grout as defined in ANSI A108.10 is a mixture of sand and cement in different ratios.

For on the job mixture:

• Grout joints up to 1/8” would be one part Portland cement to one part fine graded sand.

• Grout joints from 1/8” to 1/2” one part Portland cement ,two parts sand

In the tile manufacturers instructions it list exceptable grout manufacturers.

I spoke with those companies listed and two other technical support team  they do not offer a non pigmented grout for joints under 1/8”.  One company offer one for grout joints 1/8” or larger. Most explained that there grouts contain pigment in order to promote color consistency.

When using non pigmented grouts we are limited to the colors of cement available which are gray and white. The wide variety of grout colors offered by setting manufacturers is due to the addition of pigments to the grout. Concrete tiles are very porous in nature; as the tiles draw in moisture from the grout the pigment can be pulled in as well. Sealing and or saturating the tiles prior to grouting could elevate it this effect. If your grouting tile that has the potential to stain it is always good to test the grout on an uninstalled piece to see how it will react. Or create a mock up to experiment with different techniques to see what works best.

Always reach out to the manufacturer of the tile first. If you do not receive good answers proceed slowly and with caution.

Installers: Raise Your Rates

Jon Namba

Traveling across the country and speaking with installers, the one thing I’m hearing right now is that most everyone is very busy. With that in mind and with the industry feeling the pain of the lack of “qualified installers,” it’s a good time for installers to look hard at their businesses and consider raising their rates.

I’m sure some retailers and general contractors are frowning at my statement right now, but if you’re doing a good job of providing service and professional installations then don’t be afraid to ask for more money. We’ll always have those contractors that will underbid us and we may not get every job—in fact, if you are getting every job, you may be too low with your prices or you’re high in demand (I hope it’s the latter).

One thing I tell contractors as they negotiate their prices is to sell with confidence and show value for what they are charging. Sometimes it’s the little things that set you apart from the competition. In my sales seminars, I explain that I don’t sell jobs but build relationships—before discussing any pricing.

We all know that supplies, fuel, food, and housing are going up, so if you’re not keeping up with those rising costs you’re not getting ahead. We run a small, family-owned business. When we get scheduled out too far, we align ourselves with other small installation businesses with the same work ethics we have. When we get too much on our plate, we’ll work with our partners in the industry to get the job done. I don’t think of them as competition as there’s enough work to go around. If we can support each other, have a positive influence in our industry and end up with a satisfied client, I’m all for it.

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Jon Namba is an independent industry consultant, trainer and speaker. He recently completed a term as the president of the NWFA Certified Professionals. His background includes roles as an installer, former WFCA director of technical services and former CFI executive director.

Reprinted with permission from Jon Namba and Floor Covering Installer.

DAL-TILE PROVIDES JOBS FOR CHARITY WORK-STUDY PROGRAM

Dallas, TX – April 20, 2018 – Dal-Tile Corporation is a founding member of the Dallas Cristo Rey High School and most recently hosted a luncheon to celebrate several of its students, who also work at Dal-Tile headquarters as part of an innovative corporate work-study program.

“Cristo Rey self-describes as the only network of high schools in the country that integrates four years of rigorous college preparatory academics with four years of professional work experience through their Corporate Work Study Program,” said Tena Boyd, HR support services manager, Dal-Tile.  “The Cristo Rey Network delivers a powerful and innovative approach to inner-city education that equips students from economically-disadvantaged families with the knowledge, character, and skills to transform their lives. Dal-Tile is so pleased to get to be a part of this program.”

Students generally work one day per week at Dal-Tile and the company pays the school for the student worker’s time, to help fund their tuition.  During the celebratory luncheon, each of Dal-Tile’s student workers presented the key things they have learned during their year on the job with Dal-Tile.

 

Tech Talk – April 2018

Thin gauged porcelain tile – North American research, collaboration, and standardization

By Bill Griese, Director of Standards Development, Tile Council of North America and Noah Chitty, Director of Technical Services, Crossville Inc.

In February, TCNA’s Bill Griese and Crossville’s Noah Chitty traveled to Castellón, Spain, to lecture to the Congress of Qualicer 2018 on research and standardization of thin gauged porcelain tiles and tile panels (GPTP) in North America. Following are highlights of their white paper on this subject, which was presented at Qualicer 2018. The paper, in its entirety with works cited, is available online at tileletter.com.

ANSI A 137.3 and ANSI A108.19

 

In 2017, the North American tile industry released two new standards: ANSI A137.3, American National Standard Specifications for Gauged Porcelain Tiles and Gauged Porcelain Tile Panels/Slabs, and its companion, ANSI A108.19, Interior Installation of Gauged Porcelain Tiles and Gauged Porcelain Tile Panels/Slabs by the Thin-Bed Method bonded with Modified Dry-Set Cement Mortar or Improved Modified Dry-Set Cement Mortar. These standards, developed for the benefit of all tile consumers, are the result of a multi-year research and consensus process of the ANSI Accredited A108 Standards Committee, which includes participants from all industry sectors. 

These efforts aimed to establish a framework for specifications of products that are intentionally “gauged” to a specific thickness. Currently two classes of gauged tile products are defined by the standards: 

Those for wall applications from 3.5mm to 4.9mm and 

Those for floor and wall applications, from 5.0mm to 6.5mm. 

Other products, which either fall outside of these ranges or for which the manufacturer has not specifically provided a gauged-thickness designation, continue to be standardized under traditional tile specifications.

Terminology and strength criteria

One of the earliest topics on which the North American industry debated was terminology. These products were called “thin” tile, but since the same technologies are also used to create thick tiles – and end-users had increasingly prioritized tile thickness as a key characteristic – a new moniker was needed. Hence, the term “gauged” was born, basing the term on one used for other construction products – such as electrical wire and sheet metal – which carry different load capabilities and usage parameters across a variety of gauges. The group agreed to further differentiate gauged products based on their size, with gauged tiles being less than a square meter and gauged tile panels/slabs being greater than or equal to one square meter. 

In developing product performance criteria, the first key concern was breaking strength, as the North American requirement for traditional tiles was 250 lbf. Initially, very few – if any – thin gauged products met the requirement. Therefore, installed strength became the key to achieving performance levels comparable to those of traditional tiles whose exceedingly high breaking strength could often make up for flaws in mortar coverage or quality. With thin gauged tiles, though, the group chose to scrutinize how lower breaking strength may be offset by installation rigidity and increased mortar coverage.

Key provisions of the installation standard

To develop ANSI A108.19 Interior Installation of Gauged Porcelain Tiles and Gauged Porcelain Tile Panels/Slabs by the Thin-Bed Method bonded with Modified Dry-Set Cement Mortar or Improved Modified Dry-Set Cement Mortar, a group of installers, architects, and manufacturers conducted countless experiments to discover application and embedding techniques that make possible maximum mortar coverage, particularly for tile panels/slabs. Through these experiments, standard setting procedures for gauged porcelain tiles and tile panels/slabs were developed that facilitate optimal workmanship and system integrity. 

Mortar application: It was determined that applying a layer of mortar to both the back of the panel/slab and the substrate would result in the necessary bond coat thickness of 3/16” (4.8mm) and would allow for full encapsulation of lippage control systems. Anything less than this method would result in an embedded mortar layer thickness that was insufficient to achieve the agreed-upon substrate tolerance of a maximum deviation of 1/8” in 10 horizontal feet (3mm in 3m) from the required plane when measured from the high points in the surface for floors.

Mortar properties: Mortar properties such as extended open time, flow to achieve coverage, and curing parameters appropriate to the application, as well as a requirement for suitable mortar identification through consultation with the tile and setting material manufacturer are specified in the standard. 

Trowels: Only Euro-trowel, Flow-Ridge trowel, and Superior notch trowel can facilitate ridge collapse without the need to press and slide the tile. The group agreed to standardize the use of such trowels.

Embedding procedures: For floors, physically walking on the surface in the following pattern produces the greatest supporting mortar coverage: 

1) walk down the centerline of the tile; 

2) take small shuffling steps left and right from center to push air toward the edges.

This standardized procedure is listed in ANSI A108.19 for embedding tile panels/slabs on floors. For walls, a vibration tool and weighted beat-in paddle are specified in order to achieve optimal coverage.

For walls and floors, a vibrational tool used at the perimeter, achieved full coverage on the edge, critical for overall durability in flooring applications, and also facilitated full encapsulation of lippage control systems. For these reasons, edge coverage achieved through vibration is a provision of ANSI A108.19. The standard minimum required coverage is 80% for walls and 85% for floors. Additionally, maximum void size was established as 2 square inches (1290 square mm).

Coverage calculation: A standardized evaluation to calculate coverage was developed. ANSI A108.19 states, “In any single square foot under the embedded tile, coverage… is calculated by measuring the voids and the marked off square foot and dividing by 144 square inches (929 square cm) where the dry set mortar is not in full contact from the back of the tile to the substrate.”

Substrates: Standardized suitable substrates for the installation of gauged porcelain tiles and tile panels/slabs are mostly consistent with those of traditional tile, with the exception of direct bonding to plywood floors, which requires the use of a mortar bed or specified backer board and referencing floor rigidity requirements established by building codes and other widespread industry specifications. 

Applicable to all substrates, ANSI A108.19 details required flatness as maximum deviation of 1/8” over 10’ (3mm in 3m) from the required plane when measured from the high points in the surface.

Material handling: Qualified labor and other provisions also taken into account through discussion and A108.19 standardization were adequate jobsite storage, space to maneuver panels, prevention of damage while handling and time for mortar curing. Another critical aspect of ANSI A108.19 involves usage of properly qualified installers who are equipped with proper tools and have acquired sufficient product knowledge and installation experience. 

There are several other key provisions contained within ANSI A108.19, including grouting, workmanship, movement accommodation, and maintenance, completing a very comprehensive specification for how to install products defined by ANSI A137.3. 

See link here for the full paper, including footnotes. 

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Natural Stone Institute Announces New Staff Member

Oberlin, OH, March 26, 2018— The Natural Stone Institute is pleased to announce that Dacia Woodworth has joined the staff as Architect & Design Community Liaison and Special Projects Manager. Initially she will focus on expanding industry awareness of the association’s natural stone testing lab capabilities. Her primary role will be expanding outreach to architects and designers to promote the use of natural stone.

Dacia Woodworth, Natural Stone Institute

Dacia is a past board member who has served as an active volunteer with many Natural Stone Institute programs, including Women in Stone and the CEU program. She has worked in the natural stone industry since 2001 in a variety of roles including project management, sales and marketing, education, and technical assistance.

Natural Stone Institute CEO Jim Hieb commented: “Dacia’s industry experience will be a tremendous addition to our team as we expand our outreach to architects and designers. Her firsthand knowledge of the natural stone industry makes her uniquely prepared to educate industry members about the testing lab and other association programs.” Dacia remarked: “I am thrilled to be joining such a dynamic team and to be doing a job for which I am truly passionate.”

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About the Natural Stone Institute

The Natural Stone Institute is a trade association representing every aspect of the natural stone industry. The current membership exceeds 2,000 members in over 50 nations. The association offers a wide array of technical and training resources, professional development opportunities, regulatory advocacy, and networking events. Two prominent publications—the Dimension Stone Design Manual and Building Stone Magazine—raise awareness within the natural stone industry and in the design community for best practices and uses of natural stone. Learn more at www.naturalstoneinstitute.org.

 

New Natural Stone Institute Technical Bulletin

A new technical document covering the testing of dynamic coefficient of friction (DCOF) of natural stone is now available in the Natural Stone Resource Library.

Since the withdrawal of the ASTM C1028 test method for Static Coefficient of Friction, the stone industry has been without a standard test protocol for the measurement of friction for walking surfaces. The Natural Stone Institute has completed an exhaustive study on the use of the ANSI A326.3 Standard Test Method for Measuring Dynamic Coefficient of Friction of Hard Surface Flooring Materials test procedure on natural stones. Over 300 stone specimens (51 stone types in six different finishes) were tested to evaluate the appropriateness this test method for natural stone products.

The Natural Stone Institute would like to thank Miller Druck Specialty Contracting, Artistic Tile, Coldspring, Tennessee Marble Company, and TexaStone Quarries for their assistance in procurement of test specimens.

To access the document, please visit www.naturalstoneinstitute.org/resourcelibrary.

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About the Natural Stone Institute

The Natural Stone Institute is a trade association representing every aspect of the natural stone industry. The current membership exceeds 2,000 members in over 50 nations. The association offers a wide array of technical and training resources, professional development opportunities, regulatory advocacy, and networking events. Two prominent publications—the Dimension Stone Design Manual and Building Stone Magazine—raise awareness within the natural stone industry and in the design community for best practices and uses of natural stone. Learn more at www.naturalstoneinstitute.org.

 

OSHA Considering Changes to Silica Rule

OSHA may soon make it easier for employers to comply with the agency’s Respirable Crystalline Silica in Construction Standard. The standard, which OSHA announced in 2016 and began to fully enforce last fall, seeks to protect workers who may inhale silica dust.  A variety of construction operations may expose workers to silica dust including, for example, abrasive sandblasting and cutting bricks, stone, or concrete.

The silica standard is extremely detailed and complex. It contains requirements for assessing workers’ silica exposure, for using exposure control methods and respiratory protection, for offering medical surveillance, and for keeping silica-related records.  Fortunately, “Table 1” of the standard makes compliance with standard easier, at least in some situations.  The Table describes engineering controls, work practices, and respiratory protection requirements that may be implemented by an employer when performing certain construction-related tasks, thereby exempting the tasks from the standard’s exposure assessment provisions and permissible exposure limits.

Last week, during the mid-winter meeting of the American Bar Association’s Occupational Safety and Health Law Committee, a Department of Labor official announced that OSHA is considering changes to the silica standard for construction. According to Ann Rosenthal, the Department’s Associate Solicitor for Occupational Safety and Health, OSHA is currently working with members of the construction community to add more tasks to Table 1.

News that OSHA is considering an expansion of Table 1 comes after a recent federal court ruling that rejected several challenges to the standard by employer groups. The U.S. Court of the Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, in an order issued last December, rejected arguments from employer groups challenging the standard’s lower permissible exposure limit and, among other things, the feasibility of compliance with standard

Written by authors Alyssa Levy, Patrick Miller, Matthew Morrison, and Dana Svendsen at Sherman & Howard, L.L.C.

Crossville, Inc. releases update to its Installation Manual for gauged porcelain tile panels.

Crossville, Tenn. – Crossville, Inc. has released an update to its Installation Manual for gauged porcelain tile panels. The revised technical manual, offered in English and Spanish versions, highlights Crossville’s compliance with ANSI A137.3 standards and reinforces proper interior installation per the ANSI A108.19 standard.



In 2017, Crossville led training for more than 400 professionals in the installation of gauged porcelain tile panels. Cumulatively, the company has trained 1,500 porcelain tile panel installers through sessions on site at Crossville headquarters and at workshops co-hosted with industry partners and associations.

Crossville‘s Derrick Patterson of the technical services team was instrumental in the revision of the Installation Manual, ensuring it conveyed Crossville’s compliance with ANSI A137.3 and supported the ANSI A108.19 installation standard, as well. Notably, technical services director Noah Chitty was among the industry experts at large who collaborated to develop the installation standard for this burgeoning product category.

“It’s our goal to support installers with the education and practical know-how they need, and our technical guide is just one of many ways we’re here to help,” Chitty explains. “Their work is the cornerstone of the growing success of the gauged porcelain tile panel category.”

Both the English and Spanish versions of the manual are available at crossvilleinc.com.

Qualified Labor – March 2018 – Kris Sardine

NTCA starts Kris Sardine on the path towards certification

In the summer of ’17, Kris Nardone, owner of K_Nardone Custom Tile Work, Kennesaw, Ga., became Certified Tile Installer #1364, at a Certified Tile Installer (CTI) exam at The Tile Shop in
his town.

After 20 years as a tile setter – and now with over six thousand followers on Instagram @k_nardonecustomtilework – Nardone said he took the exam because “Being a certified tile installer adds credibility to myself and my business.”

But it all started when he joined NTCA in 2016.

“The NTCA gave me a network of people and information that I didn’t have before,” Nardone said. “I spoke to another Certified Tile Installer about the CTI exam. I had attended a NTCA workshop in 2017 and met a local CTI exam instructor who also spoke to me about the CTI exam.

“After finding out more about the test, I knew that this certification would represent my experience in the trade and allow me to network within the industry,” he added. “I’ve always used industry standards. If I can be a part of a network of people that help add knowledge to my business and continuously improve my trade then I’m all for it.”

Nardone spent time preparing for the exam. “I read the CTEF workbook a couple times and looked at social media to make notes,” he said. “I also brought a list of key components to the test that I thought were important to track my day/progress. Every minute of the hands-on test counts. Layout is key! Other than that, I set tile daily. If you can think of it, I can tile it.”

His job experience made the book section of the exam relatively easy, but the hands-on portion was another story. “I thought the hands-on portion would be a breeze in the beginning, and then I heard from other certified installers not to underestimate the exam,” he said. “After taking the test, I know now that it does challenge your skills and knowledge as well as your time management. There are over 200 cuts in nine hours and it will test you mentally and physically.”

The time management aspect of the job varied significantly from the typical time management employed on a job. For instance, Nardone said, that on a typical job, he estimates “the time to complete the job and [I] push myself to complete the job in a timely manner, but I am always trying to do the best job possible for the homeowner no matter what it takes.

“The test is a set amount of time to get it right and get it completed,” he added. “It mentally tests you. Stay focused. Believe in yourself and get the job done.”

Being in an atmosphere of earnest demonstration of a tile setter’s skills was inspiring to Nardone. “You are working around others taking the test,” he said. “It was great to see that others take as much pride in their work as I do. Like any job site, if you can work well with others, you’ll get the job completed faster.”

Nardone, who plans to also pursue Advanced Certification for Tile Installers (ACT), recommends taking the exam to expand setters’ businesses and further their personal development and knowledge. “Though taking the test, you’ll make new contacts, friends, and learn more about the industry,” he said. “Those who don’t consider the exam should look more into the benefits of taking the test. It’s there to help you, your career, and the consumer.”

Nardone emphasizes that the CTI credential “assures the customer that they are receiving a quality install the first time… I have spoken to customers that have used other companies to meet their deadline or their budget and less than a year later – sometimes a month later or upon completion of install – the tile installation starts failing with cracking grout, unbonded tile, shower pan leakage, excessive lippage, etc. Hiring a Certified Tile Installer assures the homeowner that the installer is up to date on industry standards and is qualified to set the materials needed.”

Tile layout tips and tricks

Templates, story poles help match the tile to the needs and flow of the space

By Ryan Willoughby, Hawthorne Tile

When you are deciding on a tile layout, it’s a good idea to check with ANSI 108.02 section 4.3 “Tile Layout, A General Statement.”

This document basically says we are to center and balance the area to be tiled, while both minimizing the amount of cuts and maximizing their size. Fundamentally these are the rules we follow, but in their definition and execution it can get quite subjective.

Having spent the vast majority of my career in the high-end residential market, some of my opinions may differ from someone in the commercial side of the business. That being said I feel pretty fortunate to have had a mentor who took extreme pride in layout and instilled the same in me. While maybe only other craftspeople and design professionals will truly appreciate all the thought and effort put into a great layout, I think everyone can feel the difference between a chopped up space and one that flows. If you don’t take the time to really think it through and begin with a clear vision of the finished project, you will make mistakes and have some uncomfortable conversations with your clients.

Besides being able to share my philosophies on layout, writing this article gave me an excuse to reach out and discuss the subject with someone I’ve watched on social media, the NTCA’s Oregon State Ambassador, Jason McDaniel. Jason has a really cool and unique approach to laying out some of his installs, but first I’ll walk you through my process and then share a bit from our conversation.

Getting started with tile layout – square, plumb and level

My first course of action is to familiarize or re-familiarize myself with any detailed drawings for the project and identify what the architect or designer’s vision for the space is. Next, I’d square up the space and locate any problem areas that will need to be discussed or fixed prior to install, such as an out-of-square room, or my wall tile tying into an out-of-plumb or level surface. Putting up perfectly plumb and level grids really accentuates these problems, and the smaller the tile, the more obvious it is. Someone may have a hard time seeing a 3/8” taper in a 24”x 24”, but it’s an entirely different story over the same distance with a 5/8” mosaic.

If you’re going to be tiling a shower to the ceiling, you need to know if the ceiling is 3/4” out of level across the back wall. On floors, I snap a reference line off my longest or most visual run and find square from that by using “3-4-5” also known – to the more academic among us – as Pythagorean theorem. To be honest, these days I just use a laser square; it speeds up the whole process. On walls it’s the same; find center, then plumb and level with either a spirit/bubble level or a laser.

Creating a story pole; envisioning the space

Next is creating a story pole. I’ll lay my tile on the floor with the appropriate joint spacing, and do one of three things:

  • Write the full tile measurements down, or
  • Measure off of the tiles on the ground, or
  • With mosaics, make a true story pole marking a piece of lumber at each joint.

Once I have all this information it’s envisioning the space and identifying the most visual areas. Do you want to “center” or “balance”? For floors: do I center the room itself, a threshold or hall, a kitchen island, a soaking tub, the shower, toilet? For walls: is it the space, a window, plumbing, start full here or there?

Our options are endless. Choose an approach to centering, and then work backwards from that first choice. You’ll also want to ask yourself, “If I don’t like the cuts I get in one place, what happens if I start somewhere else? What do I have control of?”

Niche sizes are typically nominal, as are height of the bench, pony wall, and curb. Looking at all of these things and being willing to do a little extra work will speak volumes to your clients and separate you from your competition. As Dirk Sullivan, Hawthorne Tile’s fearless leader, likes to say, “Never pass up an opportunity to do something awesome.”

The biggest mistake I see people making is getting locked into their first choice and not weighing all their options or passing on that opportunity to be awesome in lieu of saving 15 minutes. I’ve found making these suggestions to an architect or designer is typically welcome and appreciated.

The McDaniel solution: templates for elaborate installs

With the advancement of manufacturing technology we’ve seen all sorts of new shapes and patterned mosaic sheets become readily available. These more elaborate patterns can make it difficult to see what every cut will look like on a kitchen splash with multiple stopping points.

I saw Jason McDaniel of Stoneman Construction, LLC in Lake Oswego, Ore., making templates for these installs and thought it was a great idea. I gave him a call to talk to him about it.

Jason has a background in solid surfaces and was comfortable with making templates. The first time he tried it on a tile install was while working on a large project, a beautiful home where he had already completed four bathrooms. He came to a backsplash that had many things to consider: a window, cabinets, and multiple outlets. He was setting a 1” x 3” marble herringbone mosaic.

He looked over the space wondering where to start. That’s when it hit him – he made a quick template, laid the tile on the floor, was able to lay the template over the tile, and quickly see everything. He marked all his cuts, made his cuts, and had the backsplash set within a couple of hours. He saw in that moment that this was going to be something he’d be doing much more of in the future.

Jason shared with me other installs where this method really shines, like installing water-sensitive stones with epoxy or a rapid-setting thinset. You don’t have to stop to take a measurement or go to the saw – just comb and go. Or when stopping by a job on your way home, you can make a quick template, lay out the tile at your shop the next morning, make all your cuts, and hand them off to your installer. When I asked Jason if he had any advice, he said, “’Centered’ and ‘balanced’ are the terms most often heard when talking about layout. I lean more towards ‘balanced’ when laying out a space. Balanced doesn’t always equal centered, especially with all the different shapes and sizes of product we are seeing these days.” I couldn’t agree more.

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