Ask the Experts – May 2012


What is the standard installation for ceramic tiles on Gyp-Crete®? The floor consists of light-gauge metal framing, with ¾” plywood subfloor and 1” Gyp-Crete. Preparation of the Gyp-Crete consist of the application of sealer prior to the installation of the tiles. Would this floor be adequate to receive ceramic floor tiles?


I am concerned with your statement regarding lightweight metal joists. The floor must be engineered to support dead and live loads, and tile can be heavier than most other floor coverings.

You also state that you want to seal the Gyp-Crete. Instead, you need to prime the Gyp-Crete with the primer that your mortar manufacturer recommends.

You should also follow the installation instructions that are provided by the specific manufacturer of the gypsum underlayment you are using.

Also be advised that Portland cement and gypsum can have an adverse reaction if placed contiguous to one another, which could result in a possible loss of bond. To alleviate this risk, many tile professionals always use a waterproof/crack isolation membrane or uncoupling membrane between the gypsum and the tile.

Michael Whistler,
NTCA Tile & Stone Symposium presenter/technical consultant



I am installing floor tile for a client. I have contacted the manufacturer, which has ultimately brought me to this email. I need to find out what the relative humidity of the concrete slab should be (ASTM F2170) prior to the installation of this tile.


Typically moisture testing is done with a calcium chloride test kit, which measures how many lbs. of moisture per 1000 square feet are escaping the slab in a 24-hour period. Anything less than 5 lbs. per 1000 is probably suitable for use with cementitious mortars. Anything more than 5 lbs., you should contact the mortar manufacturer to ascertain suitability of their product with high-moisture slabs. Any slab measuring 12 lbs. or more per 1000 needs special consideration, and possibly a moisture barrier, depending on manufacturer’s instructions.

Michael Whistler,
NTCA Tile & Stone Symposium presenter/technical consultant

Ask the Experts – Coverings 2012 edition


What is the association’s recommendation as far as a trowel size to use when installing an 18”x18”x3/8” ceramic tile? Do I need to back-butter the tile? I am installing on 1/4” Durock placed over 3/4” plywood subfloor over radiant heat.


For an 18”x18” tile, you should use a medium-bed thin-set mortar. You will probably need a 5/8”x3/4” loop-notch trowel to get the proper 80% coverage for interior dry areas. Back-buttering is always a good idea to improve coverage.

– Michael Whistler, NTCA Symposium presenter


We need an installation method for installing Daltile 2”x2” mosaic tile in a roll-in shower room. The architect has had us use a cleavage membrane (#15 felt with wire lath) at all floor areas where we’re using mud. The building floors are a concrete plank. There is also a drain outside of the shower area in the space where the toilet and sink are. The rooms outside the shower will get wood flooring with wood sleepers below (approximately 2” total). There is no need for a saddle between the shower and the toilet and sink area. The high points should be around the perimeter of both areas, and most importantly at the entry into the shower area, which acts as the high point for both areas. We would use waterproofing. What do you suggest?


To follow is a drawing that shows common installation procedures for curb-less shower systems to retrofit an existing shower with ADA-approved wheelchair accessibility. No saddle or threshold that a wheelchari need negotiate will have a change in elevation of more than 1/2”, and no two elevations shall occur closer than 5’.
This can be used with a cleavage membrane along with reinforcing wire but will increase the mud bed thickness from 1/2” to at least 3/4” at the thinnest locations for residential; 1-1/4” for commercial. This may require raising the floor outside the shower 1/4” to 3/8” to meet the wheelchair accessibility recommendations. This is a common practice but is not yet available in the TCNA Handbook. The NTCA Methods and Standards Committee is currently working on submissions related to barrier-free and curbless showers for the Handbook.

– Gerald Sloan, NTCA training director

NTCA Reference Manual: Recruiting and hiring practices, part II

TileLetter’s Business Tip section will periodically feature excerpts and synopses from the new NTCA Reference Manual Business Section. Within the Organizational Development chapter of this document is Part II of information on Recruiting and Hiring practices for your company. Part I of this section – which addressed finding applicants and interviews – appeared in the Coverings issue of TileLetter.


Verify the compensation structure to be sure it is in line with the position before making an offer to a job applicant. Publications are available showing the current compensation ranges for most positions. The compensation ranges are different for different parts of the country; make sure you are looking in your area. Ask the Better Business Bureau for the name of a firm who publishes this information or check the internet for salary and wage survey data. Industry associations are also a good source of wage and salary data.

Ask friends and contacts in the industry what the compensation ranges are for the position you wish to fill.

If you ask for salary histories from the applicants, and if they tell the truth, their responses will give you an idea of the general salary range of how much people are presently paying in your geographic area for the position you are seeking to fill.

Check references 

There are several basic questions that should always be asked including:

  • How are you acquainted with the candidate?
  • How would you describe the overall quality of his/her performance?
  • Would you hire this person again?

There are other equally-important areas that need to be covered that will be unique either to the firm or the job itself or possibly both. For instance, the person doing the reference checking needs to understand the culture requirements. For example:

  • Does the candidate need to be someone who can be an agent for change within the organization or someone who has the ability to maintain the status quo?
  • Will the job allow the candidate to continue his career growth and development, or will it be perceived as a dead end job?
  • What is the firm’s management philosophy?
  • Are firm personnel encouraged to be creative, or is everyone supposed to stay within the lines?
  • To what type of person will the successful candidate report: a hard-driving no-nonsense manager who takes a strong hand-on approach, or a more laid-back individual who delegates?

Reference-check questions need to be thought through carefully and are not to be asked in a vacuum. It’s one thing to inquire about a candidate’s past job performance. It’s quite another to determine whether or not that performance is relevant to the position being filled.

Suppose a candidate’s references all describe him/her as a person who prefers to work independently and who doesn’t require or desire much supervision to get the job done thoroughly and on time. Then suppose that the manager for whom this candidate will be working is very hands-on and likes to closely monitor the progress of projects he/she has assigned to subordinates. There could be a potential problem.

Suppose a prime candidate is described as someone who is ambitious and eager to move up within the organization by doing more than is expected and getting things done ahead of schedule. Then suppose that the person to whom the candidate will report is a solid performer who is content with the position he or she holds and the type of individual who goes out of his or her way to avoid controversy? Could that ambitious candidate be faced with a potential fast-track career advancement roadblock?

Even though a candidate receives what appear to be glowing reviews from references, these comments need to be put within a broader context that compares past performance to the nature of the job that needs filling.

It’s not just a matter of determining if the candidate is right for the job. Determine if the job is right for the candidate. Tailor reference questions to ensure proper fit.

For access to this entire document, as well as the information-packed NTCA Reference Manual itself, contact Jim Olson at [email protected] or 601-939-2071about NTCA membership.

NTCA Reference Manual: Recruiting and hiring practices

TileLetter’s Business Tip section will periodically feature excerpts and synopses from the new NTCA Reference Manual Business Section. Within the Organizational Development chapter of this document is part one of information on Recruiting and Hiring practices for your company. Part II to appear in the April issue of TileLetter.

Finding applicants

There are a number of ways applicants may be sought and recruited:

  • Word of mouth around the industry. This method has the best chance to find someone with specific experience in the position to be filled.
  • Local Church Employment Services.
  • Local or out of town newspapers, it is always better to find someone who lives in the area, but for some positions, it is very difficult.
  • Employment Agencies, more commonly called “Head Hunters”. This method is much more convenient, but you still cannot rely totally on the headhunter to get the right person.  Remember s/he will get paid if you fill the position, whether the person is the right one for the job is still your responsibility. Using an Employment Agency tends to be expensive, typically 25% to 33% of the first year’s salary of the person hired.
  • Writing and placing an ad. It should be short and to the point.  Some decisions, which have to be made about the ad, are:
    • Whether or not to give the name of the firm. If you do, you will have people showing up at the door or telephone inquiries. Have the receptionist pass out applications, without taking up manager time.
    • All telephone inquiries should be handled by the receptionist with “We are not accepting telephone calls for this position; please submit your resume via mail, fax or e-mail.”
    • In the event a personnel agency calls in response to the ad, request a brochure/firm information, written fee schedule and references before entering into any discussions about current or future/planned position openings.
    • Whether or not to give the salary range offered. Typically, the pay is listed on hourly jobs, but on salaried jobs, you would simply state “Salary DOE.”
    • Whether to give a newspaper blind ad, a P.O. box, or the address of the firm.
    • Most companies include a request for salary history. Asking for salary history is acceptable.  You may even state “Must include salary history to be considered.”

Review all the responses and grade appropriately.


Call those of interest and screen/interview over the telephone, using a prepared set of questions. Keep the telephone-screening interview brief. The purpose is to determine whether a face-to-face interview is warranted.

Schedule personal interviews with those who show promise. On the personal interviews, use a checklist to make sure all the requirements of the position are covered. Utilize the Job Candidate Evaluation Rating Form located at the end of the Employment Interview Questions procedure.
Go through the notes of the personal interviews and invite finalists to a second interview with another firm manager/peer employee. Maximum 2-4 applicants. Don’t settle for someone that is not right for the job, just because you haven’t found anyone better.

If no good candidates are found, begin another round of interviewing.

  • Review the pick(s) in order of preference.
  • Conduct background check/verification and references.
  • Make an employment offer.
  • A verbal offer is appropriate for hourly employees.
  • For salaried employees, you should make an offer in writing.

For access to this entire document, as well as the information-packed NTCA Reference Manual itself, contact Jim Olson at [email protected] or 601-939-2071about NTCA membership.

NTCA Reference Manual Business Section

TileLetter’s Business Tip section will periodically feature excerpts and synopses from the new NTCA Reference Manual Business Section. Within the Strategic Planning chapter of the NTCA Reference Manual Business Section is information on formulating the Vision, Mission and Values statements for your company:

A. Vision/Mission/Values Statement

  • I. Vision: Defines the way an organization will look in the future. Vision is a long-term view, sometimes describing how the organization would like the world to be in which it operates. For example, a charity working with the poor might have a Vision Statement which reads, “A World without Poverty.”
  • II. Mission: Defines the fundamental purpose of the organization, describing why it exists and what it does to achieve the Vision. It is sometimes used to set out a “picture” of the company in the future. A Mission Statement provides details of what is done and statements like “job training for the homeless and unemployed.”
  • III. Values: Beliefs that are shared among the decision-makers of the organization. Values drive the culture and priorities and provide a framework in which decisions are made. For example, “Knowledge and skills are the keys to success” is an example of the values of the company. The Strategic Plan combines the goals for which the firm is striving and the means (policies) by which it is seeking to get there. A strategy is sometimes called a “roadmap” which is the path chosen to plow towards the end Vision. The most important part of implementing the strategy is ensuring the company is going in the right direction, which is toward the end Vision.

Organizations sometimes summarize goals and objectives into a Mission Statement and/or a Vision Statement. Others begin with a Vision and Mission and use them to formulate goals and objectives.

  • A Mission Statement tells you the fundamental purpose of the organization. It defines the customer and the critical processes. It informs you of the desired level of performance.
  • A Vision Statement outlines what the company wants to be, or how it wants the world in which it operates to be. It concentrates on the future. It is a source of inspiration. It provides clear decision-making criteria.

For example, a tile contracting company may have a Mission of becoming the largest and most profitable commercial company in its market. Another company may want to remain small and work specifically with custom homes and remodeling projects. The Mission Statement is where you can clearly define who you want to be.

An advantage of having a statement is that it creates value for those who get exposed to it, such as owners, managers, employees, and sometimes even customers. Statements create a sense of direction and opportunity.

Many people mistake the Vision Statement for the Mission Statement, and sometimes one is used as a longer-term version of the other. The Vision should explain why it is important to achieve the Mission. A Vision Statement defines the purpose or broader goal for being in existence and can remain the same for decades if crafted well. A Mission Statement is more specific to what the company can become. Vision should describe what will be achieved in the bigger picture if the company and others are successful in achieving their individual missions.

Which comes first? It depends. If you have a new start-up company, or a new program to re-engineer your current services – such as a maintenance division – then the Vision will guide the Mission Statement and the rest of the Strategic Plan. If you have an established business where the mission is established, then many times, the mission guides the Vision Statement and the rest of the Strategic Plan. Either way, you need to know your fundamental purpose (Mission) and your current situation in terms of resources and capabilities (strengths and weaknesses) and external conditions (opportunities and threats), and where you want to go (Vision) for the future. It is vital that you keep the end or desired result in sight from the start.

To become effective, the Vision Statement must become part of the company culture. Leaders have the responsibility of communicating the Vision regularly, acting as role-models by embracing the Vision, creating short-term objectives compatible with it, and encouraging others to craft their own personal Vision compatible with company Vision.

For access to this entire document, as well as the information-packed NTCA Reference Manual itself, contact Jim Olson at [email protected] or 601-939-2071 about NTCA membership.


From its five founding members, TCNA – Mexico’s membership has grown to 36 companies supporting Tile Council projects in Mexico.  This total includes 11 tile manufacturers (representing 98% of the tile manufactured in Mexico), 11 associate installation materials members, and 14 associate raw material supplier members.

The following are some of the recent developments with which TCNA – Mexico has been involved to benefit the North American tile industry:

Government Relations

TCNA – Mexico continues to participate in a government program to monitor tile imports by assisting in the revision of a government database used to identify and report misclassified tile, sub-valuation (when the price is less than 50% of the HS code average), tile falsely labeled as porcelain, and other illegal trade practices.

In 2012 TCNA – Mexico is also working with the Federal Consumer Agency (PROFECO) to prevent consumer fraud by identifying and reporting tile falsely labeled as porcelain being sold at retail stores or through distributors.

Installer Training & Certification

TCNA – Mexico now operates three installer training centers: one in Monterrey and the other two in the Mexico City area (in Ciudad Nezahualcoyotl and in Alvaro Obregon).  Construction of a fourth training center in Guadalajara will begin later this year.

Additionally, the installer certification program that was launched in Oct. 2010 continues to grow with the added support of TCNA – Mexico associate installation materials members.

TCNA – Mexico hired Oscar Urbina Almanza as training manager to promote the certification program and supervise training classes at each location.  Mr. Almanza is also in charge of evaluating installers taking certification exams.

Tile Installation Video

TCNA – Mexico developed a tile installation video that demonstrates all steps necessary for a successful tile installation in Mexico.  This video will be launched soon in the TCNA – Mexico section of Tile Council’s website.

Promotional Efforts/Tradeshows

In 2010 TCNA – Mexico successfully launched a 25,000-sq. ft. TCNA pavilion at Expo CIHAC, the largest construction show in Mexico. This year will mark the third year of TCNA – Mexico’s participation in Expo CIHAC, with its pavilion growing to more than 35,000 sq. ft.

In 2012 TCNA – Mexico will launch an installation stage within TCNA pavilion at Expo CIHAC for installation materials manufacturers to demonstrate their products.

TCNA – Mexico’s efforts at Expo CIHAC are designed to promote TCNA members, the use of tile, and improving tile installation quality through installer training and certification.

Green Initiative

TCNA – Mexico is leading the way to promote the sustainability of tile in Mexico.  It is working with the Green Building Council – Mexico to customize 80 of the 120 credits necessary for LEED certification to meet Mexico’s climatic and environmental needs.  TCNA – Mexico’s involvement will provide the tile industry with a strong voice in this effort.

TCNA – Mexico was created in 2005 to serve Tile Council of North America’s Mexican members, as well as U.S. and Canadian members doing business in Mexico.

TCNA Laboratory Expands Services

Tile Council of North America’s (TCNA) Product Performance Testing Laboratory is pleased to announce several new services designed to meet the industry’s growing and ever-changing needs for relevant, up-to-date product testing.

ISO Testing

In addition to TCNA’s full ISO 13007 cementitious grout and adhesive testing capabilities, TCNA just added ISO 10545-5 “Determination of Impact Resistance by Measurement of Coefficient of Restitution” to its standard ISO testing offerings.

ASTM Testing

TCNA’s lab can test all tile and stone products to the new DCOF AcuTestSM method referenced in ANSI A137.1, as well as traditional ASTM C1028 coefficient of friction testing.

Additionally, TCNA continues to offer modified ASTM C666: “Automated High Cycle Freeze/Thaw” stone testing, making it practical and cost effective to test stone to hundreds of cycles, as well as ASTM C1721: “Petrographic Analysis of Dimension Stone” testing, which determines a specimen’s important physical and chemical characteristics, such as mineralogy, texture, and composition.

New Green Testing

TCNA staff recently developed a first of its kind method for testing the hypoallergenicity and cytotoxicity of coated surfaces.  TCNA also added lead and cadmium testing to its existing menu of green testing:

  • Photocatalytic testing
  • Antibacterial testing
  • Expanded fungus and microorganism testing
  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) testing
  • Solar Reflectance Index (SRI) testing

ANSI Testing

TCNA is pleased to add glass tile testing per the criteria found in ANSI A137.2, the industry’s new glass tile specification.  It also tests to every other existing ANSI tile industry standard.

As the largest tile and stone-only testing facility in the U.S., TCNA’s Product Performance Testing Laboratory offers confidential product and performance testing conducted in a state-of-the-art laboratory.  The TCNA lab offers a wide range of tile, dimension stone, and installation materials testing per ASTM, ANSI and ISO standards and can also provide custom testing services on request.  TCNA’s lab can also provide larger-scale testing and research conducted via partnerships with the National Brick Research Center and Clemson University.

DCOF AcuTestsm: The New Method for Measuring Coefficient of Friction on Tile

Tile Council of North America (TCNA), is pleased to announce there will soon be a new standard for coefficient of friction (COF) testing on tile.

The DCOF AcuTest method will soon replace ASTM C1028 as the specified method for COF testing.  DCOF AcuTest is a more repeatable and reproducible method that gives a better indication of actual slip potential on a tile surface.

This new method uses the BOT 3000 automated portable testing device with a specific type of rubber sensor and slightly soapy water.  The sensor is resurfaced using a sanding device designed by the TCNA’s Product Performance Testing Laboratory.

A new version of ANSI A137.1 Specifications for Ceramic Tile will soon be published with the new DCOF AcuTest method.  Additionally, for the first time there will be a minimum COF requirement of 0.42 for level interior tile surfaces expected to be walked upon when wet.

The new A137.1 will also include a two-page informational section (section, which will help specifiers better understand how to choose the right tile for every application.

TCNA’s lab is fully-equipped to test all tile products to this new and improved coefficient of friction test method.  For more information on this and other tile and tile-related product testing, visit or contact TCNA at 864-646-8453.

World’s First Glass Tile Standard Now Available

Tile Council of North America (TCNA) is pleased to announce the availability of the world’s first standard for glass tile, ANSI A137.2 American National Standard Specifications for Glass Tile.

Since glass tiles have performance and aesthetic properties very different from ceramic tiles, a separate and unique standard was required.  ANSI A137.2 categorizes and defines types of glass tiles and establishes aesthetic and performance standards within each category.

Some of the key issues the standard covers include:

  • Methods of manufacture: cast, fused, and low temperature-coated
  • Categorization by size: large format, mosaic, and miniature mosaic
  • What constitutes a defect
  • Mounting criteria for mounted glass mosaics
  • Measurement and definition of translucence
  • Strength criteria
  • Thermal shock resistance using real life temperature ranges
  • Levels of recycled content

With standard criteria in place, the industry now has a consensus baseline for manufacturing quality and a valuable tool which can aid in the development of new installation standards and in the general specification of glass tile.

“With the wide variety of products available around the world, this much-needed standard aims to reduce confusion in the marketplace,” stated TCNA Executive Director, Eric Astrachan.  “TCNA and its members are confident that the clear and consistent definitions and standards established by ANSI A137.2 will help preserve the value, popularity, and quality associated with glass tiles today.”

Print and electronic copies of ANSI A137.2 can be purchased from TCNA.  To order this standard contact TCNA at [email protected]  or (864) 646-8453.


U.S. tile consumption for 2011 was 2.04 billion sq. ft. (+1.8% vs. 2010).

The following table shows U.S. tile shipments, imports, exports, and total consumption in thousands of sq. ft.


U.S. Shipments



Total Consumption

% Change in Consumption from Previous Year
































In 2011, 1.41 billion sq. ft. (131.0 million sq. m) of ceramic tile arrived in the U.S.  This was an increase of 1.1% from 2010, in which 1.39 billion sq. ft. (129.6 million sq. m) of ceramic tile were imported into the U.S., and a 5.8% increase from 2009.

Although imports still comprise the majority of U.S. consumption, import penetration has fallen in each of the last five years and in 2011 was at 69.2%, the lowest it has been since 1998.

Mexico remained the top exporter to the U.S. in 2011 (in sq. ft.) with a 29.9% share.  China held the second position, making up 27.8% of imports (in sq. ft.).  Italy was in third place with a 17.1% share.

On a dollar basis, Italy continued to hold the top exporter position in 2011, making up 34.3% of U.S. imports.  The next two highest shares belonged to China and Mexico, which had 22.6% and 18.0% of the $ value of U.S. imports, respectively.

The $ value/sq. ft. of all tile imports rose from $0.91 in 2010 to $0.94 in 2011.

The top five countries from which tiles were imported in 2011 based on sq. ft. were:


SQ FT 2011

SQ FT 2010

2011/2010 % Change

2010/2009 % Change


























The top five countries from which tiles were imported in 2011 based on total U.S. $ value (including duty, freight, and insurance) were:


$ VAL 2011

$ VAL 2010

2011/2010 % Change

2010/2009 % Change


























U.S. Shipments:

Domestic shipments were at 672.6 million sq. ft. in 2011, up 3.6% from 2010.


U.S. exports in 2011 were at 45.3 million sq. ft., up 7.7% vs. 2010.  The vast majority of these exports (in sq. ft.) were to Canada (47.2%), China (19.0%), and Mexico (10.4%).

(Source: U.S. Commerce Dept.)

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