Caulking corners and Lippage issues

Ask the Experts – September 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

My biggest question is regarding plane intersections, specifically a corner where two vertical walls meet inside a shower. I know that we should be caulking – not grouting – the corner joint, but what’s the best way to go about doing this? Should we put in the backer rod prior to grouting and then remove the backer rod (if the joint is small enough to not need it) before applying the silicone? Otherwise, it seems to me that it is going to be tough to keep that joint clean of grout, and once the grout is in there it essentially locks out the ability for expansion, right? Or am I thinking about this wrong?

Also I’m hung up on lippage (no pun intended!), especially when using bigger (say 12˝ x 36˝ or 12˝ x 48˝) tiles. Even when not having any overlap in the pattern so as to minimize the potential for misaligned height differences between the centers and ends of the tiles, it seems to be very, very difficult to get a truly flat install even when using a lot of leveling spacers. I know that the lippage requirements increase based on the tile size, but what else can we do besides trying to keep the pattern helpful to minimizing lippage and spot-checking tiles and not using any badly warped tiles? Seems like a lot of waste that way too.

ANSWER

Your description in your first question is correct. ANSI A108 recommends grouting before installing sealant. Grout hardening in the change-in-plane joint is problematic. Installing the backer rod before grouting, then removing and replacing it is a good way to keep the joint clean. Use ASTM C920-rated silicone grout-color coordinating sealant for the joint. ASTM C920 sealant requires use of a backer rod for best performance.

For your second question – to begin with, as discussed in our workshops, substrate flatness for large-format tile is critical. Lippage tolerances do NOT increase with tile size. Layout, pattern and grout joint width are all components of minimizing lippage and keeping it within tolerances. All of these are standardized measures required by ANSI A108. Often, it is of crucial importance to use tile manufactured in accordance with ANSI A137.1 to achieve less-than-maximum allowable lippage in an installation. 

Mark Heinlein, NTCA Training Director, NTCA Technical Trainer

StonePeak: first US plant to produce gauged porcelain tile panels

New Continua production line aims to produce 1000 5’ x 10’ gauged porcelain panels a day

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

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

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

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Iris Ceramics Group CEO Federica Minozzi with StonePeak leadership and state and local dignitaries cut the ribbon on the Crossville Tennessee’s factory expansion, the first in the world that produces 60 x 120 gauged porcelain tile panels and also cut sizes down to 12 x 12.This $70 million expansion also adds 160 workers and at peak will produce 1000 panels a day.

 

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

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

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

 

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

After expressing thanks to employees and state and local support, Minozzi revealed that the decision to hold the ceremony on September 12, a day after the 17th anniversary of the September 11 attacks in the U.S., was intentional, as a way to both honor the significance of the day and to celebrate the resilient, renaissance spirit of the USA to rebuild after that tragedy. “I love America,” she said.

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

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

 

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

 

Gauging Savings: USI Porcelain Panel Project Saves Time & Money

More than three decades ago, global tile manufacturers introduced through-body porcelain tile, and it quickly and seemingly became the industry’s cure-all. Being more molecularly compact than typical glazed ceramic tile, it offered the same durability and resistance to moisture, as did solid granite… and, at a lesser price-point. 

Over the years, porcelain formats morphed into gargantuan tile sizes as large as 36” x 48.” And these tiles were no longer just “through-body” versions. Advanced inkjet printing processes were developed that actually gave the tiles both “looks” and textures resulting in it being almost impossible to discern whether or not they were true natural materials. And, this printing procedure was no flimsy topcoat. Airports around the globe, for example, which have tens of thousands of people racing across their terminal floors pulling wheeled luggage on a daily basis, have been successful with their specification of HD printed, porcelain flooring. 

So what was next in the world of porcellanato? In the last few years, a new phenomenon has appeared, now termed “gauged porcelain panels.” These are extremely large tile slabs, produced with fine porcelain clay, manufactured to minimal tile thickness without compromising the performance levels inherent to porcelain tile. Visionary architects are specifying this material for a myriad of applications, including to be installed directly over existing tile (which means the arduous, messy, time-consuming and disruptive process of removing ceramic tile can be eliminated), as monolithic-appearing wall applications… and, even to perform as exterior cladding. Relative to vertical installations, one of the few disadvantages of “regular” porcelain tile is weight. Gauged porcelain panels have become the ideal alternative, because when installed correctly, due to having much lighter weight, various structural components can be reduced… saving a great deal of installation time and out-of-pocket money. A good example of this took place recently at the University of Southern Indiana’s Health & Professions Building. 

Crossville’s Laminam gauged porcelain panels were specified for this interior project, which consisted of 2,500 square feet of wall space for a commercial kitchen classroom. “Originally, we bid the job to be tiled using a traditional mortar system. Adam Abell, our Bostik representative, came in and asked if we would consider an alternative installation system that offered a host of benefits,” stated Danny Fulton, Vice President of Evansville, IN-based Fulton Tile & Stone. “We were ready to begin the project, but because of our strong rapport with Adam, we granted him some presentation time that included having our Crossville representative, Tony Davis attending along with our team. I had no idea of what Bosti-Set™ was… or, what it could do. But in retrospect, granting Adam time to showcase his new product proved be one of the best decisions we’ve made in a long time!” 

Abell demonstrated how projects calling for gauged porcelain panels could be installed in roughly half the time, even with a smaller crew. He showed how Bosti-Set™ immediately grabbed porcelain tile panels in a single coat, did not allow any sag, yet made it possible for these panels to be “reposition-able” for at least 30 minutes. “As a business owner, I’m always looking for efficiencies that are timesaving and ultimately, cost saving,” added Fulton. “So ultimately, we decided to work with this newer product. 

“We had a lot to learn,” Fulton continued, “as the panels basically had to be ‘picked up’ using suction cups with aluminum spines, not unlike the way glass panels are installed. A single layer of adhesive is troweled only onto the back of the panel, cutting the square footage necessary to trowel in half. This also cuts down on weight… and, deadline stress on our installers.”

Fulton went on to state that he was so captivated by this project… he actually put on his accountant’s hat and followed every single step to measure the overall savings. “There is no mixing needed with this system,” he mentioned. “It’s just ‘open and go.’ Other systems require a 50 lb. bag of thin-set per panel. This project had 70 panels to install, and I estimated that without mixing, we could roughly save 30 minutes per panel on the installation alone, not to mention the mixing time and chasing water that was completely eliminated. Ultimately, for this 2,500 square foot project, even though Bosti-Set™ is a bit more costly than other products, we may have saved close to $5,000 just by using it. “And, that number is very conservative!” Fulton beamed.

He added that the project worked out so well, “Fulton Tile & Stone has begun to use Bosti-Set™ on a regular basis for other projects we have in the queue, including ‘phase two’ at the USI facility.”

Gauged porcelain panels have certainly become the rage. According to Martin Howard, Executive Vice President of David Allen Company and current President of the National Tile Contractors Association, “This newer product offering has been accepted in the marketplace because, in particular, architects and designers see the advantages offered by a large panel format that is much lighter in weight than other high-performance surfacing options. And due to their expansive size, there are less grout joints visible. That means a wall application, for example, can give the appearance of stone veneer at a lower price point, because single slab appearance is now possible.” 

“You can’t learn how to use the system overnight,” declared Fulton. “So, we decided to have all of our installers take as much time to learn this system as they needed. Both Bostik and Crossville helped us with educating our team at optimal levels. Generally in our business, some of the more seasoned installers want to stick with methods they’ve used in the past. I thoroughly understand that. But when we were able to prove to all our installers that not only was Bosti-Set™ easier to use… it allowed them to finish projects earlier and the move on to the next one…  I think they were all very much sold!”

Fulton Tile & Stone depends upon its major distributor, Louisville Tile for the great percentage of tile and sundry materials used in the many installations for which the firm is engaged. Don Kincaid, Vice President of Sales & Marketing at Louisville Tile, believes gauged porcelain tile panels have a very, very bright future. “In particular for the commercial sector, these materials are gaining more and more acceptance. Designs calling for gauged porcelain, at this early stage of its existence, most likely are coming from savvy architectural designers who understand it doesn’t just add a monolithic look due to having minimal grout lines. It offers many more solutions, one being because it is so much lighter in weight than natural stone… it can be directly installed on vertical surfaces as a viable alternative. And, because of the realism generated by today’s amazing high-definition inkjet printing processes, very few people will not know the product isn’t an actual stone slab. 

“We also believe,” continued Kincaid, “that gauged panels will soon be specified on a regular basis for residential applications, one example being shower walls. Forward-minded installation professionals such as those at Fulton Tile & Stone, understand how glass panels are adhered to walls, and will continue to embrace the best ways in which to install these products.  Now that there is a product such as Bosti-Set™, which offers so many installation performance benefits, we at Louisville Tile are even more positive about this product category.”

Kincaid was also extremely positive about the University of Southern Indiana gauged porcelain panel project. “And why not?” he declared. “That’s my alma mater!”

 

 

 

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.

 

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