August 2016 Feature: Achieving LEED Gold in Chicago

By Arthur Mintie CSI, CDT
LATICRETE Sr. Technical Services Director

Virgin Hotels launched its brand in the U.S. in 2010, and recently opened its first location – on the corner of Lake and Wabash in Chicago, the site of the Old Dearborn Bank Building in Chicago’s downtown area and business heartland. During the construction phase that lasted for several years, the original building was gutted and completely renovated into 250 rooms that occupy 45,000 sq. ft. (4,181 square meters) with a number of unique features and amenities. Common areas, which include event and meeting areas for groups of up to 150 people, were added and take up between 15,000 – 25,000 sq. ft. (1,394-2,323 square meters) of space.

feat-02feat-03Bourbon Tile and Marble of Buffalo Grove, Ill., a longtime MVP partner of LATICRETE and one of its top 10 tile contractors in the country, was contracted to install all the tiles for the project. Architects and designers worked diligently to preserve as much of the character of the original building as possible, and the new facility is now both Green Seal and LEED Gold certified. The company plans to have hotels in 20 U.S. locations by 2025.
Bourbon Tile and Marble faced three major challenges with this project:

Unproven materials – A number of stones and tiles used on this project had not been used on any previous project and it was not known how well they would perform once installed.

Warranty preservation – The installer needed to come up with a new, high-quality installation process to ensure that all work carried out did not void any warranties on the stone and tiles used in the project.

Sound dampening – Because Chicago is a busy city with lots of street noise and the building would be housing hundreds of guests at any given time, the hotel needed effective sound dampening that was compatible with the tile installation materials in all locations including common areas and guest rooms.

“This was an exciting project because of the new materials that were involved and the historical significance of the building,” said Eddie Bourbon of Bourbon Tile and Marble. “We’ve had such great experiences with LATICRETE® products so we had no doubt that the process would run smoothly and produce the results the customer wanted.”

feat-04LATICRETE solutions used in the Virgin Hotel Chicago project include:

NXT™ Level was used throughout all floor areas including the guest rooms, café and bar to level, flatten and make the floor areas smooth. NXT Level is a high-performance self leveler that allows tiling in as few as three to four hours and membranes in 72 hours. 9235 Waterproofing Membrane was used to waterproof all shower and bathroom floor areas. The 9235 Waterproofing Membrane is a thin, load-bearing waterproofing designed specifically for the special requirements of ceramic tile, stone and brick installations, which was perfect for the hotel. Bourbon Tile applied a self-curing liquid rubber polymer and a reinforcing fabric, which quickly formed a flexible, seamless waterproofing membrane that bonded to substrates in the bathroom.

254 Platinum was used to install 30” (76.2 cm) by 3/4” (1.9 cm) thick concrete tiles in the bar area and the 4” (10.2 cm) hex by 3/4” (1.9 cm) thick concrete hex tiles in the café. 254 Platinum is a high-performance, polymer-fortified adhesive mortar.

feat-05LATICRETE Glass Tile Adhesive was used to install the glass tile on backsplashes. Glass Tile Adhesive is a water-mixed, non-sag, polymer-fortified adhesive mortar that is specifically formulated for use in glass tile applications. Glass Tile Adhesive has great workability and produces an ultra-white finish that enhances the look of glass mosaics, glass tile, and most any translucent tile or stone. In addition to containing antimicrobial protection, Glass Tile Adhesive is GREENGUARD certified for low VOC. Glass Tile Adhesive Mortar can also be used with porcelain or ceramic tile.

253 Gold was used to install 1” (2.5 cm) penny round tiles as well as the 3” x 6” (7.6 cm x 15.2 cm) floor and wall tile. 253 Gold is a superior polymer-fortified, bagged, cementitious thin-set powder that Bourbon mixed with water to install ceramic tiles using the thin-set method of installation. It is designed for interior and exterior floor and wall installations of all types of ceramic tiles, porcelain tile and stone over concrete, exterior glue plywood and a variety of substrates. It proved perfect for the hotel.

feat-06Able to handle various sized grout joints and available in 40 colors, PERMACOLOR® Grout was used to grout all areas, tiles, and stone. PERMACOLOR Grout provided a high-performance joint between tiles that was fast-setting, dense and hard. It was color consistent with the tiles and contains an anti-microbial additive that inhibits the growth of mold and mildew. PERMACOLOR Grout can also be used in joint sizes ranging from 1/16” (1.6 mm) to 1/2” (13 mm).

The hotel opened in early 2015 to rave reviews and is proving to be an excellent launch for the Virgin Hotel brand in the United States. Guests love the many features that were preserved from the original building, including a 1920s cigar bar that serves as the hotel’s front desk and the restored brass elevator doors.

The entire project was a success for a number of reasons. Bourbon Tile and Marble, a Trowel of Excellence award winner, completed the installation to meet the high-quality demands of the Virgin brand while also finishing the project well within an aggressively scheduled grand opening finish date. It also provided an excellent opportunity to get American products into the international mix and show how they could not only compete with the best, but also exceed expectations.

Benefits Box: NTCA Voice of the Contractor at TCNA Handbook Committee Meetings

by Lesley Goddin

Usually in this section, we explore the different business benefits membership in NTCA affords in terms of programs NTCA offers, educational opportunities, discounts and the like.

TCNA-logoBut this month, we want to bring to your attention the advocacy for tile contractors and installers of which NTCA is a part. Hopefully, by now, you are well acquainted with the industry “Bible” of approved methods and standards for installing ceramic tile, stone, and glass – the TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation. Every two years, the Handbook Committee meets to adopt changes to the Handbook, refine discussions and explore methods and standards that would make the industry better and that would improve tile performance and reduce failures, which makes tile contractors’ lives a whole lot better.

At the time of writing (June), the Handbook Committee meetings have just wrapped up in Atlanta. More than 120 guests attended, with 38 voting members, including NTCA representatives Nyle Wadford, James Woelfel, Chris Walker and alternates Martin Howard, Bart Bettiga and Dan Welch, as well as Scott Carothers voting for CTEF. NTCA guests include Rod Owen, and NTCA training and education coordinator Becky Serbin. Other NTCA members in attendance included Methods & Standards chairman Kevin Fox, and his head estimator Kyle Maichel – and those who represented union tile associations: NTCA board member Rich Galliani of the Tile and Stone Council of Northern California; Lupe Ortiz of BAC in San Francisco; NTCA Five Star Contractor Rich Papapietro of De Anza Tile, San Francisco, representing TCAA; Earl Anderson of NTCA Five Star Contractor Grazzini Brothers of Eagan, Minn.; Mike Hawthorne of IUBAC; Kurt Von Voss and Jerry Chioni of Great Lakes Ceramic Tile Council and NTCA member Brad Trostrud of Trostrud Mosaic & Tile, Wood Dale, Ill.


Eric Astrachan, TCNA executive director, presided over the Handbook Committee meetings.

This large number of NTCA members attending this event brought the Voice of the Contractor to bear upon decisions being made and standards being developed. Currently, the thin porcelain tile product and installation standards are still in discussion as we work towards developing these standards.

Voices from NTCA

NTCA president James Woelfel said of the meeting results, “We have new language on coverage and tile inspection standards. Tile installations are to be inspected on the wall at 36” and on the floor at 60” away. This prevents people from crawling on their hands and knees and using a magnifying glass to find imperfections in the tile installation. Thirty-six inches is in ANSI 137.1 Inspection for Manufacturing Standards for Imperfections. A lot of hard work from the NTCA!”

He added that “Kevin Fox, Martin Brookes, Chris Walker did a fantastic job with the NTCA submissions. The new language inserted into the Handbook will save tile contractors money. Uncoupling membranes were allowed to stay in the book but we were promised that standards for uncoupling will be ready for the next Handbook meeting. Make sure if you use an uncoupling underlayment you follow the manufacturer’s directions.”

Concerning the inspection language section, Kevin Fox, head of the Methods & Standards Committee, commented that “our original inspection section got divided up into mainly three areas:

  1. New section under Finished Tilework called ‘Visual Inspection of Tilework’
  2. Two new sections under Grout Joint Size and Patterns Considerations called ‘System Modularity’ and ‘Tile Layout’
  3. New section under Using the TCNA Handbook for Specification Writing called ‘Design Considerations when Specifying Tile’

“There was also language added to the Mortar and Mortar Coverage section noting 100% mortar coverage is not practical and should not be specified,” Fox added. He added that language was inserted under the Membrane Selection Guide that indicates that it’s normal for tile installed over membranes to sound hollow.

“These were all topics covered in our original inspection submittal that was moved to more appropriate sections in the Handbook,” he said. “This will be, in my opinion, the most impactful new language.”

More than 120 guests attended the TCNA Handbook Committee meeting in Atlanta, with 38 voting members, including NTCA representatives Nyle Wadford, James Woelfel, Chris Walker and alternates Martin Howard, Bart Bettiga and Dan Welch, as well as Scott Carothers voting for CTEF.

More than 120 guests attended the TCNA Handbook Committee meeting in Atlanta, with 38 voting members, including NTCA representatives Nyle Wadford, James Woelfel, Chris Walker and alternates Martin Howard, Bart Bettiga and Dan Welch, as well as Scott Carothers voting for CTEF.

NTCA past president Nyle Wadford of Neuse Tile Company, observed that “The NTCA, along with all elements of tile contracting labor, was tremendously influential in the 2016 TCNA Handbook Committee meeting and its outcomes. Our leadership for the tile industry was recognized and even sought on most all the issues presented. The professionalism and passion for the industry demonstrated by the NTCA members present was evident as numerous changes to Handbook language should add protections for tile contractors along with needed installation revisions to our craft. The entire membership should be proud of what was accomplished in Atlanta this year.”

Christopher Walker, chairman of the ANSI A108 Committee, said, “In the past decade, the NTCA in particular has achieved success in elevating the profile and recognition of the installation contractor’s voice in the various committees and agencies associated with the tile community. This was never more apparent…as multiple submissions proposed by NTCA members were easily incorporated into the TCNA document. Special recognition should be extended to Kevin Fox. His background as an engineer and his passion for the industry were on full display as evidenced by the high level of collaboration received from multiple manufacturers, testing agencies and industry experts. The submissions coordinated by Kevin as current chairman of the NTCA Methods & Standards committee received great support among the TCNA Handbook Committee.”

What’s essential – in addition to changes in the 2017 Handbook – is this role NTCA members play in shaping the industry and vying for the importance of the installer. Want to be a force and a voice in this industry? Consider joining NTCA – contact assistant executive director Jim Olson at [email protected] for details

NTCA University Update – August 2016

NTCA_UniversityFinisher Apprentice, Sales and Installation curricula offer basics in how to use/install sustainable products

By Becky Serbin,  Training and Education Coordinator

By Becky Serbin, Training and Education Coordinator

I realize that this issue is all about green products and sustainability. While we don’t have courses dedicated to these subjects right now, there are plenty of courses teaching people why these products are used and how to install green/sustainable products. There are two different avenues of curricula  that could be viewed depending on your role in the company. These are Finisher Apprentice curriculum and Sales and Installation curriculum.

The Finisher Apprenticeship curriculum currently has the first six months available for purchase. This curriculum is for anyone that is new to the job who will be working on residential, commercial, or remodel construction sites with others to install tile. Since the first six months of this person’s career will be learning about many new products that they have not seen before as well as assisting others, these courses cover many different topics from safety, to introduction to products or tools seen on the job and how to use these tools, to how to install different types of grout. The idea behind these courses is that they can either be used on their own with on-the-job training to educate the apprentice, or in conjunction with classroom and on-the-job learning if the company has a Department of Labor-approved apprentice program.

The Sales and Installation curriculum is for people who are new to the industry but may work in a showroom, or for a manufacturer who is not actually installing products. It also is perfect for those who have been in the industry for a while and are looking for continuing education. While we have been focusing on the introductory courses, we will eventually have more advanced courses available to view either individually or in monthly continuing education courses. The current courses include introduction to waterproof membranes, primers, crack isolation membranes, mortars, grouts, sealants, and the history of tile.

The NTCA office has started to receive questions about the courses that are appropriate for your employees to take or to discuss during a group meeting. If you are at this point, please get in touch with me so that we can discuss your needs. Each company is different and may require courses to be developed based on their level of experience.

Visit the NTCA store to see courses that are currently available. If there is a course that you would like to see offered or if you are unsure of the types of courses available, please send me an e-mail at [email protected] or call me at 770-366-2566.

A&D Guest – August 2016: LHK design

LHK design: Incorporating Sustainability to Enhance the Quality of Life

Fairfield Inn and Suites in Waterbury, Vt., wins CID Sustainability Award

ad-lori-kramerLori Kramer, LEED AP, of LHK design was the award-winning interior designer for one of the projects recognized in the Sustainability category at the Coverings Installation Design Awards, held in Chicago this past April. The firm, with offices on Park Avenue in Manhattan and Upper Saddle River, N.J., designed the complete interior of the Fairfield Inn and Suites in Waterbury, Vt., using a range of tile products that reflect the natural feel of the Vermont environment.

ad-01Kramer explains that “This new hotel maintains the brand’s signature features with the rustic charm that defines this beautiful New England town. Upon entering the lobby, guests experience a warm and inviting rustic lodge atmosphere featuring stylized wood grain translucent panels flanked by reclaimed teak wood planks on the registration feature wall, reclaimed wood cabinetry, and a magnificent burnished finished brass ring chandelier set against a ceiling of found teak wood.

“The public areas meet the needs of its productivity-oriented guests with its modernized and contemporary approach to the classic lodge, providing both vacationing and business guests with ample connectivity options, along with more casual and informal areas for relaxation,” she added. “Guests may relax by the impressive stone fireplace in the lobby or enjoy a swim in the inviting indoor pool, which boasts a spa-like atmosphere with its surroundings of rich stone and wood elements.“

ad-02Kramer noted that “Our design concept reflects many nature-inspired materials indigenous to Vermont. Flooring consists of wood-look parquet tile, and carpet inspired by the warm color palette of the area’s stunning fall foliage. Furnishings were selected to be interesting focal points, such as the feature communal farm table made by local artisans from reclaimed pine and surrounded by solid birch stools with warm, weathered black stain and iron stretchers. A polished nickel ring chandelier with Edison-style vintage antique light bulbs complements the rustic farm table with its minimalist style and metallic composition. The contextually inspired barnstyle doors at the entrance to the breakfast buffet bring a rustic feel to the contemporary look of the solid stone counters of the buffet.”

In addition, “the locale-inspired guest rooms feature an accent wall with a stunning paneled effect,” she said. “As they retreat to the signature suites, guests enjoy a soothing color palette of pale gray, graphite and warm browns with accents of celadon and wheat.”

Stone and tile products used

To create this warm, inviting atmosphere, LHK design selected natural stone and porcelain tile materials throughout. They included:

  • ad-03Stone veneer at fireplace, accent walls in lobby, and accent wall in indoor pool – Boral Stone Products LLC/Pro-Fit Alpine Ledgestone cultured stone, color: Echo Ridge
  • Porcelain 6” x 30”, 7/16” thick wood-look plank floor tile at lobby – Cancos Tile & Stone/ Albero 6, color: Fresh, with a matte finish. Tri State Stone & Tile of Rockaway, N.J., installed this plank tile in a 1/3-offset staggered brick-joint pattern installation method with 1/8” grout joint.
  • Porcelain 24” x 24” x 7/16” thick wood-look parquet floor tile adorned the breakfast room – Cancos Tile & Stone/Albero 6, color: Fresh in a matte finish. Tri State used a straight-lay installation method with 1/8” grout joint.
  • ad-04A marble mosaic tile backsplash is featured at the connect and print counter – Cancos Tile & Stone/ Chelsea 2 series Golden Sand, color: Beige with a nano-sealed multi-surface finish, 1” x 1” x 3/8” thick, supplied on 12” x 12” sheets.
  • Porcelain 6” x 24” x 3/8” thick wood-look plank tile was installed at accent walls in the indoor pool – Cancos Tile & Stone/Albero 3, color: Ash. Tri State installed this in a 1/3-offset staggered brick-joint pattern, with tiles installed horizontally across wall, and 1/8” grout joint. The full height and the full width of the walls were covered in Albero 3.
  • Porcelain 6” x 24” x 3/8” thick wall tile was installed at accent walls in the indoor pool – Cancos Tile & Stone/Elements Deluxe Collection, color: Ocean Storm with a honed finish. Tri State used a stack bond installation (tiles installed horizontally across wall) with 1/8” grout joint.
  • ad-07Porcelain 13” x 13” x 3/8” thick floor tile and bullnose base was installed at the indoor pool and public restrooms – Cancos Tile & Stone/Rok, color: Calcare, matte finish. Tri State performed a stack bond installation with 1/8” grout joint. Slip resistance of this impervious product is a wet slip coefficient: 0.61-0.71 (>0.60 tile classification slip resistant).

Sustainable products on the rise

ad-06Although clients don’t always request sustainable products, LHK designs has its own ethic for products it selects. “There has been an increase in the amount of products offered that are sustainable,” Kramer said. “We seek out products that meet the following criteria: encompass our design intent, translate the vision of the client, meet hotel brand standards, are within the client’s budget, and have sustainable attributes.” The rise in the use of HPDs and EPDs in the last few years “provide the means to communicate the environmental characteristics of products to designers,” she added.

ad-05LHK designs “incorporates sustainability into every single project, striving to balance all of the mental and physical dimensions in order to create design solutions that enhance the quality of life,” Kramer explained. “Sustainability, as wellness for the planet, goes hand in hand with wellness for the individual. The use of environmentally responsible materials in design and construction leads to an increase in worker productivity, improved indoor air and light quality, energy-saving operational and maintenance practices, and the preservation of natural resources,” she concluded.



North American “Three-PD”: An Industry First!

Unpacking the importance of EPDs for tile, mortar and grout

bill_grieseBy Bill Griese, LEED AP BD+C, director of Standards Development and Sustainability Initiatives, Tile Council of North America

Big news: two additional EPDs round-out the EPD trifecta

At Coverings 2016, Tile Council of North America (TCNA) announced an industry first: the completion of two industry-wide Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) for tile mortar and tile grout made in North America, which when used along with the existing EPD for North American-made ceramic tile, provide the environmental impact of the full installed system.

The EPD for North American-made ceramic tile, which was released in 2014, is a 23-page report containing a comprehensive disclosure of the environmental impact of over 95% of the ceramic tile produced in North America. Representing approximately 2.5 billion sq. ft. of tile, the following manufacturers contributed data to the study: Arto, Crossville, Dal-Tile Corporation, Florida Tile, Florim USA, Interceramic, Ironrock, Porcelanite Lamosa, Quarry Tile Company, StonePeak Ceramics and Vitromex de Norteamérica.

Similarly, the two new EPDs for North American-made mortar and grout provide lifecycle-based data on the vast majority of the main materials used to set tile, representing over 2.25 billion kg. of products produced annually in North America. The following mortar and grout companies contributed data to the study: Ardex, Bexel, Bostik, Crest, Custom Building Products, HB Fuller/TEC, Interceramic, LATICRETE, MAPEI and Cemix/Texrite.

What are EPDs, and why are they important?

Product selection is a major component in green building. Products can impact the environment in different ways, and it is important to understand the variety of contributions by all products. The sustainability of a product involves much more than recycled material content, energy efficiency, or any other single attribute. Conformance to multi-attribute sustainability performance thresholds and whether environmental information is transparently reported should be considered when evaluating a product’s true sustainability. Additionally, how products combine into installed product systems is important.

green-01Product conformance to the North American tile industry’s standard for sustainability, Green Squared®, is a good indicator of sustainability performance. With regard to transparency, EPDs are the most common vehicle for appropriately communicating environmental information.

An EPD provides a comprehensive overview of how a product impacts the environment – specifically, global warming, abiotic resource depletion, acidification, smog formation, eutrophication, and ozone depletion. The primary intent of an EPD is transparency, and while developed within a standardized reporting framework, the EPD itself does not indicate conformance to any particular environmental performance threshold(s). Just as nutrition labels inform with respect to food choices, an EPD informs with respect to sustainability.

The industry-wide EPDs for North American-made tile, mortar and grout are based principally on lifecycle assessments that address myriad aspects: sourcing and extraction of raw materials; manufacturing processes; health, safety and environmental aspects of production and installation; production waste; product delivery considerations; use and maintenance of the flooring; and end of product life options such as reuse, repurposing, and disposal. Each of these three EPDs provides 60-year environmental impacts, per square meter of installed product, based on “cradle-to-grave” LCA (life cycle assessment) data submitted by participating companies. Additionally, product-specific (proprietary) EPDs may be available from each of the participating companies.

All three industry-wide EPDs are based on a comprehensive analysis by thinkstep, Inc. (formerly PE International) and have been independently certified by UL Environment. Both thinkstep and UL Environment are well-established leaders in the field of sustainability assessment and validation. This means there is no “greenwashing” and that a formal account of the true environmental impact of tile, mortar and grout is provided and has been critically reviewed and verified by independent third-party experts.

EPDs for tile, mortar and grout provide specifiers and green building professionals with the information they need to understand the environmental impact of the fully-installed system. For more information and to download copies of all three North American industry-wide EPDs in their entirety, visit

EPDs for tile, mortar and grout provide specifiers and green building professionals with the information they need to understand the environmental impact of the fully-installed system. For more information and to download copies of all three North American industry-wide EPDs in their entirety, visit

Relevance of EPDs for tile, mortar and grout

The tile industry’s three EPDs are valuable resources for many reasons. EPDs provide manufacturers opportunities to see where they stand relative to the industry average, and allow a means to assess progress toward continuous improvement. Also, LCA data from the EPDs can be extracted to populate product information databases. Such databases are being used increasingly today by A&D and building life cycle experts for Building Information Modeling (BIM) and to make informed product decisions.

Furthermore, the three EPDs showcase the industry’s minimal environmental impact. For example, the industry-wide tile EPD, though it does not itself draw conclusions or report on ceramic tile’s environmental performance relevant to competitive surface materials, tells an interesting story when reviewed side by side with publicly available EPDs of other flooring products. When compared to other product EPDs, ceramic tile has the lowest 60-year environmental impact per square meter. Similarly, the industry-wide EPDs for mortar and grout report very low 60-year environmental impacts per installed square meter.

With regard to green building, the industry-wide EPDs for North American-made tile, mortar and grout are important tools for architects and specifiers who wish to use tile to satisfy green building project requirements. A product manufactured by any of the manufacturers who contributed data to these EPDs can contribute toward points and/or satisfy the criteria of virtually every North American green building standard and rating system: LEED, Green Globes, NAHB National Green Building Standard, ASHRAE 189.1, International Green Construction Code, CalGreen, CHPS and GSA Facilities Standards for Public Buildings.

green-03Also, having submitted data for the industry-wide EPDs, many participating manufacturers have already or will soon start to develop and release product-specific EPDs, which could potentially qualify those products to additionally contribute toward points and compliance in green building.

But, the most exciting aspect of the tile industry’s EPD trifecta? As most green building standards, codes, and rating systems provide incremental credit for each product that is addressed by an EPD, joint use of EPDs for tile, mortar, and grout means that a single tile installation could potentially contribute “triple!”

Moving Forward

Publicly-available North American industry-wide EPDs for tile, mortar, and grout, when used together, can provide in-depth environmental data and paint a clearer picture of the life cycle environmental impact of a tile installation. With the transparency provided by EPDs for the main materials used to install tile, along with the multi-attribute performance thresholds of Green Squared® which have been established for several years, specifiers are fully equipped with the information they need to specify green tile industry products in 2016 and beyond.

Tech Talk – August 2016

TEC-sponsorExterior porcelain rainscreen wall systems

june-tech-01By Rich Goldberg, AIA, CSI –
Professional Consultants International LLC & PROCON Consulting Architects, Inc.

(Editor note: This is the third in a series of three articles by Rich Goldberg about exterior ventilated façades. This installment examines a case study project incorporating a ventilated porcelain rainscreen exterior wall system.)



The first article in this series appeared in April 2016 TileLetter, and provided an overview of exterior ventilated porcelain rainscreen wall technology, including exciting new developments in porcelain panel sizes, thicknesses, and systems for precise engineering and mechanical attachment of porcelain panels to building façades. The concept of “ventilated rainscreen” walls was explained, including the benefits of ventilated wall cavities and continuous insulation to meet strict energy code requirements.

The second article appeared in June 2016 TileLetter, and explored the challenges facing the tile industry with rapid changes in tile technology and consumer demand.  To survive, we must adjust to some rather uncomfortable changes. The ancient proverb “Live by the sword, die by the sword” is certainly in vogue today as all industries are struggling to survive by making drastic changes to adjust to entire new technologies. Our design and consulting firm is no different, as we are in the process of making a challenging and complex transition to designing and engineering ventilated porcelain facades.

In this installment, we will explore a case study of the design and construction of a cutting-edge school building project. I will share with you some of the behind-the-scenes design and engineering of a typical ventilated porcelain rainscreen wall system, as well as a pictorial sequence of the project under construction.

CREC Museum Academy
Bloomfied, Conn.

The case study project is the CREC Museum Academy in Bloomfield, Conn., currently under construction. The Capital Region Education Council (CREC) Museum Academy offers education outside the traditional learning environment for 522 students in grades PreK – 5. By opening up the worlds of history, visual arts, living museums, performances and exhibition, students have a forum to develop their own curiosity about the world in which they live.

The design concept for the 75,000-sq.-ft. building follows the philosophy about fundamental changes in elementary level education. The exterior façade was designed around the ventilated rainscreen concept not only for functional reasons (ventilated cavity for ideal thermal and moisture control, energy efficiency of continuous insulation and air/moisture/vapor barrier, ease of access for maintenance), but also for conceptual reasons (expression of embracing new building technologies, curiosity of “how buildings work”).

Figure 1

Figure 1

The exterior façade contains approximately 35,000 sq. ft. of porcelain panels in addition to insulated glass windows and curtain walls. The porcelain panels are mechanically attached to an aluminum sub-frame, both of which were precisely engineered by PROCON and prefabricated by manufacturer Crossville-Shackerley. The system, commercially known as the “Sureclad® System,” was selected not only because of the ventilated rainscreen capabilities, but also because of the design attributes unique to this system: 1) access to remove and replace any porcelain panel, 2) flexibility for adjustment in all dimensions, and 3) properly designed components to allow for coastal wind loads, differential thermal movement and seismic activity.


Design and engineering

The fact that this wall system is completely pre-fabricated eliminates many of the typical field fabrication challenges for tile contractors. However, the trade-off is the challenge associated with complex coordination and understanding of dimensional tolerances and as-built field conditions – you simply cannot make any significant cuts to fit in the field, and the proper handling to prevent breakage due to lead times for prefabrication is critical. Another attribute of the Crossville-Shackerley Sureclad system was quick turn-around fabrication at their U.S. facility.


Figure 2

Figure 2

Figure 1 is an example of the precise design and engineering of the aluminum sub-frame for a full-scale mock-up of this project. The elevation of the framing indicates the placement and precise dimension of each component. Despite our precise design, the construction of the back-up wall (metal studs and gypsum sheathing) was out of plumb as is all too common with most field-constructed rough wall systems.


Figure 3

Figure 3

Construction sequence

Figure 2 shows the application of the air/moisture/vapor (AMV) barrier to the back-up wall sheathing. The AMV is a critical component of the continuous thermal and moisture-control function of a ventilated rainscreen wall. Even the penetrations for the aluminum support brackets fasteners through the AMV must be considered, as well as thermal breaks (green plastic isolation pads) between the aluminum brackets and the structural back-up wall. Air/moisture/vapor control is now highly regulated by building codes as well as by fire codes (NFPA 285).

Figure 3 is a view of the support bracket installation. The ease of installation of the porcelain panels is critically dependent on the layout and precision alignment of these supports.

Figure 4

Figure 4

Figure 4 shows how the windows have a sub-frame which envelope the ventilated cavity and allows the window to be flush with the porcelain panel surface. The sub-frame contains continuous flashing and waterproofing to tie in with the AMV. Windows can also be recessed using a similar metal frame or porcelain panel returns.

Figure 5 illustrates the installation of vertical T-shaped structural supports. These vertical supports serve several functions: 1) to allow attachment of the horizontal channels to which the porcelain panels are attached; 2) to transfer wind and gravity loads to the underlying structure, and most important 3) to provide adjustment of plumb and flatness alignment to underlying walls, which often exceed acceptable tolerances.

Figure 5

Figure 5

Figure 6 is a view of the installation of continuous insulation. Our firm always recommends that architects use mineral wool insulation in ventilated rainscreen wall systems. This is first and foremost because this material is completely fire safe, unlike foam insulation, despite dubious manufacturer claims for open-jointed ventilated-cavity wall systems. This material is also available with a black painted facing, so that no yellow, pink or other shiny material is exposed to view through open joints between the porcelain panels. The insulation is continuous, with the exception of thickness of the brackets and vertical T-shaped supports, which is allowed under strict energy codes.

Figure 6

Figure 6

Figure 7 is a leading edge view showing the installation of the horizontal supports for the porcelain panels. You will note that these aluminum supports are provided in a black anodized coating so that no shiny aluminum is exposed to view through open joints between the panels; this is the only exposed metal along horizontal joints. The Sureclad system design is unique in that there is only one horizontal support rail per tile panel course, compared to all other systems which 1) require two horizontal rails for each panel, and 2) once a panel is in place on a two-horizontal rail system, there is no room to lift up and remove a panel once the panel above is installed. The one-horizontal rail profile allows panels to be secured by engagement into a channel contained in the top of the horizontal rail profile, then tilted up into place and secured with a stainless steel fastener through the open joints between the panels into the lower portion of the horizontal profile to receive the panel above.

Figure 7

Figure 7

Figure 8 shows how once all of the underlying components are in place and properly aligned, the installation of the porcelain panels is incredibly simple, with very high production rates – the façade literally looks substantially complete in a matter of days! As discussed in the April 2016 article, the porcelain panel technology is advancing at a rapid pace, and we are already developing design and engineering requirements as well as handling and installation details for mechanically attached large-format porcelain tile panels similar in size (3 x 10 feet / 1 x 3 m and greater) to those currently available in large-format thin porcelain tile panels (LTPT). Anticipate the inevitable changes to the tile industry and seize the opportunities!

Figure 8

Figure 8

Richard P. Goldberg, AIA, CSI, NCARB is an architect and president of Professional Consultants International, LLC – Connecticut, and PROCON Consulting Architects, Inc.-Florida, both building design and construction consulting companies. Goldberg specializes in exterior building envelope systems, with sub-specialties in concrete, porcelain tile, natural and engineered stone, brick and concrete masonry, terrazzo, glass and waterproofing material applications.

Goldberg holds National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) certification, and is a registered architect in the U.S. in multiple states, including Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Florida. He is a professional member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI). Goldberg participates in numerous tile industry standards committees, is a National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) Recognized Industry Consultant, and received the prestigious NTCA Ring of Honor Award in 2014.

Qualified Labor – August 2016

1_CTI_20x20Jeremy Waldorf: owner/operator Legacy Floors

Certification offers customer extra value, bolstered by education and experience

By Terryn Rutford, Social Structure Marketing

Jeremy Waldorf, owner/operator of Legacy Floors in Howell, Mich., recalled setting wall tile with a slice of pizza in one hand during his Certified Tile Installer (CTI) exam at the end of 2015. “There was absolutely no room for breaks, at least in my case,” Waldorf said. “[The hands-on test] was pretty stressful, and much more challenging than I thought it would be.”

ql-02The context of the CTI hands-on test might be intimidating as described by Waldorf, “In a room with seven other guys, with seven other tool setups, methods, and approaches…I was tempted to peek over and see what kinds of things other guys were doing.” But now that he’s certified, Waldorf has more confidence that he will make the right choices. “With the manuals, resources, and most importantly, the industry connections I now have, I am always able to get answers from more experienced and more skilled tile setters and industry representatives,” Waldorf said.



In fact, becoming a CTI gave Waldorf an unexpected gift. Since getting certified, Waldorf said, “I am a lot more active in networking with other professionals, and attending clinics and workshops to stay educated about the tile industry. [And] I am plugged into the TileGeeks Facebook group, where I am regularly inspired by absolutely amazing craftsmen, and also get to laugh at the things we all come across in our work days.”

Although Waldorf was certified only six months ago, he was raised in the industry and has been a hard-surface specialist for 18 years. Early on in his career Waldorf committed himself to education. “My company philosophy has been to educate myself in my trade whenever possible, and to deliver the absolute best job I can give them,” Waldorf said.

ql-03According to Waldorf, certification is an opportunity “to really understand how much you have to learn. If you’re willing to take correction and listen to others so that you can brand yourself better, offering your clients advantages that most of your competition won’t, then certification will be an amazing step for you to take.” In addition to humbling you, Waldorf emphasizes that “certification will give you confidence in your abilities and help you make connections with others that can make you a better tile setter.”

Since becoming a CTI, Waldorf completes every tile installation under the assumption that it will be subject to inspection just like when he took the hands-on exam. “I naturally consider what it would be like to have someone take apart my finished work, examining every aspect of it,” Waldorf said. And as a result, Waldorf believes every project he completes is the absolute best he can give. According to Waldorf, certification allows you to “offer your customers more value because you’re not just hands that use tools. You are selling them your education and experience, and that is more important than anything else in this business. That’s how you will build your reputation.”

Member Spotlight – August 2016

custom-sponsorHutcheson Tile & Stone
Eagle River, Alaska

A quality job means executing a well-thought-out plan of action

By Lesley Goddin

spot-01Hutcheson Tile & Stone in Eagle River, Ak., prides itself on working directly with end users and helping them through the “sometimes difficult process of a renovation,” said Don Hutcheson, owner. The company has done commercial work, but Hutcheson explained, “Our pace and goals are more suited to assisting homeowners and designers execute a well-thought-out plan for a functional and aesthetically pleasing project.”

Hutcheson started out in 1997 with Local 1236 right out of high school. This was a soft-good union, but it didn’t take him long to recognize he needed a more artistic challenge than soft-goods installation could provide. With the motto, “stick with what you know,” in mind, Hutcheson focused in on the tile trade, starting his own business in 2003 and his own tile company nine years ago in 2007. “Tile was a part of the trade that required more skill than just a warm body,” he said. “You cannot – in our line of work – do a better job by just adding more people. Finishing a job does not require you to turn up the radio and sweat more; it takes a well-thought-out-plan of action and an understanding of what the last cut will look like before you set your first tile.”

Don Hutcheson with daughters (l. to r.) Elizabeth, now 6 and Emma, now 2. The new addition to the family this year is Evelyn, born May 17.

Don Hutcheson with daughters (l. to r.) Elizabeth, now 6 and Emma, now 2. The new addition to the family this year is Evelyn, born May 17.

Continuing with his ethic of quality, Hutcheson joined NTCA two years ago after seeing the positive reviews from respected people on internet forums and social media who were promoting the values of being a member. “I always was confused about how to best tell someone how, or why to do something a certain way,” Hutcheson said. “Well, it is all there, right in the TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation. I realized I had been doing some things wrong, but now I had a book that wasn’t just the text on a computer screen from who-knows-what-source, or [questionable] experience level of the person offering the information, but manufacturers and leaders of our industry who care greatly about the success of our industry as a whole.”

Hutcheson said that “One of the biggest benefits from the NTCA is the connection to other members who are equally, if not more, involved and concerned about the current state and future of our industry. The educational resources offered are amazing; with a little bit of digging around on the website, you will likely find more information than you were looking for. One of the greatest features to me, a small one-man show looking to expand, are the new training modules offered for an apprentice. Having gone through a union apprenticeship, I see value in training team members to be familiar with standards and expectations of our industry. That is a hard thing to do when you are trying to finish a shower for Mrs. Jones, but these are online classes that can be taken at any time. I think after a few years of this new program being out there we will see a significant increase in certified installers, and quality installations.”

spot-03spot-04Hutcheson is NTCA State Director for Alaska. He explained that “NTCA seems to be a good motivation for me to make myself, my business and my industry better – but there is no doubt that it can get lost sometimes in the daily grind of what we do. So after speaking with some folks who were State Directors and how that had helped them in their career, I asked about becoming the State Director for Alaska.”

The value is immense. “It is a great source of networking and I get to speak with other contractors that I meet at supply shops and tell them about the benefits of the NTCA,” he said. “I will get phone calls from suppliers or shops with questions. Those calls and conversations can come at any time and they are a great boost to morale and a reminder that we aren’t just installing a backsplash today – we are representing an industry and trying to make it better.”

Hutcheson just passed his certified installer exam on June 18th, making him the #1238 Certified Tile Installer in the country and the only one in Alaska. “It was a stressful test,” he admitted. Knowing a little about the difficulty from others who have taken the test, Hutcheson learned, “it was no walk in the park. I think that is a credit to NTCA and the CTEF for not just handing out participation awards.”

spot-06spot-05Being a tile setter is no walk in the park for Hutcheson, either. “Some days I hate this trade,” he honestly exclaimed. “Manufacturers of tile, product manufacturers, clients and peers all have different ideas what a great tile install should be. Those things are always in the back of your mind. I have never left a job that I was 100% satisfied with; I doubt I ever will. But I have never left a job that the client wasn’t happy with, either.” Hutcheson added, “When our clients are happy, they tell their friends about it and that is good for our industry. When our clients are upset with a job, they tell everybody, and those are the things that I try to avoid by being an informed member of the NTCA.”

Business Tip – August 2016

mapei_sponsorHiring a contractor: truths vs. myths

By Michael Stone

By Michael Stone

Last weekend our friend Bob Youngs showed us an article published in the June 2016 issue of Consumer Reports. Portions of the article are available online, although the printed version is more detailed. The article is written as advice before hiring a contractor, and some of the advice is spot-on:

  • Bring your contractor into the project during the design phase (if working with an architect).
  • Get everything in writing.
  • Changing your mind after the work is underway is the biggest mistake homeowners make, and it can be the costliest, too.
  • Deal with your general contractor, not your subcontractors.

Unfortunately, there’s a fair amount of advice that’s just plain wrong. If you want to hire a contractor who is financially stable and will still be in business down the road, this is the advice to avoid, and here’s why.

Wrong advice: always negotiate

A contractor who knows how to price their work properly won’t have room to negotiate. They’ve estimated the total cost of the project, then added on whatever they need to meet their overhead needs and make a reasonable profit. If they priced the job properly, what’s left to negotiate, unless you don’t want them to make a reasonable profit?

You can ask, but a contractor who knows their business will tell you that they’ll adjust the price if you adjust the scope of the work. I wouldn’t trust a contractor who’s willing to lower their price, because it means they didn’t quote me a fair price in the first place. What else are they doing that’s not trustworthy?

The article states that only 4% of the GCs said they are never willing to negotiate the price of a job. Interestingly, our experience is that only 4-6% of contractors are still in business after 10 years.

The article also stated that 30% of the contractors in their survey are very willing to negotiate. And 20% percent of the contractors in their survey lacked either a state license or the proper insurance. A contractor who is operating without the proper credentials will definitely be more willing to negotiate, but at what cost to you?

Wrong advice: use online services to find a contractor

The article advises that if you want to find a contractor, do the same thing you do to find any other professional: use Google. The best contractors in your area will have a website that allows you to learn who they are and what they do, see some photos of their work, and then make contact.

You’ll find contractors on Angie’s List, HomeAdvisor and Porch, but they are seldom the best contractors in the area. They will be the contractors who either pay for the lead or pay to advertise. Some online services even charge the contractor a percentage of the sales price; guess who really pays that fee? Think of online services as another advertising outlet, not a source of quality contractors.

Wrong advice: request a detailed breakdown of labor and material costs for each part of the project

This isn’t necessary if you’re working with a cost-plus contract (more on that later). It also isn’t necessary when you’re working with a fixed-price contract because you were given a firm, fixed price.

We’ve talked about itemizing estimates and transparency on our blog. It’s a wasted exercise for the contractor and for the client. If you don’t trust the contractor you’re working with, or if you don’t like the price they quoted you, don’t hire them.

Wrong advice: include a penalty fee in the contract if the completion date isn’t met

This is only fair if you include a bonus if they finish before the completion date. I know the argument; they’ll rush to finish the job quickly to collect the bonus. Guess what? They’ll also rush to finish the job if it looks like they’ll have to pay a penalty.

Go ahead and include a penalty as long as you include a bonus as well. Fair is fair.

Wrong advice: fixed price and cost plus contract comparisons

A related article on the Consumer Reports website (included in the print version) discusses fixed-price and cost-plus contracts. There is a warning that with fixed-price contracts, the contractor might cut corners to stay on budget if their costs are higher than estimated. Keep in mind that this is also a risk if you negotiated down the price of the job, and it won’t happen at all if you hire a reputable contractor who knows how to price their work properly.

I strongly recommend against using a cost-plus contract; that’s covered at length on our website. I disagree with their statement that most cost-plus contracts come with a guaranteed maximum price, or a ceiling on additional charges. If they did, there would be far fewer disagreements, but there would also be many jobs left unfinished when the maximum price is reached before the project is completed.


The article neglected to tell you that you should expect to pay for an estimate on your project. It takes time to price a project, and many contractors are no longer willing to invest the time and trouble to compile an estimate for free. You’ll still see “Free Estimates” here and there, but many contractors recognize that they are providing a service when they estimate your project and will ask you to pay for that service.


I wrote the book on pricing jobs for the construction industry, so it was a surprise to read that contractors charge 25%. Let me tell you that if they are only charging 25%, they won’t be in business long. That’s why so many construction businesses fail; they don’t charge enough for their work.

Every contractor needs to calculate their own markup based on their overhead and profit needs, but to survive, most need to use a markup of at least 1.5 and many general contractors doing remodeling charge a much higher markup. That means they need to be adding at least 50% onto their estimated costs for a project.

There are a lot of little tidbits in the article that I question. I’d like to know how the Consumer Reports National Research Center found the 300 general contractors that they interviewed, because I have a hard time believing that a random sampling of general contractors found 20% operating without either a state license or the proper insurance. The printed version of the article includes a graphic that states that one of the most common problems that lead to cost overruns in their survey is getting permits. Someone help me out: how can getting permits lead to a cost overrun?

Price should not be the top priority when choosing a contractor; if it is, you won’t be dealing with the best contractors. Keep in mind that many of the contractor horror stories involve a contractor who disappears during a project. Other horror stories involve contractors who cut corners. The reason they disappear or cut corners is because they are broke and can’t pay their bills. The reason they are broke is because they aren’t charging enough for their work. In some cases, they needed your job to pay off bills from old jobs. That’s the risk you take when you want a contractor with the lowest possible price.

For many homeowners, your home is your largest single investment. Hire a responsible, professional contractor you can trust, not a cheap one. They’ll protect your investment and you’ll sleep better.

Michael Stone, author of Markup and Profit; A Contractor’s Guide Revisited, and Profitable Sales, A Contractor’s Guide and the online training program, “Profitable Esti-mating Training,” has more than five decades of experience in the building and remodeling industry. He can be found on the web at and by email at [email protected].

Ask the Experts – August 2016

SponsoredbyLaticreteThe following conversation took place between a contractor and NTCA technical trainer/presenter Mark Heinlein.


I would like some feedback on a recurring issue with a shower pan that was installed about a year ago (see attached pictures). The curbless shower pan is staying damp and not drying out even after days with electric heat set at 85 degrees.

The installation procedure used was as follows:

  • Prepan liner
  • Membrane over prepan
  • Mud sloped to drain
  • Liquid-applied waterproofing over pan and up inside and outside walls
  • Heated floor (skimcoated)
  • Liquid-applied waterproofing over that

I am looking for a way to rectify this issue and to prevent it from occurring in the future with light colored stone.



I have reviewed the photos you sent and read the description of your installation and have a couple of questions.

Did you install a pre-slope and liner with a clamping ring drain?  Or did you use a bonding flange-type drain, or a divot method?

Are the fixed glass panels mounted with fasteners (i.e. screws) to the floor/pan?

Please let me know.

I suspect that water may have pooled in low spots beneath the tiles that has caused the minerals in the soft marble to stain.

– Mark Heinlein,
NTCA technical trainer/presenter


Yes, there was a pre-slope drain with a clamping ring drain.  Workers installing the shower door said they drilled only through the tile for the shower door. There is really no area for water to pool due to the mosaic tile being installed with a small notched trowel.

If they penetrated through our waterproofing and mud bed, do you think that could have created the issue by the shower door?


Yes. Very likely the screws were longer than the thickness of the tile. If the liquid-applied waterproofing applied to the surface of mud bed / heat mat installation was penetrated, water can seep into the screw holes and wick into the bond coat and up into the stones. By what I can see in the photos, it appears this is the area where the staining has occurred.

Required mortar-bond coat coverage in a wet area, especially for natural stone, is 95% minimum. It is even more critical to have full-coverage bonding of soft stone on a shower floor. Were you able to get full coverage with a small notched trowel? There may be voids in the bond coat that are filing with water and staining the tile from beneath.

I also have some concerns about encapsulating the mud bed and heat system with a liner at the bottom and one or two layers of liquid applied membrane on top. How is the topical liquid membrane making a waterproof connection to the clamping ring drain?

Please take a look at TCNA Handbook Methods B421-15 and 422-15 for details regarding bonded waterproofing membranes on a sloped mortar bed shower receptor.

If you find there is no water entering through the screw holes, and if you have a good connection of the liquid waterproofing to the clamping ring drain, and if you have full-mortar bond coat coverage under the tile, this may be an example of when water stains soft stone tiles in shower pans in many types of installations. This phenomenon is currently being researched by an NTCA Technical Sub-Committee.

– Mark Heinlein,
NTCA technical trainer/presenter

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