Tools, accessories and equipment important to get the job done

Tools, trims, equipment and accessories are all important aspects of getting the job done efficiently and effectively. 

Equipment developments have given us saws that offer dust containment features that keep workspaces cleaner and lungs healthier; new mixer technologies that make mixing materials less messy and more efficient; and streamlined machines that can do double duty such as combining cutting and edge profiling into one compact piece of equipment. Drilling technology has also engineered harder bits to cut through tough materials smoothly, cleanly and quickly.

In terms of profiles and accessories like shower shelves and drains, new coatings and materials provide a blend of longevity and aesthetics for the finishing touch on a project.


Amanda Henke
Marketing Manager
Blanke Corp.

Since they were first introduced, tile trims have functioned at a relatively basic level by protecting tiled edges from damage and providing a smooth transition to other flooring. This year has marked a change for many as cleanliness and sanitation have become an even greater priority in our daily lives, and the industry has risen to meet those demands. The visual appeal of tile is longstanding, but its hygienic appeal makes it an even more attractive choice for both commercial and residential installations. Tile trim manufacturers have answered with tile trims constructed with even greater quality with more easily cleaned materials and shapes, which in short translates to even more lasting, damage-free tile installations.

Peggy Hueler
President
Ceramic Tool Co.

Ceramic Tool Co. has been a supplier of metal trims for over 35 years. In that time, we have seen our fair share of changes and advances to the industry. Along with all of you, we are weathering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and through that, technology has proven to be one of our greatest assets. 

CTC has always worked in person, in the office, but in March we had to shift to remote working. Thanks to technology, we have been able to maintain our high standard of customer service while making this transition. Laptops, cell phones and [Microsoft] Teams meetings have all contributed to keeping us connected. We were able to make the changes seamlessly and continue to serve our customers with quick, reliable, and informative solutions for flooring trims.

Sarah Hurtado
Marketing Communications Manager
iQ Power Tools

Dust creates two main pain points for contractors; it makes a mess and is unhealthy to breathe in. Eliminating the dust and slurry saves time spent on clean up while ensuring good lung health for contractors and those around them. With safety, efficiency and cleanliness top of mind, contractors should absolutely demand tools that increase efficiency and ensure safety. Cost-effective dust collection systems are good for both bottom lines and work environments. We should be striving for clean workspaces that protect our current workforce while encouraging the next generation workforce to join a trade that is safe and clean. Dust containment is the future of construction and we are just at the beginning.

Steve Sprung
Product and Marketing Manager 
Russo Trading Company

As we see advancement in high-performance setting materials, there is also an increase in focus on mixing technology. Things like water quantities and RPMs of the mixing paddle are more important than ever. Tool manufacturers around the world have noticed this and have started to enhance the way we do things every day. From variable-speed mixers, water-dosing devices, dust containment, and different style paddles for different materials, the days of the drill and egg-beater style mixer are slowly fading away. The revolution in this segment is giving installers the ability to mix at the exact RPM recommended by the setting material manufacturer, and perfect water quantities for consistent mixes, not to mention taking safety into account at every turn. Your mortars and grouts are changing for the better – don’t you think your mixing tools should as well?

Sean Gerolimatos
Director of Research and Development
Schluter Systems, L.P. 

A recent trend in profiles and other accessories such as shower shelves and drains has been to expand the range of finishes available on these products. The technological challenge has been to find coating materials and methods that look great and meet the demands of their end-use. The overriding goal is to provide new aesthetic options for tile installations. Installers are using many different hard surfaces in installations and porcelain tiles that can be made to look like almost any material, so the range of finishes has had to expand to support these looks.

Scott Lebedz
Partner
Scodd Industries

We have seen a trend toward harder porcelain tiles along with even harder materials like crystalized glass being installed and the need for these harder surfaces to be drilled into. To efficiently drill holes into these harder materials, you need higher quality drill bits with better carbides and specially designed tips. Most of the standard carbide spade bits that have been used in the past cannot efficiently drill into these surfaces. By going with the proper drill bit, you can save a significant amount of time and money drilling into these harder surfaces. Having the proper tool enables you to properly estimate the installation time and that may be the difference in winning and losing a bid.

Francesca Bedini
Marketing Manager
Ferrari & Cigarini SRL

When it comes to cutting or edge-profiling, the industry is demanding more streamlined solutions that save time. Generally, workshops either have to use two separate manual machines (one for cutting and one for edge-profiling) or rely upon external service companies, with an incredible loss of time. There is an effort to develop automatic belt machines able to carry out in a single passage – and with just one movement of the piece – both the cutting and the profiling of the skirting. Compact design of this equipment also saves space in the workshop, meeting the needs of ceramic, marble and stone workshops, with small to medium weekly production needs. 

Carlos Delgado
Social Media and Marketing Specialist
RUBI TOOLS USA

Leveling systems are undergoing a revolution, just like tile spacers in the past. The basic principle of any leveling system for tile installation is pressing the highest piece, until matching its position with the adjacent tiles, thus obtaining a substantial improvement of the surface flatness. The items to accomplish this easy task have been redesigned and improved under the RUBI brand.


Blanke Corp.

In Blanke’s ongoing pursuit to exceed the needs of tile professionals, the companxy continues to meet tile trends head-on. BLANKE COVE is Blanke’s newest profile that meets at the intersection of design and function. The cove-shaped profile is not only the perfect solution for attractive tiled wall-floor transitions, it is also simple to clean, repels dirt and water thanks to its sloped shape, and meets hygienic requirements of many commercial industries. BLANKE COVE is also perfect for residential tile jobs and is available in bestselling anodized aluminum finishes and stainless steel for installations that require more rigorous maintenance. blankecorp.com

Ceramic Tool Company

There is a trend towards multiple types of flooring combined in one layout – tile next to wood next to stone. But with different types of flooring come different heights, and different edges. The CTC Tranz was developed to easily navigate the installation challenges presented by varying heights in the same floor layout. With no anchoring leg, you can set with construction adhesive or mechanically fasten. And because it is available in multiple beautiful finishes, the transition doesn’t interrupt the original tone offered by the designer. ceramictool.com

European Tile Masters (ETM)

The ETM trailer is designed for the tile professional that is focusing on the GPTP. The trailer contains all the tools and equipment necessary to transport, fabricate and install full-size porcelain panels/slabs. It is engineered to hold 13 pieces of 63” x 126”x 1/4” tiles. All tools are the highest quality and made in the U.S.A. It allows for the fastest tool set up and teardown ever. The trailer is a complete installation system that is needed for walls, floor and countertop for onsite hassle-free fabrication. etmtoolsllc.com

Ferrari & Cigarini

The new MVB AMINEUS is an automatic machine able to carry out both the cutting and the profiling of skirting pieces, doorsteps and window sills, with bullnose and half bullnose edges, in a single passage and with just one movement of the piece. Alternatively, it can make 45° mitering for production of kitchen and bathroom top and steps. MVB AMINEUS makes the production of high-quality elements possible on ceramic, gres porcelain, marble, granite and agglomerate materials, in a fast and simple way, with just one automated compact machine. ferrariecigarini.com/en/dettaglio.php?idprod=288

iQ Power Tools

Innovation is in the DNA at iQ Power Tools. One of iQ’s signature innovations is its use of cyclonic filtration – the use of centrifugal force to filter out particles. iQ harnesses cyclonic technology and takes it up a level. Introducing the iQ228CYCLONE, 7” Dry Cut Tile Saw. Like its predecessor, the iQTS244, the iQ228CYCLONE has a fully-integrated dust collection system, which has been tested to capture 99.5% of dust via its Four Cyclone Filtration System, meeting OSHA’s silica standard. The 35-lb unit utilizes a vacuum system with four cyclones to separate debris, which then collects at the bottom of a 5-lb capacity dust tray for simple disposal. The cyclonic airflow also keeps the blade cool. There is no longer a need to cut with water. No slurry. No dust. Available at iqpowertools.com

Lackmond

The next revolution in manual tile cutters is here – the Profievo. These Italian-made, single-bar style manual tile cutters are available in sizes ranging 18 – 64”. Maximizing strength while minimizing weight leads to the most portable and powerful cutter on the market today. The Profievo is equipped with:

  • Aluminum magnetic foot with rubber protection to avoid scratches.
  • Sliding aluminum trolley with adjustable ball bearings provides a smooth and accurate cut.
  • Support board features four special springs to guarantee rapid separation for an excellent finish.
  • Fully-adjustable goniometer for square cuts with quick reading ability for straight cuts and diagonal cuts.
  • New side extensions support large-format tiles.

For more information, visit lackmond.com 

MK Diamond

The MK Diamond 7” and 5” Swing Shrouds are for surface grinding dust control, when cleaning, leveling spots, removing epoxies, urethanes, paint and other coatings on concrete. The shrouds are made from an “abrasive resistant” plastic to prevent wear from the grinding process. The swing nose of the shroud easily flips to the side for grinding against walls and edges. The Swing Shrouds can be used with any dust containment system, thus reducing risk of respiratory problems and saving time during clean up. The 5” and 7” shrouds are easy to install, and are designed to fit most popular grinders. All of the adaptors necessary to fit these models are supplied. MK Diamond Products, Inc. has been American-owned since 1868. mkdiamond.com 

MLT

MLT has created a unique lippage control system. The bottom of the system has a toothed shape that is designed for improved encapsulation in the mortar. The strap is removed by pulling straight up to minimize any damage to adjacent tile compared to methods that require kicking or hitting with a mallet. The cap is removable for cleaning or repositioning. In addition to that, the two-piece strap allows for tighter joints and reduces waste making it a greener option. Reach out to MLT at [email protected].

Noble Company

For two decades, NobleSealant 150 has been an integral part of one of the tile industry’s premier waterproofing systems for use in wet areas. NobleSealant 150 offered a level of seaming, sealing, bonding, and adhesion that was unequaled by competitors. Noble Company now offers the “nextgen” advancement. NobleSealant 250 (available in 10.3 oz. and 5 oz. tubes) flows from the caulk gun with greater ease, and tools easily when applied to critical seams, overlaps, penetrations, and drain details. Most significantly, this sealant allows for water/flood testing in wet areas within two hours as part of a Noble Company system of waterproofing. noblecompany.com

Pearl Abrasive

Introducing the Pearl VX5WV™ 5” portable handheld saw for wet or dry application. This popular saw has a powerful 11 amp motor with over 4cm depth of cut when using a 5” blade.

Perfect when cutting all types of tiles, hard porcelain, natural stone, and masonry, it also accepts contour cutting blades for fast, safe radius cutting. Miter cut? No problem with this saw, as it has a built-in adjustable guide to allow for cutting at any angle between 0˚ to 45˚. Lots of accessories available such as railings, carriage, suction cups, and clamps available. pearlabrasive.com

PorcelainPlus Speedbit

The PorcelainPlus Speedbit is a high-performance carbide drill bit specifically designed for drilling quickly and efficiently through hard surfaces such as porcelain tile, crystallized glass, granite, marble, quartz, glass, and other hard surfaces. Internal test results show the Speedbit drills more than 3X times as many holes and more than 2X as fast as other carbide bits. Check out more info and a short video of the Speedbit in action at porcelaindrillbit.com. BOGO on first order! 

Progress Profiles

Proleveling Wedges System for tiles is composed of three elements: wedge, leveler and pliers. The levelers are available for grout lines of 1/1.5/2 and 3 mm and are suitable for tiles with thickness from 3 to 12 mm and from 12 to 20 mm. The wedge, with a length of 90 mm and a width of 22 mm, is inserted during installation inside the leveler. When pliers are applied, complete flatness between adjacent tiles is achieved. progressprofiles.com

Raimondi SpA

With Raimondi SpA’s wide range of innovative tiling tools and equipment, handling large-format tiles has never been easier. The 4th-generation EASY-MOVE frame is a lightweight tool designed for moving large-format slabs up to 10.5’ in length, with four sliding handles and eight RV175 vacuum suction cups that can be adjusted to fit slabs of any odd shape. The BM180 PLUS is an extendable workbench with folding legs – a sturdy solution for performing cuts on large format slabs of any size. RAIZOR is ideal for making straight score cuts on 3 to 12mm-thick slabs up to 14.7’ long, complete with suction cups, aluminum guides, and SNAP pliers to ensure the perfect cut. raimondispa.com

Rubi USA

The DELTA clips in the DELTA Level System are now color-coded to their thickness. The new clips have been aesthetically and functionally improved, with thickness measurements written on the clips themselves, marking a major advantage for the user. The new clip design ensures correct pressure for the wedge, and a clean and uniform break. While DELTA clips are compatible with most wedge systems on the market, the new DELTA wedges have been improved in terms of their composition and shape, making them much more resistant to wear and tear. A reusable element like a wedge should guarantee a good few cycles of reuse. The curved shape at the end of the wedge creates a stop so it can’t pass right through the clip, avoiding excess pressure. In addition to the DELTA Level System, Rubi also offers the Tile Level and Tile Level Quick leveling products. rubi.com

Stabila

The Stabila Tiler Set is the perfect set for all tile-related work! The set is a combination of the 58” and 32” Type 196, heavy-duty levels. The 32” is ideal for tubs and showers. The 58” is the perfect fit for long tub walls. Find your high or low spots with this long level that transports easy at only 58”. stabila.com 

Ventique

Ventique vents are made to create a solution for flooring installers and homeowners alike – smooth transition vents. Ordinary raised floor vents don’t add anything to a home’s look, feel, or value, but Ventique vents are functional and stylish, and also easy to install. Unlike anything else on the market, these vents are completely flush to the surface. With four unique design styles, and a variety of colors, and finishes, you will find a flush mount vent to complement any of your project’s needs. ventiques.com

College of Health and Human Services’ natatorium renovation adds competitive edge for ISU

Today more than ever, university buildings have become competitive assets to attract, retain and engage student populations. To meet these needs, Indiana State University (ISU) renovated and expanded their College of Health and Human Services (CHHS) building in Terre Haute to accommodate the surge of students in healthcare-related fields. 

ISU’s expanded and renovated College of Health and Human Services.

In a historic move, the state of Indiana approved $64 million, the largest ever state-funded investment at ISU, to complete an addition and renovation to the existing CHHS building. The new facility brought health education fields together under one roof, including programs in nursing, applied health sciences, applied medicine and kinesiology, recreation and sport, and social work. ISU hired award-winning Ratio Architects to design the new building. Ratio’s modern design incorporated natural materials and copious amounts of natural light in key gathering spots, making CHHS a destination for students on campus.

The natatorium’s east wall gets prepped for backer board.

Natatorium renovation for CHHS

The CHHS houses a natatorium for its academic programs, its women’s intercollegiate athletics and student recreation. Since the dated CHHS pool and decking did not meet current building codes or today’s aesthetic standards, ISU included a complete pool area renovation as part of the new CHHS facility. Enlisting the aquatic expertise of Counsilman-Hunsaker consultants, Ratio planned a state-of-the-art pool rehab, including contemporary yet classic tile design elements.

Application of TEC® HydraFlex™ Waterproofing to pool tank.

For the pool and surrounding deck, Ratio’s design called for mosaics in random patterns of neutral grey tones. Natatorium walls were covered floor-to-ceiling with contemporary, gauged porcelain tile panels. To bring the pool up to current code, deck drains had to be added and the pool gutter rebuilt, which added a level of complexity to the renovation. General contractor Hannig Construction of Terre Haute was chosen to manage the high-profile CHHS project. Hannig knew the extensive project required an exceptional tile contractor. 

Installers complete tiling of pool tank.

Hannig brought in experienced tile contractor The Blakley Corporation from Indianapolis to install all the tile work and handle the challenges of the natatorium. Blakley’s Commercial Flooring Service’s Division Manager Chris Rambis insisted on using a single-source setting material manufacturer for all of the project’s tile installations. TEC®was chosen because of its proven systems, strong technical support and excellent warranty. Blakley’s expert tile setters, who are members of BAC Local 4, ensured the project’s installation success. 

“The success of the CHHS natatorium tile work was truly a team effort,” Rambis said. “We had outstanding partners in Louisville Tile for on-time supply of the tile and setting materials, and Ratio and Counsilman-Hunsaker for careful review of the setting system plans. Our TEC rep was a frequent presence during construction for impressive service and tech support.”

Laminam porcelain panels for the win

Scissor lift to apply Laminam panels over glazed block.

Blakley’s began the project by installing the wall tile, soaring almost 30 feet high in certain areas of the natatorium. Laminam gauged porcelain panels were adhered vertically to cover 11,000 sq. ft. of the natatorium walls. TEC® Ultimate 6 Plus High Performance Polymer Modified Mortar was the ideal mortar for the job. 

Blakley’s installation crews primed the three walls of existing glazed tile block with TEC® Multipurpose Primer to enable the Ultimate 6 Plus to bond to the difficult substrate. The remaining east wall was prepped by adding backerboard. The Laminam panels were then back buttered as required per industry standard to achieve full coverage for gauged panels. The prepped panels were applied to Ultimate 6 Plus already troweled on the primed walls or backerboard. The Local 4 installers appreciated the mortar’s extremely easy-to-trowel, creamy consistency and exceptional open time. 

To finish, TEC® Power Grout® Ultimate Performance Grout was applied to the 1/8” joints. A key benefit of Power Grout, besides exceptional stain resistance and bond strength, is its water resistance – essential for the constant humidity in the natatorium.

Installing 1 x 3 meter Laminam panels from the narrow pool deck was a challenge. Along the floor and ceiling, the team used TEC® Fast Set Deep Patch to fill in the voids and radius of the existing glazed block. TEC® ACCUCOLOR 100® 100% Silicone Sealant was used throughout the project for its flexibility at movement joints and for its water-resistance at transitions between dissimilar materials. 

Enter the mosaics

New deck drain construction and gutter fully tiled.

Next, the new gutter and deck drains were constructed. During the construction, Blakley did a mock-up of the tile installation to verify the number of rows of mosaics needed in the new gutter. This was done to show how the gutter lip, gutter trough, and deck face could be formed with full mosaic tile and trim pieces therefore avoiding as many cut tiles as possible. The mock-up helped save valuable time by having the additional row of mosaic tile pre-approved by the architects. 

The team then began work prepping the pool tank and gutter, comprising 6,400 sq. ft., of mosaics. By installing a new cementitious substrate in the pool tank utilizing TEC® Floor Mud and TEC® Xtra FlexTM Acrylic Latex Additive, minimal preparation was necessary before waterproofing with TEC® HydraFlexTM Waterproofing Crack Isolation Membrane. Tile installation could begin almost immediately, as TEC HydraFlex cures in just one to three hours. 

Mosaic tile pattern on deck of completed pool.

Installers used TEC® Super Flex™ Ultra-Premium Thin Set Mortar with its exceptional bonding properties due to its patented formula, to install the mosaics to the pool substrate. The team then took advantage of TEC® AccuColor EFX® Epoxy Special Effects Grout for its complete stain and chemical resistance, as well as its durability. AccuColor EFX Grout withstands submersion in chlorinated water.

Natatorium pool complete with starting blocks.

All hands on TEC

The pool deck was next to be tiled. Since the deck substrate was newly constructed, only light cleaning and no major crack repairs were required. The team proceeded to apply TEC® HydraFlexTM Waterproofing Membrane, an ANSI 118.12 membrane. They used the TCNA-125 full coverage method to ensure water on the deck would not affect the substrate. Several installation crews worked simultaneously again using TEC® Super Flex™ Mortar to install 4,000 sq. ft. of rectangular mosaics in a random pattern on the pool deck. Super Flex Thin Set offers superior bond strength that ensures the mosaics will stay bonded for years to come. The entire deck area was also grouted with AccuColor EFX® Epoxy Grout, again for its exceptional stain and chemical resistance. AccuColor EFX Grout stands up to the deck’s high traffic and frequent exposure to chlorinated water and industrial strength cleaners.

Completed natatorium ready for use.

Next, the depth markers were added, and the pool was filled. According to Blakley’s Rambis, the new pool was quickly certified by USA Swimming – a nod to all the partners who meticulously planned and worked the renovation.

Bryan Duncan, ISU’s director of capital planning and improvements, noted, “It was exceptionally gratifying to see the beautifully renovated natatorium. The update has earned rave reviews from students, including our ISU athletes.”

As intended, the CHHS building has become a popular campus hub for ISU students and faculty with all its educational and recreational amenities, including the transformed natatorium. The new building has achieved its goal of becoming an ideal collaborative learning environment for all the university’s healthcare-related programs.

Flags denote pool ready for swim practice.

NTCA Five-Star Contractor Projects of the Year shine brightly

Every year, the NTCA selects its NTCA Five-Star Projects of the Year. The announcement of these awards is a bit different this year – as are most things in 2020 – but the projects and contractors are being awarded all the same!

Judges included Consultant Dave Gobis; Richard Goldberg, Professional Consultants International; and Kent Klaser, Tile and Stone Consultants. The criteria included scope, complexity, technical soundness, online voting (People’s Choice award), and presentation. Judges delivered a roster of one Grand Prize Residential, Commercial, and Commercial Elite winners, as well as one Achievement of Excellence Award in each category. A People’s Choice Award was also selected by popular vote from the industry. Winners will receive a trophy or a plaque to honor their achievement plus a celebration of their accomplishment in social media, as well as expanded coverage on TileLetter.com.

Residential Grand Prize: 
Heritage Marble & Tile, Mill Valley, Calif.
The Ultimate Grotto 
Completed December 2019

This project – which also won the 2020 Coverings Installation & Design (CID) Award for Residential Tile Installation – was recently featured in the September 2020 issue of TileLetter. 

In brief, Heritage Marble and Tile installed intricate custom glass mosaic tile by Sicis, and handmade ceramic Pratt and Larson Tile onto a Moroccan style gunite grotto shell, which arched gracefully over the pool. The contractor had to float the walls with mud to meet the tolerances that would accept the glass mosaic. It then turned out that the niches were poured 2-3 inches off center, which did not match the careful calculations by the landscape architect that Sicis used to create the custom mosaic. In addition, the diameter of the bottom of the grotto was 2˝ larger than at top. Heritage Marble and Tile was faced with re-ordering all the glass mosaic from Italy – thus delaying the project – but chose instead to piece the niches  by hand and rework the circles in the mosaic pattern to stay on schedule. This was a technically challenging installation that tested the focus, detail, and stamina of the installer. The end result was a stunning pool grotto that exceeded everyone’s expectations. 

Commercial Achievement of Excellence: 
Artcraft Granite Marble and Tile Company, Mesa, Ariz. 
Mission Improbable: Elevate 24
Completed March 2019

This massive business complex required exterior installation of 52,000 sq. ft. of 12”x24” porcelain floor tile. This was installed with nine different percentages within three uninterrupted 6’ x 8’ patterns specific to atriums, walking paths, common areas. It flowed though all levels of one building, through walkways and through the four levels of another building. Artcraft used a surveyor’s transit and lasers to find square lines and gridded the entire installation. 

Twenty thousand square feet of loose, unbonded tile and mud bed had to be removed, then re-mudded, waterproofed and reset per TCNA method F101-19 with an additional waterproof membrane, pushing original plans for the remaining 32,000 sq. ft. beyond budget. Using TCNA 2019 Handbook method TR711-19, Artcraft installed tile over tile, removing areas that didn’t have the proper bond, cleaning tile and re-installing. 

Wet soggy weather required tarping freshly mudded areas to protect from rain and snow and let the mud cure. Thanks to the gridded, proper layout, crews could work in exterior areas not exposed to rain; also Artcraft could reinstall mis-calibrated tiles that varied up to 1/8” between tiles. 

Movement joints were installed to accommodate expansion and contraction of tile over 165 degrees of temperature change. Foam backer rod and 100% silicone formed joints at six- and eight-foot intervals, at changes of plane, and at different materials to conform with TCNA EJ171. 

Artcraft’s two ACT-certified and seven CTI- certified tile installers were vital to this project’s success, ensuring all materials were installed per all national industry standards. 

Commercial Elite Grand Prize: 
David Allen Company, Raleigh, N.C. 
Hotel Bennett, Charleston, S.C.
Completed December 2018

Hotel Bennett was the subject of TileLetter’s cover story in July 2018. The many different patterns required strategic planning weeks in advance, including shop drawings for fabrication. Field measurements were double checked, and dry layouts were done to ensure pleasing pattern placements. The porcelain tile and stone border in the grand lobby were hand-cut in the field to be flush with the radial corners that wrap the room. Cut-to-size stone treads and risers were fabricated for both monumental staircases and mirror each other. The stair wells were designed at a radius requiring the top risers to be fabricated out of
5cm material, laminated together and waterjet-cut for a seamless finish. 

On the exterior, 12”x12”, 12”x24” and 24”x24” porcelain tile covered over 8,000 sq. ft. of balconies and decks on multiple levels, some with individual adjoining guestroom balconies or a common gathering balcony. Each location created a different issue of how to slope tile to drains without creating out-of-tolerance lippage. Plus, the rooftop pool deck was in direct sunlight and scheduled for a summer install, requiring crews to work in cool morning hours, and tent the work areas in the afternoons. They also had to keep materials cool to maintain a reasonable pot life in the heat. The 100,000 sq. ft. project required planning, finesse and superior craftsmanship over the 47-month timeline. 

Commercial Elite Achievement of Excellence: 
DeAnza Tile, Fremont, Calif.
Oakland T-12 City Center, Oakland, Calif. 
Completed: November 2019

The main level public areas of the 23-floor Oakland T12 Office Building, designed by KSH Architects, feature Ariostea 24”x48”x3/4” and 24”x24”x3/4” porcelain pavers for interior and exterior. The interior elevator lobby and main corridor walls of the LEED Gold building feature Granitifiandre Maximum 9’x5’x6mm porcelain panels. To accomplish seamless alignment of porcelain paver grout joints from interior lobby to exterior and onto the concrete sidewalk, two different installation systems were utilized. The interior was installed per TCNA F-121-19 with a full Custom Building Product system. Exterior was a pedestal system engineered by Buzon with its screwjack pedestal system . 

The marble veining on the porcelain wall panels was designed to align through four different panel varieties. They were installed per TCNA W 244-19, via scissor lifts and rolling scaffolds 25 feet high. The illusion of continuous veining was aided by perfectly mitered tile corners, all fabricated onsite. Absolute precision was required for reception desk veining to come together at three different angles to form a monolithic cubic appearance.

The overall project installed 8,000 sq. ft. on the interior and 10,000 sq. ft. at the exterior – 200 9’x5’ porcelain panels at the interior corridor walls and reception desk.

People’s Choice: 
Premier Tile & Marble, Gardena, Calif.
Academy Museum of Motion Pictures – The Saban Building
Los Angeles, Calif.
Completed November 2019

This project was the restoration of an iconic 1939, Streamline Moderne Building. It involved the preservation, rehabilitation and replacement that spanned six stories of 350,000 of its 500,000, 24 karat gold 1”x1” tile. Working hand in hand with preservationists and conservators, each of the 500,000 tiles were inspected, graded, marked and accepted or deemed unfit for rehabilitation, using technology employed by NASA on the Rover. 

Damaged mosaics were removed with small 1”  rotary power tools and low-impact pneumatic chisels. New mosaic installation had to fit flush and align with preserved existing tiles, one piece at a time. Special substrate preparation included hydraulic injection of ultra-low shrinkage, flowable, self- consolidating fine grout for structural bonding of delaminating mass, fortified mortar bed installation for delaminated areas and anti-fracture membrane over existing concrete cracks.

Crews had to replace their usual high-production pacing with slow, meticulous attention to detail and care of the original installation, focusing on preservation and a spotless installation; the reflective nature of the material made any deviation immediately apparent. 

Premier Tile & Marble received the California Preservation Foundation award for outstanding achievement in the field of Historic Preservation and received an invitation to speak at The Surface Effects Symposium and Workshop.

Cleaning and sanitizing grow in importance for health and wellness

2020 and the COVID pandemic has brought a new emphasis onto cleaning and sanitizing surfaces. One way companies are addressing this is through antimicrobials that guard against dangerous microbes and support a healthy environment. Another approach is through sealers that prevent the opportunity for microorganisms to collect in crevices and the micropores in absorbent materials like grout. As we go forward, cleaners will be important tools in the arsenal for wellness. 


Arthur Mintie

Arthur Mintie
Senior Technical Services Director
LATICRETE International, Inc.

This year, we’ve seen all aspects of the tile and stone industries affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. CDC and OSHA continue to implement new guidelines to keep construction jobsites safe, and the project regulations are constantly changing on a job-to-job and state-by-state basis. LATICRETE recently recognized a major trend that has created a spark of demand in the tile and stone marketplace: the use of antimicrobials. 

Known for being extremely effective against bacteria by up to 99%, and proven to be successful at fighting a broad spectrum of bacteria, it’s not surprising why antimicrobial flooring is widely used in hospitals. In fact, LATICRETE predicts an increased demand for antimicrobial materials in hospitals and has noticed growth within the food and beverage industry. As our world keeps evolving and learning to adjust to differing industry trends and requirements, it’s important to consult a trusted tile and stone installation materials manufacturer for assistance on which antimicrobial products work for your specific needs. 

Grace Munoz

Grace Muñoz
Marketing Coordinator USA
FILA Surface Care Solutions

Protecting surfaces is now more important than ever! Grout and absorbent materials, in particular, tend to attract germs because they contain micropores, which facilitate the penetration of water and dirt. When water and dirt filter through the surface, the small holes become the perfect habitat for germs to grow: they are dark, warm, protected and rich in food. To prevent bacteria from proliferating in the micropores, it’s important to apply premium sealers that block water, oil and staining agents, while creating a breathable barrier that keeps walls, floors and countertops hygienic and looking like new. 

Water-based sealers do not release fumes and are ideal for high-absorption materials such as travertine, sandstone, terracotta and concrete. They are an optimal choice for maintaining the highest hygiene and environmental standards. Once the material is protected, it’s vital to follow CDC guidelines and clean surfaces before disinfecting them. 


FILA

Goodbye grout haze! Grout haze, the residue left on the tile after grouting has always been a normal result of the tile installation process – until now! Designed together with tile installers, FILA’s INSTANT REMOVER eliminates grout haze on large-format tile, porcelain and ceramic tile, glass mosaic and quarry tile before it even starts, leaving the tile surface completely clean right away – no returning to the construction site for post-installation cleaning! INSTANT REMOVER relies on unique RapidDry Technology, which allows the installer to apply the product on fresh grout without damaging it. The 24-ounce spray bottle is extremely user-friendly. The product dries quickly, doesn’t foam, doesn’t need rinsing and you don’t need special tools to apply it. Just install, spray, clean and you’re done! fila.com

LATICRETE International Inc.

LATICRETE offers a comprehensive array of tile and stone installation materials with Microban® antimicrobial product protection. Microban® antimicrobial technology is integrated at the manufacturing stage providing around-the-clock product protection from the growth of microbes including bacteria, mold and mildew. The built-in antimicrobial technology will remain present and active for the expected lifetime of a product, working at a cellular level to continually disrupt the growth and reproduction of any contaminating microorganisms. For a full list of LATICRETE® products that offer Microban® antimicrobial protection, visit laticrete.com

Progress Profiles

Propolish is a white cream-based formula for cleaning, degreasing and polishing of stainless-steel surfaces and opaque/matte brass. Ready to use, it does not contain acids and alkalis and leaves no marks after use. Proclean cleaning spray is ready to use for removing from residual surface oxide and limestone from stainless steel, brass and aluminium profiles. It deposits a protective film that prevents the deposit of limestone and soap residues. Regular use achieves bright and cleaner surfaces for a long period. Procare Clean is suitable for glass, mirrors and bathroom fittings. progressprofiles.com 

Floor warming is expanding

New technology in electric floor warming is seeing more energy efficiency cables and streamlined systems that eliminate bulky junction boxes. At the same time systems are getting easier to install, which removes some fear factor for installers not familiar with electrical systems. Today’s floor warming membranes do double or triple duty in positioning cables, providing uncoupling, waterproofing or even insulation. Technology has even developed to extend floor warming into showers themselves, which not only adds comfort but helps dry the shower floor quickly and discourage mold and microbe growth that can occur on lingering wet environments. Smart thermostats allow connections with devices and services to program warmth from afar or allow the system to learn your lifestyle to better provide comfort. Electric floor warming is expanding even in non-traditional areas of the home, with some customers using electric floor warming for primary heat. 


Mark Pennine

Mark Pennine
Technical Manager for the Tile Program
ARDEX Americas

The advances for in-floor heating systems are focused on popular societal trends surrounding energy efficiency and ease of installation for the installer. 

Heating cables are becoming more energy efficient, safer, and help to make the installation easier. Features include allowing the installer to make longer runs before making a turn in the layout requiring less cable and reducing stress on the cable. Some heating cables additionally have the hot/cold wire connection contained within the cable itself, which is important when using a click in heating/uncoupling membrane, eliminating bulky junction boxes that need to be cut into the membrane. 

The improvements in heating membrane designs are likewise focused on heating and energy efficiency, using less energy and warming the floor faster. Additional features like uncoupling and waterproofing help reduce installation time, and the design upgrades improve roll memory and prefilling for the installer.

Lastly, thermostats are becoming more complex and technologically advanced. Wi-Fi enabled thermostats are increasing in demand, allowing homeowners to control their heating system through an app right from their phone. Programmable models also allow setting multiple time periods to turn the system on and off. 

Mark Albonetti

Mark Albonetti
Installation and Technical Specialist
MD Pro/PROVA Products

The use of heated tile and stone flooring use will continue to increase. What has changed in the heated floors for tile and stone lately is how the wire or wire system was installed. In the past, you had to install the wires by themselves or roll out a system where the wire was attached to a mesh mat. The installer would then have to level the balance of the area not heated before beginning installation. The new systems allow incorporation of the wire into the substrate, and the installer is ready to tile.

Sean Gerolimatos

Sean Gerolimatos
Director of Research and Development
Schluter Systems L.P.

The floor warming category is really driven by homeowner desire for greater comfort and luxury. The technology drive has been to develop ways for these systems to be used in more locations in the home.

A recent change is the development of installation details for floor warming systems to be installed on shower floors. The challenge of properly waterproofing an electric system in a shower floor and running the heating cables into the shower area while maintaining the integrity and performance of the system has been overcome with this recent set of instructions. Warming the entire shower floor further reduces the potential for mold growth because the floor dries more quickly and thoroughly. It also increases homeowner comfort because the entire floor is warm, not just the area where the hot water is landing.

Julia Billen

Julia Billen
Owner and President
WarmlyYours

There has been a noticeable increase in homeowners looking for radiant heating thermostats that add to their home’s decor while also being a reliable way to control their heating system. As an industry, we often forget that the thermostat is the only part of a radiant heating that is visible after installation. Recently we’ve seen significant advancements in the visual appeal of the thermostats from the design to customization options like metal pop-on covers or “skins” with illustrated designs and even high-end crystals added. These options allow a homeowner another opportunity to really express themselves while enjoying the comfort of their heating system. As far as emerging technological trends are concerned, I don’t think that you can overstate the emerging importance of smartphones for the entire radiant floor heating experience. From the very beginning stages of a project to troubleshooting occasional issues with a system that was installed years ago, the technological capabilities of smartphones have proven to be extremely crucial for us and for our customers. This has been particularly true during the COVID-19 outbreak when limiting the number of people on a jobsite has become a priority. We’ve seen a huge uptick in online quotes coming from in the field (up 7.8% from last year) and we’re seeing a lot of consumers utilizing our remote installation supervision service where a radiant heating expert is able to guide an installer through the most important stages of the process using video conferencing. Interesting times call for interesting ways in how we use technology to overcome limitations.

Arthur Mintie

Arthur Mintie
Senior Director, Technical Services
LATICRETE International, Inc.

Customers are demanding versatility from an end-user’s perspective, tied to several points – broadened usage options for more areas in a home. In some cases, it is being used as the primary heat source in many rooms. 

From a productivity/ease of installation view from an installer’s perspective, we are noticing the following trends and insights:

New product introductions/innovation that allow for simpler, quicker, more efficient and consistent installations, which can help tile installers who may not have any electrical experience feel more comfortable with more parts of the installation. It can also help shorten the learning curve for new installers, as well as minimize potential issues once the installation is completed.

Customers are requesting that their floor heating system be integrated into the smart-home eco-system, for efficiency and familiarity, all tied to ease of use. We continue to look for ways to seamlessly integrate our installation systems into the daily routine of life to create a better customer experience.

Alice Warnier

Alice Warnier
Marketing Manager – North America
Warmup

Due to load-bearing weight and structural subfloor movement, floor finishes can get damaged and tiles are especially prone to cracking. Electric underfloor heating membranes that incorporate an uncoupling design results in significant protection for tiled flooring by creating a new layer between the subfloor and the floor finish. 


ARDEX Americas

ARDEX calls ARDEX FLEXBONE® HEAT the most comprehensive, single-source, in-floor radiant heat system. It combines precision German engineering with a unique design, delivering customizable heat faster and more efficiently than any other electric in-floor heating system available, according to the company. FLEXBONE HEAT is a complete system solution, including a 3-in-1 membrane for heating, uncoupling and waterproofing, cables, and three thermostat options. It is ideal for all types of tile, stone and other manufacturer-approved floor coverings, with a complete system warranty. ardexamericas.com/flexbone-heat

MAPEI

With technology from nVent NUHEAT, MAPEI’s Mapeheat™ line of floor-heating products is one of the industry’s most comprehensive lines of radiant floor-heating products. This easy-to-install, versatile, advanced technology is suitable for use with tile and stone, laminate, engineered wood and luxury vinyl tile/plank floors. The Mapeheat family of products includes Mapeheat Mat (pre-wired), Mapeheat Membrane (customizable), Mapeheat Cable, and programmable Mapeheat thermostats available in three formats – Mapeheat Thermo Basic, Mapeheat Thermo Touch and Mapeheat Thermo Connect. With varying features and advantages, each thermostat allows users to easily control the settings of the Mapeheat floor-heating system. mapei.us

MD Pro/PROVA Products

PROVA FLEX-HEAT® is the latest and most multi-functional tile underlayment available today, according to the company. It features a deep groove design suitable for multiple thicknesses of heating cables. The exclusive Vapor Management System and Shear Stress Control® system provides unsurpassed quality in anti-fracture and uncoupling. Step onto a finished tiled floor and rest assured that the warmth and durability of the tile installation will last for years to come. Versatile heating cable compatibility can be used with multiple wire sizes of up to 0.2” (5mm) thick.

  • Achieve 3” (7.6 CM) cable spacing to provide most efficient heat distribution as per wire manufacturer specifications
  • 0.24” (6mm) thick membrane can be used without heating cables for matching up to higher floors to achieve a level transition.
  • Vapor management system offers open air channels beneath the fleece layer to provide a path for moisture to dissipate. Well suited for below-grade installations.

provaproducts.com

Progress Profiles

Prodeso® Heat Grip XL System provides electric warming only where desired in few minutes; it’s a cost effective, time and energy saving solution. The polypropylene membrane – with uncoupling, waterproofing and vapor management features – has an 8mm thickness with a non-woven, thermowelded polypropylene fabric on the back to optimize performance for any floor or existing surface. Its structure allows perfect placing of the heating cable and five times the crack-isolation than previous systems. The rounded-square reliefs feature truncated almost-square base pyramid cavities that transfer loads from flooring to the support and easily hold Prodeso Heat Grip Cable only where required. The 6.5mm diameter heating cable features many electrical resistors connected in parallel to allow for continued warming in the event of cable damage. progressprofiles.com

Schluter Systems

The luxury of floor warming can now extend right into tiled showers. Schluter Systems’ DITRA-HEAT Installation Handbook now includes a detail for installing and waterproofing DITRA-HEAT on shower floors. By using a dedicated heating cable inside the shower area and completing required waterproofing steps using the Kerdi waterproofing system over the floor warming system, the shower floor can be warmed, just like any other tiled floor. Installers should heed specific details around curbs, drains, and corners. Approval must be verified by the appropriate local authority. schluter.com

Warmup

The DCM-PRO Uncoupling System for electric underfloor heating combines the heating cable and the anti-fracture membrane, available in fleece-backed or peel-and-stick options. It is the only UL-approved membrane system in North America. Over the summer, Warmup released a new design based on installer feedback. The improved pattern offers a better heat spread. Whether you are installing the fleece-backed or peel-and-stick membrane, the DCM-PRO Uncoupling System is easy and quick to install, even in a shower! Visit the Uncoupling System product page on warmup.com to learn more. 

WarmlyYours

WarmlyYours proudly announces its sparkling new launch of radiant heating thermostats with Swarovski crystals. This partnership with Swarovski is the first of its kind in the radiant heating industry. With the addition of these stunning crystals, these thermostats represent a perfect blend of the luxury of Swarovski, the comfort of radiant heating, and the energy efficiency of modern floor heating thermostats. There are five different patterns available (Comet Argent Light, Golden Shadow, Moonlight, Crystal Infinity White, and Crystal Infinity Black) for WarmlyYours’ two most popular radiant heating thermostats (the nSpire Touch and the nSpire Touch WiFi). warmlyyours.com/floor-heating/thermostats

CONTRACTOR PERSPECTIVE

Gianna Vallefuoco
Vallefuoco Contractors, LLC

Schluter has provided the high-tech and high-fashion products that our typical residential client desires. Their Wi-Fi programmable thermostat has been an excellent option for use with their DITRA-HEAT system. Clients not only enjoy the Wi-Fi capability, but they love the display showing local temperature and weather forecast, and the multiple daily programming periods. 

Our whole supply chain has been as skillful as our industry’s artisans in its ability to create new technology on demand. They’ve continued to enhance tile related products, making them more durable, sustainable, and efficient to install. The very nature of our labor-based industry ensures a work ethic that’s custom made to respond to the demands of our timeless, but ever-
evolving, trade. I always look forward to witnessing the newest innovations and visions within the tile industry.

Innovative technology offers ease, speed and lower costs for installers

With large-format tiles and porcelain slabs proliferating, large-and-heavy-tile (LHT) mortars continue to be essential materials, controlling shrinking, and offering non-slump and non-sag properties that make installation easier. Thinset mortars that are part of a complete system offer confidence and the knowledge they are developed to work with other installation components and materials. 

The word for grout these days is “higher-performance,” with high-performance cement grouts offering improved color consistency, no efflorescence, and overall higher performance properties. Ready-to-use grouts offer elevated chemical and stain resistance, as well as ease of installation, and their higher cost is offset by the speed of installation, no sealing needed, and lower amount of grout required to get the job done. 


Mortars  

Tom Carroll
Senior Product Manager
Parex USA

Noteworthy advancements for the installation of large-format tile and natural stone are the continued development of Large and Heavy Tile (LHT) mortars. When typical thinsets cure, they are inclined to shrink because the displacement of water causes the mortar to retract and either pull away from the tile causing uneven coverage and hollow spots, or physically pull the tile down while it hardens causing tile-to-tile lippage. Newly-formulated LHT mortars are formulated to control the amount of shrinking that occurs during the curing process, allowing the tile to stay in position. These LHT mortars are formulated with non-slump features to withstand movement of larger and heavier weighted tile during installation and contain increased adhesion properties to prevent the mortar from sagging and hold tiles in place during vertical applications. The continued education and awareness of LHT mortars are assisting installers to make these a more common part of the installation.

Some of these mortars contain formulas to reduce dust providing cleaner work environments, easier mixing and spreading designed for the tile installers.

Sean Gerolimatos

Sean Gerolimatos
Director of Research and Development
Schluter Systems L.P.

It is important to view thin-set mortar as a part of a complete tile installation rather than as a standalone component. In this regard there is a move toward developing and presenting thinset as part of a complete system, such as optimizing it to set between porcelain tile and waterproof substrates and enhance system performance. Some manufacturers are standing behind these developments by offering enhanced warranties for installations that use a complete system from a single provider.

Grout

David Mowery

David Mowery
MAPEI Tile & Stone Installation Systems Business Manager for Color Products and UltraCare

There are four primary grout categories: 

  • Standard cement grouts
  • High-performance cement grouts
  • Ready-to-use (RTU) grouts
  • Epoxy grouts

The industry trend over the past few years has been to upgrade the tile installation and move away from standard cement grouts, which have their issues. The narrowing of the gap width has made this upgrade more achievable from a cost perspective. With today’s grout joints averaging between 1/8” and 1/4” (3/16” is probably the most common gap), it is now possible to buy the superior grout technology and pay about what you paid in the past when installing a standard cement grout at a typically wider gap width. 

Standard cement grouts are governed by ANSI A 118.6 and high-performance cement grouts adhere to ANSI A118.7. The high-performance cement grouts offer improved color consistency, no efflorescence, and overall higher performance properties. The RTU grouts have been compared to epoxy grouts in terms of their chemical- and stain-resistance. Yet, RTU grouts are much easier to install. And finally, there is the epoxy grout category. Epoxy grouts follow ANSI A118.3 standard specification. They are considered the most robust grout category and provide excellent stain- and chemical-resistance. 

Tom Carroll

Tom Carroll
Senior Product Manager
PAREX USA

Advances in grout technology continue to emerge. Understanding the performance characteristics and limitations of each type of grout is important. Most grouts are produced to meet the requirements of a particular ANSI standard, but there are additional requirements demanded by installers or end-users. Contractors typically want a grout product that has enough working time, spreads easily, completely fills joints, dries quickly, and is easy to clean. As important, they want to avoid call-backs to clean grout haze, seal joints and address other challenges associated with standard cement grouts.

As a result, installers are opting to upgrade grouts to higher-performing ANSI A118.7 grouts or RTU (ready-to-use) grouts. Costs of these high-performance and RTU grouts versus traditional cement grouts are higher, but when factoring in labor savings for faster installations, no sealing and reduced call-backs, these grout products may actually be cost effective. Since the increased trend is to larger-format tile and planks as well as smaller joint widths, less grout is required for each installation. This allows the contractor to justify using a higher-priced, higher-performing grout because the overall square foot cost is negligible.


CementPro

Maxibond Pro™ LFT, available in gray and white 50 lb. bags, is best applied when used with large-format, heavy and gauged natural stone, ceramic, and porcelain tiles. CementPro’s large-format tile product line is designed as an easy-to-apply, non-slumping, smooth texture product. This is achievable due to high specialty polymers, silica sand and calcium. Additionally, Maxibond Pro LFT can be used on floor and wall installations. This innovative mortar includes anti-sag, anti-lippage, and anti-slump properties, allowing for the best results. Maxibond Pro LFT exceeds ANSI A118.1, ANSI A118.4, and ANSI A118.11. cementpro.com

Custom Building Products

Affirming its “Right Grout. Right Color. For Any Job” declaration, Custom® Building Products found a way to make the most popular grout in North America – Polyblend – even better. Polyblend Plus has brighter, enhanced color and is more efflorescence-resistant than its predecessor without compromising the durability professionals expect from the proven Polyblend product. Available in sanded and non-sanded versions, Polyblend Plus accommodates joints up to 1/8” (3mm) for interior or exterior installations including floors, countertops, walls, ceilings, showers, fountains and pools. The ANSI A118.7 polymer-modified, cement-based grout produces hard, dense joints that resist shrinking, cracking, and wear. For more information, visit custombuildingproducts.com

Merkrete

Merkrete offers large-and-heavy tile-setting solutions for both walls and floors, supporting the development of larger-size tiles and planks that emulate wood or natural stone. Merkrete has provided solutions for this trend with its family of DUSTLESS mortars. This collection of tile- and stone-setting material products features new, innovative and patented DLT™ – DUSTLESS Technology by Parex USA. These new products are easier to use, produce less dust, and work in a complete system with Merkrete’s product portfolio. Designed with the contractor in mind, DLT features and benefits include:

  • 80% less dust – Less dust versus ordinary thinsets
  • Uses less water – Hydrates consistently and dries quicker
  • Easier to mix – Only the addition of water is required
  • Easy application – Creamier and easier to spread
  • Longer working time – More versatile on the jobsite
  • Less mess to clean up – Saves time, labor and money

merkrete.com

Schluter Systems

Schluter Systems has three thin-set mortars for ceramic and stone tile installation: Schluter SET™ unmodified thin-set mortar, Schluter ALL-SET modified thin-set mortar, and Schluter FAST-SET™ rapid-setting modified thin-set mortar. Formulated specifically for Schluter® membranes and boards, they allow tile installers to use a single source for their tile installation systems, with guaranteed product compatibility. By developing its own setting materials and controlling the formulas, Schluter Systems can guarantee consistently positive results and give installers complete confidence in setting times and strength gain in their installations. When used within certain Schluter applications an extended lifetime limited warranty is available. schlutersystems.com

SGM

Originally available in only an ultra-white finish that enhances the look of glass, mosaic tiles and any translucent tile or stone, Glass Mosaic Thin Set (GMT)is also available in gray. The new color will blend with tiles, glass and stones that range in the darker color spectrum, creating impressive outdoor/wet area features. GMT’s unparalleled proprietary formulation provides superior adhesion to glass, mosaic tiles, porcelain, ceramic, and natural stone. It’s the perfect choice for setting tile in pools, spas, and water features with submerged applications. For more information, visit sgm.cc or contact your local SGM sales representative.

Tile Doctor

The ZHERORisk® line of non-toxic, non-corrosive and sustainably-produced tile installation products, exemplifies a growing trend for healthy indoor products. Developed to provide a safer and healthier alternative to existing tile installation materials, ZHERORisk products emit no VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and have been certified by GEV-EMICODE® to meet the strictest tolerances and standards for indoor air quality. They have been formulated using renewable raw and recycled materials while generating minimal environmental impact throughout the product lifecycle. tiledoctor.com/project-zero/

CONTRACTOR PERSPECTIVE

Gianna Vallefuoco
Vallefuoco Contractors, LLC

LATICRETE has excelled in providing time-sensitive setting materials. They’ve been highly effective in educating installers on the benefits and specific uses of their Rapid Solutions products. Although these aren’t necessarily new offerings, their current marketing campaign has made selecting products easier when cure time is of the essence. Their PERMACOLOR Select grout has been an easy choice, given its quick dry time. Their 4-XLT mortar has allowed us to work efficiently, especially with large format tiles. Even installations requiring epoxy-based grout are not nearly as laborious as in previous years. LATICRETE SPECTRALOCK has allowed us a much more agile installation process than the epoxy-based grouts of the past, as well as a minimal cure time.

A real time saver has been not having to seal grout. With so many stain-resistant grout systems available, having to return to apply a topical grout sealer has become a rarity for porcelain and ceramic tiles that don’t require sealer. Products like TEC Power Grout, and MAPEI Keracolor grouts with their UltraCare Grout Maximizer have been staples for their stain resistant qualities, allowing for no return visit for grout sealer.

Shower systems continue to evolve to meet client demands

Today’s shower systems are lightweight, easy to install, and often allow the ability to tile the next day. Waterproofed shower trays and components streamline jobs, and manufacturers have developed kits that allow floor warming to flow into the shower itself, not only the bathroom floor. There is a growing range of drain covers – some tileable for a seamless look – and long-lasting finishes to meet client demands.


Mark Albonetti

Mark Albonetti
Installation and Technical Specialist
MD Pro/Prova Products

The new shower systems are water management systems. The way the old mud pan was installed most of the time promoted the chance for failures. Until recent years pre-pitching a pan was unheard of – lead pans, CPV pans with a clamping ring was standard procedure. If the weep holes were blocked the pan became a swimming pool. By putting the waterproofing on top of the shower, it moves water to the drain before it becomes a problem. Most systems are lightweight and easier to install, and you can tile the same day or next day.

Sean Gerolimatos

Sean Gerolimatos
Director of Research and Development
Schluter Systems L.P.

The technological challenge for shower systems has been to use materials and product configurations to reduce installation time while simultaneously maintaining or even improving the quality of the installation. If the installer can spend less time on the substrates and do better quality work that is a best case scenario for the tile industry. An example of products where technology is creating these types of improvements is factory-applied waterproofing on shower trays so less waterproofing work needs to be done on site. The waterproofing membrane is custom cut and adhered to the shower tray at the point of manufacture, saving multiple steps on the job site.

Julia Billen

Julia Billen
President and Owner
WarmlyYours

Over the last year, we’ve seen a sizable increase in floor heating projects for tile showers (up 12.7% from prior-year-period). Part of this uptick is certainly due to the launch of our combined shower waterproofing and electric floor heating kits last May, which were the first of their kind in the industry. But it also has a lot to do with increased consumer awareness of shower floor heating in general. Homeowners are becoming attracted to the idea that you can heat your entire tile shower’s floor instead of just relying on the water to heat a small portion. The combined kits make this integration extremely easy as the heating system is already sized for the included shower pan.

Bastian Lohmann

Bastian Lohmann
VP Marketing and Sales/Technical Service
wedi Corporation

As more contractors and builders commit to modular shower systems like wedi’s to simplify their projects, we like to double down on the idea that wedi systems are all you need when building a shower – besides tile and craftsmanship. We constantly add more features and variety to our systems, such as offering a wide range of stainless steel drain cover shapes to meet customer demand. Clients also demand options in terms of finish, from tileable versions that let the cover disappear below the tile to colors like gold, bronze, chrome – endless options. But what’s equally important as the look of the covers is getting deep into the steel and coatings technology to make the pretty colors happen but also last in showers over a very long time. Powder coating or various plating processes are widely known and very affordable, and that’s why many use them on fixtures. But they are less than ideal when used over a high quality stainless steel cover that is then exposed in a shower. So one big technology that’s trending for us is a new type of proprietary coating process, all of it made in the USA.


Noble Company

There is no question prefabricated foam shower pans/trays are here to stay. Offering tremendous flexibility, durability, and ease of installation, Noble Company’s Pre-Waterproofed ProBase® II Multi-Slope Shower Base offers unequaled resistance to compression/point loading, access to “fit to size” custom offerings, and a “pre-attached membrane” option that combines the strongest prefabricated foam pan available, with Noble Company’s singular high-performance membrane fused together at the factory. Installation time is slashed, and when used with NobleBond EXT and NobleSealant 250, wet areas can be flood tested within two hours of installation. noblecompany.com

Profilitec

Profilitec-Showertec-Linear is a revolution in linear shower drains, since it vastly simplifies the installation process and improves every aspect of performance. Profilitec incorporates 316 stainless steel, and Foiltec waterproof, vapor-tight membrane is pre-attached to the drain body making installation quicker and much more reliable. Further, the patented drain cover leveling system greatly simplifies adjustability while the design actually contributes to increasing water flow within the drain housing. New pre-sloped foam trays that are completely waterproof and incorporate new patented technology round out the system. Showertec-Linear is available in over 20 different color options and configurations. profilitec.com 

Progress Profiles

Proshower System USA is the innovative flush water collecting system designed for the American and Canadian markets. The whole system is composed of several elements as the waterproofing Profoil Membrane, the Pre-Sloped Wedge Panels that provide a 2% slope-to-drain, different shower channels and a series of profiles to finish the outer edges of the shower tray and hold the shower glass. Proshower Linear Drain Base or Base Off-Center – in stainless steel – and Proshower Linear Drain Base Polypropylene are two shower channels equipped with 360° adjustable drain and removable head flanges for connecting two or more shower channels. The stainless steel Proshower Central Drain Base facilitates a floor-level drain with tileable drain cover/grid for a custom invisible drain look. The series of Proshower Profile Line finishes the outer edges of the shower tray and holds the shower glass. progressprofiles.com

MD Pro/PROVA Products

Interest in accessible showers has risen within the tile industry as the needs of an aging population have become a growing concern. With a thickness of only 7/8”, PROVA PAN-MULTI® is an effective response to this concern. PROVA PAN-MULTI® and PROVA PAN-MULTI EXTENSION KIT® make up a system of prefabricated shower components ideal for installing curbed or curbless showers. The 5’ x 5’ pan and 4’ x 1’ extensions are pre-sloped modular components that replace the need for a mortar base, and perforations make it easy to customize the shower base to any size. PROVA PAN-MULTI® offers function and style! provaproducts.com

Repel Systems

With the latest trends in lightweight, foam shower systems, today’s tile installers are able to build high-end custom bathrooms with ease. XPS (extruded polystyrene) foam is used across several trades in the construction industry, thus has become a well-known and safe material with waterproof and insulation properties. Its closed-cell property eliminates water absorption and thus makes for an ideal material for building showers. It can easily be cut with a utility knife, which in turn reduces dust. Tile installers all over the globe are flocking to these lightweight, safe, and easy to use shower systems. repelsystems.com

Schluter Systems

To help installers achieve faster results, Schluter Systems is providing its Kerdi waterproof membrane in a roll twice as wide as the previous roll.  The new roll is 6’7” (2 meters) wide.  The length of membrane on each roll remains 98’ 5” so there are 646 ft2 of waterproofing membrane on each wide Kerdi roll. This wide roll can be used to cover the wall area from a shower floor to standard shower head height so the walls can be made waterproof with a single piece of Kerdi membrane.  schluter.com

Schönox

Break all-time installation speed records with Schönox iFix™. This unique and innovative 2-in-1 system allows you to seal the membrane and seams simultaneously. Efficient and easy to apply with a roller, it offers 40% faster installation time over traditional methods, saving you money. Schönox iFix™ Waterproof Sealing Adhesive has exceptional coverage and bond strength. Schönox iFix™ can be bundled with Schönox AB and ST waterproofing materials to produce a comprehensive shower assembly system for commercial or residential use. Schönox iFix and Schönox AB are suitable for interior and exterior applications and meet or exceed ANSI A118.12 and ANSI A118.10. hpsubfloors.com

WarmlyYours

WarmlyYours tile shower waterproofing kits were the first to include a complete electric floor heating system (a heating element perfectly sized for the shower pan, a programmable thermostat, and an electrical continuity alarm for installation). These kits also provide all of the traditional components of a shower waterproofing system including: a high-density foam shower pan with integrated slope, a multi-piece drain assembly with easy-to-clean hair trap, shower curbs, a drain grate cover, and various pieces and rolls of waterproofing membrane. Choose from multiple options including ABS or PVC drain flanges, three different variants of shower pan with matching heating element, and dozens of decorative grate covers. warmlyyours.com/shower-kits 

wedi

Just released in August 2020 are the wedi Fundo Primo and Ligno Premium Drain Cover sets. These premium quality drain covers will be added to the standard wedi cover set range. You can choose from standard, tileable and the NEW slotted design. The new cover sets are sure to add a luxurious feel to any shower or wet room. These drain cover sets are proudly made in the USA. wedicorp.com


CONTRACTOR PERSPECTIVE

Gianna Vallefuoco
Vallefuoco Contractors, LLC

The industry has responded to streamlining installation time by modifying packaging to accommodate shower system installations. We were excited to see Schluter now offering KERDI waterproofing membrane in a 626 sq.ft. roll, twice as wide as the previous 323 sq. ft. roll. With the new roll, our installers can cover the wall area from shower floor to ceiling with a single piece of KERDI membrane. This is a small change to the product, but an innovative way to reduce install time, and make the waterproofing process a little more efficient for the installer.

Schluter has also addressed the issue of having to use both unmodified and modified thinset with their membranes. The introduction of their ALL-SET mortar allows for use both under and over all DITRA and KERDI products. Since it’s recommended for ceramic, porcelain, and stone tile, including large-format tiles, it’s been an easy choice when using KERDI’s underlayment and waterproofing products. This has allowed our installers to transport and mix fewer products from fewer vendors.

Schluter has also been savvy in responding to the demand for new grates and shelves for bathroom installations. The selection of TRENDLINE finishes now allows clients to match tile trim profiles to their shower drains and shelves. This is a finish we can source and offer, minimizing the client’s need to go out and make selections in a showroom. Interior designers are perhaps the happiest group to see these products because they no longer have to compromise on esthetic choices in order to coordinate with the Schluter KERDI waterproofing system. 

Nadine Edelstein 
Tile Design by Edelstein

One of the major changes in our industry over the past decade has been the evolution of shower systems. The technology of waterproofing systems enables us to design and install unique and unusual spaces much more easily (and thus more affordably for our clients) and with more confidence than ever before. Whether we want to use a paintable membrane or a sheet membrane, we now have systems that perform impeccably and reliably. In addition, we can pick and choose how we want to utilize membrane systems. For instance, we can choose to pack a mud pan and use concrete board on the walls and then waterproof the entire shower with our membrane of choice or we can use one of many foam-based systems for the entire space. Foam options are also highly customizable. We can save time and resources in situations where drywall has been installed and still build a space that is properly waterproofed with confidence. These options require that we stay informed and involved in our industry. I personally love all of the options available and look forward to further innovations to come.

Meeting demands and cutting installation time for contractors

A firm foundation is important in any building project and tile is no exception. The evolution of underlayments, membranes and backing products has cut installation times and offers greater longevity to projects. Large-format tiles and porcelain slabs require more precise surface prep, so manufacturers are engineering products to meet the demands of the tile and stone materials but also to make life easier for installers, with lighter-weight building panels that are waterproof, VOC-free and offer ready-made components to speed the job for the installer. Trowelable and self-leveling underlayments are smoothing the way – literally – when installers encounter challenging substrates. Products in this category also provide moisture vapor management and sound abatement, laying the groundwork for a long-lasting, well-performing installation. 


William Alan White
Tile & Stone Field Marketing Specialist, Western US
ARDEX Americas

Construction schedules have created a need for speed. Trends continue to favor larger format tiles where a flat substrate is critical. Installers want products to minimize project time and systems that are thinner and lighter weight. Uncoupling membranes also provide maximum shear protection and are lighter weight than traditional substrate prep methods.

Amanda Henke
Marketing Manager
Blanke Corporation

With more and more people spending time in their homes, residential tile installations have experienced an increased focus on longevity. Having a consistent and reliable product like tile comes with demands in membrane and underlayment technology that solve a multitude of problems such as crack isolation, deflection in substrates, and protection from the elements. No matter the material, size, or location of the tile, all tile installations need to be protected and reinforced against damage. Modern underlayment technology has had to find new solutions beyond outdated thick-bed installation methods, cement board, and plastic rolled products to provide versatile and multifunctional underlayments that support every type of tile installation.

John Anderson
Construction Product Manager 
H.B. Fuller/TEC Specialty Products

Today’s large format tile (LFT) sizes such as 24”x24” or 24”x48” require more precise surface preparation than yesterday’s 8”x8” tile. As a result, subfloor preparation for successful tile installation is now more critical than ever. To meet the more stringent requirements for large format tile, many tile installers are increasingly using advanced installation materials such as high-flow self-leveling underlayments (SLU) and liquid-applied crack-isolation membranes. High-flow SLUs can greatly simplify meeting LFT flatness requirements of 1/8” variation in 10’ while reducing tile lippage. High-performance liquid-applied crack-isolation membranes isolate cracks up to 1/4”, while allowing tile installation as soon as one to three hours after application. High-flow SLUs and liquid applied crack isolation membranes can speed tile installation versus alternate surface-preparation methods, while enhancing appearance and durability.

Arthur Mintie
Senior Director, Technical Services
LATICRETE International, Inc.

The trends that we are seeing and the characteristics in installation products in this sector focus on three main areas:

Lightweight/Ergonomics – Making it easier on the installer is a core focus of new product design and innovation. Lightweight products are no longer just nice to have; these products are in demand to make it easier on installers, but also to lower the weight of tiled installation systems that are traditionally heavy in nature.

Safety/Health Conscious – This is a core concern of installers. Creating innovative underlayments and membranes that are not harmful to the user or the built environment are in high demand by installers and design professionals. Silica-free, low-VOC and user-friendly products will continue to be a product design trend.

Versatility/Fast Setting and Return to Service Features – Our current business and construction environment is placing an even greater strain on construction schedules and the ability for contractors to meet these demands. Therefore, high-delivery/productivity-focused and rapid- setting products that can shave time off of already truncated construction schedules are in demand. In addition, multi-function and single-application materials minimize the complexity of projects and speed up the installation process.

Mark Albonetti
Installation and Technical Specialist 
MD Pro/PROVA Products

Membranes now take the place of cementitious backers in many situations. As it happened in the mid-1970s when cementitious backer board began replacing mud as a substrate in tile and stone installations, membrane underlayments are taking some of the cementitious board square footage. Today’s membranes can solve a multitude of situations for installers; whether movement, sound control, water management or heat, there are now membranes for your installation.

I remember distinctly the first time I heard about cement backer board. I was at a tile distributor with my uncle picking up material for a job and the manager said to us, “The next time you are here, we will have this new product to replace mud. It is a sheet of concrete that you lift up and nail to the wall!” You had to be in the industry at that time to understand how foreign that sounded.

Tom Carroll
Senior Product Manager
PAREX USA

As size and weight of tile and stone continue to grow, and the use of planks and thin porcelain tile continue to grow, the importance of substrate preparation is magnified for these projects as the tolerance of substrate variance becomes smaller and the variance becomes more noticeable in the finished project if not addressed prior to installation. This has increased the attention on surface-preparation products such as patching compounds, screeds and self-leveling systems.

Leveling products are sometimes overlooked to save installation time and cost but since the growing popularity of large-format tile and plank tile requires truer floor criteria, it should definitely be part of the installation. Leveling products are available in trowelable and self-leveling versions, covering an array of performance criteria and curing times. Bottom line: most slabs and concrete surfaces are not as flat as required for successful installations, so the use of these products is increasing significantly. Tile installers are judged by the final installation so what’s underneath counts as much as the finish layer.

Dave deBear, CTC
Director of Architectural & Commercial Sales
NAC Products

The tile and stone installation materials companies have been keeping up with and creating new technologies for our industry for many years. As the demand for innovative materials continues, a recent trend is in the moisture vapor transmission (MVT) area. This has become a highlight as large-format tile, moisture-sensitive stone and unique adhesives have shown to be problematic where high MVT is present. Seeking out the surface prep materials and methods for this is critical to a successful installation. There are many good solutions, so look to the industry leaders to find the perfect solution for your project.

Tom D’Agostino
Technical Director
NUE TILE

Some internal forces advancing technology in the tile underlayment category are better-informed clients and their demands for more versatility. External forces like the progression of vinyl tile/plank flooring and new employee protection standards from OSHA are driving the advancements in safety and relevance of tile provided by its underlayments. Well-versed teams of property owners and managers push the tile/stone industry to look to its underlayments for improvements in handling moisture, cracked concrete and environmental noise transmissions.

While tile leads in aesthetics, durability and real luxury materials, the growth of LVT/LVP shines a light on some of tile/stone’s more wasteful aspects of ownership like its slow and expensive remodeling demolition with potential for silica exposure. Advanced underlayments can help tile/stone match luxury vinyl’s ability to be updated frequently and efficiently while encapsulating the silica during demolition, reducing the risk of exposure. 

Sean Gerolimatos
Director of Research and Development
Schluter Systems L.P.

One of the great advantages for installers when they use building panels is they can more easily build whatever they want for their projects without using wood or other materials that are sensitive to moisture. A trend we see in this category is the expansion in prefabricated components made from these building panels. Items like benches, curbs and niches can still be custom-made by the installer, but there is an array of items they can purchase and install exactly as they come. Installers can also modify and customize these prefabricated items at the job site much more quickly than building them from scratch. For example, bench or curbs components can be cut or joined together to fit perfectly in virtually any project.

Bastian Lohmann
VP Marketing and Sales/Technical Support
wedi Corporation

The foam core backer board industry is evolving from supplying a niche market for high quality shower installation product. We meet increasing and broad interest from mainstream market builders, contractors, architects and other industries, like modular or POD manufacturing.

These new customers like the benefits our products offer, like inherent waterproofness, the light weight, the clean and fast installation. These markets have specific needs, which drives our development towards increasing variety in product mix and services. It drives our use of innovative manufacturing equipment such as wedi-designed CAM and CNC platforms, BIM capability, specialized raw materials.

The absolute technological drive, however, is in constantly maximizing best possible design, manufacturing and performance of our core products with sustainability, environmental and health aspects given absolute priority. This includes not only R&D efforts, but we are actively driving committees and organizations with the goal of developing dedicated and complete ANSI standards for the foam core backer board industry. This establishes consistent quality and performance levels that can be transparently enforced. Not unusual in a growing market, they invite products that are quickly made in China or other low cost countries, where there exist zero checks and balances as we know it.


ARDEX Americas

ARDEX is the pioneer of self-leveling underlayment technology (SLU) with innovative products like ARDEX Liquid BackerBoard SLU that delivers fast setting times, while also eliminating steps in the installation, such as no need for metal lath over wood substrates. It can also be used as a fast-track prefill option over ARDEX FLEXBONE® UI 740 Uncoupling Membrane and FLEXBONE® HEAT and Uncoupling Membrane. These unique advantages allow a substrate to be prepared faster while achieving the flat, smooth substrate required for larger-format tiles at a thickness as little as 1/8”. The FLEXBONE® Uncoupling Systems also provide waterproofing protection when utilizing ARDEX SK 175™ Seam Tape applied with mortar or a liquid-applied topical waterproofing like ARDEX S1-K™ or ARDEX 8+9™. ARDEX Tile & Stone Installation Systems deliver single source, complete systems backed by the ARDEX SystemOne™ Warranty covering substrate prep, uncoupling, mortars, waterproofing and grout products. ardexamericas.com

Blanke Corp.

Outdoor tile installations can be tricky, and with more people spending time in their homes enjoying their outdoor terrace and balcony tiled spaces, Blanke has introduced a new drainage mat to quell concerns over elemental damage. BLANKE TEBA-MAT is Blanke’s newest solution for thin-bed tile installations for terraces and balconies. Harsh elements like frost and moisture are a constant threat to outdoor tile, but the expertly-crafted BLANKE TEBA-MAT drainage mat allows water to divert from outdoor tile and creates an extra level of safety when any moisture freezes and expands, protecting tile from cracking. blankecorp.com

Bostik

Bostik’s SL-150™ is a fast setting, self-leveling underlayment that can be used to create a smooth, flat or level surface prior to the installation of a wide variety of floor coverings. Its working time, low shrinkage and superior leveling properties make it the ideal product for demanding applications on, above or below grade. Walkable in just 1-2 hours, it can be installed from 1/4”- 1” neat. Bostik’s SL-150™ maintains healing and pour merging properties for up to 15 minutes and offers fast install for ceramic tile – four hours. Mold and mildew resistant, it contributes points to LEED® certified projects and can be installed over “green concrete” for early construction phase applications. Lastly, it can be feather-edged to meet existing elevations. bostik.com/us

Cement Pro

Elastic Pro, available in 1- and 3.5-gallon buckets, is a liquid-applied, ready-to-use elastomeric membrane for tile and stone installation. It can be used for interior and exterior substrates in commercial and residential applications. Elastic Pro creates a continuous waterproofing barrier with great adhesion and reduces crack transmission in tile and stone floors. Furthermore, it forms a smooth, uniform surface over walls, floors, and ceilings. Elastic Pro can be used as a slab-on-grade moisture vapor barrier under all types of floor coverings and can be applied using a “V” notch trowel, roller, brush, or sprayer. It exceeds ANSI A118.10 and ANSI A118.12. cementpro.com

LATICRETE International, Inc.

FRACTURE BAN™ SC by LATICRETE is a thin, load-bearing, self-curing liquid rubber polymer that can be easily applied in a single coat to form a flexible seamless anti-fracture membrane. For tile, brick and stone installations without the need for fabric, its versatility allows it to be applied in any interior, exterior and horizontal application. It can also be used in industrial, commercial and residential areas such as terraces and balconies overlooking unoccupied spaces. It meets ANSI A118.12 requirements and prevents nonstructural, in-plane floor cracks up to 1/8 inch (3 mm) from transferring through grout, ceramic tile and stone. laticrete.com

MD Pro/PROVA Products

PROVA-FLEX® is a durable, lightweight tile underlayment that provides crack-isolation protection to the substrate and an easy-to-install, labor-saving alternative to backer board on wood substrates. The PROVA-FLEX® unique design features an impermeable polypropylene sheet formed with a regular pattern of hollow studs to hold thin-set mortar, sandwiched between a woven polypropylene netting on top and a polypropylene non-woven anchoring fabric that is laminated to the bottom with a polyolefin- based adhesive (Shear Stress Control®). The top netting ensures a superior mechanical bond with the cured thinset, holding the tile to the PROVA-FLEX®, while the bottom fabric neutralizes stress caused by multi-directional lateral substrate movement thereby protecting the tiled surface. provaproducts.com

Merkrete

Fracture Guard FD is a low-VOC, fast-drying crack-isolation membrane specifically formulated by Merkrete for same day tile installations. Fracture Guard FD provides a thin protection layer to inhibit substrate crack transfers up to 1/8”. Because Fracture Guard FD is a liquid-applied membrane it conforms to any shape or pattern, thus allowing endless architectural designs. Used on both residential and commercial interior and exterior applications, Fracture Guard FD exceeds ANSI A118.12 and offers essential crack prevention protection to the finished tile and stone surface. merkrete.com

NAC Products

Sometimes what is old is new again, but this one has a valuable twist! NAC’s ECB Classic Membrane and NAC TAC primer, which has been in use for some 38 years now, has a unique characteristic that is so relevant today. Moisture Vapor Transmission has become a very hot topic in large-format tile, moisture sensitive stone and with the use of sensitive adhesives. This coupled with fast-tracked construction methods, create an increased call for Moisture Vapor Control. NAC’s ECB Classic Anti Fracture Membrane with the use of NAC TAC Primer will remediate the moisture vapor transmission up to 10# per 1,000 SF (Calcium Chloride test) while providing exceptional crack isolation. Tried and true, NAC has the answers for today’s demanding installation underlayment requirements. nacproducts.com

NUE TILE

MultiBoard by NUE TILE is the strongest backer board on the market, designed for ceramic/stone interior tile floors (non-shower). No other backer board adds any strength to a floor, but MultiBoard adds significant load rating while removing the need for extra mortar below, which equals a faster and cleaner install. MultiBoard is a combination of exterior plywood with NUE TILE’s TMS Technology Membrane pre-attached. Simply spec your board thickness between 3/8” up to 7/8”, then cut and fasten the board to the subfloor and start setting mortar and tile above. No issues bonding mortar to plywood and there’s fast removal of the tile, mortar and membrane in the future. nuetile.com

PROFLEX

SUPER SIM-90 is a premium 90 mil composite peel-and-stick sound control membrane. The rubberized membrane, laminated to a high-strength reinforcing fabric on the face and a release sheet on the adhesive side, has achieved a 50 IIC, 52 STC on a 6” concrete slab with no acoustic ceiling. It’s designed for use under approved thinsets, mortars, and adhesives for interior and exterior applications of ceramic tile, stone, and brick, and for interior applications of wood flooring to eliminate the transmission of cracks and sound. proflex.us/ss-90-premium-90-mil-crack-isolation-and-sound-membrane/

Progress Profiles

Prodeso® Drain Membrane provides perfect waterproofing, draining and long-lasting floors, in every environment, even on plywood/OSB, old tiles, ruined substrates or wet areas such as spa wellness centers or indoor pools. The high-density polyethylene sheet is equipped with semi-circular truncated pyramidal cavities, with draining fabric heat-sealed to the top, and a polypropylene nonwoven fabric glued to the bottom, which extends approximately 7.5 cm beyond the polyethylene sheet. The “air chamber” that is created under the tile provides micro-ventilation, thereby preventing the triacetates contained in the adhesives from rising and, as a result, prevents efflorescence formation in grout lines. This 5mm thick crack-isolation and waterproofing membrane enables draining and drying. The perimeter strip allows bonding with a waterproofing adhesive mortar along the whole height. progressprofiles.com

Protecto Deck 

Protecto Deck™, waterproof membrane system for exterior decks, protects roof deck surfaces from costly water damage. The system’s nominal 70 mil membrane and liquid detailing serve as your primary roof deck waterproofing in an installer-friendly application. Its peel-and-stick application with a fabric top coating makes an excellent bonding surface for latex modified thin-set mortars. protectowrap.com/product/new-protecto-deck

  • A nominal 70 mil, fully-adhered waterproofing system
  • Fabric top coating makes an excellent bonding surface for latex modified thin-set mortars
  • IAPMO UEL-5020 certified, FL #27201 approval and Miami-Dade County Approved NOA No.: 18-0530.06
  • No curing time needed – fabric top coating allows for immediate installation of tile or stone
  • Easy to use peel-and-stick application
  • Ideal for balconies, sundecks, patios and exterior decks

RTC Products

EdgeBan Self-Leveling Underlay-ment Containment is the perfect product to speed up your prep time for any self-leveling underlayment job. By providing a fast solution to create a leak-proof barrier around the perimeter and floor openings, EdgeBan contains the self-leveling underlayment quickly and efficiently. Level Lock Technology ensures EdgeBan products are fully integrated with the hardened surface by letting the leveler and EdgeBan effectively become one monolithic underlayment. EdgeBan works with the underlayment to become a solid and flat substrate for flooring installation, all while also creating a soft perimeter joint. Sold as a 4’ linear, toilet ring and vent size barrier. rtcproducts.com/surface-prep-layout/self-leveling

Sika

SikaLevel®-825 Lite is a one-component, durable and versatile premium gypsum-based underlayment for interior gypsum, concrete, cementitious, and various other substrates. It can be applied manually or by pump to produce a self-smoothing, rapid-setting, and flat substrate prior to the application of a final floor finish. Application thickness is 1/16” up to 2” (1.5 to 50.8mm). us.sika.com

USG

Dealing with wet, problematic concrete slabs is always a challenge in the flooring industry, even more so when trying to stay within budget and on schedule. Earlier this year, USG introduced USG Durock™ Brand CoverPrep. It’s a low-prep moisture vapor reducer designed to create a stable and protective barrier between problematic concrete substrates and the floor prep system. Its versatility allows for it to be applied over adhesive residue, chemically abated slabs, vinyl tiles and other well-bonded surfaces. In most cases, it doesn’t require any mechanical preparation, which can translate into higher productivity and cost savings. usg.com


CONTRACTOR PERSPECTIVE

Pavlo Starykov
Star Tile & Stone LLC

As a professional tile contractor, I always strive to follow current industry standards in my installations, but it is of the utmost importance to understand that the best surface preparation possible – as well as the use of premium setting materials – can all be in vain if the adhesion between the tile and mortar is severely weakened and compromised. That can be the case with the “resin-backed” tiles that have fiberglass mesh coated with a “glue” (polyester, urethane, or epoxy – shown in photo).

Such coating is used by different manufacturers to reinforce unstable stone slabs and tile to reduce the likelihood of fracture. The main complication arising from this method is that the ability of most (if not all) modified/unmodified mortars (that are mostly portland-cement based) is severely compromised because the “resin” forms a non-absorbent coating on the back of the tile that regular thin-set mortar will not properly bond to (even with presence of coarse sand in the backing).

Not long ago the only mortar that would properly bond to resin-backed tiles was epoxy but in recent years, after the introduction of new pre-mixed, single-component, low VOC, rapid-drying primers specifically designed for non-absorptive substrates like ARDEX P4, LATICRETE Prime-N-Bond and the tried and true MAPEI workhorse EcoPrim Grit, installers can now prime the back of such tile and stone and choose among a wide range of adhesives to install it. 

Jim Upton
Tiger Mountain Tile, Inc.

Flat floors are more important than ever. And wouldn’t you know it? Along comes new technology in self-leveling underlayments (SLU) that allow them to be poured over wood subfloors with no additional lath reinforcement.

Consequently, it’s my belief that these new self-leveling products are game changers and will drive this category of products to more and more popularity. After all, who doesn’t want a flat floor?

These new SLUs can be incorporated right along with the usual tile underlayment products like backer boards and uncoupling membranes. Alternatively, with the ability to be poured 1/4” and thinner, they can also be specified in place of those products if the situation calls for it.

We know the trend in tile is bigger and bigger sizes. As a result, we’ve seen an explosion in tile leveling products, LFT mortars, and bigger tile cutters. So, it’s only logical to embrace products and techniques that will give us flatter floors.

However, it should be noted that there is a certain amount of skill required to be proficient with these products. I know from experience that it’s not fun to pour self-leveling underlayment just to end up moving the high spots around. But if contractors are willing to endure some temporary setbacks and embrace the learning curve, they can look forward to a future of beautifully flat floors.

Encaustic/cement/hydraulic tile Q&A: considerations for a successful installation

John Cox, in conjunction with Jim Whitfield of MAPEI, Rod Sigman of Custom Building Products, Martin Brooks of Heritage Marble and Tile, Rich Galliani of Galliani Tile Company and Steve Slutzah of Westside Tile and Stone, collaborated on this Q&A about issues that may arise with encaustic/hydraulic/cement tiles installation. Cox and his team are heading an effort to draft a document on these tiles for the 2021/2022 NTCA Reference Manual.


How widespread is the use of encaustic or cement tiles?

Cement or hydraulic tiles are handmade tiles that originated in Spain during the 1850s.

Cement tiles or hydraulic tiles are handmade tiles that originated in the 1850s in Spain. Due to the many colors and variety of the tiles, they have been used in Europe and the United States extensively. Cement tiles are not fired. They are a combination of fine dehydrated ground portland cement layer and a coarser layer of sand and cement. The pigment layer is hydraulically pressed into the surface and becomes a part of the tile. The name of the tiles has a variety of names: encaustic tile, Redondo tile, mission tile, and cement tiles.

They have been installed successfully for over 150 years, but there are challenges with installing these types of tiles. We will try to address some of the questions that arise. Some of the answers are redundant but apply to each individual question.

Some of the manufacturing origins today are from the U.S., Honduras, Vietnam, and Mexico.

What do contractors need to keep into mind for successful installs with these products?

Check tiles with a moisture meter before installing to avoid issues related to porosity. 

These tiles are challenging to install due to sizing, moisture content, how fragile they are, and the porosity of the tile.

Customers sometimes ask to butt joint the tiles, but that will not meet ANSI specs of no less than 1/16”. Thickness variations of the tile create challenges installing them. The old traditional method of creating a mortar bed and beating the tiles in place was the preferred method before thinset was invented. Now using a heavy tile mortar, you achieve the same desired results of zero lippage. It is particularly important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions to install their product properly. These tiles do not meet ANSI 137.1 standards.

How should the contractor manage the porosity of the products? Does the porosity create issues?

Cement tiles are prone to cracking if the substrate is not prepared properly.

Porosity is a huge challenge with these tiles, considering they are not fired. Some of these tiles will even have a high moisture content remaining from the factory. Check with a moisture meter before installation. Curling can occur as the moisture vacates the tile.

This material needs to be sealed multiple times before grouting to minimize or eliminate staining from the grout. Topical sealers, penetrating sealers, and grout releases are used to minimize staining. Multiple sealer coats will be required for success. Cementitious grouts have pigments encapsulated in the grout that are conducive to staining the proper precautions haven’t been taken. Some of the high-performance grouts and urethanes can help also.

It is advisable to do a sample of the tiles with some loose pieces before tackling the area installed. Again, following the manufacturer instructions is pivotal for success. 

If some of the tiles become stained, it may be next to impossible to remove the staining. We have had some success with sanding the surface of the tiles to remove stains when necessary. You need to use silicone carbide 200 grit sandpaper to refinish the face. If you use anything higher (for example 320, 400 or 600 grit) it will enhance the shine on the tile of the area in question and leave you with even more issues.

Are cement tiles prone to cracking? How do contractors avoid this?

Substrate preparation is important. Do not be fooled by the thickness of the tile – these are prone to cracking if the substrate is not prepared properly. The edges are fragile and can chip if not handled with care. 

Encaustic/cement tiles are not standard thickness. How should contractors manage this when setting with other tile products to reduce the variance in the finished install?

Use a premium heavy-tile mortar for non-sagging. A premium grout will help minimize or prevent staining. 

You must account for variation in the product. Do a mockup to unveil customer expectations and show the irregularities that are inherent with this type of tile. Heavy-tile mortars allow the buildup necessary to accommodate the different thicknesses. Leveling devices can be used as an aid to help with the different thicknesses, although they are not recommended due to possible chipped edges when removing the clips.

What are the recommended setting/ grouting products to use with hydraulic/cement tiles?

First and foremost, follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions on setting and grouting. If none are available, check with your distributor. There are no ANSI standards with this specialty product yet. Ask distributors and other reputable contractors what they have done for a successful installation. Use a premium heavy-tile mortar for non-sagging. A premium grout will help minimize or prevent staining. Again, a mockup is encouraged help avoid issues when the actual installation takes place. 

Does grout stick more readily to the surface of cement tiles? How do you avoid this? 

Sealing or using grout release prior to installation will be paramount to the success of the installation.

Grout can stick to the tile if not cleaned properly and in a timely manner. Since the tile is porous, the moisture is being pulled into the tile if not sealed or a grout release is not used. Follow the manufacturer instructions on sealing and grouting. If unsure, do some test pieces to duplicate the grouting process. Some manufacturers recommend several coats of sealer. Seal until the material will not absorb any more sealer. You should build this step into your price for labor and materials. Never leave a grout haze on the tile. The tiles are sensitive to acid, and should be avoided at all costs if the tiles will not be cleaned correctly.

Some of the cement tiles I’ve seen have very detailed, textured surfaces. How do you keep these clean during the installation?

Some tiles are incredibly detailed and have one to eight different colors and a multiple number of patterns. The texture is different from manufacturer to manufacturer. Sealing or using grout release prior to installation will be paramount to the success of the installation. Again, a mockup will help alleviate issues during the installation. 

What other challenges do these products pose to installers?

Customers’ expectations are always the main concern. Each job presents its own issues for the installer. Following manufacturer installation instructions and guidelines is necessary for a proper install. Consultation with the mortar and grout manufacturers is also highly recommended. Check for moisture content levels of the tile after obtaining the shipment. Do a mockup of the tile, sealers, and grout choices. When all instructions are followed correctly, you have much lower chance for a failed installation.

Total Solutions Plus

Bringing the industry together, despite the distance

Lots of things have changed this year 2020, and Total Solutions Plus (TSP) is no exception. The eagerly-awaited annual fall conference that brings together manufacturers, distributors, contractors and other industry professionals is known for its mix of education and networking in a relaxed environment, combined with a chance to see hot new products during the Tabletop Event.

Due to concerns of keeping industry members safe during the pandemic, Total Solutions Plus has been re-imagined into a completely virtual conference, spread out over the course of five days to give folks a chance to work each day, and take a conference break with the programming planned for the day. 

“This is a completely virtual event,” said Bart Bettiga, NTCA Executive Director. “TSP is not going anywhere. We expanded it from a two-day event to a five-day event, since no one can sit all day on a computer.”

Keynotes

TSP is known for its keynotes, and this year is no exception. Jessica Rector will present the introduction and opening keynote, Blaze Your Brain: Transform Negative Thoughts into Positive Results, on Monday from 10.am. to 11:15 a.m. CDT. This former TV talk show host is a top motivational speaker and bestselling author. She’s trusted by organizations to energize, empower, and grow their people and brands through her interactive one-of-a-kind keynotes. Her program promises to fire up your thinking, extinguish burnout and ignite your people, while having a lot more fun. The closing keynote will be delivered by Peter Zeihan, who wowed the 2015 TSP crowd in Savannah, Ga. with his take on geopolitics. From 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. CDT, on Friday, October 30, he’ll explore, At the Edge of Disorder, a look at operating in today’s rapidly- changing unstructured global marketplace. 

Speakers and sessions, yoga and happy hour

Gianna Vallefuoco

Throughout the week, speakers, forums, panels or discussions each day will address different aspects of business – some with a twist. Join Gianna Vallefuoco of Vallefuoco Contractors LLC on Tuesday at 9 a.m. CDT for a 60 minute Intro to Mindfulness Session: How to Reduce Stress in the Tile Industry. During the same time slot on Wednesday, experience virtual yoga with your fellow industry members!

David Fellman

Breakouts begin Tuesday at 10 a.m., with David Fellman addressing how to Be at Your Best Everyday: 5 Principles to Consistent Sales Success, in the Business Track, and panelists Dave Gobis, Donato Pompo and Rich Goldberg explore Trends in Jobsite Installation Failures & Best Practices in Quality Control/Prevention, in the Technical Track. Later that morning from 11 – 12 CDT, there will be a collaborative discussion available. 

On Wednesday at 10 a.m. CDT, panelists Jill Bremer, Ron Nash and Mark Shannon discuss How to Make Successful Presentations/Sales Calls Virtually, a must-see in the Business Track. Scott Carothers and Lupe Ortiz talk about showers in the Technical Track. 

On Thursday, the conference switches to the afternoon, with Tommy Conner talking about Contract Negotiation – Understanding Scope & Liabilities Relating to COVID-19 from 3 p.m. – 4 p.m. CDT, running concurrently with a Distributor Forum. At 4 p.m. – 5 p.m. CDT, the industry will come together to kick back with a Virtual Happy Hour. 

Friday kicks off at 10 a.m. CDT with a Joint Panel on Industry Standards, followed by Exhibits and Lunch, and the closing keynote. 

Tabletops go virtual

Tabletops go virtual with Exhibit Hours from 11:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. CDT, Monday morning after the keynote, Wednesday at 11 a.m. – 12 noon CDT, and Friday from 11:15 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., CDT. Attendees can pop from exhibit to exhibit and enjoy a live interaction in real time in a Zoom-like format, courtesy of the Pathable software being implemented for this conference. You can also schedule an individual meeting with an exhibitor.

Networking

TSP is offering various ways to network with other attendees. You can network via chat, audio call or video call, share ideas using Conversations/Public Forums, connect with attendees with similar
interests in Small Group Meetings, visit during the Exhibit Hall and take part in the Virtual Happy Hour. Visit https://totalsolutionsplus2020.pathable.co/networking for more information. 

Win prizes!

Virtual TSP has another component this year – the TSP Competition. Running August 31 – October 31, it awards prizes for a range of activities, like accepting a private meeting, requesting information from an exhibitor or viewing a webinar. You can follow your status in the leaderboard and win prizes for collected points. Special opportunities to collect points are announced periodically between now and TSP. Get more information here: https://totalsolutionsplus2020.pathable.co/game

Small investment, big return

There’s a small fee to participate in this week-long conference – $99 for individuals and $199 for companies that want personnel in the same location to participate. 

With the new format and features in this year’s conference, be sure to visit https://totalsolutionsplus2020.pathable.co to get information, register, view the full agenda with speaker information, and more. You’ll also find a video demo of how to attend a virtual conference, how to navigate through all the options and get the most out of your experience. 

It’s a brave new world, but with innovative technologies and people who are willing to come together virtually, we can enjoy a vibrant, informative interactive conference in October! 

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