Addressing Fraud during the Coronavirus Crisis

With all the disruption of business as a result of the Coronavirus, companies are vulnerable to fraud. Matters can simply slip through the cracks as a tile contractor is dealing with urgent issues on cash flow, employees, state orders on what can and cannot be opened, and simply staying healthy. It is important, however, to ensure your business does not become a victim of fraud.

There are many types of fraud that affect businesses, but two schemes that are likely to occur during the current crisis is ACH and credit card fraud. Below are a couple of suggestions to protect your business.

ACH Fraud: One of the biggest concerns is Automated Clearing House (“ACH”) fraud. ACH is a system that enables the exchange of funds between businesses and individuals through the use of checks, wire transfers, and direct deposits. Criminals need only two pieces of information to commit ACH fraud: your business checking account number and your bank routing number. This means that anyone who has a check from your business may have all the information needed to steal money from your account through an ACH transfer, either by phone or online. Criminals are increasingly targeting small and mid-sized companies, because they often have less-sophisticated security systems than larger companies.

Many business owners assume the same rules of personal banking apply to commercial business accounts, but this is not the case. The law protecting electronic transfers apply only to personal bank accounts, not business accounts. For a personal account, the individual may have up to 60 days to report any fraud. In contrast, a commercial business has much less time to report cases of fraud. Many commercial claims must be reported within 24 hours. The burden is on the business owner to notify the bank immediately if there is a disputed transaction. 

There are a number of precautions a business can take to minimize the risk of being a victim of ACH fraud. The bottom line, and best single precaution, is that every business should check its account every day to ensure there are no suspicious activities. 

Credit Card Fraud: As a tile contractor, you handle credit card transactions every day. With the current issue on limiting business because of the Coronavirus, you may be handling more telephone and online transactions. If a customer orders tile online or calls in a credit card, you will not be able to use the chip and EMV terminal to protect against fraud. You can, however, avoid liability in these types of transactions by changing the way you handle phone and online orders.

The credit card companies recognize that the convenience of a credit card is important when buying online or over the telephone. Accordingly, the credit card issuers publish rules on how to handle “card not present” transactions. These rules are usually in the agreements you sign with the credit card issuer. The rules will require you to enter the card verification code (CVC) that is on the back of the credit card. The rules may also require you to verify other information, such as addresses and zip codes. You need to strictly follow the card issuer’s transaction authorization procedures. Any variation could leave you responsible if the transaction is fraudulent. It is recommended that you follow the requirements for all the credit cards you accept and train your employees on how to follow them to the letter. Complying with these rules will reduce the chances of you being responsible in case of fraud.

Notice: The information contained in this blog is abridged from legislation, court decisions, and administrative rulings and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion, and is not a substitute for the advice of counsel. 

How close to the tile wall can a linear drain be placed?

QUESTION

How close to the tile wall can a linear drain be placed?

I’m planning to use an elastomeric waterproofing membrane and install the mortar bed using the divot method around the drain.  Can the drain flange sit directly on the subfloor with mortar packed around it? I haven’t found a standard for thickness of the mortar bed around the drain flange.

ANSWER

Great question!

Many linear drains can be set right up to the wall so that the wall tile runs perpendicular down to the drain opening making a very clean look. Just need to make sure the drain top/grate is removable.

The type and manufacturer of the drain system you are installing will determine how close the drain body can be placed to the wall and how the waterproofing will be flashed to the drain body. As you know, it is critical to not have a cold joint or crack or debonded waterproofing connection from the wall to the drain body. If using a liquid, you might want to consider adding a scrim film to help with the bonding/connection. Please check with both the drain and liquid manufacturers to verify their instructions for the membrane connection in a close to wall configuration.

I am not familiar with every type of drain body out there but I do know there is at least one designed where the flange can be mounted fairly flush with the substrate. Best to check with the manufacturer of the drain body.

There are some bagged mud products that are designed to ramp down to aggregate level. I can’t vouch for their performance at such a thin layer at such a critical point as the transition to the drain in a shower floor. Are you using a bagged mud product? Does the manufacturer of the waterproofing membrane have one that will work well with their membrane system at such a thin layer?

If the manufacturers of the drain and setting materials are able to give you a written confirmation of their concurrence with this install you should be good to go. If not, I would reconsider and go with a different approach. Hope this helps! 

– Mark Heinlein, NTCA Training Director

Can we install over the sheetrock using a bonding primer or would it be better to install over a cement backer?

QUESTION

We are about to install 16” x 16” terrazzo cement tile (2cm) on a 10” x 10” wall in a doctor’s office. The wall is a painted sheetrock. Can we install over the sheetrock using a bonding primer or would it be better to install over a cement backer?

ANSWER

The NTCA Reference Manual lists paint as a questionable substrate.

It may likely be better to install over a substrate that does not have paint beneath the bond coat where the bond of the paint to the substrate must be relied on to support the installation.

Some manufacturers have mortars or primer/mortar combinations that will bond to a variety of questionable substrates including paint. Consult your tile and primer manufacturer for their recommendation for adhering this particular tile to the substrate. 

Also be certain to check with the tile manufacturer to understand the required minimum deflection criteria for this type of tile. It will be at least L/360 or higher. 

– Mark Heinlein, NTCA Training Director

How to future-proof the use of social media for your business

You can combine your business savvy and common sense so that social media supports your overall goals now and into the future.

Whoever coined the phrase “the only thing certain is change” must have been talking about social media. For those of us who use social media to support business goals, it can be challenging to keep up with best practices and strategies amidst all the ebbs and flows across the various social platforms. 

Despite ongoing changes, I come bearing good news! Regardless of nothing staying the same, you can use social media confidently – and effectively – by holding to some key strategies and tactics that never change. You can combine your business savvy and common sense so that social media supports your overall goals now and into the future.

The ideas you’ll find here can be applied to your endeavors on just about any social media platform. These days, our industry is most active on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest (maybe in that order), but down the road, that mix may change. Even if it does, these core strategies will likely translate so that you can keep going strong with social media.

Make every post and interaction point to true north (your business goal)

What is your goal in using social media? While there can be many good and reasonable answers to that question, you’re ultimately aiming to get customers to purchase from you. This goal is the proverbial true north, and your “posting compass” should always point to it as you engage with followers and create content for business purposes. 

Every post shouldnt be directly selling something. Social media is about SHARING – not selling.

IMPORTANT: This does not mean that every post should be directly selling something. Social media is about SHARING – not selling. With social media, you’re getting customers to know, like, and trust you, so that they’ll prefer to work with your business now and in the future. And, actually, it’s this subtlety that makes the need to remember your ultimate goal so necessary. If you don’t have true north solidly in mind as you create content, it’s easy to get off course and “post just to post.”

You don’t want to crank out content without purpose or interact with followers without focused intention. Always remember: you’re using social media for the professional goal of earning paying gigs. Social media works best when you opt to show in order to tell!

Go with Inspo, Info, and Get-to-Know content to connect with customers

If you’re wondering what to post on a day-to-day basis, default to “Inspo and Info” posts supported by “Get-to-Know” posts. 

While photos are a constant go-to (this industry is visual; always remember that!), video content also performs really well on social media. Feel free to use both stills and video in your posts, whether you’re sharing inspiration, information, or inviting folks to get to know you.

Inspo – “Inspo” is short for “inspiration” and is a term often used on social media. Inspirational images and videos are great for our visually driven industry. Inspiration posts can spark ideas and get customers’ minds turning as they plan upcoming projects. With ongoing Inspo posts, you can become a resource for tile design ideas – the go-to for designers who seek the unique.

Inspirational post ideas:

  • Pretty tile, of course! – nicely arranged samples, color stories, close-ups to show product details, quick video clips to show play of light over tile texture
  • Real room scenes – images of actual installations – can be pro or amateur shots
  • Theme images – images featuring tile photos that align with/are related to special days (#mosaicmonday, #tiletuesday, #walltilewednesday #fridaysfloor); images that showcase your expertise in certain applications or market segments (i.e. – our top five flooring installations, our most recent master bathroom projects, etc.)

Info – There’s so much to learn about tile installation. By sharing helpful information you can establish yourself as the ultimate expert in the industry – a trusted source for practical and important insights that help specifiers transform their beautiful inspiration into real-life installations. 

Informational post ideas: always includes a compelling image while conveying pertinent content

  • Installation tips – useful insights that help designers work with you as they make specifications, facts/info to help them intelligently and confidently spec the right tile for their projects, tips on what to ask you at various junctures during projects
  • Ideas for specific applications – i.e. – considerations for high-traffic flooring, wall tile for shopping malls, top three priorities for tile in healthcare facilities
  • Did you know? posts – posts that succinctly explain miscellaneous tile terms and interesting tile-related tidbits such as “What is DCOF and why does it matter?”
  • Technical performance features – i.e. – advantages of certain types of tiles for specific applications.

Get-to-Know – These posts are the chance to showcase your personality, as well as the personality of your business. They can be excellent when used intermittently to help customers come to know, like and trust you even more.

Get-to-Know post ideas: considered to be intermittent, filler content – tertiary to Inspo & Info posts

  • Quick intro – a post in which you introduce yourself and explain your role with the company; nice to sprinkle into your regular posts a few times a year, so people can see your smiling face and get acquainted or reacquainted with the person behind the posts
  • Industry involvement – pics from trade shows, workshops, association events, etc. – purposed in highlighting how you are always learning and staying on top of the latest for the tile installation industry
  • Community involvement – posts that showcase participation in local events, activities, charitable happenings that convey you’re someone locally connected who cares about the community at large – making you relatable and “real” to your customers
Focus on Inspo and Info posts, supported by Get-To-Know posts.

Make your socials local

Social media should live up to its name by being reciprocal, conversational, and interactive.

Want to catch your ideal customers? “Fish where the fish are…and use the best bait.” 

That’s an old adage, but it’s a really helpful reminder for the modern age of social media marketing. It’s better to catch 50 “fish” that are likely to bite than 5,000 that are just swimming by. Remembering that the true north for your social endeavors is to get more people to hire your company, you’ll want to employ all the targeting tactics possible to catch your best customers. 

  • Use local hashtags – The social media hashtag is fundamentally a search tool. It was born as a way for people who have a shared interest in a topic to easily find and follow posts about that topic within social platforms. To that end, choose words and phrases in the same way you would determine key search terms for a website’s search engine optimization (SEO). 
  • Be topical, but also be geographically specific in order to increase chances of connecting with people who could actually come into your showroom. For example, “#dallas” has 17 million hits on Instagram, while #dallasdesigner has 88K; however, it’s a pretty sure bet the most targeted audience is following the latter hashtag. 
  • Do a little research to determine the top hashtags being used by your local customers and relevant audiences. Use those hashtags in all your posts – every time you post – to help attract more of the right eyeballs to your content. 
  • Insider tip: Create a note on your phone with your collection of “always include” hashtags. Then, you can simply copy and paste them in your captions each time you post from your phone. 
  • Tag other accounts – Tag brands, designers, and customers any chance you get when posting. This will help ensure that the relevant parties will see (and possibly share) your content. 
  • Include geo-locations – Whether you’re posting from a job site or your office, include your location in the post. The social platforms are typically more likely to “show” content to followers who are in your area, so be sure to include where you are to potentially increase targeted views. 

Make your socials, well, social! 

Social media should live up to its name by being reciprocal, conversational, and interactive. As much as the content you post should hit the right marks, you should also be present in other ways on social media, as well – for best results.

Follow strategically 

  • Find the right fish” – Identify the folks and firms in your area that you know…or want to know, and follow or connect with them. Even if you never posted anything, you could still get lots out of your social media simply by following and then watching what these strategically selected accounts share. It makes for excellent market research; in the marketing biz, this is known as “social listening,” and it can be a great source of ideas and insights to help you grow your business.
  • Be comprehensive – In creating your follows and connections, start local by targeting interior designers, builders, A&D firms, installers, media outlets, design influencers, partner brands (such as manufacturers and setting materials companies), sales reps with partner brands, and regional chapters of associations in your area. 
  • Follow suit, so to speak – Every now and then, take notice of the accounts that your top followers are following and follow those accounts, as well. This is a useful tactic for expanding your targeted circle.

Engage regularly, meaningfully

  • Comment and like – Take a few minutes each day to show some love and pay attention to those you’re following on social media. Like others’ posts. Comment on what they share. Chime in if you have an idea that might be helpful or can answer a question they might have. 
  • Be conversational – Social media works best when treated with the standards you’d expect in an actual, in-person interaction. By keeping a conversational tone that invites response/back-and-forth interaction, you are more likely to keep a connection going and, over time, deepen the relationship. One kind word or question that shows genuine interest and curiosity can go a long way to winning over a customer and earning her loyalty.
  • Share others’ content – See something wonderful that is relevant/fun/offers inspo or info? Share it (make sure you have permission to do so), and give lots of acknowledgement to the account/person that posted it first. People love it when their content really resonates, and they often are thrilled that their posts are deemed “regrammable” or shareable. This is a great tactic to employ when someone has tagged you or the brand in her post; it’s a great, easy way to amplify the message.

Seek support and suggestions anytime

Please feel free to reach out to me if you ever have questions about social media or digital marketing. I have 22 years of experience in the tile industry, and through my digital marketing agency, Msg2Mkt, LLC, I lead marketing strategies for a range of clients. I’m more than happy to offer specific insights. Find me at [email protected].

Repairing Saltillo tile

QUESTION

I got a call today from a customer who chipped her Saltillo tile and wants to know if it can be repaired. The tile actually has many chips and imperfections, but these particular chips took the outer glaze or sealer off of them, exposing the raw clay. Could I go over the open spots with a high-gloss sealer and close them up? Any ideas or guidance would be greatly appreciated.

ANSWER

Depending on the depth of the chip, the application of a high gloss sealer could work. One important component when using sealers over pre-sealed tile is to make sure that the sealers are compatible with each other. Whenever two sealers are not compatible, it can leave a white cloudy appearance on the tile that is difficult and sometimes impossible to remove. So always do a test area in an inconspicuous place like a closet or behind a refrigerator. If you can identify what was used originally to seal the floor, it would be ideal to use that product. Many times changing the color of the clay underbody that is visible in the chipped area by sealing makes the chip virtually disappear. I hope this helps. 

– Robb Roderick, NTCA Technical Trainer

Eldorado Stone introduces new, lighter color palette

 Eldorado Stone, a Boral brand, introduces a new color palette to accentuate the classically-inspired aesthetics of one of its most popular profiles. As more nuanced, up-to-date design options remain in high demand from project specifiers, the innovative multilayered color notes in Loire Valley™ RoughCut® artfully blend contemporary hues with classic, nature-inspired textures to enhance residential and commercial spaces.

Eldorado Stone adds a new lighter palette with its innovative multilayered color notes in Loire Valley RoughCut.

“There has been an increased interest in classic looks with a contemporary twist, so we created this new color palette to refresh one of our most time-honored profiles,” said Sarah Lograsso, Director of Marketing. “With the introduction of Loire Valley RoughCut, specifiers can now incorporate a fresh new color into their projects while still embracing more traditional stone surfaces.”

Inspired by the French countryside after which it derives its name, Loire Valley RoughCut presents a sophisticated gradient of ivories and muted creams with touches of sand and rust. The bold, hand-formed shapes of RoughCut incorporate embedded, fossilized artifacts on a roughly cleaved, pronounced face to mimic the character of limestone.

According to Remodeling Magazine, manufactured stone provides one of the highest return values of any material. Incorporating stone veneer into interior and exterior projects is a more cost-effective and higher quality finish than many other materials. An exterior façade made with manufactured stone veneer can enhance curb appeal and potentially increase home value, while using stone indoors can create a distinctive space that blends natural world elements with modern design.

To learn more about Eldorado Stone and its products, visit EldoradoStone.com.

Antolini debuts Crema Cielo marble

Mother Nature has always provided the strongest and most artistic designs imaginable. Antolini has over 60 years of experience harnessing this natural power allowing us to revel in our world’s innate elegance. New to Antolini’s lineup is the Exclusive Stone: Crema Cielo.

Antolini’s Crema Cielo

Allow yourself to be enamoured by Crema Cielo’s captivating presence in this interior design. This marble is revolutionary to the divine setting, capturing the fine details of this stone. As the room transcends into a delicate and contemporary union, Antolini has perfected Haute Nature in any design.

Captivating movement is evident in Crema Cielo

The cascading delicate and soft hues descend sinuously and create an admirable kinship throughout the surface of this fine marble. The fluent Crema Cielo enhances the spaces and gives a sense of lightness and spontaneity thanks to the wavy streams that allow a constantly evolving smooth shape.

For more information, visit http://www.antolini.com.

Why Tile is your ceramic tile education resource

Three years ago, the ceramic tile industry leaders came together to create what is now Why Tile. This initiative is the tile industry’s joint effort to promote the use and benefits of ceramic tile. In the past three years, with contributions from leading industry organizations and manufacturers that regularly add to Why Tile’s already-robust content, Why Tile has become the tile industry’s key educational resource for free informative tools, inspiration and tile related assets.

Kathy Meyer, TCNA’s Director of Marketing, explained that
WhyTile.com offers information on where and how to use tile, explanations on why tile should be selected over other materials; plus, the site is a rich source of design and style inspiration. Meyer added that the Application and Industry tools are produced with architect/design professionals in mind. 

The Why Tile tools can help professionals create designs using ceramic tile for a wide range of purposes. Much of the information is sorted by industries, such as using tile in retail, corporate, and healthcare environments, or by application, such as using tile for the bathroom, kitchen, and roofing.

For those searching for inspiration, Why Tile offers a robust design gallery created to help users envision the beautiful spaces they can create. The ever-growing gallery now boasts over 800 photos that can be filtered by residential, commercial, industry, project, tile style, décor, and color. 

WhyTile.com also offers a variety of case studies and videos to be used by the industry professional. The site showcases over a dozen case studies that detail the advantages of tile in real scenarios, including commercial, industrial and residential applications. The videos include nine videos on ceramic tile as a safe choice, eight videos on ceramic tile as ideal for any application, and seven videos discussing qualified labor. Why Tile also offers a resource library that includes tile maintenance tips, common terms and definitions, tile schematics, and various guides and educational information on topics such as sustainability and EPDs. 

Why Tile Partner Portal

Additional tools are available on the Why Tile Partner Portal. These partners are companies and organizations that support Why Tile to promote the benefits of ceramic tile. Partner tools include tips and tools for promoting  tile, monthly social posts that can be used on partners’ own social channels, and a Why Tile presentation that can be used to help companies promote the benefits of tile. 

Recently, Why Tile added two new resources to the Why Tile Partner Portal. The first is the Why Tile partner badge, that can be placed on a partners’ website. The second resource includes a handout on the phase one plastic-based material (PBM) flooring research results. This research discusses PBM’s popularity with products such as LVT, LVP, WCP, RCB, and addresses marketing claims with regards to waterproofness, mold resistance, DCOF, and scratch resistance.

“This research is important to help educate professionals and consumers about plastic-based material flooring,” Meyer said. “We feel it is critical that buyers and specifiers understand what they are potentially choosing when they select PBM (vinyl) flooring products.”

Meyer also noted that Why Tile is currently developing video assets to coincide with the PBM research. The videos will be available on the Partner Portal. 

Heritage/Craftsmanship tab planned for 2020

Later this year, WhyTile.com plans to revamp its Heritage tab, transitioning it to include information on the historical significance and craftsmanship of tile. The historical portion will discuss how tile has evolved from what it was in ancient Rome to what has become today. The craftsmanship portion will discuss qualified labor, provide links to association partner and training resources, and offer tile career information.

Avia Haynes, Director of Marketing & Communications for the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA), said, “We look forward to the launch of the new ‘Heritage/Craftsmanship’ tab. It will help deliver the message that beautiful tile will withstand the test of time when it is installed correctly. Correct installation requires qualified labor.” Haynes and other NTCA staff and members are working with Why Tile to develop content for the new tab.

Meyer encourages professionals who have not used the Why Tile site to take advantage of this opportunity to provide a better service to customers. “All of the resources we offer, including the Why Tile Partner assets, are free,” she said. “We encourage everyone to become a Why Tile Partner, use the website, and promote the benefits of tile.”

DCOF rating requirements for interior and exterior tile

QUESTION

I’m looking for a straightforward synopsis of DCOF rating requirements for interior and exterior tile. I’m finding a lot of long-winded articles, but nothing clear and concise, especially related to exterior. Do you know where I could find that?

ANSWER 1

I’m not aware of a simple formula for determining required DCOF for a given installation.

Tiles are tested to determine their Dynamic Coefficient of Friction using a machine that mimics the start/stop/pivot motion of a human step. The test is done with the tile lying flat and a slightly slippery liquid applied to its surface. The testing machine produces a decimal number, e.g. 0.42, that depicts the slip resistance of the tile under the prescribed test conditions.

A tile with a DCOF rating of 0.42 may work well in a given situation. Differing situations may require a different DCOF. For example, an exterior public pool deck that is pitched for drainage and is exposed to very wet conditions will likely need a tile with a higher DCOF than a private bath floor that is flat, has occasional use and gets slightly wet.

– Mark Heinlein, NTCA Training Director

ANSWER 2

For a straightforward overview of the DCOF, go to the 2019 edition of the TCNA Handbook on page 4. You should also review the ANSI A137.1 Specifications for Ceramic Tile section 6.2.2.1.10 found on  pages 15-16 and section 9.6.1 found on pages 24-29.

As you review this standard, you will find this statement in part, “The standard now requires a minimum wet DCOF AcuTest value of 0.42 for ceramic tiles for level interior spaces expected to be walked upon when wet.”

The DCOF test is conducted using the BOT 3000, or an equivalent, to test individual non-installed tiles using a solution of SLS (Sodium-Lauryl Sulfate) in a 0.05% concentration with the BOT 3000 traveling 10” across the tested tile. Realize that the tested tile and tiles out of the box may and most times will have a different DCOF than an in-service installed tile. Factors such as environmental conditions immediately after a rain storm, melting snow, oil, grease, maintenance regimen and/or any other elements that reduce traction, create slippery conditions where the risk of a slip cannot be completely eliminated. 

The BOT 3000 is a device for measuring the dynamic coefficient of friction (DCOF) of ceramic tile and many other hard surface floorings.

To paraphrase the standard, the DCOF test only applies to interior level surfaces expected to be walked on when wet. It does not cover tiles installed on exterior applications, sloped surfaces, areas exhibiting poor drainage, or polished products. 

If needed or required, the services of a company utilizing the BOT 3000, or equivalent device, can be used to test an on-site tile installation to determine its DCOF. 

– Scott Carothers, Director of Certification and Training, Ceramic Tile Education Foundation

RESPONSE

At least I know it wasn’t just me who couldn’t find information on the exterior standard. This information does help, and I’ll keep it to reference, but for my specific situation running a test wouldn’t work, timing-wise. 

It sounds like there’s a need for an exterior standard, but I’m guessing this hasn’t happened because conditions can vary so greatly. 

Heating up the house

Manufacturers offer advice for successful floor warming installations

Electric underfloor heating systems have come a long way since the old days. They offer comfort underfoot, ease of installation, and smart controls that can be programmed or can learn a consumer’s pattern of use, delivering toasty warm floors when users arrive home.

An example of today’s electric floor warming options: ARDEX FLEXBONE® HEAT In-Floor Heating Systems

And fortunately, ceramic and porcelain tile are excellent choices for radiant heated flooring, said Thomas Utley, Technical Specialist FLEXBONE HEAT/ARDEX Tile and Stone Installation Systems. “They have high thermal conductivity and retain heat better than other flooring choices. The thickness of the tile has little impact on the heat output but the heating time is increased with thicker tiles.”

But like any product, there are things to keep in mind for a successful electric floor warming installation. We surveyed a few of the top electric floor warming manufacturers to get their recommendations for foolproof installations.

Top tips for contractors

What are the top things contractors should keep in mind when working with electric floor warming systems? First of all, “Contractors should be mindful that the desired flooring finish must be compatible and tolerant of the thermal fluctuations these systems can exert, in order to ensure there is no damage to the flooring,” LATICRETE’s International’s Art Mintie, Senior Director of Technical Services, said. 

The Warmly Yours system uses the low-profile Prodeso Heat mat with 3.7 watt electric TempZone heating cables, ensuring proper spacing throughout the project. 

He also cautioned contractors to choose the best type of underfloor heating system that suits their specific needs. “Hydronic (liquid) systems are a popular alternative that rival electric radiant floor heating systems by pumping heated water from a boiler through tubing laid in a pattern under the floor,” he explained. “These systems are also often more expensive and are recommended to be installed at the time of construction, whereas electric radiant floor heating systems are a great retrofitting project that can be done at any time.”

Since these ARE electric systems, Regis Verliefde, Territory Director, NAM of Warmup said, “It’s important for the tile installer to double/triple check coverage and spacing to provide the desired solution for the consumer. While most systems install in a similar way, some are for comfort heat and some are built to heat the whole room. Installers should get familiar with which systems do what and what spacing or insulation to provide on a cold basement slab, for example.” 

Respect Ohm’s Law

The Warmup Alligator tester clips straight to the heating cables and monitors them during installation. 

It’s a good idea to recognize that cutting electric heating elements to make it fit your project is a bad idea, said Julia Billen, owner and president of Warmly Yours. “Because of Ohm’s Law, if floor heating cables are shortened, the resistance of the cables will be correspondingly lowered, which in turn drives up the voltage and wattage,” she said. “This can cause the heat output of the system to go over the limits set by national or local code or, in some cases, even cause the heating system to fail. It’s important to work with a floor heating distributor to ensure you have the right amount of heating elements for your project.”

She also recommends testing the heating elements often with a digital ohmmeter – before, during and after installation. “In between ohmmeter tests, we recommend that you use a continuity alarm that is connected to the heating cables that will sound an alarm if the cable is damaged,” she added. She also advised taking measures to avoid damaging the floor heating cables during installation. 

“One way to avoid this is to install the floor heating mats (if that’s the system-type being used) upside down so that the mat material can protect the cables from damage by trowels or other tools,” she recommended. “Another way is to avoid using metal trowels or floats to apply the thinset on top of the heating system, as these can occasionally damage the floor heating cables.”  

Plan ahead

Carefully calculate the length of heating cable required based on the floor space, minimum clearance from fixed building elements and other objects.

Sean Gerolimatos, Director of Research and Development with Schluter Systems, emphasized preplanning before you start. “It is important to read and understand all product/system and code requirements, create a detailed plan, and execute it diligently,” he said. 

Gerolimatos also suggested, “Carefully calculate the length of heating cable required based on the floor space, minimum clearance from fixed building elements and other objects, and coverage of the heating cable at the manufacturer recommended spacing.” Another great suggestion he offered was to be sure “the owner and any other trades on the project know where heating cable is installed (photos are helpful) to avoid damage during subsequent work.”

Be sure to order the proper amount of heating wire for the job. Shown is the Prodeso Heat system by Progress Profiles.

Domenico Borelli, Vice President and CEO of Progress Profiles America echoed other suggestions, adding that it’s crucial that the “subfloor is suitable for tile installation and electrical radiant heat.” One may think that goes without saying, but establishing a suitable subfloor is essential in any tile installation, especially one that uses electrical mats and cables to provide floor warming. He also emphasized exact, accurate measurements and ordering the proper amount of heating wire for the job. 

ARDEX’s Utley also advised contractors to “Plan to include a second sensor wire in your layout. Only one will get connected initially. The back-up sensor can then easily be connected to the thermostat in the wall without disturbing the flooring installation.”

Even heat distribution is a must

Underfloor heating can develop cold spots when the warmth cannot be evenly distributed. LATICRETE’s STRATA_HEAT™Thermal Pack – used  in conjunction with the STRATA_HEAT electric radiant floor heating system – employs Thermal Diffusion Technology™ to distribute heat uniformly throughout the adhesive. 

In addition, heat sink and heat loss are two primary issues that can arise when installing electric radiant floor heating, LATICRETE’s Mintie offered. “Generally, a backer board with insulation properties can be placed over the concrete slab in order to assist and prevent these from happening. For plywood substrates, installers should conform to TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation requirements when installing ceramic, porcelain or dimension stone tile finishes over heated flooring systems.

The new Mapeheat system from MAPEI includes membrane, cable, and three kinds of thermostats to choose from. 

Sonya Moste, Product Manager, MAPEI Crack Isolation and Sound Control Membranes also advised contractors to plan for even distribution of heat. “Hot spots and cold spots detract from the experience of a heated floor so consistent watt density is critical,” she said. “Things that make this task easier are pre-built custom mats designed specifically for the individual floor shape or a floor heating membrane with heating cable that has flexible layout requirements (i.e. no restrictions on run length and no requirement for tension loops).” She also suggested “future-proofing the installation with WiFi thermostats featuring connectivity with multiple connected home systems (such as Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, IFTTT, Nest, Control4, etc.) and also offering an Open API for custom smart home integrations.” 

Don’t underestimate manufacturer support, she advised. “Choose manufacturers that will back their products and the completed installation for 25 years, or more, and make sure the warranty is not pro-rated (in other words, make sure the coverage isn’t for half the value after half of the warranty period has passed),” she said. And a knowledgeable technical support team that offers on-site and telephone consultation is worth its weight in gold.

Working with electricians

To follow code, you will need to work with an electrician to complete this project. It’s essential to coordinate your services for ultimate success. Progress Profiles’ Borelli said, “A 10 minute conversation at the job site will save time and money and aggravation later.” And MAPEI’s Moste pointed out that it’s a good idea to “work with manufacturers that have experience dealing with both trades. The best certification programs will cater to tile contractors and electricians.”

Tile contractors and electricians should test the heating cables at every stage of the installation.

A good suggestion from Warmup’s Verliefde is to leave the product tag with wattage and voltage attached to the lead wire or inside the roughed-in electrical box, ensuring the right voltage breaker is provided for the job. He also recommended that contractors locate where the electrician has roughed-in the thermostat box and start the system at the base of that point on the wall. “And if your system is over 250 sq. ft., have a quick chat with the electrical contractor to discuss power supply and the best location for the power connections,” he added. 

Warmly Yours’ Billen insisted that tile contractors and electricians test the heating cables at every stage of the installation, and record and communicate those readings to each other to ensure the system remains functional at every stage of the process. 

At Schluter, Gerolimatos noted that different floor systems may have different orders of installation, so as he suggested earlier in this story – plan and acquaint yourself with the quirks of the particular system you are working with. 

“It’s also important to establish where the responsibility of each trade begins and ends,” he said. “For example, some jurisdictions allow tile setters to layout the heating cables, where others require the electrician do so.” 

And finally he mentioned that connecting a 120V heating cable to a 240V power source is one of the most common mistakes when installing electric floor warming systems. “This can be easily avoided with a little bit of planning ahead of time,” he explained. “Check the available power source and make sure to order the corresponding heating cable (120V cable for 120V power, 240V cable for 240V power).” 

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