What’s new in the 2014 Handbook?


ANSI A118.15 Mortar (thin-set) added

The 2014 TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass, and Stone Tile Installation has been released, and this year’s edition includes the newest performance designation for tile bonding mortar within the ANSI system: ANSI A118.15 American National Standard Specifications for Improved Modified Dry-Set Cement Mortar. The new mortar standard is important because it enables contractors’ project bids to be compared more evenly – particularly when a higher-performing mortar is needed – because it provides a means for requiring or specifying use of a higher-performing mortar. Previously, many mortars that are now classified as an “A118.15 mortar” would have been categorized under ANSI A118.4, which still exists, but with a slight name change (now the American National Standard Specifications for Modified Dry-Set Cement Mortar).

How does this affect tile contractors?

Specifications that called for an ANSI A118.4 mortar allowed a wide range of mortars in terms of performance. When estimating, contractors would have to decide whether or not to factor in a higher-performing (likely more expensive) mortar. Given the competitiveness of bids, doing so could jeopardize the chance of getting a job by adding cost to a bid that others are not including because it is not required. At the same time, experienced contractors and estimators know that some installations and applications need – or would at least benefit from – a higher-performance mortar, even if the job spec doesn’t require it. With the new A118.15 standard in place, there is a more level playing field. Plus, it could be argued that the consumer and end user will benefit because, when a higher-performing mortar is needed, the job specifications can call for it, and the project is likely awarded to a contractor that included it.

What methods are affected?

In the just-released 2014 Handbook, A118.15 mortar has replaced A118.4 mortar as the minimum requirement for tiling above-ground balconies and decks, pools, and steam showers. For interior above-ground floor installation methods (for example F113A), the mortar requirement depends on whether or not a membrane is being used. If there is no membrane, A118.15 mortar is required – the concept being that having a flexible component in such systems is helpful. If a membrane is used however, an ANSI A118.4 mortar may be used. Similarly, A118.15 mortar is required when a membrane will not be included when using the radiant-heat floor-installation methods and the exterior-wall methods.

Manufacturers of A118.15 mortars are already educating design professionals on when higher-performing mortar is needed and how to specify it. Be on the lookout for updated specs and be sure to bid accordingly.

Schluter-Systems hosts training and educational seminar for NTCA members

bart_0114By Bart Bettiga

Schluter-Systems’ new LEED Gold certified building is located just outside Reno, Nevada, and offers a picturesque view of mountain ranges on the horizon surrounded by terrain adjacent to the property with running streams and wild horses roaming freely on the land. In addition to the state-of-the-art facility, Schluter’s 97,500-sq.-ft. building is strategically located to offer increased service and faster delivery of products for their west coast distributors, dealers and contractors. It is also an ideal location for training and educational programs. The facility features a multitude of sensible and sustainable technologies to maximize energy efficiency, water usage and air quality.


The Schluter Reno building used thousands of square feet of tile in both interior and exterior applications, and acted as a virtual hands-on research and development project.

Schluter recently hosted over 75 NTCA members for a training and educational seminar and tour of the facility. This was also an excellent opportunity for NTCA staff to update the attendees on association direction and strategic planning. The program included a complete presentation and tour of the building, which was in essence a hands-on research and development project for Schluter. Many of their products are showcased throughout the facility, offering a great example of how conventional building methods continue to evolve, and how tile and stone can be key elements in the successful implementation of sustainable systems that maximize energy efficiency.

schluter-sidebarAndy Acker, a leading trainer and presenter for Schluter-Systems, was the lead speaker and facilitator of the program, which consisted of two complete days of highly-engaged interaction. Former NTCA regional director and contractor John Trent, who is currently employed with Schluter, was instrumental in putting the program together and assisting in its development and promotion.

Topics discussed in the first day of the training seminar included lengthy interaction on the principle of uncoupling, covering details from the TCNA Handbook and thin-set installations. New product introductions included a preview of the new Ditra-Heat system, which was recently introduced to the trade. NTCA and Schluter leaders then held an open-forum discussion on installation practices and business strategies before heading out to a fabulous dinner.


Dee DeGoyer of Schluter-Systems was the tour presenter and explained the detailed planning that went into the state-of-the-art facility.

Day Two consisted of the NTCA strategic planning update and a Schluter presentation on moisture management, including a lengthy discussion of waterproofing and examining details of both the TCNA and Schluter installation handbooks. Presentations on Schluter Kerdi Board and their innovative profiles as solutions to challenging installations completed the morning sessions. After lunch, all of the attendees broke into groups and moved into the training center locations, where several territory managers were ready with demonstrations of products in carefully-constructed modules. All of the groups had time to see the hands-on training demonstrations, ask questions and make comments, and move on to the next module.


One of the highlights of the seminar included round -robin presentations in small groups of Schluter pw2ju22XZ(922fgroducts and systems.

The educational portion of the event concluded with presentations by Schluter leaders offering a glimpse into the future, sharing some strategies of products currently being considered for development. Schluter also shared their position on supporting Certification through the CTEF programs, and pledged to support the ACT Certifications currently being offered.

Many of the attendees stayed an additional day to go skiing, snowboarding and snowmobiling in the beautiful mountains located near Lake Tahoe. By all accounts, those that stayed the extra day were treated to a memorable experience. Schluter-Systems and NTCA leaders agreed that future meetings of this nature would continue to provide value to our members.


New products demonstrated at the seminar included the Ditra-Heat system, which will be on display at Coverings.






Several attendees took the extra day offered by Schluter to enjoy the winter climate with skiing, snowboarding and snowmobiling adventures.


Over 75 NTCA members attended the training seminar at the recently completed Schluter-Systems LEED Gold Certified building in Reno, Nevada.


Thin Tile – Thin tile adds majesty to university façade

SponsoredbyMAPEIThe University of New England (UNE) has a new $14.5 million Oral Health Center on its Portland, Maine, campus. It is the clinical home of UNE’s College of Dental Medicine teaching clinic and oral health center facility, which opened in the fall of 2013 to coincide with the admission of the first entering dental class. The center was designed by Port City Architecture and Kahler Slater and built by Allied Cook Construction. The new state-of-the-art, 36,000-sq.-ft. facility houses the only such school in northern New England. The dental school addresses the shortage of dentists in rural Maine, and the Oral Health Center offers patients access to affordable dental care, while allowing students to gain clinical experience.


During construction, White crews used a scissors lift to raise the thin tile panels to the higher levels of the installation.

The architects wanted to add some drama to the traditional brick face of the building on the historic campus, and they chose large, thin tile panels to add the right design element. According to their plans, the large-format porcelain tile resembling gray slate would frame the brick masonry on all sides and along the roof line, allowing it to be viewed from any direction.

Allied Cook Construction selected Paul G. White Interior Solutions (Portland, Maine) to install the 39” x 118” Daltile SlimLite™ panels. Paul G. White has been in operation for 44 years in New England, and three generations of the White family work in the tile business. Paul G. White himself oversaw this project, with his son Jonathan White acting as project manager.


The building under construction, showing the placement of the porcelain thin tile panels with a look of gray slate.

“At first, I thought my dad was being too much of a perfectionist,” Jonathan said, “but, as usual, he saw the critical factor in the installation immediately. We had to pre-plan extensively before we began the actual placement of the tile panels.”

Because this would be the installation team’s first experience with using the huge, ultra-thin SlimLite panels, White arranged with tile supplier Daltile and installation systems manufacturer MAPEI to conduct a seminar for everyone who would be involved. “Education is the foundation on which our company’s strength is built,” Jonathan commented. White has developed an entire floor of its headquarters for ongoing education and training for installers.


A close-up showing the different cuts that had to be made to fit the tile onto the façade around windows and in alignment with soffits.

With knowledge of the best practices in hand, Paul instructed the crews to “measure carefully.” The architects provided a layout that matched the panels up with window lines and soffits to gain the proper effect. While some panels could be placed in their entirety, others had to be cut to accommodate the layout. Some panels had to be cut only 3”-4” wide by the full 118” length to do wraps at windows and bump-outs on the face of the building.

Because the warehouse was nearby, White crews pre-cut the panels before trucking them the 4-5 miles to the jobsite. “The panels are very fragile when they are in thin strips,” Jonathan said. “We had built a backboard where the installers could lay the panel against the side of the scissors lift we were using to raise the panels into position. The teams put MAPEI’s Kerabond/Keralastic mortar on both the building surface and on the tile panels. Crews used suction-cup handles to hang them and horseshoe spacers to bring them together.


Another close up, showing how spacers were used to perfectly align the Daltile SlimLite™ tile panels.

One important step the crew learned in training was to go over the panels with a vibrating sander to set the mortar in place. Once the mortar was set, the panels were grouted with Ultracolor Plus grout in black. The use of Ultracolor Plus significantly reduces the possibility of efflorescence on the finished façade.

“We were able to complete roughly one side of the building per week,” Jonathan said. “We followed the masonry installers, so we followed their timetable.” The White teams set approximately 1,500 sq. ft. of the SlimLite panels on the front of the building and the same amount on the back, plus 750 sq. ft. on each side. There were also some panels installed to cover build-outs on the roof. Paul’s admonition that they do the pre-cuts carefully made the installation easy, fast and successful.

“This was a new venture for our company, considering we have hung the traditional marble and granite slabs on buildings before,” Jonathan said. “It felt very different to be able to pick up these large slabs with just one or two people. We’re looking forward to doing more with these slim panels because of the relative ease of use. That really counts when you’re working in the middle of the summer, like we were on this job.”

White does anywhere from one to five exterior building facades annually, in addition to the hundreds of thousands of square feet of interior flooring the company installs each year. The company sees the new slim tile panels as a means of doing the job more easily, and hopes it may increase the number of exterior jobs.

“Using the MAPEI installation products ensures that we will have a successful job,” Jonathan said. “The best thing is, when we run into a problem, MAPEI technical people are always there to help us out. Together with Daltile and MAPEI, we make a pretty good team!”

Tech Talk – Why movement joints and sealants must be installed in tile and stone installations

TEC-sponsorCurrent industry standards and design options

514-pompoBy Donato Pompo, CTC, CSI, CDT, MBA, Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants (CTaSC); University of Ceramic Tile and Stone (UofCTS)

Many end users don’t want movement joints because they think they are distractive and ruin the appearance of their tile installation. So why should tile installers make sure that movement joints are installed in all of their tile installations?

The short answer is because industry standards say that all tile installations must have movement joints. If you don’t install movement joints, and there is some problem with the tile installation, then the fingers will be pointing your way and you will be held responsible even if the problem isn’t directly related to the lack of movement joints. Lack of movement joints can be a contributing factor to many different types of tile failures, so it’s not worth the risk to exclude them from your installations.


Cracked grout due to missing transition movement joint.

All tile and stone assemblies move in one way or another, whether due to thermal movement, moisture movement, shrinkage, freezing, or dynamic structural movements. To ensure a long-lasting installation, it’s important for architects to specify and provide the requirements for movement-joint design and placement, and to specify the correct type of sealant (caulking) for filling those joints. When there isn’t an architect – and the tile installer is determining how to install the tile – then it becomes the tile installer’s responsibility to specify and install the movement joints or to find someone else to specify them.


Tented glazed tile floor

“Movement joint” is a general term used for all types of joints seen in construction materials that control and allow movement. Most commonly we refer to these joints as either “expansion joints” or “control joints,” but there are various categories of movement joints. Generally they contain an appropriate pliable sealant for the intended application that is often referred to as a soft joint. Movement joints allow for the material in which they are placed to move without restraint, and they control where the movement manifests, avoiding random cracking in finish materials. An example would be the joints or separations in a concrete sidewalk. If there were no movement joints in the concrete sidewalk, then it would crack at some random point as it is subjected to shrinkage (contraction) as it cures, or subjected to expansion when it is exposed to moisture or heat, and then contraction again as it dries and cools.

514-tt-3I have seen tile floors without adequate movement joints where a portion of the floor was literally tented (debonded and raised) several inches off its substrate during the heat of the day, but laid flat at night when it cooled down. To see how small horizontal movements can result in exponentially larger vertical movements, take a 48’ (1219 mm) metal ruler and lay it on a horizontal surface. Restrain one end of the ruler and move the other end toward the center 1/8” (3.2 mm), and you will see a 2” (51 mm) rise at the apex of the ruler. In effect, this is what happens to tile floors when they tent. They are constrained at their perimeters with no movement relief and the tile expands.

514-tt-4Guidelines for movement joints

The Tile Council of North America (TCNA) provides general movement joint guidelines for tile and stone applications in its TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass, and Stone Tile Installation. The guidelines are listed under EJ171 Movement Joint Guidelines for Ceramic, Glass, and Stone section. When there isn’t an architect on the job then the tile installer should refer to these standards to determine where to install movement joints. If there is an architect and they haven’t specified movement joints, then the tile installer should submit an RFI (request for information) to ask for the movement-joint layout and design.

The general rule is that movement joints should be placed at the perimeters of tile installations and at all transitions of planes or transitions to different materials, as well as within the field of tile. Inside and outside vertical joints on framed walls should have movement joints and should not be hard-grouted. Bathtub or shower receptor to wall transitions should have a movement joint. In wet areas, movement joints are important not only to control movement, but they act as a water-stop at those transitions, providing another layer of protection against potentially costly water damages.

TCNA EJ171 states that movement joints for interior applications should be placed at least every 20’ to 25’ in each direction unless the tile work is exposed to direct sunlight or moisture. In that case, movement joints should be placed at least every 8’ to 12’ in each direction – the same for exterior applications.

EJ171 states that all underlying movement joints in the substrate need to continue through the tile assembly. This means that in addition to honoring the substrate movement joints, the tile assembly needs additional movement joints within its assembly. If there is a mortar bed over the substrate, then the movement joint has to be continuous through it to the tile surface, which is considered an expansion joint. If the tile is being bonded directly to the substrate, and there is no substrate movement joint continuing up from beneath, then it is called a generic movement joint. The generic movement joints are often the same width as the grout joints if they were designed to work at that width. The movement joint widths within the tile work should never be narrower than the substrate joint on which it is placed.

Membrane cautions

Some manufacturers of ANSI A118.12 crack-isolation membranes allow their membrane to cover non-structural movement joints (joints that only move horizontally, but without any vertical displacement) such as saw-cut or cold-control joints, even though TCNA does not recommend it. Structural expansion joints can never be covered with membranes, since the vertical displacement cannot be mitigated with a crack-isolation membrane. Crack-isolation membrane manufacturers require that movement joints are installed within the tile assembly installed over their membrane. Some manufacturers allow the movement joints to not line up exactly over the substrate control joints. Each manufacturer of crack-isolation membranes may have different recommendations and limitations, so it is always important to follow manufacturers’ instructions.

TCNA F125-Partial and F125-Full Crack Isolation Membrane details provide guidelines for isolating non-structural cracks with an ANSI A118.12 crack-isolation membrane. This detail recommends that a movement joint be placed at one or both ends of the tile, parallel to the crack which is bridging the underlying shrinkage crack or non-structural control joint, as recommended by the membrane manufacturer.

Sealants for soft joints

The type of sealant (caulking) used to fill movement joints is critical to the success of the tile installation. TCNA EJ171 states that an appropriate ASTM C920 sealant must be used to fill movement joints of all types. An ASTM C920 sealant includes high-quality silicone, urethanes, and polysulfide sealants. These types of sealants are normally rated as highly weather resistant with high-elongation properties, and high-adhesion characteristics that come with 20-year commercial warranties. Too often we find installers using some type of acrylic, latex, or siliconized sealant, because they are easier to work with, but these sealants have very low performance values and basically no warranty.


Using sealants that are not suitable for foot traffic may may be dangerous to those who wear high heels.

Different sealants have different physical properties and performance capabilities. EJ171 provides guidelines and the nomenclature for determining the appropriate Type, Grade, Class and Use sealant for the intended application. For instance, some sealants are not suitable for foot or vehicle traffic, so you must use a “Use T” sealant for those applications. A traffic sealant should have a Shore A Hardness of 35 or greater, which is critical because otherwise it would be dangerous to those who wear high heels. Some sealants can’t be used in a submerged application and some can’t be subjected to certain chemicals. Not all ASTM C920 sealants are compatible with natural stone and could cause the stone to stain. Some sealants require the surfaces to be primed after cleaning the joints and prior to installing the sealant.

Movement joint aesthetics

Movement joints are a necessary part of tile and stone installations and can even accentuate design features, rendering the joints unnoticeable, when specifiers take the time to design the movement joints into the installation.

Manufacturers of one-part silicone sealants have a broad range of colors available; custom colors are generally available to match the grout. Two-part urethane sealants can be mixed on the job by experienced sealant installers and can easily match the color of the tile grout. Movement joints placed more frequently in the installation can be narrower to match the width of the grout, also making them less noticeable. If your tile pattern has staggered joints, you can use the staggered-grout joint (referred to as a saw-tooth joints or zipper joints) as a generic movement joint to make it less noticeable. When done well, movements joints are not noticeable and can enhance the features of the installation.


All tile and stone assemblies move in one way or the other, whether due to thermal movement, moisture movement, shrinkage, freezing, or dynamic structural movement. To ensure a long-lasting installation, install movement joints and use the correct type of sealant (caulking) for filling those joints. The key to a successful tile and stone installation is to follow industry standards.


Donato Pompo, CTC, CSI, CDT, MBA, is the founder of Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants (CTaSC), and of the University of Ceramic Tile and Stone (UofCTS). He has more than 35 years of experience in the ceramic tile and stone industry from installation to distribution to manufacturing of installation products. Pompo provides services in forensic investigations, quality control (QC) services for products and installation methods, training programs, testing, and onsite quality control inspection services. He received the 2012 Construction Specifier magazine Article of the Year Award. Pompo can be reached at [email protected]

Qualified Labor – May 2014


Left to Right: Owner Dirk Sullivan of Hawthorne Tile, Vladimir Blashchishchin – Certified Tile Installer #1000 – and Scott Carothers of the CTEF.

CTEF announces 1,000th Certified Tile Installer

It seems like yesterday that The Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) launched its Certified Tile Installer (CTI) program at Coverings, 2008, but in the first quarter of 2014, the program reached the milestone of its 1,000th Certified Tile Installer.

On March 17, 2014, during an official CTI test conducted at Daltile in Portland, Oregon, Vladimir Blashchishchin became the CTEF’s 1,000th Certified Tile Installer. A quality-oriented tile installer with Hawthorne Tile in Portland, he was the well-qualified recipient of this prestigious award.

Dirk Sullivan, owner of Hawthorne Tile and long-time member of the NTCA, was truly excited that one of his installers (and his company) would be involved in such a milestone of the CTEF.

Why CTI?

CTEF launched the Certified Tile Installer (CTI) program to provide a means for top-quality, highly knowledgeable installers to verify their skills and subsequently promote themselves to potential clients and employers.

Certification enables professional installers to provide industry-recognized proof of their abilities, which ultimately helps them get more work. The program was developed in response to the lack of any credible mechanism helping consumers gauge the level of proficiency of prospective tile installers. By encouraging consumers to use only the best-qualified installers, this program continues to raise the quality of installations in the U.S. Making strides toward this goal is important in maintaining the status of ceramic tile as the material of choice.

The Certified Tile Installer evaluation is a comprehensive testing of the skills and knowledge of experienced tile installers that includes both a multiple-choice exam and hands-on test. Based upon current industry standards and best practices for producing sound installations that exhibit good workmanship, this certification process is the validation of the skills and knowledge of men and women who presently are installing tile successfully in the United States. Installers who successfully complete the CTI testing, receive nationwide recognition of their accomplishment, by being listed on the CTEF website which provides the contact information of CTIs to everyone from the architect to the residential consumer.

With increased awareness of the CTI program, the growing desire of installers to elevate themselves above the crowd by getting certified, and the fact that architects are now calling for “qualified labor” on an increasing number of their projects, the CTI designation is poised to grow even more rapidly in the near future.

ACT_logo_generalACT: the next step from CTI

Vladmir’s certification qualifies him to participate in the Advanced Certification for Tile Installers (ACT) program, which validates competency for tile installation procedures that exceed ANSI standards and TCNA guidelines for floor and wall. ACT certified installers represent the pinnacle of performance in the tile trade and maintain a level of excellence superior to non-ACT certified installers.

ACT is not a training program; it evaluates the skills and knowledge of tile installers who are either CTEF Certified Tile Installers (CTI) or Journeyman installers through the IUBAC. Advanced competencies in the following areas are evaluated:

  • Large Format Tile & Substrate Preparation
  • Membranes
  • Mortar (Mud) Floors
  • Mortar (Mud) Walls
  • Shower Receptors

By certifying key installers via the ACT program, companies become part of an elite group of contractors eligible to bid projects specifically requiring ACT-certified installers.

The Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT) program was created through the combined efforts of six leading organizations in the tile industry: the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF); the International Masonry Institute (IMI); the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers (IUBAC); the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA); the Tile Contractors’ Association of America (TCAA) and the Tile Council of North America (TCNA).

CTI testing returns to Albuquerque

Amidst the Albuquerque Daltile warehouse where the April 12 CTI testing was taking place are (l. to r.): CTEF’s Scott Carothers; Daltile’s Bill Fergison; LATICRETE’s Tim Evans; Daltile’s Kevin Sebesta; and NTCA’s Michael Whistler.

Amidst the Albuquerque Daltile warehouse where the April 12 CTI testing was taking place are (l. to r.): CTEF’s Scott Carothers; Daltile’s Bill Fergison; LATICRETE’s Tim Evans; Daltile’s Kevin Sebesta; and NTCA’s Michael Whistler.

Back by popular demand, in April, CTEF’s Scott Carothers and NTCA’s Michael Whistler conducted another Certified Tile Installer (CTI) evaluation at Daltile’s Sales Service Center on Venice Ave. NE in Albuquerque, N.M., the second in six months. The event had 20 initial registrations for tile installers from Santa Fe (Coronado Paint & Decorate; Dominguez Carpet One), Farmington (Carpet One Floor & Home), Grants (Mesa Floor Coverings), Roswell (George’s Carpet and Tile) and Albuquerque, N.M., and drew installers from as far away as Spectrum Floors in El Paso, Texas, as well.

LATICRETE reprised its December role as a primary sponsor for this event, and National Gypsum donated backer board sold through Daltile for use in the modules.


A passel of tile installers came to Daltile in Albuquerque to have their skills verified though hands-on testing through the Certified Tile Installer program, administered by CTEF.

Test results will be in soon – and the New Mexico/El Paso region will have a new crop of qualified tile installers for the A&D community and consumers to draw on. For more information on upcoming CTI evaluation near you, visit www.tilecareer.com.

Business Tip – May 2014

SponsoredbyMAPEINever drop your prices again!

How to stop selling on price

wayshakBy Marc Wayshak

I was recently at Lord & Taylor with a close friend of mine when she held up two pairs of high-heeled shoes. Both pairs were black, appeared similar and looked pretty to me. “What do you think each pair of shoes costs?” she asked.

“Well, this is a nice place, so I’m guessing that they both cost about $150,” I replied.

She smiled at me as if she were watching a puppy hopelessly barking at the moon. “Actually, this pair,” she said, holding up the shoes in her left hand, “costs $110.”

“I was close!” I said defensively.

But then she continued. “Now this pair,” she said, holding up the shoes in her right hand, “costs $650.”

“What?!?!? But they look so similar!” I exclaimed in surprise.

Upon further reflection, I began to see the parallels that women’s shoes have with selling on price versus value: Products or services that are fundamentally the same can sell for drastically different prices. It all depends on the way they’re sold.

Let me introduce you to two salespeople: Don and Liz. Both have been selling bathroom accessories for 20 years. However, they each sell in a completely different way.

Don is all about price. He’ll walk into a prospect’s office and say, “I see that you’re working with Grohe, and I can show you how you can save 50% by working with me instead…”

Liz, on the other hand, is all about selling on value. She’ll walk into a prospect’s office and begin a conversation by saying, “I really appreciate your inviting me in today. I want to tell you up front that if you are looking for the lowest prices, I’m not your gal. My goal is to help my clients create a bathroom that ‘wows’ visitors. Does it make sense for us to continue talking?”

Both approaches lead to sales, but the difference in the average transaction size and profitability is night and day. Liz wins, and she wins big.

If you’re determined to sell on price like Don, then you should stop reading this now. However, if you’re open to selling on value like Liz, then stay with me…

Here are four ways to stop selling on price:

1. Stop being a vendor: Don is a vendor to his customers, while Liz is a strategic partner to her clients. Get away from just being another vendor offering the best price. Instead, focus on how you can help provide massive value to your clients. The prospects that just want the best price are not who you want to work with. At least 60% of prospects want something more than just the best price. Target those folks.

2. Be distinct: Both of the shoes my friend showed me appeared to be similar, but one had a very distinct brand, while the other was essentially no-named. You don’t need advertising to be distinct – your approach to selling can be what makes you stand out. While Don’s approach was pretty cheesy and predictable, Liz was bold and totally distinct from what the prospect typically experiences. Immediately, the prospect is intrigued to understand more about why Liz isn’t the cheapest. Everyone knows that they get what they pay for, so let them experience the best.

3. Create value in your conversation: Every qualified prospect has challenges that you can solve. For example, in the case of Liz, her qualified prospect might be a developer that has used cheap bathroom accessories in the past only to find that they frequently break and need to be replaced after only a year. By learning about the prospect’s experience and how much that cost him in lost revenues, Liz is creating tremendous value for her products – before she ever shows him her product line.

4. Pile it on: Good prospects are willing to pay more when they believe they are getting tremendous value. This means that, in order to create that value, you must think in terms of selling solutions and packages. For example, Liz not only sells bathroom accessories, but she also offers custom design and assistance with actually installing the accessories in order to ensure that they last for many years. This perceived added value allows her to charge a higher price than Don could ever imagine charging. How can you add additional products or services to your offering to increase the perceived value of your product or service?

Selling on price is never the only option for a company. By following these four steps and thinking creatively about how to increase your value in the eyes of the client, your sale size will increase dramatically.

Marc Wayshak (www.marcwayshak.com/) is a sales strategist who created the Game Plan Selling System. He is the author of two books on sales and leadership including his latest book, Game Plan Selling (http://amzn.to/15MdhA9) and a regular online contributor to Entrepreneur Magazine and the Huffington Post Business section. Get his free eBook on 25 Tips to Crush Your Sales Goal at http://gameplanselling.com/. (Twitter: @MarcWayshak)

Ask the Experts – May 2014


I am getting ready to do a good-sized tile job at our offices and have a question that I have received contradicting answers on from various tile contractors: do plastic leave-in spacers crack the grout with temperature changes?

Some of the comments I have gotten from different tile contractors have been:

1. Eventually plastic spacers will crack the grout.

2. I would never leave a plastic spacer in a tile job, leave-in or not.

3. I have left plastic spacers “in” on a tile job and they do not crack the grout, at least not in the first year that I guarantee my work.

Can you tell me what the real truth is? Thank you for your immediate attention.


Leaving spacers in a tile job has caused many failures. Cracking of grout at the spacer is one possibility, but the higher risk lies in the color that the grout cures at the spacer. Cementitious grout needs a uniform depth and width in joints while curing, otherwise you end up with different colors at thinner versus thicker areas of grout. For the relatively tiny amount of time it takes to remove spacers from a job, why subject yourself and your client to those risks? My advice: always remove spacers.

Michael Whistler,
technical consultant
NTCA presenter


I am a project manager of a school facility. I am in the middle of developing some design standards and came up with some questions for ceramic tile. Can you help me out with the following questions?

1. Existing standards asked for three coats of penetrating sealer with standard grout. If we specify for epoxy grout, do we still need the sealer?

2. How does penetrating sealer with standard grout compare with epoxy grout on life cycle?

3. If epoxy grout is better, would we still need to waterproof or use a sealer on the installation? Does the sealer also protect the tiles from staining? For the school’s benefit, should we specify epoxy grout and sealer? Would that be redundant?


1. No. Epoxy is very dense, eliminating the need for sealer.

2. Depending on traffic, cleaning and maintenance practices, and UV exposure, penetrating sealers need to be renewed on a consistent basis. As long as epoxy grout is not damaged by cleaning and maintenance practices, epoxy should last the entire life cycle of the tile work, without the need for sealing.

3. Neither grout (including epoxy) or sealers are waterproof. If you need waterproofing, it needs to be incorporated into your installation beneath the tile. See the 2013 TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation for relevant methods. It is available on our website (www.tile-assn.com) for sale, or contact a NTCA member near you (also on our website in “Find a Contractor” tab).

Depending on the type of tile, a penetrating sealer can help with stain resistance. Sealers are designed to allow the passage of moisture in both directions, and are more to “slow down” staining than to create a “stain proof” surface. Regular cleaning and maintenance are still required. A pH-neutral cleaner with a good clean water rinse works well with either system.

Michael Whistler,
technical consultant
NTCA presenter

Stone Section – The rise of stone

SponsoredbyMAPEIBy Jeremy Werthan, Werthan LLC

Demand for countertops in the United States is projected to increase 5.1 % annually to 750 million square feet in 2017, according to a recent study from The Freedonia Group, Inc., a Cleveland-based industry market research firm. This increased demand is sparked by a recovery in building construction and an easing of credit requirements for financing remodeling projects.

Of all countertop materials, natural stone is expected to have the highest rate of growth, at 7.6% per year.

This is not surprising. Granite is known for its hardness, strength and beauty. Marble is a softer, more porous stone that can easily be sculpted and shaped.

Homeowners, architects and designers are drawn to natural stone, namely granite and marble, for its unique qualities. No two pieces are alike, and its variation in pattern, color and texture allows virtually limitless design options.

Today, the one-of-a-kind feature of natural stone is not the only reason why granite and marble are among the most popular countertop materials on the market. Once amenities reserved for new, high-end homes, granite and marble countertops are becoming affordable luxuries for most houses and condominiums.

Few custom homes are built today without stone countertops in either the kitchen or bathroom, or both. The availability, efficiency and affordability of natural stone are all factors that contribute to its sense of commonplace use in today’s homes.


Natural stone is being mined from more places than ever. Granite generally comes from Brazil, Italy, China and India, while a majority of marble is sourced from Turkey, China and Italy.

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, the United States imported 908,934 tons of granite and 954,941 tons of marble in 2002. Last year, those numbers were 1,508,822 tons of granite and 959,647 tons of marble.

In addition, more and more stone fabricators and stone yards are going into business, and nearly all supply granite and marble for countertops.


New technologies make the process of adding stone countertops to a home a lot quicker, easier and less expensive for both the homeowner and fabricator.

Starting from the beginning stages of estimation, tools like Cloud Takeoff allow contractors to bid more work in less time and with greater accuracy. With Cloud Takeoff construction estimating software, suppliers can instantly measure surfaces and perform detailed blueprint takeoffs.

Likewise, new techniques in fabrication have helped dramatically reduce the time and cost of cutting and shaping stone. A trade that was once mastered by hand is now heavily reliant on automated machines. With new CNC technology, fabricators can control cutting and polishing machines with digital technology. Even shaping the most intricate designs has become fast and simple.

Both estimating software and CNC technology have increased production, and have contributed significantly to the reduction of costs and increase in quality of finished products.


The price of any material is determined by its demand and availability. The large supply of natural stone coupled with the new fabrication techniques have contributed to the affordability of the surface material.

For instance, when granite was first introduced into homes in the 1980s, there was a very limited selection and a large cost, about $70 per square foot or even more. Now, granite comes in a variety of colors and patterns and at a much more reasonable price, anywhere from $35 to $100 per square foot. Marble is priced similarly.

Cost of natural stone varies depending on the type of stone, level of difficulty to quarry and fabricating techniques.

So how will high-end homeowners distinguish their countertops from the mass market? New countertop materials, such as engineered stone, exotic granites and marbles, stainless steel, concrete and recycled glass will be the new symbols of luxury homes.


Jeremy Werthan is the owner of Nashville-based Werthan LLC, the largest stone fabricator in Tennessee. Werthan LLC supplies and installs the finest in natural stone, tile, quartz and solid surface materials throughout Middle Tennessee. The company’s mission is to provide customers with superior service, state-of-the-art craftsmanship and uncompromising quality.

Tech Talk – The price of beauty: addressing challenges of glass tile

TEC-sponsorGlass tile continues to grow in popularity for both aesthetic and functional reasons. It provides an elegant, upscale look, and its composition makes it easy to clean and maintain. Because it can contain recycled glass, glass tile is also a sensible choice where sustainability is a concern.


By Tom Plaskota, Technical Support Manager, H.B. Fuller Construction Products

However, the same attributes that benefit the end user of glass tile can also challenge its installer. For example, its imperviousness makes it ideal for wet areas like pools, showers and backsplashes, but also makes it difficult to bond. The translucence of some glass tile gives it a highly desirable appearance, but requires that the installer take extra care to create a uniform look when applying mortar and grout. To help the end user reap the benefits of glass tile, here are some proven installation strategies.

Mind the mounting

If glass mosaic tiles are specified, keep in mind that they are often pre-assembled into sheets with some type of mounting material. Before installing back-mounted mosaic glass tile in wet or submerged applications, check with the glass tile manufacturer to ensure the back mounting is suitable for wet areas. The adhesive used to bond the tiles to the mounting material may be water sensitive, resulting in bond issues in wet environments.

Mortars: bond and color

For any glass tile installation, you will need to address potential bond problems with your mortar selection. Glass tile’s lack of porosity requires the use of a latex-modified thin-set mortar, but not all modified mortars are suitable for glass tile. Some manufacturers have specific mortars designed for use with glass tiles.

With translucent tile, mortar color matters. White mortars provide a bright, consistent backing for translucent or transparent glass tile. They also minimize the effects of high alkalinity found in gray mortars that can result in glass tile discoloration and loss of bond strength.

However, the TEC® brand of setting materials offers additional aesthetic and functional options for bonding glass tile. To install glass tile, you may use TEC® AccuColor® Unsanded Grout (white cement-based colors only) mixed with XtraFlex Acrylic Mortar Additive. AccuColor® Unsanded Grout comes in a variety of white cement-based colors, which can enhance the final appearance of clear or translucent tile. Use of the mortar additive, rather than water, for mixing produces extremely high bond strengths.


For a consistent appearance, be sure to flatten notch trowel ridges before setting translucent or transparent glass tile. Voids or gaps in the mortar can show through the tile.

Mastic is typically not recommended for glass tile. However, if the glass tile is pre-bonded to a colored backing, mastic may be the best option, because mortar can cause degradation of these backings. In dry areas, mastic is the preferred setting material for these types of tiles.

Room to move

Expansion joints also contribute to successful long-term installations of glass tile. Glass tile has a high level of expansion and contraction. Proper placement of expansion joints prevents the development of resulting stresses that disrupt the bond. For example, problems have occurred when dark glass tiles were installed on exterior walls without any expansion joints. When subjected to direct sunlight, the dark glass warmed and expanded. Without flexible expansion joints to accommodate the movement, the tile lost bond and “tented” up off the substrate. For recommendations regarding expansion joints, refer to Installation Method EJ171 in the TCNA Handbook or ANSI Specification A108.01, Sections 3.7 through


Glass tile can have specific requirements for grout to prevent surface scratching and ensure long-term performance. Check with the glass tile and grout manufacturer for compatibility.

Grout is an equally important consideration for a successful glass tile installation and requires consultation with glass tile and setting material manufacturers. Some glass tile can be susceptible to surface scratching when installed with sanded grouts and therefore requires the use of unsanded grout. Other glass tiles are compatible with sanded grouts. The same holds true of epoxy grout: some glass tile manufacturers recommend installing with it and some do not. In addition to traditional cement and epoxy grouts, some grouts, like TEC® Design FX™, are specifically formulated to be functionally compatible with and enhance the appearance of glass tile.

As you can see, there are some aspects of glass tile installations that are universal and some that vary by manufacturer, and even product line. Pre-installation communication with your suppliers and/or manufacturers is necessary to overcome these complexities, ensure successful installations and minimize callbacks.


Some grouts, like TEC® Design FX™, are specifically formulated to be functionally compatible with and enhance the appearance of glass tile.

TEC®, AccuColor®, XtraFlex™, and Design FX™ are trademarks of H.B. Fuller Construction Products Inc. 

Qualified Labor – Specifying Common Sense

Recently, NTCA Five Star Contractor Fox Ceramic Tile, Inc., of St. Marys, Kan., was awarded the contract for a massive Scheels All Sports project in Overland Park, Kan. R.L. Engebretson Architects of Fargo, N.D., was the architect of record for the project.

The specification document contained a very unusual section, entitled “Common Sense.”

Kyle Maichel, project estimator for Fox Ceramic Tile, said, “As you can imagine when I first read the spec, I was amused. I printed it off and passed it around the office, we all had a good chuckle.

“But when you think about it, this is really a fairly significant specification,” he continued. “The way I see it the author was telling everyone where he stood. He wanted a quality product, installed by quality craftsmen, without the excuses that can plague a project when common sense is not utilized.”

Here is the spec:

SECTION 01 0001


Drawings and general Provisions of the Contract, including General Conditions and other Division 00 & 01 Specification Sections, apply to this Section.


Common:  Belonging to or shared by, affecting or serving, all the members of a class or society, considered together;

Sense: A faculty, possessed by humans, of perceiving external objects by means of impressions made upon certain organs of the body.

Common Sense: A supposed sense which has held to be common bond of all others; Sound judgment.

Brain: The organ or seat of intellect used for thinking and solving problems, located between two ears and within the individual’s head attached at the shoulders.  For best results it must be engaged (active) during all times.   Do not confuse this organ with any other organ which may cause poor choices under certain circumstances.


–   Experience in area of work.

  • Demonstrate they have successfully done this type of work at least 2 years prior to the start of this project.
  • Demonstrate they have been trained by someone who knows what they are doing.

Performance required during bidding.

  • Actually read all of Divisions 00 & 01 prior to reading the technical specifications covering their specific work and reviewing the drawings.
  • Notify in a timely manner to the Architect/Engineer any errors, discrepancies, mistakes or other items which will impair or prevent achieving the final design requirements of the Project.
  • Submit an equal or greater than product for prior approval.

Performance required during construction.

  • Reread all of Division 00 & 01 and review the drawings prior to submittal of shop drawings and start of construction.
  • Submit shop drawings, product data and other information required to accurately portray the performance of the product in accordance with the Contract Documents.
  • Notify Prime Contractor if any work prior to your work being installed is not at a quality standard to receive your Work.
  • Follow the directions of the Prime Contractor.
  • Complete the Work in a prescribed manner and time frame to achieve the desired results required by the Contract Documents.

Job Site Safety.

  • Notify the Prime Contractor of any unsafe conditions.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s operational manual for any operation of equipment or installation of product.
  • Do not drink or consume any matter labeled unsafe or mind altering.

Reference Standards.

  • All common standards, laws and protocols which represent quality and are outside the boundaries of stupidity.


  • The following must be documented by the Prime Contractor to the Architect that prior to proceeding with the Work they have contracted with sub-contractors and suppliers that they possess the ability to:

– read, comprehend and speak the English language

– understand that their contractual obligation to perform the Work is governed by both the Project Manual and Drawings;

– understand the difference between the right way and the wrong way;

– know that it costs more to do it twice than do it right the first time;

– under promise and over deliver;



  • Typically provided at Birth.



  • Initiate prior to performing Work each day.


The author of Section 01 0001 is Rick Engebretson, AIA, president and CEO of The RLE Group of which R.L. Engebretson Architects is a part. He inserted this section into all his company’s specifications starting around May 2013.

“I’ve been in this business since 1969, and the quality of workmanship has gone down a lot,” Engebretson said. “A lot of it has to do with the lack of people thinking common sense. When I hear, ‘I’ve always done it this way’, or ‘This isn’t my first rodeo,’ immediately I am suspect, since they’ve been doing it wrong the last 30 years. “

The Common Sense section is an effort to get contractors and subcontractors to wake up, he said. “Read the spec and know what it says, and read the instructions. I was trying to be humorous and at the same time – this is the contract and you need to do it correctly. If it’s not perfect, read it and tell me what doesn’t work; don’t go ahead and do what you have always done.“

Engebretson tells a story about an issue on a Rapid City, S.D., job where cultured marble was continually falling off the wall.

QL-1“We finally went in and specified a LATICRETE product,” Engebretson said, but the construction manager superintendent and mason still complained. “This stuff doesn’t work. It’s too runny,” they said. When they declared, “This product is no good – this isn’t our first rodeo,” red flags went up for Engebretson, who asked then how much water they were adding to the 60-lb bag. It turned out to be three to four times the amount of water needed for the LATICRETE product! The mortar was being mixed at the same ratios as standard mortar, without even a look at the instructions.

Because even with the Common Sense section, Engebretson finds contractors, foremen and supervisor aren’t reading the spec, the firm has instituted a pre-installation conference for every Scheels project.

“Two to three weeks out, we meet with the general contractor and subcontractor installer/foreman in a phone conference or in person, and we go through the specs and make sure they are understanding the specifications,” he said.

QL-2Fox Ceramic Tile’s Maichel explained that the architectural firm itself exercised common sense in the bidding process.” They did not simply accept the low bid and move on the next spec section,” Maichel said. “We were asked to provide some information about Fox Ceramic Tile. The architect wanted to see past projects, current projects, and future projects. They wanted to see who we work for on a regular basis, and their opinions of us, as well as the opinions of our major distributors.

“The owners / architects were exercising their common sense, by truly interviewing us, rather than simply accepting the low number,” Maichel added. “They were searching for the ‘right number.’ As a subcontractor, we really appreciate this approach. It is easy to be the low number. We could be the low number on every project, if that was our objective. But Fox Ceramic Tile did not achieve NTCA Five Star Contractor status by being the low bidder. We strive to have the right number. And common sense dictates that will not always be the low number. We would much rather be weighed and measured against quality competition than simply the lowest bidders.”

Cultivating common sense – and following industry standards – are just a couple of the reasons that the tile industry is emphasizing ongoing education and training, certification of tile installers through the CTEF or the advanced certifications of the ACT program. That’s why the industry is encouraging A&D professionals to specify qualified labor on their jobs. Because the truth is that common sense isn’t very common and projects suffer as a result.

For information about upcoming CTEF Certified Tile Installer exams, visit www.tilecareer.com; for ACT certifications, visit www.tilecertifications.com.

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