CID 2018 Residential Stone Installation winner

Columbia River Tile & Stone’s stunning black and white marble bathroom


Background

In 2003, Jeff Occhipinti, owner of Columbia River Tile & Stone in Portland, Ore. – and winner of the 2018 Coverings Installation Design Award for Residential Stone Installation – started working in the tile industry, learning from many stellar tile setters. He developed a specialty in flagstone work, explaining, “It is challenging, but you can be very creative with it,” he said. 

After three years, Occhipinti became a licensed contractor and went out on the road for the next four years building new hotels until the economy dropped and being on the road was no longer feasible. At that point, Occhipinti said, “I was determined to build my business locally by giving our clients the best possible service. In 2017 I joined the NTCA, and became a Certified Tile Installer – #1354.” 

Columbia River Tile & Stone has grown to six employees including Occhipinti – all of whom have been hired with no previous construction experience. “We take pride in the fact that we are training the next generation of tile setters,” he said. “We believe heavily in education as we participate in local training events as well as being active in NTCA University. It is an exciting time right now in the tile industry. We are true artists and craftsmen in our work, and are proud to be contributing to the growth of the industry.” In fact, Columbia River Tile & Stone is a member of the newly formed Columbia-Oregon Tile Trades Training Trust, which starts its initial apprenticeship class next month (TileLetter July Training & Education feature). 

The winning project – black and white marble bathroom

Occhipinti describes the installation process of his prizewinning project, for a previous client. 

“The homeowner unfortunately had a fire at their house that required a complete tear-down to the studs. This included the previous work that we had done. The homeowner had a vision for the rebuild of their 1929 home, and we were fortunate to be a part of that vision. The upstairs bathroom had a tub surround with alternating diamond shaped Blue Celeste marble and White Thassos marble, the floor was 3” hex and borders of the same materials. The kitchen floor, backsplash, and fireplace were Spanish style tile. For a vanity wall we installed a smoky mirror mosaic tile.

“The master bathroom was the centerpiece of the project. A combination of Nero Marquita and White Thassos marbles comprised the majority of the materials used. The concrete slab was recessed to accept the curb-less entry mud-set shower. Everything was waterproofed with a liquid-applied, thin waterproofing anti-fracture membrane and the niche and bench were constructed out of wedi. The bathroom floor had Schluter Ditra underlayment and the bathroom floor and shower floor were both heated with SunTouch WarmWire. The job was finished with urethane grout and a penetrating sealer was applied to the marble. 

“Layout was critical on this project. We were able to continue the diamond pattern on six walls creating a true wrap-around effect. We were able to achieve full tile at all of the focal points including the bottom and top cuts, the vertical outside corner, and against the arched entry way. The stained glass window also has the pattern continue to the other side, in addition to having symmetrical cuts on both sides. The shower floor and bench top are centered and balanced. The floral patterns are also perfectly placed with one of the florals landing centered on the tiled shower drain.

“This project definitely had its challenges. Right from the start we realized that stacking the diamond- shaped tile was going to require some special steps to keep the tile aligned properly. We modified our 1/16” T spacers to have a Y shape. This worked pretty well. The use of straight edges at the diagonal runs was crucial and helped keep the tiles from sliding out of alignment. The mitered outside edge also took some patience since White Thassos marble has a tendency to crumble when it is cut. There were quite a few attempts to get the perfect mitered edges for this focal corner. 

“Overall this timeless beauty was another great project for us,” Occhipinti concluded. “We are honored to be recognized for the work that we have done.”

Keeping beautiful stone tiles beautiful

By Jeff Moen, General Manager, FILA USA

In addition to its inherent beauty, natural stone is globally acknowledged as the most time-honored and time-tested building material. Now easier to work with than ever before, durable and of course, a product of Mother Nature, it clearly stands up to the challenges of tomorrow. 

But realistically speaking, not all stone is alike. Because of that, to maintain, protect and regularly restore the “look” of natural stone, especially for indoor horizontal surfaces, certain regimens are absolutely necessary. 

Step one: is your stone acid resistant or acid-sensitive?

Step one is to know if the stone’s characteristics include being acid-resistant or acid-sensitive. 

Should the stone surface be an acid-resistant stone such as natural granite, post-installation cleaning and maintenance procedures (provided the optimal products are used) should be less worrisome to end users than if they had recently installed acid-sensitive stone material such as travertine or limestone.

Often times, especially for commercial flooring installations where epoxy grout is specified, there is a great deal of grout haze/residue on the surface of the tile, even after the entire project has cured and cleaned. If the cleaning agent contains any acidic formulations, after the surface is cleaned, porous limestone and travertine will become impregnated with chemicals which over time, can become very destructive to the stone tile’s body. Cracking, breaking, efflorescence and even the emission of harmful VOCs possibly can result.

It’s highly recommended to use a grout release product to thoroughly clean the surface of the flooring. In some cases, but not all, this process can actually be considered as sealing the stone material. There are various educational programs and tutorials offering solutions from surface care professionals that clearly outline the best methods for post-installation stone floor treatments. Consider these as “insurance investments,” because if applied correctly, building owners don’t have to worry about down-the-road failures of their stone floor expenditures. Rather, they can be confident that their beautiful stone flooring will continue to perform and look great for years and years to come. 

But, there is a bit more to  consider. 

Ongoing protection and maintenance

After the stone flooring has been thoroughly installed, cleaned and sealed, a program should be discussed regarding ongoing protection and maintenance. One doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand the need or simplicity of these regimens. But one does need to be a reasonable businessperson to recognize the fact that stone flooring, like every sizable investment, requires a certain amount of care to continue performing at optimal levels. 

Selection of protection, maintenance and sometimes, restoration materials is absolutely key. And again, step one is simply to know the composition of the stone materials that have been specified. For example, most people don’t realize that quartzite, which is a durable product of nature, can contain a certain degree of marble elements. Which surface care products to be selected should be dependent on knowing the percentage of that within the body of the quartz tile. 

Not to be confused with quartzite, quartz engineered stone tiles and slabs are agglomerates consisting of durable quartz chips held together by a binder of either cement or resin (epoxy). The surface care products you select should be determined by which kind of binder is used in the original manufacturing process. Obviously, cementitious materials are more porous and thus are subject to more staining than materials made with an epoxy resin binder. But whatever quartzite is being used, sealers, cleaners and other protectant chemicals produced with any concentration of alkalines should be avoided, as they can attack even the strongest of resin binders, ultimately causing deterioration.

Surface maintenance programs ensure beauty and longevity

Not only is natural granite beautiful, it is one of the most durable natural stones offered by Mother Nature. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that just a regular program of wet-mopping will maintain its look. Even with grout joints so tiny that they look almost invisible, grouting between each individual tile needs to be regularly cleaned. And even granite material contains tiny pinholes and fissures into which contaminants may penetrate. To cut to the chase, the most hearty of granite material also needs a surface maintenance program to ensure its longevity in both aesthetics and performance.

It’s obviously vitally important for buyers and specifiers to know the characteristics of ALL the stone flooring they are buying. And it’s just as important for them to know the characteristics of the surface care products needed to clean, protect and maintain these natural surfaces. 

Many of today’s surfacing materials produced for both the commercial and residential construction marketplaces can contain harmful substances. In spite of the global outcry relative to climatic change, they continue to be specified. Even building materials that claim to be recyclable can end up in a landfill. It’s time for you and your customers to acknowledge the need to consider more environmentally friendly building materials such as natural stone. And in doing so, to consider the best possible ways in which take care of this time-honored material.

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FILA (Fabbrica Italiana Lucidi ed Affini) has achieved international recognition for excellence in providing highly technical, easy-to-use protection and care treatment systems for all surfaces. A family-owned yet strategically structured managerial company, FILA has become a large international group always maintaining strong core values. With an eye on the future, FILA offers optimal answers to the needs of every client, consistently staying ahead of the market. That’s just one reason FILA has been endorsed as “#1” by 250 of the world’s leading tile and stone producers. www.filasolutions.com/usa/

TTMAC newest publication: the Tile Installer Technical Handbook

New publication draws on wisdom in the NTCA Reference Manual 

By Dale Kempster, Director of the International Technical Network, North America | Schluter Systems

This year is the 75th anniversary of the Terrazzo, Tile, and Marble Association of Canada, more commonly known as the TTMAC. This association is made up of both union and non-union tile contractors and there are currently 291 contractor members, 139 supplier members and 17 professional members. The

TTMAC provides online education, testing (ASTM C627, DCOF), on-site inspections, regional conferences, and an annual national convention. This year, the convention is being held in beautiful downtown Toronto, ON. The TTMAC also produces several technical publications and for the first time this year it is proud to announce its newest addition, the new Tile Installer Technical Handbook. 

The Handbook, launched in July, was created to address specifically the challenges and predicaments that tile installers face on job sites almost daily. A large part of the content of this Handbook was reprinted under the permission of the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) located in Jackson, Miss., from the NTCA Reference Manual. All content was reviewed, modified, converted, and Canadianized, for the Great White North. This means that all the measurements are in metric, which was no small task, but for those of you who are still not that comfortable or familiar with metric, there’s a pretty comprehensive conversion chart in the back. Certain words had to be converted from American to Canadian such as vapor to vapour, color to colour, recognise to recognize, and uh huh to eh!!! 

All references to details in the TCNA Handbook have been converted to the appropriate details from the Canadian 09 30 00 Tile Installation Manual, as well as any relevant Canadian standards such as the Canadian National Building Code, CSA, CGSB, etc. This Handbook has a wealth of information drawn from years of experience from tile contractors from coast to coast who have shared their lifetime of knowledge and expertise. 

Following a similar NTCA Reference Manual format, The Problem, the Cause, the Cure and Prevention in the Future is how the Handbook has been organized. In addition, when appropriate, a template with an informative letter is included after each topic. These letters can be used to inform customers what the issue is and what the appropriate solution may or may not be or what standard or code may or may not be met. 

Key topics

Some of the key topics that are discussed are: 

  • General Statement on Moisture Emissions, 
  • Curing Compounds and Release Agents, 
  • Movement Joints, 
  • Engineered Wood, 
  • Division 3 vs Division 9 Floor Flatness Tolerances, 
  • Questionable Substrates, 
  • Poured Gypsum Underlayments, 
  • Waterproof Underlayments, 
  • Crack Isolation Underlayments, 
  • Uncoupling Underlayments, 
  • Critical Lighting Effects on Tile Installations, 
  • Gauged Porcelain and Porcelain Slabs, 
  • Exterior Application Guidelines, 
  • Radiant Heat Issues, Efflorescence, 
  • Steam Rooms, 
  • Natural Stone Problems and Maintenance, 
  • Glass Tile Installation Challenges, 
  • Grout Problem Solving Guide, 
  • Coefficient of Friction and DCOF, 
  • General Care and Maintenance, and an extensive Glossary. 

Canadian-specific challenges and construction methods

In Canada there are of course some different challenges and construction methods, and as such this is where there are some major differences between the NTCA Reference Manual and the TTMAC Tile Installation Handbook. One such difference is with the recognition of the installation of Gauged Porcelain Tiles and Tile Panel/Slabs on wood substrates as identified in ANSI A108.19. In Canada, the minimum thickness by code for the subfloor is 15 mm (5/8”) thickness on 400 mm o.c. (16”) (not 20 mm (3/4”) as in the U.S.) so the use of these panels on wood substrates is not recommended, and will have to be researched and tested extensively by the TTMAC before it can be affirmed for the use over wood substrates. Other areas where there are some measurable differences between the US and Canada are: movement joint requirements, the use of partial coverage in crack-isolation membranes, back-buttering requirements, just to name a few.

Unlike the TTMAC 09 03 00 Tile Installation Manual, which is designed and targeted for the architectural and specification community, the Tile Installer Technical Handbook was designed specifically for the end user, the grass roots of our industry: the “tile installer.” A large portion of the photos are from the TTMAC library and many are past recipients of the Hard Surface Awards.

This new publication has 11 chapters and 306 pages of content. Since this is a relatively thick publication to print and to be environmentally responsible the TTMAC is also having this Tile Installer Technical Handbook available electronically. Lastly, the Tile Installer Technical Handbook is dated 2018-2019 and the goal of the TTMAC is to have it revised and reprinted approximately every two years, similar to the TTMAC 09 30 00 Tile Installation Manual.

Canadian tile setters and other industry members can obtain a copy of the TTMAC Tile Installer Technical Handbook, by visiting https://ttmac.com/en/technical/specifications. The Handbook is available for both members and non-members at a nominal charge.

Green Risks and Rewards: Managing Legal Issues on Sustainable Projects

Defining the green project

There are four main steps to successfully managing legal issues that often arise in sustainable projects. The first step is establishing a clear understanding among all project participants of the owner’s green project goals and how they will be obtained. These may include energy and water consumption reduction, LEED® certification, tax credits, marketing purposes, or “greening” required by law. Understanding how specific goals will affect design professionals, general contractors, or specific trade contractors is critical to contractually defining a green project. But perhaps even more important is first asking: Are the goals attainable? The answer to that question is a key component to defining the project scope. 

Next, defining the scope requires identifying and taking inventory of the details in four areas:  design, materials, construction, and commissioning. The parties in each area should ensure that project participants (whether the design professional or the sub-trade) clearly understand their role and responsibility to meet green objectives. This includes implementing best practices such as contractually assigning risks based on who best can manage those risks. For example, one could allocate responsibility for third party certification submission to the owner’s agent, or, rather than guaranteeing a certification level, agreeing to use best efforts in designing or building towards a certification requirement. The third step is equally important: Getting buy-in from the owner – and all project participants – early and often as to the project’s sustainable objectives and how they will be achieved.

Managing green risk

Liability concerns arise with inexperienced teams, heightened standard of care, unachievable warranties, product failures, delays, insurance/bonding concerns, and handling of claims. The fourth step revolves around how well these risks are managed in green projects.

To avert the problems with inexperienced green construction teams, parties can assist owners in verifying credentials of all project participants – including subcontractors and consultants – and build a team with the requisite green design and construction experience. (This may not always be the lowest bidder.) But project participants may also want to avoid representing themselves as “green experts” as doing so could inadvertently increase standards of care and in turn impact insurability (as most insurers will not cover a heightened standard of care). In other words, the standard of care should be consistent with prevailing industry standards and those responsible for maintaining that standard must also be prepared to address continuously evolving green standards. Even with the right team in place it’s important to recognize that the contracting parties cannot make “green guarantees” in part because it’s impossible to control third parties. Consequently many sustainable project contracts are made to perform to green certification i.e., without warranting that certification will be met. 

Delays are an inherent risk in any type of project and can occur due to the unavailability of required products or because the work takes longer than anticipated. Risks also arise from green product failures or from implementing products not yet tested or insufficiently tested. Such delays can result in not meeting substantial completion or certification, or in the owner not obtaining the desired tax credits. Therefore, it’s imperative to proactively take responsibility for the risks of delays that each project participant can control. For example, participants may draft force majeure clauses that specifically identify “excusable delays” and include language underscoring that substantial completion will not equate to achievement of a certification level (as such certification will generally not be completed at the time the project is completed). 

When addressing insurance and bonding matters each project participant must evaluate and determine which policy will best cover “green” claims. Each of the types of policies available to the project team have their limitations or advantages:

Errors and Omission policies, procured by design professionals, generally will not provide coverage for warranties or guarantees, nor provide coverage for “green experts.” 

Builders’ Risk policies, procured by owners, generally will not include construction defects coverage. 

A Commercial General Liability policy, generally procured by contractors, presents coverage issues turning on questions such as: Is failing to meet a sustainable objective an “occurrence” that caused “property damage”? Does obtaining to meet green certification level equate to performing professional service? What about the mold and EFIS endorsement exclusions? 

When reviewing these types of policies, therefore, it’s important to bear in mind that obtaining a “green” endorsement will not cover guarantees to meet certain sustainable third party certification. 

Claims

When claims in green projects arise, they generally allege breach of contract, negligence, and misrepresentation (“Greenwashing”). These claims generally allege failure to meet or diligently pursue a green certification (such as failure to meet a LEED certification), failure of a product to provide the desired result (such as a bamboo roof that leaks), or failure to timely construct the green project (due to green products/materials delays).

Parties seeking to limit damages may try to contractually limit the timing of when claims can be filed and thus help to mitigate the unknown long-term performance risks. Parties may also seek to limit liability up to the level of insurance coverage or to the level of fees.  Furthermore parties may also agree to mutually waive consequential damages resulting from, e.g., termination of leases, breach of loan agreements, or the loss of tax credits, profits or reputation. 

Experienced teams support successful sustainable projects

Finally, what can parties do to reduce and manage the risks discussed above? Certainly educating the key players early and often is paramount as it helps to secure the owner’s buy in and maintains the project team engagement. Carefully choosing the best project delivery method, the proper allocation of risks, selecting the appropriate certification consultant and the commissioning and re-commissioning avenue are all necessary. Lastly, parties can also reduce their risks by ensuring timely notice and opportunities to cure and properly document issues that arise.  In the end retaining the right team experienced in executing a well-integrated approach to every aspect of the green project can often prove to be the most critical factor in a successful sustainable project.

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Daniel A. Dorfman is Chair of the Construction Law Practice at Fox, Swibel, Levin & Carroll LLP, a full-service boutique business law firm based in Chicago, Ill. Daniel has a national practice representing owners/developers, design professionals, general contractors, subcontractors, specialty trades, and construction suppliers on their most important construction projects – both on the front end in drafting and negotiating complex construction agreements, and on the back end litigating and trying to verdict (when necessary) commercial construction disputes of all kinds when they arise. Daniel, a LEED® Green Associate, also has a focus in sustainable (“green”) building and the renewable energy markets. Daniel can be reached by email at [email protected]. 

The latest with Green Squared® – Certified Product Searchability

Earlier this year at Coverings, the Tile Council of North America (TCNA) announced a partnership with Ecomedes, creator of an online database of product information relating to environmental attributes and certifications. The objective of this partnership is to establish ways for designers, purchasers, and users of tile and related installation materials to more easily obtain product information needed to help fulfill their environmental goals. 

The immediate deliverable of the TCNA-Ecomedes partnership is a Green Squared Certified® product search page which has been incorporated into the Green Squared website. Previously, searching for Green Squared Certified products involved contacting approved Green Squared certification agencies or inquiring with manufacturers. Now, an up-to-date listing of certified products is housed in one place and managed by Ecomedes, who interfaces regularly with participating manufacturers and their Green Squared certification agencies. Plus, each entry within the Green Squared Certified database contains valuable product information that is especially relevant to green building project leaders, architects and designers. These include downloadable certificates, EPDs (environmental product declarations, if available), and additional educational resources from WhyTile.com. Users of the library have the option to filter Green Squared Certified products by manufacturer, certification agency, or Green Squared Certified products that additionally have EPDs.

For sure, establishing a flagship library of Green Squared Certified products is important, but the benefits don’t end there. Green building specifiers and purchasers use a variety of broader construction product locator tools. If Green Squared Certified tiles or installation materials aren’t ‘on the menu’ of any given tool, they will not be considered, regardless of their eligibility, the quality of information provided, or how well-known the products are. With Ecomedes hosting the Green Squared Certified product library, the tile industry is well-positioned with a partner that can facilitate an increased number of eligible products being ‘on the menu’ for consideration in North American green building projects.

All information within the Green Squared Certified product database is syndicated with Ecomedes’s master database, Fulcrum (fulcrum.ecomedes.com), which is the green product library used by many of the largest architectural firms and purchasing organizations in the US. Furthermore, Ecomedes has partnered with some of the largest purchasing organizations in the country, including the GSA and California Energy Commission, to develop proprietary libraries that contain only products that satisfy a particular purchaser’s needs. As an example, Ecomedes is the exclusive host of the online product library used by Federal purchasing officials to find certified green products: https://sftool.ecomedes.com/. With Green Squared Certified products entered into Ecomedes’s database, there is inherent uptake into libraries created proprietarily by Ecomedes for purchasers. 

In today’s day and age of database positioning, information partners are extremely important. According to Ecomedes, they “connect buyers and sellers with better data to make a purchasing decision and get the right information needed for projects.” To that end, they are a leader in green building, and the tile industry is well-positioned having them as a partner in Green Squared.

Oh, and in case you haven’t noticed, the Green Squared website recently received a facelift. For more information about the program and direct linkage to the Green Squared Certified product library, visit GreenSquaredCertified.com.

Ask the Experts – August 2018 – The Green Issue

Many people reading the Ask the Experts on page 22 in our June issue (and the TileLetter
Weekly Tuesday Tech Tip on July 3rd) were puzzled by an answer that appeared to a question about T&G boards. The problem was the answer addressed issues with porcelain planks and expansion joints, and it left a lot of people scratching their heads. 

We admit it, we had a bit of an email mix up and so the answer to a different question that originally appeared in the same thread was posted. This is the T&G board question paired with the correct answer:

QUESTION

I’ve got a new question for you all. What about homes with subfloors consisting of T&G boards, not plywood? They run diagonally. In this one specific case, there is actually 3/4” solid wood installed over the top of it. My thought is that it would require double 3/4” plywood, and I can’t find a single method in the book that identifies such a subfloor.

ANSWER

We get this question quite often. The movement between the planks can be too much for a tile installation. Most manufacturers require 3/4” OSB or plywood to install concrete board and uncoupling membranes for ceramic and porcelain tile installations. Installations involving stone require additional layers of plywood . 

You really have two options here: you can remove the existing layer of plank subfloor and replace with plywood, or add additional layers of plywood to the existing plank. Check with your manufacturer, but most will warranty the installation by adding an additional layer of 1/2” plywood before installing their product. Fasten down any loose planks, and sand or chisel down any high planks before installing your plywood.  Use the correct amount and type of mortar between the plywood and concrete board or uncoupling membrane. With concrete board installation use the right type and number of fasteners, stagger sheets from each other running them perpendicular to the plywood you have just installed. Depending on the thickness of the tile and underlayment there could be height differences between adjoining floor surfaces. These are somewhat common in older homes and can be handled with wood, stone, or even metal transitions. I hope this helps. 

Robb Roderick, NTCA Technical Trainer/Presenter

And here’s an excerpt from the question that prompted the answer about plank porcelain tile and expansion joints (correct answer follows):

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QUESTION

Wow. Just wow. There’s no way to make an expansion joint [with a long plank] look right. Zero chance. And I guarantee you 99% of every run over 25’ has no expansion joint filled with flexible sealant. I would love to see some installs from certified contractors who utilize them, if for no other reason than to generate ideas for placement and to show a customer what it will be like…Fortunately, most homes do not have that expanse because they’re doing single rooms or less than the whole house. It’s really only whole homes that are probably affected, so it’s a smaller subset.

But manufacturers keep making [planks] longer and longer, and they know the requirements. Without regard to installation requirements, they pump these things out at a cyclic rate, and customers have no idea. The average tile mechanic doesn’t either. And 9 times out of 10, incorrect installations rarely get held accountable, so when customers don’t want to listen to the right way and go get it done the wrong way, the competitor makes money, you don’t gain sales, and the customer is never the wiser. 

ANSWER

Attached are pictures of different installed tile work incorporating movement accommodation joints. The first is a residential installation with porcelain plank tile where a change of pattern is in a doorway to allow for a nearly unnoticeable movement accommodation joint. The other two are from commercial jobs where large areas of tile happen quite frequently.

In the TCNA Handbook from page 430 to 437 is section EJ171. It states under location and frequency of joints:

  • Interior – maximum of 25’ each direction Exterior- 8’ to 12’ in each direction
  • Interior tile work exposed to direct sunlight (heat) or moisture – maximum of 12’ each direction
  • Above ground concrete slabs – maximum of 12’ each direction
  • Perimeter joints – movement joints are required where tilework abuts restraining surfaces such as perimeter walls.
  • Change of plane, exterior – movement joints are required in all inside and outside corners.
  • Change of plane interior – movement joint required at all inside corners

Others and I believe it is the least used, most often misunderstood, and most important listing in our Handbook. Lack of correctly-installed expansion joints is thought to be – by many – the leading cause of failures in tile industry.

With plank installations, special considerations to layout should be considered. Installing expansion joints on the long side is easier, and less noticeable.

For example, if you have an installation that is 20’ x 80’ you would need a minimum of at least three joints perpendicular to the long wall creating four separate sections. Running the long edge of the plank perpendicular to the long wall would help hide these expansion joints, and would appear similar to a grout joint. Borders and change of pattern can also help you succeed in installing less-noticeable expansion joints.

Whether they are noticeable or not, they are required by our standards. If you look closely, you can find expansion joints in almost every airport, shopping mall, car lot, etc. There are great installers implementing the standards found in EJ 171 all across the country.

The TCNA Handbook says “The design professional or engineer shall show the specific location and details of movement joints.” If they don’t, reach out to them for information. If it’s just you and a homeowner, show them what the industry says in our standard and create a plan for a successful installation. 

Robb Roderick, NTCA Technical Trainer/Presenter

Natural Stone Institute Announces New Testing Lab Offering

Oberlin, OH, August 7, 2018—Natural Stone Institute is pleased to announce that accelerated weathering testing is now available through the testing lab’s recently acquired environmental simulation chamber. This test method is used to determine the level of strength and fabric degradation caused to a natural dimension stone by exposure to repeated cycles of freezing and thawing in a near saturated condition. Accelerated Weathering tests are often required by project design and engineering teams in regions that experience high numbers of freeze/thaw cycles.

The test method is applicable to any natural dimension stone intended to be used in construction or landscape applications in areas where the material will be subjected to subfreezing temperatures. Test specimens are placed in a chamber that alternates between cooling and heating to produce freeze/thaw cycling. Sonic modulus of elasticity tests are performed at prescribed intervals to establish a correlation between the number of cycles experienced and the rate of progression of degradation of the specimen. Destructive flexural strength testing is performed on control samples prior to the test and on samples after the test to determine strength loss.

The Accelerated Weathering test is one of nine tests available through the Natural Stone Institute. All testing is completed in the Natural Stone Institute’s state of the art testing lab in Oberlin, Ohio. Accelerated Weathering testing can be completed in 1-3 months and is available in cycles of 100, 150, 200, and 300.

The Natural Stone Institute testing lab is dedicated to providing outstanding personalized service, which includes assisting customers in identifying only the data they need. To learn more about the Accelerated Weathering test and other testing lab capabilities, visit www.naturalstoneinstitute.org/lab.

 

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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.

 

University of Missouri student dining facility uses tile to define unique dining venues

More than 42,000 sq. ft. of tile – including large-format – were used at The Restaurants at Southwest

The Restaurants at Southwest, University of Missouri’s (Mizzou or MU) newest dining facility, features a collection of distinct dining venues, each with its own character, arranged to create a variety of dining experiences. From the soaring, two-story space of the Legacy Grille to the old-world charm of the pasta venue Olive & Oil, the new 600-seat dining center serves as the social hub of the Southwest Neighborhood and can accommodate 2,500-3,000 students living in the nearby residence halls and fraternity and sorority houses.

The finish materials selected by the designers on the project – KWK Architects and associate architect Lawrence Group – reinforce the concept menu and character for each venue, and tile was the first choice for the flooring and walls surfaces. 

“Tile provided a wide range of design possibilities, durability and ease of maintenance unmatched by other materials. Tile also contributed to the sustainable goals of the project, which is anticipated to achieve a LEED Silver certification,” said Sara Koester, AIA, Principal at KWK Architects. 

More than 42,000 sq. ft. of tile costing an estimated $200,000 were installed at The Restaurants at Southwest, said Project Manager Derek Kutz of tile contractor Richardet Floor Covering, Perryville, Mo. A team of up to 12 installers had just 10 weeks to complete the intricate tile project, which included 20,000 sq. ft. of floor tile; 22,000 sq. ft. of wall tile; 20 different styles of Schluter metal edging; 48 different tile styles; 620 50-lb. bags of mortar; 268 units of epoxy grout and 100 units of grout. The main tile manufacturers used on the project included: Crossville, American Olean, Marazzi USA and Daltile. Floor tile formats included 6” x 6”, 12” x 12”, 12” x 24”, 6” x 24”, 24” x 24” and 6” x 36”.

“This was by far one of the most tedious tile jobs, with the most tile patterns and selections, that we have ever worked on,” said Kutz. “We were able to stay on top of the tile design details by having one worker behind the blueprint and one on the wall at all times.”

Legacy Grille

The main venue of the dining facility is the Legacy Grille, which is designed to celebrate the rich heritage of MU sports and is filled with historic photographs in large wall murals, accented with the patterns and colors of the school’s mascot, the tiger. Unglazed ceramic mosaic tile in a multicolored, custom tiger-striped pattern is used on the venue fronts and soffit. 

Small-size tile (1” x 1”) worked well for creating the curved shapes of the tiger stripes, one of the more challenging tile jobs on the project. Tile installers spent 10-12 hours cutting the 1’ x 2’ tile sheets into the desired pattern. The complex pattern was laid out on the floor and approved by the architect prior to being pieced together on the wall during installation. 

 

Tiger Avenue Deli

The Tiger Avenue Deli has an urban feel and features hot deli sandwiches fresh off the grill. Bright orange tiles pop across the back wall to animate the venue and add to the “sizzle” feel. 

1+5+3

The soup-and-salad venue, 1+5+3, features dark brown subway tile on the back wall as a contrast to the bamboo wood venue front, and a shocking lime green glass tile accent band across the front signals that this is the “fresh and healthy venue.”

1839 Kitchen

The home-cooking station, 1839 Kitchen, has a traditional look with raised wood cabinets, copper accents and “marble” counters. A two-colored, two-sized tile pattern was used to animate the back wall and add to the residential character. 

 

Olive & Oil

Olive & Oil, a Mediterranean and pasta concept, features hand-painted, decorative tiles and painted plaster walls for an “old-world” feel. 

Truffles

The dessert venue, Truffles, has a rich palette of glass tiles in golds and purples and chocolate- and caramel-colored walls and ceilings. 

Tile was used for the flooring
material throughout the dining areas in multi-colored, multi-sized patterns, with each seating area having its own, well-defined pattern and circulation area. Tile offered the durability needed for this type of facility, as well as the ease of maintenance. 

Porcelain tile with the appeal of concrete and cut stone was used in all seating areas except Olive & Oil, where wood-look tile was used to add warmth to the space. Quarry tile was used for the rest of the venues’ flooring and food production kitchens.

Tile contributed to several of the sustainability goals on the project as well, as many of the tiles were made from recycled materials and green-squared certified.

Kutz said one of the greatest challenges on the project was meeting the tight deadline and coordinating the tile installation around the subcontractors working in the same spaces. Open communications and scheduling among all subcontractors were the key to keeping the project on track, said Kutz. The tile installers worked a minimum of 12 hours a day, and a couple of Saturdays, to complete the project on schedule. 

Ideal underlayment and tile setting strategies


Every month, NTCA offers free online webinars on a range of topics. Industry experts share their wisdom during these one-hour events that can be watched on a computer, phone, tablet or in a conference room with staff and crew. If you miss a webinar, NTCA archives them for watching at your convenience. Visit www.tile-assn.com and click the Education & Certification tab for news on upcoming talks and archived presentations. 

This month, we revisit the March 20, 2018 webinar entitled “Ideal Underlayments and Tile Setting Strategies,” presented by Tom Plaskota, technical support manager for TEC/H.B. Fuller Construction Products – and provide an overview. For the complete webinar, follow the directions above. 

Plaskota addressed several main topics in his talk. For this article, we will focus on the first two topics: 

  • What are self-leveling underlayments and how do they work?
  • Benefits of self leveling underlayments.

What are self-leveling underlayments and how do they work?

ASTM F2873 provides a definition of self-leveling underlayments (SLUs) that hinges on four key concepts:

  • They are poured and flowable mortars
  • They are composed primarily of hydraulic cements such as Portland cement materials and calcium aluminate. These compounds continue to harden under water.
  • They may require a primer to enhance bond strength and reduce development of pin holes.
  • They are designed and intended to provide a flat, smooth surface for the finished floor covering – ceramic tile or natural stone. 

Self-leveling underlayments achieve their high-flow properties through the use of flow agents that produce a pancake-batter-like consistency. They are also formulated to be non-shrinking and non-cracking. Unlike a thin-set mortar, SLUs are commonly set in thicknesses of up to 1/2” to 2”and are formulated to not shrink or crack at that thickness. Components like calcium aluminate allow the SLU to cure quickly, so that in many cases, the underlayment will support foot traffic and allow for tile setting in a matter of hours. 

Benefits of self-leveling underlayments

Plaskota approached the subject of SLU benefits by addressing common questions and objections about self-levelers – and the reality of the benefits they bring.

Self levelers aren’t necessary for tile installations

Reality: You need self-levelers for successful tile installations to ensure that the substrate is flat. They help expedite tile installations and save installers from having to make subfloor adjustments, while improving subfloor quality that reduces lippage and cracked or damaged tile. In addition, SLUs help you more easily and quickly achieve the tighter flatness requirements for today’s popular large-format tile, with in-demand tight grout joints: 1/4” in 10’ and 1/16” in 12” for tiles with all edges shorter than 15” and 1/8” in 10’ and 1/16” in 24’ for tiles with at least one edge measuring 15”. Gauged porcelain tile panels that measure as large as 3’ x 10’ or even 5’ x 10’ are not forgiving when it comes to subfloor flatness and so require the use of SLUs. 

I only need SLU for resilient/sheet vinyl – imperfections in substrate aren’t as ‘visible’ with tile.

Reality: The use of bonding mortar to level, flatten or fill substrates does not conform to tile industry standards. Some tile setters mistakenly believe they can “fill” substrates with thin-set or “medium-bed” (now known as large-and-heavy-tile-mortar) mortar. But these products were not made for leveling substrate. Instead, they are designed to accommodate the features of the tile, such as preventing a large, heavy tile from slumping into the mortar. They also address allowable warpage, which is greater in a larger tile, so there’s a need for a bit thicker mortar under the tile to accommodate the irregularity in the tile. Even setting small tiles on an uneven substrate can result in hazardous and unsightly lippage and callbacks. 

Self-leveling runs up extra charges. 

Reality: NOT installing a self leveling underlayment may result in costly call backs. You are going to have to smooth or level your floors. SLU is a great, efficient way of doing that to reduce callbacks. 

Self-levelers are time-consuming to apply; slows down the whole project schedule 

Reality: Efficiencies in installation methods and fast-setting underlayments allow for same-day tile installations. These are not your grandfather’s SLUs – they’ve come a long way and feature enhancements, and advanced technology primers that may eliminate the need for shot blasting over clean concrete, regardless of porosity. They may even go over some types of coatings such as curing compounds, high-performance topical coating like epoxies or cutback residue. In this case, the primer/SLU combo is a great time and money saver. Be sure to consult the SLU manufacturer and confirm the application. In addition, tools and equipment such as rakes, buckets or bucket carts that can be managed by one person can help expedite SLU application. 

Again for details of this talk, click the webinar link under the Education & Certification tab on tile-assn.com. This link also announces upcoming webinars and houses the archives of talks from the last few years.

Is your life out of balance?

Sometimes you just feel whacked out, or more likely, whack! It could be the lack of proper balance in your life. Just as a pilot must ensure the airplane is balanced properly before flying, we must do the same thing with our lives. If your life is out of balance you’re most likely headed for trouble. Here are several suggestions for your consideration.

  • When was the last time you exercised? Jumping to conclusions doesn’t count. Good physical health is the center of our existence; nothing else happens unless you’re physically healthy. 
  • Medicating yourself? I’m not talking about prescription medicines a doctor has prescribed, I’m talking about all that other stuff you’re shoving into your pie hole. Stuffing yourself with unhealthy foods, drinks, smokes, drugs – or just going shopping spending money you don’t have, on junk you don’t need – are all a signal of lack of balance in your life. Plan to improve your habits starting today. 
  • Do you have squirrel brain? Can’t seem to focus on what’s happening in front of you because you’re checking your cell phone again (for the 50th time this morning), or checking emails constantly? Do you obsessively tap your finger or foot? Is your leg bouncing up and down right now? Do your friends or spouse accuse you of not paying attention when they talk? These are all signs of excessive and unhealthy stress in your life. 
  • Dude, are you alive? Do you leave folks hanging without replying to messages or phone calls? Is your inbox or voice mail so full they aren’t accepting new messages? Are you returning your phone calls within a reasonable time? It’s just plain rude and disrespectful to not respond to messages and/or do what you promise, so that’s another wacky action. Continue this and you’ll quickly discover just how un-needed you really are. 
  • When was your last vacation or time off? Burn-out is one of the worst indications of a life out of balance, and worst of all, it is TOTALLY preventable. Just take a weekend off, that will help. You may find this hard to believe, but the world functions without you. Take some time off and relax. See new things and discover new adventures out there. 
  • Do you have a “short fuse?” A sure sign of lack of balance is when you respond instantly to any unwanted remark or happening. When there are only milliseconds between actions and reactions, you are way too stressed. People will start to avoid you like a landmine. 
  • Have you been called “SNARKY?” Hint: This isn’t a good thing! Are you always resentful or sarcastic? Both are signs of being way overstressed to the point of heart attack time. 

Do you recognize any of these signs in your life? Admit it! If you believe you’re not this way then ask your spouse, children, or close friends. They’ll certainly recognize these actions. Then take positive steps to change your actions, TODAY! Your life and your sanity – and likely the sanity of those around you – are at stake.

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