Certified Tile Installer (CTI) Program Achieves #1500 Milestone

Certified Tile Installer (CTI) Program Achieves Milestone

Alex Smith (l) of North Carolina’s Installations by Alex, Certified Tile Installer #1500, with CTEF’s Scott Carothers

 

The Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) which provides education and installer certification for professionals working in the ceramic tile and stone industry proudly announces that it has achieved a new milestone for the Certified Tile Installer (CTI) program with the certification of CTI #1500.

The CTI Program Combats Poor Tile Installation

Established in 2008 to create a pool of recognized high-quality tile installers and combat poor installation, and with strong support from leaders of the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA), Tile Council of North America (TCNA), and the entire tile industry, the CTI program reached 1000 certified installers in 2014.

Reaching 1500 certified installers in October 2018 means that reaching 2000 CTIs by the end of 2019 is achievable as the program’s momentum grows.

Introducing CTI #1500: Alex Smith, Installations by Alex

Alex Smith has been involved in custom tile installation since 2005.  Based in the mountains of North Carolina, he began working in the industry under the guidance of John Buford of the Stone Cavern. He went on to form Installations by Alex and specializes in luxury residential homes. He does a significant amount of work for Bill Dacchille of Dacchille Construction, as well as other contractors and homeowners.

A lifelong artist, Alex was initially trained in concert dance and is currently the board president for Dance Project Inc., a statewide arts organization.  “I am honored to be a Ceramic Tile Education Foundation Certified Tile Installer,” says Alex.

“The Toughest 25 Square Feet of Tile You’ll Ever Install”

Not everyone passes the hands-on portion of the Certified Tile Installer program test. In fact, Alex Smith was originally tested in 2015 and did not complete the installation in the allotted time. He explained, “Contrary to my expectation, the hands-on is by far the more challenging portion of the test. I was fairly confident in my quality of work going into the hands-on test. What I was not expecting was the difficulty in completing the assignment in the allotted time frame.  Even considering the small size of the area defined by the test, it is rare that I have to complete all phases of an install in one continuous session.”

Why Become a Certified Tile Installer?

Certified Tile Installers detail many benefits to becoming CTIs, ranging from achieving a competitive edge and bragging rights, to improving the tile industry, keeping up with tile industry education and current installation information, to avoiding failures and validating one’s skills as an installer.

For Alex Smith, it’s about providing customers with confirmation that he is Qualified Labor. He said, “Though the national standards have been in place for some time, the lack of an agency to educate and accredit installers has allowed the quality of installation work in the industry to be sporadic at best. The CTI is a tool that I am using to assure my clients that they are not just taking a ‘chance’ with their tile installation project.  My CTI helps to validate that I care about the quality of my work and want to provide a product that has a sound foundation for longevity of use.”

Tile Industry Recognized Certification

The Ceramic Tile Education Foundation offers the only tile industry recognized certification test validating the skills and knowledge of the installer.  This industry certification will become even more important as consumers, homebuilders, general contractors, specifiers and designers seek qualifications through programs such as industry certification.

The Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) which sponsors the CTI program is supported by all segments of the ceramic tile industry. CTEF is headquartered in Pendleton, South Carolina, near Clemson University and the offices of the Tile Council of North America (TCNA).

To learn more about the Certified Tile Installer program, visit https://www.ceramictilefoundation.org/certified-tile-installer-cti-program.

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About the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation

The Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) provides training education and installer certification for professionals working in the ceramic tile and stone industry. Certification programs include the CTEF Certified Tile Installer (CTI) program which is the only third-party assessment of installer skill and knowledge recognized by the tile industry, and the Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT). For more information, visit https://www.ceramictilefoundation.org.

NSI Partners with Architectural Record in Natural Stone Academy

 

The Natural Stone Institute has announced a year-long partnership with Architectural Record to present the Natural Stone Academy, an interactive continuing education platform featuring articles and webinars about natural stone. Architects, designers, and stone industry professionals can take courses in the Academy to earn CEU credits. Individuals who complete all courses will receive a special badge.

There are seven courses available in the Natural Stone Academy, covering the following topics: anchorage systems for natural stone cladding, specifying natural stone, residential design, landmark design, design strategies, the enduring allure of working with natural stone, and the NSC 373 sustainability standard.

Since launching in September, over 1,500 individuals have completed courses through the Natural Stone Academy.

The Natural Stone Institute would like to thank the following companies who have sponsored this program: Alamo Stone, Camarata Masonry Systems, Ltd., Coldspring, Egymar International, International Marble Company, LLC, Lurvey Supply, North Carolina Granite Corporation, PICCO Engineering, Polycor, Raducz Stone Corporation, and Rugo Stone LLC.

To access the Natural Stone Academy, visit www.naturalstoneinstitute.org/academy.

 

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Renovating Bhojwani Tower

Crossville’s porcelain tile panels and an innovative cladding system satisfy Miami Beach’s building codes and historic preservation standards

Built in the late 1950s, Bhojwani Tower was designed by Albert Anis, known for his Art Deco architecture throughout Miami. Originally a bank, the Bhojwani, located on the corner of one of Miami Beach’s busiest pedestrian intersections, operates as a mixed-use building with residential and retail areas. When beginning the renovation process, Kobi Karp Architecture and Interior Design not only had to consider updating the building’s exterior to stringent building codes but also meeting the requirements of the Miami Beach Historic Preservation Board.

Dan Slain of HyCOMB with HyCOMB’s unique stone and porcelain cladding solution.

Due to hurricanes, South Florida’s coastal areas fall into the High Velocity Hurricane Zone. Miami-Dade identified that it isn’t wind and rain that causes the most damage in strong storms; its exterior building pieces that come loose and turn into projectiles during extreme conditions. The International Building Code doesn’t allow anything larger than 3 square feet to be attached to the outside of a building because the adhesives used would cure before the cladding pieces are properly placed – especially in the area’s warm climate. This would make cladding more prone to fly off during storms.

 

Prior to installation, precut panels are laid out in the warehouse to ensure a match with adjoining pieces for a more continuous flow.

To meet all code and preservation requirements, the Kobi Karp design team specified Crossville’s I Naturali collection of gauged porcelain tile panels to cover the exterior walls of the Bhojwani Tower. The team also advised Miami-Dade County officials that the Crossville material would meet stringent building codes and come in on budget if mounted with HyCOMB USA’s innovative cladding system.

Robert Sutnick, Crossville, Inc. A&D representative, and Dan Slain of HyCOMB at HyCOMB offices in Hallandale Beach.

The HyCOMB USA team worked with D&B Tile Distributors – a frequent host of CTEF’s Tile and Stone Workshops – to deliver the solution for installation of Crossville’s gauged porcelain tile panels for this project. Daniel Slain of HyCOMB USA explained that the company’s system works with Crossville’s surfacing solution because of the unique backing configuration and proven performance during testing for extreme conditions. 

During testing, a standard piece of  2” x 4” lumber is shot out of an air cannon at a rate of 50 feet per second (fps). That’s over 34 miles per hour. This exercise shows simulated impact from airborne objects in hurricane situations.

“We have a honeycomb backer that is .75” thick,” Slain said. “We bond the gauged porcelain tile panels to our core.” After testing, the HyCOMB panels sustained minimal damage from the projectile 2” x 4”s, and remained intact, he said. 

The combination of Crossville’s gauged porcelain tile panels and the HyCOMB system achieved the aesthetic and technical performance requirements of this high-profile project

Crossville’s panels are 1M x 3M and relatively simple to work with for experienced installers who have received training with the material. The bonding of the tile panels to the HyCOMB USA core offers distinct efficiencies unparalleled by other surfacing options.

Slain said, “To direct bond, it would require more time because each row would have to set for a day. Our panels are independent of each other and held in place by mechanical fasteners. They do not rest on the layer below. On normal-size stone panels we would need a five-man crew. With the Crossville porcelain tile panels, we use three people and produce twice the square footage each day.”

Lightweight, heavy duty

Another major advantage of using the Crossville tile panels is the weight compared to other cladding options. These panels are lightweight enough to be handled by fewer workers. This is important to note for the Bhojwani project because of its location on a busy street corner in the heart of the tourist district. If the architects had specified natural stone, the project team would have faced more time-consuming challenges and safety issues. With the porcelain panels, the three-man crew was able to lift the tiles through the scaffolding and put them in place using HyCOMB’s fastening system – reducing both time and risk factors for the project during installation.

Beyond the benefits of installation efficiencies, the tile panels’ classic, timeless look answers aesthetic demands and is actually more consistent in appearance than other materials such as natural stone.

The panels not only offer a beautiful appearance for the building, but they will also be able to withstand the harsh South Florida elements. They’re innately resistant to UV rays and are highly scratch-proof and resistant to deep abrasion. Also, the panels are eco-friendly, as the body of the tiles is comprised of natural raw materials, and the tile does not release toxins into the environment.

Right style, right performance, right for the environment – Crossville’s porcelain tile panels are ideal for Miami Beach’s preservation standards and the seasonless appeal of this iconic destination.

Bhojwani Tower, with its new Crossville gauged porcelain tile panel exterior, stands out on the skyline of Lincoln Road in Miami Beach.

A realistic look at mortar coverage

Poor mortar coverage may not cause a tile failure, but it’s an important factor in tile installation success

News flash: poor mortar coverage doesn’t “cause” a tile failure!  If you’ve ever replaced an old tile installation that seemed perfect, you’ll agree. It took a hammer and chisel to reveal that 20-year old “poor” mortar coverage. The reality is that it always takes a force or condition of some kind to exert stress somewhere in the tile assembly to loosen or crack a tile.

So what are these other forces? What are the best methods to overcome them? How do they relate to coverage? In regards to coverage, what does experience tell us works best to achieve it?

Causes of tile failure

The primary forces that cause tile failures are:

  • Structural movement including shrinkage and creep (sagging over a period of time)
  • Substrate deformation such as deflection, vibration or curvature from load
  • Environmental conditions including thermal growth and freeze/thaw stress
  • Impact – single or repeated

Examples of breakage and delamination as a result of poor mortar coverage

When subjected to these forces, the tile assembly will either accommodate or resist displacement, or fail. Tile and stone are fairly rigid and have a tight limitation for movement, making installation design a major factor for success. Will the structure/substrate provide stability for the assembly? Was the assembly chosen with the building usage in mind? 

In a forensic examination of a failure, low mortar coverage is an obvious deficiency that implicates the installer, but the tile required a force to affect it. Would it have made a difference if better coverage as per ANSI A108 (≥80% interior; ≥95% wet and exterior) requirements were met? Maybe so, but all of the project conditions should be considered. Tiles with 100% mortar coverage have been found to loosen or crack under excessive structure/substrate movement conditions, but it’s much more difficult to prove that a concrete slab or wood framing moved to an excessive degree. 

Two factors that greatly increase the probability of failure and reveal low mortar coverage are:

  • A non-absorptive/contaminated substrate
  • Inadequate frequency and size of movement joints (especially at all perimeters) 

This is because the forces listed above cause action (movement), and science shows that “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” If the mortar wasn’t bonded because of contaminants or lack of porosity, or the tiles have no space to move into, they fail much more easily regardless of mortar coverage.

Effects of ridge collapse based on technique and hammering on tile with mortar cured for 28 days

Insufficient mortar coverage makes projects susceptible to failure

So is there any proof that industry-required mortar coverage makes a difference? In a word – yes! Thousands of projects have told the story that tiles with low mortar coverage are more susceptible to failure. The worst cases are spot-bonded tiles that fail when loads or thermal expansion cause movement. It doesn’t take much force when the tiles are supported by just a few globs of mortar. 

The bigger the tile, the more important the use of the proper mortar and coverage becomes.

Improperly bedded tiles that just rest on mortar ridges are next in line for failure under force. At approximateyly 50% coverage and minimal contact with the cement paste and polymer, tiles can’t resist as many of the normal stresses compared to when the required continuous 3/32” minimum thickness is achieved. When installed in wet conditions, water trapped under a tile can freeze, or when exposed to heat and humidity, tiles expand and failure occurs. Too often, there’s the perfect storm – low coverage, a lack of movement joints, contamination and heavy loads.

Correct directional combing across the short side of the rectangular tile.

So what can we expect from a tile with proper mortar coverage when project application requirements are met? The reality is that there are millions of tiles performing well, lasting for decades, even centuries, with proper coverage! When they’re removed for a new style, it takes a lot of force.

In a study of over 80 residential projects in the Southwest where a random tile cracked and/or loosened over post-tensioned concrete slabs, more than 85% of the tiles had low mortar coverage and over 50% showed substrate contamination. Every adjoining tile with full coverage and without contamination was intact. The exceptions were stone tiles with acceptable coverage, but that had cracked since they can’t resist movement stresses as well as porcelain tiles. On one memorable project, tiles with greater mortar coverage failed because the floors and walls cracked right down the middle of the home. The conclusion was that the more tile and substrate surface areas bonded at 200-400 psi strengths – and with polymer for deformability – provided more resistance to failure.

Impact will also damage tiles, but as shown in the 2016 NTCA Trowel & Error video (see also Spanish version), a tile bond can withstand heavy forces with high mortar coverage compared to those without. 

High mortar coverage for large-format tile

Back butter large-format tiles and lift occasionally to confirm sufficient coverage.  ProLite Premium Large Format Tile Mortar supports the weight of heavy tiles and will not slump on floors or sag on walls.

Is it realistic to believe you can achieve high mortar coverage even with very large formats? There are key items that make a difference: tile warpage, mortar type, trowel size and configuration, and troweling/bedding methods. Note the following for your next project:

Wipe off any residue on the underside of your tile or stone before bedding and be sure to set into mortar while it’s fresh.

Tiles that dome in the center or have some warpage, particularly rectangular formats, may require back-buttering. Lift a tile after setting to confirm your bedding method.

There are mortars specifically designed to support large-and-heavy tiles. This designation will soon be included in ANSI Standards. With these mortars, there’s no need to spot bond to level or support large formats since they mostly are highly thixotropic, and typically contain larger aggregates. Some are lightweight, thus resisting slump and lippage. 

Although there are no standards for contact/flowable mortars, these mortar types wet out surfaces easier than standard mortars to assist with coverage. They’re best used on surfaces that have been leveled.

SuperiorBilt Premium Notch Trowels make ridges that are easier to collapse for proper coverage

Trowel types: Larger tile typically require more mortar. 1/2”x 1/2”square-notched trowels are commonly used, but they require more lateral movement to collapse mortar ridges than some of the specialty trowels.

Directional troweling is a must! Right to left, left to right, or top to bottom allows for air to escape. It’s best to trowel the ridges perpendicular to the short edge of a rectangular tile. No swirls!

Use enough mortar so when you move the tile to collapse the ridges there are no voids.

Realistically, complete mortar coverage on every tile you set won’t happen but the closer you get, the more success you’ll have. Happy tiling!

StonePeak Ceramics celebrates expansion

StonePeak Ceramics celebrates $70 million expansion to Crossville, Tenn. plant

New Continua production line aims to produce 1,000 5´ x 10´ gauged porcelain panels a day


Crossville, Tenn. – On September 12, a group of customers, press, state and local dignitaries, and company management assembled at the StonePeak Ceramics plant here to celebrate the expansion of the first U.S.-based plant to produce 5’ x 10’ gauged porcelain panels.

The $70 million expansion adds 160 workers to the facility, which now measures 1 million square feet. Federica Minozzi, CEO of the Iris Ceramica Group, parent company of StonePeak, SapienStone, FMG, Ariostea, Eiffelgres and Fiandre USA, spoke during the ribbon-cutting ceremony, stating that not only is this plant the first in the U.S. to produce gauged porcelain 5’ x 10’ panels, but it’s the first in the world to also offer the capacity to cut those panels to smaller sizes such as 12” x 12”. Panel thicknesses range from 6mm to 2cm.

“We didn’t even do this investment in Italy,” she said. “We decided to do it in Crossville.” 

Clays are sourced from the Carolinas, Kentucky and Tennessee to manufacture the panels, said Fiandre USA’s director of sales and marketing Eugenio Megna, who led visitors on a tour through the plant. 

Iris Ceramics Group CEO Federica Minozzi with StonePeak leadership and state and local dignitaries, cut the ribbon on the Crossville Tennessee’s factory expansion. It is the first in the world that produces 60˝ x 120˝ gauged porcelain tile panels and also cut sizes down to 12˝ x 12˝. This $70 million expansion also adds 160 workers and at peak will produce 1,000 panels a day.

Fiandre USA’s Eugenio Megna led tours through the new plant expansion. This A-frame filled with porcelain panels is ready for shipping, and holds 25 5´ x 10´ panels on each side.

The company uses the Continua production process and Sacmi machinery on the line, and utilizes sophisticated inkjet graphics to achieve looks like Calacatta or other aesthetics that are nearly indistinguishable from natural stone, as well as other in-demand looks. Random patterns, continuous veining and bookmatching can also be achieved here. It takes two hours from start to finish to produce a porcelain slab, and the end product is 25-30% harder than granite, when measured on the Mohs scale. Full size panels including StonePeak’s Plane 2.0 line, are shipped on A-frames, 25 to a side. The line has been operational since May.

Dignitaries praising the investment in the Crossville, Tenn., local economy included Angela Regitko, business development consultant for the State of Tennessee, Crossville Mayor James Mayberry, and newly elected County Mayor Alan Foster. Foster noted that StonePeak has made a $200 million investment in machinery and its facility since it opened in 2005, and has provided jobs for 400 workers in Crossville. 

Distributors weigh in on GPTP U.S. production

At the post-tour party on the rooftop bar of the Thompson Nashville are (l to r) StonePeak Ceramic’s Todd Ware, exec vp of national accounts;Leonardo Pesce, vp of operations; and Iris’s Marco Portiglia, sales & marketing director.

“StonePeak is taking a step ahead of their competitors by being the first to produce the large panels in the U.S.,” said Bill Spina, president of Standard Tile Supply Co., Totowa, N.J. “I feel it is a natural to be used as counter tops. In our area, it is becoming more accepted for commercial projects and it should substantially help in residential applications now that they can cut to smaller sizes.”

Tom Cosky, Nautilus & Aquatica Program manager for IWT, called StonePeak’s new domestic product with the Continua line a “game changer as far as pricing of large unit panels. They are passing along significant cost savings making it a much more competitive product.”

Mediterranea’s Michael (l) and Don Mariutto at the StonePeak afterparty atop the Thompson Nashville.

Cosky sees installation as a continuing hurdle. “The larger challenge still remains with the training of qualified installers, but that’s another thing StonePeak seems very aggressively tackling on their own,” he said. “My end of the equation – distribution – requires a different set of logistical issues than the traditional tile distributor must face to get in the game. We are encountering more and more inquiries for these panels and we see a real future for it as long as we can adapt to handle the opportunity.”

“StonePeak’s new gauged porcelain tile equipment at their Tennessee manufacturing plant will be a game changer for the U.S. tile industry,” said Brian Atkinson, president of The Masonry Center, Inc., in Boise, Idaho. “Production of StonePeak’s large-sized porcelain tile is now closer to their wholesalers, which will shorten transportation time and help us to better serve our customers.”
After expressing thanks to employees and state and local support, Minozzi revealed that the decision to hold the ceremony on September 12, a day after the 17th anniversary of the September 11 attacks in the U.S., was intentional, as a way to both honor the significance of the day and to celebrate the resilient, renaissance spirit of the USA to rebuild after that tragedy. “I love America,” she said. 

In the evening, guests and hosts gathered for a soiree at LA Jackson, the rooftop bar of the new Thompson Nashville.

Is there an information toxic dump in your office?

Does your organization have offices, file cabinets, storage rooms, and offsite facilities full of unidentified paper files and electronic documents? If so, you probably have an “information toxic dump!” Twenty-five years ago most organizations had a “central filing system” and “Mabel” – whose sole responsibility was ensuring that the records that the organization needed for legal reasons were maintained properly. Managers had private secretaries who were paid to make sure that when their bosses were done with the papers in their office, they were transferred (with the help of file clerks) to the central filing system. The central filing system was purged on an annual basis. 

Then Bill Gates made it possible for organizations to put a computer on every desk, and the dynamics of records management changed dramatically. “Mabel” and the file clerks were fired or transferred to other positions. Central File Rooms were turned into offices. The file cabinets were scattered around offices wherever there was space – supply rooms, hallways, and individual offices. Managers were expected to manage their own information and do their own filing. Secretaries became administrators with projects of their own. Soon, records management as it existed began to disintegrate! 

Records management today

Today in most offices, information exists in three “silos” of information:

  1. Individual offices
  2. File cabinets scattered around the office
  3. Office storage rooms and offsite filing facilities

The information in individual offices is managed somewhere between very well or very poorly – depending on the skills of the individual employee – but in any case is rarely available to other members of the organization should the employee who has the information, or filed it, be unavailable.

The information in file cabinets scattered around the office is “owned” by no one in particular. Theses file cabinets primarily contain files no longer needed by individual employees, or left by employees who are no longer there. Even though they often contain information that could be useful, individual employees don’t know it exists, and thus end up creating new information. The information in storage rooms and offsite filing facilities contains vital information that could save money, or cost millions of dollars in the case of an audit or lawsuit. Unfortunately, offsite storage often contains information that should never have gone there, but no one wanted to take the time or effort to clean it out! 

Why records management really matters

Your ability to accomplish any task or goal is directly related to your ability to find the information you need when you need it. Finding information in every organization – regardless of whether it is in paper or electronic format – is becoming an ever-increasing challenge. This inability to find information causes all sorts of problems for the organization and for the individual – wasted time looking for information or recreating already-existing information, missed opportunities, and increased stress, which in turn results in increased health care costs.

Research shows that 80% of the information kept in most offices is never used. Ironically, the more information that is kept, the less it is used, simply because it’s too difficult for employees to find. Often employees can’t even find the documents they themselves created – let alone any information created by another employee – especially someone who is no longer with the organization. As a result, it’s easier to just start over!

Who is responsible for the problem and what can be done about it? 

Blame for the records management debacle falls in several courts:

  1. Management blames employees for the problem.
  2. Employees blame management for the problem.
  3. Organizations don’t have a user-friendly system.
  4. Employees aren’t trained on the filing systems.
  5. Management fails to look at records management as an ongoing activity.

To create and maintain an effective records management program, we must answer the following six questions:

  1. What information should we keep?
  2. In what form?
  3. For how long?
  4. Who is responsible for maintaining the information?
  5. Who needs access to the information?
  6. How can everyone who needs the information find it? 

Now here is the reality: Answering those six questions requires the cooperation of everyone in the organization. It can easily take up to one year, or even longer, to answer them, since accuracy requires addressing the questions over a one-year business cycle at a minimum.

Creating and maintaining an effective records management system 

I’ve developed a five-step process called The Productive Environment Process™, which can be applied to organize information in any organization. 

  1. State your vision. If your records management program is successful, what will you be able to do that you can’t do now? What positive effect will an efficient records management program have on the organization and your customers? 
  2. Identify your obstacles. What currently prevents you from having a successful system? 
  3. Commit your resources. How much time, money, and human resource power are you willing to put into the project?
  4. Design your SYSTEM (Saving You Space Time Energy Money). What tools (software, existing filing systems that work well, etc.) do you currently have that will be helpful in the process? What other tools are available? What processes do you need to apply? A crucial component is applying The Art of Wastebasketry® to eliminate unnecessary records. 
  5. Maintain your success. What procedures do you need to develop and implement so the system you create will continue to work long after the creators of the system are gone? 

Note the common word in those five steps: “Your!” It would be wonderful if creating a records management system was simply a matter of buying a book or hiring an expert who told you exactly what to do. A successful records management program, however, requires people, processes and technology. It must be supported by management, customized for the organization, and executed by everyone in the organization to succeed on an ongoing basis. 

According to an article in the July 2010 issue of Journal of Accountancy, a paperless strategy can yield savings of 30% to 40%. Some of the savings comes from reduced overhead costs, such as what you spend on paper or real estate expenses, while others come from the increased efficiency of working digitally. Every firm is different and the extent to which it goes digital varies, but a paperless strategy will reduce costs and improve profitability, even in ways firms haven’t considered up front. 

Designing, implementing, and maintaining an effective records management program is the best place to start on the road to a “productive environment™” – an organized office in which everyone can find what they need when they need it so they can accomplish their work and enjoy their lives.

As Mark Twain stated so eloquently, “Progress starts with the truth.” The first step is for management to agree on the definition of a successful records management program. It is important that this conclusion be reached with the involvement of administrative staff – because the reality is that often management doesn’t really understand all the information that is necessary for staff to accomplish the objectives that management expects.

© Barbara Hemphill 2010-2018

Trademarks and Registrations are the property of Barbara Hemphill

Risks regarding contingent payment and no compensation for delay clauses

“When” and “If” payment and “no damage for delay” verbiage can result in very different payment outcomes

“Contingent payment” and “no compensation for delay clauses” can be very damaging to a subcontractor who is unaware they exist within the subcontract. It’s important to read these clauses carefully, determine what is enforceable, and lobby hard not to sign these inequitable clauses. 

Let’s start with defining the two types of contingent payment clauses: paid-when-paid and paid-if-paid. While both of these clauses are contingent upon payment from the owner, they have a very different meanings. 

Simply put, a “paid-when-paid clause” states, “I will pay you after the owner pays me,” but does not relieve the contractor from the contractual obligation of payment. A “paid-if-paid clause” states, “I will make payment only if the owner pays me“ and attempts to relieve the contractor from the obligation of payment. 

In most states, the statutes permit a “paid-when-paid” clause, allowing the contractor a reasonable time to resolve differences with the owner and obtain payment, prior to paying the subcontractors. What we should be looking for when reviewing these clause are terms relieving the contractor from the contractual obligation of payment if he is not paid. When a payment provision states the contractor and subcontractor share the risk of owner payment – or if the contractor is not paid he has no obligation to make payment – it becomes a “paid-IF-paid clause.”

The statutes regarding paid-when-paid and paid-if-paid vary by state. The American Subcontractors Association published a very informative document titled, “Contingent Payment Clauses in the 50 States.” Although it is a 2014 edition, it points us to statutory provisions and state case law.

www.keglerbrown.com/content/uploads/2014/09/ASA-Contingent-Payment-Clauses-in-the-50-States-2014-Edition.pdf or https://bit.ly/2weasej.

No compensation for damages and delay clauses

Inequitable “no compensation for damages and delay clauses” have become very popular within subcontract agreements, especially the term stating, “the subcontractor will receive compensation to the extent the contractor receives compensation from the owner and an extension of time is the sole remedy for delay.” These clauses sometimes state that even if the contractor directs the subcontractor to make changes in the scope of work and the contractor does not receive payment from the owner the subcontractor will not be paid. With this statement the clause becomes a “paid-if-paid” provision.

Many subcontracts will state the subcontractor is responsible for all damages in a delay caused by the subcontractor, but the contractor has no responsibility or obligation for delay damages or compensation for any reason whatsoever. Although these provisions seem very inequitable, they will be strictly enforced as allowed by statute. As with payment provisions, the enforceability of “no damages for delay clauses” vary by state. Some states allow the enforcement of these clauses on privately funded projects but not on state-funded projects. Some states have not had a state or federal court consider the validity of a “no damage for delay” clause.

The law firm of Woods & Aitken has published a very helpful document, “Survey 50 State Matrix Pay-if-Paid / Paid-When-Paid, and No Damage for Delay.”

www.woodsaitken.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Survey_50-State-Matrix_Pay-If-Paid_No-Damage-for-Delay.pdf or https://bit.ly/2wiZILE. 

It’s important to understand the enforceability of these clauses in the states we perform work. In negotiating these terms, it can be helpful to point out that the provision is not enforceable in the state the work is being done and it is not a good business decision for either party to agree to a provision that is not in compliance with the statute or case law. Removing a term that is unenforceable by statute can eliminate the discussion, argument and attorney’s fees if the issue arises during the course of work.

Guidelines for installation of thin porcelain panels

QUESTION

I am looking for installation guidance for 30” x 60”, 1/4” thin porcelain panels in a floor application over concrete. It is a high rise building so I assume it is post-tensioned concrete assembly for the floors. Does TCNA have any guidelines?

Furthermore, the City of Minneapolis requires a sound damping product be used under hard surface flooring such as porcelain tile. 

While I have received information from one thin-panel distributor and from LATICRETE that this thin material should not be used over a sound control membrane, the architectural rep for the product manufacturer says their thin panel can be treated like any other porcelain tile. However, she will not provide any documentation that validates that statement. Can you perhaps help me get something from the manufacturer that sheds light on this question? 

ANSWER

There are several points necessary to discuss regarding your concerns.

Do you own a copy of ANSI A137.3 / ANSI 108.19? These are the material specifications and installation standards for Gauged Porcelain Tiles and Gauged Porcelain Tile Panels/Slabs. I refer to these as “GPTP” for short. This standard defines what GPTP is, where it can be used, how to properly install it and specifies the training required for persons installing it. If you do not own a copy of this standard, it is available for purchase from the NTCA’s bookstore at: https://www.tile-assn.com/store/ListProducts.aspx?catid=398904 or https://bit.ly/2oLCCsL. 

You are correct that any installation on a post-tensioned above ground slab will require special considerations. TCNA Handbook method EJ-171 addresses some of these concerns. It is the responsibility of the project’s specifier (i.e. architect, structural engineer, etc.) to develop the jobsite-specific drawings, material and installation specifications that will guide your installation. This includes details for movement joint placement. If these documents and clear instructions are not included as part of the statement of work or drawings, you need to request them.

ANSI A137.3 / A108.09 defines the “Gauged” (thickness) component of Gauged Porcelain Tile / Panels (GPTP) in two categories: 3.5mm – 4.9mm thick and 5.0mm – 6.5mm thick. The standard allows for installation of the thicker 5.0-6.5mm material on floors and walls. The 3.5-4.9mm thick material is for use on walls only (not floors). Some manufacturers will allow for the use of their thinner GPTP material on floors. I strongly recommend you make absolutely certain that you receive a jobsite-specific warranty from the GPTP manufacturer before installing thinner (3.5-4.9mm) tiles/panels on a floor.

Regarding use of a sound damping product under GPTP – ANSI A108.19 Section 3.0 (Existing Surfaces/Substrates) states in subparagraph 3.3 “Do not install over unstable, compressible surface materials or coatings.” I suggest contacting the sound reduction membrane manufacturer for more specific information for use of their product with GPTP.

Proper substrate preparation and selection and use of membranes and mortar and trowel and installation techniques are very critical for the successful installation of GPTP. Proper training for installation of this product is required by the A137.3/A108.19 standard. NTCA and product manufacturers provide this training for persons who will be specifying and installing the material. In summary, the specification should be very clear in referencing all industry standards for installation of GPTP. The GPTP and setting material manufacturers should provide you with a clear jobsite-specific warranty and installation instructions for use of their product(s). The installers are required to have training. If this is not the case, you will want to carefully consider your acceptance of risk with this installation. If the manufacturer cannot provide you a clear warranty, I would consider that a red flag.

I hope this helps. 

Mark Heinlein,
NTCA Training Director,
NTCA Technical Trainer

Rolling in the deep: passion for excellence parlays challenging mermaid pool install into follow-up backsplash project

Handmade mosaic murals by Ruth Frances Greenberg required careful prep and attention to detail from Hawthorne Tile 

Once the design is created, Greenberg lays the tiles out in place, face-mounts them with plastic, cuts them into sections, and numbers them.

Two challenging hand-made mosaic designs by Portland’s Ruth Frances Greenberg (rfgtile.com) have recently been installed in a Portland residence by Hawthorne Tile. The precision of the design and process of installation initially challenged Hawthorne Tile when the tile contractor set Greenberg’s mermaid mosaic in the bottom of a pool in summer 2017. But once the owner saw the beauty of the expertly installed pool mermaid, she immediately commissioned a Ruth Frances Greenberg backsplash for the pool house kitchen. 

Bringing a mermaid to life

The 14´ diameter mermaid project involved “pretty intense logistics,” said Travis Schreffler, project manager for the install. He explained that after the tiles are made by hand, fired and then re-fired for exterior use and the design is created, Greenberg lays the tiles out in a huge circle and face-mounts them with plastic, cuts them into sections and numbers them. They are then placed on pieces of cardboard to deliver them to the jobsite. 

The crew, with Schreffler, three Certified Tile Installers and two apprentices, started early in the day while it was cool to keep the ARDEX X77 thinset viable.

Compounding the difficulty was the slope of the pool – it sloped from the shallow to deep end on a radiused arc rather than on a straight plane.

That required Schreffler to build a map to clarify where the design was going – it had to be laid out and put back together like a puzzle. Compounding the difficulty was the slope of the pool – it sloped from the shallow to deep end on a radiused arc rather than on a straight plane, so it was a perfectly flat curved arc: an intersecting plane that was flat in one direction and arched in the other. 

The team assembled the pieces in one four-hour session to be sure all the pieces fit perfectly.

The bottom of the pool needed to be prepped first with ARDEX AM100 rendering mortar with a radius established based on the arc; then an installer and an apprentice created a series of screeds that followed the pool’s arc. The installation prep took two and a half days. 

Each piece of the mosaic puzzle had to be moved down to the swimming pool, and the relationship between the pieces appraised since, as Schreffler said, “each piece relates to the other pieces in that they are loosely mounted, and needs the next piece to be adjusted, like a gear.” This meant that once the installation began, it had to be done in one four-hour take. 

The crew, with Schreffler, two other Certified Tile Installers and two apprentices, started early in the day while it was cool to keep the ARDEX X77 thinset viable. ARDEX’s William White was onsite to help with the logistics, providing extremely attentive support, said Schreffler. 

There were some nail-biter moments during the install. “Every piece you put down, you felt like it wasn’t going to fit,” Schreffler said, so at times he also jumped in to lend a hand. In the end, the job was done by noon, and left to sit protected overnight. The next day, the plastic was removed, loose tiles reattached, and it was cleaned. Two days after the install, it was grouted with ARDEX FL and was ready for the plasterers to come in and finish up with pool plaster. 

The Hawthorne Tile crew admires their work – a job well done: (L to R) Sean Carline; Travis Schreffler; Bo Carney; and Yakov Blashchishchin.

Mosaic mural adorns pool house kitchen backsplash

Like the pool project, the mosaics for the backsplash were assembled and numbered.

The mural for this backsplash was a 6´ x 8´ Hawaiian beach scene with breaching humpback whales, sea turtles and tree frogs, again created by Ruth Frances Greenberg. Plus the homeowner had befriended stray cats while in Hawaii, so the mural included them as well. 

The process of assembling all the parts and pieces was the same as with the pool, but Hawthorne Tile was now familiar with this system. 

Installing the mosaic mural are (L to R) Bo Carney, Vladmir Blashchishchin and Yakov Blashchishchin.

Schreffler said, “Ruth laid them out with me so I knew where everything was to go. She gave me some creative license – with relief flowers and some other pieces. Before the first install in the pool, she never experienced CTI installers before, so the experience for her was very welcoming.” 

Again, the mural needed to be installed in one fell swoop, using ARDEX X77 as thinset. “We started this one at 7 a.m. and were done by 11 a.m.,” Schreffler said. This was after the crew spent a day prepping the wall surface to be sure it was flat. “We had the same crew,” he said, “So they knew exactly what they were doing and acted as a fantastic team. They took the bull by the horns, were confident and did a fantastic job, impressing the homeowner.” 

This is the kind of work upon which Hawthorne Tile thrives. “We welcome this kind of challenge,” Schreffler said. “Exactly this kind of thing – outside the box – we set out to do this a long time ago. Those moments that feel like you can’t get there from here are extra sweet when you step back and it’s done.” 

Mural detail. After the CTI-certified install team won the artist’s confidence with the pool install, she gave them some creative license to place flowers and some other pieces at their discretion.

 

The finished backsplash.

 

GPT at Coverings 2018 – Education that goes beyond PowerPoint

In the fall of 2012, the terms “Gauged Porcelain Tiles” and “Gauged Porcelain Panels” didn’t exist yet. Back then, the product was just beginning to show up in the U.S. market and was being referred to as “thin tile.” No one knew how to deal with tiles that were 3´ x 10´, an 1/8˝ to 1/4˝ thick, and somewhat flexible. That fear led many to dismiss thin tile as a fad that would die out if they just ignored it. Others decided to embrace the challenge and introduce the products and techniques from Europe to the U.S. market. 

The first companies to make significant investments in importing the products and figuring out how to install them were Crossville and MAPEI. In the fall of 2012, these two companies came together to give the first educational session at Total Solutions Plus. To a standing-room-only crowd, the first deck of PowerPoint slides were given that explained how the product was made, how it should be handled in the field, and how it should be installed.

MAPEI’s Dan Marvin and Crossville’s Noah Chitty gave a presentation on gauged porcelain tile and panels at Coverings 2018, updating the audience on all the new findings and standards for product and installation of the material.

MAPEI’s Gerald Sloan (c) and Logan Reavis (r.) demonstrate equipment for moving panels for a wall tile installation, with an assist from Mick Volponi (l.)

Fast forward to Coverings 2018 in Atlanta, where Crossville and MAPEI were at it again, as they have been for 12 consecutive, major trade shows. Crossville’s Noah Chitty and MAPEI’s Dan Marvin presented updated PowerPoint slides that have their roots in that 2012 presentation but have seen many changes. Gone are the slides that say “there are no standards.” Now, Noah and Dan get to quote from product standards (A137.3) and installation standards (A108.19) that were voted into existence in 2017. The tiles themselves must meet certain criteria for strength, durability, and how well the mesh is attached if there is mesh. Troweling techniques, embedding techniques, coverage requirements, and product handling all have standards now. Instead of telling the audience “this is what we think,” Noah and Dan now get to say “this is what the tile industry agrees is the right way of doing it.”

 

 

Ryan Freitag with Donnelly Distributing – the US Raimondi distributor – shows the crowd how to use a 10’ long score-and-snap cutter.

After the PowerPoint portion of the Coverings presentation, there was an added bonus; the entire audience stayed to see a live demonstration of two panels being installed on a wall and one on the floor. With the help of Raimondi (tools) and MLT (lippage tuning devices), the audience was able to see first-hand how the Laminam by Crossville panels are cut, how MAPEI Ultralite S2 mortar was applied to the substrate and the tile with a special trowel, how they are installed with minimal lippage to avoid future damage, and how the air was worked out with the “Cross-walk” method that is now part of the standard. Several attendees came up to do some cuts themselves and see how a 10´ long score-and-snap cutter works. As the audience was told several times, it is much better to make your mistakes on someone else’s 30 sq. ft. tile than one you’ll have to pay for if you mess it up.

MAPEI’s Gerald Sloan shows how to release air trapped beneath the large thin panels using the Cross-walk method.

Back in 2012, most of the audience had never heard of ‘thin tile’ and no hands went up when asked if they had worked with or installed it. But in 2018, thanks in large part to the educational efforts of Crossville, MAPEI, and Coverings, everyone in attendance was familiar with the product and at least half had seen and worked with it. This year, the audience offered each other solutions to questions based on experience instead of the manufacturers giving solutions based on experimental results. 

After a very busy afternoon, the group stayed well past the allotted time of 4:30 p.m. to ask follow-up questions, trade business cards, and share war stories. Those installers who have embraced Gauged Porcelain Tile and Gauged Porcelain Panels have found a niche where their craftsmanship can shine. Architects and designers love the minimal grout joints and dramatic styling. Building owners are pleased with the low maintenance and many compliments they receive. As for Noah and Dan, they are simply happy when the last questions are answered, all of the tools are back in their boxes and the next trade show is still a few months away.

After the PowerPoint, attendees got to witness an actual wall and floor GPTP installation.

 

 

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