Thin Tile – September 2015

SponsoredbyMAPEIThin tile makes maximum impact on Florida homeowner’s accent wall

By Cris Bierschank, MAPEI Technical Services consultant

When a resident of South Florida recently purchased a townhouse, one of the key features he was excited about was vaulted ceilings, which gave his home a more spacious feel. However, this meant that he had a 29’ long wall that met the peak of the roof at 17’ with a diminishing slope down to 10’. His dilemma? What to do with this large, blank canvas.

He wanted a finished covering that would really make an impact on this 400 sq. ft. of wall. The capability of the new, thin-bodied porcelain tiles to deliver a bold statement was just what he was after. The variety of patterns are nearly limitless with new printing and finishing techniques that mimic virtually any surface found in nature – even metallic looks.


Since his décor would include a lot of copper, metal and wood pieces, he decided on a more industrial look and chose Crossville’s Laminam porcelain Oxide series (Nero) in 3’ x 10’ thin slabs, to be set in a horizontal brick pattern.

0915-thin2The installation crew from Bryant Tile and Marble, Inc., West Palm Beach, Fla., did a superior, professional job. The homeowner chose them because they had been trained by Crossville for large thin porcelain tile (LTPT) installations. Since these thin-body large format tiles are relatively new to the marketplace, many consumers are not aware of all of the steps required to ensure that a tile of that size is flat and aligned with the adjoining tiles.

A 24” x 24” tile used to be considered to be a huge tile, but it would take approximately 100 of these tiles to set a 400-sq. ft. wall compared to only 13 or 14 3’ x 10’ pieces.

There’s very little room for making adjustments for a wall with many high or low spots when working with tiles of this size and thinness. Depending on the type of substrate the installer is working with – in this case painted drywall with patching compound residue left on the surface – it is vital to provide a surface that the mortar can bond and grab to both chemically and mechanically. MAPEI’s ECO Prim Grip, a synthetic resin-based primer with bond-promoting silica aggregates suspended in a dispersion, was the perfect primer for the wall.

When tile installation began, it was apparent how important the ledger board row of tiles is in ensuring a true reference point for installing the rest of the tiles. It gives an aesthetically pleasing finish to the entire project. It was also important that the MAPEI Ultralite S2 Mortar was troweled on the entire surface, both the wall and tile, to maximize the contact from the back of the tile to the substrate without any voids under these large tiles.

Even something that might seem simple, such as cutting in an electrical outlet or fitting each tile to a sloped ceiling that started at 17’ high and ended at 10’, takes great expertise when working with LTPT. All accommodations had to be figured into the overall 50% offset brick pattern, while maintaining consistent grout joint lines and ensuring no lippage from tile to tile while setting.

Since a major feature of these tiles is a more seamless look, the installers created a minimal joint size (1/16”). Filling the grout joints with MAPEI’s Flexcolor CQ (in Cocoa) gave the project a polished look, tying all of the tiles together.

The homeowner has received many compliments from friends about his “bold design choice,” and he feels that he has increased the appeal and potential resale value of his home. “But I don’t plan to move anytime soon!” he said.

Key factors for LTPT installation

Innovations in lightweight, large thin porcelain tile technology have changed the face of the construction industry—significantly reducing the overall dead load weight of a building without compromising strength and durability. It is important to remember that LTPT is relatively new to the marketplace, being markedly different than standard body tiles due both to the larger format – up to 3’ x 10’ (1M x 3M) – and decreased thicknesses of 1/8” to 1/4” (3mm to 6mm). This has required all key players in the installation process to re-think how to install these tiles – from the surface preparation to mortar selection, tools and application method.

0915-thin3Due to reduced tile thickness and increased size, it is critical to establish a baseline when installing these tiles on the floor. Using the TCNA service rating (based on the ASTM C627; Robinson test method), a series of baselines, referred to as “service requirements,” have been established and published in the most current TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation. The categories are: Extra Heavy; Heavy; Moderate; Light; and Residential. Always consult the LTPT manufacturer for the service rating, specific area of use and limitations prior to installation.

In addition to establishing the proper tile to be used according to the service requirement, there are four key areas to address during installation:

1. Surface preparation

The substrate should have a permissible variation of no more than 1/8” in 10’ (3 mm in 3,05 m) from the required plane; nor more than 1/16” in 24” (2 mm in 60 cm) measured from high points on the surface with a straight edge. Floor flatness is best achieved using a self-leveling underlayment and primer prior to tile placement.

2. Proper mortar selection

Once a flat surface has been achieved, it is important to choose a mortar that will give maximum coverage to both the back of the tile and the substrate, thus ensuring a strong bond that can perform to the service rating that has been designated for the installation, e.g., residential.

MAPEI supplies a number of mortars that achieve the level of coverage performance necessary for LTPT, including the Granirapid® System, the Kerabond/Keralastic™ System, the Kerabond T/Keralastic™ System, Ultraflex ™ LFT™ Rapid, Ultraflex LFT, Ultraflex RS, Ultralite™ Mortar.

The company’s newest offering, Ultralite S2 Thin Tile Mortar (ISO 13007 classification C2ES2P2) is the first mortar specifically designed to install thin tile, solving many of the challenges associated with large-format thin porcelain tile. Ultralite S2 takes this installation technology to the next level through its superior transfer properties, extended open time and wet-out characteristics – optimizing coverage.

3. Proper trowel selection

It is important to use a trowel configuration that maximizes mortar coverage between the substrate and the tile, minimizing air pockets and voids. Often, this means using a non-traditional Euro Notch or slant notch trowel to achieve maximum coverage.

4. Use of a lippage control system

Using a mechanical system, with either straps or wedges, enables the installer to apply equal pressure on the tile, pulling it down into the mortar and locking the entire system together. Once the mortar has dried sufficiently – typically 24 hours – the lippage control system can be removed. This installation system provides improved contact between the tile and substrate while reducing the chances of lippage.


ANSI group gathers at Crossville to develop thin tile standards

This week – September 9, 10, and 11 — tile industry experts and leaders are gathering as part of an ANSI subcommittee to hash out details pertaining to thin porcelain tile standards. Porcelain tile manufacturer Crossville is hosting the group at its facilities at Crossville, Tenn.

Results from this week’s meeting will be reported at the NTCA Technical Committee meeting taking place in Savannah, Ga., during the Total Solutions Plus conference next month. The plan is to submit thin porcelain tile standards for the ANSI meetings scheduled during Coverings 2016, to be held in Chicago, Ill.

NTCA Recognized Consultant Richard Goldberg of Procon International examines mortar coverage at Crossville, as tile industry leaders work on installation standards for thin porcelain tile.

NTCA Recognized Consultant Richard Goldberg of Procon International examines mortar coverage at Crossville, as tile industry leaders work on installation standards for thin porcelain tile.



Thin Tile – July 2015

mapei_sponsorRetail rebirth in Ottawa

Architects and technicians use Neolith large thin tile to transform outdated department store into a sophisticated Nordstrom retail location

1-thin-0715Elegant. Light. Warm. When thinking of the Nordstrom brand, very specific descriptors emerge that evoke the chic, high-end style of the upscale retailer. Following a 2012 announcement that the former Sears location at Ottawa’s Rideau Centre would be reinvented as Nordstrom to anchor the $360 million modernization and expansion of the center, a great deal of care was taken to select architects, technicians and consultants that understood the brand, the vision and the goal. As the number-one retail design firm in the world – designing more than 150 new and remodeled Nordstrom stores in North America – Seattle-based architecture firm Callison was selected for the project in this high-traffic location in the heart of Canada’s capital.

2-thin-0715Callison ( began planning, digging deep into the design process and creating what would be an epic, dramatic revamp of 14,000 sq. ft. of dreary, worn exterior and interior storefronts. The completed elevations were sleek and specific, designed with large thin tile in a bright, gleaming white with subtle polished accents that would never stain, fade or discolor. The exterior façade would need to overcome the often harsh weather conditions in Ottawa, where temperatures of -20 degrees Celsius are common. An installation system that held tile firmly in place without grout lines was another necessity to carry out the team’s full vision. Callison realized this was a tall order.


With several key “must-haves” for the project, Callison began looking into potential solutions that would not sacrifice the design details that were so important to the overall aesthetic. After looking at a variety of surfacing materials, Callison was drawn to Neolith by TheSize (, a sintered compact surfacing product – that utilizes clays and other components – already used frequently in Europe for commercial façades. The product had a reputation for being incredibly durable and resistant to scratching, fading, staining and extreme temperatures. After meeting with Travis Conrad, architectural consultant for Neolith (, Callison’s team was feeling confident for the first time that their vision might become reality.

4-thin-0715“As architects, we definitely thought about design and the aesthetics of the project foremost, but design visions don’t often link directly to a functional solution, especially when looking at a high-traffic commercial project like the Nordstrom at Rideau Centre,” said Michael Lee, principal, Callison. “The product addressed our concerns from a design perspective – an array of tile colors to create patterns of horizontal movement, limited grout lines, varying panel heights and lengths to further reinforce the random nature of the façade, allowing for lasting warm colors – but also from a functional perspective in terms of durability.”

Neolith’s unique manufacturing process, which uses high pressure and high temperature to create a compact, nonporous surface, enables the product to withstand harsh conditions and emerge unscathed. A key concern for this project related to weather, as many compact materials are unable to withstand the coefficient of linear expansion in Ottawa, or the extreme fluctuations in temperature. Neolith’s design and use of 6”, 8” and 18” wide 6mm slabs in 5’ and 10’ lengths – in tandem with the unique Ceramitex mechanical installation system – provided a secure way to fasten the product without fear of cracking or splintering.

5-thin-0715Neolith and the accompanying installation system also provided several design benefits to the project. The exterior storefront has several sharp angles and edges, as result of the façade being raised away from the main structure. Using Neolith, a chamfer miter is possible, allowing for seamless L-shaped pieces for cladding the outside corners. This simplifies installation, improves overall aesthetic and avoids the use of unsightly vertical lines where sealing caulk often gets dirty and discolored. This project utilized both 90- and 135-degree miters, giving the building an effortlessly seamless appearance installed by Ontario Panelization, based in London, Ontario, Canada.

Aside from a clean, smooth look, the architects were also searching for specific colors. To contrast with the concrete and stone buildings surrounding the area, the façade was to be mostly bright white in matte and polished finishes with tan and grey accents. The team selected the pure Arctic White color in a satin finish as the base and accented that with scattered tiles of Barro, Perla and Arena in satin and polished finishes to round out the color scheme, supplied by Innovation Surfaces in Santa Ana, Calif. Neolith’s portfolio of nearly 50 colors and four finishes gave the team a vast amount of aesthetic freedom to get the design just right.

“Once my team [at Neolith] learned about the design goals and confirmed that functionality wouldn’t be an issue, you could see the architect team breathe a complete sigh of relief,” said Travis Conrad, architectural consultant, TheSize Surfaces. “We were happy to be able to offer a product and system that evenly matched the high-end quality of the Rideau Centre, Nordstrom and Callison, and let the architectural team focus on crafting a truly beautiful space.”

Thin Tile – May 2015

mapei_sponsorIn the thick of it with thin tile at Coverings

By Lesley Goddin

ORLANDO, Fla. – As the font of all things new and cutting-edge, where else to view the hottest thin porcelain tile products but at Coverings, held at the Orange County Convention Center here last month? Here are just a few of the products exhibitors had on display at the massive, sold-out show.

crossvilleLaminam by Crossville

I Metalli in the Laminam by Crossville line offers large thin porcelain tile with a metallic, diamond plate look and texture, for walls. In four colors, including Ferro Ossidato, an oxidized iron look, pictured. The metallic effect is extremely authentic – it’s hard to believe this is TILE!


Florida Tile

Aventis, Time 2.0 and Restore HDP are three of the new lines in Florida Tile’s Thinner large thin porcelain tile in 100 cm x 300 cm, or nominal 39” x 118” formats. The 3Plus tiles are 3.5mm, in the Aventis and Time 2.0 lines, and the 5.5mm 5Plus comes in the Restore HDP series (shown). Pressed at a force of 15,000 tons psi, these slabs are light and flexible. Rectified, with a thin fiberglass backing, the tiles are easy to handle and designed to be durable.


Tiger Gold large thin porcelain tile comes in the Precious Stones collection. This 6mm thin porcelain emulates gemstones in 30” x 60” or 60” x 120” formats. Choose from 23 different gemstone effects. Fiandre also launched Fiandre Maximum Ultralite in 5’ x 10’ slabs in the Fiandre Maximum Ultralite line in seven different collections from wood looks to resin looks.


Magnum is the new 5’ x 10’ thin porcelain tile format for Florim. It’s 6mm thick and comes in 5’ x 10’ sizes in 20 of the bestselling Florim lines as well as selected Rex lines. It differs from other thin porcelain tile offerings in that it is extruded, not pressed.


Italian tile factory LEA debuted additional lines in its Slimtech series of thin porcelain tile, which comes in 3.5mm and 5.5mm with fiberglass backing. New looks include Timeless Marble and the colorful Pixel, offering bright tones.

Thin Tile – March 2015

SponsoredbyMAPEIThin tile beautifies three-story lobby

The G. Fred DiBona Building, located at 1901 Market Street in Philadelphia, serves as the headquarters of Independence Blue Cross (IBC). The iconic glass and steel building, built from 1987-1990 and opened in 1990, has been home to Blue Cross as its major tenant for almost 25 years. Starting in 2010, IBC launched a new brand campaign, and an important part of the new identity was the renovation of the 45-story building. The corporate facelift included rejuvenation of all 45 office floors and a full-floor cafeteria for its 3,400 employees, as well as a complete refit of the three-story lobby.

2-ttLocal architectural firm Myer Design of Ardmore, Pa., redesigned the lobby inside and out. While the work was in progress, employees were redirected to a second entrance for their convenience and to provide an unobstructed work flow. A major project in the lobby featured the installation of Crossville Laminam 1 meter x 3 meter x 3mm thin porcelain tile. The thin tile – Laminam by Crossville®’s Filo collection in Mercuriowas new to the architects, who found it a novel material with which to work.

3-ttThe original granite on the 30-foot-tall walls was left in place. Thanks to MAPEI’s ECO Prim Grip bond-promoting primer, the thin tiles were able to be set directly over the granite. ECO Prim Grip enhances the performance and adhesion of mortars to existing ceramics, natural stone and other difficult-to-bond substrates.

Installations with large thin porcelain tiles present special challenges that the installers from Belfi Bros. and Co., Inc. resolved with well-coordinated teamwork. Belfi Bros. is a very reliable Philadelphia-based contractor that has pioneered thin tile installations in the area. The thin tile was laid out while MAPEI’s Ultraflex LFT mortar for large-format tiles was being mixed. Then, while one team applied the mortar over the ECO Prim Grip on the walls, another team back-buttered the large thin tiles a few at a time. Working from bottom to top, the installers lifted the tiles into place on the walls. As the installation moved up the wall, the installers used a scissors lift to hoist the tiles up to each new level.

It is essential for the tiles and wall to be mortared at the same time to ensure that full coverage can be achieved and that the mortar does not dry out before placement is complete. Ultraflex FLT met all the requirements of the 10,000-square-foot job.

8-ttMAPEI’s Ultracolor® Plus grout provided the perfect complement for the thin tile joints. A tile-leveling system is a must for large, thin tile installations, providing a clean, even grout space that enhances the monolithic look of the finished project. This premium, sanded grout can be used on joints from 1/16” to 1” (1,5 mm to 2,5 cm). DropEffect technology reduces surface absorption to help repel water, dirt and grime from penetrating grout joints. Ultracolor Plus is specially formulated with MAPEI’s High-Hydrated Cement Technology (HCT) to eliminate the common problems related to Portland cement grout, such as color consistency and efflorescence.

It took about three months to install the wall tile and another 10,000 sq. ft. of floor tiles in the IBC lobby. The general contractor had no issues with the work, and the owners loved the results. Together with Crossville, the thin porcelain tile supplier, the contractors, designer, owner and MAPEI distributor all worked together to produce a novel installation that gained honors for the project. The G. Fred DiBona Building received two TOBY (The Outstanding Building of the Year) Awards from BOMA Philadelphia (Building Owners and Managers Association) for 2014. The project was named the Best Renovation of the Year and received a TOBY Best of the Best Award for its lobby.

5-tt 6-tt 7-tt

Thin Tile – Porcelain tiles streamline Dallas atrium renovation


NTCA Five Star Contractor installs tile; no demolition of existing floor needed

Originally constructed in the late ’70s, the Plaza of the Americas was conceived as a large mixed-use development of office, retail, hotel and conference space contained in two high-rise towers – one of the largest developments in the city of Dallas – all connected by a vast 64,000-sq.-ft. indoor atrium, which, for many years, contained an underused ice skating rink and a variety of retail shops. The goal of the adaptive reuse project was to create an urban plaza or park that gave the development new life and increase use of the development during the day and after 5:00 p.m.

Through a fruitful collaboration between Corgan Associates, the landscape architect – the Office of James Burnett – and the owners of the property, the atrium was transformed into a climate-controlled, tiered indoor park that offers increased retail and restaurant opportunities.

1-thintileWorking with the existing retail, dining and hotel spaces presented a challenge: they had to remain open and accessible. Cotto d’Este’s ultra-thin large porcelain Kerlite tiles were able to be installed directly over the existing flooring, which meant that the renovation could be completed without costly, messy, time-intensive demolition. The 16” x 40” tiles in the Buxy series created a warm, modern feeling in Caramel and Amande colors. The 3.5 mm thick tiles helped to create an inviting space.

100% coverage is the key

If you’ve been reading TileLetter, you’ll know that recently leading industry associations issued a position statement about using thin tile 5.5mm and larger on floors. But when this project began, it was about three years ago, well before this statement came out.

Kemna Tile, a NTCA Five Star Contractor from Dallas, was called upon to install the Kerlite tile. Ongoing meetings with the facility owner and Barry Kemna, owner of Kemna Tile, educated the owner as to the potential risks of working with large thin porcelain tile in this project, especially considering the level of foot traffic from the office buildings and the hotel as well as from neighboring buildings where people accessed the food court at lunchtime via skybridges. Kemna suggested a seamless product, but the reality of needing to navigate around the busy Marriott hotel traffic in the evening and office building foot traffic during the day made the possibility of a terrazzo floor unfeasible.

2-thintile“The owner knew it was risky, but we had no other choices,” Kemna said. Initially 40” x 40” tile was specified, but Kemna insisted on cutting it to 20” x 40” pieces instead. “That way we could still pick it up and verify 100% coverage as well as edge coverage,” he said. In addition, the owner set some limits on the kind of wheeled traffic that is allowed to protect the space – rubber-tired vehicles only.

Kemna had a favorable experience working with the Kerlite tile. “It’s easy to work with and flexible. If it is installed correctly, it holds up well.” Kemna used thin-set mortar to skimcoat first with the flat side of the trowel and let it set up a few days or weeks, and then tile off sections of the project. On the second level where the floor ramped up to the retail spaces, Kemna used a self-leveling underlayment.

The biggest challenge Kemna has found is that “there is a tile or two broken in every box, so there is a lot of waste. You really have to order more than you need. The manufacturers will need to make arrangements to account for that.”

3-thintileSustainable space

The architects did a lot to make this a sustainable project. The barren and underutilized ice skating rink was transformed into an indoor garden through the use of vegetation, wood decking, new tile, water features and low-voltage lighting. The demolition of the existing concrete slab beneath the ice rink created large amounts of crushed concrete that were re-used as subgrade for the new flooring. Several tons of concrete were diverted from the landfill and were kept there on site as part of the new construction. Low VOC paints and adhesives were specified throughout the entire project.

4-thintileSkylights provide abundant amounts of natural light that reduce the amount of required light fixtures during daylight hours.

This project was the Commercial winner in the Italy Tile Competition, sponsored by Confindustria Ceramica, the Italian Association of Ceramics and the Italian Trade Commission and open to architects and designers in North America. Residential, Commercial and Institutional winners were selected by an international jury of design professionals and winners were announced at Coverings in Las Vegas in April 2014. They were awarded a $4,000 purse plus a trip to Bologna, Italy, this month from September 22-26 to take part in the Cersaie exhibition of ceramic tile and bathroom furnishings.

5-thintileEach winning project was recognized for its outstanding use of Italian ceramic tile, quality of installation, and overall design excellence. Sustainable attributes were also considered along with the impact that the tile makes on the overall space and installation. Contractors and distributor partners in each project were also celebrated.

Project: Plaza of the Americas
Architect: Corgan Associates
Landscape Architect: The Office of James Burnett
Location: Dallas, Texas
Tile Manufacturer: Cotto d’Este
Contractor: Kemna Tile
Distributor: Horizon Tile

Thin Tile – July 2014

mapei_sponsorLarge thin porcelain tile update, part I

Contractors share wisdom about successful LTPT installation

By Lesley Goddin

Large. Thin. Porcelain. Tiles. You’ve been hearing a lot about these in recent months and years. The lightweight, environmental benefits of these tiles – which start at thicknesses (or thinnesses) of 3 mm – combined with the ability to install them over existing surfaces with nearly any surface graphic imaginable thanks to digital printing technology make these tiles a game changer in the industry.

There’s one caveat that has some contractors a little gun-shy: no hard and fast standards exist for their installation right now, even though TCNA is in avid talks about the subject. The NTCA, together with TCAA, IMI and IUBAC – the founding associations of the Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT) – have come out with a position statement that recommends installing no large thin porcelain tile (LTPT) on the floor that is less than 5.5mm thick. There are considerations in handling and moving the units and recommendations on mortar too.

So, today, what does a contractor who wants to use these fabulous new products need to know for a successful installation? In part one of this story, we asked contractors experienced with this product category to share their wisdom about working with this material, and have included information about certification of Thin Tile Porcelain (TTP) that is currently in the works in the ACT program. We’ll share information from manufacturers in part two of this exploration of LTPT/TTP.

1-thintile-0714Martin Brookes, NTCA Five Star Contractor and owner of Heritage Marble & Tile in Mill Valley, Calif., has been involved with large thin porcelain tile since its introduction to the marketplace, due to a high-end residential bathroom that was installed with the 3mm material about four years ago.

Ensure logistics, employ proper equipment

Brookes has this suggestion: “With high rise interior installation it is important to make sure the material can actually be transported to the job site via elevators, stairwells, etc., without breaking the material,” he said. “Having the right equipment, like that from European Tile Master provides, and investing in installers attending training seminars like NTCA offers, are vital for contractors to avoid the costly pitfalls.”

Brookes also is one of several contractors who are sharing their knowledge with those new to the field. “I have PowerPoints from LATICRETE and MAPEI that I share with fellow contractors. I also try to educate the competition on how to follow substrate preparation guidelines, which in my opinion, is key as well as the handling of the material.” Brookes recently attended a training on thin porcelain tile installation with Custom Building Products, and applauds regional training being done by Crossville and other manufacturers. “Hopefully the education will prepare [contractors] better on how to bid and work with the material to their advantage,” he said.

2-thintile-0714Another tile contractor who has had a lot of experience with LTPT – including installing it in an Installation Design Showcase posh lounge vignette at the most recent Coverings – is NTCA Five Star Contractor Lambert Tile & Stone in Eagle, Colo.

Substrate prep is key to success

While LTPT installation standards are still in the works, “the NTCA is recommending the use of best practices,” said Dan Lambert, who owns the company with wife Elizabeth. “Large thin porcelain tiles have much higher tolerances for substrate and finish flatness. As an installer I have found that this cannot be overstated. Every detail of what, and how we do what we do under the surface is critical.

“Through my experience with LTPT up to 5’ x 10’ x 1/4” thin, there are several very key components to a sustainable installation,” he said:

#1 – The substrate must be perfectly flat and level with no deflection. There is no room for error since the tiles themselves cannot be simply pulled off to verify coverage and add or subtract mortar where needed.

#2 – It is critical that the substrate and tile have the mortar keyed into both sides before combing the mortar. The mortar must be of very high quality mixed with a softer consistency that will hold the form of the notch, without being outside of the manufacturer’s recommendations. Depending on climatic conditions the timing of mortar application can be critical. The mortar should not skin over. Some conditions may require up to two installers on a piece of tile and two on the substrate. It is key to keep consistent with the final comb angle on both sides.

#3 – Edge leveling spacers are a must.

#4 – Proper tooling is a must for receiving, transporting and installing these materials. This requires a substantial investment on the part of the tile contractor.

#5 – The cost for one piece of tile alone can be compounded by a simple mistake. It is highly advised to double check all measurements, even use templates.

#6 – Having a team who works great together and communicates well with each other is extremely important, especially the larger the tile is.

#7 – These are still tiles and as such, movement accommodation is required per EJ171.

Lambert warns against just “anyone” attempting installation of LTPTs, but to leave the installation to trained and qualified installers.

“Sales professionals should be advised to carefully determine if the LTPT is the best choice for a specific project, taking into consideration logistics of a job and qualified labor available,” Lambert said. “To help with successful sales and installation of LTPT, top industry tool, mortar manufacturers and installation professionals are combining efforts for future educational programs to be held at participating tile showrooms around the country.”

In meetings with architects and distributors, Bart Bettiga, executive director of both NTCA and the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation, has seen several other important points arise that dovetail with Lambert’s observations.

“Make a sensible decision on whether it is absolutely necessary to use thin material on the floor,” Bettiga said. “Often, the thicker material could be used on the floor, like 5.5mm or thicker, and the thin material could be installed on the walls.

“If it is necessary, determine if the larger material can be cut down to more manageable pieces or sizes so that coverage can be checked, logistics can be dealt with, and expansion joints can be more easily managed,” he added, emphasizing, “make sure that no one quotes labor prices except the tile installer. Make sure the installer can demonstrate the ability to perform this work.”

ACT certification for TPT coming fall 2014

3-thintile-0714Though standards have not yet been set, the industry is intent on validating skills of tile professionals who are currently doing the work of installing these products.

“We are progressing with the development of the new thin porcelain tile testing for ACT,” said Scott Carothers, director of training for the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF). Currently, the test module is designed, the prototype built, and the study guide and written test questions are under development, with the test projected to be ready to administer by fall 2014. A thin porcelain tile testing update will be presented during Total Solutions Plus in San Antonio in late October 2014.

In the absence of standards, “we are utilizing the resources of the major LTPT and mortar manufacturers to build the hands-on and written tests,” Carothers said. To ensure success and avoid failures, “It is vitally important that the industry draws attention to this product category and establishes a testing mechanism that will qualify installers on the product handling and installation of LTPT as quickly as possible.”

Stay tuned to TileLetter for ongoing updates, and for wisdom from large thin tile porcelain manufacturers in part 2 of this article.

Thin Tile – Thin tile adds majesty to university façade

SponsoredbyMAPEIThe University of New England (UNE) has a new $14.5 million Oral Health Center on its Portland, Maine, campus. It is the clinical home of UNE’s College of Dental Medicine teaching clinic and oral health center facility, which opened in the fall of 2013 to coincide with the admission of the first entering dental class. The center was designed by Port City Architecture and Kahler Slater and built by Allied Cook Construction. The new state-of-the-art, 36,000-sq.-ft. facility houses the only such school in northern New England. The dental school addresses the shortage of dentists in rural Maine, and the Oral Health Center offers patients access to affordable dental care, while allowing students to gain clinical experience.


During construction, White crews used a scissors lift to raise the thin tile panels to the higher levels of the installation.

The architects wanted to add some drama to the traditional brick face of the building on the historic campus, and they chose large, thin tile panels to add the right design element. According to their plans, the large-format porcelain tile resembling gray slate would frame the brick masonry on all sides and along the roof line, allowing it to be viewed from any direction.

Allied Cook Construction selected Paul G. White Interior Solutions (Portland, Maine) to install the 39” x 118” Daltile SlimLite™ panels. Paul G. White has been in operation for 44 years in New England, and three generations of the White family work in the tile business. Paul G. White himself oversaw this project, with his son Jonathan White acting as project manager.


The building under construction, showing the placement of the porcelain thin tile panels with a look of gray slate.

“At first, I thought my dad was being too much of a perfectionist,” Jonathan said, “but, as usual, he saw the critical factor in the installation immediately. We had to pre-plan extensively before we began the actual placement of the tile panels.”

Because this would be the installation team’s first experience with using the huge, ultra-thin SlimLite panels, White arranged with tile supplier Daltile and installation systems manufacturer MAPEI to conduct a seminar for everyone who would be involved. “Education is the foundation on which our company’s strength is built,” Jonathan commented. White has developed an entire floor of its headquarters for ongoing education and training for installers.


A close-up showing the different cuts that had to be made to fit the tile onto the façade around windows and in alignment with soffits.

With knowledge of the best practices in hand, Paul instructed the crews to “measure carefully.” The architects provided a layout that matched the panels up with window lines and soffits to gain the proper effect. While some panels could be placed in their entirety, others had to be cut to accommodate the layout. Some panels had to be cut only 3”-4” wide by the full 118” length to do wraps at windows and bump-outs on the face of the building.

Because the warehouse was nearby, White crews pre-cut the panels before trucking them the 4-5 miles to the jobsite. “The panels are very fragile when they are in thin strips,” Jonathan said. “We had built a backboard where the installers could lay the panel against the side of the scissors lift we were using to raise the panels into position. The teams put MAPEI’s Kerabond/Keralastic mortar on both the building surface and on the tile panels. Crews used suction-cup handles to hang them and horseshoe spacers to bring them together.


Another close up, showing how spacers were used to perfectly align the Daltile SlimLite™ tile panels.

One important step the crew learned in training was to go over the panels with a vibrating sander to set the mortar in place. Once the mortar was set, the panels were grouted with Ultracolor Plus grout in black. The use of Ultracolor Plus significantly reduces the possibility of efflorescence on the finished façade.

“We were able to complete roughly one side of the building per week,” Jonathan said. “We followed the masonry installers, so we followed their timetable.” The White teams set approximately 1,500 sq. ft. of the SlimLite panels on the front of the building and the same amount on the back, plus 750 sq. ft. on each side. There were also some panels installed to cover build-outs on the roof. Paul’s admonition that they do the pre-cuts carefully made the installation easy, fast and successful.

“This was a new venture for our company, considering we have hung the traditional marble and granite slabs on buildings before,” Jonathan said. “It felt very different to be able to pick up these large slabs with just one or two people. We’re looking forward to doing more with these slim panels because of the relative ease of use. That really counts when you’re working in the middle of the summer, like we were on this job.”

White does anywhere from one to five exterior building facades annually, in addition to the hundreds of thousands of square feet of interior flooring the company installs each year. The company sees the new slim tile panels as a means of doing the job more easily, and hopes it may increase the number of exterior jobs.

“Using the MAPEI installation products ensures that we will have a successful job,” Jonathan said. “The best thing is, when we run into a problem, MAPEI technical people are always there to help us out. Together with Daltile and MAPEI, we make a pretty good team!”

Thin Tile


Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is a state-of-the-art medical campus serving families in South Florida. Regarded as “one of the best places in Broward County to give birth” for over 55 years, Holy Cross is renowned as the first hospital in the county to not separate newborns from their mothers – an approach that raises the bar for early mother-child bonding.


The bath facilities were outfitted in 4 1/4” x 4 1/4” glossy glaze, talc-body wall tile, original from the 1960 construction.

In 2013, Holy Cross initiated the Blessed Beginnings remodeling project to raise the bar once more for quality care and comfort in the Holy Cross Maternity Unit, originally built in 1960. Facility renovations were divided into three separate phases for ease of project management and execution, with the first phase scheduled to complete at the end of January 2014. The end result of the entire endeavor is a fully-remodeled, beautiful, and sophisticated environment that offers both aesthetic improvements and the latest technology in obstetrics.

The Hollywood, Fla., office of architectural firm Gresham Smith and Partners led the project, and tile contractor PFC was awarded the contract for renovation of 18 facility bathrooms and showers in the individual maternity ward units. The bath facilities were outfitted in 4-1/4” x 4-1/4” glossy glaze, talc-body wall tile, original from the 1960 construction. In order to bring the facilities to modern standards and style, all bath/shower walls required approximately 190 square feet of surface area be updated.


In order to bring the facilities to modern standards and style, all bath/shower walls required approximately 190 square feet of surface area be updated.

Rather than demolish the existing tile surfaces of the bathroom and shower walls, the project team opted to find a surfacing solution that would install over previous materials. Designers wanted a large, modern porcelain tile that would exude elegance and tranquility in the maternity unit while offering optimal performance. PFC’s installers prioritized the selection of a material that would be easy to handle, maneuver, and apply to a preexisting work space.

Enter Laminam® by Crossville®

The PFC team was familiar with Laminam by Crossville’s large-format, lean profile porcelain tile panels. These innovative panels are durable, versatile, and ideal for installing over existing tile. With overall dimensions of 1M x 3M yet just 3mm in thickness, these panels can be easily trimmed and installed over a range of substrates – just what was in order for this renovation project.


Rather than demolish the existing tile surfaces of the bathroom and shower walls, the project team opted to find a surfacing solution that would install over previous materials.

The design team selected the Laminam 3+ I Naturali in Ossidiana Vena Chiara to create a clean, fresh palette for the renovated showers.

A week prior to the installation at Holy Cross, PFC installers attended a Laminam by Crossville workshop that proved extraordinarily useful in understanding how to handle, cut, and install the panels. As a result of this training, the installation crews experienced no breakage and substantially less scrap than anticipated. These efficiencies helped to keep the Blessed Beginnings project on time and in budget.

For the installation, four crews, each with one installer and one helper, were assigned to renovate the baths and shower stalls. The crews cleaned the existing substrate (the previously-installed wall tile) and applied MAPEI® ECO-Prim Grip™ bond-promoting primer. Next, they applied MAPEI Ultraflex™ LFT™ thin-set mortar to both the prepared substrate and the Laminam panels with the appropriate trowels to achieve 100% coverage. Edge levels were used for spacing and flatness, and an orbital sander flattened trowel ridges and drove out any remaining air. The team used Schluter® aluminum profiles for edge protection and aesthetics, as well as LATICRETE® SpectraLOCK® grout for a quality, finished installation.

Designers wanted a large, modern porcelain tile that would exude elegance and tranquility in the maternity unit while offering optimal performance: Laminam by Crossville to the rescue.

Designers wanted a large, modern porcelain tile that would exude elegance and tranquility in the maternity unit while offering optimal performance: Laminam by Crossville to the rescue.

The installed Laminam 3+ panels provide an attractive, smooth surface that is easier to clean due to minimal grout joints. This creates not only a sophisticated design with seamless lines and contemporary appeal, but it also enhances the cleanliness and ease of maintenance of the maternity unit – an all-important factor when creating a safe environment for newborns and postpartum mothers.

The speed of installation, lack of demolition, and reduced construction residue made Laminam by Crossville an excellent choice for this project. From start to completion, the renovation of all bathrooms took only 14 days. For a remodeling project 50 years in the making, that speed, quality, and efficiency are unparalleled.


Owner: Holy Cross Hospital

Architectural Firm: Gresham Smith and Partners – Hollywood, Fla., office

Tile Contractor: PFC

Distributor: D&B Tile Distributors

Tile Product: Laminam by Crossville

Material: Laminam 3+ I Naturali Ossidiana Vena Chiara | 3,400 square feet

Trim: Schluter® – Rondec for edge bullnose finish

Setting materials: MAPEI® ECO-Prim Grip™ Primer, MAPEI Ultraflex™ LFT ™Thin-set Mortar, LATICRETE® SpectraLOCK® Grout

1 2