Large-Format Tile – April 2018

Trio of contractors shares large-format tile-setting successes

For our Large-Format Tile section this month, we take a look at three individual jobs that utilized large-format tile, and we explore the procedure and materials needed to achieve a quality, high-performance, long-lasting job. All contractors are NTCA Members, and all either are themselves Certified Tile Installers, or employ them in their crews. 


Charles Nolen, Carpet Corner of Indiana

This 1,500-sq.-ft. job by Charles Nolen for Carpet Corner of Indiana utilized 30” x 30” large-format porcelain tile from Atlas Concorde’s Brave line at the Lilly Company in downtown Indianapolis. 

To get a level floor, the three-person crew used a diamond-head grinder to open the pores in the slab, then Nolen – a Certified Tile Installer since 2016 – said they shot it with a 360-degree laser to find the lowest point. They then gridded the floor in 4-ft. sections, and placed a pin at every intersection of chalk lines. Pins were trimmed to the lowest level height measurement, and a special solvent-free, acrylic primer was poured, followed by a self-leveling underlayment to the determined height, assuring a “dead level and perfectly flat floor.” 

The crew – Nolen, along with his son Caleb Nolen and Reece Stepler – used expansion foam around the perimeter of the room, and applied three coats of a topical crack-isolation membrane. Only then were the 30” x 30” tiles installed with a multi-use, polymer-fortified adhesive mortar to “achieve a flawless tile assembly that will stand the test of time,” Nolen said. 

Erin Albrecht, M.Ed., J&R Tile

“We are especially proud” of this design build at Trinity University that features Florida Tile Level 10 HDP-High Definition Porcelain 18” x 36” in Pearl Atrium installed with a 1/8” joint, said Eric Albrecht, M.Ed., of J&R Tile.

The project was a total $8 million renovation. J&R saved the client “loads of money on an epoxy grout spec, and the [originally] speced tile was thicker, smaller and more expensive,” she added.

J&R’s  Adam Arrellano, who holds CTI and Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers credentials, was the working foreman on this project and also was responsible for the layout and design. He centered and balanced the tile with no less than 1/2” the cut per industry standards. Tile was installed with large-format tile adhesive and two-component 100% solids epoxy grout on a 1/8” joint. J&R utilized a lippage tuning system to achieve desired lippage tolerances.

The cinderblock substrate was waterproofed with two coats of liquid-applied waterproof over concrete masonry units (CMU). J&R used deck mud and custom floating for positive drainage to over 20 integrated bonding flanges to achieve point drainage. Florida Tile’s  2” x 2” mosaic hex was also installed on floors, and  extruded aluminum profiles were chosen as an elegant cost-saving solution instead of bullnose and sanitary cove.

Robert Davis, Davis Solutions

Robert Davis, owner of Davis Solutions in Lebanon, Oregon, shared this recent shower project. “It was  a lot of fun to have free rein with design.”

The tile is 14”x 28” ceramic from Love Ceramics. “Big tiles mean perfect prep,” he said. This included lightweight, extruded polystyrene core waterproof board walls that were wet-shimmed with high-performance, rapid-set, rapid-dry mortar with extended open time and build characteristics, which allowed the crew to run screws and sealant after lunch. The curb is built from 2” x 4” x 8” concrete block with the same mortar, and the top has a mortar screed so the topical waterproofing is pitched in.

The pan is a divot float of floor mud waterproofed with rapid waterproofing/crack-isolation liquid membrane and mesh reinforcement.

Tile is set in lightweight, non-sag mortar designed to accommodate large-and-heavy tile, and grouted using specialized cement grout, with silicone caulk at all changes of plane.

Davis noted that all straight cuts were made on a Montolit Masterpiuma 93p3, and edges broken with a diamond hand pad. The L-cuts around the niche and the miters on the curb were made on a wet saw.

Hex scribe layout is full tile at the ceiling. While marking it, Davis checked the distance between points to ensure the pattern wasn’t drifting. Cuts were done with a Metabo grinder and a respirator, edges eased on a variable speed.

“I cut the scribes in full tiles and then ripped them on the cutting board, and you’d better believe I held my breath while I made those scratch cuts,” he said.

Trims were fabricated on a 10” chop saw with a non-ferrous metal cutting blade. Erick Hendricks handled all the trim work, including the niches.“The shelves in the niche are what we’ve taken to calling the ‘miter sandwich’ – three mitered pieces fabbed from one piece of field tile so the grain wraps,” he said.

The right hand niche in the project is in an exterior wall, so Davis hung 2” polystyrene waterproof backer board walls on the sub-siding as a thermal break. 

“The exterior wall precluded framing modification, so that niche’s placement dictated vertical layout,” Davis said. “Also, the tiles above and below the right niche are ripped so there would be no slivers or L-cuts. That focal niche was very important to the client, so we built the entire shower around it.”

The entire installation took Davis and Hendricks five and a half crew days.

“I love setting tile,” Davis said, “and I am truly blessed to have the opportunities tile is offering.”

Large-format Tile – January 2018

Polished concrete floor renovation needs self-leveling treatment for large-format porcelain install

MAPEI products minimize impact of flooring installation in Indiana Greek Orthodox church

Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church sits on a 20-acre (8,09-hectare) site in Carmel, Ind. It was the first church to be constructed in the Triad Byzantine style since the Hagia Sophia, which was built more than 1,400 years ago. The church design includes a dome with a diameter of 55 feet (16,8 m) that was built and raised up from the ground, bronze doors weighing 600 pounds (272 kg) each at the grand entrance, and the ability to accommodate more than 600 worshippers.

Because the expression of creative beauty within the Greek Orthodox Church’s places of worship is a major tenet of the Church, the members of Holy Trinity decided to have the floors and some vertical spaces dressed in tile and stone. CJK Design Group specified large-format 24” x 24” (61 x 61 cm) and 12” x 24” (30 x 61 cm) porcelain tiles from Daltile’s Diamante, San Michele and Continental Slate series for the narthex, nave and sanctuary.

But when the church was built eight years previously, the floors were finished in polished concrete that produced a nonporous, sealed surface that did not offer the proper finish for the installation. Traditional shot blasting could not be used for surface preparation because of the deleterious effect that it could have on the painted frescoes and delicate icons, which were created with a centuries-old process using egg tempera paints.

Innovative technology produced a solution that circumvented tradition and provided a breathtaking foundation to anchor the beauty that lines the walls and ceilings of the narthex, nave, sanctuary and ambulatory at Holy Trinity.

Preparing the subfloor

Installers from Indianapolis-based Starnet contractor Certified Floorcovering Services (CFS) used MAPEI’s ECO Prim Grip primer to cover the polished concrete surface, eliminating the need to shot blast and potentially damage the church’s painted treasures. Next, the crew tested and used Ultraplan LSC – a MAPEI self-leveling liquid skimcoat – to patch and smooth all floor surfaces, again reducing dust worries. The crew also used Mapelastic CI liquid-rubber membrane for crack isolation in the concrete flooring. During the first three weeks of work, the church still held services in the nave.

Once the floors were prepared, the CFS installation crews worked meticulously to the architects’ plans. The crews transitioned between varied types of porcelain tiles and marble to produce a look that complemented and accented the intricate icons and frescoes. The large-format 24” x 24” (61 x 61 cm) and 12” x 24” (30 x 61 cm) Daltile porcelain tiles for the narthex, nave and sanctuary were set with Ultraflex LFT mortar and then grouted with Ultracolor Plus FA.

In addition to porcelain tiles, red “Rojo Alicante” marble tiles were set as borders and for transitions between the white porcelain tiles. The marble tiles were set with Kerapoxy 410 100%-solids epoxy mortar; these tiles were also grouted with Ultracolor Plus FA. The CFS crews hand-cut many of the Rojo Alicante tiles to fit around existing structures in the church and so that they could tile a number of vertical elevations in the floor.

In the narthex and nave, the crews set four prefabricated mosaic medallions that continued the iconography from the walls to the floor. The crews first used Mapecem Quickpatch concrete patch and Ultraplan Easy self-leveling underlayment to patch and level the substrate beneath the medallions. Then, the crews set the medallions in place with Ultraflex LFT.

The installers also set Daltile Keystone glass mosaic tiles along the inner walls of the baptistery, and they interspersed Glass Horizons mosaic tiles with Crema Marfil marble pillars on the baptistery’s exterior. After waterproofing the baptistery with Mapelastic AquaDefense membrane, installers used Adesilex P10 glass tile mortar to set the mosaics.

Mapesil T sealant was used to fill all expansion joints and soft joints where vertical and horizontal tiled surfaces met.

Innovation and determination bolstered the flooring contractor’s efforts to successfully complete the beautification of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church. Because CFS was so proud of its work, it entered the project in the Starnet Design Awards; the company won the Silver Award for the 2017 Unique Installation Challenge.