Cersaie large-format modules and slabs offer thin and thick profiles

This year at Cersaie, many Ceramics of Italy companies launched a range of large-format tiles for interior and exterior use and thin tile/gauged porcelain tile products. Here’s just a peek at what visitors to Bologna, Italy, saw on display at the end of September at the show.

Fioranese: Liquida

The Liquida collection, designed by Davide Tonelli for Ceramica Fioranese, evokes 1950s-era wallpaper with its graphic patterns and forms. With a surface inspired by the look of natural limestone, the collection is available in six pastel colors – ivory, dove grey, pink, sage green, powder blue and cocoa – and 8 captivating patterns – Porthole, Frame, Ribbed, Cut Out, Bold, Plaid, Oval, and Block. Liquida slabs (48” x 102”) are suitable for wall applications in residential and commercial projects, and create a seamless, wallpaper-like appearance. www.fioranese.it/

Blustyle: Yosemite

Blustyle’s Yosemite collection is inspired by the look of limestone slabs, carefully produced to reflect the natural characteristics and veining of the material. This porcelain stoneware collection offers solutions for both indoor and outdoor flooring. The 35” x 35” 11mm indoor floor tiles provide guaranteed durability. The 24” x 24” 20mm format pavers, with their textured surface, are suitable for all outdoor flooring – even for use on driveways. The collection is available in three colors – Lake (ivory), Park (beige), and Rock (ash). www.blustyle.it

Ceramica Sant’Agostino: Oxidart

Inspired by oxidized metal slabs, the Oxidart collection by Ceramica Sant’Agostino beautifully conveys the passage of time. The 10mm porcelain tiles are suitable for both floor and wall applications in commercial and residential settings, and are available in a wide range of sizes and graphic patterns. The glazing technique used on the surface creates a combination glossy/matte finish. Oxidart is available in four colors – black, copper, iron, and silver – and in several large format sizes: 47” x 47”, 35” x 35”, and 24” x 47”.  www.ceramicasantagostino.it/en/

Edilgres: I’m Italian Marble

The Edilgres I’m Italian Marble collection draws inspiration from the finest marbles, flawlessly reflecting the material’s natural veining and shades. With this collection, the traditional beauty of marble is met with the modern, high-technology performance of porcelain stoneware. An addition to the company’s Folio 6.0 slabs collection, I’m Italian Marble is available in two 6mm formats (47” x 94” and 47” x 47”), three finishes (Rectified, Opaque, and Polished), and seven colors (Apuano White, Arabesque White, Elegant Grey, Corinthian Beige, Prestige Light Grey, Coffee Brown and Sahara Noir). www.edilgres.it/

Emilgroup: Level

Level, Emilgroup’s new line of large ceramic slabs, opens up new horizons for architects and designers looking for creative ceramic applications. Two size variants – 6.5mm in 63” x 126” and 12mm in 64” x 128” – make the collection suitable for more than just floor and wall applications. These large-format sizes are ideal for use as countertops, backsplashes, worktops, tables, and doors, thus allowing for seamless continuity in the design of a space – from flooring, to wall covering, to furnishings. There are four looks available: marble, cement, solid colors, and design. www.emilgroup.it

Panaria Ceramica: Eternity 0.3

Panaria Ceramica’s Eternity 0.3 collection of large thin slabs is inspired by the aesthetic characteristics of marble with various veining patterns, shades, and elegant designs. Two 6mm size variants – 47” x 102” and 47” x 47” – are available in four different colors: Statuario White, Arabesque Pearl, Breach Grey, and Marquiña Black. The Statuario White and Arabesque Pearl colors are available in a bookmatch design with a Lux finish. Eternity 0.3 is perfect for flooring, wall covering, and custom-built furniture. www.panaria.it

GPT at Coverings 2018 – Education that goes beyond PowerPoint

In the fall of 2012, the terms “Gauged Porcelain Tiles” and “Gauged Porcelain Panels” didn’t exist yet. Back then, the product was just beginning to show up in the U.S. market and was being referred to as “thin tile.” No one knew how to deal with tiles that were 3´ x 10´, an 1/8˝ to 1/4˝ thick, and somewhat flexible. That fear led many to dismiss thin tile as a fad that would die out if they just ignored it. Others decided to embrace the challenge and introduce the products and techniques from Europe to the U.S. market. 

The first companies to make significant investments in importing the products and figuring out how to install them were Crossville and MAPEI. In the fall of 2012, these two companies came together to give the first educational session at Total Solutions Plus. To a standing-room-only crowd, the first deck of PowerPoint slides were given that explained how the product was made, how it should be handled in the field, and how it should be installed.

MAPEI’s Dan Marvin and Crossville’s Noah Chitty gave a presentation on gauged porcelain tile and panels at Coverings 2018, updating the audience on all the new findings and standards for product and installation of the material.

MAPEI’s Gerald Sloan (c) and Logan Reavis (r.) demonstrate equipment for moving panels for a wall tile installation, with an assist from Mick Volponi (l.)

Fast forward to Coverings 2018 in Atlanta, where Crossville and MAPEI were at it again, as they have been for 12 consecutive, major trade shows. Crossville’s Noah Chitty and MAPEI’s Dan Marvin presented updated PowerPoint slides that have their roots in that 2012 presentation but have seen many changes. Gone are the slides that say “there are no standards.” Now, Noah and Dan get to quote from product standards (A137.3) and installation standards (A108.19) that were voted into existence in 2017. The tiles themselves must meet certain criteria for strength, durability, and how well the mesh is attached if there is mesh. Troweling techniques, embedding techniques, coverage requirements, and product handling all have standards now. Instead of telling the audience “this is what we think,” Noah and Dan now get to say “this is what the tile industry agrees is the right way of doing it.”



Ryan Freitag with Donnelly Distributing – the US Raimondi distributor – shows the crowd how to use a 10’ long score-and-snap cutter.

After the PowerPoint portion of the Coverings presentation, there was an added bonus; the entire audience stayed to see a live demonstration of two panels being installed on a wall and one on the floor. With the help of Raimondi (tools) and MLT (lippage tuning devices), the audience was able to see first-hand how the Laminam by Crossville panels are cut, how MAPEI Ultralite S2 mortar was applied to the substrate and the tile with a special trowel, how they are installed with minimal lippage to avoid future damage, and how the air was worked out with the “Cross-walk” method that is now part of the standard. Several attendees came up to do some cuts themselves and see how a 10´ long score-and-snap cutter works. As the audience was told several times, it is much better to make your mistakes on someone else’s 30 sq. ft. tile than one you’ll have to pay for if you mess it up.

MAPEI’s Gerald Sloan shows how to release air trapped beneath the large thin panels using the Cross-walk method.

Back in 2012, most of the audience had never heard of ‘thin tile’ and no hands went up when asked if they had worked with or installed it. But in 2018, thanks in large part to the educational efforts of Crossville, MAPEI, and Coverings, everyone in attendance was familiar with the product and at least half had seen and worked with it. This year, the audience offered each other solutions to questions based on experience instead of the manufacturers giving solutions based on experimental results. 

After a very busy afternoon, the group stayed well past the allotted time of 4:30 p.m. to ask follow-up questions, trade business cards, and share war stories. Those installers who have embraced Gauged Porcelain Tile and Gauged Porcelain Panels have found a niche where their craftsmanship can shine. Architects and designers love the minimal grout joints and dramatic styling. Building owners are pleased with the low maintenance and many compliments they receive. As for Noah and Dan, they are simply happy when the last questions are answered, all of the tools are back in their boxes and the next trade show is still a few months away.

After the PowerPoint, attendees got to witness an actual wall and floor GPTP installation.



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.


Thin Tile – June 2018: Ponder prep before predicting price

By now, hopefully much of the tile industry has been hearing about gauged porcelain tile panels (GPTP) and realize that their installation requires specialized expertise and training as compared to typical large-format tile like 12” x 24” formats. But what’s really involved? 

Recently NTCA Training Director/Trainer/Presenter Mark Heinlein fielded a question about pricing for a 48” x 96” GPTP. While he couldn’t give a figure for such an installation, he did detail what’s involved in the installation and what’s needed as compared to traditional tile. Following is his response:

Installation of GPTP requires specific training on substrate prep, setting material selection and usage, specialty tool usage, material handling, teamwork and timing for successful installations. ANSI A118.19 is the installation standard for this material. It is the standard for every aspect of a successful installation.

Many manufacturers of GPTP team with setting material and tool companies to provide this specific training. NTCA is currently conducting GPTP training for our members in regional locations throughout the U.S. Our next program is coming up in the Chicago area in July. (Visit page 8 of this issue or this link for a calendar of upcoming regional training programs and workshops: https://bit.ly/2JjtEjr)

I strongly encourage any installers looking to work with GPTP to receive training based on ANSI A118.19 before attempting to perform an installation.

As far as pricing a job, items such as: substrate prep; proper mortar selection and use; appropriate specialty tool sets; lippage tuning systems and a well-trained, highly functioning team are required to set these tiles/panels. There is money to be made on these installations, but it takes some significant understanding of the process to determine appropriate pricing. Each job should be approached individually as each one will require very specific substrate preparation, etc.

NTCA’s day-long, member benefit regional training programs are currently training on GPTP, and Substrate Preparation and Large-Format Tile. They always incorporate Tile Industry Standards. In addition to installers, I have had project managers and designers attend these extensive training programs. The information and experience they gain has helped them better understand what their company is getting into on these projects. If you’d like to know more about these programs, contact me at
[email protected].

Thin Tile/GPTP – March 2018

Laminam by Crossville porcelain tile panels modernize Lexington Office Park

Panels allowed installation of new surfaces without demolition of the old

Constructed in 1982, Lexington Office Park’s lobby was badly in need of a fresh look. A Class A office building located only 11 miles outside Boston, Lexington Office Park has much to offer potential tenants, and the 82,000 sq. ft. of interior space is just the beginning. The campus also includes a wooded lot with a pond, plenty of parking, an in-house café, a conference area, and a fitness center. However, the outdated lobby fell short in offering a fitting first impression for such an exceptional facility.

CUBE 3 Studio was retained to lead the renovation and transform the lobby into a welcoming, modern space. It would be no small feat as there was a three-story brick structure that ran on both the interior and exterior of the lobby. The configuration imparted a look more “old library” than “upscale corporate,” but because of its position, it could not be demolished and removed. Members of the CUBE 3 Studio team would have to work around this element, and they knew material selection would have to be the answer to this challenging design dilemma.

They set out in search of a durable surface that could somehow mask the dated brick while also spanning the height of the lobby without getting lost in the vast space. Also – because the exterior wall system was the only break between the brick that ran from the interior to the exterior, the CUBE 3 Studio designers did not have the flexibility to fur out the wall behind whatever material would specified. They needed to identify a solution for skinning the brick walls – something relatively lightweight with great aesthetic appeal.

After careful consideration, they selected Laminam by Crossville porcelain tile panels as the creative solution that met both the pragmatic and aesthetic demands of this challenging renovation. Laminam collections provided the right installation advantages, technical characteristics, and a sleek, modern look befitting of Lexington Office Park’s amenities.

For the walls, the team chose Laminam Oxide in the Bianco and Grigio colorways. With its grit-and-glitter industrial style, the Oxide collection provides the large-scale contemporary aesthetic that the design team was seeking, with no need for demolition or complicated preparation prior to installation. Ultimately, the general contractor, Bowdoin Construction Corp., chose to sheet rock over the brick and then install the Laminam.

Laminam Oxide Bianco, the primary tile in the space, lightens and brightens the previously dark lobby, while a large, vertical swath of Grigio, placed at the entry to the open stairwell, pulls the eye up the three-story space with a dramatic flourish. To further emphasize the height, the CUBE 3 Studio team accented the Grigio panels with tall, narrow inset light panels at varying intervals and lengths. These insets add dimension and interest. To achieve the design, the installation professionals with Floor Works had to cut slits in the Laminam while on a lift – a unique challenge that they skillfully managed. The resulting effect proves to be well worth the effort.

On the stairs, earthy and elegant Laminam Fokos Roccia was installed directly over existing materials – no demo required. The sturdy profile of the 5.6mm-thick material will withstand years of foot traffic beautifully.

Due to the ease of installation by FloorWorks, – enabled by Laminam – the significant overhaul of Lexington Office Park’s lobby was completed in only nine months. Project designer Angela Juliano expresses how pleased she is with Laminam and the final results this innovative material helped her team achieve. “[I] love the look, love the size. To be able to minimize grout lines and get a large-scale application with a variety of finishes is awesome,” she shared. “We love the product on stairs, as well as [on] elevator cab walls. It is durable and looks great. Also, the fact that it is so lightweight makes it easy to use in elevators.”

She is equally pleased with the service she received from Crossville. “The responsiveness [from Crossville] is something that we can always depend on. We have full confidence in the support we receive.”

Thin Tile – September 2016

thin-01DAC, MAPEI, ETM ace USTA installation of Fiandre 5’x10′ porcelain gauged panels

Teamwork transforms challenging project into a grand slam

by Lesley Goddin

The 25’ x 36’ wall of Fiandre 5’ x 10’ porcelain gauged panels in the two-story office building were deftly installed by NTCA Five Star Contractor David Allen Company (DAC) with support from MAPEI and European Tile Masters (ETM).

The 25’ x 36’ wall of Fiandre 5’ x 10’ porcelain gauged panels in the two-story office building were deftly installed by NTCA Five Star Contractor David Allen Company (DAC) with support from MAPEI and European Tile Masters (ETM).

A 63-acre campus in Lake Nona, Fla., Orlando, is home to the U.S. Tennis Association’s (USTA) largest training and player development center. The site, which was formerly a cow pasture, is expected to create more than 150 jobs and will be the new home of the University of Central Florida varsity tennis team. Expected to be complete by the end of this year, this is the USTA’s first outdoor facility, which allows players to train and compete year-round.

The facilities include more than 100 tennis courts for players of different skills levels from from youth tennis team events to national championships for those ages 90 and over. A lodge is planned to accommodate players during training, and a mammoth stadium that can house two simultaneous tennis matches and 1,200 spectators.

The center also includes offices for USTA Player Development, and USTA Community Tennis Division that will relocate from Boca Raton, Fla., and White Plains, N.Y., respectively. The office building houses a tennis pro shop, fitness area, locker rooms, player lounge and cafeteria on the ground floor. The office building is also home to a 25’ x 36’ installation of Fiandre 5’ x 10’ porcelain gauged panels, deftly installed by NTCA Five Star Contractor David Allen Company (DAC) with support from MAPEI and European Tile Masters (ETM). The panels were installed in the ground and second floor of the office building.

DAC used ETM equipment and MAPEI Ultralite S2 mortar to affix the large porcelain panels to the wall.

DAC used ETM equipment and MAPEI Ultralite S2 mortar to affix the large porcelain panels to the wall.

Preparation for this project started when DAC’s superintendant, foreman and lead installer – as well as project manager Cynthia Bendiksby – attended a thin-tile installation training offered by Crossville, with which DAC has a Laminam project starting up this month, Bendiksby said. DAC attendees became familiar with handling and installing the colossal thin porcelain panels, a skill that laid the groundwork for a two-day MAPEI training at the USTA site immediately before installation began. MAPEI regional technical rep Gerald Sloan, and sales reps Dan Costa and Joe Shoemaker were on site to support this training.
“We were assisted by MAPEI and ETM representatives,” Bendiksby said. “We used MAPEI Ultralite S2 and the lifting and setting equipment manufactured by European Tile Masters.” This was a challenging installation, due to the size of the 5’ x 10’ tile panels, said Jim Whitfield, MAPEI technical director. The panels were to be installed vertically up to the third story, finishing 35’ in the air, three panels high.

Previewing the project, DAC’s Bendiksby observed, “Needless to say, there will need to be a ton of practice, from mixing the S2 thinset (which none of my crew have worked with), spreading/keying both the tile and the wall, loading it onto a scissor lift and getting it all done within the shortest timespan possible before it skims over in the 90 degree Florida heat.

Tile and Dens Shield backer board are back-buttered, and ready for the next porcelain panel.

Tile and Dens Shield backer board are back-buttered, and ready for the next porcelain panel.

“Already I am seeing issues with the weight of the panel with three men on a scissor lift and how to get the panel up to that height while mounted on the rack,” she said.

Excellence and ingenuity save the day

Team MAPEI and ETM to the rescue! MAPEI technical rep Sloan, and sales reps Costa and Joe Shoemaker assisted the DAC team in back buttering and notching on the ground. The large mortared Fiandre Marmi Maximum Premium White tiles were then passed up to installers on the scissor lift. From there, the DAC lift crew had to ascend with the rack loaded with tile and mortar and place it on the Dens Shield backer, already troweled with mortar.

But this didn’t happen before some fancy footwork involving the lift. Whitfield suggested 2” x 6” lumber be attached to the front of the scissor lift platform, overhanging to form an extension table on which to set the rake and tile. From there, the plan was to raise the scissor lift straight up, and ease the rack and tile with mortar off the 2” x 6” onto the wall, into the troweled mortar.

Mick Volponi’s Mechanical Lippage Tuning (MLT) System was used to prevent lippage in these enormous tiles.

Mick Volponi’s Mechanical Lippage Tuning (MLT) System was used to prevent lippage in these enormous tiles.

The problem was that there was no 2” x 6” lumber at the site. Ben Szell of ETM – who earned the nickname “MacGyver” by Bendiksby for his ingenious solution on this project – dismantled one of his ETM racks to build a secure aluminum extension that would hang out of the platform and support the tile rack securely.

The DAC crew proclaimed the MAPEI Ultralite S2 mortar “a hit. Everyone liked how creamy it was; how coverage was achieved and the lightweight factor helped with this large heavy tile,” Whitfield said.

Bendiksby added, “The joints were filled with Mapesil Avalanche. Equipment included the European Tile Masters trowel, cutting table, e-grips, sawhorses – and most obviously an electric lift capable of carrying three men plus a 200-pound tile with outrigging. MLT was the leveling system.”

Over the course of the eight days of installations, the team went through a few dry runs, and worked through the issues with tools and the scissor lift.

“But in the end, we really came up with a solid method of installation everyone was comfortable with,” Whitfield said. “Martin [Howard, of DAC] commented to me at the TCNA Handbook meeting, that after a few panels they knew, if they had to do it again, they could complete the project in just a few days.”

The Fiandre tile and DAC’s flawless installation make for a beautiful backdrop.

The Fiandre tile and DAC’s flawless installation make for a beautiful backdrop.

Thin Tile – July 2016

mapei_sponsorUpdate on ANSI product installation standards; recent projects featuring gauged porcelain tile panels/slabs

by Lesley Goddin

In our continuing quest to bring you useful information about the surging use of large thin porcelain tile, we bring you some news from the ANSI meeting concerning proposals for ANSI A137.3 (product standards) and ANSI A108.19 (installation standards) that was held during Coverings in Chicago this past April. In addition, we have a collection of projects below that show some of the ways large thin porcelain tile is being used on a range of projects.

The meeting

To start, a very productive ANSI meeting took place during Coverings in Chicago. The proposed draft standard under discussion for ANSI A137.3 has tables providing properties for three tile types: Nominal Thickness 5.0 mm to 6.5 mm (Table 4), Back-Layered with Nominal Thickness 5.0 mm to 6.5 mm (Table 5), and Back-Layered with Nominal Thickness 3.5 mm to 4.9 mm (Table 6). The Committee discussed the properties developed through lab testing and real world applications, but consensus was not reached. The proposed standard also allows for future tables to be included for additional tile types such as thicker tiles for raised flooring (and other) applications.

A proposed draft installation standard was also presented for tiles with properties in Table 4, with further work on the standard in progress.

Discussion turned to how to label, name and describe these tiles in the standard, depending on their thickness, size, and various marketing terms. TCNA explained that the name in a standard should not be conflated or merged with how tiles are labeled, but how the tiles are described should be sufficiently neutral to allow companies to market and label them however they choose to brand their products. Any effort to mix individual company marketing needs with the labels in a standard would be unlikely to achieve true consensus.

To this end, the proposed standard was labeled, “American National Standard Specifications for Gauged Porcelain Tiles and Gauged Porcelain Tile Panels/Slabs.” The standard is so named because the properties in Tables 4 – 6 are based on a narrow (i.e. gauged) range of thicknesses. Further, it allows manufacturers to choose how to label their products depending on their marketing, i.e. either as panels or slabs.

The next ANSI A108 Committee meeting will be held at Total Solutions Plus, Hyatt Indian Wells Resort near Palm Springs on Friday, October 21, 2016. In the meantime, many groups of stakeholders and interested parties are meeting separately, and with TCNA, to work towards further understanding and consensus.

The projects

Following are a number of recent projects that use gauged porcelain tile panels for interior and exterior application. As was described in the Laminam by Crossville entry, installers trained in the handling and installation of these products were employed on the job. NTCA recommends working with only contractors who have experience, certification or training in installing these products, for the smoothest installation process and best ongoing performance of the tiles themselves.

thin-01Laminam tile was supplied by Stone Tile International for the Sherway Gardens Expansion in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, which is presently underway and due to finish in fall of 2016. This high-end mall has a total expansion of 100,000 sq. ft. One of the highlights of this project is the installation of some very large 1 m x 3 m porcelain veneer in an exterior setting. Maple Group of Toronto installed 3,000 sq. ft. of large, thin tiles with MAPEI’s Granirapid with Ultracolor Plus grout after MAPEI’s Mapelastic 315 was used to waterproof over concrete. The gauged porcelain panels were installed around the large entryway and two smaller entrances. The tile was also cut into pie-shaped wedges to form large tile circles on the ceiling of the mall’s interior.

Inalco Slimmker – 1,800 sq. ft. of Inalco Slimmker, a Tile of Spain brand, was installed in October 2014 by Belcor Builders of Plainview, N.Y., in a high-end Spanish furniture showroom in Midtown Manhattan. The 6mm Slimmker Foster Blanco Plus Natural tile measures 40” x 40”. www.inalco.es/en/collection/foster

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Laminam by Crossville – LaFayette Junior/Senior High School in LaFayette, N.Y., was renovated by Ashley McGraw Architects in October 2015 with materials engineered to perform long and hard to accommodate the wear and tear of the space, keep maintenance simple, and provide a look that fits with the grander scale of the renovated space. The school auditorium called for wainscoting along the walls, with a monolithic appearance and minimal grout joints. Enter Crossville’s Laminam Travertino Avorio 3+, supplied by Vestal Tile Distributors and installed by Integrated Industrial Services of Syracuse, N.Y., in a vertical orientation above the handrail. The installation team at Integrated Industrial Services had learned the techniques for proper installation of Laminam by Crossville porcelain tile panels by attending an in-house seminar held by distributor Vestal Tile in January 2016 that included representatives from adhesives manufacturer ARDEX Americas, European Tile Masters, and Vestal Tile. www.crossvilleinc.com

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Lea Ceramiche – Shinberg.Levinas Architects recently won a Ceramics of Italy Competition Residential Award for the Turnberry Residence in Rosslyn (Arlington), Va. The project features 5,000 sq. ft. of Slimtech Basaltina Stone in Sabbiata and Naturale colors by Confindustria Ceramica manufacturer Lea Ceramiche. Jud Tile from Vienna, Va., installed the 3’ x 9’ tile in a complete interior renovation of the bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and exterior balcony in 2013. Flooring and walls for all living spaces were also covered with the Slimtech Basaltina tiles, which are available in 3mm and 3.5 mm, and created a smooth continuous flow from interior to exterior, with minimal joints that almost disappear, reinforcing the idea of an open loft space. www.leausa.us

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Florida Tile – On St. Patrick’s Day 2015, the DLR Group’s Chicago office was scheduled for a lunch-and-learn session with Mid-America Tile, who was introducing Florida Tile’s new Thinner large-format thin porcelain tile. As it turned out DLR Group showed a lot of interest in the product, not for a client, but for its own use for the lobby floor, which had suffered a previous failure due to the original tile and gypsum-based underlayment used. DLR Group principals liked how Florida Tile’s Thinner Aventis 19.5” x 39” tile made a seamless transition with existing finishes, and the 3.5mm thickness posed no problem with the minimal clearance of already-installed entry doors. MAPEI technical services and Krez Group came in to review the substrate, which they subsequently shotblasted and leveled with MAPEI M20. Architectural Contracting installed 1,200 sq. ft. of tile with MAPEI Ultraflex LFT mortar, creating full coverage and MAPEI’s stain-resistant, premixed Flexcolor CQ grout. The MLT System was also used to create a flat, lippage-free surface, finished with Blanke stainless steel transition strips. The project won a 2015 Crain’s Coolest Office award. www.floridatile.com


Tall and slim tile is de rigueur at Coverings in Chicago

By Lesley Goddin

Chicago, Ill. – Exhibitor booths at last month’s Coverings 2016 global tile experience were packed with the possibilities of large, thin, “gauged” porcelain tile (read the sidebar at page bottom for the new “gauged tile” definition!) – even as the industry works towards finalizing and adopting standards for product and installation of these tiles and slabs. What follows is a sampling of product on display at the show, often in marble, travertine or Crema Marfil aesthetics.

Crossville's Bianco Statuario from Laminam's I Naturali line.

Crossville’s Bianco Statuario from Laminam’s I Naturali line.

Crossville – 1 M x 1 M and 1 M x 3 M Laminam panels in 3+ mm and 5.6 mm thicknesses come in a range of finishes, like the Oxide collection of authentic metallic aesthetics, the new Satori finish that offers textured, plaster-like wabi-sabi looks, and the I Naturali collection of stone finishes including Bianco Statuario (stone on counter and desk front), and Calacatta d’Oro, a very popular marble trend at the show. www.crossvilleinc.com

Florim Magnum

Florim Magnum

Florim – Magnum is the name of Florim’s mammoth thin porcelain tile slab program, with 5’ x 10’ formats that are only 6 mm thin. This book-matched marble shower is only one of the finishes available. www.florimusa.com

Inalco Ker

Inalco Ker

Inalco – Tile of Spain producer Inalco showed Ker in a Calacatta Statuario, installed as a heat-resistant, stain-resistant counter, flowing into a sink. Made in 1/2” counter thickness, Ker is also offered in 6 mm for walls and 12 mm for floors in 40” x 8’ lengths, designed to be easier to fit into small spaces. www.inalco.es/en

Iris US

Iris US

Iris – Iris Ceramica in Italy is the mother company of Iris USA, StonePeak and Graniti Fiandre, with manufacturing facilities in Tennessee. Iris has a tradition of large, thin porcelain, available now in Maxfine 5’ x 10’ 6 mm porcelain slab sizes, Plane large thin slabs at StonePeak and Maximum Tiles by Fiandre. www.irisus.com



Levantina – Techlam is a thin tile that doesn’t require epoxy mortar for installation. Thicknesses start at 3 mm up to 5 mm (included 3+3 and 5+5 for specific applications) for walls and floors. It comes a range of aesthetics, including stone, wood, steel, and other effects. Also new at Coverings was Levantina’s unique 36” x 24” x 1/2” and 36” x 18” x 1/2” formats of Crema Marfil Coto® tiles and its black Canfranc marble – a Levantina exclusive – now also available as a tile, in polished and vintage finishes. These new formats also include a microbevel in the stone, designed to reduce chipping; and the 36” x 18” format is especially easy and lightweight to handle. www.levantina.com

Cotot D'Este Kerlite

Cotto D’Este Kerlite

Florida Tile – This company celebrated its 10th anniversary of Panariagroup ownership during Coverings. One of the announcements was that the Cotto D’Este brand – also owned by Panariagroup – is now being added to the Florida Tile operations. That means in addition to Florida’s Thinner lightweight thin porcelain panels, the company will also distribute Kerlite with a dedicated customer service center. Luca Setti will oversee Cotto D’Este USA, Sean Cilona is the director of marketing and product development and Doug Hayes is sales director. Florida Tile is preparing an updated web presence to reflect the line addition, all new U.S. merchandising and CEUs specially for the Cotto D’Este brand. Kerlite is offered in a range of thicknesses: Kerlite’s original 3 mm thickness; Kerlite Plus with 3 mm and a fiberglass mesh backing; Kerlite twin, that sandwiches a fiberglass mesh layer between two 3 mm slabs for heavy floor traffic applications; and Kerlite 5 Plus, which is a 5 mm slab with a fiberglass mesh backing. www.floridatile.com

Progress on product and installation standards; new terminology for “thin tile” develops

At the Tile Council of North America (TCNA) press conference, executive director Eric Astrachan discussed the ongoing development of ANSI A137.3: draft product standard for “gauged porcelain tiles and gauged porcelain tiles/slabs” and ANSI A108.19 draft installation standard for “gauged porcelain tiles and gauged porcelain tiles/slabs.” Inherent in these standards development is an evolution of language from “thin” to “gauged” porcelain tiles (up to 1 square meter or approx 10 sq. ft.) and “gauged” porcelain slabs (larger than 1 square meter). The term “gauged” emphasizes the precision required to manufacture tiles to a particular thickness. The first draft of ANSI A108.19 was released to the committee on April 17, for collaborative development that combines best practices recommended by manufacturers with experience gained by the installation community including tile and installation materials manufacturers; contractors/installers, and associations.

Next steps include continued efforts toward consensus, with the balloting of both standards (product and installation) by year-end likely. TCNA is leading the effort to review all related ASTM tile testing methods and how they apply to gauged tiles and tile panels/slabs.

Thin Tile – March 2016

SponsoredbyMAPEIThin tile: the truck is here…now what?

dan-marvinBy Dan Marvin, Director of Technical Services, MAPEI Corporation

Even though the industry talks about thin tile, what they’re typically referring to is ‘really big tile that just happens to also be thin.’ The reason thin tile is becoming popular has nothing to do with its thickness and everything to do with the sheets being very large and beautifully decorated. If you’ve waited until the truck shows up with the idea of dealing with it once you’ve seen it, you’ve already made the first mistake. Preparation is key!

Know your foe

Apply thin-set mortar, achieving full coverage of large thin porcelain tiles.

Thin tile starts as huge sheets of tile (3’x 10’ and 5’x 10’ are common sizes) that can then be cut down at the factory or job site as needed. The key is to know what will be showing up. Because thin tile is typically made in Europe, it is quite often measured in meters. A bill of lading showing 1 x 3 sheets of thin tile without any other indication of size most likely means you will be ending up with 1 meter (39”, a bit over 3 feet) by 3 meters (117”, just shy of 10 feet). Another typical size is 1 x 1 (39”x39”). The process for handling a crate of 1m x 3m tile varies considerably from the process for handling cartons of 1m x 1m.

Stick a fork in it

Use frame and suction cup systems for careful handling of large thin porcelain tile when applying to walls and floor.

Assuming you will be receiving crates of 1 m x 3 m you WILL need fork extenders for your fork truck. The crates are loaded into the trucks length-wise, so even if you handle them from the side around the warehouse, to get them out of the truck they will need to be supported along the length of the crate. A ten-foot tile will come in a crate (or A-frame) almost 12’ long, so a minimum of an 8‘ fork extender will be required to get well past the middle of the crate.

Why are the fork extenders important? Although the tiles are somewhat flexible, they do have a limit to how much they can bend. If the tiles are allowed to bend too much in the crate, you will end up with a very expensive problem as some or all of the tiles may crack.Even worse, the tiles are often mesh reinforced on the back so you may not know you have cracked them until you are applying mortar (or even grout!).


Using paddle working from center to outside of tile to ensure air bubbles are removed.

Smaller sizes of thin tiles such as the 1m x 1m sizes will typically come in very large cartons on more conventional pallets, but even these must be treated with care. Avoid stacking the pallets beyond the manufacturer’s recommendations and keep all banding and edge protectors in place until they are placed where they will be used at the job site.

Wide load

Most job sites are cluttered with tools, materials, mixers, saws, and other people. A 12’ long crate is challenging to handle when there is nothing in the way, and becomes even more cumbersome in a typical work environment. Have a staging area set up before the truck arrives and an aisle wide enough to allow the tile to come through. Be careful where turns are required and remove anything on the floor that will cause the fork truck to bounce. In a worst-case scenario, an installer may have to carry the tiles individually from the receiving area to the work site. In this case, inexpensive corner protectors and the correct suction-cup frame for your size of tile will be critical.


A lippage control system helps keep lippage to a minimum and the large thin porcelain tile flush with each other.

Another issue installers face is transporting the tiles to different levels. Typical freight elevators may not be large enough to accommodate full crates or A-frames. Think about thin tile panels as similar to large sheets of glass when dealing with them on a job site. Rigging, winches, or cranes may be required to get them to their final destination.

Staying on edge

When handling large tile panels, it is best to keep it on edge as much as possible. Suction cups and a team approach are a must for handling. Since the edges are the most delicate parts of the tile, cushion them when setting the tile down. When the tile must be laid flat (to cut it or apply mortar, for example) a rigid frame will provide a “backbone” for the tile to keep it from flexing. The same frame also allows the tile to be placed all at once.

Train before you leave the station

The right equipment is essential to moving the large thin porcelain tile without damage. This frame from ETM uses suction cups for a secure hold until the tile is installed. Suction cups and a team approach are a must for handling.

Training is especially critical for everyone who will be handling and installing thin tile. There is a learning curve to handling, cutting, and placing the tile successfully, and chances are an installer may break a few $500 sheets of tile trying to master the techniques on their own. All importers of thin tile panels and installation products companies offer training on how to handle and install these tiles. Every installment of Coverings, Surfaces, and Total Solutions Plus includes sessions on thin tile, usually with a hands-on component. Tool companies that offer thin tile tools will be happy to train you on their use. The tile industry is making a concerted effort to get the information out there because they want the same thing the installer wants, successful installations with no call-backs.

This article touches on just a few of the critical aspects for handling thin tile panels. There are specialized tools for handling and cutting it, special mortars and application techniques required to get full coverage, and tips and tricks for placing the tile in a way that maximizes the opportunities for success. Although thin tile requires specialized training, installers who are comfortable handling and installing the product find that they have a niche in the market and don’t have to compete as hard on price to get the job. By understanding the nuances of the product, stunning installations that will last for generations are possible.


When the tile must be laid flat (to cut it or apply mortar, for example) a rigid frame will provide a “backbone” for the tile to keep it from flexing. The same frame – such as this one from ETM – also allows the tile to be placed all at once.

Thin Tile

SponsoredbyMAPEIThin tile project combines on-site training and expert installation

Laminam by Crossville, MAPEI, and Schluter products make detailed bank project a success

By Lesley Goddin

When the Commerce Bank in Garden City, Kan., sought to build a new facility, they wanted a clean, easy-to-maintain material on all its bank teller walls.


The Fox Ceramic Tile team uses prescribed tools and equipment to safely move large thin porcelain tile (TPT) on the Commerce Bank job.

Howard & Helmer Architecture of Wichita, Kan., turned to Laminam by Crossville, a large thin porcelain tile to get the job done. The 1m x 3m Urban Influence Filo 3+ offered a subtle metallic chain mail-like texture in the dark grey Ghisa hue.

“We chose to use the Laminam porcelain product at the Commerce Bank teller stations not only because of the aesthetic quality, but also the exceptional durability that it offers at high traffic areas,” said David White, AIA, president of Howard & Helmer Architecture.

This was to be a challenging installation, said Kevin Fox, owner of NTCA Five Star Contractor Fox Ceramic Tile from St. Marys, Kan., who was charged with the project. “It was a very difficult one because of the detail of the cuts and all the corners using Schluter metals that was required,” Fox said.


The crew back butters the Laminam by Crossville large thin porcelain tile to achieve complete coverage.

The first step was being sure all the installers on the project were trained on how to handle, work with and install the Laminam panels, which are only 3 mm thick.

Enter Brent Stoller, installation specialist and training manager with ISC Surfaces with locations in Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma. Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) training director Scott Carothers said, “ISC Surfaces is the only Laminam training facility in the U.S. outside of Crossville itself.” Stoller is a very supportive board member of CTEF. He received CTEF’s CTI Host of the Year award in 2014, and is on record for hosting the largest number of Certified Tile Installer tests at one site. So Stoller “desires to see installations done correctly and is always willing to offer assistance when needed,” Carothers added.


Schluter Rondec and outside corners gave an elegant finish to the walls.

To that end, Stoller came from Kansas City to the Garden City jobsite to train Fox’s crew before they began the project. “[He helped] train our tile setters on the latest techniques using the most up-to-date installation tools,” Fox said.

“The ISC Surfaces location in Kansas City, Kan., has been doing Crossville/Laminam Training since December of 2012, training 27 installation companies with 81 installers through December 2015,” Stoller explained.

“Our trainings are done in our Kansas City location based on tool requirements; full panel installations, floor and wall, and the transportation issues inherent with those requirements,” he continued. The company offers its customers job-site starts and first-day supervision especially on a first-job scenario based on job-start timing and Stoller’s availability.

ISC Surfaces arose from a blend of several companies over the years: Interstate Supply, Case Supply and AMC Tile, said Stoller. Case supply was the Crossville distributor in the Kansas City territory. Over the past 23 years, Stoller’s relationship with Crossville’s Tim Bolby and ISC’s proactive approach to training


Installing the Laminam by Crossville TPT.

and industry commitment through training opened the door to partner with Crossville. In December 2012, ISC was invited on board by Crossville to grow the segment of thin porcelain tile. Active in all levels of the industry, ISC Surfaces is also a host site for both the CTEF CTI and ACT programs with six locations in Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma and service to Southern Illinois.

Once trained at the job site, Fox’s team of Certified Tile Installers had additional obstacles to overcome. “We had to work around the countertops,” Fox said.

All installation materials were from MAPEI, starting with the primer for the exterior-grade plywood substrate: MAPEI ECO Prim Grip, with MAPEI Ultralite S2 mortar for the Laminam sheets, grouted with MAPEI Ultracolor Plus. MAPEI sales rep Brett Robben worked with Fox to develop a package of products that offered single-source benefits and a system warranty.

The project took a tremendous amount of care and precision. “Although only 20 sheets of Laminam were used, the installation consumed 60 pieces of Schluter Rondec and 50 outside corners,” Fox said.

The completed project offers sleek, easy-to-maintain work stations for tellers, expertly installed.


A lippage control system keeps both pieces of TPT per wall side flush. Walls were installed, and counters assembled.

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