Element Dallas Downtown East location provides high-end hospitality experience with custom design aesthetics from Marazzi

The lobby of the Element Hotel features a custom installation of Classentino Marble in Imperial Brown and Corinth Beige.

When the doors of the Element Dallas Downtown East publicly opened in December 2018, not only were visitors to Dallas offered a high-end hospitality experience, but they were also greeted with an outside-of-the-box approach to the design of the short-stay hotel experience. 

Prior to this location’s conversion, it provided senior citizens a place to rest their heads as the Baylor University Medical Center’s Memory Care Center. The journey from healthcare to high-end hospitality is one that required a ground-up approach and custom curation to strike the right balance of accommodations and internationally-inspired finishes to delight the business and entertainment-focused guests, alike.

The building’s owners, brothers Salim and Perry Molubhoy, own and manage more than 20 high-end hotels across the United States and saw this location as a challenge to bring a unique hospitality experience to the Dallas area. Salim Molubhoy oversaw the more-than-two-year building transformation beginning with demolition down to the structure’s concrete, and rebuild of the hotel. With one of the primary goals of this Element location being to remove the feeling of a prototypical short-stay hotel, so much time and planning was dedicated to designing bright and dynamic spaces where details feel thoughtfully hand-picked.

Element Hotel, Dallas, TX exterior façade.

Given the nature of the building being hospitality with high-traffic, the Molubhoy brothers knew durability would be key, making tile the best solution for the central surfaces. After being presented with several tile options by their interior designer, the brothers ultimately opted for Marazzi over a different brand because of the total amount of options as well as a previous partnership. Salim Molubhoy raved about the customer service he experienced with Jarrod Smyth, the Anaheim Branch Manager for Marazzi, thus beginning the process for materials selection. The Anaheim team hosted Molubhoy, and in one day, he selected all the tile needed for the project.

The hotel’s dining area features a custom installation
of Classentino Marble in Imperial Brown and Corinth Beige.

The hotel’s elevator bank wall features Classentino Marble Classic Weave Mosaic, complemented by Classentino Marble in Imperial Brown and Corinth Beige on the floor.

“Jarrod provided the ultimate in customer service,” said Salim Molubhoy. “Personalized service is key and the fact that Marazzi not only provides the bold, internationally-inspired designs I’m looking for, but that the sales team is available at all hours, goes so far in continuing the excellent impression,” he continued.

Upon entry, guests immediately notice Classentino Marble™ on the lobby floors. This particular collection provides the bold, realistic look of marble in a porcelain tile for the durability the design team was seeking for a busy hotel entrance. 

Classentino Marble is what Marazzi calls, a Colorbody™ Porcelain, which means that the tiles are created with continuous colored stains from the glaze surface throughout the body of the tile. This is important for high traffic areas in the case of any impact chipping that may occur, visibility will be lessened due to the consistent color throughout. 

As guests make their way to the second floor lobby, they encounter Castellina™ Trellis that adorns the wall behind the buffet. This stunning natural stone offering features a combination of stone and porcelain mosaics, with contemporary color tones. Attractive patterns vitalize with beautiful abstract shapes. A curated selection of elegant mosaic patterns brings bold design complementing the entry flooring.

Hotel lobby featuring a custom installation of Classentino
Marble in Imperial Brown and Corinth Beige.

As guests progress to their rooms, they are visually impacted by the stunning Classentino Marble Weave Mosaic that accents the elevators which distinguish it from other area hotels. “People love it” says Salim Molubhoy. “Whenever people come in they love the wow factor.”

Not only are the Marazzi collections featured front-and-center for guests to enjoy, but these bold palettes and timeless designs are also featured in the Hotel Penthouse. “I am a big fan of great products and as a world traveler I want guests to enjoy the best,” added Salim Molubhoy. 

The Penthouse features Materika™ and boasts muted, powdery hues of concrete fashioned into elegant 16″ x 48″ over-sized wall embellishments with a texture for added visual intrigue. Castellina Diamond natural stone mosaic enhances the drama for a dramatic accent wall with classic design.

Cafe area feature wall showing Castellina Trellis in Gray.

In total, more than 8,300 sq. ft. of Marazzi tile is featured in the hotel in both floor and wall applications, pushing the envelope on tile capabilities and capturing the form and function with exceptional quality.

Located within a brief walk of Downtown Dallas lies one of the newest hotels in the area – with a history all its own. The public response has been positive since the public opening in December. The hotel is a comfortable setting for business and leisure travelers alike who want to feel at home in modern accommodations. Molubhoy and staff invite you to visit and enjoy your stay as you travel for business or explore Downtown Dallas during your next trip.

Backsplash features Castellina Modern Arabesque in Gray and Fawn.

Timeless natural stone showcases luxury retail with a full system from CUSTOM

Westfield Valley Fair is the highest sales volume shopping center in California – the state with the most space dedicated to retail. Over the course of three years, $1.1B was spent to renovate this property in the heart of Silicon Valley, and expand the mall from 1.5M to 2.2M total square feet. Already a highly popular tourist attraction, the upscale center added 150 new stores with a focus on luxury brands. This extensive enhancement included installing 360,000 sq. ft. of natural stone, porcelain and glass tile with a full system from Custom Building Products. 

The objective for Valley Fair was “contemporary yet timeless,” which is the very essence of designing with natural stone. Over 240,000 sq. ft. of limestone, marble and sandstone were imported from Italian and Tunisian quarries in 90 full-sized shipping containers. Most of the stone was fabricated into honed 24” equilateral triangles and laid out in solid color, full-diamond and diamond bleed-out patterns that add tremendous sophistication to the site. 

Northern California Tile and Stone (NCTS), an NTCA Five-Star Contractor based in Sacramento, Calif., performed the work on both the renovation and expansion phases of the project. Performing demolition work, preparing the surface and setting pavers while the center remained open for business required tightly coordinated night work. To meet the aggressive schedule and minimize the impact on shoppers, a high-performance, rapid-setting system of tile installation products was chosen. 

Surface preparation

After removing existing tile, the slab was lightly shot-blasted to ICRI Concrete Surface Profile 3. This opened up the concrete to provide a clean surface for bonding an underlayment to bring the floor within tolerances for large-format stone tile. The low-prep CustomTech® flooring preparation products selected for the project do not always require this step, but given the age and condition of the slab, shot blasting was recommended to ensure the best bond to the substrate. TechPrime™ A Advanced Acrylic Primer was diluted 3:1 with three parts water and applied with a soft-bristle push broom to help drive the mixture into the substrate. This highly versatile primer and sealer can be used to prepare both porous and non-porous substrates for leveling. 

TechLevel 150 Self-Leveling Underlayment was pumped throughout the project to achieve a truly flat floor.

A smoothing tool is used to take TechLevel 150 Self-Leveling Underlayment to a feather edge at low spots in the slab.

After the primer dried, TechLevel™ 150 Premium Calcium Aluminate Based Self-Leveling Underlayment was poured to an average depth of 1/4”. High flow TechLevel 150 was pumped over the extensive concourses but also barrel mixed in the smaller areas as the prep work drew to a close. This super-fluid leveler can be batch mixed or inline mixed to scale for jobs of all sizes and the leveling work was self-performed by installers from NCTS. With a compressive strength greater than 4300 psi, TechLevel 150 is suitable for most projects and can be poured up to 1.5” per lift while resisting cracking. 

“We had great feedback from installers that had used other leveling products,” offered Erik Johnson, Project Superintendent with NCTS. “TechLevel 150 was a big factor in the successful outcome of the whole project. The tolerances were tighter, and we were not fighting substrate differences or seeing lippage.” 

To protect the natural stone on the mall’s busy concourses, RedGard® Waterproofing and Crack Prevention Membrane was specified throughout the project. RedGard controls in-plane crack transmission up to 1/8” in tile and stone floors and exceeds the requirements of ANSI A118.12 for crack isolation. This ready-to-use elastomeric membrane was primarily applied with an airless spray rig due to the immense size of the shopping center. A thickness of 40 wet mils of RedGard was achieved with two coats and subjected to quality control inspections with digital calipers. RedGard was also used in the new and renovated restrooms to provide waterproofing protection exceeding ANSI A118.10.  

Tile installation 

Both the renovated and new areas of the mall were set with 24” marble and limestone triangle pavers as well as 18” sandstone. All of the large-format stone on floors was set with Complete Contact-LFT Premium Rapid Setting Large Format Tile Mortar. This polymer-modified full contact mortar is especially designed for installing large and heavy materials on floors where it can eliminate back buttering with improved mortar transfer. Complete Contact is quite fluid to help wet out the back of the tile, yet holds ridges to support large pavers and the deeper notch trowels needed to install them. Crucial to fast-track renovations like Valley Fair, tile can be grouted in two hours and light foot traffic can be allowed in as little as four hours. High-performance Complete Contact-LFT also exceeds ANSI A118.15F for demanding, heavy duty applications like the mall. 

Complete Contact-LFT Mortar allowed installers to meet the minimum 95% coverage required for natural stone.

Directional troweling and SuperiorBilt Premium Notch trowels helped prevent voids beneath the tile.

The NCTS installers on the project employed back buttering and then lifted each tile to ensure the 95% minimum mortar coverage rate needed with natural stone. They used SuperiorBilt® Premium Notch trowels that are designed to promote ridge collapse and mortar transfer. Crew members were impressed by the strength of the SuperiorBilt margin trowel’s weld points, which held up over months of lifting the heavy, fully embedded stone.

“We had a quality end product and a minimal punch list because of good coverage with the right product, the right trowels and proper technique,” said Eric Witcher, General Manager of NCTS. “This was huge!”

Installing both glass mosaics and 12” x 24” porcelain tile on walls called for a versatile, high-performance, polymer-modified mortar. ProLite® Premium Large Format Tile Mortar was specified for both of these hard-to-bond-to materials in vertical assemblies that were installed in restrooms and accent areas off the main concourses. ProLite offers high bond strength in a lightweight formula with excellent handling characteristics. 40% lighter than traditional mortars, ProLite will not sag on walls or slump on floors, and exceeds ANSI A118.15TE for thixotropic performance and extended open time for adjustment.  

“We love ProLite!,” said Witcher. “It is so versatile – just a great product.” 


Nearly all the tile on the project was grouted with Prism® Ultimate Performance Cement Grout.  Prism’s calcium aluminate-based formula delivers consistent color without mottling or shading and it will not contribute to efflorescence. Recycled content and fine aggregate sand provide a smooth consistency that is easy to clean as well as 30% lighter than other grouts. With high early strength and dense, stain-resistant joints, Prism was the perfect choice for Valley Fair’s rapid-setting requirements.  

Prism Ultimate Performance Grout was installed on walls as well as high-traffic floors in all concourses.

“I have used a lot of grout in my lifetime and Prism is awesome stuff!” offered Johnson. “We had great production rates because it is so easy to use and the rich color was completely consistent throughout.”  

“We had no issues due to traffic,” added Witcher. “Any other product would have been damaged; I was shocked to see how well it held up.” 

Soft movement joints at perimeters and intervals in the field were placed and filled with permanently flexible sealant per TCNA Detail EJ171.

Prior to grouting, the honed – and therefore more porous – natural stone pavers were sealed with Aqua Mix® Sealer’s Choice® Gold. Sealer’s Choice is a premium, natural look, water-based penetrating sealer that provides maximum stain protection while allowing moisture vapor transmission. After curing, the Prism cement grout was also sealed. For added chemical resistance due to cleaning regimens, restroom floors were grouted with CEG™-Lite 100% Solids Commercial Epoxy Grout. 

TCNA guidelines were carefully adhered to throughout the project, including Detail EJ171. In accordance with EJ171, movement joints were placed every 20 feet on ground and every 12 feet on suspended slabs. Soft joints were included at all perimeters and changes of plane, with additional accommodation made for tile exposed to sunlight. Joints were filled with Commercial 100% Silicone Sealant, which remains permanently flexible to protect tile and grout in the assembly from expected movement. “The silicone was an excellent color match to the grout,” said Johnson. “It is hard to see the movement joints – just as it should be.”

24” equilateral triangles of marble and limestone were set in full diamond and diamond bleed patterns.

With a full system of surface preparation, tile-setting, grout and care products from CUSTOM, Westfield Valley Fair qualified for a 20-year installation warranty. 

“Custom’s technical rep invested a lot of time with our general contractor and our architect, and they utilized all of their assets and resources to help wherever needed,” said Witcher. 

“I’ve worked with Custom for 30 years,” added Johnson. “They show support and advocacy from beginning to end on every project.”

Six different natural stones featuring Italian marble were used to create the signature atrium mosaics.

Westfield Valley Fair is the perfect luxury showcase for designing with natural stone.

Sky-high office building undergoes dramatic front lobby makeover

TileLetter August CoverAt 18 stories high, Atlanta’s 7000 Central Park office tower occupies a prominent position in the city’s central perimeter skyline. 

To reposition the tower as a top-tier office building, former building owner CBRE Global Investors revealed ambitious renovation plans in June 2017 for the 30-year old tower. The plans included a front lobby renovation, a full-service and high-tech fitness center, a collaborative co-working space and conference center, an expanded café area, a meeting space and a trendy outdoor “living room” to provide a gathering space for tenants to socialize.

With architect tvsdesign leading the way on the front lobby design, which included 2,000 sq. ft. (approximately 186 sq. m.) of large-format gauged porcelain panels climbing 30 feet (9 meters) up the walls, general contractor Hitt Contracting Inc. enlisted the help of installing contractor David Allen Company to get the job done. With green and sustainable construction currently an industry wide practice, NTCA Five-Star Contractor David Allen Company chose to utilize products that not only benefit the environment, but are top quality and aesthetically enhanced. 

Close-up of the 5’x10' panels David Allen Company extended 30’ high on the walls.

Close-up of the 5’x10′ panels David Allen Company extended 30’ high on the walls.

“Immediately when we landed 7000 Central Park, we decided to use LATICRETE® products for the installations,” said David Allen Company Project Manager Eric Knight. “We’ve worked with LATICRETE for years and can always rely on their quality of product and high-end customer service. The products we used were instrumental in making sure the large-and-heavy gauged porcelain panels specified for the walls of the lobby would hold up.” 

The challenges 

Defying gravity: Not only did the large-format panels extend 30 feet (9 meters) up the walls, the enormous panels themselves were 5 feet (1.5 meters) by 10 feet (3 meters) in size. To make this installation possible, David Allen Company needed the specified LATICRETE products to deliver superb bond strength. 

Installation interference: During the renovation process, 7000 Central Park remained open for tenants to conduct business, requiring David Allen Company to work during the night. Products used needed to be formulated with fast return-to-service properties to be able to withstand the high traffic of the office building within hours, rather than days, for public use. 

After installing floor tiles, David Allen Company prepped the walls for the large-format gauged panel installation.

After installing floor tiles, David Allen Company prepped the walls for the large-format gauged panel installation.

A LATICRETE solution 

To adhere the large-format gauged porcelain panels to the wall in the front lobby, David Allen Company chose 257 TITANIUM™. Selected for its strong bond and ease of use to work out air pockets, 257 TITANIUM exceeds ANSI A118.15, the industry’s highest performance standard for a cementitious-based adhesive mortar, providing durable, worry-free installations. 257 TITANIUM is also silica sand-free, which both reduces exposure to respirable silica and contributes to the easy-to-spread creamy consistency. For added security to ensure the installation would cure in time, 257 TITANIUM utilizes LATICRETE HYDROMATIC CURE CHEMISTRY™ that accelerates the hydration process to rapidly consume water in the system – allowing the material to cure in a predictable manner and providing peace of mind for David Allen Company. 

The steel stairs used LATAPOXY® 300 Adhesive, a chemical-resistant epoxy adhesive that is easily spread and cleaned with water while fresh, and tenaciously bonds to challenging substrate types. The floors utilized 4-XLT, a multi-use, polymer-fortified adhesive mortar. 4-XLT boasts a smooth and creamy consistency, making tile installation applications of this product faster and easier. 

Prepping the floors in the lobby for installation.

Prepping the floors in the lobby for installation.

Customer-favorite PERMACOLOR® Select was used to grout tiles throughout the lobby. This advanced high-performance cement grout offers the industry’s first dispersible dry pigment solution and offered David Allen Company increased productivity and time savings on the jobsite, thanks to a faster time-to-grout, with foot traffic permitted in as little as three hours.

All of the products used received UL GREENGUARD Gold Certifications for low chemical emissions for sustainable building. Additionally, each of the LATICRETE products used has a Health Product Declaration (HPD), with the exception of LATAPOXY 300, which has Product-Specific (Type III), and Environmental Product Declarations (EPD), which help manufacturers create – and helps buyers identify – tile and flooring installation materials’ impact on the environment. 



Architect tvsdesign led the way on the front lobby design, which included 2,000 sq. ft. of large-format gauged porcelain panels.

Architect tvsdesign led the way on the front lobby design, which included 2,000 sq. ft. of large-format gauged porcelain panels.


Close-up of the completed 7000 Central Park office tower lobby installations.

Close-up of the completed lobby installations.

“Just as expected, the LATICRETE products selected for the 7000 Central Park lobby renovation worked like a charm,” added Knight. “Adam Marks, the local LATICRETE representative, was with us every step of the way. At any given time, we were able to meet with Adam onsite, resulting in yet another job well done for both our company and LATICRETE.”

7000 Central Park was recognized as Georgia’s 2018 Outstanding Building of the Year. 


The floors utilized 4-XLT, a multi-use, polymer-fortified adhesive mortar.

The floors utilized 4-XLT, a multi-use, polymer-fortified adhesive mortar. 4-XLT boasts a smooth and creamy consistency, making tile installation applications of this product faster and easier.


Merkrete Systems provide installation protection to new Naples Fire-Rescue Station

Rescue is one of the most important functions of every fire department. From day one in recruit school, firefighters are trained that life safety is the number one priority. It is a job responsibility that requires continual preparation.

It was not too long ago that mentioning rescue in the fire service meant that someone was typically saved from a fire. Today, rescue comes in many forms, which include responding to vehicular crashes, hazardous materials incidents, and a host of other rescue scenarios such as swift-water, ice, confined-space, structural collapse, or any situation that requires removing someone from harm’s way. 

There are some basic premises that apply to all these potential events and some special preparations for the unique challenges that they may present. Time is critical in rescue situations to contain fires, and transport victims of fire and serious injury incidents to appropriate facilities within a specific time-period or potentially face negative outcomes. Whether it’s police officers, firefighters, first responders, or 911 dispatchers, many dedicated Americans work long hours, and often in difficult conditions, to make sure that when someone is in need, they are there to help.

Naples opens new fire-rescue station and emergency ops center

Additional exterior areas installed using Merkrete 855 XXL LHT Mortar.

The Naples Fire-Rescue Department received a massive upgrade last May with the new Fire Station No. 1. The first visible sign began on August 14, 2016 involving the demolition of the old Fire Station No. 1 at 835 Eighth Ave. in Naples, Fla. The razing took about 30 days, clearing the way for a new $6.5 million, two-story, 22,600-sq.-ft. fire station, administrative headquarters and state-of-the-art emergency operations center. 

The new building exceeds FEMA 100-year flood zone levels, has the ability to withstand Category 5 hurricane wind levels and is also the most cost-effective way to get operations and administrative staff all under one roof. This new fire-rescue station will provide critical infrastructure to the city of Naples and will meet the city’s public safety demands for at least 50 years.

Merkrete 855 XXL LHT Mortar used for installing 24 x 24 Coral Stone throughout the exterior.


Developed in collaboration among Manhattan Construction, Creative Stoneworks and Architects Design Group, the new building includes three and a half apparatus bays and associated apparatus support spaces, Battalion Chief office, bunk, and restroom. It also contains general facility functions such as kitchen, dining, report writing, physical agility, dormitories, restrooms, showers, and equipment storage spaces. Fire administration is located on the second floor and includes an Emergency Operations Center and multipurpose room.

Vision and functionality come together

Interior porcelain panels installed with Merkrete’s 855 XXL LHT Mortar.

When Creative Stoneworks was approached by Manhattan Construction to supply the high-performing materials they required, Creative Stoneworks knew they would need a trusted and top-quality installation system to comply with the high-standard building codes and ensure a job well done. Upon reviewing the scope of the project, all answers pointed definitively to Merkrete, the leader in waterproofing, crack isolation and setting materials technology. 

Creative Stonework’s tile installation on the exterior of the new Naples Fire-Rescue Station consisted of approximately 10,000 sq. ft. of 24 x 24 x 1.5 inch Coral Stone. 

A hurricane-proof solution secures the deal

John McIntyre, Technical Sales Representative and Tim O’Hara, Territory Sales Representative from Merkrete submitted a complete installation system including Merkrete Hydro Guard SP-1 waterproofing, crack-isolation and air-barrier membrane, and 855 XXL LHT Mortar, a high-performance setting mortar, providing excellent non-sag characteristics for vertical stone applications in exterior conditions. This sole-sourced Merkrete installation system was submitted and approved by the architectural and design team at Architects Design Group, and the Merkrete team was available as a resource for the project to answer any questions or address concerns relating to the installation system as recommended from Merkrete.

Exterior protected using Merkrete’s Hydro Guard SP1 Waterproofing & Crack Isolation Membrane.

The specifications called for crack-isolation, waterproofing and air-barrier on the exterior parts of installation to meet the new FEMA FIRM map elevations, as well as updated code that required wind and impact-resistant design.

Combined with an aggressive project schedule, work began using Merkrete Hydro Guard SP-1. The liquid-applied, fast-drying Hydro Guard SP-1 combines crack isolation up to 1/8” and a waterproof system to enable crews to prepare the substrate for setting tile at a faster pace. Hydro Guard SP1 contains excellent elongation, adhesion and high-strength properties providing a 100% waterproof membrane that prevents the transfer of substrate cracks to the finished ceramic or stone tile surface. “Merkrete’s liquid membranes have been a staple in the industry for many years and we rely on its performance,” said Eric Gubelman, Creative Stonework General Manager.

There is no doubt that setting these large tile and stones on a vertical surface presents their fair share of installation challenges due to the tight tolerances used to maintain the beauty of the tile and overall aesthetic of the installation. So, selection of the setting material is critical, especially when installing large-and-heavy tile (LHT). LHT Mortars are not for leveling or truing the substrate, instead they are intended to help fill the irregular space between the tile and the underlayment. 

Merkrete proved the perfect match for a specific challenge again, considering the strength of the mortar it called for. “We used large-and-heavy natural stone, which requires a mortar with a super-high bondability that can handle the weight of the panels,” says Gubelman. John McIntrye adds, “Merkrete 855 XXL is a high-performing, multipurpose, polymer-modified setting adhesive for installing extra-large-format porcelain, ceramic tile and natural stone for both floors and walls, and can be used as thin or medium bed setting adhesive for stone. Merkrete proved it could hold its weight allowing Creative Stoneworks the versatility they required.”

Creative Stoneworks’ preferred mortar is MERKRETE’s 855 XXL LHT Mortar for these types of applications. “The smooth and creamy material makes for easy spreading, especially when speed is a factor,” says Gubelman. 855 XXL LHT Mortar works great for both floors and walls and offers high strengths and flexibility.

The Naples Fire-Rescue Department moved into its new home on May 1, 2019.

Broad reach supports responsiveness

It was critical that Creative Stoneworks chose a company who would be able to get the products delivered when required and the job completed on time. Merkrete is a member of ParexGroup, one of the largest companies and a worldwide leader in tile setting materials, façade finishes and technical mortars, established in 22 countries with 68 manufacturing plants and over 4,100 employees. “Merkrete was perfect for this project’s requirements, because we have plants and distribution centers all over the country, so our turnaround time and ability to get products from our Haines City, Fla. location to the job site were no problem,” says O’Hara. 

The Naples Fire-Rescue Department moved into its new home on May 1, 2019 to proudly protect and serve its community. Many thanks to all police officers, firefighters, first responders and military personnel who dedicate their lives to provide comfort and safety to all of us!

The new building exceeds FEMA 100-year flood zone levels, and has the ability to withstand Category 5 hurricane wind levels.

Marble tile at historic Hearst Castle pool renovated with full system from CUSTOM

The Roman-themed Neptune Pool was expanded three times between the 1920s to 1936, to hold 345,000 gallons of water.

The Neptune Pool at Hearst Castle is perhaps the most exciting and beautiful renovation project a tile and stone contractor could dream of. Located on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean above San Simeon, Calif., this iconic marble pool was inspired by the stunning location, and rivals the extravagant architecture of the castle itself. When cracks and leaks in the 90-year old landmark required repairs and a complete replacement of the tile, a full system from Custom Building Products was selected to install the new stone work.

Originally designed by publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst’s architect Julia Morgan in the 1920s, the Roman-themed Neptune Pool was expanded three times until it reached its current size in 1936. It now holds 345,000 gallons of water, measures 104 feet long by 58 feet to 95 feet across and reaches a depth of 10 feet. The pool is an engineering marvel, being suspended rather than sunken; this factor added an extra layer of complexity to shell and plumbing repair efforts at the site.

By 2014, the aging pool was leaking up to 5,000 gallons of water daily during a devastating drought. After draining the pool to prevent further leaks and assess damage, all original tile had to be removed to allow extensive repairs to the shell. A complete renovation was commissioned by California State Parks, which owns and maintains this expansive property. Following repairs to fill cracks and other imperfections, the application of a crystalline waterproofing solution and a successful 14-day fill test, tile installation began in earnest.

Stellar products and technical support: a winning combination

The natural stone tile work on this project was awarded to the third-generation marble craftsmen at Carnevale & Lohr, Inc., of Bell Gardens, Calif. Their union stone masons and tile setters are trained in time-tested and traditional hand-fitting methods, but also incorporate modern tile installation technology, standards and techniques. This way, the installers brought together the best of the old and new worlds of tile craftsmanship. 

“Custom’s products are excellent,” said David Carnevale, president of Carnevale & Lohr, “but this project also needed to be about the technical support, best warranty, and partnership of the installation products manufacturer. Custom offered their testing labs and all of their resources to us. That was something different, and it counted for so much!” 

Surface preparation was carried out by experienced union installers from subcontractor and NTCA member Charles McCandless Tile Contractor, Inc. of Santa Ana, Calif. To smooth the surface of the pool shell, workers spread Quikrete® Deck Mud fortified with CUSTOM Thin-Set and Mortar Admix at a depth of 1/4” up to 1” in places. This pre-blended leveling mortar is formulated for low shrinkage and saved the labor of powder-blending at the site, while the addition of polymers improved performance and flexural strength. After curing, a bond coat of thin-set mortar was used to prepare the shell for receiving a membrane. 

RedGard® Waterproofing and Crack Prevention Membrane was specified to help isolate cracks in the substrate and waterproof the surface preparation and mortar bed.

Three full strength coats of RedGard followed an initial primer coat for a total of 45 dry mils.

RedGard® Water-proofing and Crack Prevention Membrane was specified to help isolate cracks in the substrate and waterproof the surface preparation and mortar bed. A liquid-applied, elastomeric membrane was indicated due to the size of the project and the rounded surfaces throughout. The membrane was roller applied for the best control of wet mil thickness to exceed the requirements of ANSI A118.10 and A118.12. Three full strength coats of RedGard followed an initial primer coat for a total of 45 dry mils. After curing, each successive coat was applied at a right angle to the previous one to provide the highest level of protection. 

“With RedGard, the ease of application and not having any seams is a huge plus,” offered Mark McCandless, president of McCandless Tile. “On top of that, the team at Custom provided a great system, technical assistance, coordination with the design team and a warranty.”

Attaining historical accuracy

Hearst Castle is a designated National Historic Landmark to protect the architectural masterpieces located at this unique site in California history. This status required an exact color and material match to reproduce the classic patterns of the original marble tile installation. Prior to demolition, 3D laser scans were used to map the tile in the pool to within 1/8”. From these calculations, dimensioned shop drawings were produced to plot the location of individual tiles and their relation to other pool elements. 

Since the site is a National Historic Landmark, an exact color and material match was required to reproduce the classic patterns of the original marble tile installation.

Honoring its first builders, the original Vermont quarry locations were located by a team from the state and used to source the new marble and serpentine needed to bring the pool back in all of its glory. 

All of this planning was followed by the painstaking installation of over 19,000 stone tiles involving countless referrals to photos, plans and other documentation of the original pool. Tiles were carefully fabricated and sorted by character to best replicate every detail of the historic project. Skilled masons set 3,000 sq. ft. of Vermont Verde Antique® serpentine and 7,000 sq. ft. of Olympian White Danby® marble. To match the original pool, the new stone was also cut to 3/4”-thick, so it was quite heavy at 12 lbs./sq. ft. MegaLite® Ultimate Crack Prevention Large Format Tile Mortar was specified for the setting the natural stone in this challenging environment. This mortar exceeds ANSI A118.15 TE for use up to 3/4” thick to support heavy tile and prevent lippage. 

According to the company, MegaLite offers the highest bond strength for the most demanding installation requirements and has the flexibility to withstand horizontal substrate movement. The lightweight formula provided excellent handling characteristics, including

Each stone tile was back-buttered prior to being placed.

less fatigue for installers working with heavy materials. Thixotropic properties provided the non-sag, non-slump performance needed for setting natural stone on both the bottom and vertical sides of the pool. 

Achieving 95% coverage

The adhesive mortar was keyed into the substrate. Then, additional mortar was combed in straight lines using the SuperiorBilt® Premium Notch trowel; this tool is designed to promote ridge collapse once the tile is set. Following industry best practices, trowel ridges were placed running parallel to the shortest side of rectangular tiles to facilitate air release. Each stone tile was back-buttered prior to being placed. Finally, tiles were moved across the trowel ridges to collapse them, release air and prevent voids behind the tile. 

An installer checks the back of a Olympian White Danby® marble tile to ensure 95% coverage.

The stone workers used soft rubber mallets to beat in the bedded tile for a flat tiled surface. Suction cups were used to periodically check mortar coverage and transfer to ensure that it met the 95% requirement for natural stone, exteriors or wet areas. With the pool combining all of these elements, proper ridge collapse and coverage were especially important to protect the tile per ANSI A108.5.2.5. 

The Neptune Pool’s marble and serpentine tiles were grouted with PolyBlend® Non-Sanded Grout. After testing with samples of the stone and historic small joints between tiles, the sand-free formula proved ideal for the project. This durable, non-shrinking, polymer-modified grout can be used to fill joints up to 1/8”. Bright White was the shade used to replicate the original grout, which long pre-dated
colored grouts.

The Neptune Pool’s marble and serpentine tiles were grouted with PolyBlend® Non-Sanded Grout, in the Bright White shade to replicate the original grout.

“As Californians, we take tremendous pride in this project,” said Jim Christenson, field superintendant at Carnevale & Lohr. “Everyone was very excited to watch the pool come back to life.” 

PRODUCTS USED: RedGard® Waterproofing and Crack Prevention Membrane; MegaLite® Ultimate Crack Prevention Large Format Tile Mortar; PolyBlend® Non-Sanded Grout; Commercial 100% Silicone Sealant 

LOCATION: San Simeon, Calif.


ARCHITECT: Page & Turnbull, San Francisco, Calif.

GENERAL CONTRACTOR: T.B. Penick & Sons, Inc., San Diego, Calif.

TILE CONTRACTORS: Carnevale & Lohr, Inc., Bell Gardens, Calif.; Charles McCandless Tile, Inc., Santa Ana, Calif.

CUSTOM BUILDING PRODUCTS TEAM: Brian Swann, District Manager; David Stephens, Territory Manager 

Taos Ski Valley slopeside residences benefit from foam building panels

In November 2018, I contributed a technical feature to TileLetter that covers the many advantages multifunctional foam building panels offer tile setters. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to check it out. In this issue I’ll present applications where foam building panels were used to realize those benefits in a condominium development.

The Blake Residences

The Village of Taos Ski Valley is a year-round resort destination in New Mexico. It was founded in 1955 by a Swiss-German named Ernie Blake, his wife Rhoda, and friends. This group brought a European atmosphere to the historically Native American- and Spanish-influenced area. Taos Ski Valley came under new ownership in 2014, which ushered in a new era of development including new lifts, runs, restaurants, shops, and living spaces. One such example is The Blake Residences, a slopeside six-story building with 24 fully appointed residences including nine penthouse suites with four bathrooms each. Ski valet, heated outdoor pools and hot tubs, fitness center, spa, and other luxury amenities are available.

foam building panels were used on open stud walls while waterproof membrane was applied over existing wallboard

In the shower areas, foam building panels were used on open stud walls while waterproof membrane was applied over existing wallboard.

The builder and the tile contractor

Upfront Construction, founded by President Bob Orner, is the general contractor responsible for interior finishes at The Blake Residences. Zsolt Szilagyi of Homeworks Tile & Natural Stone was contracted to tile all of the bathrooms, laundry rooms, and kitchen backsplashes. Zsolt began work in June 2018 and expects to finish the project in the fall of 2019.


Zsolt chose the Schluter®-KERDI-BOARD foam panels as the primary substrate for the bathroom applications, including the bathtub platforms and showers. In general, this decision was based on the product being very light and easy to work with. For example, he can save time by cutting KERDI-BOARD in the room where he is working, rather needing to go to another area or outside. He finds this process is much faster and requires fewer tools than traditional framing methods. Other benefits are described in the applications’ descriptions below.

Bathtub platforms

Foam panels can be cut to size to create the supports, decking, and apron for the structure, all to the exact dimensions required by the tile setter. Thin-set mortar or adhesive can be used to install the panels, although mortar will provide more adjustability to ensure plumb and level surfaces and square corners.

1-1/2” Kerdi-Board legs supported a 2”-thick platform for the tub deck

1-1/2” Kerdi-Board legs supported a 2”-thick platform for the tub deck. Blocking was installed on the floor between the legs for added strength and stability.

Zsolt used KERDI-BOARD to build the entire platform surrounding the previously installed bathtub. Thin-set mortar was used to install the 1-1/2˝-thick supports and screws were used as temporary anchors while the mortar was still in the plastic state. In fact, Zsolt prefers to complete construction of the entire platform while the thin-set mortar is still in the plastic state. In this way adjustments can be made throughout the process and he is confident that all connections within the structure are solid. He also installed scrap pieces of board as blocking on the floor in-between supports. While not required in general, this practice provided additional strength and stability of the assembly and reduced waste. Zsolt said when using KERDI-BOARD he “doesn’t throw anything out” meaning the product helps him work as efficiently as possible. Two-inch-thick board was installed on the supports and made flat, level, and flush with the surface of the bathtub. 

Waterproofing membrane was wrapped from the wall to the tub deck to create a waterproof splash zone for the tub area.

Benches and tub decks were built to the same height – flush with the top of the tub. Waterproofing membrane was wrapped from the wall to the tub deck to create a waterproof splash zone for the tub area.

Granite slabs were installed leaving a 1/4” reveal on the inside edge of the bathtubs to create the appearance of an undermount tub. This approach produced an application that was both aesthetically pleasing and easy to clean. KERDI-BAND waterproofing strips were installed on the wall above the platform to protect the gypsum board from intermittent water exposure and covered with tile that complements the look and feel of the granite. The entire assembly was integrated with the adjacent shower waterproofing system to provide the most reliable solution and ensure long-term performance. These bathtub platforms are perfect examples of what can be easily achieved when the tile setter has complete control over the substrate and builds it to suit the specific needs of the application.


undermount bathtub

The granite was fabricated to leave a reveal of approximately 1/4” to create the appearance of an undermount bathtub.

The showers were waterproofed using the comprehensive Schluter®-Shower System. For the walls, 1/2″ or 5/8″-thick KERDI-BOARD was fastened to the steel framing, depending on the thickness of the adjacent wall board. For such areas within the shower, KERDI membrane was applied over the gypsum board. All seams and fastener penetrations were sealed with the KERDI-BAND waterproofing strips, and the showerhead and mixing valve were treated with the KERDI-SEAL-PS/-MV seals to complete the wall applications. 

Zsolt appreciates the ability to use the foam board directly over the framing or the membrane over wall board previously installed by the GC. In general, he said, “I really like the flexibility of the system.” The bases were constructed using the prefabricated KERDI-SHOWER tray and KERDI-DRAIN and waterproofed with the KERDI membrane. Similar to the bathtub platforms, custom shower benches and curbs were built using KERDI-BOARD and sealed to the rest of the shower waterproofing system.

A “win-win-win” scenario

Using foam building panels to create substrates for tile can produce excellent results for everyone involved in the project. The end user receives a high-quality installation. The tile setter can earn higher margins while maintaining a fair price in his or her market as a result of being more efficient and productive on each job. And the general contractor gets an efficiently-run project with consistent, reliable results.

MAPEI goes to Yale School of Management

MAPEI gets straight As for crack isolation, large-format tile installation and waterproofing solutions

A private institution founded in 1701, Yale University resides on 315 urban acres in New Haven, Conn. Its graduate business programs are part of the Yale School of Management, and follow an integrated MBA curriculum in which students study “raw” cases and analyze a wide array of materials. 

The English tiles from Royal Mosa, predominantly the 12” x 24” (30 x 61 cm) size, were installed in the lobby with Ultraflex LFT and grouted with Ultracolor Plus.

The school conducts education and research in leadership, economics, operations management, marketing, entrepreneurship, organizational behavior, and other areas; at this time, its most acclaimed programs are finance, strategic management, and organizational behavior. The school offers a wide range of graduate-level academic programs and concentrations, and is known for its finance faculty, emphasis on ethics, and International Center for Finance. In addition, the school has an Executive MBA degree program with opportunities for focused study in healthcare, asset management or sustainability. The school also offers student exchange programs with HEC Paris, IESE, the London School of Economics, and Tsinghua University.

Mapeguard 2 was used in many of the large-format tile areas to protect it from cracking.

Edward P. Evans Hall houses the Yale School of Management. The 242,000-sq.-ft. campus opened in January 2014. The building is situated at the northern end of the Yale University campus at 165 Whitney Avenue. The building was designed by Foster + Partners, Design Architect with Gruzen Samton, Architect of Record. Foster + Partners is the prominent firm chaired by Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate Lord Norman Foster (1962 graduate of Yale School of Architecture). 

Edward P. Evans Hall is home to state-of-the-art classrooms, faculty offices, academic centers, and student and meeting spaces organized around an enclosed courtyard. The design is intended to create a teaching and learning environment that will support the school’s integrated MBA curriculum and connect the Yale School of Management (SOM) community.

Atlantic Masonry does the majority of the tile installation work at Yale University, and they were called in to work with general contractor Dimeo Construction on this project.

The crews installed quarry tile in the kitchens, porcelain tile from Daltile in the bathrooms, and a large-format English porcelain tile from Royal Mosa in the first-floor lobby surrounding the courtyard.

MAPEI products at work on the jobsite

Ultraflex LFT, Ultracolor Plus with the Mapesil 100% silicone sealant were also used for the quarry tiles in the kitchens and the black-and-white porcelain tiles in the bathrooms.

Various large-format tiles from England were used throughout this project. Mapeguard 2 was used in many of the large-format tile areas to protect it from cracking. Tile sizes include 24” x 24” (61 x 61 cm), 18” x 18” (46 x 46 cm), 12” x 18” (30 x 46 cm) and 12” x 24” (30 x 61 cm). Smaller sizes were also used on walls and floors in the bathroom installations. 

Atlantic Masonry does the majority of the tile installation work at Yale University, and they were called in to work with general contractor Dimeo Construction on this project. The crews installed quarry tile in the kitchens, porcelain tile from Daltile in the bathrooms, and a large-format English porcelain tile from Royal Mosa in the first-floor lobby surrounding the courtyard.

Wall tiles in bathrooms were grouted with Keracolor U unsanded grout.

The work began with the application of a pre-screed composed of sand and cement fortified with Planicrete AC. This mixture was used in a mud-set application to cover the tubing of an underfloor radiant-heating system. The most important aspect of this step was to ensure that the installers did not break any of the heating tubes; so, when the installers were pre-screeding, they continually tested the tubing to make sure nothing was damaged.

Over top of the pre-screed, the Atlantic Masonry crews applied Mapeguard 2 premium crack-isolation and sound-reduction membrane to protect the large-format tiles from cracking – “issues that are becoming too common with the increase in tile dimensions in educational facilities, such as this Yale project, ” said Atlantic Masonry Project Manager Mike Coassin. Atlantic Masonry prefers Mapeguard 2 because it is thicker and denser than competitive products, and the installers think it does a better job in the long run.

Over top of the pre-screed, the Atlantic Masonry crews applied Mapeguard 2 premium crack-isolation and sound-reduction membrane to protect the large-format tiles from cracking.

The English tiles from Royal Mosa, predominantly the 12” x 24” (30 x 61 cm) size, were installed in the lobby with Ultraflex LFT and grouted with Ultracolor Plus. Mapesil 100% silicone sealant was used at the soft joints in the lobby – approximately every 15 to 20 ft. (4,57 to 6,10 m).

These setting materials were also used for the quarry tiles in the kitchens and the black-and-white porcelain tiles in the bathrooms. The joints in the wall tiles of the bathrooms were grouted with Keracolor U unsanded grout. The bathrooms were also waterproofed with Mapelastic AquaDefense.

Coassin commented on the project: 

Atlantic Masonry Project Manager Mike Coassin said cracking issues are becoming too common with the increase in tile dimensions in educational facilities, like the Yale project. Mapeguard 2 was utilized to prevent this.

“This was a pretty standard project for Atlantic Masonry,” Coassin said. “We have installed tile in most of the renovated and new buildings on the Yale campus, and we are very satisfied with the way the MAPEI products work for us.”

Technical data:

Project Category: Institutional – University
MAPEI Sales Rep: Mike Shay
Project Owner: Yale University
MAPEI Distributor: Daltile – North Haven, Conn.
General Contractor: Dimeo Construction
Installer Company: Atlantic Masonry
Architects: Gruzen Samton of New York, NY, and Foster + Partners Architects
Photographer: Philip Handler, AIA
Project Size: 51,000 sq. ft.

MAPEI products used:

Planicrete AC
Mapeguard 2
Ultraflex LFT
Mapelastic AquaDefense
Keracolor U
Ultracolor Plus

Slam-dunk Bosti-Set® installation at University of Houston’s Fertitta Center

The University of Houston unveiled its transformed basketball arena on December 1st, 2018, when the men’s basketball team played its first home game in its upgraded facility against the University of Oregon. The “old” arena was gutted in Spring of 2017, and this cutting-edge $60 million renovation project was completed in November. The newly constructed sports center, which was built by Turner Construction, was named after local billionaire Tilman Fertitta, who was fittingly inducted into the UH Athletics Hall of Honor just a few days before the first game took place.

Due to Mr. Fertitta’s generosity, the original 50-year-old University of Houston arena, formerly known as Hofheinz Pavilion, was renovated into a sports venue slated for future UH teams, characterized by a futuristic exterior. Whereas the entire exterior structure and roof were unchanged, just about everything else throughout this building project, inside and outside, was completely updated.

Crossville’s Laminam large-format gauged porcelain panels for the walls of five concession stands were strategically positioned throughout the interior concourse of the arena.

The low interior ceiling was eliminated, replaced by open ceiling space for both the bowl and concourse levels. Other major improvements included reconfiguring the arena’s seating to offer even more premium opportunities, two large VIP club areas, highly upgraded facilities in the Guy V. Lewis Basketball Center via a new tunnel connection, a beautiful new court, and much, much more. 

Architectural plans called for the specification of Crossville’s Laminam® large-format gauged porcelain panels for the walls of five concession stands strategically positioned throughout the interior concourse of the arena. “I met with the installer, Allstate Commercial, along with our Houston distributor, BPI,” said Santiago Hernandez, Bostik’s Texas Territory Sales Manager. “Together we helped train the installation team. But first, I had to convince both groups about the winning characteristics of Bosti-Set®, our state-of-the-art adhesive, formulated specifically for the installation of today’s gauged porcelain tile panels.”

Bosti-Set, Bostik’s state-of-the-art adhesive, formulated specifically for the installation of today’s gauged porcelain tile panels, was used to install the Laminam panels.

Hernandez not only persuaded both firms, but together with Ruben Rivera of BPI, subsequently staged winning educational sessions to ensure that installers from the Allstate Commercial team not only knew all the many attributes of Bosti-Set, but became psyched to work with this space-age material. Bosti-Set is a premium adhesive and sound reduction membrane, created specifically for gauged thin porcelain tile panel installations. It immediately grabs porcelain tile panels in a single coat, does not allow for any sag and makes it possible for panels to be repositionable for at least 30 minutes. Projects calling for gauged thin porcelain tile panels now can be installed in roughly half the time with a smaller crew. Why? A single layer of adhesive is troweled only onto the back of the panel or wall, cutting in half the square footage necessary to trowel. Additionally, with Bosti-Set, installation crew members dedicated to basics such as mixing, running mortar back and forth and similar functions, can be redirected to work on more skilled installation procedures.

Projects calling for gauged thin porcelain tile panels now can be installed in roughly half the time with a smaller crew since only a single layer of adhesive is troweled only onto the back of the panel or wall, cutting in half the square footage necessary to trowel.

Bosti-Set is lighter in weight with much greater coverage than typical mortars. It contains zero VOCs as well as 2% recycled material. Bostik’s patent-pending Thickness ControlTM Spacer Technology built into Bosti-Set, ensures proper membrane thickness is always maintained between tile panels and the substrate. And recycled rubber crumb particles mixed into the adhesive offer optimal membrane sound reduction performance. 

“We first found out about Bosti-Set from our BPI representative, Ruben Rivera,” stated Rusty Dennison, Vice President of Operations at Allstate Commercial Flooring of Spring, Texas. “Typically, we’d use a thinset for wall applications, such as the one slated for the concession areas in the new Fertitta Center. So, during Surfaces/TISE West 2018 in Las Vegas, we met together with BPI and Bostik to get a really good picture of the benefits offered by this new material. We were impressed by many of its characteristics, and I must state, also by the highly professional way in which the product was presented to us. And of course, as businesspeople, we were obviously excited learning that with Bosti-Set, it took fewer workers less time for installations to be completed.” 

Allstate Commercial team not only knew all the many attributes of Bosti-Set, but became psyched to work with this space-age material.

Fast forwarding, once all parties were 100% on the same page, the installation process for these interior concourse areas of Fertitta Center began.

“In many ways, this was a championship, total-team effort installation!” beamed Hernandez. “It was the first time Allstate Commercial had ever worked with Bosti-Set, but we know it won’t be the last. The firm’s installers all had an A-game attitude throughout the entire process. Ruben and I were on-site for a great deal of time. It was awesome to witness a state-of-the-art, architectural conception being transformed into structural reality step by step. And even more so, watching our product being used so effectively by those that we had a hand in training, was truly a gratifying experience.”

Rusty Dennison added, “Not only was this a winning installation. But at the University of Houston Cougars’ first home game in the brand-new arena, we beat Oregon 65-61!”

Bosti-Set is a premium adhesive and sound reduction membrane, created specifically for gauged thin porcelain tile panel installations that immediately grabs porcelain tile panels in a single coat, does not allow for any sag and makes it possible for panels to be repositionable for at least 30 minutes.


2018 annual report: looking back, looking ahead

NTCA annual report header

NTCA rolls out new strategies at Total Solutions Plus

At Total Solutions Plus, NTCA leaders presented a 2018 annual report for its members, coupled with new initiatives for 2019. Highlights included shifting strategic emphasis from new member recruitment towards a stronger effort to providing value for existing members. Examples of new value-added options for members include a Multiple Employer 401(k) Plan for NTCA members, paired up with a payroll service option to complement this important retention tool. NTCA hopes to add a healthcare option for members in 2019. 

Perhaps the most important shift in strategy for NTCA will begin to take place in the second part of 2019, as the association begins to develop plans to promote its members aggressively to designers, architects, general contractors and remodelers. 

At Total Solutions Plus, NTCA leaders presented a 2018 Annual Report for its members, coupled with new initiatives for 2019.

We are committed to investing our resources in the best way we know how; by adding additional professional staff in key areas of need in our association. In 2018, we filled two such needs with the hiring of Stephanie Samulski as Director of Technical Services, and Avia Haynes as director of Marketing and Communications. Stephanie will take a leadership role in NTCA efforts to provide contractor perspective and input in the development and revision of industry standards and methods. Avia Haynes’ main focus in 2019 will center on improving NTCA brand image in all aspects of the tile industry. 

Marketing goals for 2019

NTCA’s 2019 marketing goals are part of an aggressive plan that will lay the foundation for the next two years of initiatives. Our main objectives for 2019 are to strengthen the NTCA and TileLetter brands; to execute an integrated communications process that will enable our email, web, print and social communications to work together; and to put infrastructure in place as the groundwork for future endeavors, like promoting NTCA members in the construction industry. 

NTCA’s big focus will be to generate more engagement between the association and its current members. We are hoping to hear more from our members and learn more about them. During 2019, there will be two main initiatives to help with this. The first, which has a target launch for early 2019, will give the members an opportunity to show off the fantastic work they do. The second, which has a target launch for Q2 in 2019, will help us learn more about our members and allow us to create targeted messages and programs based on the demographics of our membership. 

There will be a concentrated focus in 2019 on overhauling the TileLetter website at Tileletter.com. Starting in the first quarter, visitors will start to notice changes in the site. We plan to reorganize and refresh the site throughout the year to create a better experience for users and our supporters. We are intent on creating a site that will attract more views by year’s end. While we know our 2019 plan is very ambitious, we are confident that with the support of our board, committees and members, we will be able to reach all of our goals. 

Working together to solve the skilled labor shortage

The serious lack of skilled tile craftspeople entering the market was a key concern for all sectors of the trade during the tile industry panel discussion at Total Solutions Plus.

At the state of the tile industry panel discussion at Total Solutions Plus, one of the most important concerns that all sectors of our trade commented on was the serious lack of skilled tile craftspeople entering the market. Despite quality efforts to recruit capable and qualified individuals into the tile industry that have taken place at the grass roots level, everyone agreed that the industry needs to collectively work together in this arena. NTCA and other organizations will look to play a leading role in helping to spark new ideas and in outlining strategies that will work. This was identified as a key NTCA strategic objective for 2019. 

In addition to needing new workers to enter the trade, NTCA leaders acknowledge an additional challenge: the need for additional training and education for the existing skilled workforce, to keep up with changing technology in manufacturing. In 2018, NTCA trainers began offering regional education for our members, and we will expand this effort in 2019. NTCA University, an online training school intended to help foster apprenticeship development and support company training efforts, will continue to expand its offerings. In 2018, over 5,000 courses were completed by people taking advantage of this important educational support tool. 

NTCA: 1,500+ members strong

NTCA now has over 1,500 members, representing thousands of tile and stone installers and industry professionals. Our staff now consists of over 15 full and part time professionals, and we are committed to being accessible, supportive and attentive to our members. We take pride in being the Voice of the Tile Contractor, and we look forward to the challenges we have identified to help our industry to continue to thrive and gain market share. 

MAPEI helps restore Hugh L. Carey/Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel

The Brooklyn–Battery Tunnel, officially known as the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel, is a toll road in New York City that crosses under the East River to connect the Borough of Manhattan with the Borough of Brooklyn. At 9,117 feet (2,779 m) in length, it is the longest continuous underwater vehicular tunnel in North America.

The New York City Tunnel Authority began construction on the tunnel back in 1940, to help relieve traffic on the three East River bridges. In the original installation, 799,000 wall and ceiling tiles were installed in the structure. The job extended a full decade, partially due to a

three-year delay caused by material shortages during World War II*. The

The tunnel after the storm caused by Superstorm Sandy.

Hugh L. Carey Tunnel officially opened in 1950 and consists of twin tubes, capable of carrying thousands of automobiles along four traffic lanes. In December 2010, the tunnel was officially named after former New York Governor Hugh L. Carey.

On October 29, 2012, Superstorm Sandy made landfall on the East Coast of the United States – near Atlantic City, N.J. – with maximum winds of 80 miles per hour and driving rain. The Category 1 storm breached the seawalls in New Jersey and New York, causing massive flooding in streets, subways and tunnels. The Hugh L. Carey Tunnel itself was flooded with 60 million gallons (227 million liters) of salt water that needed to be removed from its two tubes. The damage done to the walls of the tunnel and the removal process required extensive repairs including 800,000 tile replacements and additional enhancements to prevent future disaster.

MAPEI solutions help repair and restore the tunnel

Preparing the installation bed with MAPEI’s Modified Mortar Bed.

Gibraltar Contracting, the tile contractor on the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel project, was asked to float a new mortar bed and install 400,000 sq. ft. (37 161 m2) of 6˝ x 6˝ (15 x 15 cm) Agrob Buchtal “Chroma” façade tiles across walls 15 feet high (4,57 m) of the 1.73 miles (2,78 km) of the Manhattan-to-Brooklyn side of the tunnel in the first phase of the restoration work. The Chroma tiles offer easier cleaning, as well as diffuse light for motorists. These tiles also act as a fire-retardant, providing a protective coating for the tunnel in the event of a fire.

Installing tiles with MAPEI’s Ultraflex 3.

The biggest challenge for the Gibraltar crew came in preparing the mud bed for the setting of the tiles. After the tunnel flooded, the removal of the original tiles left an extreme profile on the surface of the concrete walls. This profile had to be completely filled and leveled with a non-sagging mortar in order for the tiles to properly set. Further, engineers from the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority (TBTA), operator of the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, required the most efficient system for reconstructing the tunnel and specified very stringent requirements for restoration of the walls and the application of new tiles. The Gibraltar crew turned to MAPEI tile installation products for the high-quality durability the job specified.

View of the exterior entrances of the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel in New York.

The Gibraltar Contracting crew applied two lifts (float coats) of MAPEI’s Modified Mortar Bed, a premixed, cement-based, polymer-modified, thick-bed and render mortar that includes a blend of select aggregates. This was a great solution because, rather than requiring the use of a latex additive, Modified Mortar Bed only requires mixing with water to produce a high-performance bond. This mortar was applied to the damaged tunnel walls providing a smooth, curved substrate for the setting of the tiles.

With that challenge well met, the Gibraltar crew moved on to setting the nearly 800,000 white and

The maintenance access areas are designated with mint-green tiles.

blue tiles with yellow accents. Around the tunnel’s periodic maintenance access areas, they installed mint-green tiles to make these areas easily visible. Regardless of color, all of the tiles were set with Ultraflex™ 3, the strongest mortar in MAPEI’s Ultraflex series. The crew then grouted all the joints with Ultracolor® Plus FA, MAPEI’s fine-aggregate, fast-setting, efflorescence-free grout. Ultracolor Plus FA’s built-in DropEffect™ technology reduces surface absorption, helping to repel water, dirt and grime from penetrating grout joints.

Work on the Manhattan-to-Brooklyn tube of the

The Chroma tiles grouted with Ultracolor Plus FA.

tunnel was completed in March 2017. During the 2017-2018 timeframe, the Gibraltar crew repeated the entire process, heading through the other tube of the tunnel, from Brooklyn back to Manhattan. To ensure future protection from flooding, 44,600 pound bronze flood gates were also installed at either entrance of the tunnel. The 22˝ thick, 29´ x 14´ gates were made by Walz & Krenner, Inc., of Oxford, Connecticut, a marine-based-company specializing in the design and supply of custom watertight closures. MAPEI was honored to help in the restoration of one of New York City’s most historic tunnels. 

*According to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) website.

Source: http://www.nycroads.com/crossings/brooklyn-battery/#HFtSZKQUkU0zI7P6.99

The Hugh L. Carey Tunnel is a 9,117-foot tunnel under the East River that connects Brooklyn to Manhattan.