fbpx

Anything you can do – I can do better: tile installers poised to expand Dekton market by storm

Dekton University offers intensive training opportunities to qualified installers

It’s no news that gauged porcelain tile is going gangbusters in the tile industry. This incredibly versatile product can be used for not only walls and floors, but sinks, countertops, or any kind of cladding you can imagine.

In 2013, around the time the term “gauged porcelain” was being coined, the manufacturer of Silestone quartz surfacing launched ultra-compact surface Dekton® by Cosentino, an extremely large-format, extremely and consistently flat material that combines raw materials in a high-heat, high-compaction sintering process that makes it super strong, resistant to staining, scratching, abrasion, high heat/fire resistant, freezing and UV rays. It also is GREENGUARD certified low in chemical emissions, to benefit the environment. 

This highly-technical product originally was the purview of fabricators. But with the introduction of thinner panels – 4mm and 8 mm – Consentino is partnering with qualified labor to equip installers with the knowledge and experience to install these products with confidence and success.

Tomas Echeverria, Technical Coordinator for Cosentino, said the company is willing to invest to train installers to properly work with and install this unique product. “The company has invested a lot in manufacturing and R&D. It wouldn’t mean anything if it’s not installed properly to perform as it should,” he said. 

The benefit of this partnership was revealed at Cosentino’s national sales summit in early February in Houston. Presenters from NTCA Five-Star Contractors J&R Tile in San Antonio, Texas, and Casavant Tile in Saugerties, N.Y., provided the closing two-hour session to explain the opportunities for Cosentino to partner with qualified tile installers to expand the market for Dekton product – specifically 8mm and 4mm panels. 

Eric Tetrault of Casavant Tile (in Dekton jacket) talks with interested sales people after the presentation. 

Cosentino has partnered with NTCA Five-Star Contractors for about five years, offering preferred pricing for these top-tier installers. But the sales summit presentation pointed out the benefits of working with a much larger universe of 1,600 Certified Tile Installers (CTIs) who are dedicated to not only upholding standards in their work, but seeking the training and experience that’s needed to work bring a highly technical product like Dekton into their repertoire.

J&R Tile’s Erin Albrecht (r.) walked the attendees through the program, while J& R Tile’s Triniti Vigil (c.) and Casavant Tile’s Eric Treteault demonstrated the ease of crafting sinks and countertops with Dekton and hand tools.

J&R Tile’s Erin Albrecht walked the attendees through the program, while J& R Tile’s Triniti Vigil and Casavant Tile’s Eric Treteault demonstrated the ease of crafting sinks and countertops with Dekton and hand tools. The speed and quick turnaround of completing Dekton projects by tile installers using hand tools like grinders was eye-opening for the sales force.

Introducing Dekton University

The presentation introduced a brand new concept to the sales team: the development of Dekton University. Cosentino has committed to partnering with and supporting qualified labor locally to develop a network of highly-trained installers to install Dekton panels. Trained CTIs – many who are NTCA members – will be regional trainers in locations where Cosentino has facilities. 

Dekton University is scheduled to kick off this spring, with dates for the year in development at this writing. The plan is for each trainer, who will be funded by Cosentino, to hold two trainings regionally a month, explained Tetrault. In addition LATICRETE and Bostik have signed on to provide complete antimicrobial systems of grouts, mortars and setting materials, punching up the pro-environment qualities Dekton offers.

Dekton Madera Trilium countertop.

Training is an intense two-day, hands-on program, with resources like TCNA Handbooks, tools, equipment and resources supplied by Cosentino. Three attendees at each training will win a complete set of tools specially designed to work with Dekton, valued at between $8,000-$15,000. In addition, contractors who complete the program will have access to this tool set for 12 months on a break-even basis – if a designated amount of Dekton is sold, the contractor can keep the set for free, Tetrault explained. Equipment includes a table, cutter, and cart. They will also each take home two modules created during the trainings for marketing purposes.

That’s not all. As mentioned, NTCA Five-Star Contractors have had preferential pricing from Cosentino and will continue to do so. But pricing advantages will be tiered for CTIs, ACT-credentialed contractors and those who take the training. There will be tangible rewards, benefits and advantages for those contractors who invest in training, education and excellence. 

“Qualified labor and trade associations are at the forefront of everything: the center of the whole program,” Tetrault said “Everything revolves around that. The entire program is geared to open up a new market for Dekton, and provide unprecedented support to the installers and contractors who make the commitment to be educated and trained.” 

Trainers

Dekton University will employ a team of knowledgeable trainers to administer the program at Dekton facilities. Jamen and Chanel Carizzosa, of Icon Tile, a husband-wife installation team out of Washington, are jazzed about this program. “When Erin and Eric approached and told us about this program, we were really excited,” Jamen said. “In our area, most guys are not doing the large panels. If they get a job they try to talk the designer out of it. They are scared to touch it. Chanel and myself have wanted to push ourselves forward in getting to be better with these products.”

Zack Bonfilio, owner of San Antonio’s American Tile & Remodeling, said, “possibilities are endless” using Dekton. He said he created an integrated sink with linear drain on a foam base – including miters and cuts – in just four hours using Dekton and his grinder. There was no need for costly, time-consuming waterjet work. 

Carl “The Flash” Leonard, CTI #1393, from New Jersey asked, “Why would you trust your install to anyone who isn’t certified? Certification is key to our industry – keeping standards high.” 

These passionate and dedicated tile professionals are among those who will run the Dekton University intensives. CTIs will have first dibs on a slot in the classes, and then other promising installers will be contacted about taking the trainings.

“The big message is you don’t need a fabricator,” Albrecht said. “If you partner with skilled labor, you aren’t waiting weeks. As the song goes, ‘Anything you can do – I can do better.’ With trained tile installers, you have a one-stop shop. You can have six or less employees working with thin material, and with the right tools, set up and system, you can do a lot of square footage.” 

As much as a learning curve as it is for installers, it’s also a learning curve for Cosentino, who is open to learn what this new-to-them labor force needs to succeed, and provide strong support. 

“It took a group of tile contractors to sit down and say ‘Let’s do something about this,‘” Albrecht said. “And it took a large tile company to invest. Cosentino is a family-owned business. They care about the installers but have humility to know they are not installation experts. With Dekton University, they are looking to connect with tile contractors.

“They are listening and they care,” Albrecht added. ”They are willing to learn and become leaders – only partner with the best, on high-end installations and protect their brand. Their intentions are for everyone to support each other. They don’t want to sell to everybody. They are trying to do it right.” 

Interested in Dekton University? Contact Tomas Echeverria at (786) 527-1501 or email [email protected].

Do the typical TCNA standards for expansion joints pertain to GPTP too?

QUESTION

I wonder if I could get some advice from you for this project that we are to start installing in a few weeks. It is a medical office building in San Diego, using large-format porcelain tiles in the nominal size of 30” x 60” x 1/4” thick. The floor is a concrete slab that we are going to install using the thin-set method, and there are some control joints in the slab. We have roll-on liquid crack isolation and will be installing the tile with a crack-prevention mortar. 

My question for you is: Do the typical TCNA standards for expansion joints pertain? In reading literature from a different manufacturer on their thin porcelain slabs, they list 20’-0” o.c. for expansion. And how would you handle control joints in an installation where they will not fall on a grout joint and we are using a roll-on crack-isolation membrane? We have about 7,000 sq. ft. of this flooring.

ANSWER

The answer is yes. The ANSI Standards and TCNA Methods for expansion, movement, change in plane joints, honoring control and contraction joints etc., do pertain to that type of tile, which is known as Gauged Porcelain Tile/Panels/Slabs (GPTPS).

ANSI A108.19 is the installation standard/instructions for GPTPS. Section 18 of this standard refers to the ANSI A108 standard for expansion joints and TCNA Handbook Method EJ-171.

Requirements for placement of the joints, width of the joints and material used to fill the joints are detailed in the standards and in TCNA EJ-171. It is very important to understand that it is the job of the design professional or engineer to specify the placement and width of all joints in the design drawings and specifications. Their calculations for placement will include consideration for substrates subject to deflection, shrinkage, and expansion, etc.

I strongly encourage you to contact the tile manufacturer to ensure their tile is rated for a floor installation. Some GPTP manufacturers have different types and thicknesses of tile, some of which are recommended for wall installations only.

When using any crack-isolation membranes – and especially when using a liquid membrane – it is extremely important for you to:

Ensure the membrane is installed exactly as required by the membrane manufacturer’s instructions. This includes preparation of the substrate, number of coats to be applied, wet film thickness of each coat, cure time, etc.

Contact the membrane manufacturer and request from them the specific requirements for their membrane to bridge control joints. Ask them for a job specific warranty for this installation.

Have you attended a GPTP installation course? 

The outlook for stone in 2020

Natural stone has been with us for millions of years, and it is still going strong.

In 2020, natural stone might not match up well with the Color of the Year announcements of Sherwin-Williams: Naval (SW 6244), Behr: Back To Nature/Light Green S340-4, Pantone: Classic Blue 19-4052 or Benjamin Moore: First Light 2102-70. Although there are blue, green and pink marbles and granites, I would expect that the tried-and-true whites, beiges and grey natural stones will continue to be preferred for floors, walls, and countertops this year.  

Quartzites have become much more readily available in a much broader range of colors and ranges. The leather finish, which has a slight undulating surface with a soft sheen, seems to be popular. Quartzite is an extremely hard material and often is harder than granite. It is tough on diamond cutting blades as they wear much faster. Taj Mahal is a popular choice as it is beige with a white background and a lot of vein movement. 

Taj Mahal quartize on the exterior walls and limestone flooring again star in this posh home.

Engineered Stone

Quartz stone has continued to grow in popularity. Also known as engineered stone, it’s not a natural stone, but contains about 90% quartzite bound with a resin. It gives a more consistent look than most natural stones. Since it isn’t natural, it doesn’t have all the benefits of a natural stone that is millions of years old, like beautiful variation of colors and veining, although for countertops the pricing tends to be better and it seems to be kind of “trendish” like the way the Corian countertops were popular years ago. Quartz stone is coming out in larger color and veining selection options, and has taken some market share from the natural stone countertop market, but hasn’t had much of an impact for floor and wall applications. Natural granite stone is still the preferred choice for kitchen countertops, and I expect a lot of it to be sold in 2020.

GPTP

This high-end home interior features Taj Mahal quartize countertops and limestone flooring.

Another product that is new and threatening to take market share from natural stone countertops is gauged porcelain tile panels that now come in 2 cm (3/4”) thick panels. They are being promoted through stone fabricators because they can use the same equipment used to fabricate natural stone countertops. Fabricators can polish the edges or bullnose or miter them like you do with a natural stone. With digital inkjet technology, tile manufacturers can produce panels that look like natural stone and have the durability of a porcelain tile. Of course GPTP won’t have the intrinsic value of a natural stone that is millions of years old and that can be refinished to look like new after years of wear and tear. And all of these products need to be installed properly in order to get them to perform well and provide years of service and beauty. 

Limestone is still very popular particularly with the high-end residences. Many of the tile manufacturers produce porcelain tiles to replicate the soft beige limestones with subtle veining. Limestones often have fossil inclusions that give it a unique look.

Sealing stone

This high-end residence has Taj Mahal quartize on the exterior walls and limestone flooring on the pool deck. 

There is a lot of confusion about whether to seal a natural stone, and if so how to seal it and with what. There are different opinions, but I always recommend sealing with a penetrating sealer. I don’t recommend sealing all sides of a stone since sealers are general bond-breakers. Some companies recommend sealing all six sides of the stone, but require that you use an ANSI A118.15 high-strength thinset to bond the tile since it needs added strength to counteract the effect of the sealer. Sealers don’t last that long, depending on the environment and what wear and tear the stone is subjected to. The rule of thumb is if water beads up on the surface of the stone and doesn’t darken the stone when you wipe it up, the sealer is still there and working. Sealers don’t make the stone waterproof or stain proof, but it does make it resistant to moisture and staining and easier to maintain.

A Carrara quarry mountain in Italy, as natural stone marble is mined.

Natural stone does require more maintenance than a ceramic tile, but it can always be restored to look like new by professional restoration companies. There is something about touching or standing on a natural stone that is millions of years old and has the natural colors and veining with the random variations that give it such intrinsic beauty and value. After all, if you look around the world, the one thing that is always remains from ancient times as the legacy of those generations is natural stone.

NTCA previews changes to 2020 hands-on training programs

The new year is here, and so is the new NTCA training schedule. When it comes to training and education, NTCA’s two most popular programs are its workshops and its regional training programs. NTCA Education & Curriculum Director Becky Serbin and NTCA Training Director Mark Heinlein offered TileLetter readers a preview of what’s to come with these two programs in 2020. 

For those who may be unfamiliar with the two training NTCA programs, both programs demonstrate proper techniques according to ANSI Standards and TCNA Handbook methods, and include hands-on training. The NTCA Workshops cover topics that address current issues and solutions in the tile trade. NTCA Workshops are held in the evenings, free of charge, and are approximately three hours long. Previous topics included installation failures, best installation practices, and movement joints. While the core format of the workshops will remain the same, starting this February, NTCA is retiring all previous workshop topics to make way for its newest topic – layout techniques. Heinlein said NTCA is putting emphasis on this topic because proper layout techniques and methods are critical for installers, especially for those planning to take the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) Certified Tile Installers (CTI) exam. 

The hands-on portion of the NTCA Workshops allows attendees to practice techniques demonstrated during the workshop.

“Many times participants fail because they spend so much time on layout and they either have it incorrect or they run out of time to take the test,” Heinlein said. “Our new workshops will focus on teaching installers layout basics, as well as giving them a chance to practice the techniques.” 

Currently, NTCA Workshops begin with a classroom-style lecture and then move into hands-on demonstrations, but the association is looking at possibly changing that format. Serbin said the association is considering a new format that would offer attendees more time to hone their techniques. “This new style will still take place in the evenings like our current workshops, but we will minimize the lecture portion and, instead of having just one large demonstration area, we have small stations that will provide multiple attendees the opportunity to learn and practice proper layout methods,” Serbin said. “The small stations allow the trainer to educate and work with multiple attendees at the same time.”

Serbin noted that the new formats are targeted to be tested in late 2020. If successful, the new format possibly could launch as early as February 2021.

The NTCA Regional Training Program focuses on teaching installers new skills. This program lasts all day and requires a $50 refundable deposit. “The NTCA Regional Training Program concept was launched in 2018 and has been hugely successful. Because the program has been so successful, the association is almost doubling the number of regional training sessions it is offering this year. The session covering substrate preparation and large-format tile will be available only to NTCA members. The session covering the installation of gauged porcelain tile and panels will be open to all professional installers. 

While learning how to install gauged porcelain tile and panels, attendees are taught how the products are made, where they can be used, and the special tools, setting materials and techniques required to install them.

One significant shift the NTCA team is making to all the hands-on training it offers is ensuring that training topics and instruction help prepare attendees for CTI and Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT) exams. Serbin said the shift is in line with the association’s priority to support the industry effort to increase the amount of qualified labor available and to encourage more installers to become certified. Heinlein, who is a CTI evaluator, added that he has seen seasoned installers unable to pass the exams because they lack core installation skills. 

“Many times contractors haven’t had the techniques they need taught to them or they have learned incorrect methods online from people who don’t know how to install tile according to ANSI Standards,” Heinlein said. “Core fundamental skills are needed to successfully pass the CTI and ACT exams. Our goal is to teach some of those skills in our training programs.”

The 2020 NTCA training season will kick off with workshops in Arizona in mid-January. For a complete schedule of NTCA Workshops and Regional Training Programs, visit the Education & Certification tab of the NTCA website.

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.

GPT at Coverings 2018 – Education that goes beyond PowerPoint

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Gauging Savings: USI Porcelain Panel Project Saves Time & Money

More than three decades ago, global tile manufacturers introduced through-body porcelain tile, and it quickly and seemingly became the industry’s cure-all. Being more molecularly compact than typical glazed ceramic tile, it offered the same durability and resistance to moisture, as did solid granite… and, at a lesser price-point. 

Over the years, porcelain formats morphed into gargantuan tile sizes as large as 36” x 48.” And these tiles were no longer just “through-body” versions. Advanced inkjet printing processes were developed that actually gave the tiles both “looks” and textures resulting in it being almost impossible to discern whether or not they were true natural materials. And, this printing procedure was no flimsy topcoat. Airports around the globe, for example, which have tens of thousands of people racing across their terminal floors pulling wheeled luggage on a daily basis, have been successful with their specification of HD printed, porcelain flooring. 

So what was next in the world of porcellanato? In the last few years, a new phenomenon has appeared, now termed “gauged porcelain panels.” These are extremely large tile slabs, produced with fine porcelain clay, manufactured to minimal tile thickness without compromising the performance levels inherent to porcelain tile. Visionary architects are specifying this material for a myriad of applications, including to be installed directly over existing tile (which means the arduous, messy, time-consuming and disruptive process of removing ceramic tile can be eliminated), as monolithic-appearing wall applications… and, even to perform as exterior cladding. Relative to vertical installations, one of the few disadvantages of “regular” porcelain tile is weight. Gauged porcelain panels have become the ideal alternative, because when installed correctly, due to having much lighter weight, various structural components can be reduced… saving a great deal of installation time and out-of-pocket money. A good example of this took place recently at the University of Southern Indiana’s Health & Professions Building. 

Crossville’s Laminam gauged porcelain panels were specified for this interior project, which consisted of 2,500 square feet of wall space for a commercial kitchen classroom. “Originally, we bid the job to be tiled using a traditional mortar system. Adam Abell, our Bostik representative, came in and asked if we would consider an alternative installation system that offered a host of benefits,” stated Danny Fulton, Vice President of Evansville, IN-based Fulton Tile & Stone. “We were ready to begin the project, but because of our strong rapport with Adam, we granted him some presentation time that included having our Crossville representative, Tony Davis attending along with our team. I had no idea of what Bosti-Set™ was… or, what it could do. But in retrospect, granting Adam time to showcase his new product proved be one of the best decisions we’ve made in a long time!” 

Abell demonstrated how projects calling for gauged porcelain panels could be installed in roughly half the time, even with a smaller crew. He showed how Bosti-Set™ immediately grabbed porcelain tile panels in a single coat, did not allow any sag, yet made it possible for these panels to be “reposition-able” for at least 30 minutes. “As a business owner, I’m always looking for efficiencies that are timesaving and ultimately, cost saving,” added Fulton. “So ultimately, we decided to work with this newer product. 

“We had a lot to learn,” Fulton continued, “as the panels basically had to be ‘picked up’ using suction cups with aluminum spines, not unlike the way glass panels are installed. A single layer of adhesive is troweled only onto the back of the panel, cutting the square footage necessary to trowel in half. This also cuts down on weight… and, deadline stress on our installers.”

Fulton went on to state that he was so captivated by this project… he actually put on his accountant’s hat and followed every single step to measure the overall savings. “There is no mixing needed with this system,” he mentioned. “It’s just ‘open and go.’ Other systems require a 50 lb. bag of thin-set per panel. This project had 70 panels to install, and I estimated that without mixing, we could roughly save 30 minutes per panel on the installation alone, not to mention the mixing time and chasing water that was completely eliminated. Ultimately, for this 2,500 square foot project, even though Bosti-Set™ is a bit more costly than other products, we may have saved close to $5,000 just by using it. “And, that number is very conservative!” Fulton beamed.

He added that the project worked out so well, “Fulton Tile & Stone has begun to use Bosti-Set™ on a regular basis for other projects we have in the queue, including ‘phase two’ at the USI facility.”

Gauged porcelain panels have certainly become the rage. According to Martin Howard, Executive Vice President of David Allen Company and current President of the National Tile Contractors Association, “This newer product offering has been accepted in the marketplace because, in particular, architects and designers see the advantages offered by a large panel format that is much lighter in weight than other high-performance surfacing options. And due to their expansive size, there are less grout joints visible. That means a wall application, for example, can give the appearance of stone veneer at a lower price point, because single slab appearance is now possible.” 

“You can’t learn how to use the system overnight,” declared Fulton. “So, we decided to have all of our installers take as much time to learn this system as they needed. Both Bostik and Crossville helped us with educating our team at optimal levels. Generally in our business, some of the more seasoned installers want to stick with methods they’ve used in the past. I thoroughly understand that. But when we were able to prove to all our installers that not only was Bosti-Set™ easier to use… it allowed them to finish projects earlier and the move on to the next one…  I think they were all very much sold!”

Fulton Tile & Stone depends upon its major distributor, Louisville Tile for the great percentage of tile and sundry materials used in the many installations for which the firm is engaged. Don Kincaid, Vice President of Sales & Marketing at Louisville Tile, believes gauged porcelain tile panels have a very, very bright future. “In particular for the commercial sector, these materials are gaining more and more acceptance. Designs calling for gauged porcelain, at this early stage of its existence, most likely are coming from savvy architectural designers who understand it doesn’t just add a monolithic look due to having minimal grout lines. It offers many more solutions, one being because it is so much lighter in weight than natural stone… it can be directly installed on vertical surfaces as a viable alternative. And, because of the realism generated by today’s amazing high-definition inkjet printing processes, very few people will not know the product isn’t an actual stone slab. 

“We also believe,” continued Kincaid, “that gauged panels will soon be specified on a regular basis for residential applications, one example being shower walls. Forward-minded installation professionals such as those at Fulton Tile & Stone, understand how glass panels are adhered to walls, and will continue to embrace the best ways in which to install these products.  Now that there is a product such as Bosti-Set™, which offers so many installation performance benefits, we at Louisville Tile are even more positive about this product category.”

Kincaid was also extremely positive about the University of Southern Indiana gauged porcelain panel project. “And why not?” he declared. “That’s my alma mater!”

 

 

 

Belknap White Group has huge success with thin tile training event

More than 20 installers came out to learn more about thin gauged porcelain tile panels and the new ANSI 108.19 standards of installation at Belknap White Group’s Woburn, Mass., Solution Center.

The Belknap White Group (BWG), one of America’s leading full-service flooring distributors and an NTCA associate member, recently hosted a full day of hands-on, classroom style training at its Woburn, Massachusetts, Solution Center. More than 20 installers came out to learn more about thin gauged porcelain tile panels and the new ANSI 108.19 standards of installation in this classroom environment.

Representatives from Crossville Inc., LATICRETE International and Montolit Tools were on hand to conduct the training, which leads to attendees being named and listed as qualified panel/slab installers on Crossville’s Laminam website (https://crossvilleinc.com/laminam-by-crossville/) and certified under the new ANSI standards. The training event not only taught the origin of Laminam, but attendees were meticulously trained on tools required, how to handle it, how to cut it, appropriate setting materials, work time, and proper installation procedure.

Attendees were meticulously trained on tools required, how to handle Laminam by Crossville gauged porcelain tile panels, how to cut it, appropriate setting materials, work time, and proper installation procedure.

“There is a lot of interest in large-format tiles these days and especially Laminam,” stated Bill Prescott, Executive Vice President of Sales for BWG. “It is a superb product that offers exceptional design and a variety of applications.” 

“Hosting this training event was not only beneficial to local installers but also to the industry as a whole,” stated Paul Castagliuolo, President of BWG. “We strive to provide our customers what they need to be successful, including the latest trainings. The new standards require specialized training for thin gauged porcelain installation and we are committed to providing it. The Belknap White Group has always taken education seriously and will continue to do so as we look forward to future training events.”

The event was well received by attendees, who also enjoyed breakfast, lunch and the opportunity to win fun door prizes, like an iPad, GoPro and Yeti Cooler. 

Representatives from Crossville Inc., LATICRETE International and Montolit Tools were on hand to conduct the training, which leads to attendees being named and listed as qualified panel/slab installers on Crossville’s Laminam website.