TECH 2016 Feature: TEC Provides Solution for Renowned Medical Institute

feat-00tomplaskotaTEC® provides multiple solutions for headquarters of renowned medical institute

By Tom Plaskota, TEC® technical support manager

The Regenstrief Institute in Indianapolis, Ind., is an internationally-renowned healthcare research organization – itself a model for research, efficiency and innovation – that recently benefited from those same attributes, courtesy of numerous TEC® tile installation solutions. Altogether, a total of 7,100 sq. ft. of TEC® products were used throughout various spaces for this project.

Known for developing better pathways to wellness, Regenstrief built a four-story, 80,000 sq. ft. building as the latest addition to its already impressive campus that serves as the institute’s headquarters. The new building is now home to the institute’s global research facility, with 165 staff members and a large number of allied scientists.

TEC® products were used throughout hallways, bathrooms and stairwells of the new Regenstrief Institute headquarters.

TEC® products were used throughout hallways, bathrooms and stairwells of the new Regenstrief Institute headquarters.

Regenstrief prides itself on improving the quality of care, increasing the efficiency of healthcare delivery, preventing medical errors, and enhancing patient safety. But those ideals could have been put at risk when serious issues arose with some of the new building’s floors during the early phase of construction.

As work was just underway, the contractor, Indianapolis-based Certified Floorcovering Services, Inc. – a NTCA member – discovered that more than 3,000 sq. ft. of the concrete slab in the foyer and bathroom had a high relative humidity (RH) of 96. Moisture mitigation was the only way to solve the problem on the burnished, contaminated concrete, and TEC® moisture mitigation systems were the solution.

How MVER may affect tile installations

Subsurface moisture has always been a potential Achilles’ heel of floor covering installations, but excessive moisture vapor emission rates (MVER) recently have become occasional problems with ceramic and natural stone tile installations.

Today’s tiles – not as porous as they once were – are now often bonded directly to concrete, which has been covered with a waterproof and anti-fracture membrane, making installations more convenient and successful, but less breathable. On top of that, today’s fast-paced construction timelines mean installations may take place before concrete moisture levels are completely stabilized.

 TEC® LiquiDam EZ™ is the industry’s first single-component, liquid-based moisture vapor barrier. It dries in a quick four to five hours, allowing for same day flooring installation. “TEC LiquiDam EZ easily saves 30-40% on labor,” says Brian Estes of Certified Floorcovering Services, Inc. 

TEC® LiquiDam EZ™ is the industry’s first single-component, liquid-based moisture vapor barrier. It dries in a quick four to five hours, allowing for same day flooring installation. “TEC LiquiDam EZ easily saves 30-40% on labor,” says Brian Estes of Certified Floorcovering Services, Inc.

Innovative and efficient

Certified Floorcovering Services, Inc. decided to use TEC® LiquiDam EZ™ moisture vapor barrier to moisture mitigate 3,000 sq. ft. of the floors. Another 450 sq. ft. were mitigated with the original TEC® LiquiDam™. Both formulas, which can be directly applied onto green concrete up to 100% RH and may not require shotblasting on clean, sound surfaces, helped achieve a high level of moisture control and allowed the contractors to quickly move on with the installation.

TEC LiquiDam EZ, which launched January 2016, is the industry’s first single-component, liquid-based moisture vapor barrier. It protects flooring and tile systems from damage caused by severe moisture and alkalinity, and can be hand-stirred and then directly applied. The single-component formula dries in a quick four to five hours, allowing for same-day flooring installation.

“TEC LiquiDam EZ easily saves 30-40% on labor,” said Brian Estes of Certified Floorcovering Services, Inc. “We were able to reduce our application crew by one person due to the ease of the new installation process required by this non-epoxy product.”

LiquiDam EZ impressed the contractors with its resealable packaging – a bonus when reusing product for next-day jobs. LiquiDam EZ can be resealed and stored up to six months, and eliminates waste and special handling.

After discovering that the concrete slab in the foyer and bathroom had a high relative humidity (RH) of 96, the contractor chose TEC moisture mitigation systems as the solution.

After discovering that the concrete slab in the foyer and bathroom had a high relative humidity (RH) of 96, the contractor chose TEC moisture mitigation systems as the solution.

Since the Regenstrief Institute is closely associated with the busy Indiana University School of Medicine and Health and the Hospital Corporation of Marion County, the job needed to be completed properly and in a timely fashion. When moisture problems are not addressed properly pre-installation, all sorts of potential issues may arise – particularly problematic for healthcare facilities that require sterile environments. Moisture control is one of the most crucial steps to carry out on the floor installation checklist. Yet this aspect of the process is all too often overlooked.

Other TEC tile installation solutions for the Regenstrief project

Within the new Regenstrief building, TEC quality product solutions extended well beyond moisture mitigation. Four flights of steel stairs in the Regenstrief headquarters were covered in 12”x 24” large-format tiles – a challenge since steel is a difficult-to-bond-to substrate for tile installations. TEC Multipurpose Primer created a quick fix, directly bonding the tiles to 120 large steel stairs. TEC Ultimate Large Tile Mortar was used for its non-slump and non-slip formula for heavy tile and stone applications.

Additional TEC products relied on during building construction include: TEC HydraFlex™ Waterproofing Crack Isolation Membrane, TEC PerfectFinish™ Skimcoat, and TEC Power Grout in DeLorean Gray. TEC products were used throughout the headquarters in the hallways, bathrooms, and stairwells.

Distributor Louisville Tile provided the 12” x 24” large-format tiles from Crossville, which were a sleek gray with subtle accents. Designed by Schmidt Associates of Indianapolis, construction started in October 2014 and was completed in November 2015.

feat-04The nonprofit medical research organization is dedicated to improving the quality, cost, and outcome of healthcare around the world. Regenstrief investigators work closely with nearby schools and hospitals – Indiana University’s School of Medicine, Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Hospital, the Roudebush VA Medical Center, Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health and IU Health University Hospital.

For more information about TEC, visit

The TEC® brand is offered by H.B. Fuller Construction Products Inc., a leading provider of technologically advanced construction materials and solutions to the commercial, industrial and residential construction industry. Named “one of the world’s most ethical companies” by Ethisphere in 2013, and headquartered in Aurora, IL, the company’s recognized and trusted brands – TEC®, CHAPCO®, Grout Boost®, ProSpec®, Foster®, and others – are available through an extensive network of distributors and dealers, as well as home improvement retailers. For more information, visit

Technical Feature: Gauged Porcelain Tile Panels – TECH 2016

tech-00noahchittyThe status of standards for gauged porcelain tile panels/slabs (formerly known as thin porcelain tile)

Unique partnership between tile and installation materials manufacturers, tool suppliers, and labor set the groundwork for product and installation standards for new breed of tile

By Noah Chitty, director of technical services, Crossville

tech-01It began approximately 15 years ago when an Italian equipment manufacturer by the name of System Group came up with a new way to press tile with a process they called Lamina. It worked to gain traction for the product manufactured by this process by building a factory and showing people that a new way was viable and the product it made – hopefully – could change the face of tile making forever. A little bit of this product trickled into the U.S. market, but it was not until approximately five years ago that this tile entered the domestic market in a meaningful way. Along with the product, came the hopes of revolutionizing how people think about a material that has been around for a few thousand years.

tech-02The market was already moving in the direction of larger sizes: 12”x 24” was starting to replace 12”x 12” as king of the hill; 18”x 36” was starting to pick up steam; and 24”x 48” was being dabbled with here and there. This new thing was a tile over 3’ wide and approximately 10’ long – and to make it more complicated – with a thickness of only 1/8” to 1/4”. It was for sure sort of an anomaly that no one really thought could go anywhere. For the first 18 months or so most thought it was a fad that would go away, then designers and architects started to get excited and we started to see specifications for it.

This presented a new challenge; no one knew how to install it or what the rules were. So, a few tile and thinset manufacturers started to look at traditional setting methods as a basis for developing new techniques that would be necessary to comply with existing standards of coverage, lippage, etc.


As the market pressure increased, a unique partnership started to develop between tile and installation materials manufacturers along with tool suppliers, and most importantly labor. This new organic collaboration provided a mechanism for rapid development of new materials and methods for the installation of these extremely large tiles. Sales started to rise and the awareness of the tile industry started to grow. (Photos show training sessions at Crossville with Laminam, an example of this new breed of gauged porcelain tile.)

tech-04New language starts to emerge

In an ANSI meeting about three years ago there was enough awareness that while maybe a standard was not in the immediate future, it was clear something had to be said about it. Chris Walker of NTCA Five Star Contractor David Allen Company was designated as the leader of an ad-hoc group mandated to draft a statement for inclusion into the TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile. Walker and company wrote some language for what they called “reduced thickness tile” and our industry documents started for the first time to recognize these new materials.

tech-05By this time we were seeing even larger tiles, up to 5’ wide, and in some cases more than 10’ long. By now a second technology from SACMI was emerging called Continua Plus, compacting porcelain powder between two large steel rollers. System Lamina technology was continuing to innovate as well, with even larger sizes and textures pressed between its new equipment that was more than 17’ long with plates more than 5’ wide with 50,000 tons of pressure. Both technologies advanced in thickness capability as well, able to press up to 30mm. From here momentum was starting to grow; a few manufacturers started talking about drafting a product standard to protect this new market from lesser-quality materials.

The next step towards the product standard

With the advancements in technology and the growth of the market, it was becoming evident that standards would soon be necessary. So a couple of companies that believed in the future of the category decided to start some testing, and sure enough we started to see data that would serve as the outline for a product standard. At the April 2015 ANSI A108 meeting it was formally decided to move forward with the product standard, as well as form an ad-hoc group to begin work on an installation standard to be called A108.19.

tech-06To drive the product standard quickly, tile manufacturers started to formalize the criteria around the terminology, thicknesses, breaking strengths, and other physical properties required to accurately describe the characteristics and quality of this category. As of the last meeting of the TCNA Tile Technical Committee in mid-July 2016, tile manufacturers had reached a general consensus that the majority of the content in the draft of the product standard was nearing completion for submission and subsequent ballot to the full ANSI A108 committee convening in October of this year.

tech-07Part of the evolution of the standard includes a name change from “large thin porcelain tile” to “gauged porcelain tile panels/slabs. The name change to “gauged” is based on two main things: the technology now being able to produce thicker materials that one day may be encompassed by the standard (so thin no longer made sense); and second the need to use a replacement term that describes materials produced to a precise thickness that determines their physical properties and areas of use. So we picked a term used to describe exactly that, similar to how “gauged” is used to describe wire or sheet metal. For panel/slab, we just recognized that both terms were being used in the industry/market so to recognize that fact and not hinder anyone’s way to market, we decided to propose the use of the dual term.

tech-08The installation standard starts to develop

In the meantime, the ad-hoc committee for the installation standard has also been hard at work. The first step was to get together as a group and look at all of the existing information from around the industry pertaining to these materials. Once the data was analyzed, an outline was created to address all of the different concerns brought by the members of the committee. The next step was to look at the variables of piece size, embedding technique, coverage rates, lippage tolerances, qualified labor language, and other required criteria needed to complete a comprehensive standard.

Drawing on the information and data supplied by different members of the committee we have been able to complete a draft that was distributed at the A108 meeting at Coverings 2016. While there is still some work to be done, the majority of it has been completed, and all signs point to a viable draft being distributed at the same A108 meeting in October of this year, and taken to ballot soon thereafter. As the leader of this group I can say the dedication to the effort has been second to none, and I would personally like to thank all involved for participating diligently and unselfishly to better the industry in which we work. Because of this collaborative effort we are well on our way.

Methods and Standards: Recent Proposals for the Upcoming TCNA Handbook

methods-01NTCA Methods and Standards Committee makes headway on six revisions

By Kevin Fox, NTCA Methods and Standards Committee chairperson

The NTCA Methods and Standards Committee’s work over the last two years reaped great success at the TCNA Handbook meeting in Atlanta, Ga., recently. There were six proposals submitted, and with great help and guidance from the TCNA staff, all were approved. Following is a brief summary on each of them.

I believe our proudest accomplishments are new sections on design and evaluation criteria pertaining to finished installation appearance. These new sections are as follows:

  1. Under the section GROUT JOINT SIZE AND PATTERN CONSIDERATIONS, you will find two new sub-sections, “System Modularity” which clears up confusion on modular tile sizes, gives design professionals guidance on using different sizes together, and points to the simple truth that when the tile modularity is not understood, design compromises are inevitable. The second new sub-section is “Tile Layout” which gives general tile layout provisions addressing reasonable expectations and limitations that challenge most projects.
  2. Under the section USING THE TCNA HANDBOOK FOR SPECIFICATION WRITING, a new sub-section called “Design Considerations When Specifying Tile,” references the Handbook’s many sections that design professionals must familiarize themselves with that impact the selected tiles and designs. It gives a very important reference that strongly recommends industry standards, guidelines, and best practices to be followed and strongly discourages variances from them. It also recommends in-situ mock-ups to be used under the given job site conditions.
  3. Under the section FINISHED TILEWORK, is a new sub-section called “Visual Inspection of Tilework.” This will be extremely helpful for the industry. It recognizes the hand-build aspect of tile installations, references substrate requirements, lippage, allowable warpage, effects of lighting and many more factors that affect the installation visual and aesthetic appearance of the finished tilework. It also gives guidance on viewing distance and lighting when finish tilework is being inspected.
EJ171 movement joint guidelines

Another accomplishment, with substantial consultation from Crossville’s technical staff Noah Chitty and Tim Bolby, was major additions to EJ171 MOVEMENT JOINT GUIDELINES. Most notable changes are recommendations in movement joint width and depth. The additions give a chart for minimum movement joint widths (for dry interior, not exposed to sun) in relation to joint frequency and tile thermal expansion properties, along with reference to the proper ASTM guides for calculating the joint.

Another addition to this section is a new sub-section called “Wall Tile Movement Joints in Framed Wall Assemblies” (with substantial consultation with Tony Fuller of National Gypsum) which gives the design professional awareness that wall movement joints are unique and require consideration of other wall components such as sheathing, framing and backer board before the wall is constructed – and that such considerations many times cannot be retroactively added.

Members of the NTCA Methods and Standards committee, representatives from Crossville, National Gypsum MAPEI, TEC and Bostik, and the TCNA staff all assisted with the states submissions described in the article.

Members of the NTCA Methods and Standards committee, representatives from Crossville, National Gypsum MAPEI, TEC and Bostik, and the TCNA staff all assisted with the states submissions described in the article.

Lighting and tile installations

Many of us are familiar with the effects lighting has on an installation. A substantial new Lighting and Tile Installations section has been added to give importance to this issue which can lead to much heartache for all involved. The majority of the added language was taken from the NTCA Reference Manual, so for many of you this will look familiar.

Mortar and mortar coverage

There was also language added to the MORTAR AND MORTAR COVERAGE section noting 100% mortar coverage is not practical. Many specifications call for 100% mortar coverage but this cannot be consistently attained and therefore it should not be specified.

It has been well-established that mortar cure times are extended when impervious tile is installed over waterproof or crack-isolation membrane. To alert design professionals of this situation, language has been added to the SETTING MATERIAL SELECTION GUIDE. Other conditions that will also delay cure times are narrow grout joints and using high-performance grouts. Recommendations of extending turnover of the floor to traffic are given.

Membrane selection guide

Other language added pertaining to membranes is in the MEMBRANE SELECTION GUIDE. A new sub-subsection called “Considerations When Using Membranes” that not only references the above-noted extended cure times for mortars, but also the fact that the hollow sound of tile installed over membranes is normal and not indicative of loss of bond (without concomitant installation issues).

Substrate requirements

The last submission involved the continued discussion of the disparity between division 3 and division 9 floor flatness. The section on SUBSTRATE REQUIREMENTS gives many references to this. The language we submitted further clarifies this difference. One of the key points to note is when division 3 floor flatness (FF) levels are specified, the floor must be verified to assure the specified levels are attained. This may seem implied, but many times this test is not performed. Therefore it quickly becomes a source of tension for projects when it’s required to correct the floor to division 9 specifications, and the tile contractor requests to be compensated for the work. This also leads to another important addition to this section: recommendations for the design professional to incorporate a separate allowance to correct the floor flatness from division 3 to division 9 specifications.

As chairman of the Methods and Standards Committee, I want to thank its members, the gentlemen from Crossville and National Gypsum mentioned above, representatives from MAPEI, TEC and Bostik, and the TCNA staff for helping us with these submissions.

Our next meeting with be October 22 at the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort & Spa in Indian Wells, Calif., during Total Solutions Plus, October 22-25. If you have topics you feel would be appropriate for this committee to consider, you are welcome to contact me at [email protected].

Showers Systems – TECH 2015

showersystemsShower systems are streamlining the installation of showers and steam showers with a range of developments such as: curbless/barrier-free systems for accessibility, flexibility and style; pre-formed components for speed of installation and shower integrity; fool-proof waterproofing and aesthetic advances like linear and wall drains.

For instance, Fin Pan’s Jeff Ketterer pointed out that many shower designs now offer curb…less appeal! “Many homeowners are choosing to remove the bathtub and replace it with walk-in showers that create a spa-like atmosphere. The entrance in a curbless shower is flat and flush with the bathroom floor, leaving a smooth transition into and out of the shower. The combination of style and accessibility provides greater value to a bathroom.”

While a fashion statement, curbless showers also offer practical advantages for disabled or aging populations. Ketterer said that according to the Administration on Aging, “For the next 18 years, baby-boomers will be turning 65 at a rate of 10,000 per day. Of these, 79% report the ability to age-in-place and live independently as their main concern.” The availability of “new and innovative curbless shower systems that require no structural modifications to the floor joists as was required in the past can meet everyone’s needs by offering style, accessibility and unlimited design options at every stage of life,” Ketterer said.

Following are a sampling of technological directions in shower systems for contractors to consider.  – Lesley Goddin


finpan-logoLisa Shaffer, president
Fin Pan

Barrier-free showers are continuing as not only a trend for an aging population but a fashion statement and design element. Having the ability to build a barrier-free shower in any configuration is most popular. The marriage of traditional methods and new technology continues its push into the market. This is being driven by the building code that recently reiterated that joists are not to be modified more than 1/4” unless a structural engineer is consulted. A contractor assumes the structural liability if they compromise the joist structure without engineering consultation. In many homes that were built with engineered joists in the 2000s, the addition of a barrier-free shower or even traditional mud pan was prohibited by the engineered joist. New methods have made installation of shower products possible in engineered joist construction.

tec-logoTom Plaskota,
technical support manager
H.B. Fuller Construction Products

Luxurious bathrooms have been a residential trend, but now owners of larger multi-unit buildings are also demanding custom-looking showers. Spa-like bathrooms have recently become more prominent in institutional, healthcare, resort, spa and pool facilities. Owners of commercial and residential spaces rely on the contractor to help them create these spa-like sanctuaries. These rooms have to blend form and function, combining a shower’s necessary utility with the look and feel of a spa.

However, in order to keep profits up, contractors need to work efficiently – particularly on multi-unit jobs. Preformed products – like niches, shower seats and curbs – help contractors meet the demands of this design trend.

Preformed components are consistent and easy to install – great for fast multi-unit installations. Look for preformed components that integrate seamlessly with existing surface prep solutions, mortar, tile and grout. For protection against mold and mildew, choose a product that comes coated with an IAPMO- approved, waterproof membrane that meets ANSI A118.10. Preformed components are a great way for tile installers to add a design element that fits with today’s building trends.

laticreteSean Boyle,
director Marketing & Product Management

Barrier-free shower installations are gaining popularity for their clean-looking tile lines and zero-entry profiles. In order to properly execute these installations without the benefit of a traditional curb placed at the shower entry, high-tech installation materials and drains can be used.

Possibly the best current installation methods/options for barrier-free shower applications are the Tile Council of North America’s (TCNA) B-422-14 method or a modified version of B-415-14. This installation method provides a complete waterproof connection between the waterproofing membrane and the drain placed at the surface of the tile installation – which minimizes the height of the overall installation. Therefore, there is no need for the full, bulky 1-1/4” to 2” (31mm to 50mm) thick mortar bed and curb that are required in traditional shower pan installations.

This barrier-free installation type places the waterproofing membrane underneath the tile or stone finish versus the bottom of the mortar bed in traditional shower-pan applications. These methods allow water to shed right at the surface through an integrated bonding flange type drain system or a linear drain with a bonding lip, which receives the waterproofing membrane.

The slope in the shower assembly can be started from a much lower profile while still maintaining a 1/4” per foot (6mm per 300mm) slope. These assemblies provide a dramatic improvement when compared to the traditional, bulky, thick-bed mortar installation systems.

noble-logoRichard Maurer,
director of marketing
Noble Company

In response to a rapidly escalating growth in demand, several companies have introduced linear drains. These drains have been popular in Europe for years because they complement contemporary and barrier-free designs. The single slope created with a linear drain allows for the use of large format tiles that are ideal for contemporary, barrier-free showers favored by designers.

A number of linear drains are available. Some are systems that include waterproofing membranes. Other manufacturers offer only the drain and suggest options for waterproofing.

Things you should consider when selecting a drain include:

  • Does the drain meet code requirements (not all do?)
  • Does it assure a secure, watertight connection between the waterproofing membrane and the drain?
  • Does it offer the aesthetics desired? Because in the end, the strainer is all you will see.

quickdrain-logoJosef Erlebach,
vice president Tech Support
Quick Drain USA

The trends in our sector of the industry are very simple and clear:

1. Curbless showers mean true zero entry

2. Linear drains spanning the full width of the shower without dead spots on the ends of the drains

3. Use of single-pitch shower pans made of 100% recycled materials

4. Integration with shower-pan accessories and waterproofing for speed and ease of installation.

5. A new trend is moving the drain into the wall instead of floor.



owenShower systems/drain systems seem to be popular with architects in hotels now and I imagine the trend will continue to grow. These shower systems come complete with pre-sloped shower pans, pre-formed curbs, waterproofing membrane, corners, seam rolls, etc.  

These are now being specified because they are a more efficient/effective method than the traditional way that entailed building the curb out of bricks, etc. However, it’s still necessary to have skilled tradespeople who have been trained to install these systems. Problems can still occur and skilled tradespeople best know how to address them. 

For example, the assumption is that since you simply install the pre-slope onto the substrate, and because the pre-slope already has a pitch of 1/8” per foot to the drain, you will have guaranteed drainage, no worries.  Well, there could be a worry if the slab the installer was given is out of level 1/4” per foot in the opposite direction of the drain and this is not addressed. Due to field imperfections like this, there will always be the need for a trained craftsperson to do the install. Skilled tile craftspeople have the necessary experience and knowledge, and know what to look for and how to deal with circumstances like this.

Rod Owen
C.C. Owen Tile Company, Inc.
Jonesboro, Ga.

finpan-showerFin Pan, Inc., manufacturer of tile backer boards and PreFormed® ready-to-tile products, has recently introduced the ClearPath® Curbless Shower Pan System. ClearPath is an innovative way to construct a barrier-free shower pan that requires no structural modifications to the existing floor joists. It’s ideal for remodeling and new construction and affords homeowners near limitless design options. The foundation of ClearPath starts with the ClearPath Drain Plate and TI-ProBoard®. The drain plate comes with integrated drain assembly, waterproofing mat and is pre-pitched for proper sloping.TI-ProBoard is a composite structural underlayment that offers the ability to install ClearPath directly on top of the floor joists. ClearPath is available in four shower kits and includes drain plate, TI-ProBoard, perimeter edge protector, fasteners and CP waterproofing membrane. When used in conjunction with Util-A-Crete® or ProTEC® Cement Backer Board or ProPanel® Lightweight Waterproof Backer Board, Fin Pan offers a Lifetime Limited Warranty.

laticrete-showerLATICRETE HYDRO BAN® Barrier Free Shower System Products provide a wide array of options to help you design and construct a barrier-free shower. The Linear Drains and Bonding Flange Drains can be installed with 3701 Fortified Mortar to form a gentle slope into the shower for a safe, easy access or use the Pre-Sloped Shower Pan and Ramp combination to save time and money. The Linear Drain and Linear Pre-Sloped Shower Pan combination can be installed with the drain at the shower entry or the far wall, over the current substrate or recessed substrate to form a shower utilizing large format tile and stone. HYDRO BAN Barrier Free Shower System Products offer

  • Barrier-free shower options
  • Bonding flange or linear drains
  • Pre-Sloped Shower Pans, Ramp, waterproof and ready to tile
  • Installation over substrate or recessed floor
  • Designed for safety, comfort, and easy access

marke-showerMark E. Industries offers the GOOF PROOF SHOWER SEAT, a heavy-duty, stay-in-place, molded plastic form that is easily installed, and can be tiled the same day. The Shower Seat is a standard 30″ wide, and has guide marks on the top surface to make it easy to trim the seat to 24″ wide. The front face has a 3/16″ wide tile support ledge for easier tile alignment and full tile support. Two level vials are supplied to indicate the proper minimum water drainage slope of 1/4″ per 12″ run. Capacity is 400 lbs. Screws, anchors and shims (to adjust for out-of-square walls, if necessary) and illustrated installation instructions are included. Weighs 7-1/2 lbs.

nac-showerNAC Products offers the Extreme Bathroom System. This system provides a variety of bathroom installation options that bring NAC waterproofing and sound-control membrane systems together for surfaces that require waterproofing with impact and audible sound reduction. Drawings showcasing the systems can be accessed at, under the Technical pull-down tab; select Membrane System Images. Six images show different system options including, SAM® 3, Super SAM® 125, Strataflex and ECB® membranes combining with SubSeal® Liquid. In addition, there is a drawing of the Extreme Deck Waterproofing System (The drawings are not instructions on how to install the system, but a visual representation of the products involved for various membrane system options for bathrooms). An added benefit of the Extreme Bathroom System, is that the NAC sheet membranes also provide up to 3/8” crack isolation protection.

noble-showerNoble Company offers the FreeStyle Linear Drain™, which provides a highly secure drain and waterproofing combination. A clamping collar connects NobleSeal waterproofing membrane to the drain and the waste pipe is solvent-welded into the drain. FreeStyle Linear Drains have an internal slope making installation easier. There is no shimming or leveling required. FreeStyle Linear Drains are listed for shower waterproofing by national plumbing code authorities. A low-profile and high drainage capacity (36 GPM) make FreeStyle ideal for barrier-free applications. Install FreeStyle at the wall, the exit, or wherever the design requires. Available in seven widths from 24” to 60” with brushed stainless or tile-top strainers.

noble2-showerNoble also introduced ValueSeal in March 2015. It’s made from PE and only 16 mils thick. ValueSeal is easy to crease and form. It is bonded and seamed with latex-modified thin-set. Available in 6’ wide sheets to minimize seams or 3’ widths as well, ValueSeal is also translucent so bonding and seaming coverage can be visually confirmed. Noble is a quality leader for decades, with quality products and support. FreeStyle Linear Drains and ValueSeal are all made in the USA.

quickdrain-showerQuick Drain USA has introduced a brand new concept in the evolution of shower drains: the elegant WallDrain system that takes the idea of linear drains to a logical conclusion -– no drain in the shower floor at all! This allows sloping of the whole shower pan in one direction to eliminate any grates and covers to step on or clean. This simple idea is mostly used in wet rooms and curbless showers. The system has full height, depth and length adjustability built in for ease of installation and perfect look every time.

usg-showerUSG Durock™ Brand Shower System is a fully bonded waterproofing system for tiled shower installations designed to control moisture independently of the tile covering, while creating a solid base for a long-lasting shower. Ideal for both new construction and repair or remodel projects, the USG Durock Brand Shower System is highly adaptable to job-site conditions, is barrier-free and offers a huge selection of grate options and superior grate finishes. The USG DurockBrand Shower System comes with the option of installing a custom tray program, which allows for a limitless number of shower configurations by using optional benches and niches that deliver added flexibility for a fully custom shower. This custom tray program is exclusive to USG.

wedi-showerwedi recently launched the lightweight, waterproof XPS foam core Fundo Ligno shower system for easy curbless and floor-even shower floor installations without structural complications. The 3/4” thin-profile, sloped shower floor system with waterproof XPS foam core and a cement-based surface is ready to tile, providing a fast and flush curbless installation into a subfloor assembly without cutting into floor joists. Installation is easy and strong because you maintain the structural subfloor panels installed between floor joists under the shower system. These new systems are designed to interlock and work with other XPS underlayment products: building panels, seats and benches, niches and many more accessories that complete the shower installation and waterproofing system. These installations are fast, modular, clean and customizable.

Tools and accessories – TECH 2015

tools_accessoriesEvery contractor knows that it would be nearly impossible to complete a successful tile or stone installation without the right tools and accessories. And sometimes just the right gadget spells the difference between a burdensome chore and a job that’s a breeze. This is such a wide category that it’s hard to specify a single trend, so we simply presented a range of new products for you to peruse on the following pages.  – Lesley Goddin


donmoyer_headshotTuning or lippage-control systems are huge in this day and age, with the flood of large-format tiles and thin tiles on the market. The main issue with the large-format tile is bowing or warpage that occurs in the tile body as it is fired. Normally this warpage occurs in the center of the tile. 

We have the wood-like porcelain tiles going in everywhere, floors, walls, etc. Some are flat, most are not. The only way to combat this warping in the tile is to use a tuning system. Even if a floor is perfectly flat with mud, using warped tiles on the floor in an offset pattern will cause undesirable lippage. Normally, from what we have seen, many people have no clue what lippage is until they have it in their installation. So sometimes we incorporate this system into the installation whether the customer wants to pay for it or not. Using the Mechanical Lippage Tuning (MLT) system on my dime vs. tearing out the whole installation is sometimes the choice we have to make as installers. Large-format tiles in this industry have caused us installers a lot of headaches. The tuning systems are a tool you need to have in your arsenal to be successful in this industry.  

Mick Volponi was the man to see the need for such a system. He invented the Tuscan Leveling System (TLS), which is now owned by Pearl Abrasives. While still part owner of the TLS, he went on to invent the MLT. The systems help tune the tiles at the joints – it’s a misconception to think they level them. Some systems use a gun to tighten and remove the straps and some use wedges. In all other aspects of tile installation, there are many choices. 

I had an installation recently where we put in 500 sq. ft. of 20” tile, 1/2” thick. Due to the settling of the floor, there was some lippage that was within industry standard. The problem was that the tile had a sharp edge and the customer kept dragging her bare feet across the joints. Plus the grout was not flush to the top of the joint, so the customer was not happy. We are in the business of making customers happy, so we tore out 80% of the installation down to the subfloor, and put in the same tile with the MLT. It eliminated the lippage and did not allow the tiles to sink.  

I think of Mick Volponi as a great innovator in the tile industry. As a tile setter he saw the need for such a product and even improved the one he invented. This tool makes it possible to install large-format tiles without lippage.  

Jon Donmoyer
JD Tile, Annville, Pa.

TA-armalyArmaly ProPlus HD Series Polyester Sponges are made with polyester resin. They are formulated to work like a natural ocean sponge, and are extremely strong and durable. All Armaly ProPlus HD sponges are reticulated, a post-production process that removes the cell windows to allow the sponges to wipe up dirt, paste, and dust and then rinse clean. Armaly ProPlus HD sponges won’t streak, color bleed or shred. They hold up when used with harsh chemicals like TSP, solvents or chlorinated cleansers. Armaly ProPlus HD sponges are designed for functionality: wiping cleaner; rising faster; for long-lasting performance. Armaly ProPlus sponges help put the finishing touch on any tiling job.

Barracuda Brackets offer the Toilet Flange Tile Guide, a square guide that fits aroTA_barracudaund the flange, working as a debris barrier that protects the sewer. The square Guide is cemented around the flange leaving no gaps, forming a physical bond between the Guide, flange and the subfloor or moisture barrier. The Guide allows the tile installer to make straight cuts and butt the tiles right up to Guide/flange. This is an improvement from having a gap at the edge of the toilet flange from inaccurate nipping or grinding tile radii. It works with all flanges, all types of tile sizes and thicknesses and all toilets, eliminating the need to repair bath floors from rotting wood around the flange.

TA-bellotaBellota POP series manual tile cutters are the ideal tool for cutting ceramic and mosaic glass tiles efficiently with maximum precision. Durable, yet light-weight construction makes it easy to transport and use at the job site. A wide reinforced cast-aluminum base provides added rigidity and stability. Solid-steel, chrome-plated rail bars deliver smooth scoring. Bellota’s patented, universal forged steel scoring wheels are made of high-quality tungsten carbide for maximum strength and durability. They last up to 25% longer than standard wheels and are designed to fit on other makes of tile cutters. The POP’s heavy-duty breaking system breaks ceramic and glass tiles easily with exceptionally clean cuts and keeps the mesh backing on glass tiles intact for quick installations. POP cutters feature a three-year warranty and are available in 21” and 25” cutting capacities.

TA-slipgripFloor Safety Enterprises offers the Slip Grip Floor Safety product line. This line offers a full-service certified ANSI program for making commercial public floors safe with nearly imperceptible change to surface aesthetics. This is especially important for architects and business owner clients who aim to bring floors up to and exceed the new .42 DCOF reading for ANSI 137.1 Floor Safety Standard. Slip Grip also provides up-to-date information on ANSI and DCOF standards for tile and stone safety, measured with the state-of-the-art BOT 3000E Tribometer.


TA-lackmondLackmond Stone offers the new Lackmond PRO Series Bridge Saw Blade. Diamond pattern technology continues to evolve and Lackmond’s new PRO Series Bridge saw blade is manufactured using the latest in diamond pattern technology, where the diamonds are arranged in a specific order resulting in consistent wear and cutting. Lackmond’s PRO Series Bridge Saw Blade is designed to be used on granite, marble, engineered stone and other natural stone. It is equipped with tall 26mm segments, which allows for increased life, even in the most demanding stone applications. Lackmond’s Pro Series Bridge Saw Blades are available in 12” – 18” and are ideal for use on 15+ HP saws.

TA-MLTMechanical Lippage Tuning System is the industry’s newest, most innovative and economical tool to improve your tile installations. MLTS is a NO WASTE mechanical edge leveling system comprised of a reusable tensioning cap, a connecting strap with stainless steel insert and a material-specific bottom plate. MLTS aids the installer by “clamping” the tiles in place, allowing for near-perfect edge alignment. A key feature of the MLT System is that the cap can be easily disengaged, allowing the installer to have complete control. The system is fully compatible with thin porcelain tile, conventional thickness materials including porcelain and stone, as well as planks, slabs and ungauged tiles. MLT System will save time and eliminate costly callbacks for unsightly lippage. MLT System is endorsed by many well-respected manufacturers.; view a demonstration at

TA_RTCRTC Products offers the Hole Shot Dry Series Bits, the latest in dry-cut diamond technology. They are great for all types of hard material such as porcelain, quarry tile, slate, ceramic, marble, travertine and granite. Tested to provide up to 30 holes per bit with no water, the vacuum-brazed diamond allows for dry cutting when water is limited or not an option. Bits should be used with a standard handheld drill (800-2500 RPM).

Kit includes:

  • (2) 1/4” Dry bit
  • (1) 5/16” Dry bit
  • (1) 3/8” Dry bit
  • (1) 1/2” Dry bit
  • (1) Hole Shot Dry Series Drill Guide Case

Replacement bits and drill guides also available individually.

TA_stabilaStabila introduces new levels, designed for today’s construction needs. Two-foot and four-foot levels reflect the residential applications from the ‘60s and ‘70s. Modern residential construction requires new sizes of levels for proper tub-surround installations. The long wall requires a 58” level, the short wall requires 32”. These long levels are now available from Stabila as a pre-packaged Tub and Shower Set, catalog #29532. German-made precision Stabila levels maintain their accuracy for life, and vials will not fog, leak or become inaccurate. If they do, Stabila will replace the level with a brand new one.


Grouts – TECH 2015

groutsAs Curt Rapp, CEO of Tile Doctor said, “Grout. It’s not an afterthought anymore.“ Indeed, it is not, and it is rapidly becoming a high-fashion item designed to not simply fill joints, but to do it in style. Formulations include stain, crack and water-resistance, and some also include antimicrobials – all designed to keep joints looking pristine and beautiful for a long time.

Traditional cement-based grout categories have expanded to include epoxies over the years. Today the big word in grout is “ready-to-use,” which offers many advances in terms of ease of use and application and the ability to save unused portions. When imbued with special particles, grout can take on a translucent or metallic look, transforming from a utilitarian product that comes in a range of colors to one that offers added design dimensions to the finished tile or stone installation.

Peruse the following comments to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to grout and make grout selection easier for your next installation job.

Lesley Goddin

bostik_logoMichelle Swiniarski,
market manager
Ceramic Installation Systems

A grout revolution is here. Pre-mixed grouts are on the rise. Many performance levels of pre-mixed grouts are now in the market; therefore it is critical to ensure you choose a grout to match your performance requirements and understand how to properly install it. The more premium the grout, the more it offers the key attributes associated with long-term durability: stain, crack and water resistance. Unlike cement grouts, most pre-mixed grouts are applied in a small area (arm’s length) and cleaned as you go. There is no more waiting for the grout to firm up before you clean. There are design choices to consider as well. Do you prefer the grout joint to look similar to a cement grout? Or would you prefer it to allow light to pass through the joint and into the tile itself, creating a three-dimensional appearance to complement any clear glass tile?  Choosing a pre-mixed grout with a premium binder system can ensure it will offer a lifetime of pleasure.

custom_logoSteve Taylor, director of
Architecture and Technical Marketing
Custom Building Products

Stain-proof grouts continue to be a meaningful trend in today’s tile installations. The demand for these products is based on a fundamental market need. While designers and homeowners appreciate the dynamic array of tile sizes, shapes and colors available, they don’t like dirty grout joints. This is one factor behind the desire for larger-format tile and for smaller grout joints. Epoxy-based grouts are one solution but tile installers prefer the ease of application of single-component grouts that are color consistent, efflorescence free, require no mixing and never need to be sealed.

mapei_logoDavid Mowery,
business manager for Grouts & Caulks and MAPEI UltraCare Line

The movement in tile setting materials, specifically with grouts, is occurring on two fronts. For portland cement powdered grouts, more installers are opting to upgrade their grout selection to a rapid setting, CAC-Calcium Aluminate Cement, which offers higher performance specifications and typically adheres to ANSI A 118.7. Traditional portland cement grouts typically only subscribe to ANSI A 118.6. Given the trend to larger-format tile and gap widths averages in the 3/8” range, less grout is being required per square foot. This allows the installer to justify the price point bump with the higher-performance grout.

The other movement we are seeing in the industry is the use of RTU (ready-to-use) grouts moving out of the DIY arena and into the commercial contractor/installer playing field. What has driven this is the improvement in the overall performance in this grout category. The RTU grout chemistry includes acrylics, urethanes and hybrid versions. When cost is a consideration, and it always is, the product cost of RTU grouts vs. traditional cement grouts is higher. Yet, when you factor in the reduction in labor time for installation and the “no sealing” required advantage, RTU grouts are a bargain.

exrite_logoAlan Kin
sales and technical

Trending through customer requests and installer usage is the demand for synthetic grouts, commonly called “ready-mixed” grout. Although these types of products existed decades ago, the early versions were basically water-based adhesives with granular aggregate and colorant/pigment to simulate a textured grout. These early versions fell shy of full acceptance due to their overly “sticky” nature, difficulty of application and less-than-full performance equal to or better than cementitious grouts.

With recent polymer science and enhanced industry formulary know-how, tile adhesive and grout manufacturers are able to produce a formulary synthetic ready-mix grout that addresses shortcomings of the earlier-version grouts. The shorter drying times, reduced joint shrinkage, and easier installation clean-up have been moved or adjusted to manageable, realistic and practical installation levels.

Ready-mixed grout installations are not identical to cement grouts in drying and cure times; however, there are some excellent benefits added to today’s “ready-to-use” grouts that were not available in earlier versions and currently are not available in cementitious grout.

Upon installation, benefits of synthetic grouts include a sealed or stain-resistant grout within the mix. More significant is the newer polymer-resin technology, which delivers an elastomeric or flexible characteristic that never existed in previous traditional grout versions.

Its additional benefits include an identical-color or same-color match from a start-and-stop or interrupted/incompleted grout installation.

This means newly-installed grout perfectly matches the color of grout installed previously in the job. Touch-up or repairs no longer look different since cement shading has been taken out of the formula.

The final benefit is the factory mix; no longer is the grout dependent on too little or too much addition of water mixed in by the installer. The grout is ready to use upon opening the container. These types of grout allow resealing of the container and saving of the unused portion for another application.

There has been some hesitation to embrace the newer version /synthetic version of ready-mixed grouts by some individuals and groups in our industry. But, I ask them to look upon their own trials, errors and acceptance and use of business technology for pagers, fax machines, cell phones and now smart phones. Would they would be willing to go back to the older technology? If I were to call the new grout “smart grout,” would you be more likely to realize the potential for this newer type of grout product? It’s not perfect and not without fault but moving forward for better tile and stone installations.

tiledoctor_logoCurt Rapp, CEO
Tile Doctor

Grout. It’s not an afterthought anymore.

Today’s chemistries offer unlimited options: some proven, some very new. One thing for sure is that designers and specifiers appreciate options to assist in making their projects unique and help their design, and grout has for so long been that overlooked and underappreciated element in the design process. Now you can get grout that looks like metal or glass that refracts colors from the surrounding glass, sparkle metallic effects, highly chromatic colors and even make your grout glow in the dark. Grout now has color delivered without pigment so there is no shading or discoloration and color that is as durable as the tiles themselves. And grout can be a design option at last with it still being the least costly portion of the tile installation. With today’s performance options grout that used to be the weakest and most problematic part of the tile install now becomes the biggest no-brainer of all. Have you ever met a homeowner who loved their grout? Today it’s entirely possible to turn the tide on the grout issues once and for all.


donmoyer_headshotThe latest and greatest in grouts I have seen is the colorant. You get a bag of white grout and you buy the colorant separately. Many manufacturers who make grout are coming out with it. Once one manufacturer makes it, they all have to in order to compete and competitive.

What’s great about this type of grout is that you can stock the bag of base grout, and then on your trip to a distributor just pick up the small box of colorant. You don’t need to pick up the grout base every time. 

PERMACOLOR® Select by LATICRETE is the one I have used personally. This grout is considered rapid setting, so it is critical not to mix too much at one time or you will never get it in the joint before it hardens. Rapid-setting grouts are good because we can see the final color right away. With traditional grouts like sanded and unsanded grouts that need to be sealed, you won’t see the final  result until it is dry. 

There also has been a landslide of new “premixed” grouts coming out on the market. These are considered one-step. They are ready to be used right out of the bucket. The advantage is no drill needed to mix the grout. I have personally tried many of the premixed grouts but JD Tile has decided to stick with either epoxies or fast-setting grout. I am a big user of LATICRETE SpectraLOCK® epoxy grout, and have been using it in showers for many years with 100% success rate. 

The premixed grouts just don’t measure up to epoxy in quality, and it seems everyone wants something quick. Doing a tile installation is not quick, so why should the grout be easy? One premixed I used was very sandy and very difficult to put in; the other was almost too easy but the clean-up process was a bear. I stopped back two months after this installation with the premixed and I could still see residue on the tile I had missed. Whatever is in these premixed grouts leaves a residue behind that normal grout does not. Sometimes the recommended cleaning solution to remove haze has a very strong smell and in the winter you can’t really open the windows.  

So overall, premixed grouts do have a market. We will stick with epoxy – there is not a better grout. We have mastered using it and are always willing to try new products, but they aren’t game changers for us.

Jon Donmoyer,
JD Tile, Annville, Pa.


grouts_bostikBostik, Inc. offers Dimension™ RapidCure™ Glass-Filled, Pre-Mixed, Urethane Grout. This patented, reflective, water-based, urethanegrout contains micro-glass beads and a translucent, urethane binder that both reflect light and allow it to pass through. This adds an illuminating sparkle, creating one-of-a-kind, three-dimensional effects within glass tile installations, as well as tile, natural stone and metal tile projects. Dimension RapidCure offers lifetime stain and superior crack resistance and never needs sealing. It installs up to 50% faster than traditional grouts. High-performing and crack-resistant, it contains Bostik’s Blockade® antimicrobial protection, which inhibits organic growth on the cured grout surface and resists stains caused by mold as well. When used together with Bostik Glass-Mate™ glass tile mortar, it mitigates thermal expansion and contraction inherent to glass tile, reducing cracking in tile and grout due to severe temperature fluctuations. Made of 60% pre-consumer recycled glass, it’s available in 9-lb. and 18-lb pails, in 15 colors.

mortars2_CBPCustom Building Products offers Fusion Pro® Designer Series, a line of eight specialty reflective color accents that extend the creative value of this popular Single Component® grout. The Fusion ProDesigner Series is ideal for kitchen backsplashes and showers when paired with dynamic mosaic glass, porcelain, ceramic or other tiles that could benefit from a special effect. Use it to enhance the decorative beauty of interior or exterior, commercial or residential tile projects. In addition to the aesthetic benefits of Fusion ProDesigner Series, the ready-to-use, professional-grade grout is guaranteed to be stain proof and color perfect without the use of a sealer. The Fusion Pro Designer Series colors include natural and mineral inspired colorations like Smoked Quartz, Starlight, Moonshadow, Ice Crystal, Glitter, Raw Sugar, Starry Night and Gold.


grouts_tecH.B. Fuller Construction Products offers new TEC® Skill Set™ DesignColor™ Grout, available at select Lowe’s. This revolutionary grout allows tile contractors to provide customers with more than 100 in-stock grout color choice options using 12.5-lb. bags of universal grout base paired with interchangeable and unique color mixes. This innovative approach reduces inventory and simplifies the process of finishing any residential or commercial tiling project. Users simply pair each 12.5-lb. plastic bag of DesignColor Grout universal grout base with two individually packaged color mix cups to create the grout color. Then, the grout components can be mixed with Grout Boost® grout additive – no measuring required – to create a stain proof grout. Contractors can buy the grout base bags in bulk and keep them on hand for multiple jobs, and then encourage individual clients to visit select Lowe’s to pick out their color mixes themselves. TEC Skill Set DesignColor Grout is a universal formula that can be used on both floors and walls, sanded and unsanded applications. It meets performance requirements of both residential and commercial environments. When mixed with Grout Boost, DesignColor Grout can be used in exterior applications and in wet areas, like showers and pools.

grouts-latLATICRETE offers PLASMA™ grout, a professional-grade, ready-to-use and crack-resistant grout that does not require sealing. PLASMA provides unmatched early strength development, easy workability and inhibits the growth of stain-causing mold and mildew in grout joints. Cleanable to its original color, PLASMA is ideal for use in most grout joint applications between 1/16” to 1/2” (1.6 – 13 mm) wide including: ceramic tile, glass tile and stone applications; residential and commercial floors and walls; and interior and exterior installations. It is superior for re-grouting applications and offers a non-sag formula for walls and floors.


grouts-texriteTexrite’s Chromaflex is an advanced, ready-to-use resin-based grout. It is stain resistant and self sealed with no additional sealing required. The new grout technology achieves crack-resistant and flexible properties to minor movement. The grout has unparalleled hydrophobic properties that repel stains and water. Color matching every time on new installations or repairs are featured grout traits. This no-efflorescence grout is based on a cement-free product. It was designed with easy, water clean-up and “grout & go” features, packaged as a ready-mixed grout. Leftover grout can stay in the bucket and be used on the next job. Chromaflex grout is able to grout narrow to wide joints from 1/16” – 1/2” (2-13mm) on vertical and horizontal surfaces.


grouts-tiledoctorTile Doctor offers STAINMASTER® Grout, which solves every issue with grout performance. It’s stain proof, and uses no pigment, so it will not shade and there are no dye lots of which to keep track. Easy to install and high fashion, STAINMASTER Grout, where grout finally catches up with design. STAINMASTER Grout can be used as an adhesive (for thin mosaic tiles) as well as a grout. You can also treat it like a high-fashion wall finish since it’s trowelable. Easy to use and endlessly versatile, STAINMASTER Grout is a one-stop, go-to grout for all your grouting needs.

Mortars – TECH 2015

mortarsThe biggest thing – literally – in our industry these days is large thin tiles. This technology is ramping up, and its possibilities are endless.

But to support these large thin tiles, proper coverage is absolutely essential. Development of large-and-heavy-tile mortar to replace the misnamed “medium-bed mortar” and ongoing refinements of these products are keeping pace with the refinements of the finishing products themselves. If you’re working with large-format and thin porcelain tiles, be sure to acquaint yourself with these new mortar developments, presented below.  – Lesley Goddin

ardex_logoMark Pennine,
ARDEX Technical manager,
Tile and Stone

While they have been popular in Europe for several years, the North American tile industry has embraced the mounting popularity of very large, thin tile installations. Setting material manufacturers have had to develop mortars with advanced technologies such as long open time, great sag resistance, higher flexibility and longer pot life. The development of proper substrate preparation materials for walls and floors is also paramount for the success of very large and thin tile panels. High-flow self-leveling products that produce supremely flat floors are a necessity for floor applications. Wall and floor smoothing and screeding mortars with rapid drying properties produce plumb, flat walls and level floors keeping installations on schedule.

custom_logoSteve Taylor, director of
Architecture and Technical Marketing
Custom Building Products

With the ever increasing size of field tile, traditional mortars simply won’t do. These large and heavy tiles require the use of a modified dry-set mortar that can support the increased weight. From wood-look planks to 15” or more tile options, a large format tile mortar must be selected to minimize lippage and maintain a smooth, level tile installation. Tile contractors, design professionals and end users should always discuss the available options and the aesthetic as well as the durability implications of mortar selection on the overall project.

laticreteSean Boyle, director
Marketing & Product Management

Maximum or 100% coverage is typically required for reduced-thickness porcelain tiles. A high-performance, latex-fortified portland cement thin-set or medium-bed mortar can be used. Using the appropriate specialty notched trowel along with proper troweling techniques and back-buttering will make achieving complete coverage easier. Mechanical edge-leveling systems can help to reduce lippage at the edges and corners. Finally, always remember to follow standard industry guidelines for movement joints.

mapei_logoBrian Pistulka
MAPEI business manager
for Tile & Stone Installations

Thin tile and large thin porcelain tiles are trending in the tile and stone industry, resulting in technology innovation from leading installation manufacturers.

As the thin tile market grows with more manufacturers offering products and promoting to the market, there is a growing wave of designers, architects, distributors and contractors seeing an impact upon their business. Now from an installation perspective the trend is significant – contractors are challenged to learn new methods, procedures and team-working concepts to run such jobs.

As more contractors and manufacturers have gained exposure to the thin tile business, additional challenges have been identified to improve productivity and save labor efforts when working with larger units, while improving installation products to address challenges unique to large thin porcelain tiles.

Some of these challenges are the need for easier- to-spread mortars, mortars that provide better wet-out transfer properties, mortars with lower water demands, lighter-weight mortars, mortars with longer open or working times, and mortars with more flexibility .

exrite_logoAlan Kin
sales and technical

The increased selection of larger-format tile sizes greater than 15” tiles and larger will create a shift in bonding mortar selection to “large-and-heavy-tile” LHT mortars. The increase in dimensional length of these tiles as plank, larger-format and thin porcelain tiles requires more mortar depth underneath them and the substrate.

Both the customer and installer want the most visually-flat tile installation, so they need to be aware of what truly changed about their jobsite/installation. Those changes lie beneath the tile and substrate as:

  • Increases in weight of individual tile units
  • Increased surface variation that the bonding mortars have to fill between the tile and substrate (typically 1/4” to 1/2” and up to 3/4” in setting thickness)
  • The critical ability to reduce “tile edge to tile edge” lippage

The LHT mortars (formerly referred as medium-bed mortars) have been formulated to withstand movement of heavier weighted tile while in the soft-paste state of installation. The products have an increased “grab” or surface tackiness for larger-format tiles. One of the most important characteristics of these mortars is shrinkage compensation that remains more volume true and resists shrinkage upon full hydration and cure. Lippage on horizontal application and non-sag movement of vertical application properties are available from the mortar manufacturers.

As large tile (≥ 15” and/or plank tile) become requested, LHT mortars will be needed to properly set/bond these types of tiles. Although there is no direct ANSI Installation LHT mortars method to reference, the mortar manufacturers have had the foresight to have the product developed and bagged suitable for these installations.

Other resources from the mortar manufacturers would include leveling/re-surfacer products to flatten the surface or re-direct slope with cementitious underlayments. Large and heavy tiles need to be installed with these types of LHT mortars. The emergence and popularity of porcelain tiles within recent history have spurred the development and use of latex-polymer “thinset” mortars. Our industry can now expect the selection and usage of LHT mortars to become a more common part of the installation resources that were once reserved for large commercial jobsites. Now, LHT mortars will become common for both commercial and residential use in the marketplace.

tiledoctor_logoCurt Rapp, CEO
Tile Doctor

I have toured thin tile plants, from the very first – even before the outside façade was finished on their building – to one of the newest lines just a few weeks back.

We have seen many advancements in the thin tile manufacturing process and the products coming out of the lines. The rapid interest gaining traction really feels more like an explosion to me, and the possibilities are certainly staggering for us as an industry to grow our business.

In the absence of a published standard anywhere in the world for the installation of these tiles, the questions also are as staggering as the opportunities. For certain, on a tile that can cost up to 5 to 6 times a traditional tile, the need for high-quality adhesives is a must, and this is the last place you should consider skimping. Adhesives should set up properly and bond well to large-unit porcelain tile slabs. We have so much at stake. The acceptance of this product in the market and using the proper installation products can set the destiny in motion for success or failure long-term. What we do not need is to have failures as we grow and discover the possibilities for this product’s use. Adhesives with the ability to set up under larger-format tiles without any requirement for drying – what we call Reaction Adhesives – bond with great strength and set up because of their chemistry regardless of temperature, humidity and many other factors that could be adverse to the installation and the jobsite conditions.

If you had a blank slate to write out what the optimal adhesive properties would be for all thin tile installations, you’d probably ask for the following: suitable for exterior and extreme conditions; non-sag; high bond strength; waterproof; chemical-resistant; some flexural properties; a predictable setting time; suitable for many, if not all, substrates; and one that provides an installation process that is predictable for installers.


mortars_CBPCustom Building Products has created VersaBond®-LFT for large-format tile as a complementary product to VersaBond, CUSTOM’s popular everyday thin-set mortar. VersaBond-LFT is designed for use in most standard large-format tile floor installations with porcelain, ceramic or natural stone 15” or greater on any side. The product’s non-slump formula can be used as a thin-set or medium-bed (dry-set) mortar up to 3/4” on floors, and it bonds well to concrete, cement backerboards such as WonderBoard® Lite, as well as plywood. VersaBond-LFT, which meets the requirements of ANSI A118.4 and A118.11, is available in white and gray.

mortars_latLATICRETE LHT™ is a polymer-modified large-and-heavy tile mortar specifically formulated to provide a one-step installation for large-format ceramic tile, porcelain tile, marble and stone on floors. LHT features excellent adhesion with a superior bond that meets the demands of challenging installations involving large and/or heavy tile. LHT offers multiple utility with excellent medium bed/large heavy tile performance, and can be applied 3/4” (19 mm) thick without shrinkage. The smooth and creamy consistency of this easy-to-trowel mortar assures proper coverage on both the substrate and the tile or stone. Perfect for interior and exterior floor installations, LHT meets or exceeds the ANSI A118.1 and ANSI A118.4 standards. Available in grey and white, LHT is suitable for use over many substrates.

mortars_merkreteMerkrete offers large-tile setting solutions for both walls and floors, supporting the development of larger size tiles that emulate wood or natural stone. Merkrete has answered this trend in eXtra Large Floor tiles with its 855 XXL and 856 XLF thin-set mortars. Merkrete has been one of the first to offer these solutions so the research and quality has been there for years. 855 XXL has unique properties and can be used as a thin-set or a large-and-heavy tile setting adhesive for installing large-format, ceramic, porcelain and irregular thickness stone without the need of back buttering the tile. 856 XLF has exceptional fluid properties which make it an ideal adhesive for installing standard to ultra-thin, extra-large tile and stone over a variety of substrates including tile-over-tile applications.

mortars_texriteTexrite has developed four different options to choose from when installing large-and-heavy tiles. As tile and stone gets bigger and heavier, installers need different solutions to reduce the chance of lippage and ensure greater mortar contact. Texrite has developed a new line of large-and-heavy tile (LHT) mortars to help you with every kind of large-format tile and stone installation. Whether it’s a red body tile, porcelain or heavy stone and regardless of the surface on which you need to install it, Texrite has a product to make sure it is rite!

mortars_tiledoctorTile Doctor offers Litoelastic adhesive, a two-component reactive multi-purpose adhesive suitable for indoor and outdoor applications on floors and walls even in severe usage conditions such as swimming pools, heavily trafficked floors and tiles exposed to high temperature fluctuations. It’s suitable for bonding various materials even on non-traditional substrates such as metal, fiberglass, PVC, and linoleum and is perfect for all types of ceramic tiles, thin porcelain slabs with and without reinforcement, glass and ceramic mosaics. With high elasticity and excellent water resistance, Litoelastic is suitable for simultaneous waterproofing and laying ceramic tiles or mosaics in shower stalls or wet interior environments. It can be used with natural stones, even unstable ones such as green marble and slate, and has a very low emission of volatile organic compounds.

mortars_tileshopThe Tile Shop introduces a new large-format tile (LFT) thinset as part of its Superior Adhesives and Chemicals private label brand. Pro Bed thinset can hold a 3/4” rake, and helps the installer level a larger tile on planes that are not always completely flat.


Radiant heating – TECH 2015

radiantheatingWhat’s one of the hottest trends in home comfort and flooring installation? You’re getting warm – right, radiant heating!

Radiant heating brings unprecedented comfort to tile and stone – finishing materials that have often been dismissed as being cold. No more! In addition to heating a floor to one’s comfort, radiant heating either the entire home or specific zones is turning into a highly efficient, effective, and energy-conscious choice.

And product development is booming in this category, moving from wires to mats to wires that can be snapped easily and quickly into uncoupling membranes, streamlining the job and offering performance advantages, ribbon-format heating elements, programmable thermostats and most recently, WiFi thermostats that can be controlled from smart phones, computers or tablets.

Whereas old hydronic systems were a daunting proposition, modern “electric radiant floor warming is not a product that should overwhelm anyone,” said Sean Boyle, director Marketing & Product Management for LATICRETE. “In fact, it is not difficult at all to install! If distributors, retailers and contractors know more about this system, they all will be able to enjoy selling it and recognize more profits in doing so.”

Learn more about this exciting category and how it can bring comfort to your customers and cash to your bottom line.  – Lesley Goddin

rpmMichael Fuhrman, president
CMX Radiant Corp.

For decades, in-floor electric heat wire had been primarily installed with just a few methods. One was using straps with fastening hooks, which left the wire exposed and more prone to damage. Another was using prestrung wire in a retaining mesh, having pre-sized lengths and widths, which limited layout possibilities. Finally, custom-made mats with wire embedded became available, shaped to fit a specific area, but these were more costly and time consuming to manufacture. Over a wood substrate, most of these methods were applied over a tile backer board. Over a concrete substrate, many were installed over an anti-fracture membrane.

A few years ago, a new product emerged in the market that offered a new way for heat wire to be installed. The product replaced backer board and anti-fracture membrane, and at the same time incorporated a method to install heat wire. A series of short studs on a mat were used to create a layout grid to install and meet the spacing requirements for all heat wire brands on the market. In addition, the stud tops acted as a wire protector and screed surface for leveling cement. Since then, the popularity of this and similar products has soared, not only among contractors, but do-it-yourselfers as well.

laticreteSean Boyle, director,
Marketing & Product Management

Electric radiant floor warming has become very affordable and quite easy to install. It incorporates an electric heating element to warm up the surface above it.

Electric floor warming is now considered to be a very attractive added feature when someone is in the process of selling his or her home. Certainly, a strong selling point is that the installation of an electric in-floor warming system does not require any special tile-installation procedures. The subfloor should be prepared as for any conventional tile installation according to applicable standards. For the most part, electric floor-warming components consist of a heating mat with cables which is installed right beneath the tile and stone surface, and a wall-mounted thermostat.

Surprisingly to many, the entire installation process is easier than you might think. To begin with, one should make a scale drawing of the floor plan, mapping out the “walking area” where the heating mat will be positioned.

Once the heating mat is put in place and all electrical work is complete, what comes next is the tile installation. High-performance ANSI A118.15-compliant latex thin-set mortars are designed for optimal performance when used in conjunction with electric floor-warming systems. In addition, the use of self-leveling underlayments can also be used to encapsulate electric floor warming systems when the substrate requires attention. Finish off the tile installation with a high-performance ANSI A118.7-compliant cement-based grout or easy-to-use epoxy based grouts for even better performance and ease of maintenance.

Electric floor warming (both in mat type or loose wire configuration) is a cost-effective heating solution when properly used. For those of you in the tile and stone sectors, it represents a wonderful product that makes a great-looking installation become a very comfortable installation as well.

RH-nuheat_logoWally Lo
Nuheat product manager

While electric floor heating has been around since the 19th century, the way we heat has advanced into three main types: loose cable, strip, and roll mesh and custom mats. Over the past decade there have been small improvements such as lead times, thinner cables, durable cold lead connections and so on, but the true trend in electric radiant floor heating is how homeowners can control their heat.

Smart devices, connected homes and automation are the way of the future, and electric radiant floor heating is no different! The first WiFi-enabled thermostat entered the market in 2014, and several followed, resulting in floor heating controls quickly becoming more technologically advanced. Homeowners can now control their floor heating remotely from an app on their smart phones. This can be a huge energy and money saver. As they head out of town or their schedules change, the temperature can be turned down from anywhere via mobile device, paired with a WiFi-enabled thermostat. These thermostats can also tell owners the current and forecasted weather in their area, as well as energy usage, with the ability to track exactly how many hours were used and adjust behavior accordingly. The next step will be these smart thermostats speaking to other home-automated appliances in their homes so that everything is controlled on one device or app.

warmset_logoDave Godlewski,
Radiant Heat Division
sales manager for The PENROD Company

Not much matters more in a home than comfort, and one of the easiest ways to make homes, and living and working spaces more welcoming is temperature control. Radiant heating is an up-and-coming technology and combined with tax incentives and credits provides superior warmth at an affordable price.

While there are many options for in-home heat, none is more suited for longevity than radiant-heated flooring. In fact, radiant-heated flooring delivers in more than just aesthetics. This heat source increases comfort, provides durability, and reduces energy costs.

Besides being a solution to cold tiles underfoot, radiant-heated flooring conducts heat through the floor surface and is a cost and energy-efficient way to warm the whole home evenly, maintaining a consistent temperature from room to room without sacrificing air quality. As popularity increases, radiant-heated flooring can add substantial resale value and appeal to a home. The decreased energy use adds up to significant savings.

One of the newest products on the market uses a patented ribbon design to make installations easier and to disperse even more heat efficiently, while saving energy.

schluter_logoSean Gerolimatos,
technical director,
Schluter Systems

Ceramic and stone tiles are the ideal floor coverings because they are durable, easy to maintain, and hygienic. However, a common barrier to the selection of tile as a floor covering is the perception that tiles are cold under foot. Electric floor warming systems are an effective solution to address this barrier and continue to grow in popularity as a result.

However, raising the floor temperature results in expansion of the tile covering and the substrate below. Since substrate materials (concrete, plywood, etc.) expand at a different rate from the tile covering with temperature changes, and the temperature through the assembly from top to bottom varies, shear stresses occur at the interface between the tiles and the substrate. Uncoupling membranes neutralize these stresses to prevent cracking or delamination of the tile covering.

The latest generation of uncoupling membranes allows tile setters to snap electric heating cables in the membrane and immediately install tile using the thin-bed method. This eliminates the time-consuming practice of encapsulating the cables in a leveling compound and waiting for it to set before installing the tile. The result is a durable tiled floor that is warm and comfortable, which takes much less time to install.

warmup_logoAlice Warnier,
marketing manager

If you have not heard of heated floors by now, it’s probably because you live in a tropical climate. However, for most of us here in North America, heated floors are becoming a necessity. As the winters increase in their length and severity, finding an affordable and more reliable alternative to forced air systems is the only way to go.

Overall, electric floor heating systems are a trend worth jumping on, if only for the simplicity of the system. It can get to places air vents cannot, heat each room evenly, and provide better control of the temperature in the home.

Electric underfloor heating systems provide an easy-to-install, cost effective and versatile heating solution, whether used as a primary or secondary source of heating.

suntouch_logoJohn Sweaney,
senior product and 
customer support manager
Watts Radiant/Sun Touch

Consumers are looking for more powerful and more intuitive controls for floor heating systems, and they continue to seek systems that increase comfort in their homes. The contractor that is well prepared to satisfy these consumer wants will be very successful.


vallefuco_headshotOver the last decade, the demand for radiant floor heat under tiled surfaces has evolved from an upscale luxury to somewhat of a staple. We’ve found the most common area in residential installations to be the master bathroom floor, both in remodels and custom homes. Over time, we have experimented with many products from customized heat pad systems to wire cable systems. The wire cables are more labor intensive, but tend to be the best option when there is any chance of room layout changing before installation. 

Most recently, it seems the market trend in the tile industry is steering toward radiant heat systems that serve as both uncoupling membrane and a floor heating system. An example of this is Schluter’s Ditra-Heat. In situations where an uncoupling membrane is already specified, choosing this type of heat system becomes cost effective and time saving. In addition, it minimizes total floor height and installation time. 

A third factor which becomes very appealing for us is that it can also serve as waterproofing when taped, and saves us yet another step. It is the most sensible option in circumstances where uncoupling membrane, waterproofing, and radiant heat are specified.

We’ve found the installation process to be very similar to that of most uncoupling membranes. The only additional thought process required is generally in spacing the cables correctly. For the installers, this system allows us to create customized heating zones based on clients’ needs, and becomes an energy-saving option for the end user.  

The one glitch we’ve found with multiple heat zones is for clients who want to keep it simple, preferring only one thermostat no matter how large the area. However, from an installer’s perspective, an enticing feature is that the system is warranted by one manufacturer. If there are any concerns during or after installation, the manufacturer is familiar with all the components, and can readily troubleshoot with full technical knowledge of the system. In the past, when multiple components are used, such as subfloor and a separate radiant heat system, we’ve had to go back and forth between manufacturers to get to the bottom of the issue. Having one manufacturer allows for quicker resolution time if problems do occur.  

For instances where CBU is specified without an uncoupling membrane or where floor height and waterproofing are not issues, then the options for radiant heat systems remain immense. We as tile installers prefer to work with the products with which we are most familiar. Regardless of the specific product, radiant heat systems from manufacturers of tile industry setting materials are always our preference over those made generically to go under any floor finishes.  

Gianna Vallefuoco
VALLEFUOCO Tile Contractors
Rockville, MD

donmoyer_headshotThe biggest advancement in radiant heat is manufacturers coupling the heating element or cable into the uncoupling mat. This eliminates two separate steps. Traditionally you would install your heating cable, cover it with a self leveler or trowel thinset onto it. Now you install the uncoupling membrane of your choice and incorporate the heating cable into the uncoupling mat, then go over that with thinset.

Essentially you are eliminating one step of the process and a layer. This has almost eliminated the use of heating mats. When you incorporate the heating cables right into the uncoupling membrane you get uncoupling properties plus your heating element in one layer versus two. This cuts down time on installation and leads many installers to use the faster method.  In most cases the cost equals out but allows you to do it in one day vs. two. 

Jon Donmoyer,
JD Tile, Annville, Pa.,

RH-easyheatEasyHeat WarmTiles, a division of Emerson Industrial Automation, has introduced an easy-to-install floor warming cable specifically designed for uncoupling membrane systems. New WarmTiles™ DMC cables can be laid directly from a spool to the membrane in virtually any configuration, allowing for a fast, custom installation using product that comes directly from the distributor’s shelf. Available in 120VAC and 240VAC, the cable’s thicker diameter is tailored to perfectly snap in for a secure and reliable fit. It is ideal for virtually any flooring project deploying uncoupling membrane systems, whether it is new construction or renovation. WarmTiles DMC cables do not require a self-leveling or scratch coat and they are compatible with most major brands of uncoupling membrane systems. Cable heating area ranges from 7 sq. ft. (0.7 m2) up to 250 sq. ft. (23 m2), or 44 to 785 feet (13 to 239 meters) in length. In addition, EasyHeat offers programmable and non-programmable dual-voltage thermostats to control the temperature, and optimize power requirements of the system. Cables are CSA certified for use in the U.S. or Canada.

RH-latLATICRETE offers several electric floor warming options. The LATICRETE Floor HEAT Mat is a versatile floor-warming mat designed for installation underneath tile and stone floors. It includes adhesive backing for easy installation, and a low-profile wire. The Floor HEAT Mat is designed for optimal performance when used with LATICRETE 254 Platinum, 86 LATILEVEL™ and SpectraLOCK® PRO Grout. This system is also designed for use with the LATICRETE Floor Warming Thermostat, a simple-to-use digital programmable thermostat in 120 V or 240 V configurations. Also available is the LATICRETE Floor HEAT Wire floor-warming wire system designed for use under many types of finished floor coverings, compatible with the LATICRETE Floor Warming Thermostat, and the LATICRETE Complete Floor Warming Kit, available in five popular mat sizes, that includes a LATICRETE Floor HEAT Mat, a LATICRETE Floor Warming Thermostat and WIRE EYE, the LATICRETE electric wire-fault indicator.

RH-nuheatNuheat, a leading manufacturer of electric radiant floor-heating systems of 25 years, launched its energy-conscious, next-generation thermostat, the Nuheat SIGNATURE, which incorporates WiFi technology. This easy-to-use thermostat allows homeowners to adjust heating remotely to save energy, monitor and control energy consumption, and view hourly, weekly, and monthly usage. With a quick reaction time, rooms and floors heat up within 30 minutes, allowing for zoneable heating to control warmth where it’s needed rather than overall central heating, thus saving energy. The thermostat easily connects to the home’s WiFi network for up to 16 multiple zones/rooms/homes. It is perfect for a vacation home – with WiFi controls, heat can be activated while you’re packing the car, and warm, luxurious floors are ready upon arrival!

RH-RPMRPM Mats are “the original” heat wire installation mat system. For nearly a decade they have been used as a backerboard-replacing, anti-fracture membrane, designed specifically to ease the installation process for all brands of electric in-floor heat wire. The unique stud placement and design allows for wire spacing at any 1/2” increment, while protecting the wire, during and after installation. Other benefits include: a thinner installation; easy cement leveling over wire; fast and easy wire layout adjustments; lightweight materials that cut with no dust; tough rating for automobile showrooms and shopping malls; and multiple flooring options other than tile can be used on top. RPM Mats are made in the USA from 80-90% recycled materials, available in 5/16” and 1/2” thickness. The new RPM-V1 mat features a vented design that rapidly accelerates the dry time of the adhesive, while offering the same benefits as the original RPM.

RH-SchluterSchluter-Systems has doubled the number of heating cable lengths available for its DITRA-HEAT floor warming system – now offering 34 different lengths to meet any floor warming need. DITRA-HEAT cables are easily snapped into place on top of the uncoupling mat with no clips or fasteners. The installer has complete flexibility on where the cables are placed so every installation is customized to suit the exact requirements of the owner. The system, just one year old, originally offered 17 different cable lengths for a wide range of project sizes. Now there are 17 cable lengths for 120V circuits and 17 for 240V circuits, including cables that can be used in a space as small as 10.7 sq. ft. so the floor of a very small bathroom, powder room, or entryway can be easily warmed with the system.

RH-suntouchSunTouch recently enhanced its WarmWire floor heating cables that use an electric wire to heat floors in bathroom, entryways, and kitchens. An affordable alternative to radiant-heated mats, WarmWire provides the flexibility to install easily around curves, angles and cut-outs to fit rooms of all shapes and sizes. Contractors can install WarmWire using self-leveler or thin-set, when WarmWire is secured using CableStraps. Recent enhancements give WarmWire a lower profile, requiring less thinset or self-leveler for installation. WarmWire is compatible with a variety of uncoupling membranes designed for use with heating wire. An installer can vary the wire spacing in these uncoupling membranes to reach a desired heat output. WarmWire comes with a 25-year warranty. SunTouch offers a full line of products to meet indoor and outdoor floor warming and ice melting project needs.

RH-warmlyyoursWarmlyYours Radiant Heating has created a one-stop shop for floor-heating system installations with its four new Installation Accessory Kits. The kits were designed to offer all the necessary tools to install a TempZone™ floor-heating system. The Installation Accessory Kits come in Basic, Silver, Gold and Platinum options, with each kit specializing in a different type of installation for trade professionals and do-it-yourselfers. The Basic Installation Kit includes a margin trowel and 3/8” notched trowel for spreading thinset over the heating element and back-buttering each tile for one-step installations. The Silver Installation Kit includes four tools – including an epoxy grout float – for one-step installations that include grouting the tile. The Gold Installation Kit features six tools for two-step installations that do not require underlayment under the heating element. Finally, the Platinum Installation Kit includes seven tools for two-step installations on a slab that require an underlayment under the heating element. Each kit offers a variation on these seven tools: a 3/8” notched trowel; 1/8” V-notch trowel; dense rubber float; epoxy grout float; margin trowel; finishing trowel; and kneeler board. Tools can also be purchased separately by those who already have their own tools.

RH-warmsetWarmset by PENROD is the next generation of radiant floor heating and its patented UL-certified technology delivers unequaled performance to both contractors and homeowners.

Easy to install: Warmset by PENROD is a ribbon-based system. Installation is fast and easy; simply unroll the ribbon mat.

Increased Energy Savings: The flat ribbon design and the reduced space between heating elements allows Warmset by PENROD to use significantly less energy than wired radiant flooring, cutting energy consumption by over 10%.

Strength and Reliability: The design has a robust structure that is strong and less susceptible to damage during installation and electrical shorting after installation compared to wire-based products. Warmset by PENROD is so durable that it will eliminate callbacks caused by damage.

More Comfortable Heat: With its electric radiating system transmitted evenly over the entire surface. “Warm-up” time is ten degrees faster than traditional products on the market.

RH-warmupWarmup has introduced StickyMat to allow trade professionals to install electric floor warming quickly and easily. StickyMat underfloor heating is more than just a standard heating mat with pressure-sensitive adhesive – it uses a 1/8” pre-spaced wire with tough fluoropolymer coatings that provide inner and outer insulation for even surface heat distribution. The StickyMat is suitable for all new and renovation projects. The StickyMat enables a smaller contractor to install electric floor heating as fast as a larger company. In an internal testing environment, when using StickyMat against a similar product without pressure sensitive adhesive, the installation of StickyMat was 35% faster. Once installed, the project is completed by applying a layer of thin self-leveler over the mat and leaving it to dry OR by troweling a full bed of flexible tile adhesive directly over the mat upon which the floor tiles will be installed. Warmup offers a market leading 24/7/365 technical support service to give personal advice during and after installation.

Substrate prep, Underlayments and Backing products – TECH 2015

substrate-prepEvery tile or stone installation starts with the condition and preparation of the subfloor. Is it flat, is it level, is it in need of crack isolation or waterproofing? What kinds of preparations and underlayments are needed to make this project perform? With larger tiles – and the emergence of large, thin tiles – more stringent measures need to be employed to make subfloors suitable for newfangled products.

Along these lines, choice of appropriate backers also play a key role in both ease of installation and long-term integrity of the installation.

Manufacturers in this section share their views of how today’s finishing products demand more technologically advanced preparation, underlayment and backing solutions.  – Lesley Goddin

Sean Boyle, director Marketing & Product
Management – LATICRETE

Reduced-thickness porcelain tiles have been out in the marketplace for several years now and our industry has gained some valuable information on how these finishes perform, where they can be used and how they are installed. Always consult with the porcelain tile manufacturer for their recommendation on which specific reduced-thickness tile type and thickness is suitable for a specific application (especially for floors and exterior use). In addition, using the proper installation techniques and materials will help insure a quality installation.

Substrate preparation is critical. Care must be taken to ensure that the substrate is extremely flat in order to achieve the required coverage and fully support the tile. Proper preparation, staging and equipment are also important to prepare these large tiles for installation. For example, consider a large flat table that serves as the work area and the use of “vacuum suction cups” and “installation frames” to facilitate handling and placing of the tile.

MAP-logoBrian Pistulka
MAPEI business manager for Tile & Stone Installations

Some trends in the industry relate to large-format tile, as well as thin tile – the importance of substrate preparation is magnified for these projects. As the tolerance of substrate variance becomes smaller, the variance becomes more noticeable in the finished project if not addressed prior to installation. This has increased the attention on surface prep patches, screed and leveling compounds.

NAC-logoBrian Petit, vice president of Operations
NAC Products

As technology continues to evolve, substrates should be examined to ensure a proper bond between substrates, membranes, and finished floors. Lightweight concrete substrates can be porous or at times chalky, requiring a thorough inspection. As a result of this inspection, it may be necessary to harden and seal the substrate in order to create a better surface that will promote a permanent bond for the flooring system.

When examining existing substrates for renovation, protrusions or depressions from the previous flooring must be removed or addressed in such a way as to allow the membrane installation to create a flat, new surface for tile installation. Floor preparation including leveling products should be completed prior to the installation of membrane. Membranes are designed to be installed as close to the finished floor as possible to provide maximum protection.

texrite-logoAlan Kin, sales and technical

Leveling products are sometimes overlooked because the skill of the tile installer often incorporated the leveling as part of the challenge of doing a good, if not great, tile installation. The substrate surface being level and flat in appearance was considered secondary to the tile type and substrate to be bonded. The growing popularity of larger-format tile and plank tile requires truer/straighter floor criteria. Let’s face facts: slab surfaces and concrete surfaces are not getting better for flatness, and the tile industry is being viewed by consumers, designer and architects with a more critical eye.

Mortar manufacturers have developed products for leveling in order to flatten, correct and/or induce pitch/slope where necessary. Under more critical requirements, it will be necessary to have a slab/substrate be within 1/16” variation in 24” when measured from the high point. The flatter requirements are related to the demand of large tile (≥ 15” and/or plank tile).

Consumers need to understand that the larger (15” and greater) dimension tile – while offering beautiful and stunning in design and appearance – also means that a larger tile’s shine, luster or reflective image will be more evident. Skewed or distorted images on larger tile surfaces can be expected if the tiles are bonded to non-trued or non-leveled surfaces. Installers need to plan for these large-format tile installations by using leveling materials and investing the extra work needed to meet customer expectations of flawless optical criteria.

Leveling products are available in trowelable and self-leveling versions, covering an array of curing times from same-day walk-on set to overnight cure/set times. Mortar manufacturers offer underlayment/patching products that can be used for floor and wall applications. The installation and methodology of bonding large tiles appears to be the same; however, the increased aesthetic tile surface can be viewed by the homeowner as non-planar or rejected as faulty when leveling mortar materials are not part of the installation process.

Crack Isolation

blanke-logoDan Holcomb

The craft of tile installation is going through a renaissance: a rebirth of artisan tile setters who care for the quality of their work. Innovative and high-quality products on the market, a wealth of information available online, and lots professional/educational training opportunities, are all pushing the tile community in a positive direction.

The underlayment product category is a great example of educated installers demanding high-quality products that make a job more efficient, less strenuous, and more cost effective. The latest innovations in uncoupling mats offer lightweight materials that install fast with less physical effort. Breathability is another trend in underlayments that is now allowing the use of modified thinsets when installing ceramic, porcelain, and stone floor products. Fiberglass mesh panel designs are creating structural strength in the floor that dramatically increases the point load, shear strength, and tensile strength while also protecting against deflection. From feedback from contractor days at local tile stores from New York to California, with stops in Chicago, Houston Seattle, Orlando, Atlanta and everywhere in between – the trend is clear: tile installers are educated and interested in new products and new techniques that can make their job a success!

tec-logoTom Plaskota, technical support manager
H.B. Fuller Construction Products

With today’s tight construction schedules, efficiency and versatility are of the utmost importance. The more contractors can accomplish with a single product, the better. With that in mind, companies are developing crack-isolation products that can serve more than one purpose. Products have previously combined waterproofing and crack isolation qualities, making them ideal for showers, pools and other wet applications. These products continue to be both popular and useful, and the fast-drying versions allow for quicker installations.

Manufacturers continue to broaden the functions of crack-isolation products. These products can also help reduce the transfer of sound. They are useful for both residential and commercial spaces, where uninterrupted sound transfer can be distracting.


NAC-logoBrian Petit,  vice president of Operations,
NAC Products

One of the trends we have seen at NAC is that it is no longer sufficient to just provide waterproofing for bathrooms. We have received requests from customers, architects, specifiers and others looking for a solution that can provide sound control and waterproofing in bathroom installations.

noble-logoRichard Maurer, director of marketing
Noble Company 

A number of companies have ultra-thin waterproofing membranes. These membranes are composites made from polyethylene (PE) with fabric laminated to both sides. PE is impervious to water; the fabric provides a bondable surface.

Ultra-thin membranes are lightweight, easy to handle and cost effective. Most companies offer systems that include membranes that are 1 meter (39”) wide with accessories for corners and seaming. Many installers have switched from traditional waterproofing methods to ultra-thin membranes and are pleased with results.


finpan-logoLisa Shaffer, president
Fin Pan

Having watched the development and introduction of all the concrete and fiber concrete backers on the market, the trend toward lighter is first and foremost with most of the installers. In the quest for “lighter” though, the trade off towards lower strengths, absorption and flexibility is a not-so-advantageous trend of which to be wary.

Each backer has its strengths and preferred applications, and this is especially true of exterior applications. Boards that have high absorption rates should not be used exteriorly due to freeze/thaw cycle conditions. Before using a backer board outside, check the manufacturer’s recommendations to ensure the board meets exterior conditions.

In the building-materials industry, we have seen building products that come in under the radar of building code requirements for fire safety, especially in the foam-based products industry. All foams used in the building industry should have self-extinguishing properties, meaning that when a flame source is removed from the material the material should cease to melt or burn. As more foams are used in steam showers for thermal isolation and backer boards, this one element should be a consideration.



donmoyerMy personal experience with leveling products is they have become more user-friendly. In the past you had to pour the mix and spread it out many times on the existing floor. It didn’t flow as smoothly as you’d like, nor spread out to level the area. 

I remember one instance where we had to cover our work shoes with plastic bags and walk out into an area of leveler that didn’t spread out. It would have been impossible to put the uncoupling membrane down the next day. We poured over 500 sq. ft. of radiant heat wires on the floor, so we didn’t want to dig into the leveler to replace it.

The new levelers we have used at JD Tile since seem to spread out nicely and the mixes are much soupier, in a good way. Once poured, they spread out and you are ready for another pour vs. having to grab a rake.  

There are many levelers out there. Our choice is NXT Level by LATICRETE. There are different types depending on how fast you need to be on the floor working, which is always a factor with deadlines. Some levelers cure in three hours; some need overnight. Obviously you pay more for the faster-curing ones just like you would pay more for a faster-curing thinset.

Jon Donmoyer
JD Tile, Annville, Pa.

 “Just mix up some thinset and we’ll just skim out that hole. Don’t worry about it, we can use a big notch tomorrow.”

dennyHow many times have we said it or heard it? It is tempting to choose the easy way out of readying a floor to receive tile, but the easy way is usually the wrong way. Thinset was not created to level our floors and it isn’t often we have a recess for mortar bed. Our company primarily encounters concrete substrates, but the general idea applies to wood as well – PLAN FOR PREP. Tiles aren’t getting any smaller, and the ones with one edge >15” need extra special consideration to achieve the necessary 1/8” in 10’ substrate flatness. 

In commercial remodel – as well as the general fast pace of business – it can be difficult to properly evaluate and plan for floor preparation. I can offer no magic recipe for pricing and I must continue to educate myself constantly on better methods. But we have found several good rules to play by and a product lineup that allows great flexibility for the tasks at hand. What follows is by no means an all-inclusive how-to for floor prep, only a quick overview. 

Rarely do we find concrete in any shape to receive anything. It’s either extremely filthy, has adhesives or existing mortars, is over-troweled, or has something on it to prevent the transfer of moisture. Mostly we prefer to mechanically remove anything on top and roughen the surface. There are a host of options for primers on the market, but we find that doing everything we can to find a good thirsty concrete base helps us sleep at night. So on almost every job we plan a minimum amount of time and machinery before we begin anything else. 

Some floors we encounter have dips or humps…well…they all have dips and humps! If they are within reason we will grind the humps and fill the dips. Laticrete’s NXT products have been our go to. The NXT Patch is an excellent choice for quick <1-1/2” fills and can be pulled with a straightedge. It sets in less than an hour and can be cut down with a trowel edge during the cure process to remove trowel marks or hiccups with the edge. When we have large depressions or significant areas that needs more material than what we can accomplish with Patch, we move to NXT Level. Properly primed, a concrete surface can be self-leveled up to 3” and ready for non-moisture sensitive tile in about a half day’s time, with the NXT Level Plus setting faster at a 1-1/4” max if needed. Having these on hand and available to use has been a pretty successful basic plan of attack for what we may encounter.

Regardless of what product you use, read the data sheets and contact a technical representative. In my humble opinion, a system is smart business and working with a material manufacturer from the substrate up necessitates just one easy phone call, email, or text. Don’t assume for the best, assume for the worst and do everything you can to get it done correctly. The entire job is literally riding on it. 

Brad Denny
Nichols Tile & Terrazzo Co., Inc.Joelton, Tenn.


owenWaterproofing has come a long way in the last 20 – 25 years. In the past thick membranes were the only option available. These membranes had to be heat-welded at the seams, inside corners, and outside corners.  They were not user friendly.

Today, there is the option of waterproofing in the form of thin membranes and liquids. Each has its specific best use in different circumstances.The thin membranes are more manageable to use at corners and tend to keep their form once applied with the adhesive, not delaminating like the thick membranes do during the drying process. Each membrane and liquid can be applied to the top of the tile substrate; then the tile is applied directly to the membrane. This protects the substrate from moisture, providing a more durable installation.  And the thinner the membrane, the more user-friendly it is.

Rod Owen
C.C. Owen Tile Company, Inc.
Jonesboro, Ga. 


wirtzFrom my earliest memories of the tile industry, we used soaking tubs and pure cement. Shortly afterward, thinsets and mastics were introduced, which were real game-changers for our industry. With these new systems came the loss of control of many of our substrates. There were several other trades that started installing sheet goods – either gypsum or cement products – over which we were expected to install our tile.

Since the introduction of the foam board products, I have aggressively taken back a large part of my industry. While there are many different and excellent manufacturers of foam boards and systems, my experience is with the German products from wedi Corporation.

I have been installing and getting the wedi system specified for almost 10 years now. It is a complete system, in which everything is engineered for a successful tile job. It is extremely versatile and it eliminates the need for work-arounds. 

Take, for example, that little gap that is called out at a bathtub to keep water from wicking up the wall. Since wedi foam panel systems are 100% waterproof, you can simply cut a small notch in the back of the wedi board to fit over the tub flange and take it all the way down to the tub edge, then seal and bond it with their polyurethane caulk (TCNA Handbook B411-15). This leaves a seamless, waterproof system from the edge of the tub to the top of the tile.

Once the wedi board, pan and dam are installed, you are ready to start the tile installation. There is no need for any additional layers of waterproofing and no need to pre-slope before waterproofing is installed. The versatility allows us to not be troubled with straps, screws or backing that would typically cause lumps in the other sheet-type products. It is also possible to correct minor walls that are out of plumb.

When I get in front of a general contractor, architect or homeowner, I explain to them that when we install this system, they get a single source of responsibility from the studs out to a finished product. Most of them really like that feature; it sells itself.

We have successfully installed over 2,000 wedi showers and at least that many tub surrounds. If I had not gotten involved with the wedi products, some other trade would have installed all the tile substrates and it would have been up to me to inspect and reject any work not in tolerance. 

I see the foam board industry as one of the most positive changes in the last several decades. Of course these products are not for all tile contractors, just like some people still listen to their music from an eight-track.

John D. Wirtz,
Wirtz Quality Installation, Inc.,
San Diego, Calif.


ardex-subARDEX offers precision-engineered and polymer-modified, ARDEX A 38™ MIX Rapid Set, Premixed Screed. It sets, hardens and dries rapidly – just three hours after application. It is ideal for swimming pools and other wet areas and for use with in-floor heating systems. Key features include:

  • Premixed with sand for increased productivity
  • Interior and exterior use
  • Suitable for bonded/unbonded or floating screeds
  • Exceeds the 28-day strength properties of ordinary screeds after just 1 day
  • Available in 40 lb. (18 kg) bags

Add ARDEX E 100™ Screed Improvement and Bonding Slurry Additive to improve elasticity, compressive and tensile strengths, workability, plasticity and abrasion resistance.

custom-subCUSTOM’s LevelQuik® RS (Rapid Setting) Self-Leveling Underlayment helps level floors prior to the installation of ceramic tile, natural stone, resilient flooring, carpet, wood and other floor coverings. This quick-setting underlayment can be applied to 1-1/2” thick in one pour and seeks its own level in minutes. With proper installation, the use of LevelQuik RS can achieve an extra-heavy rating for high impact use in food plants, dairies, breweries and kitchens. LevelQuik RS may be applied in residential structures with floor joists up to 24” off center. Formulated using Controlled Cure Technology®, LevelQuik RS helps eliminate installation problems such as bond failure, crumbling and staining of resilient flooring caused by the free moisture found in traditional underlayments.

tec-subTEC® Ready To Use Skimcoat & Patch is an exceptional-performing, high-quality, water-based compound designed to skim coat, smooth and level irregularities from a featheredge up to 1⁄4” (6 mm) in a single application. Excellent for use over a variety of substrates, it provides a suitable surface for even the most demanding floor coverings. This product is ideal for use as an embossing leveler with no additional additives. It dries to a smooth surface within three to four hours under normal conditions, for same-day flooring installation. It is available in 1-quart or 1-gallon pails.

usg-subUSG Corporation, a leading building products company, and XL Brands, LLC, the nation’s largest private-label floor covering adhesive manufacturer, have partnered to introduce USG Durock™ Brand X2 Primer-Sealer, designed to use with USG Levelrock® Brand and USG Durock™ Brand self-leveling gypsum underlayments for installation of floor coverings in as little as four hours. It may also be used for priming concrete or wood subfloors prior to application of the aforementioned underlayments. USG Durock™ X2 Primer-Sealer offers a 10-year limited system warranty when used in conjunction with an XL Brands manufactured adhesive. Together, USG and XL Brands claim they are the only manufacturers to offer such a warranty in the tile and flooring industry.

NTCA Update – TECH 2015

trowel-and-errorNTCA revamps classic Trowel & Error video

New DVD to be available in fall 2015

NTCA is completely revamping its classic 1996 “Trowel and Error” training video, which demonstrates the proper way to trowel thin-set mortar for full coverage and a strong bond. The new video will be available on DVD in the NTCA Store at, as well as in membership packets and on the NTCA YouTube Channel for easy sharing on social media. It features narration by CUSTOM’s Mike Micalizzi and demonstrations by NTCA presenter Michael Whistler.

Many bad habits can develop when setting tile, such as troweling mortar in a swirl pattern or spot bonding, instead of applying mortar in a straight line using the correct trowel. These habits weaken bond or create other problems.

“In 1996, NTCA’s then-executive director Joe Tarver realized that troweling in a straight line helped release the air from under a tile when it was installed, thus getting better coverage of the mortar,” said Jim Olson, NTCA assistant executive director and coordinator of the NTCA committee in charge of revamping the video. “At that time, a large tile was 12” x 12”; we are now installing 12” x 24”, 24” x 24” and larger, so we decided it was time to update the video and introduce the new methods, standards and products in this new version of ‘Trowel and Error’.”

Trowel and Error clearly illustrates the proper methods for adhering tile of all sizes – including large 12” x 24” and 6” x 24” formats. It also addresses tile warpage, large format description, guidelines for floor flatness, backbuttering, correct trowel size and use of large-and-heavy-tile mortar.

TandE-pics“The changes in technology to larger formats and multiple pattern sizes often include floor preparation,” said NTCA executive director Bart Bettiga. “The new video will address this issue as well as show the installation technique.”

All of this is concisely presented in a little over five minutes, shaving nearly two minutes off the original 7+ minute video.

The new Trowel and Error is an initiative of the Trowel and Error Remake subcommittee of the NTCA Training and Education Committee. The committee is coordinated by NTCA’s assistant executive director Jim Olson and includes committee members Mike Micalizzi from CUSTOM, NTCA’s Michael Whistler and Becky Serbin, Training and Education Committee chairperson and Five Star Contractor Jan Hohn of Hohn & Hohn, Inc., and Five Star Contractor David Allen Company’s Martin Howard. CUSTOM’s Will White helped hone the technical information and CUSTOM’s Athena Reschke spearheaded the production of the project.

Initial filming is taking place on August 26, with the goal of debuting the updated “Trowel and Error” video to NTCA board members at Total Solutions Plus in Savannah, Ga., this October.

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