TEC products spell success for gauged porcelain panel installation at Kent State University

Tips for a stellar GPTP installation

Gauged porcelain tile panels (GPTP) continue to grow in popularity. They provide a sleek, modern look that appeals to designers, architects and owners. For tile contractors, these projects can be a great way to grow business. However, experienced GPTP installers have learned to carefully consider all aspects of the installation to complete the project successfully. 

Panel handling

Special rail and suction cup system for safe GPTP handling.

Panels qualify as GPTP if they are 3.5 – 6.5 mm thick (1/8”-1/4”), with tile sizes reaching up to 1.5M x 3M (5’ x 10’). Because of their size, contractors usually add manpower to the job. A minimum of two people are required for handling the panels – with many contractors scheduling three people – an important consideration for accurate bids. 

Additionally, panel delivery and movement must be carefully planned out. Consider the exact route the panels will travel to get to the installation site and plan for any challenges such as unloading, building entry, tight hallways, stairwells or elevators. If panels are not immediately being installed, secure an on-site storage area large enough to accommodate the panels safely. 

Recently, Ryan Carpet of Austintown, Ohio, faced the challenge of managing 1M x 3M (3.3’ x 9.8’) Laminam® panels for the remodel of the women’s, men’s and universal restrooms in the Kent Student Center at Kent State University. The beautiful blue gauged porcelain panel tiles had to be transported carefully through the Student Center to the three restroom areas. With a tight summer timetable, multiple trades working in tandem and a relatively small project space, Carpet made sure to do the additional planning needed for the movement and cutting of the GPTP. Frames with suction cups designed for these types of panels made it easier to handle them safely. Carpet had sufficient manpower at the site, so that at least two team members were available for lifting and supporting the panels. 

Proper transport of GPTP requires at least two people.

Proper transport of GPTP requires at least two people.

Use the right tools

Special trowel designed for GPTP.

Special trowel designed for GPTP.

GPTP projects cannot be done without a number of special tools. In addition to the frames/suction cups mentioned earlier, forks and extended forks are needed. GPTP come in oversized crates, so extended forks that are a minimum of 84” are required for proper unloading. Additionally, a large heavy-duty table is critical to support the entire panel for application of the mortar. Special trowels are designed for use with GPTPs that encourage mortar ridge collapse without shifting the tile back and forth to collapse the ridges. A square notch trowel would require the panel to be shifted back and forth, which is almost impossible with tile this large. 

Surface prep and substrate needs 

For any GPTP project, contractors must review the strict requirements for wall, ceiling and floor substrates set by the IRC (residential) and IBC (commercial). Ansi.org offers complete information, but here are some tips for a successful installation: 

  1. GPTP can never be bonded to a wood-frame surface. Wood-based panels expand and contract with changes in moisture content, which causes an unstable environment for the panels. 
  2. Substrates must be clean, dry, flat bondable surfaces and conform with IRC/IBC standards, or local building codes. They must also be free of all contaminants such as sealers, cleaning or curing compounds, coatings, oil and loose surface material. Extremely flat substrate surfaces are a necessity due to the large size and thinness of the panels. To avoid failures, see manufacturer instructions for exact requirements and prepare the substrate accordingly.
  3. GPTPs can be direct bonded to the following wall and ceiling backing board and panel types: cementitious backer unit, fiber-cement backer board, glass mat water-resistant gypsum backer board, fiber-reinforced gypsum panel and gypsum board/drywall (dry areas only). 
  4. GPTPs for floors can be direct bonded to clean, sound, dimensionally stable concrete or cured bonded and unbonded mortar beds.*
Troweling from center of GPTP parallel to short side

Troweling from center of GPTP parallel to short side.

Installation products and techniques 

GPTP in Kent State University men’s restroom.

The popularity of these panels has brought about next-generation mortars. These mortars combine great handling properties with better slip and slump capabilities, along with long open time, long bucket life, and faster set times. Both thixotropic and pseudoplastic mortars work for GPTP depending on the project needs. Not all A118.15 mortars are designed for large-format tile like GPTP, and installers should ensure the suitability of the mortar for the application. TEC® Ultimate 6 Plus Mortar is ideal for GPTP installations because it significantly increases the coverage achieved and has exceptional non-sag/non-slump characteristics for wall and floor applications. It has an extended open time and pot life, and superior transfer capabilities.

GPTP entrance to remodeled Kent State University men’s restroom.

For installing GPTP, the recommended method is to trowel parallel to the shortest tile edge, on the substrate. Remember to keep the lines on the substrate as straight as possible. On the GPTP, mortar must be troweled on the back of the tile. Mortar ridges should be parallel to the shortest edge. Trowel from the middle of the shortest edge outward and repeat on the other side. This should form a straight line dam down the middle of the tile where the trowel ridges from each side meet.

For floor applications the tile must then be lifted using a rack and installed over the troweled substrate. Then, to embed the tile in the mortar, installers should walk down the center of the longest edge before returning to the center of the tile and shuffling towards the shortest edge, being sure to take small steps to squeeze out air. Repeat this shuffle from middle to edge until the entire tile is embedded. For more detail, see ANSI A108.19.

For the Kent Student Center restroom remodel, Ryan Carpet chose TEC Ultimate 6 Plus Mortar because of its ease-of-use and performance. Steve Eickelman, Sales Manager, commented, “My team really likes how creamy Ultimate 6 Plus is for troweling, and yet holds its shape just right for setting gauged panels. They really appreciate having enough time to get full coverage and make adjustments. And, being able to grout just six hours after installation saves us time.” 

Newly remodeled Kent State University women’s restroom with GPTP.

Newly remodeled Kent State University women’s restroom with GPTP.

Eickelman went on to explain that Carpet starts every tile project at Kent State University with TEC HydraFlex™ Waterproofing and Crack Isolation Membrane to protect the installations. Since the restrooms had not been updated in many years, the substrates were in poor condition and nearly all had to be replaced. Carpet made sure all of the older walls were smooth and flat. The surfaces were then ready for the Laminam installation. The team built their own large table to make it easier to apply the mortar to the nearly 10’ panels. 

The job was finished with TEC Power Grout® for its stain proof,** strong, color consistent joints – a smart choice for the high traffic restrooms.

GPTP installations require extra attention to process and detail but are worth the effort for the business building opportunities they can bring. Tile contractors can enjoy the benefits of this tile trend by staying on top of the latest installation tips and techniques through reading industry communications and attending trainings. 

*Mortar bed must conform to mortar bed requirements in ANSI A108.1B. Under normal job conditions, a minimum of 20 hours cure at 70°F (21°C) is adequate, but longer mortar bed cures up to 10 days are desirable

**Power Grout® is stain proof to most common water-based stains when cleaned immediately. The prolonged exposure of any stain will increase the likelihood of permanent staining or discoloration of grout surface.

A call to arms: tile industry needs to join forces to protect and grow our market

I have been in this industry now for 35 years. I have been blessed to be part of a trade that has experienced significant growth and I’ve been honored to serve in a leadership role as the Executive Director of the National Tile Contractors Association for the past 18 years. 

When I first started in this industry, I worked for a tile retailer in Minneapolis, Minn. I remember talking with consumers about the benefits of ceramic tile and trying to convince them to consider our products in kitchens and dining rooms. They really were only used to seeing tile in bathrooms at the time. We have come a long way since then. Today, ceramic tile and natural stone tile comprise about 20% of all flooring sales, and despite the many challenges we continue to face from competitive products, our industry has continued to thrive. Technology has played a significant role in this growth. So has the simple fact that when installed correctly, our products are healthy for the environment and are proven to last and outperform their competitors over time. 

Despite these advantages, many industry leaders are highly concerned over recent trends by consumers to select alternative products, often in areas where ceramic tile has traditionally dominated. The rapid growth of plastic-based materials (PBM), including rigid core materials such as luxury vinyl tile (LVT), has many manufacturers, distributors and contractors worried. The tile industry is not alone in this concern, as the hardwood flooring and carpet industries are also losing sales to this category. The laminate industry has now ramped up efforts to improve its manufacturing processes, so you can expect to see a strong push from these manufacturers to grow their market at our expense. It is a competitive world and the flooring industry is not immune to this. So let’s take our gloves off and start fighting from a position of strength!

Through 2018, our industry was continuing to gain market share in flooring sales, but recent reports of tile consumption reported a 5 % decrease in the first quarter of 2019 as compared to 2018. There can be many factors contributing to this decrease, but there is no denying the fact that PBM products are growing in popularity, and that they have targeted our industry as being vulnerable for a variety of reasons. 

Stark discrepancies between product claims and reality

Many glowing performance-related claims being made by the manufacturers of these PBM products differ from what is actually covered by manufacturer warranties. At Coverings 2019, the Tile Council of North America (TCNA) revealed important information related to research they have conducted on the accuracy of such claims. (Go to https://bit.ly/32c52Og for results of this research). When you actually read the information included in product and manufacturer warranties, you will find stark discrepancies between what the marketing literature posits, myths people believe about these products, and what a company will actually stand behind with money. This is very important information to have in order to sell our products. 

I want to stress the word “sell” here. In my opinion, in order for our industry to sustain growth and to thrive in this competitive landscape, we must become much better at marketing, selling and installing our products than we have ever been in the past. 

Our industry needs to work together to accomplish this. Sales professionals in distribution and manufacturing have to be better trained on industry standards and must understand the unique differences that exist between the skills required to install ceramic tile compared to its competition. Without possessing this knowledge, salespeople can’t possibly help consumers to make good decisions when it comes to choosing ceramic tile as compared to other products. In my experience when untrained people sell our products to designers, architects, project owners and consumers, without a full understanding of our product or installation standards, it results in dissatisfaction and in many instances, job failures.

Job failures are not always solely the fault of the installation contractor. In fact, there are usually many factors that contribute to this dilemma, and we need to collectively work together to minimize this trend from continuing. Failures can result because of workmanship and lack of proper training by the installer – that is for sure. Failures can also occur because the proper materials and products were not selected in the first place, which can result in the customer’s expectations not being met. 

How product and installation standards benefit the consumer

Our industry has worked hard to develop product and installation standards. Many of our competitors haven’t done this, and it leaves them vulnerable if we take advantage of this opportunity. I can assure you that manufacturers in other industries view our work in standards development as a strength and are working to try to quickly follow suit. It is so important that we use this information to realistically set expectations, and to ensure that qualified and trained installers are selected to perform the installation. The biggest problem our industry faces is not the cost of a ceramic tile installation the first time. It is the cost of the replacement of a tile installation failure when it occurs. 

The tile industry must work harder than ever to instill consumer confidence in our products and in our ability to install them properly the first time. We have developed programs that can help us to achieve this. One of the most important initiatives we currently are promoting is industry certification. I am convinced we must certify and train more people than ever before, and a lot faster than we have done for the past decade. This is why the NTCA is investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in new training vehicles, in hiring additional trainers, and in supporting the efforts of the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF). Many manufacturers and distributors have recognized this need as well and have made commitments to host training and certification programs, and provide support in the field with training and technical expertise. They have also made significant financial contributions that are necessary for us to expand our efforts to meet this glaring need. 

I am calling on everyone in the tile industry to commit to making this happen. To this end, I am chairing a panel discussion at Qualicer in Spain next year that will address these issues. We have witnessed firsthand how much of an impact we can make to this trade when manufacturers, distributors and installers work together in a collective effort. If each and every one of us that has a passion for our industry is willing to commit to this effort, we can not only survive in a competitive landscape, we will thrive in it. 

Technology keeps products OSHA compliant

By producing more silica sand-free products and monitoring compliance in existing products that contain low amounts of silica, as well as proactively taking health and safety concerns seriously, the industry has begun to work together to create a healthier, more sustainable future.

To help contractors and installers comply with the new Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) standards that have gone into effect to reduce the allowable amount of exposure to respirable crystalline silica dust in construction projects, more manufacturing companies are seeking indepenent analysis on products to ensure job site safety. 

Sarah Hurtado

“Technology is evolving in every way, every day,” said Sarah Hurtado, iQ Power Tools, Marketing and Communications Manager. “As manufacturers, it is incumbent that through continued innovation we develop new tools and technologies that unite safety and efficiency together.

“It is our job to supply the best tools possible for those in our industry,” she added. “New technology helps workers to become more aware of their workplace surroundings and related dangers. From personal protection equipment they wear – to the tools and machinery they operate – to the most advanced hazard monitoring systems available, technological advances continue to make safer work environments for everyone. Safety should be ‘top of mind’ for everyone involved – from manufacturers and sales, architects and designers, general contractors and project managers, to the field workers and equipment operators,” she said.

Arthur Mintie

Arthur Mintie, Senior Technical Advisor for LATICRETE, added, “For contractors and installers seeking proven solutions for complying with OSHA regulations, system developments focus on increasing jobsite and worker safety along with time and cost savings.”

Finally, as Brian Delahaut, vice president, MK Diamond Products noted, climate change, huge storms, freezing temperatures and rain are more frequent. “These conditions can affect the number of hours a contractor can work. Contractors need help combatting those weather conditions with a clean and contained solution so wet cutting indoors is possible. 

Brian Delahaut

“When wet cutting tile in the winter you previously had to heat the water so it would not freeze when cutting outside,” he explained. “Manufacturers are aware of these difficult working conditions and are now offering solutions.”

The following is a closer look at what’s available in the industry today when it comes to this increasingly important and critical category.

Dust Containment Systems

1 iQ Power Tools

Engineered to meet OSHA’s silica dust requirements for working in construction applications, the Cyclonic dust extractor from iQ Power Tools captures over 99% of dust before it reaches the filter via its 4-stage cyclonic filtration system. The iQ426HEPA utilizes iQ’s Power Management System, offering the ability to control amp flow automatically, depending on how much power the tool being used is pulling. Secured to an iQ Cart, the IQ426HEPA is accessorized with attached tool adaptor, narrow nozzle, medium nozzle, two tubes and a brush nozzle. The 60-lb. unit features an OSHA-compliant 190 CFM motor to be used with a 7” grinder and a waterlift up to 100”. Other features include a 14’ anti-static hose, 10-gallon dust tub to hold 50-lbs. of dust, a hose wrap and a 10’ cord. iqpowertools.com


The SuperCap® System utilizes patented pump truck technology and state-of-the-art products to deliver flat floors, without contributing respirable silica dust to the jobsite or surrounding areas. For more than a decade now, the system has delivered cost-effective solutions that correct uneven concrete, reduce moisture vapor emissions and shorten build times. SuperCap self-leveling underlayments are pumped into buildings using a mobile blending truck, eliminating any dry material from entering the interior of the jobsite and the need for workers to haul and manually open hundreds of individual bags and pumping equipment, ensuring compliance with OSHA’s silica dust regulations. laticrete.com

3 MK Diamond

The MK Diamond Swing Shrouds are for surface grinding dust control when grinding concrete, masonry and mortar to achieve level subfloors for tile installation. They are available in 7” or 5” diameters, with swing noses for grinding against walls. Easy to install on most popular grinders using supplied adapters. mkdiamond.com


The company has developed a new liquid alternative to shotblasting called LSP, which is designed to completely eliminate dust. The USG Durock™ Brand LSP™ Liquid Surface Profiler is a dust-free alternative to cleaning and profiling concrete for indoor, outdoor, horizontal, above and below grade applications. It is recommended for preparing concrete for the application of moisture-mitigation systems, underlayments, floor patches, sealers and coatings. The patented chemistry of this product is biodegradable, self-neutralizing and low-fume, unlike most etching products. usg.com

Emphasis on eliminating lippage grows along with tile formats

With the increased popularity of larger tile formats in recent years, the necessity for an efficient system to manage lippage issues has grown as well. Lippage is the condition where one tile edge is higher than an adjacent edge, resulting in a finished surface having an uneven appearance. This is a major concern for property owners, as it can be a safety or tripping hazard, as well as being unsightly.

Inherent bowing of tiles can add to the lippage problem, especially the wood-look plank offerings. And increased weight associated with larger tiles can cause tiles to slump.

An effective tile leveling system should be strong enough to align and support large-format and heavy tile surfaces, and have the ability to apply enough force to effectively eliminate bowing while securing tiles in place as the mortar bed dries.

Steve Sprung

With the advancements in porcelain and compact-surface manufacturing available today, the industry is seeing an enormous increase in the popularity of “thin” tile or gauged porcelain tile panels (GPTP), noted Steve Sprung, Product and Marketing Manager, RTC Products. Installing these panels or slabs not only requires extensive knowledge, but also a certain amount of training and/or certification. The common skill set for standard tile installation may apply, however current tooling will not suffice. 

“This introduces our craftsmen to an entirely new segment of tools and installation products,” he explained, “as well as a new standard specification, which can be found within ANSI A108.19 Interior Installation of Gauged Porcelain Tiles and Gauged Porcelain Tile Panels/Slabs by the Thin-Bed Method bonded with Modified Dry-Set Cement Mortar of Improved Modified Dry-Set Cement Mortar. With this written standard, installers now have access to information on methods and best practices to install a material – that until recently – had many unknown factors.”

Lippage Control Systems

1 Miracle Sealants/Rust-Oleum

Preventing lippage is designed to be fast and easy with Levolution. This all-in-one system promises perfectly spaced and level tiles. With 1/8”, 1/16”, and 3/16” spacer size options, it fits all standard or large-format tile up to 1/2” thick – including warped or flexible tiles. rustoleum.com

2 Progress Profiles

The company’s Proleveling System is a patented laying system that is designed to allow quick and easy work. It is composed of only two practical and easy-to-use elements. A leveling base allows it to separate and join ceramic, marble, natural stone or thin tiles. The transparent polyethylene pommel cap, inserted in the centrally threaded stem of the leveling base, allows regulation of pressure on the surface and to align tiles’ grout lines with precision. progressprofiles.com

3 RUBI Tools

The Delta Tile Leveling System prevents lippage on floor and walls, stopping the tiles from moving while the adhesive sets and reducing the number of corrections to the position of the tile itself. The system of wedges and flanges, designed for formats of 30 x 30 cm or greater, presses down on the highest piece until it is evenly positioned with the adjacent tiles. The system’s pliers are designed to be used in floor and wall tile installation applications to apply the necessary pressure to the wedge to allow the leveling of the tile. Once the installation is complete, the elements are removed by impact (kick or mace), striking the flanges in the direction of the joint. rubi.com

4 Russo Trading Company (RTC)

The company’s Spin Doctor is designed to be a quick and convenient solution to reduce tile lippage. The 1/32” Spin Doctor Kit has been developed for the installation of gauged porcelain tile panels (GPTP) and complies with the ANSI A108.19 standard for installation in accordance with spacing and lippage tuning systems. The Spin Doctor 1/32” Pro Kit includes 200 Caps, 500 Posts, 200 Clear View Shields (shields must be used when installing GPTP), and is available in 1/16”, 1/8” and 3/16” post sizes. rtcproducts.com

Functionality, technology highlight shower system developments

If there’s a project that requires expert engineering, it’s a shower system. Steam showers, whole-room, European “wet rooms,” barrier-free/zero-entry showers, evolutions in drains that include linear drains, tileable drains and wall drains all bring functionality and style to showers – as well as learning curves for installers. Improper slope, leaks and moisture vapor are bad news for any type of wet install, from rot to mold proliferation to discoloration to deterioration.

Shower systems depend on expert waterproofing, but more and more manufacturers have been developing lightweight modular panel systems that integrate waterproofing into the backer and pan elements.

In recent years, some of the most innovative examples of performance engineering have occurred within the shower systems category, featuring systems that form waterproof, functional, high-performance backdrops to attractive combinations of stone and tile. The following products are some examples of these new and interesting innovations.

Julia Billen

Shower systems have seen a lot of developments in the last few years but something that we’ve observed has been a shift toward shower waterproofing systems that incorporate a prefabricated shower pan, said Julia Billen, Owner and President, WarmlyYours Radiant Heating. 

This system type offers several key advantages over traditional mud beds, she added, such as weight reduction (particularly important for non-slab subfloor installations), speed of install (since you don’t have to wait for a mud bed to fully cure), and a consistent slope towards the drain (something that is difficult to achieve by hand without exceptional skill and patience).

“Prefabricated shower pans also offer a distinct advantage when combined with electric radiant heating systems as their dense foam construction typically has an inherent degree of thermal resistance (or R-value),” concluded Billen, “meaning they won’t absorb the heat from heating elements and negatively impact energy efficiency.”

Shower Systems

1 Custom Building Products

A polymer-modified, pre-blended, cement-based mortar bed and sloping mortar for fast-track leveling and ramping, Custom’s SpeedSlope Rapid Setting Sloping Mortar and RedGard® SpeedCoat™ Rapid Curing Waterproofing Membrane are designed to make shower installations fast and easy, with Speedslope setting in 1-2 hours. RedGard SpeedCoat is a ready-to-use, liquid-applied waterproofing membrane that cures in about an hour, even in cool or damp conditions, due to cross-linking moisture cure technology. Together, these two products allow installers to float a shower floor, waterproof, flood test and set tile in hours rather than days. custombuildingproducts.com  


Hydro Ban® Cementitious Waterproofing Membrane is a single-component, polymer-fortified cement-based waterproofing material that requires only water for mixing, resulting in a faster preparation process. It’s suited for use in applications such as swimming pools or waterproof spas. Formulated to be GREENGUARD Certified and LEED compliant for sustainable building, it’s equipped with anti-microbial technology and is solvent-free and non-flammable. laticrete.com


Mapeguard WP waterproofing membrane systems are engineered to deliver waterproofing, crack-isolation and vapor-control solutions, addressing the demands of wet and high-moisture environments encountered in both ceramic tile and stone installations. Mapeguard WP systems can include Mapeguard WP 200 waterproofing sheet membrane, Mapeguard WP ST waterproofing sealing tape, Mapeguard PIC pre-formed inside corners, Mapeguard POC pre-formed outside corners, Mapeguard PC pre-formed pipe collars and Mapeguard VC pre-formed valve collars. Components of Mapeguard WP systems can be purchased individually or collectively as the Mapeguard Combo kit (which consists of inside and outside corners, a pipe collar and a valve collar). mapei.com

4 Noble Company

Adding storage space within a shower environment is a convenient way to organize the essentials used including soap, shampoo, conditioners, shaving elements, and more. Noble Company offers a wide range of preformed, waterproof, ready-to-tile niches to meet this need. Custom sizes and configurations can also be accommodated through special order. In addition, Noble Company’s FreeStyle Thin-Bed Drain (pictured) is designed as a complement to its ProBase® II Multi-Slope Base system. The drain incorporates a clamping ring to provide for a high-performance mechanical attachment of the membrane to the drain. In addition, the drain is created to be low profile, making it a solution to a barrier-free installation. Drain bodies are available in either PVC or ABS and the strainer is available in four finishes. noblecompany.com

5 Progress Profiles

The company’s Proshower System is designed to be the solution for linear drain showers. Proshower Panel Linear is an isolating pre-sloped shower pan that facilitates tile installation by providing an optimal pitch for efficient water drain. Proshower Panel Central is the new shower tray with a 150mm diameter central hole for the positioning of Proshower Drain Kit. Two different shower channels that avoid malodorous stagnation are equipped with 360° adjustable drain and removable head flanges for connecting two or more shower channels. The Proshower Profile line offers profiles in a range of designs that finish the outer edges of the shower tray and hold the shower glass. progressprofiles.com

6 Schluter Systems

Relocating a drain for a shower can be extremely challenging and expensive in many renovation situations like slab-on-grade construction, basements and buildings with suspended concrete. To overcome these challenges, the company has developed the KERDI-DRAIN-H with a 2” horizontal outlet that allows the drain to be connected to an existing drainpipe and P-trap away from the new drain location, reducing cost of the project. In situations where there is no access to the space below the floor, the horizontal drain outlet is designed to make an almost impossible project a reality. schluter.com

7 WarmlyYours 

The WarmlyYours Shower Waterproofing and Floor Heating Kits are among the first in the industry to combine all of the elements of a shower pan waterproofing kit with a pre-sized electric floor heating system. The shower pan, which is pre-sloped, eliminates the need for a traditional mud bed, reducing installation time and effort. The company’s shower kits also feature an integrated hair trap in the drain assembly, a stronger drain flange, a wide variety of available grate covers and a dense shower pan. warmlyyours.com


Tom Cravillion

Tom Cravillion
Cravillion Tile & Stone
Plymouth, Wis. 

Cravillion walks us through a traditional master bath install and a renovation using state-of-the art systems and products. He shared that construction in his Eastern Wisconsin market is robust with more new construction start-ups in the mid-range homes and remodeling going strong as home values keep rising along with demand. He reports that labor rates are strong as well. $75-125/hour is not uncommon. – Ed.

We have just recently completed a large master bath renovation in which the 15-year old shower system failed. We installed it according to the written specifications at the time using a traditional water-in-water-out clamp ring assembly with a plastic weep hole protector as specified. The weep holes plugged and water flowed up and over the liner/curb system and flooded the floor/ceiling of the lower level bath. Insurance covered the entire renovation as the existing stone tile could no longer be acquired.

This time we used a major manufacturer’s full warranted system: bonding flange-style drain, mud-pack floor, water/steamproof wall board, ANSI 118.15 large-and-heavy-tile mortar, and epoxy grout. All tile on the walls are a 32” x 32” porcelain with 1/16” grout joint; shower floor is a mesh mosaic; main bath floors are 6” x 48” wood plank tile with 1/8” grout joint over an uncoupling membrane. Lippage-control devices were used as well to keep everything flat. For peace of mind, the mortar bed cured for one week, membrane for one week, four-day flood test with only evaporation loss. 

We think this is the way of the future for worry-free installations. Yes, it costs more, but how much value is a leaky shower system? We use this system almost always when it comes to installing high-end tile and stone. Our estimates are not competitively bid; we get our work through our local reputation along with a very high-end tile store.

Backer boards – Health and safety knowledge is key to category

The introduction of increasingly rigid OSHA guidelines have lent even more credence to the popular trend of utilizing backerboards that promote both health and safety. Those working in the industry are concerned with protecting their health during installation, as well as protecting the end user against any exposure to contaminants later on.

Many professionals now choose state-of-the-art, cement-coated foam-core backerboards, which contain very low silica while providing a high-performance cement bonding surface. Professionals are also being warned to be aware of other substrates of concern, including formaldehydes and non-polymeric flame-retardants such as HBCD.

Backer Boards

1 Progress Profiles

The company’s Profoil Panel is an extruded polystyrene panel with a density of 48 kg/m3, provided on both sides with a waterproofing membrane. Panels are
36” x 60”/106” (91.5 x 152.4/270 cm) and available with several thicknesses. They are designed and tested to have mechanical resistance and long durability, allowing work to be carried out quickly and inexpensively. They are suitable for indoor application with a thermal insulation function on floor, wall and ceiling. Profoil Panels can also be used for partitions walls, tops for kitchens, shelves and different furniture. progressprofiles.com

2 wedi

The company’s original Building Panel is constructed of a high-density, closed cell extruded polystyrene core and reinforced with an ultrathin cement resin surface coating, resulting in a lightweight yet sturdy backerboard. Internally water- and mold-proof, it is part of the wedi Shower System. wedicorp.com

Wanted: Contractors and installers to participate in standards development

Involvement ensures industry’s product and installation requirements are fair, appropriate for labor

Like it or not, what’s printed between the covers of the ANSI standards and the TCNA Handbook can have tremendous impact on a tile contractor. A single phrase or string of words holds the potential to save the day or send a project – namely, profitability – sideways. At the very least then, contractors need to know the requirements they’re beholden to as a matter of minimizing risk. But it’s also essential for contractors and installers to take standards a step further. They need to be proactive by getting involved and impacting the requirements while they’re being devised rather than accepting whatever others may craft, quite possibly without much consideration or conception of how a proposed new requirement or language change might affect a contractor. 

In the consensus process, input from stakeholders with diverse, sometimes even competing, interests is factored in. But it’s up to stakeholders to participate, to have their positions taken into account.

NTCA has been engaged and influential in the national and international collaborations that produce standards for the U.S. tile industry since its inception in 1947, so this call to action is not a new one. It is, perhaps, a more urgent one, emanating from a reported increase in litigation and arbitration, according to some NTCA contractor members, in which ANSI and Handbook language is heavily relied upon and often instrumental in the outcome of the dispute. In other words, the voters on the ANSI and Handbook committees who represent NTCA contractor members have a lot more riding on their votes, which necessitates a more critical review of all proposals put before the committees for consideration and balloting. 

Participation is needed from a greater number and wider variety of tile contractors. Why? More participation allows thorough reviews of internally and externally drafted proposals to be conducted, with an eye to ensuring that standards and requirements are fair in the context of real world application on a construction site. Greater contractor participation also represents varying contractor members’ perspectives and approaches to contracting, and provides oversight to ensure undue liability is not pushed onto tile contractors. To facilitate this, infrastructural changes have been made to make contractor participation more feasible. In addition, outreach has just begun to form working groups to address the priority product and installation standards and guidelines being developed. These include:

One purpose of industry standards and guidelines is to provide clarity with regard to essential requirements for tile installations. However, sometimes a requirement itself is clear, but not whose responsibility it is to fulfill the requirement or validate a requirement has been met.

Overhauling existing ANSI installation standards to eliminate redundancy, conflicting requirements, outdated language and requirements, as well as undue tile contractor liability due to lack of clarity regarding requirements that fall under the jurisdiction of other parties, such as the building designer and/or the general contractor.

Vetting and commenting on proposed ANSI product and installation standards for flowable underlayments commonly marketed and referred to by the misnomer “self leveler.”

Vetting and commenting on proposed Handbook methods for gauged porcelain tiles (GPT) and gauged porcelain tile panels/slabs (GPTPS). 

Contractors interested in getting involved in standards-related initiatives of the association are strongly encouraged to do so. Early participation helps develop or increase contractor understanding of the consensus process that underpins ANSI standards and Handbook guidelines, which is similar to how a bill becomes a law. For tile industry standards and guidelines, decisions are made by a “voting body” – a committee of representatives of industry stakeholders, which are the various segments of the industry that are impacted by the standards and guidelines. For example, tile manufacturers and tile distributors are stakeholders, as are contractors and installers. 

An example of ambiguity in ANSI standards.

An example of ambiguity in ANSI standards. The maximum moisture content for wood framing that CBU will be attached to is a fairly clear requirement, but is it the tile contractor’s responsibility to check for that?

Much like lobbying (minus the campaign funding aspect), getting a proposal to the point that industry stakeholders will support it – vote affirmatively for it – is a process of collaboration and compromise. Usually, for a proposal to pass, it is revised numerous times as needed to satisfy stakeholders’ needs and address their objections, which, as one could guess, is often, by necessity, a process of diluting the initially proposed language somewhat. The word “diluting” may sound negative to some, but is understood by those familiar with the consensus process as the nature of consensus language. Once passed, individual stakeholders are free and encouraged to communicate their undiluted positions on newly enacted consensus-based standards and requirements. But as a voter checking the “yes” or the “no” box on a ballot, the question is not so much whether as a stakeholder you like the proposed language being voted on, but rather whether you can live with it. 

Want to get more involved? Attend the open meetings held throughout the year. Contact NTCA and TCNA to receive meeting announcements and updates. Upcoming meetings are listed below:

TCNA Handbook Committee Meeting: October 26, 2019, 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. in Nashville, Tenn. (During Total Solutions Plus) For details, contact TCNA at 864-646-8453

NTCA Technical Committee Meeting: October 26, 2019, 1:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. in Nashville, Tenn. (During Total Solutions Plus). For details, contact NTCA’s Jim Olson at [email protected].

ASC A108 (ANSI) Committee: April 19, 2020, beginning at 1:00 p.m. The meeting will be held in conjunction with Coverings 2020 in New Orleans, La. For details, contact TCNA at 864-646-8453. 

Support systems and new apps are making industry inroads

Advanced technology has influenced every sector of the industry, including the tools professionals use on the job each and every day. Whether it’s new support systems for raised floors, leveling systems or apps designed to make life easier for installers, all segments of the industry are seeing advancements never thought even imaginable only a short time ago. 

Companies continue to raise the bar regarding services offered, featuring new, state-of-the-art websites that allow visitors to easily choose the best solutions, noted Dennis Bordin, CEO, Progress Profiles. “Surfing on our page, it is possible to look for services, solutions and vision of the firm; moreover, responsive design and contents are mobile-friendly, so optimized for any devices, vital to keep and attract all kinds of customers.”

As James Harrington, director of technical services for Schluter noted, savvy contractors and installers want to use the latest technology to their advantage and make their business more successful. “Mobile apps are becoming essential for accessing information and tools on the go, thereby reducing trips back and forth between the job site, client homes and offices, designers and retail locations. All of this adds up to more time working and greater financial success.

“The right technology can also improve the quality of communications,” he added. “By showing a client a photo or video on a mobile device, they can get a much clearer understanding of the work that is going to be done and how it will look in the end. This can lead to better scheduling, fewer change orders because of misunderstandings, and ultimately a happier customer.

“Finally,” he concluded, “the right app can actually be a tool and help to measure a room and estimate and record material requirements.” The following is a look at some of these new, technologically advanced products.

Tools, accessories and apps

1 MK Diamond Products

The company’s Saw Tent is designed to contain spray and debris when cutting tile. It is lightweight, easy to carry, roomy enough for a large tile saw, and is designed so that industry professionals can cut anywhere without the worry of overspray or water damage. The lightweight easy set-up design allows for cutting to begin within a few minutes, and heavy gauge, waterproof plastic flooring and clear plastic walls attached with industrial strength zippers contain water spray. Commercial grade Velcro™ provides a solid seal to eliminate leakage. Measuring 47” x 60” x 62”, the Saw Tent folds down and stores into a compact nylon bag. mkdiamond.com  

2 Profilitec

Uptec is a modular, patented, adjustable-support system for raised floors, designed to allow industry professionals to assemble any floor height with only three elements. Uptec presents an advantage both in terms of logistics and construction site management. It’s recommended for 2cm tile and decking, particularly in terraces and outdoor environments such as pool edges, elevated gardens, balconies or outdoor commercial structures. Additionally, Uptec allows you to change from a fixed head to a self-leveling head with just one product. profilitec.com

3 Schluter Systems

The new Schluter®-APP is designed to put all the necessary Schluter resources for planning a tile project in one place – on any iPhone or Android mobile device. Information on all Schluter’s systems can be found on the app. Scan and measure a room with your smartphone, customize the layout and build a project plan. Products can be configured right down to size, color, format and quantity and can also be priced immediately. And for floor warming projects, the DITRA-HEAT Online Estimator will help with product selection, and provide an estimate. schluter.com 

Category embraces high-tech advancements to increase effectiveness

With the advent of technology and the latest state-of-the-art products, cleaners, sealers and anti-slip treatments have become more effective and efficient than ever before, making the job of professionals easier.

Company executives also agree that sealers require enough power to prevent oil and water-based stains, while cleaners require gentleness for daily use to clean dust, dirt, spills and light stains. 

“Manufacturers have developed new sealer and cleaner products that aid in the preservation of the material’s original appearance, lacking harsh chemicals that can harm or dull the surface” noted Arthur Mintie, Senior Technical Advisor for LATICRETE.

Cleaners, Sealers and Anti-Slip Treatments

1 Custom Building Products

The company’s Aqua Mix® Sealer’s Choice® Gold is a penetrating sealer formulated to provide maximum stain protection. This low VOC, water-based sealer provides a no-sheen, natural look, recommended for use on food preparation and serving areas. This sealer was designed for penetration into dense, low-porosity surfaces. It’s rapid-curing to protect in less than four hours, while still allowing moisture vapor transmission. Designed for both interior and exterior applications, Sealer’s Choice Gold can be used as a sealer or grout release on a variety of surfaces, including natural stone and textured porcelain tiles.

2 FILA Solutions

The company’s patent-pending, Instant Remover is designed to act as an “immediate cleaner” for fresh cement grout used with porcelain, ceramic, glass mosaic and quarry tile; including large-format. It can be used for both removing grout haze on the surface of the tile (avoiding the picture frame effect) and, for cleaning the back of tile prior to installation. There is no need for rinsing, and the product can be used indoors and out, for floors and vertical surfaces. Developed to be effective enough for grout with additives, Instant Remover eliminates residue during installation before it has cured. It is safe for the environment, as it does not emit harmful fumes. Instant Remover will not damage grout joints or corrode metal trims, such as steel or aluminum. filasolutions.com

3 Miracle Sealants/Rust-Oleum

Miracle Sealants 511 Anti-Slip Formula was developed as a penetrating sealer designed for the anti-slip protection of all tile and stone surfaces, such as granite, travertine, ceramic tile, and porcelain tile, marble, natural stone, grout, slate and limestone. Miracle Sealants 511 Anti-Slip Formula is a protective treatment that dries without altering the look of the tile. It’s safe for food areas and weather resistant. rustoleum.com


The company’s StoneTech® Quartz & Porcelain Tile Sealer is designed to protect quartz, porcelain tile and medium-to-dense surfaces from oil, water and most stains, while preserving the natural look of the surface. StoneTech can also be used as a pre-grout sealer to prevent potential staining on porcelain tile. The ready-to-use product is low odor, non-flammable and meets state and federal VOC requirements, making it safe for installers to work with and environmentally friendly. laticrete.com 


The company’s UltraCare Cement Grout Haze Remover is a professional-strength product designed to effectively remove cement grout haze from tile, concrete and stone surfaces. The water-based formula is low-odor, easy to use and meets all Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) standards for volatile organic compounds (VOCs). mapei.com

6 Progress Profiles

Procare Clean is a cleaning spray that comes ready-to-use and is suitable for the cleaning of stainless steel, brass and aluminum profiles, from residual surface oxides and lime. It is formulated to deposit a protective film that prevents the deposit of lime and soap residues. Its use allows for bright and cleaner surfaces for long periods. Procare Clean is suitable for glass, mirrors and bathroom fittings. progressprofiles.com

Emphasis on earth-friendly technology benefits environment

The overall goal surrounding the development of nearly all new products is fostering sustainability and health of planet and person. Sustainable, eco-conscious products continue to be top of mind for manufacturers with new product developments commonly being made from recyclable, sustainable materials and products with low VOCs.

And with the rise of LEED, EPDs, HPDs, and the earth-consciousness of a growing number of A&D professionals and clients, the use of green products is becoming more important than ever before. Manufacturers looking to protect the earth are now all in on the sustainability bandwagon, which has become more like a steam locomotive.   

Curt Rapp

“There has been a concerted effort to change the chemistries we have relied on for years for high-performance tile installation products,” observed Curt Rapp, Founder and CEO of The Tile Doctor. “The aim is to make installation products more robust, yet solve issues like reducing silica exposure and VOCs. Previous versions of these products ensured strong performance, but were accompanied by risks, including serious short- and long-term environmental impacts. There is no longer a need to compromise,” he added. “Through innovative new formulations based on research at leading universities in Italy’s tile-producing region, it’s now possible to achieve the highest possible performance levels without placing tile installers, jobsites and the environment at risk. The use of sustainable, environmentally sound tile installation materials offers healthier alternatives while also contributing to improved indoor air quality and building wellness. This next generation of tile installation products is changing the way the industry approaches tile and stone installation.”

Arthur Mintie

Arthur Mintie, Senior Technical Advisor, LATICRETE, added, “Other significant advancements for green products the industry has and will continue to see will be in regard to improving speed, efficiency, cost-savings and quality.” 

Many manufacturers have found that recycling in their production processes or utilizing recycled components translates to good business sense. With the proliferation of more Green Squared Certified® tile and setting materials, manufacturers can show themselves to be earth conscious, which is a favorable consideration when projects call for such high sustainability. 

Keeping in line with the ISO 9001:2015 Certified Management System is important to Progress Profiles, in all its design and production processes. CEO Dennis Borden explained that the firm implements constant quality controls on finished products, uses only top-quality materials and complies fully with the requirements of REACH and GREENTOP. “Many of the new products, for example, are realized with recycled/regenerated material in order to have the minimum impact of the quality of the product itself,” he said. “Further, in accordance with the company’s green environmental policy, energy systems of the new headquarters in Asolo are powered by solar energy from a roof-top photovoltaic plant that produces 800 kWh, covers over 60% of annual energy needs and saves the emission of 390 tons of CO2 a year.”

Sustainable, eco-conscious products


125 TRI MAX is a three-in-one adhesive, sound-control and crack-isolation product that eliminates the need for sound-control and anti-fracture mats. Because of its lightweight nature, 125 TRI MAX thinset is designed to save construction professionals money on storage, freight and logistics. 125 TRI MAX contains 36% post-consumer recycled materials to contribute to LEED points and is GreenGuard-certified for sustainable building. laticrete.com

2 Progress Profiles

Prosupport Tube System is the new adjustable supports system in polypropylene (PP) for the installation of outdoor floating floors, from a minimum height of 29 mm to a maximum of 1000 mm. The entire system has been designed and implemented using selected recycled plastic.  With attention to the quality of its material, the business ethic of the firm combines sustainability with innovation. progressprofiles.com


The company has a select set of mortars that are SCS third-party certified to the TCNA Green Squared® standard (ANSI A138.1), which can contribute to green building standards and certification systems such as LEED’s Certified Multi-Attribute Products and Materials pilot credit.

These products include MAPEI Ultralite Mortar™, MAPEI Ultralite Mortar Pro, MAPEI Ultralite S2 mortar and MAPEI Ultralite S1 Quick. This family of mortars are designed with numerous benefits, including Easy Glide Technology™ for fast application. mapei.com

4 The Tile Doctor

Developed to provide a safer and healthier alternative to existing tile installation materials, ZHERORisk® is a new line of high-performance, non-toxic and non-corrosive tile adhesive, setting and grout products. Emitting no VOCs, ZHERORisk products meet the strictest indoor air quality standards, earning a GEV-EMICODE® EC1+ certification. The result of a collaboration between the European Union and leading universities in Italy’s tile-producing region, ZHERORisk products are formulated using renewable raw and recycled materials, and generate minimal environmental impact throughout the product lifecycle. ZHERORisk products include Litokol® Epoxy Élite EVO, Litokol® Aquamaster Waterproofing and Litokol® Litoelastic EVO. Both Epoxy Élite EVO and Litoelastic EVO are also available in IMO (International Maritime Organization) certified flame-resistant versions. thetiledoctor.com


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