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).” 

Installing tile when a pattern is involved

Michael Moreno noted, “The tile itself isn’t a handmade tile, but they are somewhat irregular on all six sides and the installation did have its difficulties because of this. Experience is key in these situations.”

Installing ceramic tile can be challenging enough in itself, but when the job calls for a tile pattern, life for contractors and installers can get more difficult than usual. There are several different obstacles in play when it comes to putting down a tile pattern, and it’s part of the job for the contractor to recognize, assess and overcome each as they present themselves.

According to Michael Moreno, Owner, Artisan Tile, Lompoc, Calif., tile patterns, generally, aren’t difficult. “The problems I have run into are when the pattern is on an irregular or handmade tile,” he said. “Patterned handmade tile can and does cause problems when taking a change of plane. The pattern and the tile often want to do two separate things. 

“Change of plane with a handmade tile is already problematic in matching joints,” he explained, “especially on a diagonal. Add a pattern onto the tile and it can be a tug of war between matching the joints and pattern. It becomes a game of averaging between the two.”

The J&R Tile team precut, dry-laid, and asked for approval prior to installation. The octagons in this project were five different pieces.

As Erin Albrecht, principal/executive vice present, J&R Tile, San Antonio,Texas, noted, two different thicknesses are always a challenge, and scribing and inlay work with porcelain can be difficult when not using the right tooling and blade setup. “A ‘random’ (not to scale, artistic freedom of installer) is always a little nerve racking when a designer wants something to be an organic outline or interpretation of a drawing.

“That freedom of the installation team can make us nervous at times,” she explained, “versus a formal drawing, because of the design intent’s risk of being lost in interpretation and an owner/client being disappointed by the outcome.”

Martin Brookes, founder/owner, Heritage Marble & Tile, Mill Valley, Calif., believes partnering with material manufacturers and asking for job-specific installation materials reduces the risk of failure, while presenting the scope of work to the client gains their trust in his company’s ability to perform the task. 

“Everything is dry-laid, and issues are discussed ahead of time so the expectation can be achieved,” Brookes explained. “Careful reading of all tile and setting material literature is done prior to starting the job. We have an understanding of how critical the layout can be. Even with a perfect installation, if this is overlooked, the install can fall short of expectations.”

According to Sal DiBlasi, the secret to installing patterned tile is all about planning and communication with the owner to explain what the plan is, what is possible and what is unfeasible.

Sal DiBlasi, owner, Elite Tile Co., Medford, Mass., believes the difficulty inherent with pattern tile jobs depends on the type and size of the tile, and the pattern being installed. “If it is a larger tile with a complicated repeating pattern involving several sizes of tile, just keeping the pattern correct can be a challenge,” DiBlasi said. 

Like Brookes, he believes layout is “another headache. You need to be sure to get decent size cuts,” he explained. “This can be time consuming and has to be correct, since once you start installing tile, it cannot be changed. I’ve found that using the smallest tile as a unit to figure out the layout will generally make it easier. The layout becomes much harder when you must consider kitchen cabinets, an island, and if the floor branches out into other areas.”

Another challenge, said DiBlasi, is size, which apparently really does matter. For smaller, or mosaic tiles, he noted, you want to avoid having tiny cuts at thresholds at the tub or where they’ll be visible. “If you can’t avoid them, lay out the floor so all the ‘bad’ cuts will be in inconspicuous areas or where they’ll be covered,” DiBlasi said. 

If the area is symmetrical, he explained, “then balance is another important consideration. “You don’t want the area to look lopsided or uneven. Grout is another concern: Do you want the pattern to be the dominant visual effect, or do you want it to be subdued? A contrasting grout will make the pattern stand out, while a grout that blends will pull the color and texture of the tile to the eye.”

How should contractors overcome tile pattern problems? According to Moreno, it’s all about doing it. “Understanding what you are looking at and what you need to do to fix it comes with experience.”

DiBlasi concurs, and said, in addition to planning and communication, having 35 years in the business means he can draw on the experience of past projects to help figure out what to do next. “This isn’t to say new challenges don’t arise, but having that many years as an installer really helps.”

Martin Brookes noted, when it comes to working with pattern tile, his firm makes sure the installers never feel pressured into installing tile until the layout is approved. “Earlier in the year we did a mosaic wall. We knew it would be challenging, and the contractor was nervous, given he had a previous experience with the same tile that failed. He had many questions, which we answered with confidence. The artist, Johanna Poethig, was heavily involved in the layout. Her vision came to fruition and the rendition almost mirror imaged the finished project. This collaboration and patience really paid off and everyone was happy with the end results.”

Slopes and Soffits

The challenges and successes of the Marriott AC Residence Inn Midtown façades project

Exterior façade installations can be challenging and complex, and the product used in the process can make or break a project. 

For the AC Hotel and Residence Inn by Marriott in Dallas – a $4 billion mixed-use development in bustling Dallas Midtown – the façade installation appeared to be a daunting task at first, but proved to be a success largely due to the material specified.

To reflect the neighborhood’s resurgence, local award-winning architects 5G Studio Collaborative sought an outside-the-box, contemporary design to match the timelessness, comfort and authenticity of the Marriott brand. Particularly, they wanted a natural look; however, genuine rock materials can be susceptible to staining and breakage, requiring copious maintenance.

Distributors and fabricators Holland Marble in Carrollton, Texas, introduced the architects to Neolith®, a market-leading brand of Sintered Stone. They explained the range of possibilities that could be achieved, having used the product in a wide variety of other projects and hotels across the country, including La Quinta, Kriya, Aloft, and Marriott Courtyard. Neolith was the perfect choice as it mimics the appearance of natural stone, without the weight and upkeep.

Impressed by what they were shown, 5G selected Neolith Calacatta, a color that recreates the look of white Italian marble and is characterized by a uniform grey vein with hints of gold, bringing vitality to the exterior of the hotel. The hue was well-suited for the project, as a light-colored façade is essential in a state like Texas due to the fact that it reflects heat and keeps buildings cool. 

Challenges

Marriott AC Residence Inn Midtown façadesThe architects were unsure at first about how to proceed with the project, as the building has an unusual structure. They struggled with the rainscreen system and how to apply it to the exterior sloped soffits, which measured 10’ on one side and zero on the other. Currently, there is no rainscreen system in place that can attach pieces of material that slope down to zero.

The second concern was the shape of the panels. The trapezoidal pieces, up to 10’ long on one side and 44” down to 14” on the other, had to be fastened to the sloped exterior ceiling and intersect the panels on the sloped soffit at the exact correct point, ensuring that when finished the ceiling panels met the top of the glass store front on the hotel. Further, the installers, Tristone Innovation of Houston, whose work was overseen by Holland Marble’s President, Peter Holland, and Commercial Sales Manager, Zuzana Holland, had to rework the fastening system to allow for 8’ light fixtures that needed to be added to the sloped ceiling.

A third aspect was the east feature wall on the building that had to be framed out at a slight angle. This complicated the fabrication details for both the Neolith panel fabricators and the aluminum composite material panels (ACM) fabricators due to the difficulty of meeting and successfully connecting both products at the corner of the building. With several revisions the final install was realized.

The stronger the better

To overcome the project’s challenges, Neolith provided installation and technical support through implementation of its StrongFix system. 

The fastening solution is tailored specifically for individual installation projects offering a complete package: the slabs, anchoring system, cutting and assembling services, and consulting all stem from a single source. This avoids the complications that arise with rainscreen systems, the joints of which have to be attached at certain intervals.

Innovative infrastructure

In a bustling metropolis, the requirements for a hotel to be successful are abundant. It takes a combination of imagination and dedication to create a concept that will work, not only in terms of the hotel’s level of service, but its overall aesthetic.

Together with 5G, Tristone Innovation, and Holland Marble, Neolith has helped bring to life the vision of this hotel brand while setting the standard for future architecture of Dallas Midtown. 

Marriott AC Residence Inn Midtown façades

The top ten requirements for a quality tile installation

In this article, the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) Blog Team updated an earlier piece about what makes a quality tile installation. These pointers are instructional to a wide audience, including A&D professionals, reinforcing the importance of working with skilled, qualified tile installers and writing other important details into the spec like movement accommodation joints and flat and level surfaces to ensure not just a beautiful installation, but a long-term, well-performing one. Read on, and visit www.ceramictilefoundation.org/blog for more informational articles, as well as related links for this story. – Ed.


What does it take to ensure that you have a quality tile installation? Based on our experience, knowledge and work with the Tile Council of North America (TCNA) Handbook, we have identified 10 requirements. Note that these aren’t all industry requirements. However, they all contribute to a quality tile installation. Here they are:

1. Hire only skilled tile installers

Only well-trained and experienced tile installers can produce installations of the highest quality that provide long-lasting beauty and functionality. Realize that tile isn’t just a decorative layer in a home or commercial building. It must meet specific standards so that it performs as it should over time.

In order to differentiate this quality oriented tile installer from others in the field, consider hiring a CTEF Certified Tile Installer (CTI). CTIs have proven that they have the knowledge and skills that meet industry standards and best practices.

2. Incorporate movement accommodation joints in the tile installation

All tile installations, both residential and commercial, will move with temperature and humidity variations.

To accommodate this expansion and contraction activity, the use of expansion joints per the TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation method EJ171 is essential and required in all tile work. As stated in the Handbook, “The design professional or engineer shall show the specific locations and details of movement joints on project drawings.”

Be certain that all parties involved in the project including the architect, the specifier, the designer, the salesperson and the tile installer know and understand the critical use and placement of expansion joints.

3. Work only with premium materials to install tile

The use of premium quality bonding materials is money well spent.

Merriam-Webster defines premium as: “of exceptional quality or amount; also, higher priced.” 

Exceptional quality comes at a price. The components that are added to these materials provide enhanced characteristics that affect both function and durability. For instance, saving a couple of pennies per square foot on a conventional and less-expensive thin-set mortar rather than using a feature-laden, large-and-heavy-tile mortar is a foolish idea.

Tile industry experts agree this is one of the easiest insurance policies for preventing installation problems. All types of setting materials are available in various performance levels to meet the requirements of the job.

Contact the setting material manufacturer for products with the specific characteristics and performance levels necessary for success. Always pay attention to manufacturer instructions.

Additionally, always read and follow the manufacturer’s guidelines printed on the bag of any product since the mixing requirements and/or application may be different than materials used in the past.

4. Confirm that tile installation surfaces are flat

In order to provide a flat ceramic or stone tile installation, carpenters, masons, concrete finishers and other trades must meet the tile industry standards for flatness tolerances.

If substandard surfaces are encountered, they must be corrected before installation begins. Otherwise, you will not have a quality tile installation: the quality of the installation will be compromised.

5. Verify that the tile installation surface is rigid

Ceramic tile installations require a stiff or rigid surface. In some cases, installations, including natural stone, may require additional subflooring, wall studs or bracing. Realize that the substrate for natural stone tile installations must be twice as rigid as that for a ceramic or porcelain tile installation.

Tile contractors should always follow the applicable recommendations of the TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation, the ANSI (American National Specifications for the Installation of Ceramic Tile) as well as the recommendations of the manufacturer’s products being used in the project.

6. Minimum mortar coverage must be provided

Tile industry standards require minimum mortar coverage of 80% in dry areas and 95% in wet (showers) or exterior areas. Natural stone tile installations require 95% coverage in all applications.

This refers to the contact area of the bonding material (thin-bed mortars, large-and-heavy-tile mortars or epoxy adhesives) with both the back of the tile and the surface being tiled.

7. Ensure that tile site conditions are controlled

Jobsite conditions can have a serious impact on the success or failure of a tile installation.

ANSI A108.02 section 4.1 (excerpted) states, “Installation work shall not proceed until satisfactory conditions are provided.”

Many products used in tile installations require that the temperature be maintained within a specific range and duration. Be certain to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines to ensure a long-lasting installation.

In addition, insist on a mockup so you can view a sample of the actual installation, which includes items such as tile color/variation, grout joint size/color and gauge the variation from tile to tile. The mockup ensures that the final installation meets your expectations.

8. Use only the correct tile installation methods and materials

Not all installation methods and/or materials are suitable for all applications. Be certain that your contractor will use the TCNA Handbook method rated for the intended application or a method that is recommended, fully specified, and warranted by the product manufacturer.

Research manufacturers’ websites to determine suitability, application recommendations and product warranty information.

Review the manufacturers’ product data sheets and recommendations for the tile, backer board, bonding materials, membranes and grout that will be used on the job.

Just because a product is available doesn’t mean that it is appropriate for a given installation.

9. Allow for adequate cure time

Allow a tile installation to cure sufficiently per the manufacturer’s recommendations before exposing it to moisture, traffic, temperature changes or overlaying products. Otherwise it will not perform as a quality tile
installation.

The amount of time required will vary based on site conditions and the specific materials being used.

10. Make use of crack-isolation membranes as needed

Cracks in concrete and other areas of movement should be treated with a crack-isolation membrane (ANSI A118.12) to help eliminate cracked tiles. As mentioned previously, the addition of a crack-isolation membrane can be cheap insurance that provides a beautiful and long-lasting installation.

Check with the membrane manufacturer for specific use and application recommendations.

Wood frame construction recommendations for tile and stone floors

Building design guidelines and additional measures to accommodate sustained concentrated loads 

This article was derived from an article by Dr. Frank Woeste, P.E., Professor Emeritus at Virginia Tech and a wood construction consultant, and Peter Nielsen, cofounder of MGNT Products Group, LLC, a consulting and product design company for the tile and construction industries. This version of the information was generated by NTCA to provide a brief overview of their wood framing recommendations for hard surface flooring.


Two kinds of designers are involved in construction: design professionals responsible for performance and structural integrity and interior-focused designers responsible for the final appearance. Although they have very different roles, some of their decisions should be coordinated. For example, they should join forces when hard surface flooring – like tile and stone – is selected since these materials are on the heavier end of the spectrum, requiring more robust structures to support their weight. Hard surface floors are also more susceptible to problems than flexible floor types are when the weight of a concentrated load, like a dreamy kitchen island, is not adequately designed for. This article provides guidelines to design professionals for specifying adequately supportive structures for tile and stone floors in new construction wood frame buildings.

Designing for dead load

Sagging book shelves illustrate the concept of creep deflection; over time, shelves that are not strong enough for the weight they are loaded up with will bow.

A key factor is “dead load,” which is the cumulative weight of everything that a structure needs to support continually, including the flooring. When the actual dead load in a wood frame structure exceeds what was designed for, it over stresses the wood framing and over time can result in excessive “creep deflection,” a permanent bowing of the structure. An easy way to envision creep deflection is to picture an overloaded bookcase. The shelves will bow over time – and permanently – under the weight of the books.

Similarly, a home or building can be overloaded, for example by being structurally designed for luxury vinyl planks (LVP) flooring rather than the interior designer’s vision for ceramic planks. Some creep deflection is inherent and expected in wood frame construction, and not an issue for tile and stone floors. Overloading is what causes excessive creep deflection, possibly beyond what a tile or stone floor can withstand. Potential for and severity of a tile flooring issue because of excessive creep is tied to the amount of overloading and passage of time.

Weighty design features, like large kitchen islands with solid surface tops, and heavier-than-usual appliances, such as a Sub-Zero refrigerator, are examples of concentrated dead loads that additionally need to be designed for, structurally. This is true regardless of flooring type, but something to be especially aware of when the floor will be ceramic or stone tile. That’s because rigid, hard surface flooring materials are where concentrated overloading of a wood frame structure might become visually apparent, in the form of cracks, due to their inability to bend.

Baseline weights to factor into dead load 

To facilitate adequate structural design for tile and stone floors, the TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation provides the approximate per square foot weight of tile, stone, and installation materials, individually by material type (i.e., 1/2” thick cement board weighs 4 lbs. per square foot) as well as cumulatively by installation method (i.e., Method F144 weighs 8 or 10 lbs. per square foot, depending on whether 1/4” or 1/2” cement board is used). Using this information, located in Appendix B, building designers can arrive at accurate dead loads. 

Appendix B of the TCNA Handbook is a compilation of material and system weights.

Method F141 Stone weighs 23 pounds/square foot with a 1-1/4” mortar bed.

Accurate dead load is important because dead load influences the maximum span (length) of wood joist that can be used, per International Residential Code (IRC) guidelines. These guidelines provide maximum allowable joist span separately for an assumed dead load of 10 psf and 20 psf. Remember though, dead load is not just the flooring. So, while the separate span tables may be generally used according to flooring type (e.g., follow guidelines for 10 psf dead load when lighter floorings like carpet will be installed, and guidelines for 20 psf dead load for tile and stone), one should not assume they apply in all situations. Additional dead load could be present from other elements, causing total dead load to exceed 10 psf where a lighter floor finish will be installed or exceeding 20 psf where ceramic or stone tile will be installed. Not to mention, some tile and stone installation methods on their own exceed 20 psf, which demonstrates that IRC span tables aren’t always enough.

Research indicates that an even more important consideration for tile and stone floors in wood frame construction is the thickness/stiffness of the subfloor, although not necessarily because of system-creep-inducing overload. Rather, the subfloor sheathing could simply deflect (bend) between joists under an applied load more than a hard surface tile can withstand, even if the sheathing is otherwise adequate within the full design scheme to support the expected loads. 

In Method F144, the wood subfloor can be 19/32” thick or 23/32” thick and relates to whether the installation methods falls under the residential or light commercial service rating.

This industry-specific consideration, not addressed in IRC, is addressed in the TCNA Handbook through more stringent deflection limits. Specifically, the TCNA Handbook limits deflection under concentrated loads, whereas IRC deflection limits are for uniform loads. What this means for building designers is that the minimum subfloor thickness/stiffness required by code for strength may not be enough. A thicker/stiffer subfloor may be needed to limit subfloor bending between joists. More robust framing may also be needed, again to go beyond the strength consideration to further limit bending related to concentrated loads. The heavier and more concentrated the load, the greater the need to beef up the floor framing to limit bending.

An example: the large kitchen island

As an example, consider the large kitchen island scenario. With 30mm (3cm) thick stone tops and normal contents being stored inside, this popular kitchen feature could present a 40 psf dead load, calculated by using the square footage of the island’s footprint as the area. In service, the framing and subflooring directly below and around the island is subjected to a substantial sustained load that produces creep deflection, but only in that area. As such, for hard surface floors, building design should incorporate more stringent framing requirements in areas where concentrated dead loads are expected, with kitchen islands a particular focus because of their widespread use. 

Because this kitchen island is oriented parallel with the wood joists, its weight is on fewer framing members.

It’s not practical, though, to expect a customized calculation and specification for every kitchen island. A more practical approach would be to follow general guidelines that are widely effective and easily incorporated into documents and processes. 

Since large kitchen islands are frequently paired with ceramic or stone flooring, it makes sense to have the following structural design parameters specifically attached to them: 

  • For solid-sawn and I-joists: joist spacing beneath kitchen islands shall be reduced by one-half and indicated on the joist framing plan.
  • For floor trusses: floor trusses beneath kitchen islands shall be doubled. 

Designing for hard surfaces checklist

These suggestions are in addition to the following recommendations, some of which were provided earlier in the article but are restated here in the interest of supplying a complete “designing for hard surfaces checklist”: 

  • Prepare construction documents that contain:

º the TCNA Handbook installation method

º the weight of the installation method (from TCNA Handbook Appendix B)

º the footprint of the kitchen island (and other heavy equipment)

º a specification that joists shall be doubled, or spacing reduced by half, beneath an island

  • Require floor system designs based on a “total load” that includes the actual weight of the installation method
  • Upgrade subfloor thickness (above what is given in the TCNA Handbook method being used) 
  • Require strongback bracing for floor trusses to minimize differential deflection of joists
  • Offer customers (homebuyers, owners) floor framing and subfloor “upgrades” for added protection against the likelihood of tile and grout cracks and annoying floor vibrations

The generalized “overbuilding” that some of these recommendations suggest may not seem an easy ask in an industry that prizes value engineering. But they do have enormous value – not in material cost savings – but from having effective boilerplate solutions to a common design challenge that are also practical with respect to implementation. Tile and stone professionals would be well served if these guidelines were better known and understood by building designers. TileLetter readers are encouraged to help make that happen by circulating and posting the information freely.

Multifunctional foam building panels offer a myriad of advantages to the tile setter

The quality and integrity of the tile covering is only as good as its foundation. Many substrates are unsuitable, especially in areas with high moisture, requiring comprehensive preparation and waterproofing. Multifunctional foam building panels provide the tile setter with control over the installation by providing the means to simply and easily create ideal substrates for tile.

Control of the substrate

Originally the tile setter was responsible for building substrates using mortar. While this demanded significant skill and labor, the results were flat, plumb, and level surfaces with square corners for high-quality finished applications. As the thin-bed method became predominant, fewer installers were able to remain competitive or float mortar at all. Building the substrate shifted from the tile setter to other trades, and the results were often not suitable for tile, whether dimensionally unstable, moisture-sensitive, or poorly constructed. Comprehensive preparation by the tile setter became paramount. When foam tile backers emerged, control of the substrate was returned to the tile setter.

The foam board

Typical foam boards consist of a foam plastic core (e.g., XPS, EPS, or polyiso), sandwiched by reinforcing layers to provide stiffness. The reinforcing layer may serve as the bonding surface, or another layer may be added for this purpose. Panels are waterproof, stable, lightweight, and easy to handle, cut, and install, making them an excellent substrate for tile. There is often a wide range of thicknesses to suit various applications.

Prefabricated components for shower applications, including niches, benches, curbs, and ramps, are waterproof, stable, and ready to tile. They are easy to install, saving time and increasing productivity, and integrate simply with foam panels or bonded waterproofing membranes.

Curbs can be built-up using conventional building materials, but this is time-consuming and requires complete waterproofing. Foam curbs are fast and can be seamlessly installed into the surrounding waterproofing system. Prefabricated ramps are an excellent option for curbless showers, especially when recessing the substrate is not desired or possible. 

Foam panel applications

Walls: Foam panels can be fastened to framing to replace drywall or cement backer boards. The assembly is completed by sealing seams and penetrations, rather than applying a membrane over the entire surface.

Masonry and finished walls are often unsuitable for tile because they can be uneven or difficult to bond to. Foam panels can be fully embedded in thin-set mortar or spot-bonded to the wall. Spot-bonding, an approved method for KERDI-BOARD panels, allows for adjustment to achieve plumb wall surfaces and square corners.

Partitions: Partitions are commonly used to separate shower or toilet stalls or to divide rooms. Using masonry blocks or framing is time-consuming and often requires further preparation before tiling. Foam panels, typically 2″ thick, provide an efficient alternative. They can be bonded with thin-set mortar or adhesive and anchored to floors and walls, or stabilized with reinforcement profiles.

Shelves and benches: Custom shelves are an elegant solution for storing toiletries in the shower. Simply cut the foam panel and dry fit the shelf prior to installation, using waterproofing accessories as required. The shelf can even be tiled beforehand for quick installation, including retrofit applications in existing showers.

Custom benches can be installed with an apron similar to the prefabricated variety, or as floating seats. For example, a 2″ thick panel with reinforcing profile installed across the face can be used to create a floating seat that supports loads typical of the application. 

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 level horizontal surfaces. Not only does the tile setter take back control of the installation, he or she can generate additional revenue on the project.

Countertops and Vanities: Gauged porcelain tile panels have created an opportunity for the tile setter to reclaim countertops, particularly when coupled with foam boards. Using these tile panels reduces the number of grout joints on the countertop, and 1-1/2″ or 2″ foam boards can be adhered to the base cabinets instead of plywood.

Foam boards can also be used to create storage solutions to suit the owner’s needs. Even floating vanities can be constructed using multiple layers of foam panels supported by finished brackets or corbels. The vanity is simply bonded to the walls and the top of the supports.

Returning control to the tile setter

Multifunctional foam building panels are a modern incarnation of the mortar bed, in that they return control of the project to the tile setter. Creative applications can be realized using simple tools and materials in a fraction of the time it takes to build using conventional materials. Flat, level, plumb, and square substrates are now within reach, along with reduced labor and increased productivity.

A realistic look at mortar coverage

Poor mortar coverage may not cause a tile failure, but it’s an important factor in tile installation success

News flash: poor mortar coverage doesn’t “cause” a tile failure!  If you’ve ever replaced an old tile installation that seemed perfect, you’ll agree. It took a hammer and chisel to reveal that 20-year old “poor” mortar coverage. The reality is that it always takes a force or condition of some kind to exert stress somewhere in the tile assembly to loosen or crack a tile.

So what are these other forces? What are the best methods to overcome them? How do they relate to coverage? In regards to coverage, what does experience tell us works best to achieve it?

Causes of tile failure

The primary forces that cause tile failures are:

  • Structural movement including shrinkage and creep (sagging over a period of time)
  • Substrate deformation such as deflection, vibration or curvature from load
  • Environmental conditions including thermal growth and freeze/thaw stress
  • Impact – single or repeated

Examples of breakage and delamination as a result of poor mortar coverage

When subjected to these forces, the tile assembly will either accommodate or resist displacement, or fail. Tile and stone are fairly rigid and have a tight limitation for movement, making installation design a major factor for success. Will the structure/substrate provide stability for the assembly? Was the assembly chosen with the building usage in mind? 

In a forensic examination of a failure, low mortar coverage is an obvious deficiency that implicates the installer, but the tile required a force to affect it. Would it have made a difference if better coverage as per ANSI A108 (≥80% interior; ≥95% wet and exterior) requirements were met? Maybe so, but all of the project conditions should be considered. Tiles with 100% mortar coverage have been found to loosen or crack under excessive structure/substrate movement conditions, but it’s much more difficult to prove that a concrete slab or wood framing moved to an excessive degree. 

Two factors that greatly increase the probability of failure and reveal low mortar coverage are:

  • A non-absorptive/contaminated substrate
  • Inadequate frequency and size of movement joints (especially at all perimeters) 

This is because the forces listed above cause action (movement), and science shows that “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” If the mortar wasn’t bonded because of contaminants or lack of porosity, or the tiles have no space to move into, they fail much more easily regardless of mortar coverage.

Effects of ridge collapse based on technique and hammering on tile with mortar cured for 28 days

Insufficient mortar coverage makes projects susceptible to failure

So is there any proof that industry-required mortar coverage makes a difference? In a word – yes! Thousands of projects have told the story that tiles with low mortar coverage are more susceptible to failure. The worst cases are spot-bonded tiles that fail when loads or thermal expansion cause movement. It doesn’t take much force when the tiles are supported by just a few globs of mortar. 

The bigger the tile, the more important the use of the proper mortar and coverage becomes.

Improperly bedded tiles that just rest on mortar ridges are next in line for failure under force. At approximateyly 50% coverage and minimal contact with the cement paste and polymer, tiles can’t resist as many of the normal stresses compared to when the required continuous 3/32” minimum thickness is achieved. When installed in wet conditions, water trapped under a tile can freeze, or when exposed to heat and humidity, tiles expand and failure occurs. Too often, there’s the perfect storm – low coverage, a lack of movement joints, contamination and heavy loads.

Correct directional combing across the short side of the rectangular tile.

So what can we expect from a tile with proper mortar coverage when project application requirements are met? The reality is that there are millions of tiles performing well, lasting for decades, even centuries, with proper coverage! When they’re removed for a new style, it takes a lot of force.

In a study of over 80 residential projects in the Southwest where a random tile cracked and/or loosened over post-tensioned concrete slabs, more than 85% of the tiles had low mortar coverage and over 50% showed substrate contamination. Every adjoining tile with full coverage and without contamination was intact. The exceptions were stone tiles with acceptable coverage, but that had cracked since they can’t resist movement stresses as well as porcelain tiles. On one memorable project, tiles with greater mortar coverage failed because the floors and walls cracked right down the middle of the home. The conclusion was that the more tile and substrate surface areas bonded at 200-400 psi strengths – and with polymer for deformability – provided more resistance to failure.

Impact will also damage tiles, but as shown in the 2016 NTCA Trowel & Error video (see also Spanish version), a tile bond can withstand heavy forces with high mortar coverage compared to those without. 

High mortar coverage for large-format tile

Back butter large-format tiles and lift occasionally to confirm sufficient coverage.  ProLite Premium Large Format Tile Mortar supports the weight of heavy tiles and will not slump on floors or sag on walls.

Is it realistic to believe you can achieve high mortar coverage even with very large formats? There are key items that make a difference: tile warpage, mortar type, trowel size and configuration, and troweling/bedding methods. Note the following for your next project:

Wipe off any residue on the underside of your tile or stone before bedding and be sure to set into mortar while it’s fresh.

Tiles that dome in the center or have some warpage, particularly rectangular formats, may require back-buttering. Lift a tile after setting to confirm your bedding method.

There are mortars specifically designed to support large-and-heavy tiles. This designation will soon be included in ANSI Standards. With these mortars, there’s no need to spot bond to level or support large formats since they mostly are highly thixotropic, and typically contain larger aggregates. Some are lightweight, thus resisting slump and lippage. 

Although there are no standards for contact/flowable mortars, these mortar types wet out surfaces easier than standard mortars to assist with coverage. They’re best used on surfaces that have been leveled.

SuperiorBilt Premium Notch Trowels make ridges that are easier to collapse for proper coverage

Trowel types: Larger tile typically require more mortar. 1/2”x 1/2”square-notched trowels are commonly used, but they require more lateral movement to collapse mortar ridges than some of the specialty trowels.

Directional troweling is a must! Right to left, left to right, or top to bottom allows for air to escape. It’s best to trowel the ridges perpendicular to the short edge of a rectangular tile. No swirls!

Use enough mortar so when you move the tile to collapse the ridges there are no voids.

Realistically, complete mortar coverage on every tile you set won’t happen but the closer you get, the more success you’ll have. Happy tiling!

The need for cleaning and protecting encaustic floor tiles

What were called “encaustic tiles” during the Victorian Era were originally called “inlaid tiles” during the medieval period. This term has now been in common use for so long that it has become an accepted name for inlaid tile work.

Encaustic (or inlaid) tiles enjoyed two periods of great popularity. The first came in the thirteenth century and lasted until Henry the Eighth’s reformation in the sixteenth century. The second came when these tiles caught the attention of craftsmen during the Gothic Revival era, which after much trial and error, were mass-produced and then made available to the general public. During both periods, tiles were produced across Western Europe, though the center of tile production was actually in England. Companies in the USA also made encaustic tile during the Gothic Architecture Revival period. However, in the 1930s, encaustic tile began to lose ground to more affordable glass and vitreous glass tile material.

After a stretch during which encaustic tiles were seldom called upon, there’s now a huge revival, along with introductions of new designs, in modern geometric patterns and vibrant colors. Whereas encaustic tiles have become increasingly popular, users often aren’t aware that they are highly absorbent and thus, require special treatments for cleaning and protection. After evaluating their properties, specific products should be used for cleaning and protecting encaustics, especially in “wet areas” such as the kitchen and bath.

Generally speaking, encaustic tiles are made up of several layers; the lower layer comprises high-strength cement and aggregate, while the top layer is made of marble powder, white cement and inorganic pigments. This makes the material highly absorbent and extremely sensitive to acid erosion. It is, therefore, essential to use the correct products, from the initial wash and then moving forward.

For both cleaning new tiles right after installation and also for restoring original encaustic tiles, a degreasing detergent is recommended. First, dampen the surface with water, apply the solution to the floor and leave it to “act” for five minutes. Then, scrub the floor with a brush, remove the residue with a cloth and rinse well with clean water. Never use acid products, white spirit solvents or ammonia.

There are specific ways to protect bathroom cement tiles against staining. When applying a protective treatment to cement tile floors, it is essential that the floor is perfectly dry. If the treatment is applied too soon, it may very well block evaporation of the humidity from under the tiles, leaving damp marks.

To protect the tiles against staining without changing their original look, we advise using a solvent-based or a water-based stain proofing agent. Use a flat paintbrush to evenly apply a coat of the product, making sure to impregnate the joints, as well.

Encaustic tiles should be protected using a finishing wax, which guards the surface against grit and grime caused by foot traffic. This process can also restore the pure beauty of original tiles, while at the same time highlighting their color and design. Wax, however, isn’t recommended for bathrooms or other “wet rooms.”

For decorated cement bathroom tiles, use a specially formulated cleaner a couple of times a year or when particularly dirty. FILACLEANER is perfect for this use. Cleaning should be followed with one coat of wax.

In the last six or seven years, encaustic tiles have become extremely popular here in the USA. Due to the high porosity of each tile’s body and the fact that it is so acid-sensitive, this category of tile must be both treated immediately after being installed, and then sealed to ensure its beauty and longevity. With special care, these tile products will perform beautifully for years to come.

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FILA (Fabbrica Italiana Lucidi ed Affini) has achieved international recognition for excellence in providing highly technical, easy-to-use protection and care treatment systems for all surfaces. A family-owned yet strategically structured, managerial company, FILA has become a large international group always maintaining strong core values. With an eye on the future, FILA offers optimal answers to the needs of every client, consistently staying ahead of the market. That’s just one reason why FILA has been endorsed as “#1” by 250 of the world’s leading tile and stone producers.
www.filasolutions.com/usa/

Gauging Savings: USI Porcelain Panel Project Saves Time & Money

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Keeping beautiful stone tiles beautiful

By Jeff Moen, General Manager, FILA USA

In addition to its inherent beauty, natural stone is globally acknowledged as the most time-honored and time-tested building material. Now easier to work with than ever before, durable and of course, a product of Mother Nature, it clearly stands up to the challenges of tomorrow. 

But realistically speaking, not all stone is alike. Because of that, to maintain, protect and regularly restore the “look” of natural stone, especially for indoor horizontal surfaces, certain regimens are absolutely necessary. 

Step one: is your stone acid resistant or acid-sensitive?

Step one is to know if the stone’s characteristics include being acid-resistant or acid-sensitive. 

Should the stone surface be an acid-resistant stone such as natural granite, post-installation cleaning and maintenance procedures (provided the optimal products are used) should be less worrisome to end users than if they had recently installed acid-sensitive stone material such as travertine or limestone.

Often times, especially for commercial flooring installations where epoxy grout is specified, there is a great deal of grout haze/residue on the surface of the tile, even after the entire project has cured and cleaned. If the cleaning agent contains any acidic formulations, after the surface is cleaned, porous limestone and travertine will become impregnated with chemicals which over time, can become very destructive to the stone tile’s body. Cracking, breaking, efflorescence and even the emission of harmful VOCs possibly can result.

It’s highly recommended to use a grout release product to thoroughly clean the surface of the flooring. In some cases, but not all, this process can actually be considered as sealing the stone material. There are various educational programs and tutorials offering solutions from surface care professionals that clearly outline the best methods for post-installation stone floor treatments. Consider these as “insurance investments,” because if applied correctly, building owners don’t have to worry about down-the-road failures of their stone floor expenditures. Rather, they can be confident that their beautiful stone flooring will continue to perform and look great for years and years to come. 

But, there is a bit more to  consider. 

Ongoing protection and maintenance

After the stone flooring has been thoroughly installed, cleaned and sealed, a program should be discussed regarding ongoing protection and maintenance. One doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand the need or simplicity of these regimens. But one does need to be a reasonable businessperson to recognize the fact that stone flooring, like every sizable investment, requires a certain amount of care to continue performing at optimal levels. 

Selection of protection, maintenance and sometimes, restoration materials is absolutely key. And again, step one is simply to know the composition of the stone materials that have been specified. For example, most people don’t realize that quartzite, which is a durable product of nature, can contain a certain degree of marble elements. Which surface care products to be selected should be dependent on knowing the percentage of that within the body of the quartz tile. 

Not to be confused with quartzite, quartz engineered stone tiles and slabs are agglomerates consisting of durable quartz chips held together by a binder of either cement or resin (epoxy). The surface care products you select should be determined by which kind of binder is used in the original manufacturing process. Obviously, cementitious materials are more porous and thus are subject to more staining than materials made with an epoxy resin binder. But whatever quartzite is being used, sealers, cleaners and other protectant chemicals produced with any concentration of alkalines should be avoided, as they can attack even the strongest of resin binders, ultimately causing deterioration.

Surface maintenance programs ensure beauty and longevity

Not only is natural granite beautiful, it is one of the most durable natural stones offered by Mother Nature. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that just a regular program of wet-mopping will maintain its look. Even with grout joints so tiny that they look almost invisible, grouting between each individual tile needs to be regularly cleaned. And even granite material contains tiny pinholes and fissures into which contaminants may penetrate. To cut to the chase, the most hearty of granite material also needs a surface maintenance program to ensure its longevity in both aesthetics and performance.

It’s obviously vitally important for buyers and specifiers to know the characteristics of ALL the stone flooring they are buying. And it’s just as important for them to know the characteristics of the surface care products needed to clean, protect and maintain these natural surfaces. 

Many of today’s surfacing materials produced for both the commercial and residential construction marketplaces can contain harmful substances. In spite of the global outcry relative to climatic change, they continue to be specified. Even building materials that claim to be recyclable can end up in a landfill. It’s time for you and your customers to acknowledge the need to consider more environmentally friendly building materials such as natural stone. And in doing so, to consider the best possible ways in which take care of this time-honored material.

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FILA (Fabbrica Italiana Lucidi ed Affini) has achieved international recognition for excellence in providing highly technical, easy-to-use protection and care treatment systems for all surfaces. A family-owned yet strategically structured managerial company, FILA has become a large international group always maintaining strong core values. With an eye on the future, FILA offers optimal answers to the needs of every client, consistently staying ahead of the market. That’s just one reason FILA has been endorsed as “#1” by 250 of the world’s leading tile and stone producers. www.filasolutions.com/usa/

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