MAPEI mortar brings life to National Shrine’s mosaic dome in Washington, D.C.

MAPEI’s Kerabond/Keralastic System was used to install 14 million pieces of specialized Venetian glass tile 

The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., is the largest Roman Catholic church in the United States, and the second largest church in North America. As one of the 10 largest churches in the world, the Basilica features over 80 chapels/oratories as well as extravagant domes with detailed mosaics in the Romanesque-Byzantine architectural style. 

As the national Catholic Church of the United States, the shrine has experienced several papal visits including Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and, most recently, Pope Francis in 2015. During his first visit to the United States, Pope Francis visited the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception to canonize 18th century Spanish Franciscan missionary Saint Junípero Serra, who founded 21 missions in California. The canonization of this “Californian” saint at the church was heavily covered in the media, including the New York Times, the front cover of Newsweek, USA Today and C-SPAN.

The “crowning jewel” of the shrine is the Trinity Dome. It depicts the Holy Trinity, the Virgin Mary and a procession of saints who have an association with the United States and the National Shrine. In celebration of the Basilica’s 100th anniversary, MAPEI provided products to complete the delicate installation of more than 18,300 sq. ft. (1,700 m2) of Venetian glass tile.  

Installation challenge at a height of 159 feet

The Trinity Dome is one of the most visually striking and physically extraordinary mosaics in the world, echoing those from the ancient world. The installation process – which featured MAPEI products – also employed age-old techniques, turning the installers into high-climbing artisans. 

Having previously installed mosaics on three smaller domes within the Basilica, when the crew from Rugo Stone won the bid for the tile installation of the mosaic in the main dome, they immediately began working with the archdiocese, the architects and MAPEI on a plan to install the soaring artwork in the most unobtrusive manner possible. 

Being a sacred place of worship, as well as the National Basilica, the church had to remain open during the installation. Further, nothing could fall from the jobsite. At that height, even the smallest tile could be deadly if dropped. So, an elaborate safety system was devised. The mosaic fabrication and installation processes were completed using a unique scaffolding system anchored into the structure of the Basilica itself. The deck/base of the enclosed compartment was six floors above the central aisle (known as the nave) and featured eight floors of scaffolding rising above the deck in the enclosed compartment to the dome’s apex, where the oculus marks 159 feet (48.5 m) above the nave. The worksite also included an air exchanger and ceiling cover to hide the installation crew from the worshippers below and to avoid interruption of regularly scheduled services. 

MAPEI products on the jobsite

All of the work was completed using MAPEI’s ANSI A118.15E-compliant Kerabond/Keralastic System. An installation of this kind required a tile mortar with a high-performance bond. This two-part system provided exceptional bond strength, flexibility and elongation. A flexible yet strong mortar was imperative, as failure was not an option. The specified mosaic embellishment consisted of 14 million pieces of specialized Venetian glass, totaling 24 short tons (21.8 metric tons) of tile across 18,300 square feet (1,700 m2) of the dome.

First, the Rugo Stone team completely removed all of the old plaster. Then, working in a manner reminiscent of their artistic forebearers in Ravenna, they hand-set the handmade Venetian glass tiles throughout the project. Given the delicate nature of the tiles – and of the setting – through their work, the Rugo crew returned to the classic past.

To complete the complex design of gold and glass tile, installers laid on their backs to individually place each tiny tile. Only a handful of contractors in the United States are capable of completing such a project – especially given the fact that the Trinity Dome project is one of the largest mosaics of its kind in the world – and the tile had to be hand-set. But the crew from Rugo Stone knew the enormity of the task. They had previously completed mosaics in three other smaller domes on the property. And now, thanks to these craftsmen in conjunction with MAPEI, the basilica’s dome is a golden, glittering heaven in celebration of the National Shrine’s 100th anniversary.


The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception – Washington, D.C., USA

Period of construction: 2015

Period of intervention: 2017

Where MAPEI products were used: MAPEI’s Kerabond/Keralastic System was used to install Venetian glass tile on the ceiling of the Basilica’s Trinity Dome.

Project owner: Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington

Charles Donagh Maginnis

Installer: Rugo Stone LLC

MAPEI distributor: Morris Tile

MAPEI coordinators: Gary Waldron, Allen Janofsky,
Vince Linton

Daltile creates visually-immersive experience in North Dallas café

Special countertop solutions and wall tile add stunning functionality and panache

Panoramic Porcelain Surfaces™Elemental Selection Statuario matte graces the countertop and Multitude™Origami White wave adorns the back wall.

Hidden amongst the restaurants and night life in Dallas lies the understated Civil Pour café. While Civil Pour may look like a typical coffee shop on the outside, this spot is serving its customers more than just the standard latté. To the guests entering the establishment, the menu instantly reveals what makes this place so special – a vast array of brews of both coffee and craft beer.

Founded by the creators of the Big Texas Beer Fest, Civil Pour is the ultimate Dallas destination to drink quality coffee, experience local beer and savor baked goods made fresh daily. Starting at 6 a.m., guests line up outside the doors to get their hands on a steaming coffee and toasted breakfast pastry. This rush continues until lunchtime as guests begin to place orders for the shop’s famous paninis. As the sun sets, the spot welcomes its final crowd – all eagerly thirsting for a craft beer from one of the 30 signature taps. 

While the Dallas community is familiar with Civil Pour and its iconic offerings, few know the story behind the brand. After seven years of running beer festivals, co-founder Nellie Montgomery and her husband Chad were encouraged to open their own shop. Civil Pour provided Montgomery with the perfect opportunity to not only spread her love for great beer and coffee, but also share her passion for design. 

Determined to create an immersive experience for guests, Montgomery reached out to Daltile early in the design process. Since a space serving both beer and coffee presented design challenges to ensure the surfaces could withstand the inevitable spills, Montgomery knew the space would require a special countertop solution.

A special countertop solution

“I loved working with Daltile,” said Montgomery. “The fact that I could drive down and grab samples to take to the shop was invaluable and helped put my mind at ease before construction even began. I had Daltile reps checking in on me throughout construction, and any questions I had, they were either able to [answer] or refer me to someone that could help.”

Jennifer Voss, owner of Stone Craft of Dallas, installed Panoramic Porcelain Surfaces™Elemental Selection Statuario matte on the countertop and Multitude™Origami White wave on the back wall.

Panoramic Porcelain Surfaces™Elemental Selection Statuario matte on the countertop.

Two of the most crucial aspects of the project were the large countertops central to the design and daily function of the shop. During construction, it was clear that the café needed a counter big enough to serve customers as well as provide a workspace for baristas crafting the coffee drinks and beer orders from the taps. Daltile slabs would not only fulfill the need for large surfaces, but also resist scratches, heat and stains in the long run. 

After reviewing a variety of Daltile slab products for the space, Montgomery ultimately selected Panoramic Porcelain Surfaces for the main coffee bar, and she chose ONE Quartz Surfaces® for the beer tap area. Jennifer Voss, owner of Stone Craft of Dallas, was brought onto the project in June 2018 and tasked with installing these distinct materials. 

“Large-format porcelain slab is relatively new to the Dallas market,” said Voss. “We were working with a short timeline and Daltile was willing to partner with us every step of the way. [Daltile] is the most giving and understanding company to work with in the business.”

ONE Quartz Surfaces® Micro Flecks Morning Frost glossy is featured on the countertop.

In order to complete the main coffee bar, the project required eight slabs of Panoramic Porcelain Surfaces to ensure full coverage. Within the collection, Daltile provides an exclusive program called FlexFitSize Solutions, which offers seven stocked sizes and custom cut-to-size requests. Voss and her six-person crew were thrilled to find that the Panoramic Porcelain Surfaces slabs were seamless to work with during the installation and that each of the pieces worked with each other beautifully.

“This project is a testament to these great products,” added Voss. “They really demonstrate their worth since they are used all day, every day. Overall, these materials were more manageable to work with and it is a joy to see the end result.”

Wall tile adds extra panache

Opulence™Diamond 3/8” x random linear mosaic decorates the wall.

In addition to the stunning bar counter and surfaces, Civil Pour is filled with bold Daltile wall coverings that distinguish the shop from others in the area. Obsessed with creating unusual scenes, the Montgomery duo features the Multitude collection on the back wall and Opulence mosaic tile behind the painting of Frida Kahlo. 

“I love the Daltile collections that we chose because they have all become an important focal point in our shop,” continued Montgomery. “From the vertical diamond finish of the Opulence glass tile that symbolically cascades over the water station to the Multitude Wave Origami White tile that dances in the shadows of the backlights, Daltile finds a way to retain a sleek modernity to their finishes, while still providing personality through their materials.”

The public response has been overwhelmingly positive since the shop opened in August 2018. Serving up coffee, beer and light fare seven days a week, this spot has quickly become a neighborhood favorite and the Civil Pour team has been delighted with their Daltile experience and the end result. Looking ahead, Montgomery hopes to expand the business in the years to come and is excited to see what the future has in store. 

Opulence™Diamond 3/8” x random linear mosaic creates a stunning effect on the wall.


The FlexFit™ Size Solutions Program gives you design freedom when using our Panoramic Porcelain Surfaces™, without impacting your budget. With one extra-large porcelain slab that can be cut into seven sizes, FlexFit provides total flexibility that boasts high impact benefits. Click here to learn more about the FlexFit Size Solutions Program.

Mercedes-Benz Stadium home of the Atlanta Falcons, earns LEED Platinum with help from CUSTOM Tile Installation System

Mercedes-Benz Stadium broke records and earned countless superlatives before the Atlanta Falcons even took the field. The newest stadium in the NFL is also the most sustainable and the first to achieve LEED Platinum status in the U.S. As an integral part of the stadium’s luxurious aesthetics, over 200,000 sq. ft. of porcelain tile at the Atlanta Falcons Mercedes-Benz Stadium was installed using a premium system from Custom Building Products. 

24” x 48” porcelain tiles were installed with MegaLite mortar in this space dedicated for use by the press covering games.

This stadium has transformed the Atlanta skyline in iconic style with its one-of-a-kind retractable roof. Sightlines are paramount during football games, soccer matches and concerts, so this concept is carried through the transparent shell of the building. Sky bridges within the stadium provide views of downtown and visitors can also see inside before entering, adding to their sense of anticipation. 

The finish schedule reads like a Who’s Who of tile: 25 different international and domestic manufacturers are represented. This project perfectly showcases the synergy of tile and installation systems in a high-visibility, high-traffic environment. From 3D and textured tile to natural stone and gauged porcelain panels, all assemblies were installed to meet the demanding service conditions of a multi-purpose sports and entertainment venue. 

The exclusive Gullwing Club features white Carrara marble set on floors, walls and stairs with MegaLite premium mortar.

“If we had questions or concerns on the job, CUSTOM was quick to respond every time,” offered Murray Gardner, project manager with Spectra Contract Flooring. “The reps made multiple trips to the job during the installation to advise and support us.” 

Surface preparation

Surface preparation began with meeting the flatness requirements for large-format tile. Where concrete needed leveling, work started with an application of LevelQuick® Advanced Acrylic Primer. Then, Levelite® High Flow Lightweight Self-Leveling Underlayment was poured on suspended slabs to manage the accrued weight load. LevelLite is formulated with CustomLite® Technology, making it 40% lighter than standard cementitious levelers. LevelLite performed so well that the contractors used it throughout the project wherever leveling was needed. 

Gauged porcelain tiles were installed with ANSI A118.15 TE ProLite mortar in the premium guest spaces of the stadium.

Pre-existing shrinkage cracks and saw-cut control joints in the slab were treated with CrackBuster® Pro Crack Prevention Mat Underlayment. Following TCNA Detail F125 Partial Coverage, they were spanned with a section of mat and new parallel soft joints were added to the tile assembly to relocate substrate movement. CrackBuster Pro is a self-bonding, fabric-reinforced mat that exceeds the high performance requirements of ANSI A118.12 and protects tile from in-plane movement up to 3/8” while providing an extra-heavy-duty service rating. 

RedGard® Waterproofing and Crack Prevention Membrane was specified to perform two primary functions on the project. First, RedGard was applied in all wet areas, including showers and team locker rooms, to provide durable ANSI A118.10 waterproofing protection. Intermittently wet areas, such as kitchens and restrooms, also received two coats of RedGard. Secondly, RedGard was installed over concrete slabs to provide ANSI A118.12 crack isolation up to 1/8” and protect the tile and grout from horizontal substrate movement. 

These 3D tiles are among the many unusual materials used to add texture and depth throughout the project.

RedGard is a ready-to-use elastomeric membrane that creates a continuous, monolithic waterproofing barrier. This versatile product exceeds ASTM E96 requirements as a low perm moisture vapor barrier for continuous use steam rooms and is listed with IAPMO as a shower pan liner. RedGard is rated for extra heavy duty use, anticipating the foot and wheeled traffic levels expected at the stadium. 


All tile on the project was installed using CUSTOM’s premium quality, lightweight mortars designed for large-format tile. 

Both floors and walls received large-format tile in most of the dining rooms and private clubs

“We wanted to showcase large-format tile and really pushed the envelope in the premium spaces,” offered Donna Childs, Principal at tvsdesign. “Given the dimensions of some of the tile, installers had a challenge with flatness and lippage. Between their skill and the right installation materials, the tile looks great and we get many compliments.”

Floors were set with MegaLite® Ultimate Crack Prevention Large Format Tile Mortar for its best-in-class strength and flexural capacity. The primary tile on floors was 12” x 24” porcelain, with 24” x 48” formats from Walker Zanger,

CEG-Lite epoxy grout was used to grout all showers on the project including this team shower.

and planks up to 48” long from Ceramic Technics. White Carrara marble slabs were installed using MegaLite on floors and stairs in the exclusive Gullwing Club. With bond strengths over 800 psi and high flexibility to help withstand substrate movement, MegaLite delivers unsurpassed performance for challenging service conditions. This non-sag, non-slump mortar was used to meet a variety of needs, from thin-set application with small ceramics on shower floors, to 3/4” deep placement for setting the large-and-heavy tile and natural stone at the site. 

All showers including this team shower received two coats of RedGard membrane for ANSI A118.10 waterproofing protection.

ProLite® Premium Large Format Tile Mortar was specified for setting all wall tile. On a job of such scope – encompassing tile ranging from 30” x 60” and 60” x 120” gauged porcelain panels by Stonepeak and Transceramica in VIP spaces, to penny rounds and mosaics at beverage stations – ProLite performed with a range of bonding challenges. ProLite provides over 600 psi bond strength in a non-sag, non-slump formula that delivers superior handling. Both ProLite and MegaLite exceed ANSI A118.15 TE for thixotropic performance on walls and extended open time for adjustability. 

“The ProLite on walls and MegaLite on floors performed great!” said Gardner. 


High-performance grouts were specified throughout the stadium for beauty and durability. 

Prism grout’s nature-inspired palette of 40 colors allows exact color matching.

Prism® Ultimate Performance Cement Grout was used to fill grout joints in all dry tiled areas. Prism’s calcium aluminate formula delivers uniform, consistent color without shading or efflorescence. This lightweight, rapid-setting grout meets ANSI A118.7 and is walkable in four hours. Prism creates dense, stain-resistant grout joints up to 1/2” and has a smooth consistency with excellent handling characteristics. 

All showers at the stadium, including the Falcons’ team shower, were grouted with CEG-Lite™ 100% Solids Commercial Epoxy Grout. CEG-Lite provides chemical and stain resistance with a fast cure time. The lightweight formula makes it easier to spread and clean than traditional epoxy grouts. Food preparation areas create a harsh environment for tile and grout, so kitchen floors received CEG-IG 100% Solids Industrial Grade Epoxy Grout, which delivers even higher chemical resistance. Movement joints and perimeter joints throughout all tile assemblies were filled with Commercial 100% Silicone Sealant for permanent flexibility and protection.

“Our installation crews liked working with all of the CUSTOM products,” said Michael Wadsworth, Field Superintendant with Spectra Contract Flooring. 

Emerald System™
contributes to LEED

RedGard membrane was used to provide ANSI A118.12 crack isolation protection over suspended slabs as well as on-ground slabs.

The LEED Platinum-certified Mercedes-Benz Stadium earned the most credits ever for a professional sports stadium (88). The project achieved this distinction through rigorous engineering and specification of qualifying materials. Five of the LEED-contributing products from CUSTOM – LevelLite, ProLite, MegaLite, Prism and CEG-Lite – are formulated with CustomLite® Technology. All CustomLite products incorporate lightweight, post-consumer recycled content in place of heavy aggregate sand. This makes products up to 40% lighter, so a 30-pound bag of ProLite covers the same square footage as a 50-pound bag of traditional mortar. These premium products are part of CUSTOM’s Build Green® family as well as the elite Emerald System® which qualifies projects for carbon offset credits. 

Specifications for the tile installation materials were written by Tony Riddle, former Senior Specification Writer at HOK. 

Mercedes-Benz Stadium will host Super Bowl LIII on February 3, 2019.