Stone – May 2018 – Installation – General Information

Installation-General Information:

an excerpt from the Dimension Stone Design Manual

The Natural Stone Institute maintains a Natural Stone Resource library for Architects, Designers and Contractors at this site:  https://bit.ly/2Fxo4mB. There are 274 documents that represent a wealth of information and wisdom to those who work with stone – 101 documents alone that deal with some aspect of stone installation. 

This document, Installation-General Information, is derived from an excerpt from the Dimension Stone Design Manual, Version VIII (May 2016). The included section below references materials and methods for setting a range of natural stone. 


3.0 RELATED MATERIALS

3.1 Setting Bed Mortars

3.1.1 Portland Cement Mortar (Thick Bed)

3.1.1.1 Portland cement mortar is a mixture of portland cement and sand, roughly in proportions of 1:3 for floors, and of portland cement, sand, and lime in proportions of 1:5:½ to 1:7:1 for walls.

3.1.1.2 Installation Methods. Portland cement mortar is suitable for most surfaces and ordinary types of installation. The thick bed, 3/8” to 1-1/2” on walls and nominally 1-1/4” on floors, facilitates accurate slopes or planes in the finished work. There are two equivalent methods recognized for installing stone tile with a portland cement mortar bed on walls, ceilings, and floors:

3.1.1.2.1 The method (ANSI A108.1A) that requires that the stone be set on a mortar bed that is still plastic.

3.1.1.2.2 The method (ANSI A108.1B) that requires the stone to be thin set on a cured mortar bed with dry set or latex portland cement mortar or a two-part, 100% solids epoxy.

3.1.1.3 Suitable Backings Portland cement mortars can be reinforced with metal lath or mesh, backed with membranes, and applied on metal lath over open studding on walls or on rough floors. They are structurally strong, not affected by prolonged contact with water, and can be used to plumb and square surfaces installed by others. Suitable backings, when properly prepared, are brick or concrete masonry unit, concrete, wood or steel stud frame, rough wood floors, plywood floors, foam insulation board, gypsum board, and gypsum plaster. The one coat method may be used over masonry, plaster, or other solid backing that provides firm anchorage for metal lath.

3.1.1.4 Installation and Material Specifications. Complete installation and material specifications are contained in ANSI A108.1 for installation when bed is still plastic, and for cured float bed and thin set applications.

3.1.2 Thin-Set Mortar [Thin Bed (ANSI A118.1)]

3.1.2.1 Thin-set mortar is a mixture of portland cement with sand and additives providing water retention, and is used as a bond coat for setting stone.

3.1.2.2 Installation Methods. Thin-set mortar is suitable for use over a variety of surfaces. The stone should be properly tamped in place into the mortar, which will be one layer as thin as 3/32” after tamping. Thin set mortar has excellent water and impact resistance, can be cleaned with water, is nonflammable and good for exterior work.

3.1.2.3 Thin-set mortar is available as a factory-sanded mortar to which only water need be added. Cured thin set mortar is not affected by prolonged contact with water, but does not form a water barrier. It is not intended to be used in trueing or leveling the substrate surfaces as tile is being installed.

3.1.2.4 Suitable backings. When properly prepared and in sound structural condition, suitable backings include plumb and true masonry, concrete, gypsum board, cementitious backer units, terrazzo, cured portland cement mortar beds, brick, ceramic tile, and dimension stone. Existing control joints including divider strips shall be maintained. Polished, glossy, honed, or smooth backup surfaces shall be roughened by sanding or scarifying. See ANSI A108.01 General Requirements: Subsurfaces and Preparations by Other Trades. 

3.1.2.5 Installation and Material Specifications. Complete installation and material specifications are contained in ANSI A108.5 and A118.1.

3.1.3 Latex-Portland Cement Mortar [Thin Bed(ANSI A118.4)]

3.1.3.1 Latex-Portland cement mortar is a mixture of portland cement, sand, and special latex additives which is used as a bond coat for setting stone tile.

3.1.3.2 Installation Methods. The uses of latex-portland cement mortar are similar to those of thin-set mortar. It is less rigid than portland cement mortar.

3.1.3.3 When latex-portland cement mortar is used to install stone in a wet area that may not thoroughly dry out in use (e.g., swimming pools and gang showers, etc.), it is recommended that the complete installation be allowed to dry out thoroughly (cure) before exposure to water. Consult the thin-set manufacturer for curing instructions. Latexes vary considerably, and the directions of the latex Manufacturer must be followed explicitly.

3.1.3.4 Suitable backings (See 3.1.2.4 above). 

3.1.3.5 Installation and Material Specifications. Complete installation specifications and material specifications are contained in ANSI A108.5 and ANSI A118.4.

3.1.4 Epoxy Mortar (ANSI A118.3)

3.1.4.1 This is a thin bed mortar system employing epoxy resin and epoxy hardener portions. A two-part, 100% solid epoxy is to be used as the setting bed for green colored marbles, serpentine stones susceptible to warping and for any fiberglass mesh-backed tiles.

3.1.4.2 Suitable Backings . Acceptable substrates, when properly prepared and structurally sound, include concrete, APA rated Exposure 1 underlayment grade plywood* , steel plate, and ceramic tile. 

Application is made in one thin layer. Pot life, adhesion, water cleanability before cure, and chemical resistance vary with manufacturer. 

3.1.4.3 Installation and Material Specifications. Complete installation and material specifications are contained in ANSI A108.6 and ANSI A118.3.

3.1.5 Limestone Setting Mortar. Cement used with limestone shall be white portland cement, ASTM C150, or white masonry cement, ASTM C91. Nonstaining cement shall contain not more than 0.03% of water-soluble alkali when determined in accordance with procedure 15, calculation 16 of ASTM C91 or Federal Specification SS-C181C. However, if a large amount of normal cement has been used in the backup material, and if an effective water barrier has not been provided between the stone and the backup, the use of nonstaining cement may not prevent all discoloration. 

Discoloration will disappear as the stone dries. The Indiana Limestone Institute recommends a 1:1:6 (portland:lime:sand) or Type N mortar be used with Indiana Limestone. At the present time, there are few masonry cement mortars produced labeled “nonstaining.”

3.1.6 Setting Bed. White portland cement with low alkali content is required for all light colored stone varieties.

3.2 Grouts Between Stones

3.2.1 Commercial Portland Cement Grout (“Unsanded Grout”)

3.2.1.1 Commercial portland cement grout is a mixture of portland cement and other ingredients, producing a water-resistant, dense, uniformly colored material. There are two types: white and gray. Damp curing is advantageous for both wall and floor types.

3.2.2 Sand-Portland Cement Grout (“Sanded Grout”)

3.2.2.1 Sand-portland cement grout is an on the job mixture of one of the following proportions: one part portland cement to one part clean, fine-graded sand (ASTM C144) used for joints up to 1/8” wide; 1:2 for joints up to 1/2” wide; and 1:3 for joints over 1/2” wide. Up to 1/5 part lime may be added. Damp curing is necessary. Sand-portland cement grout should be applied with caution over softer varieties of stone with honed or polished finishes because it may scratch the stone surface.

3.2.3 Polymer Modified Portland Cement Grout (ANSI A118.7)

3.2.3.1 Polymer modified portland cement grout is a mixture of any of the preceding grouts with polymer admixtures. The common polymer types are latex and acrylic. This grout is suitable for all installations subject to ordinary use and for most commercial installations. The use of polymer additives in portland cement grout increases the flexibility of the grout and reduces the permeability. Consult the grout and polymer manufacturers for specific instructions. It is less absorptive than regular cement grout.

3.2.4 Colored Grouts

3.2.4.1 Many manufacturers offer grouting materials in colors. Architects and Designers find them pleasing for aesthetic reasons. Since some stones are more porous than others, test to determine the stability of the relationship between the colored joint filler and the stone before proceeding. Make certain pigments contained in the colored grout do not stain the stone.

3.3 Sand. Sand should comply with ASTM C144.

3.4 Water. Mixing water must be potable quality.

3.5 Stone Sealants, Backing Rods, and Caulking

3.5.1 Building sealants are normally covered as a separate section in project specifications, and in most trade areas the installation of sealants is not in the trade jurisdiction of Marble Mechanics and Stonemasons. Grouting is almost always in the stone specification.

3.5.2 Silicone Sealants. Some grades of silicone sealants are not recommended by their manufacturers for application on high calcite content materials. Consult the Sealant Manufacturer’s technical recommendation before applying a given sealant to calcite materials.

3.5.3 Severe service areas (patios, decks, traffic surfaces) should be caulked with materials having sufficient abrasion resistance. Consult Sealant Manufacturer’s technical recommendations for sealants in these areas.

3.5.4 Oil based organic sealants should not be used in conjunction with natural stone products because they may stain the stone.

3.5.5 Sealing the Face of the Stone. Nothing in this section is intended to imply that actual sealing of the faces of the stones is a recommended practice. If any sealer coating is specified for any natural stone material, advice should be sought in detail from qualified Stone Suppliers or Installers (See Ch. 3, pg. 3-5, section 5.10). 

3.5.6 Joint Filler. An important feature in the determination of the joint sealant is the selection of the joint filler. The joint filler, or backing rod, performs three functions:

3.5.6.1 Controls both the depth and shape of the sealant.

3.5.6.2 Provides support for the caulking sealant when it is being compressed during tooling.

3.5.6.3 Acts as a bond breaker for the sealant to prevent three sided adhesion. (Three-sided adhesion can result in failure of the sealant.)

3.5.7 Waterproof sealant is applied in joints that have backing rods inserted. The backing rods can be porous (open cell), or nonporous (closed cell), and are typically made of polyethylene or polystyrene rope.

3.5.8 Consult the Sealant, Waterproofing, and Restoration Institute guidelines for further information on proper joint sealant design, selection, and installation.

3.6 Expansion Joints

3.6.1 Design and Location. Expansion and/or movement joints are essential for the success of stone installations. Various methods require proper design and location of expansion joints as shown in “Method EJ171,” from the Tile Council of North America Installation Handbook. [Ed. note: TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation] Because of the limitless conditions and structural systems in which stone can be installed, the Specifying Authority shall show locations and details of expansion joints on project drawings.

3.6.2 Final Design. It is not the intent of this manual to make control and expansion joint recommendations for a specific project. The Architect must specify control and expansion joints and show location and details on drawings.

3.6.3 Sealants. Where so specified, joints shall be pointed with the sealant(s) referred to in this section, after first installing the specified backup material and applying a primer if required, all in strict accordance with the printed instructions of the Sealant Manufacturer.

3.6.4 All sealants shall be tooled to ensure maximum adhesion to the contact surfaces.

3.6.5 Expansion joint sealants include silicone, urethane, and polysulfide. Generally, urethane sealants are recommended for horizontal stone surfaces because of their resistance to abrasion and penetration.

3.6.6 Silicone sealants may be used in expansion joints on both exterior and interior vertical stone surfaces. Some one part, mildew-resistant silicone sealants are formulated with fungicide for sealing interior joints in showers and around tubs, sinks, and plumbing fixtures.

3.6.7 Sealants should comply with ASTM C920.

3.7 Substrate Limitations

3.7.1 Moisture Penetration. The performance of a properly installed stone installation is dependent upon the durability and dimensional stability of the substrate to which it is bonded. The user is cautioned that certain substrate materials used in wet areas may be subject to deterioration from moisture penetration.

3.7.1.1 Wet Areas. “Wet areas” are stone surfaces that are either soaked, saturated, or subjected to moisture or liquids (usually water), e.g., gang showers, tub enclosures, showers, laundries, saunas, steam rooms, swimming pools, hot tubs, and exterior areas.

3.7.2 Self Leveling Underlayments. Gypsum-based and self-leveling underlayments are not recommended for use with stone paving, except in conjunction with an approved water-proofing/crack isolation membrane(See ANSI A118.10-118.12). If using this method, extreme caution in following the Manufacturer’s recommended procedure is required.

3.7.2.1 Installation of stone paving directly over gypsum based underlayment is not recommended.

3.8 Deflection of Surfaces

3.8.1 General Contractor Responsibility. It is the responsibility of the General Contractor to provide a rigid, code-compliant structure that is adequate to accommodate the stone and its anchorage including all associated loads and forces.

3.8.2 Cast-in-Place Concrete Floors. Design substrate for total load deflection not exceeding L/360, as measured between control or expansion joints.

3.8.3 Frame Construction. The subfloor areas over which stone tile is to be applied must be designed to have a deflection not exceeding L/720 of the span. In calculating load, the weight of the stone and setting bed must be considered.

3.8.3.1 Strongbacks, cross-bridging or other reinforcement shall be used to limit differential deflection between adjacent framing members.

3.8.4 Maximum variation of a concrete slab or subfloor shall not exceed 1/8” in 10’ from the required plane when thin set systems are applied.

3.8.5 Allowance should be made for live load and impact, as well as all dead load, including weight of stone and setting bed.

3.8.5.1 Mortar Bed Weight. For estimating purposes, mortar bed weight can be approximated as 0.75 lb. per square foot per each 1/16” of thickness.

3.8.5.2 Stone Weight. For estimating purposes, stone weight can be approximated as 1 lb. per square foot per each 1/16” of thickness.

4.0 SAMPLES

4.1 The Dimension Stone Contractor shall furnish samples of the various dimension stones to be used. Samples shall indicate the extremes of color, veining, and marking the stone supplied to the project will have. Samples must be approved or rejected in their entirety, without stipulation.

4.2 Pending the scope of the installation and the variability of the stone product, a full-sized mockup may be required to adequately demonstrate the range of the material’s color and character.

4.3 Inspection of supplied material to evaluate compliance with approved samples shall be done at a viewing distance of not less than 6’-0” with natural lighting.

5.0 CARVING

5.1 All carving called for shall be performed by skilled workmen in strict accordance with approved full-size details or models. Architectural drawings will show approximate depth and relief of carving. Carving shall be left as it comes from the tool, unless otherwise specified.

6.0 FIELD REPAIR 

6.1 During the progress of construction, changes are often necessary to accommodate other trade and design revisions. These changes may require job site cutting and some finishing of stone, and this can be executed satisfactorily by qualified mechanics. 

6.2 Repair or patching is sometimes necessary due to damage of material either on-site or in transit. By allowing these repairs to be made on-site, progress of the job can be maintained, thus aiding the successful completion of the work. Repairs should not detract from the desired appearance or strength of the completed installation. 

7.0 STONE TILE INSTALLATION REFERENCES. The Natural Stone Institute has participated in the Tile Council of North America’s (TCNA) development of the Handbook for Ceramic, Glass, and Stone Installation. This document is reprinted every year, although the handbook committee meets only biennially, so substantial revisions are likely to appear only biennially. This handbook includes a section dedicated to the installation of stone tile products. The details are not duplicated in the Natural Stone Institute publications. Contact the TCNA (www.tcnatile.com) or the Natural Stone Institute’s Book Store to obtain a copy of the handbook. 

This document also contains information about:

8.0 TRIPS AND TRAPS OCCURRING IN THE INSTALLATION OF NATURAL STONE, including stone tiles with fiberglass mesh backing, green colored stone, travertine voids, sealant staining, efflorescence, down washed lighting, reflection, and polishing wheel marks. To view the complete document, visit https://bit.ly/2HMniEa online. 

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Printed with permission from the Natural Stone Institute. 

*APA – The Engineered Wood Association, Voluntary Production Standard PS 1-07 Structural Plywood.

Tech Talk – May 2018 – TEC® Products help set a perfect stage for the new Global Learning Center at Walsh University

TEC® Products help set a  perfect stage for the new Global Learning Center at Walsh University

The new Global Learning Center at Walsh University in North Canton, Oh., will truly be a communications hub for students and faculty. The two-story atrium building has an open, modern design to encourage and support maximum interaction. The sunlight-filled facility will house student labs for fast-growing technology-based fields of study such as computer engineering or video production, The Forum – an aptly named space for two of Walsh’s important research institutes – contains an atrium café, meeting areas and more.

The building’s open design incorporates the use of many windows, curved glass railings and round support columns. Stylish large-format tile flooring adds to the modern feel with 30” x 30” and 15” x 30” thin gray tiles covering about 11,000 sq. ft. on both the first and second levels. For an additional 1,000 sq. ft. of tile in the restrooms, sleek 12” x 24” thin panels were selected. 

Distributor Virginia Tile of Cleveland helped ensure that TEC® flooring installation products were specified to meet the unique challenges of the job. With a tight construction timetable and lots of curved columns and curved flooring lines along atrium railings, installation of the Global Learning Center’s large tile panels required special skills. Luckily, Youngstown Tile and Terrazzo (YTT), a NTCA Five Star Contractor, had the skills needed to accomplish this challenging tile installation.

Substrate challenges

When YTT arrived at the Global Learning Center site, they quickly discovered that leveling the substrate would be tough. The new concrete had varying elevations. On the first floor, there were frequent dips and swirls up to 1/2”. On the second level, the concrete changed depth by up to 1-1/2” across a 6’ section. In addition, the many columns and curves added leveling complexity. 

After priming with TEC® Multipurpose Primer, YTT pumped new TEC® Level Set® 300 Self-Leveling Underlayment to correct the variations. Josh Cohol, President of YTT, explained, “The new TEC Level Set 300 created as close to a perfectly flat surface as I’ve seen. We pumped the product and noticed its excellent flow ability to reach around the many columns and follow the curved flooring edges. Even applied at a depth of 2”, it was walkable in just a couple of hours.” Cohol appreciated frequent on-site support from H.B. Fuller Construction Products’ Charlie Renner, Technical Sales Manager, and Ron Sheldon, Technical Services Manager.

To mitigate concerns about cracks migrating up through the large, thin tiles, TEC® HydraFlex™ Waterproofing Crack Isolation Membrane was specified. YTT rolled on the membrane before troweling on the mortar. For the larger expanses, TEC® 3N1 Performance Mortar was used. TEC 3N1 is a lightweight premium mortar with Easy Trowel Technology™ for superior handling and extended open time – appreciated for large spaces and large tiles. 

The Global Learning Center’s round columns required challenging radius tile cuts and a 17° angled layout to follow the column line on the second floor. YTT’s experienced installers successfully navigated through all the challenges with impressive results. For the bathrooms, TEC® Ultimate Large Tile Mortar was used to handle the large tiles on both the floors and walls, where its non-slip and non-slump properties made tiling much easier. 

To finish the dramatic tile installation, YTT grouted with TEC® In-Color™ Advanced Performance Tile Grout. YTT was impressed with how easy it was to grout with the ready-to-use product. TEC In-Color Grout is crack-resistant, stain-proof, and chemical-resistant with no sealing required. In other words, the product was just right for the very large tiles set in the high-traffic spaces of Walsh University’s new Global Learning Center. 

Upon completion of the project, YTT’s Josh Cohol did a walk-around with Charlie Renner, who summed up the quality of the work when he said, “This installation had a lot of challenges, but the tile looks flawless.” 

For more information about the products used at Walsh University, visit www.tecspecialty.com.

©2018 H.B. Fuller Construction Products Inc. 

The 12” x 24” tile on the bathroom floor and walls was installed with TEC® Ultimate Large Tile Mortar.

Technical Feature – May 2018 – Make sure things “pan out”

Make sure things “pan out”

By Dean Moilanen, Director of Architectural Services, The Noble Company


“We are very aware of the various prefabricated foam trays and pans available for shower pan waterproofing, and they are not created equal. Strength and durability of the tile substrate is paramount in our selection process.”

– Michael Lee, Senior Associate, CDC Consultants


Back in the 1940s, when Ray McIntire of Dow Chemical was laboring to create flexible electrical insulation, he could not have foreseen that his efforts would someday evolve into routine tile-setting practices such as prefabricated foam shower pans and other shower waterproofing elements. McIntire’s experiment involved gases directed into heated polystyrene – and a “happy accident” resulted: a product that was 95% air! This product became best known for use in disposable cups, coolers, and packing materials: “Styrofoam” was the end result.

From these humble beginnings, Styrofoam™ (aka EPS or expanded polystyrene foam) is now used extensively in construction, from road building to home building. In the late ‘90s a U.S.-based company and another in Europe started to explore ways in which EPS foam might be used as part of the shower pan waterproofing system.

The practice of using EPS foam as a substrate for tile and stone which functions as a suitable foundation for a shower pan, has grown to become a legitimate alternative (not replacement), to conventional dry-pack mortar substrates. Product offerings have increased as more vendors offer EPS foam shower pans and trays as part of their waterproofing solutions. Their growing use in a variety of residential and commercial applications is driving the demand for a method in which established norms of performance can be determined, (good, better, best), amongst the various offerings.

One of the earliest offerings focused on creating the required “pre-pitch” beneath loose-laid shower pan. EPS foam was prefabricated to create the sloping 1/4” per foot template, and when glued to a laminated/corrugated “shell,” it replaced the traditional dry-pack, pre-pitched mortar bed. The EPS foam pre-pitches were typically offered in a variety of popular shower pan dimensions. A shower pan was loose-laid over the foam template pre-pitch, and a mortar bed was then installed over the shower pan.

Prefab molded EPS trays: scrutinizing performance

By 2002, the next step in the foam shower pan evolution came from Europe, in the form of a molded EPS sloped shower tray onto which a sheet membrane would be directly bonded. Thinset was used to bond both the tray to substrate, and sheet membrane to the foam tray.

As acceptance and popularity of this European offering grew, a number of similar, competitive products were introduced, in some cases offering a significant difference: a waterproof “skin” or membrane, already bonded or adhered to the foam tray by the manufacturer, which eliminated the need for the installer to apply a waterproof membrane. The shower walls still need to be waterproofed according to industry standards.

XPS (extruded polystyrene) has also been introduced as a material solution, with a cementitious/fiber mesh exterior coating on the foam surface. This coating adds a higher compressive strength value to the waterproofing attributes of the foam core. 

Initially, the majority of these products found acceptance and success in the residential, remodeling, and custom home market. These lightweight, prefabricated foam trays/pans reduced installation time, and promised more consistent end results, with regard to slope to drain.

As the ranks of competitors offering these products increased, and scrutiny with regard to product durability and performance intensified, the need for a more codified system of evaluating the products grew. 

Part of this increased scrutiny was also due to heightened marketing and sales efforts for these products on commercial projects such as hotel showers where architectural and design professionals raised concerns about durability, point loading, compression, etc. Currently, there are no ANSI standards, or TCNA installation methods that address the needs of a contractor or architect seeking to ascertain performance variables amongst various foam tray offerings. The primary concerns are focused on these products’ ability to withstand point loading and compression forces that may occur during installation, as well as when the completed wet areas are put into service.

Michael Zafarano, Project Architect, Station Casinos, observed, “Many of the foam pans and trays we review appear to be suited for residential projects, and we question the resilience and compressive strength of some of these products. Our projects demand these types of products will hold up in a demanding hospitality environment on a long term basis.” 

This growing awareness of the need to accurately identify the performance variables that may exist between different available products has not gone unnoticed by the industry. What’s needed is a way to standardize and identify acceptable levels of performance amongst the numerous tray/pan offerings. This would help to erase skepticism that still lingers among some in the design and construction community.

Towards establishment of an ANSI standard

Maribel Campos, Director of Standards, ICC-ES PMG (International Code Council Evaluation Service for Plumbing Mechanical and Fuel Gas), in particular has been a driving force in her efforts to establish an ANSI standard for a “field fabricated tiling kit.” In her previous role at IAMPO (International Association of Mechanical and Plumbing Officials), and in her current position at ICC, she has worked with industry contacts to create an ANSI standard that includes prefabricated foam shower pans/trays as part of the system.

Campos’s efforts have their origin in IAMPO standard PS106, which has a number of test criteria and requirements. Perhaps one of the most critical and scrutinized portions of this standard focuses on the means and methods to evaluate and assign compressive strength and point loading characteristics of these foam trays.

Campos’s efforts to develop an ANSI standard are now part of a committee review for a new ANSI standard for a field fabricated
tiling kit. Elements of IAMPO PS106 are part of a proposed ANSI standard for these products.

As with any proposed ANSI standard, divergent, opinionated, and sometimes differing viewpoints need to come into alignment. While this proposed ANSI standard is a work in progress that is still in committee, all agree there needs to be more work done to finalize standards and methods that ensure the right product for the job is installed the right way.

So, what to do in the meantime? The awareness that some of the foam pans and trays available may have compression/point loading issues, which could impact tile selection, is a good start. Your own survey of the products available might be required to vet the tray or pan that meets your needs: some pans have the waterproofing built in, while others require you to tackle the task. There are also varying methods of pan or tray construction, with reinforced or multilayer systems offering higher compressive strength.

In most parts of the US the concept of an EPS or XPS foam shower pan or tray is viewed as yet another accepted installation method. Whether you are a staunch advocate of this product/method, or just contemplating the concept, it is beneficial to be aware of the issues, concerns, and innovative advances associated with this product in your
installations. 

Tech Tip – unsanded grout

QUESTION: 

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

ANSWER: 

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

For on the job mixture:

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

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

In the tile manufacturers instructions it list exceptable grout manufacturers.

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

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

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

Business Tip – May 2018

Worried about OSHA silica compliance? Not if you’re in one of these five states

by D.A. Duggar, John Martin | Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C.

With the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) silica standard already in effect for the construction industry and about to go into effect in June of 2018 for general industry, many employers are anxious about whether their programs will pass muster with federal and state OSHA officials. But if you’re in Maryland, worry not. Two years after then-Secretary of Labor Tom Perez heralded the issuance of a final rule on Occupational Exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica at the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers’ John J. Flynn BAC/IMI International Training Center in Bowie, Maryland, the “Old Line State” has still not adopted a corresponding silica standard.

Section 18 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) provides that states may choose to develop and enforce their own occupational safety and health standards. Localized oversight of workplace safety is permitted so long as the state occupational and safety health plan is “at least as effective in providing safe and healthful employment and places of employment” as the federal standards. Though state health and safety standards often simply emulate corresponding federal health and safety standards, states can seek to implement standards that are more stringent than their federal counterparts. California’s recently enacted Process Safety Management for Petroleum Refineries is one example of a more stringent state standard. But what happens when states fail to implement any corresponding health and safety standard?

Maryland’s decision

Not much, apparently. In the case of OSHA’s silica standard, the administration gave states six months from the March 25, 2016, issuance date to adopt their own respective silica standards. Noting the numerous delays announced by OSHA in the enforcement date of the construction silica standard, Maryland adopted a wait-and-see approach before taking any action. Maryland was also apparently awaiting a decision from the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on industry challenges to OSHA’s silica standard. The United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issued a decision in December 2017 that rejected all industry challenges but remanded the standard back to OSHA for consideration of whether to include a medical removal provision, a challenge raised by labor unions. After OSHA complained to Maryland about the delay in implementing a silica standard, Maryland safety and health officials responded that the state agency was waiting on OSHA to issue an amended standard to include medical removal provisions.

Arizona, Hawaii, Utah, Wyoming also delay in adopting a corresponding standard

Maryland is not alone, either. Arizona, Hawaii, Utah, and Wyoming have also failed to adopt a corresponding standard. These states may lack the financial resources and manpower to develop and promulgate a corresponding safety standard on their own. If a lack of resources is a problem, however, the state could simply choose to enact a mirror image of the federal standard or promulgate a short 30-words-or-less regulation that adopts and incorporates OSHA’s silica standard. None have done so.

Until last month, Washington State had also neglected to adopt a silica standard. In Washington, the issue appeared to be a matter of priorities. Washington recently adopted its silica standard on March 23, 2018.

OSHA’s recourse

Theoretically, a failure of a state occupational safety and health plan can allow OSHA to exercise its authority under Section 18(f) of the OSH Act to rescind the state’s occupational safety and health plan and have the federal government take over enforcement of workplace safety laws and regulations. This is considered the “death penalty” option and is a time-consuming and litigious process. But OSHA may take a shot across Maryland’s bow and send the state a “show cause letter” asking why a proceeding to reconsider the state’s final approval status should not be commenced. That is what OSHA did with Arizona in 2014 when the state adopted different fall-protection requirements for residential construction.

Impact on employers

For employers that work within these five states – and only these five states – there is no silica standard with ancillary requirements such as exposure assessment, medical surveillance, and specific housekeeping measures. These five states still have older airborne contaminant requirements that cover silica, so employers should still ensure that their employees are protected from levels of respirable crystalline silica above the permissible exposure limit.

For employers that work in multiple states that include one or more of these five states and one or more of the remaining 45 states, the lack of silica standards in these five states can create confusion and complicate compliance efforts. Do you adopt a program where the company “turns off” its silica program in these five states? While this may ease compliance expenses in the short term, employers may not want to take this approach; crews could get confused and forget to “turn on” the program when they cross state lines. Such a program could also worsen employee morale. Employees would likely notice their employers easing up on silica compliance efforts in states where they don’t have to comply. Employers focused on long-term compliance may want to adopt a consistent silica program that treats compliance as applicable in all 50 states. Employees will likely appreciate the company’s position, and besides, the current “free ride” on silica offered by Arizona, Hawaii, Maryland, Utah, and Wyoming won’t last forever. In its existence, OSHA has never allowed a state plan to forego adopting a standard the agency deems essential to workplace safety.

Ask the Experts – May 2018

Ask the Experts Q&As are culled from member inquiries to NTCA’s Technical Support staff. To become a member and make use of personal, targeted answers from Technical Support staff to your installation questions, contact Jim Olson at [email protected].

QUESTION

I recently installed 2” x 2” sheet-mounted mosaics in a public park bathroom. During the tile installation the general contractor provided me with limited lighting. Electricians installed LED light fixtures above and against the wall. 

During the installation, the owners of the facility were very pleased with how the product looked on the walls. But I noticed that with these very bright lights located directly over the tiles, you could see imperfections. Plus, shadows from the lighting made the tile job look like it was not done well, but when you ran your hand against the tiles you could feel that it was done properly. 

A couple of months later they contacted me for a meeting to go over the installation of the tiles because they felt it was unacceptable. When I arrived the owners went over some of the areas and claimed that I did not do a good job. I did notice some tiles that needed to be replaced, but for the most part they were installed very well. I told the owners that I do not have a problem going over quantities that needed to be replaced and that I would take care of it; we even went to another facility where a different installer installed the same type of tile but the light in that room was not directly against the wall and you could not see the cast shadows – but when you ran your hand again the wall you could feel the imperfections. The bottom line is that the owners want me to replace the whole wall, which it is not necessary to fix the problems. I also documented during the process pictures that the drywall was not properly installed and leveled, and that was another reason for the imperfections. 

Can you provide to me or help me with some sort of literature or a reference to a handbook so I can protect myself from being taken to court? Clearly this issue is because of the way the lighting fixture is located and how it casts shadows, making the installation unacceptable. I did find some information about this topic but I do not know how to approach this to avoid court. 

ANSWER

The situation that you have found yourself in is very common to our industry. We have received several technical calls about the influence of lighting on finished tile work. The design community has embraced this type of lighting to give a more dramatic lighting effect. Any type of lighting located on or near tile walls accentuates irregularities by casting shadows on the tile surface.

The good news is, our industry has addressed this issue in several places: in the TCNA Handbook, page 34; in the NTCA Reference Manual from page 121 to 127; and in the ANSI standards on page 26.

There are allowable amounts of lippage in any tile installation. There are charts in both the ANSI standards and TCNA Handbook based on the type of tile, tile size and joint width. Attached is an image of Flatness and Lippage table on page 36 from the TCNA Handbook, versions 2017 and 2018 (image courtesy TCNA).

In summary, our standards say that the angle of light cast on tile work can accentuate otherwise acceptable variance.

We have had members bring lights in to a situation like this, taking photos of the same wall under two different lighting influences. This can be dramatic and show the impact lighting has on the appearance of a installation. Attached is an image from the NTCA Reference Manual showing the same wall with two different lighting options.

As far as the surface not being flat enough to start with, there are standards for how flat a surface should be to install tile. The surface should have no deviation (hump or dip) of more than a 1/4” in a ten foot radius. As far as the substrate not being correct and affecting the installation, this should have been addressed prior to the installation. Once we start an installation we have accepted the substrate as suitable. Once we start tiling a surface
we now own it. 

Robb Roderick,
NTCA Trainer/Presenter

Installers: Raise Your Rates

Jon Namba

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

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

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

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

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

Reprinted with permission from Jon Namba and Floor Covering Installer.

DAL-TILE PROVIDES JOBS FOR CHARITY WORK-STUDY PROGRAM

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

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

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

 

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.”

Hot Topics: Substandard Tile, Part 2

By Lesley Goddin

In part 1 of our Hot Topics story on substandard tile in February, we looked at the struggles tile contractors and setters had with substandard tile and shared a bulleted list of suggestions to address these challenges. 

In this installment, we look at these suggestions in more detail, some of them together, since they logically are part and parcel of the same process:

Understand the standards, and know the TCNA Handbook

Mark Heinlein

Mark Heinlein, NTCA Training Director, Trainer/Presenter, and formerly a contractor in his own right, points to standards as the first line of defense, calling them the “alphabet soup of organizations and publications that guide our industry.”

The two to be most concerned with are: ANSI 137.1, the manufacturing standard for ceramic tile; and ANSI A108, the installation standard for ceramic tile that defines specifications for substrate flatness, maximum allowable lippage, grout joint size and other installation components, Heinlein said. And the TCNA Handbook contains the methods, details and best practices for installing ceramic and stone tile in dozens of applications.

Though these standards and methods are not law nor REQUIRED to be used, they are “highly regarded standards for tile industry materials and installations and hold up as such in courts of law,” he said. They work better when used in tandem.

“Here is my point: a certain tile may not meet some or all of the ANSI A137.1 specifications,” he said.“If it doesn’t meet certain specifications, it is going to be difficult for the installation contractor to meet the requirements of ANSI A108.” Heinlein observed that though these standards and specs are designed to help the contractor, many times they are unknown or ignored, much to the contractor’s peril if the installation is called into question. 

Woody Sanders

Woody Sanders of D.W. Sanders Tile & Stone Contracting in Marietta, Ga., takes the standards seriously, engaging in ongoing study of industry documents and publications including A137, the TCNA
Handbook
and the MIA Dimensional Stone Design manual. “Understand it is a voluntary standard, so educating your client to use an A137 tile is just like educating them on why they need to use qualified labor,” he said. 

Don’t buy the tile yourself

Sanders also shared a strategy that works well for his company: “In our business model we work hard not to buy the tile or stone product. This is and will always be a hot topic but we do not have a showroom and our bidding strategies are different than others. We are a unique labor force whose focus is on tile and stone installation.  We focus on billable service items, like delivery of tile. If a tile selected and furnished by others is out of spec or is not suitable, we work hard to find a resolution to our customer’s best interest, at the same time charging them for having to move the tile around or work on the resolution.”

Work with reputable distributors; order extra and do mockups 

These two suggestions go hand-in-hand, along the lines of the proverb “Trust God and tie up your camel.” It’s great to trust that things will work out when you work with a reputable vendor, but it’s also wise to hedge your bets. 

It is a no brainer to work with distributors you can trust. Even so, you may wish to inspect the tile when you pick it up. Sanders said, “I review lot numbers and calibers to see that they match or look at a few cases of stone if at all possible.” But he is clear that he is not the quality control on the manufacturer or distributor – and quality is THEIR job. 

“That said, we work and have developed relationships with our vendors [so they understand] that we are not crying wolf,” he said. “We are looking for a quick and as painless resolution for all. But an uninstalled

Jeremy Waldorf

tile is their problem. This is why we order extra and do mock ups in some cases on new tiles we have not seen before.”

Jeremy Waldorf, Legacy Floors in Howell, Mich., said, “It’s not truly possible, in my experience, to safeguard against substandard tile by going to the distributor and inspecting the tile in advance. The warehouses aren’t really set up like that, and even if they were there are way too many selections and not enough time. Often you can’t tell there’s something wrong until your layout runs off, you start seeing excessive lippage, or tiles start breaking funny while you’re cutting them.” 

Bradford Denny

Bradford Denny, Nichols Tile & Terrazzo, Joelton, Tenn., added, “We greatly rely on our distributors to be looking out for the quality of the materials. If we can’t install it, they really can’t sell it. Additionally, it is a huge help when they educate the consumers in advance about the importance
of choosing tiles that meet
standards.”

Stay ahead of the job; request technical information before starting a project when working with unfamiliar suppliers or owner-supplied material; and clarify that numbers for the project are based on it meeting standard

Staying ahead of the job means having everything you need at your disposal to launch into the project full speed ahead. As the subhead says, that means ensuring you have technical information on the project and materials and that the tile meets the standards for the application. 

Sanders recommended troubleshooting in advance by having distributors send over tile cut sheets, SDS sheets, and manufacturers’ installation sheets during the bidding process – or getting them as soon as selections are made before ordering. “Look at them and look for problems,” he said. “Understand the tile types and their limitations.” 

Denny added, “We try to circumvent this on the front end of a project. Working with reputable distributors can alleviate much of the problem, but when working with unfamiliar suppliers or installing owner-supplied material, we request all technical information in advance of starting a project, and any numbers given for the project are based upon it meeting the
standard.”

Do not INSTALL substandard tile – and keep clients informed of the progress of the job

These two tips are also related. So you discover – on the job – that the tile you are working with is defective and is not going to fly. Now what? Is it something you can work around? Or do you need to order new material?

Contractors agree on letting clients know immediately if a problem arises. “As a general rule in every job I do, I am always diligent with keeping my clients informed throughout the entire process, whether good or bad,” Waldorf said. “I let them know the challenges I’m up against and how I plan to solve them. I also let them know when it’s an issue I can’t solve.”

Denny said, “Depending on the actual defective or unsatisfactory aspect of the material, we would outline the issues and discuss it with the client before proceeding, which could result in a new material being selected.” 

Dave Karp

Dave Karp, of Tile Fusion in Shakopee, Minn., said on some jobs where he has to deal with sizing or minor warping, he can open joints up more. “Worst case I’ll completely reject the tile,” he added, saying, “I also avoid certain distributors knowing there’s a high risk of [bad] tile.”

Be wary of homeowner-purchased product from big box stores

Though you may escape responsibility for bad product if you are not the one ordering it, if the homeowner orders the tile, other issues may arise. 

“As a small two-man company, I run into some homeowners trying to ‘save a buck’ by going to big box stores when looking for tile samples,” said Phil Green, owner of P.G.C. Construction, Remodeling and

Phil Green

Design in Gilberts, Ill. “In many cases, the tiles that are purchased from these stores have their share of issues. The worst of these are the 2” x 2” mosaics on mesh backing. Sometimes the way they were shipped and stored, the sheets are deformed and tiles twisted on the sheet. We as the professionals are supposed to not only be the tile setter, but part magician as well.”

Problems Green has encountered aren’t limited only to mosaics – larger 12” x 24” tiles also have their share of problems. “Although I can understand that an ‘allowable’ warpage may exist in every large-format tile due to manufacturing  BUT, out-of-square tiles and tiles that vary in size by 1/64” – 1/32” are very difficult to deal with.”

Educate the client to have reasonable expectations of what to expect from the job

This also applies to showroom personnel who often aren’t as knowledgeable about tile – and especially standards – as you’d hope. 

Sanders had a recent experience with $15,000 of glass tile purchased for a steam shower. When he inquired about the thermal shock rating and whether the glass met ANSI, the tile distributor owner replied, “Can’t all glass tile be used in showers?” Clearly, it can’t, and the tile had to be reordered. 

Sanders said, “We make an effort to be present with the designer and owner at the showroom or in early design meeting as much as possible to educate the owner as to the suitability of the tile and its intended use. Many times the showroom personnel do not know the standards.”

Waldorf explained, “I feel it’s extremely important to set reasonable expectations up front. I save a lot of headaches and problems by being honest and transparent with clients. ‘Under-promise and over-deliver’ is my motto. Like you and me, clients just want to know what’s happening with their home, and each challenge is an opportunity to build trust with them. This is why they hired a qualified professional, and sometimes you can be their hero just by delivering a quality service.” 

Will following these tips make the substandard tile problem go away? Probably not, but they may reduce your liability and contribute to a smoother-running job and continued trust by your client. 

The same way tile setters need to take responsibility for following installation standards and best practices when installing tile, tile manufacturers and distributors need to monitor their products to provide the best-quality products for contractors to work with. 

“The tile manufacturers and distributors should have an active role in making sure the tile setter has an acceptable product that the end user will be happy with,” Waldorf said. “We should be working together as a team, and our end goal is complete satisfaction with the product and installation. If we don’t achieve that, another hard surface product will certainly take advantage of the opportunity. Many of us already fight a negative stigma about tile because of poor installations that consumers have had to live with. The manufacturing end of the trade needs to keep a reasonable pace and approach as we push the limits of size and speed.”

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