Tools and accessories – TECH 2015

tools_accessoriesEvery contractor knows that it would be nearly impossible to complete a successful tile or stone installation without the right tools and accessories. And sometimes just the right gadget spells the difference between a burdensome chore and a job that’s a breeze. This is such a wide category that it’s hard to specify a single trend, so we simply presented a range of new products for you to peruse on the following pages.  – Lesley Goddin


donmoyer_headshotTuning or lippage-control systems are huge in this day and age, with the flood of large-format tiles and thin tiles on the market. The main issue with the large-format tile is bowing or warpage that occurs in the tile body as it is fired. Normally this warpage occurs in the center of the tile. 

We have the wood-like porcelain tiles going in everywhere, floors, walls, etc. Some are flat, most are not. The only way to combat this warping in the tile is to use a tuning system. Even if a floor is perfectly flat with mud, using warped tiles on the floor in an offset pattern will cause undesirable lippage. Normally, from what we have seen, many people have no clue what lippage is until they have it in their installation. So sometimes we incorporate this system into the installation whether the customer wants to pay for it or not. Using the Mechanical Lippage Tuning (MLT) system on my dime vs. tearing out the whole installation is sometimes the choice we have to make as installers. Large-format tiles in this industry have caused us installers a lot of headaches. The tuning systems are a tool you need to have in your arsenal to be successful in this industry.  

Mick Volponi was the man to see the need for such a system. He invented the Tuscan Leveling System (TLS), which is now owned by Pearl Abrasives. While still part owner of the TLS, he went on to invent the MLT. The systems help tune the tiles at the joints – it’s a misconception to think they level them. Some systems use a gun to tighten and remove the straps and some use wedges. In all other aspects of tile installation, there are many choices. 

I had an installation recently where we put in 500 sq. ft. of 20” tile, 1/2” thick. Due to the settling of the floor, there was some lippage that was within industry standard. The problem was that the tile had a sharp edge and the customer kept dragging her bare feet across the joints. Plus the grout was not flush to the top of the joint, so the customer was not happy. We are in the business of making customers happy, so we tore out 80% of the installation down to the subfloor, and put in the same tile with the MLT. It eliminated the lippage and did not allow the tiles to sink.  

I think of Mick Volponi as a great innovator in the tile industry. As a tile setter he saw the need for such a product and even improved the one he invented. This tool makes it possible to install large-format tiles without lippage.  

Jon Donmoyer
JD Tile, Annville, Pa.

TA-armalyArmaly ProPlus HD Series Polyester Sponges are made with polyester resin. They are formulated to work like a natural ocean sponge, and are extremely strong and durable. All Armaly ProPlus HD sponges are reticulated, a post-production process that removes the cell windows to allow the sponges to wipe up dirt, paste, and dust and then rinse clean. Armaly ProPlus HD sponges won’t streak, color bleed or shred. They hold up when used with harsh chemicals like TSP, solvents or chlorinated cleansers. Armaly ProPlus HD sponges are designed for functionality: wiping cleaner; rising faster; for long-lasting performance. Armaly ProPlus sponges help put the finishing touch on any tiling job.

Barracuda Brackets offer the Toilet Flange Tile Guide, a square guide that fits aroTA_barracudaund the flange, working as a debris barrier that protects the sewer. The square Guide is cemented around the flange leaving no gaps, forming a physical bond between the Guide, flange and the subfloor or moisture barrier. The Guide allows the tile installer to make straight cuts and butt the tiles right up to Guide/flange. This is an improvement from having a gap at the edge of the toilet flange from inaccurate nipping or grinding tile radii. It works with all flanges, all types of tile sizes and thicknesses and all toilets, eliminating the need to repair bath floors from rotting wood around the flange.

TA-bellotaBellota POP series manual tile cutters are the ideal tool for cutting ceramic and mosaic glass tiles efficiently with maximum precision. Durable, yet light-weight construction makes it easy to transport and use at the job site. A wide reinforced cast-aluminum base provides added rigidity and stability. Solid-steel, chrome-plated rail bars deliver smooth scoring. Bellota’s patented, universal forged steel scoring wheels are made of high-quality tungsten carbide for maximum strength and durability. They last up to 25% longer than standard wheels and are designed to fit on other makes of tile cutters. The POP’s heavy-duty breaking system breaks ceramic and glass tiles easily with exceptionally clean cuts and keeps the mesh backing on glass tiles intact for quick installations. POP cutters feature a three-year warranty and are available in 21” and 25” cutting capacities.

TA-slipgripFloor Safety Enterprises offers the Slip Grip Floor Safety product line. This line offers a full-service certified ANSI program for making commercial public floors safe with nearly imperceptible change to surface aesthetics. This is especially important for architects and business owner clients who aim to bring floors up to and exceed the new .42 DCOF reading for ANSI 137.1 Floor Safety Standard. Slip Grip also provides up-to-date information on ANSI and DCOF standards for tile and stone safety, measured with the state-of-the-art BOT 3000E Tribometer.


TA-lackmondLackmond Stone offers the new Lackmond PRO Series Bridge Saw Blade. Diamond pattern technology continues to evolve and Lackmond’s new PRO Series Bridge saw blade is manufactured using the latest in diamond pattern technology, where the diamonds are arranged in a specific order resulting in consistent wear and cutting. Lackmond’s PRO Series Bridge Saw Blade is designed to be used on granite, marble, engineered stone and other natural stone. It is equipped with tall 26mm segments, which allows for increased life, even in the most demanding stone applications. Lackmond’s Pro Series Bridge Saw Blades are available in 12” – 18” and are ideal for use on 15+ HP saws.

TA-MLTMechanical Lippage Tuning System is the industry’s newest, most innovative and economical tool to improve your tile installations. MLTS is a NO WASTE mechanical edge leveling system comprised of a reusable tensioning cap, a connecting strap with stainless steel insert and a material-specific bottom plate. MLTS aids the installer by “clamping” the tiles in place, allowing for near-perfect edge alignment. A key feature of the MLT System is that the cap can be easily disengaged, allowing the installer to have complete control. The system is fully compatible with thin porcelain tile, conventional thickness materials including porcelain and stone, as well as planks, slabs and ungauged tiles. MLT System will save time and eliminate costly callbacks for unsightly lippage. MLT System is endorsed by many well-respected manufacturers.; view a demonstration at

TA_RTCRTC Products offers the Hole Shot Dry Series Bits, the latest in dry-cut diamond technology. They are great for all types of hard material such as porcelain, quarry tile, slate, ceramic, marble, travertine and granite. Tested to provide up to 30 holes per bit with no water, the vacuum-brazed diamond allows for dry cutting when water is limited or not an option. Bits should be used with a standard handheld drill (800-2500 RPM).

Kit includes:

  • (2) 1/4” Dry bit
  • (1) 5/16” Dry bit
  • (1) 3/8” Dry bit
  • (1) 1/2” Dry bit
  • (1) Hole Shot Dry Series Drill Guide Case

Replacement bits and drill guides also available individually.

TA_stabilaStabila introduces new levels, designed for today’s construction needs. Two-foot and four-foot levels reflect the residential applications from the ‘60s and ‘70s. Modern residential construction requires new sizes of levels for proper tub-surround installations. The long wall requires a 58” level, the short wall requires 32”. These long levels are now available from Stabila as a pre-packaged Tub and Shower Set, catalog #29532. German-made precision Stabila levels maintain their accuracy for life, and vials will not fog, leak or become inaccurate. If they do, Stabila will replace the level with a brand new one.


Grouts – TECH 2015

groutsAs Curt Rapp, CEO of Tile Doctor said, “Grout. It’s not an afterthought anymore.“ Indeed, it is not, and it is rapidly becoming a high-fashion item designed to not simply fill joints, but to do it in style. Formulations include stain, crack and water-resistance, and some also include antimicrobials – all designed to keep joints looking pristine and beautiful for a long time.

Traditional cement-based grout categories have expanded to include epoxies over the years. Today the big word in grout is “ready-to-use,” which offers many advances in terms of ease of use and application and the ability to save unused portions. When imbued with special particles, grout can take on a translucent or metallic look, transforming from a utilitarian product that comes in a range of colors to one that offers added design dimensions to the finished tile or stone installation.

Peruse the following comments to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to grout and make grout selection easier for your next installation job.

Lesley Goddin

bostik_logoMichelle Swiniarski,
market manager
Ceramic Installation Systems

A grout revolution is here. Pre-mixed grouts are on the rise. Many performance levels of pre-mixed grouts are now in the market; therefore it is critical to ensure you choose a grout to match your performance requirements and understand how to properly install it. The more premium the grout, the more it offers the key attributes associated with long-term durability: stain, crack and water resistance. Unlike cement grouts, most pre-mixed grouts are applied in a small area (arm’s length) and cleaned as you go. There is no more waiting for the grout to firm up before you clean. There are design choices to consider as well. Do you prefer the grout joint to look similar to a cement grout? Or would you prefer it to allow light to pass through the joint and into the tile itself, creating a three-dimensional appearance to complement any clear glass tile?  Choosing a pre-mixed grout with a premium binder system can ensure it will offer a lifetime of pleasure.

custom_logoSteve Taylor, director of
Architecture and Technical Marketing
Custom Building Products

Stain-proof grouts continue to be a meaningful trend in today’s tile installations. The demand for these products is based on a fundamental market need. While designers and homeowners appreciate the dynamic array of tile sizes, shapes and colors available, they don’t like dirty grout joints. This is one factor behind the desire for larger-format tile and for smaller grout joints. Epoxy-based grouts are one solution but tile installers prefer the ease of application of single-component grouts that are color consistent, efflorescence free, require no mixing and never need to be sealed.

mapei_logoDavid Mowery,
business manager for Grouts & Caulks and MAPEI UltraCare Line

The movement in tile setting materials, specifically with grouts, is occurring on two fronts. For portland cement powdered grouts, more installers are opting to upgrade their grout selection to a rapid setting, CAC-Calcium Aluminate Cement, which offers higher performance specifications and typically adheres to ANSI A 118.7. Traditional portland cement grouts typically only subscribe to ANSI A 118.6. Given the trend to larger-format tile and gap widths averages in the 3/8” range, less grout is being required per square foot. This allows the installer to justify the price point bump with the higher-performance grout.

The other movement we are seeing in the industry is the use of RTU (ready-to-use) grouts moving out of the DIY arena and into the commercial contractor/installer playing field. What has driven this is the improvement in the overall performance in this grout category. The RTU grout chemistry includes acrylics, urethanes and hybrid versions. When cost is a consideration, and it always is, the product cost of RTU grouts vs. traditional cement grouts is higher. Yet, when you factor in the reduction in labor time for installation and the “no sealing” required advantage, RTU grouts are a bargain.

exrite_logoAlan Kin
sales and technical

Trending through customer requests and installer usage is the demand for synthetic grouts, commonly called “ready-mixed” grout. Although these types of products existed decades ago, the early versions were basically water-based adhesives with granular aggregate and colorant/pigment to simulate a textured grout. These early versions fell shy of full acceptance due to their overly “sticky” nature, difficulty of application and less-than-full performance equal to or better than cementitious grouts.

With recent polymer science and enhanced industry formulary know-how, tile adhesive and grout manufacturers are able to produce a formulary synthetic ready-mix grout that addresses shortcomings of the earlier-version grouts. The shorter drying times, reduced joint shrinkage, and easier installation clean-up have been moved or adjusted to manageable, realistic and practical installation levels.

Ready-mixed grout installations are not identical to cement grouts in drying and cure times; however, there are some excellent benefits added to today’s “ready-to-use” grouts that were not available in earlier versions and currently are not available in cementitious grout.

Upon installation, benefits of synthetic grouts include a sealed or stain-resistant grout within the mix. More significant is the newer polymer-resin technology, which delivers an elastomeric or flexible characteristic that never existed in previous traditional grout versions.

Its additional benefits include an identical-color or same-color match from a start-and-stop or interrupted/incompleted grout installation.

This means newly-installed grout perfectly matches the color of grout installed previously in the job. Touch-up or repairs no longer look different since cement shading has been taken out of the formula.

The final benefit is the factory mix; no longer is the grout dependent on too little or too much addition of water mixed in by the installer. The grout is ready to use upon opening the container. These types of grout allow resealing of the container and saving of the unused portion for another application.

There has been some hesitation to embrace the newer version /synthetic version of ready-mixed grouts by some individuals and groups in our industry. But, I ask them to look upon their own trials, errors and acceptance and use of business technology for pagers, fax machines, cell phones and now smart phones. Would they would be willing to go back to the older technology? If I were to call the new grout “smart grout,” would you be more likely to realize the potential for this newer type of grout product? It’s not perfect and not without fault but moving forward for better tile and stone installations.

tiledoctor_logoCurt Rapp, CEO
Tile Doctor

Grout. It’s not an afterthought anymore.

Today’s chemistries offer unlimited options: some proven, some very new. One thing for sure is that designers and specifiers appreciate options to assist in making their projects unique and help their design, and grout has for so long been that overlooked and underappreciated element in the design process. Now you can get grout that looks like metal or glass that refracts colors from the surrounding glass, sparkle metallic effects, highly chromatic colors and even make your grout glow in the dark. Grout now has color delivered without pigment so there is no shading or discoloration and color that is as durable as the tiles themselves. And grout can be a design option at last with it still being the least costly portion of the tile installation. With today’s performance options grout that used to be the weakest and most problematic part of the tile install now becomes the biggest no-brainer of all. Have you ever met a homeowner who loved their grout? Today it’s entirely possible to turn the tide on the grout issues once and for all.


donmoyer_headshotThe latest and greatest in grouts I have seen is the colorant. You get a bag of white grout and you buy the colorant separately. Many manufacturers who make grout are coming out with it. Once one manufacturer makes it, they all have to in order to compete and competitive.

What’s great about this type of grout is that you can stock the bag of base grout, and then on your trip to a distributor just pick up the small box of colorant. You don’t need to pick up the grout base every time. 

PERMACOLOR® Select by LATICRETE is the one I have used personally. This grout is considered rapid setting, so it is critical not to mix too much at one time or you will never get it in the joint before it hardens. Rapid-setting grouts are good because we can see the final color right away. With traditional grouts like sanded and unsanded grouts that need to be sealed, you won’t see the final  result until it is dry. 

There also has been a landslide of new “premixed” grouts coming out on the market. These are considered one-step. They are ready to be used right out of the bucket. The advantage is no drill needed to mix the grout. I have personally tried many of the premixed grouts but JD Tile has decided to stick with either epoxies or fast-setting grout. I am a big user of LATICRETE SpectraLOCK® epoxy grout, and have been using it in showers for many years with 100% success rate. 

The premixed grouts just don’t measure up to epoxy in quality, and it seems everyone wants something quick. Doing a tile installation is not quick, so why should the grout be easy? One premixed I used was very sandy and very difficult to put in; the other was almost too easy but the clean-up process was a bear. I stopped back two months after this installation with the premixed and I could still see residue on the tile I had missed. Whatever is in these premixed grouts leaves a residue behind that normal grout does not. Sometimes the recommended cleaning solution to remove haze has a very strong smell and in the winter you can’t really open the windows.  

So overall, premixed grouts do have a market. We will stick with epoxy – there is not a better grout. We have mastered using it and are always willing to try new products, but they aren’t game changers for us.

Jon Donmoyer,
JD Tile, Annville, Pa.


grouts_bostikBostik, Inc. offers Dimension™ RapidCure™ Glass-Filled, Pre-Mixed, Urethane Grout. This patented, reflective, water-based, urethanegrout contains micro-glass beads and a translucent, urethane binder that both reflect light and allow it to pass through. This adds an illuminating sparkle, creating one-of-a-kind, three-dimensional effects within glass tile installations, as well as tile, natural stone and metal tile projects. Dimension RapidCure offers lifetime stain and superior crack resistance and never needs sealing. It installs up to 50% faster than traditional grouts. High-performing and crack-resistant, it contains Bostik’s Blockade® antimicrobial protection, which inhibits organic growth on the cured grout surface and resists stains caused by mold as well. When used together with Bostik Glass-Mate™ glass tile mortar, it mitigates thermal expansion and contraction inherent to glass tile, reducing cracking in tile and grout due to severe temperature fluctuations. Made of 60% pre-consumer recycled glass, it’s available in 9-lb. and 18-lb pails, in 15 colors.

mortars2_CBPCustom Building Products offers Fusion Pro® Designer Series, a line of eight specialty reflective color accents that extend the creative value of this popular Single Component® grout. The Fusion ProDesigner Series is ideal for kitchen backsplashes and showers when paired with dynamic mosaic glass, porcelain, ceramic or other tiles that could benefit from a special effect. Use it to enhance the decorative beauty of interior or exterior, commercial or residential tile projects. In addition to the aesthetic benefits of Fusion ProDesigner Series, the ready-to-use, professional-grade grout is guaranteed to be stain proof and color perfect without the use of a sealer. The Fusion Pro Designer Series colors include natural and mineral inspired colorations like Smoked Quartz, Starlight, Moonshadow, Ice Crystal, Glitter, Raw Sugar, Starry Night and Gold.


grouts_tecH.B. Fuller Construction Products offers new TEC® Skill Set™ DesignColor™ Grout, available at select Lowe’s. This revolutionary grout allows tile contractors to provide customers with more than 100 in-stock grout color choice options using 12.5-lb. bags of universal grout base paired with interchangeable and unique color mixes. This innovative approach reduces inventory and simplifies the process of finishing any residential or commercial tiling project. Users simply pair each 12.5-lb. plastic bag of DesignColor Grout universal grout base with two individually packaged color mix cups to create the grout color. Then, the grout components can be mixed with Grout Boost® grout additive – no measuring required – to create a stain proof grout. Contractors can buy the grout base bags in bulk and keep them on hand for multiple jobs, and then encourage individual clients to visit select Lowe’s to pick out their color mixes themselves. TEC Skill Set DesignColor Grout is a universal formula that can be used on both floors and walls, sanded and unsanded applications. It meets performance requirements of both residential and commercial environments. When mixed with Grout Boost, DesignColor Grout can be used in exterior applications and in wet areas, like showers and pools.

grouts-latLATICRETE offers PLASMA™ grout, a professional-grade, ready-to-use and crack-resistant grout that does not require sealing. PLASMA provides unmatched early strength development, easy workability and inhibits the growth of stain-causing mold and mildew in grout joints. Cleanable to its original color, PLASMA is ideal for use in most grout joint applications between 1/16” to 1/2” (1.6 – 13 mm) wide including: ceramic tile, glass tile and stone applications; residential and commercial floors and walls; and interior and exterior installations. It is superior for re-grouting applications and offers a non-sag formula for walls and floors.


grouts-texriteTexrite’s Chromaflex is an advanced, ready-to-use resin-based grout. It is stain resistant and self sealed with no additional sealing required. The new grout technology achieves crack-resistant and flexible properties to minor movement. The grout has unparalleled hydrophobic properties that repel stains and water. Color matching every time on new installations or repairs are featured grout traits. This no-efflorescence grout is based on a cement-free product. It was designed with easy, water clean-up and “grout & go” features, packaged as a ready-mixed grout. Leftover grout can stay in the bucket and be used on the next job. Chromaflex grout is able to grout narrow to wide joints from 1/16” – 1/2” (2-13mm) on vertical and horizontal surfaces.


grouts-tiledoctorTile Doctor offers STAINMASTER® Grout, which solves every issue with grout performance. It’s stain proof, and uses no pigment, so it will not shade and there are no dye lots of which to keep track. Easy to install and high fashion, STAINMASTER Grout, where grout finally catches up with design. STAINMASTER Grout can be used as an adhesive (for thin mosaic tiles) as well as a grout. You can also treat it like a high-fashion wall finish since it’s trowelable. Easy to use and endlessly versatile, STAINMASTER Grout is a one-stop, go-to grout for all your grouting needs.

Mortars – TECH 2015

mortarsThe biggest thing – literally – in our industry these days is large thin tiles. This technology is ramping up, and its possibilities are endless.

But to support these large thin tiles, proper coverage is absolutely essential. Development of large-and-heavy-tile mortar to replace the misnamed “medium-bed mortar” and ongoing refinements of these products are keeping pace with the refinements of the finishing products themselves. If you’re working with large-format and thin porcelain tiles, be sure to acquaint yourself with these new mortar developments, presented below.  – Lesley Goddin

ardex_logoMark Pennine,
ARDEX Technical manager,
Tile and Stone

While they have been popular in Europe for several years, the North American tile industry has embraced the mounting popularity of very large, thin tile installations. Setting material manufacturers have had to develop mortars with advanced technologies such as long open time, great sag resistance, higher flexibility and longer pot life. The development of proper substrate preparation materials for walls and floors is also paramount for the success of very large and thin tile panels. High-flow self-leveling products that produce supremely flat floors are a necessity for floor applications. Wall and floor smoothing and screeding mortars with rapid drying properties produce plumb, flat walls and level floors keeping installations on schedule.

custom_logoSteve Taylor, director of
Architecture and Technical Marketing
Custom Building Products

With the ever increasing size of field tile, traditional mortars simply won’t do. These large and heavy tiles require the use of a modified dry-set mortar that can support the increased weight. From wood-look planks to 15” or more tile options, a large format tile mortar must be selected to minimize lippage and maintain a smooth, level tile installation. Tile contractors, design professionals and end users should always discuss the available options and the aesthetic as well as the durability implications of mortar selection on the overall project.

laticreteSean Boyle, director
Marketing & Product Management

Maximum or 100% coverage is typically required for reduced-thickness porcelain tiles. A high-performance, latex-fortified portland cement thin-set or medium-bed mortar can be used. Using the appropriate specialty notched trowel along with proper troweling techniques and back-buttering will make achieving complete coverage easier. Mechanical edge-leveling systems can help to reduce lippage at the edges and corners. Finally, always remember to follow standard industry guidelines for movement joints.

mapei_logoBrian Pistulka
MAPEI business manager
for Tile & Stone Installations

Thin tile and large thin porcelain tiles are trending in the tile and stone industry, resulting in technology innovation from leading installation manufacturers.

As the thin tile market grows with more manufacturers offering products and promoting to the market, there is a growing wave of designers, architects, distributors and contractors seeing an impact upon their business. Now from an installation perspective the trend is significant – contractors are challenged to learn new methods, procedures and team-working concepts to run such jobs.

As more contractors and manufacturers have gained exposure to the thin tile business, additional challenges have been identified to improve productivity and save labor efforts when working with larger units, while improving installation products to address challenges unique to large thin porcelain tiles.

Some of these challenges are the need for easier- to-spread mortars, mortars that provide better wet-out transfer properties, mortars with lower water demands, lighter-weight mortars, mortars with longer open or working times, and mortars with more flexibility .

exrite_logoAlan Kin
sales and technical

The increased selection of larger-format tile sizes greater than 15” tiles and larger will create a shift in bonding mortar selection to “large-and-heavy-tile” LHT mortars. The increase in dimensional length of these tiles as plank, larger-format and thin porcelain tiles requires more mortar depth underneath them and the substrate.

Both the customer and installer want the most visually-flat tile installation, so they need to be aware of what truly changed about their jobsite/installation. Those changes lie beneath the tile and substrate as:

  • Increases in weight of individual tile units
  • Increased surface variation that the bonding mortars have to fill between the tile and substrate (typically 1/4” to 1/2” and up to 3/4” in setting thickness)
  • The critical ability to reduce “tile edge to tile edge” lippage

The LHT mortars (formerly referred as medium-bed mortars) have been formulated to withstand movement of heavier weighted tile while in the soft-paste state of installation. The products have an increased “grab” or surface tackiness for larger-format tiles. One of the most important characteristics of these mortars is shrinkage compensation that remains more volume true and resists shrinkage upon full hydration and cure. Lippage on horizontal application and non-sag movement of vertical application properties are available from the mortar manufacturers.

As large tile (≥ 15” and/or plank tile) become requested, LHT mortars will be needed to properly set/bond these types of tiles. Although there is no direct ANSI Installation LHT mortars method to reference, the mortar manufacturers have had the foresight to have the product developed and bagged suitable for these installations.

Other resources from the mortar manufacturers would include leveling/re-surfacer products to flatten the surface or re-direct slope with cementitious underlayments. Large and heavy tiles need to be installed with these types of LHT mortars. The emergence and popularity of porcelain tiles within recent history have spurred the development and use of latex-polymer “thinset” mortars. Our industry can now expect the selection and usage of LHT mortars to become a more common part of the installation resources that were once reserved for large commercial jobsites. Now, LHT mortars will become common for both commercial and residential use in the marketplace.

tiledoctor_logoCurt Rapp, CEO
Tile Doctor

I have toured thin tile plants, from the very first – even before the outside façade was finished on their building – to one of the newest lines just a few weeks back.

We have seen many advancements in the thin tile manufacturing process and the products coming out of the lines. The rapid interest gaining traction really feels more like an explosion to me, and the possibilities are certainly staggering for us as an industry to grow our business.

In the absence of a published standard anywhere in the world for the installation of these tiles, the questions also are as staggering as the opportunities. For certain, on a tile that can cost up to 5 to 6 times a traditional tile, the need for high-quality adhesives is a must, and this is the last place you should consider skimping. Adhesives should set up properly and bond well to large-unit porcelain tile slabs. We have so much at stake. The acceptance of this product in the market and using the proper installation products can set the destiny in motion for success or failure long-term. What we do not need is to have failures as we grow and discover the possibilities for this product’s use. Adhesives with the ability to set up under larger-format tiles without any requirement for drying – what we call Reaction Adhesives – bond with great strength and set up because of their chemistry regardless of temperature, humidity and many other factors that could be adverse to the installation and the jobsite conditions.

If you had a blank slate to write out what the optimal adhesive properties would be for all thin tile installations, you’d probably ask for the following: suitable for exterior and extreme conditions; non-sag; high bond strength; waterproof; chemical-resistant; some flexural properties; a predictable setting time; suitable for many, if not all, substrates; and one that provides an installation process that is predictable for installers.


mortars_CBPCustom Building Products has created VersaBond®-LFT for large-format tile as a complementary product to VersaBond, CUSTOM’s popular everyday thin-set mortar. VersaBond-LFT is designed for use in most standard large-format tile floor installations with porcelain, ceramic or natural stone 15” or greater on any side. The product’s non-slump formula can be used as a thin-set or medium-bed (dry-set) mortar up to 3/4” on floors, and it bonds well to concrete, cement backerboards such as WonderBoard® Lite, as well as plywood. VersaBond-LFT, which meets the requirements of ANSI A118.4 and A118.11, is available in white and gray.

mortars_latLATICRETE LHT™ is a polymer-modified large-and-heavy tile mortar specifically formulated to provide a one-step installation for large-format ceramic tile, porcelain tile, marble and stone on floors. LHT features excellent adhesion with a superior bond that meets the demands of challenging installations involving large and/or heavy tile. LHT offers multiple utility with excellent medium bed/large heavy tile performance, and can be applied 3/4” (19 mm) thick without shrinkage. The smooth and creamy consistency of this easy-to-trowel mortar assures proper coverage on both the substrate and the tile or stone. Perfect for interior and exterior floor installations, LHT meets or exceeds the ANSI A118.1 and ANSI A118.4 standards. Available in grey and white, LHT is suitable for use over many substrates.

mortars_merkreteMerkrete offers large-tile setting solutions for both walls and floors, supporting the development of larger size tiles that emulate wood or natural stone. Merkrete has answered this trend in eXtra Large Floor tiles with its 855 XXL and 856 XLF thin-set mortars. Merkrete has been one of the first to offer these solutions so the research and quality has been there for years. 855 XXL has unique properties and can be used as a thin-set or a large-and-heavy tile setting adhesive for installing large-format, ceramic, porcelain and irregular thickness stone without the need of back buttering the tile. 856 XLF has exceptional fluid properties which make it an ideal adhesive for installing standard to ultra-thin, extra-large tile and stone over a variety of substrates including tile-over-tile applications.

mortars_texriteTexrite has developed four different options to choose from when installing large-and-heavy tiles. As tile and stone gets bigger and heavier, installers need different solutions to reduce the chance of lippage and ensure greater mortar contact. Texrite has developed a new line of large-and-heavy tile (LHT) mortars to help you with every kind of large-format tile and stone installation. Whether it’s a red body tile, porcelain or heavy stone and regardless of the surface on which you need to install it, Texrite has a product to make sure it is rite!

mortars_tiledoctorTile Doctor offers Litoelastic adhesive, a two-component reactive multi-purpose adhesive suitable for indoor and outdoor applications on floors and walls even in severe usage conditions such as swimming pools, heavily trafficked floors and tiles exposed to high temperature fluctuations. It’s suitable for bonding various materials even on non-traditional substrates such as metal, fiberglass, PVC, and linoleum and is perfect for all types of ceramic tiles, thin porcelain slabs with and without reinforcement, glass and ceramic mosaics. With high elasticity and excellent water resistance, Litoelastic is suitable for simultaneous waterproofing and laying ceramic tiles or mosaics in shower stalls or wet interior environments. It can be used with natural stones, even unstable ones such as green marble and slate, and has a very low emission of volatile organic compounds.

mortars_tileshopThe Tile Shop introduces a new large-format tile (LFT) thinset as part of its Superior Adhesives and Chemicals private label brand. Pro Bed thinset can hold a 3/4” rake, and helps the installer level a larger tile on planes that are not always completely flat.


Radiant heating – TECH 2015

radiantheatingWhat’s one of the hottest trends in home comfort and flooring installation? You’re getting warm – right, radiant heating!

Radiant heating brings unprecedented comfort to tile and stone – finishing materials that have often been dismissed as being cold. No more! In addition to heating a floor to one’s comfort, radiant heating either the entire home or specific zones is turning into a highly efficient, effective, and energy-conscious choice.

And product development is booming in this category, moving from wires to mats to wires that can be snapped easily and quickly into uncoupling membranes, streamlining the job and offering performance advantages, ribbon-format heating elements, programmable thermostats and most recently, WiFi thermostats that can be controlled from smart phones, computers or tablets.

Whereas old hydronic systems were a daunting proposition, modern “electric radiant floor warming is not a product that should overwhelm anyone,” said Sean Boyle, director Marketing & Product Management for LATICRETE. “In fact, it is not difficult at all to install! If distributors, retailers and contractors know more about this system, they all will be able to enjoy selling it and recognize more profits in doing so.”

Learn more about this exciting category and how it can bring comfort to your customers and cash to your bottom line.  – Lesley Goddin

rpmMichael Fuhrman, president
CMX Radiant Corp.

For decades, in-floor electric heat wire had been primarily installed with just a few methods. One was using straps with fastening hooks, which left the wire exposed and more prone to damage. Another was using prestrung wire in a retaining mesh, having pre-sized lengths and widths, which limited layout possibilities. Finally, custom-made mats with wire embedded became available, shaped to fit a specific area, but these were more costly and time consuming to manufacture. Over a wood substrate, most of these methods were applied over a tile backer board. Over a concrete substrate, many were installed over an anti-fracture membrane.

A few years ago, a new product emerged in the market that offered a new way for heat wire to be installed. The product replaced backer board and anti-fracture membrane, and at the same time incorporated a method to install heat wire. A series of short studs on a mat were used to create a layout grid to install and meet the spacing requirements for all heat wire brands on the market. In addition, the stud tops acted as a wire protector and screed surface for leveling cement. Since then, the popularity of this and similar products has soared, not only among contractors, but do-it-yourselfers as well.

laticreteSean Boyle, director,
Marketing & Product Management

Electric radiant floor warming has become very affordable and quite easy to install. It incorporates an electric heating element to warm up the surface above it.

Electric floor warming is now considered to be a very attractive added feature when someone is in the process of selling his or her home. Certainly, a strong selling point is that the installation of an electric in-floor warming system does not require any special tile-installation procedures. The subfloor should be prepared as for any conventional tile installation according to applicable standards. For the most part, electric floor-warming components consist of a heating mat with cables which is installed right beneath the tile and stone surface, and a wall-mounted thermostat.

Surprisingly to many, the entire installation process is easier than you might think. To begin with, one should make a scale drawing of the floor plan, mapping out the “walking area” where the heating mat will be positioned.

Once the heating mat is put in place and all electrical work is complete, what comes next is the tile installation. High-performance ANSI A118.15-compliant latex thin-set mortars are designed for optimal performance when used in conjunction with electric floor-warming systems. In addition, the use of self-leveling underlayments can also be used to encapsulate electric floor warming systems when the substrate requires attention. Finish off the tile installation with a high-performance ANSI A118.7-compliant cement-based grout or easy-to-use epoxy based grouts for even better performance and ease of maintenance.

Electric floor warming (both in mat type or loose wire configuration) is a cost-effective heating solution when properly used. For those of you in the tile and stone sectors, it represents a wonderful product that makes a great-looking installation become a very comfortable installation as well.

RH-nuheat_logoWally Lo
Nuheat product manager

While electric floor heating has been around since the 19th century, the way we heat has advanced into three main types: loose cable, strip, and roll mesh and custom mats. Over the past decade there have been small improvements such as lead times, thinner cables, durable cold lead connections and so on, but the true trend in electric radiant floor heating is how homeowners can control their heat.

Smart devices, connected homes and automation are the way of the future, and electric radiant floor heating is no different! The first WiFi-enabled thermostat entered the market in 2014, and several followed, resulting in floor heating controls quickly becoming more technologically advanced. Homeowners can now control their floor heating remotely from an app on their smart phones. This can be a huge energy and money saver. As they head out of town or their schedules change, the temperature can be turned down from anywhere via mobile device, paired with a WiFi-enabled thermostat. These thermostats can also tell owners the current and forecasted weather in their area, as well as energy usage, with the ability to track exactly how many hours were used and adjust behavior accordingly. The next step will be these smart thermostats speaking to other home-automated appliances in their homes so that everything is controlled on one device or app.

warmset_logoDave Godlewski,
Radiant Heat Division
sales manager for The PENROD Company

Not much matters more in a home than comfort, and one of the easiest ways to make homes, and living and working spaces more welcoming is temperature control. Radiant heating is an up-and-coming technology and combined with tax incentives and credits provides superior warmth at an affordable price.

While there are many options for in-home heat, none is more suited for longevity than radiant-heated flooring. In fact, radiant-heated flooring delivers in more than just aesthetics. This heat source increases comfort, provides durability, and reduces energy costs.

Besides being a solution to cold tiles underfoot, radiant-heated flooring conducts heat through the floor surface and is a cost and energy-efficient way to warm the whole home evenly, maintaining a consistent temperature from room to room without sacrificing air quality. As popularity increases, radiant-heated flooring can add substantial resale value and appeal to a home. The decreased energy use adds up to significant savings.

One of the newest products on the market uses a patented ribbon design to make installations easier and to disperse even more heat efficiently, while saving energy.

schluter_logoSean Gerolimatos,
technical director,
Schluter Systems

Ceramic and stone tiles are the ideal floor coverings because they are durable, easy to maintain, and hygienic. However, a common barrier to the selection of tile as a floor covering is the perception that tiles are cold under foot. Electric floor warming systems are an effective solution to address this barrier and continue to grow in popularity as a result.

However, raising the floor temperature results in expansion of the tile covering and the substrate below. Since substrate materials (concrete, plywood, etc.) expand at a different rate from the tile covering with temperature changes, and the temperature through the assembly from top to bottom varies, shear stresses occur at the interface between the tiles and the substrate. Uncoupling membranes neutralize these stresses to prevent cracking or delamination of the tile covering.

The latest generation of uncoupling membranes allows tile setters to snap electric heating cables in the membrane and immediately install tile using the thin-bed method. This eliminates the time-consuming practice of encapsulating the cables in a leveling compound and waiting for it to set before installing the tile. The result is a durable tiled floor that is warm and comfortable, which takes much less time to install.

warmup_logoAlice Warnier,
marketing manager

If you have not heard of heated floors by now, it’s probably because you live in a tropical climate. However, for most of us here in North America, heated floors are becoming a necessity. As the winters increase in their length and severity, finding an affordable and more reliable alternative to forced air systems is the only way to go.

Overall, electric floor heating systems are a trend worth jumping on, if only for the simplicity of the system. It can get to places air vents cannot, heat each room evenly, and provide better control of the temperature in the home.

Electric underfloor heating systems provide an easy-to-install, cost effective and versatile heating solution, whether used as a primary or secondary source of heating.

suntouch_logoJohn Sweaney,
senior product and 
customer support manager
Watts Radiant/Sun Touch

Consumers are looking for more powerful and more intuitive controls for floor heating systems, and they continue to seek systems that increase comfort in their homes. The contractor that is well prepared to satisfy these consumer wants will be very successful.


vallefuco_headshotOver the last decade, the demand for radiant floor heat under tiled surfaces has evolved from an upscale luxury to somewhat of a staple. We’ve found the most common area in residential installations to be the master bathroom floor, both in remodels and custom homes. Over time, we have experimented with many products from customized heat pad systems to wire cable systems. The wire cables are more labor intensive, but tend to be the best option when there is any chance of room layout changing before installation. 

Most recently, it seems the market trend in the tile industry is steering toward radiant heat systems that serve as both uncoupling membrane and a floor heating system. An example of this is Schluter’s Ditra-Heat. In situations where an uncoupling membrane is already specified, choosing this type of heat system becomes cost effective and time saving. In addition, it minimizes total floor height and installation time. 

A third factor which becomes very appealing for us is that it can also serve as waterproofing when taped, and saves us yet another step. It is the most sensible option in circumstances where uncoupling membrane, waterproofing, and radiant heat are specified.

We’ve found the installation process to be very similar to that of most uncoupling membranes. The only additional thought process required is generally in spacing the cables correctly. For the installers, this system allows us to create customized heating zones based on clients’ needs, and becomes an energy-saving option for the end user.  

The one glitch we’ve found with multiple heat zones is for clients who want to keep it simple, preferring only one thermostat no matter how large the area. However, from an installer’s perspective, an enticing feature is that the system is warranted by one manufacturer. If there are any concerns during or after installation, the manufacturer is familiar with all the components, and can readily troubleshoot with full technical knowledge of the system. In the past, when multiple components are used, such as subfloor and a separate radiant heat system, we’ve had to go back and forth between manufacturers to get to the bottom of the issue. Having one manufacturer allows for quicker resolution time if problems do occur.  

For instances where CBU is specified without an uncoupling membrane or where floor height and waterproofing are not issues, then the options for radiant heat systems remain immense. We as tile installers prefer to work with the products with which we are most familiar. Regardless of the specific product, radiant heat systems from manufacturers of tile industry setting materials are always our preference over those made generically to go under any floor finishes.  

Gianna Vallefuoco
VALLEFUOCO Tile Contractors
Rockville, MD

donmoyer_headshotThe biggest advancement in radiant heat is manufacturers coupling the heating element or cable into the uncoupling mat. This eliminates two separate steps. Traditionally you would install your heating cable, cover it with a self leveler or trowel thinset onto it. Now you install the uncoupling membrane of your choice and incorporate the heating cable into the uncoupling mat, then go over that with thinset.

Essentially you are eliminating one step of the process and a layer. This has almost eliminated the use of heating mats. When you incorporate the heating cables right into the uncoupling membrane you get uncoupling properties plus your heating element in one layer versus two. This cuts down time on installation and leads many installers to use the faster method.  In most cases the cost equals out but allows you to do it in one day vs. two. 

Jon Donmoyer,
JD Tile, Annville, Pa.,

RH-easyheatEasyHeat WarmTiles, a division of Emerson Industrial Automation, has introduced an easy-to-install floor warming cable specifically designed for uncoupling membrane systems. New WarmTiles™ DMC cables can be laid directly from a spool to the membrane in virtually any configuration, allowing for a fast, custom installation using product that comes directly from the distributor’s shelf. Available in 120VAC and 240VAC, the cable’s thicker diameter is tailored to perfectly snap in for a secure and reliable fit. It is ideal for virtually any flooring project deploying uncoupling membrane systems, whether it is new construction or renovation. WarmTiles DMC cables do not require a self-leveling or scratch coat and they are compatible with most major brands of uncoupling membrane systems. Cable heating area ranges from 7 sq. ft. (0.7 m2) up to 250 sq. ft. (23 m2), or 44 to 785 feet (13 to 239 meters) in length. In addition, EasyHeat offers programmable and non-programmable dual-voltage thermostats to control the temperature, and optimize power requirements of the system. Cables are CSA certified for use in the U.S. or Canada.

RH-latLATICRETE offers several electric floor warming options. The LATICRETE Floor HEAT Mat is a versatile floor-warming mat designed for installation underneath tile and stone floors. It includes adhesive backing for easy installation, and a low-profile wire. The Floor HEAT Mat is designed for optimal performance when used with LATICRETE 254 Platinum, 86 LATILEVEL™ and SpectraLOCK® PRO Grout. This system is also designed for use with the LATICRETE Floor Warming Thermostat, a simple-to-use digital programmable thermostat in 120 V or 240 V configurations. Also available is the LATICRETE Floor HEAT Wire floor-warming wire system designed for use under many types of finished floor coverings, compatible with the LATICRETE Floor Warming Thermostat, and the LATICRETE Complete Floor Warming Kit, available in five popular mat sizes, that includes a LATICRETE Floor HEAT Mat, a LATICRETE Floor Warming Thermostat and WIRE EYE, the LATICRETE electric wire-fault indicator.

RH-nuheatNuheat, a leading manufacturer of electric radiant floor-heating systems of 25 years, launched its energy-conscious, next-generation thermostat, the Nuheat SIGNATURE, which incorporates WiFi technology. This easy-to-use thermostat allows homeowners to adjust heating remotely to save energy, monitor and control energy consumption, and view hourly, weekly, and monthly usage. With a quick reaction time, rooms and floors heat up within 30 minutes, allowing for zoneable heating to control warmth where it’s needed rather than overall central heating, thus saving energy. The thermostat easily connects to the home’s WiFi network for up to 16 multiple zones/rooms/homes. It is perfect for a vacation home – with WiFi controls, heat can be activated while you’re packing the car, and warm, luxurious floors are ready upon arrival!

RH-RPMRPM Mats are “the original” heat wire installation mat system. For nearly a decade they have been used as a backerboard-replacing, anti-fracture membrane, designed specifically to ease the installation process for all brands of electric in-floor heat wire. The unique stud placement and design allows for wire spacing at any 1/2” increment, while protecting the wire, during and after installation. Other benefits include: a thinner installation; easy cement leveling over wire; fast and easy wire layout adjustments; lightweight materials that cut with no dust; tough rating for automobile showrooms and shopping malls; and multiple flooring options other than tile can be used on top. RPM Mats are made in the USA from 80-90% recycled materials, available in 5/16” and 1/2” thickness. The new RPM-V1 mat features a vented design that rapidly accelerates the dry time of the adhesive, while offering the same benefits as the original RPM.

RH-SchluterSchluter-Systems has doubled the number of heating cable lengths available for its DITRA-HEAT floor warming system – now offering 34 different lengths to meet any floor warming need. DITRA-HEAT cables are easily snapped into place on top of the uncoupling mat with no clips or fasteners. The installer has complete flexibility on where the cables are placed so every installation is customized to suit the exact requirements of the owner. The system, just one year old, originally offered 17 different cable lengths for a wide range of project sizes. Now there are 17 cable lengths for 120V circuits and 17 for 240V circuits, including cables that can be used in a space as small as 10.7 sq. ft. so the floor of a very small bathroom, powder room, or entryway can be easily warmed with the system.

RH-suntouchSunTouch recently enhanced its WarmWire floor heating cables that use an electric wire to heat floors in bathroom, entryways, and kitchens. An affordable alternative to radiant-heated mats, WarmWire provides the flexibility to install easily around curves, angles and cut-outs to fit rooms of all shapes and sizes. Contractors can install WarmWire using self-leveler or thin-set, when WarmWire is secured using CableStraps. Recent enhancements give WarmWire a lower profile, requiring less thinset or self-leveler for installation. WarmWire is compatible with a variety of uncoupling membranes designed for use with heating wire. An installer can vary the wire spacing in these uncoupling membranes to reach a desired heat output. WarmWire comes with a 25-year warranty. SunTouch offers a full line of products to meet indoor and outdoor floor warming and ice melting project needs.

RH-warmlyyoursWarmlyYours Radiant Heating has created a one-stop shop for floor-heating system installations with its four new Installation Accessory Kits. The kits were designed to offer all the necessary tools to install a TempZone™ floor-heating system. The Installation Accessory Kits come in Basic, Silver, Gold and Platinum options, with each kit specializing in a different type of installation for trade professionals and do-it-yourselfers. The Basic Installation Kit includes a margin trowel and 3/8” notched trowel for spreading thinset over the heating element and back-buttering each tile for one-step installations. The Silver Installation Kit includes four tools – including an epoxy grout float – for one-step installations that include grouting the tile. The Gold Installation Kit features six tools for two-step installations that do not require underlayment under the heating element. Finally, the Platinum Installation Kit includes seven tools for two-step installations on a slab that require an underlayment under the heating element. Each kit offers a variation on these seven tools: a 3/8” notched trowel; 1/8” V-notch trowel; dense rubber float; epoxy grout float; margin trowel; finishing trowel; and kneeler board. Tools can also be purchased separately by those who already have their own tools.

RH-warmsetWarmset by PENROD is the next generation of radiant floor heating and its patented UL-certified technology delivers unequaled performance to both contractors and homeowners.

Easy to install: Warmset by PENROD is a ribbon-based system. Installation is fast and easy; simply unroll the ribbon mat.

Increased Energy Savings: The flat ribbon design and the reduced space between heating elements allows Warmset by PENROD to use significantly less energy than wired radiant flooring, cutting energy consumption by over 10%.

Strength and Reliability: The design has a robust structure that is strong and less susceptible to damage during installation and electrical shorting after installation compared to wire-based products. Warmset by PENROD is so durable that it will eliminate callbacks caused by damage.

More Comfortable Heat: With its electric radiating system transmitted evenly over the entire surface. “Warm-up” time is ten degrees faster than traditional products on the market.

RH-warmupWarmup has introduced StickyMat to allow trade professionals to install electric floor warming quickly and easily. StickyMat underfloor heating is more than just a standard heating mat with pressure-sensitive adhesive – it uses a 1/8” pre-spaced wire with tough fluoropolymer coatings that provide inner and outer insulation for even surface heat distribution. The StickyMat is suitable for all new and renovation projects. The StickyMat enables a smaller contractor to install electric floor heating as fast as a larger company. In an internal testing environment, when using StickyMat against a similar product without pressure sensitive adhesive, the installation of StickyMat was 35% faster. Once installed, the project is completed by applying a layer of thin self-leveler over the mat and leaving it to dry OR by troweling a full bed of flexible tile adhesive directly over the mat upon which the floor tiles will be installed. Warmup offers a market leading 24/7/365 technical support service to give personal advice during and after installation.

Substrate prep, Underlayments and Backing products – TECH 2015

substrate-prepEvery tile or stone installation starts with the condition and preparation of the subfloor. Is it flat, is it level, is it in need of crack isolation or waterproofing? What kinds of preparations and underlayments are needed to make this project perform? With larger tiles – and the emergence of large, thin tiles – more stringent measures need to be employed to make subfloors suitable for newfangled products.

Along these lines, choice of appropriate backers also play a key role in both ease of installation and long-term integrity of the installation.

Manufacturers in this section share their views of how today’s finishing products demand more technologically advanced preparation, underlayment and backing solutions.  – Lesley Goddin

Sean Boyle, director Marketing & Product
Management – LATICRETE

Reduced-thickness porcelain tiles have been out in the marketplace for several years now and our industry has gained some valuable information on how these finishes perform, where they can be used and how they are installed. Always consult with the porcelain tile manufacturer for their recommendation on which specific reduced-thickness tile type and thickness is suitable for a specific application (especially for floors and exterior use). In addition, using the proper installation techniques and materials will help insure a quality installation.

Substrate preparation is critical. Care must be taken to ensure that the substrate is extremely flat in order to achieve the required coverage and fully support the tile. Proper preparation, staging and equipment are also important to prepare these large tiles for installation. For example, consider a large flat table that serves as the work area and the use of “vacuum suction cups” and “installation frames” to facilitate handling and placing of the tile.

MAP-logoBrian Pistulka
MAPEI business manager for Tile & Stone Installations

Some trends in the industry relate to large-format tile, as well as thin tile – the importance of substrate preparation is magnified for these projects. As the tolerance of substrate variance becomes smaller, the variance becomes more noticeable in the finished project if not addressed prior to installation. This has increased the attention on surface prep patches, screed and leveling compounds.

NAC-logoBrian Petit, vice president of Operations
NAC Products

As technology continues to evolve, substrates should be examined to ensure a proper bond between substrates, membranes, and finished floors. Lightweight concrete substrates can be porous or at times chalky, requiring a thorough inspection. As a result of this inspection, it may be necessary to harden and seal the substrate in order to create a better surface that will promote a permanent bond for the flooring system.

When examining existing substrates for renovation, protrusions or depressions from the previous flooring must be removed or addressed in such a way as to allow the membrane installation to create a flat, new surface for tile installation. Floor preparation including leveling products should be completed prior to the installation of membrane. Membranes are designed to be installed as close to the finished floor as possible to provide maximum protection.

texrite-logoAlan Kin, sales and technical

Leveling products are sometimes overlooked because the skill of the tile installer often incorporated the leveling as part of the challenge of doing a good, if not great, tile installation. The substrate surface being level and flat in appearance was considered secondary to the tile type and substrate to be bonded. The growing popularity of larger-format tile and plank tile requires truer/straighter floor criteria. Let’s face facts: slab surfaces and concrete surfaces are not getting better for flatness, and the tile industry is being viewed by consumers, designer and architects with a more critical eye.

Mortar manufacturers have developed products for leveling in order to flatten, correct and/or induce pitch/slope where necessary. Under more critical requirements, it will be necessary to have a slab/substrate be within 1/16” variation in 24” when measured from the high point. The flatter requirements are related to the demand of large tile (≥ 15” and/or plank tile).

Consumers need to understand that the larger (15” and greater) dimension tile – while offering beautiful and stunning in design and appearance – also means that a larger tile’s shine, luster or reflective image will be more evident. Skewed or distorted images on larger tile surfaces can be expected if the tiles are bonded to non-trued or non-leveled surfaces. Installers need to plan for these large-format tile installations by using leveling materials and investing the extra work needed to meet customer expectations of flawless optical criteria.

Leveling products are available in trowelable and self-leveling versions, covering an array of curing times from same-day walk-on set to overnight cure/set times. Mortar manufacturers offer underlayment/patching products that can be used for floor and wall applications. The installation and methodology of bonding large tiles appears to be the same; however, the increased aesthetic tile surface can be viewed by the homeowner as non-planar or rejected as faulty when leveling mortar materials are not part of the installation process.

Crack Isolation

blanke-logoDan Holcomb

The craft of tile installation is going through a renaissance: a rebirth of artisan tile setters who care for the quality of their work. Innovative and high-quality products on the market, a wealth of information available online, and lots professional/educational training opportunities, are all pushing the tile community in a positive direction.

The underlayment product category is a great example of educated installers demanding high-quality products that make a job more efficient, less strenuous, and more cost effective. The latest innovations in uncoupling mats offer lightweight materials that install fast with less physical effort. Breathability is another trend in underlayments that is now allowing the use of modified thinsets when installing ceramic, porcelain, and stone floor products. Fiberglass mesh panel designs are creating structural strength in the floor that dramatically increases the point load, shear strength, and tensile strength while also protecting against deflection. From feedback from contractor days at local tile stores from New York to California, with stops in Chicago, Houston Seattle, Orlando, Atlanta and everywhere in between – the trend is clear: tile installers are educated and interested in new products and new techniques that can make their job a success!

tec-logoTom Plaskota, technical support manager
H.B. Fuller Construction Products

With today’s tight construction schedules, efficiency and versatility are of the utmost importance. The more contractors can accomplish with a single product, the better. With that in mind, companies are developing crack-isolation products that can serve more than one purpose. Products have previously combined waterproofing and crack isolation qualities, making them ideal for showers, pools and other wet applications. These products continue to be both popular and useful, and the fast-drying versions allow for quicker installations.

Manufacturers continue to broaden the functions of crack-isolation products. These products can also help reduce the transfer of sound. They are useful for both residential and commercial spaces, where uninterrupted sound transfer can be distracting.


NAC-logoBrian Petit,  vice president of Operations,
NAC Products

One of the trends we have seen at NAC is that it is no longer sufficient to just provide waterproofing for bathrooms. We have received requests from customers, architects, specifiers and others looking for a solution that can provide sound control and waterproofing in bathroom installations.

noble-logoRichard Maurer, director of marketing
Noble Company 

A number of companies have ultra-thin waterproofing membranes. These membranes are composites made from polyethylene (PE) with fabric laminated to both sides. PE is impervious to water; the fabric provides a bondable surface.

Ultra-thin membranes are lightweight, easy to handle and cost effective. Most companies offer systems that include membranes that are 1 meter (39”) wide with accessories for corners and seaming. Many installers have switched from traditional waterproofing methods to ultra-thin membranes and are pleased with results.


finpan-logoLisa Shaffer, president
Fin Pan

Having watched the development and introduction of all the concrete and fiber concrete backers on the market, the trend toward lighter is first and foremost with most of the installers. In the quest for “lighter” though, the trade off towards lower strengths, absorption and flexibility is a not-so-advantageous trend of which to be wary.

Each backer has its strengths and preferred applications, and this is especially true of exterior applications. Boards that have high absorption rates should not be used exteriorly due to freeze/thaw cycle conditions. Before using a backer board outside, check the manufacturer’s recommendations to ensure the board meets exterior conditions.

In the building-materials industry, we have seen building products that come in under the radar of building code requirements for fire safety, especially in the foam-based products industry. All foams used in the building industry should have self-extinguishing properties, meaning that when a flame source is removed from the material the material should cease to melt or burn. As more foams are used in steam showers for thermal isolation and backer boards, this one element should be a consideration.



donmoyerMy personal experience with leveling products is they have become more user-friendly. In the past you had to pour the mix and spread it out many times on the existing floor. It didn’t flow as smoothly as you’d like, nor spread out to level the area. 

I remember one instance where we had to cover our work shoes with plastic bags and walk out into an area of leveler that didn’t spread out. It would have been impossible to put the uncoupling membrane down the next day. We poured over 500 sq. ft. of radiant heat wires on the floor, so we didn’t want to dig into the leveler to replace it.

The new levelers we have used at JD Tile since seem to spread out nicely and the mixes are much soupier, in a good way. Once poured, they spread out and you are ready for another pour vs. having to grab a rake.  

There are many levelers out there. Our choice is NXT Level by LATICRETE. There are different types depending on how fast you need to be on the floor working, which is always a factor with deadlines. Some levelers cure in three hours; some need overnight. Obviously you pay more for the faster-curing ones just like you would pay more for a faster-curing thinset.

Jon Donmoyer
JD Tile, Annville, Pa.

 “Just mix up some thinset and we’ll just skim out that hole. Don’t worry about it, we can use a big notch tomorrow.”

dennyHow many times have we said it or heard it? It is tempting to choose the easy way out of readying a floor to receive tile, but the easy way is usually the wrong way. Thinset was not created to level our floors and it isn’t often we have a recess for mortar bed. Our company primarily encounters concrete substrates, but the general idea applies to wood as well – PLAN FOR PREP. Tiles aren’t getting any smaller, and the ones with one edge >15” need extra special consideration to achieve the necessary 1/8” in 10’ substrate flatness. 

In commercial remodel – as well as the general fast pace of business – it can be difficult to properly evaluate and plan for floor preparation. I can offer no magic recipe for pricing and I must continue to educate myself constantly on better methods. But we have found several good rules to play by and a product lineup that allows great flexibility for the tasks at hand. What follows is by no means an all-inclusive how-to for floor prep, only a quick overview. 

Rarely do we find concrete in any shape to receive anything. It’s either extremely filthy, has adhesives or existing mortars, is over-troweled, or has something on it to prevent the transfer of moisture. Mostly we prefer to mechanically remove anything on top and roughen the surface. There are a host of options for primers on the market, but we find that doing everything we can to find a good thirsty concrete base helps us sleep at night. So on almost every job we plan a minimum amount of time and machinery before we begin anything else. 

Some floors we encounter have dips or humps…well…they all have dips and humps! If they are within reason we will grind the humps and fill the dips. Laticrete’s NXT products have been our go to. The NXT Patch is an excellent choice for quick <1-1/2” fills and can be pulled with a straightedge. It sets in less than an hour and can be cut down with a trowel edge during the cure process to remove trowel marks or hiccups with the edge. When we have large depressions or significant areas that needs more material than what we can accomplish with Patch, we move to NXT Level. Properly primed, a concrete surface can be self-leveled up to 3” and ready for non-moisture sensitive tile in about a half day’s time, with the NXT Level Plus setting faster at a 1-1/4” max if needed. Having these on hand and available to use has been a pretty successful basic plan of attack for what we may encounter.

Regardless of what product you use, read the data sheets and contact a technical representative. In my humble opinion, a system is smart business and working with a material manufacturer from the substrate up necessitates just one easy phone call, email, or text. Don’t assume for the best, assume for the worst and do everything you can to get it done correctly. The entire job is literally riding on it. 

Brad Denny
Nichols Tile & Terrazzo Co., Inc.Joelton, Tenn.


owenWaterproofing has come a long way in the last 20 – 25 years. In the past thick membranes were the only option available. These membranes had to be heat-welded at the seams, inside corners, and outside corners.  They were not user friendly.

Today, there is the option of waterproofing in the form of thin membranes and liquids. Each has its specific best use in different circumstances.The thin membranes are more manageable to use at corners and tend to keep their form once applied with the adhesive, not delaminating like the thick membranes do during the drying process. Each membrane and liquid can be applied to the top of the tile substrate; then the tile is applied directly to the membrane. This protects the substrate from moisture, providing a more durable installation.  And the thinner the membrane, the more user-friendly it is.

Rod Owen
C.C. Owen Tile Company, Inc.
Jonesboro, Ga. 


wirtzFrom my earliest memories of the tile industry, we used soaking tubs and pure cement. Shortly afterward, thinsets and mastics were introduced, which were real game-changers for our industry. With these new systems came the loss of control of many of our substrates. There were several other trades that started installing sheet goods – either gypsum or cement products – over which we were expected to install our tile.

Since the introduction of the foam board products, I have aggressively taken back a large part of my industry. While there are many different and excellent manufacturers of foam boards and systems, my experience is with the German products from wedi Corporation.

I have been installing and getting the wedi system specified for almost 10 years now. It is a complete system, in which everything is engineered for a successful tile job. It is extremely versatile and it eliminates the need for work-arounds. 

Take, for example, that little gap that is called out at a bathtub to keep water from wicking up the wall. Since wedi foam panel systems are 100% waterproof, you can simply cut a small notch in the back of the wedi board to fit over the tub flange and take it all the way down to the tub edge, then seal and bond it with their polyurethane caulk (TCNA Handbook B411-15). This leaves a seamless, waterproof system from the edge of the tub to the top of the tile.

Once the wedi board, pan and dam are installed, you are ready to start the tile installation. There is no need for any additional layers of waterproofing and no need to pre-slope before waterproofing is installed. The versatility allows us to not be troubled with straps, screws or backing that would typically cause lumps in the other sheet-type products. It is also possible to correct minor walls that are out of plumb.

When I get in front of a general contractor, architect or homeowner, I explain to them that when we install this system, they get a single source of responsibility from the studs out to a finished product. Most of them really like that feature; it sells itself.

We have successfully installed over 2,000 wedi showers and at least that many tub surrounds. If I had not gotten involved with the wedi products, some other trade would have installed all the tile substrates and it would have been up to me to inspect and reject any work not in tolerance. 

I see the foam board industry as one of the most positive changes in the last several decades. Of course these products are not for all tile contractors, just like some people still listen to their music from an eight-track.

John D. Wirtz,
Wirtz Quality Installation, Inc.,
San Diego, Calif.


ardex-subARDEX offers precision-engineered and polymer-modified, ARDEX A 38™ MIX Rapid Set, Premixed Screed. It sets, hardens and dries rapidly – just three hours after application. It is ideal for swimming pools and other wet areas and for use with in-floor heating systems. Key features include:

  • Premixed with sand for increased productivity
  • Interior and exterior use
  • Suitable for bonded/unbonded or floating screeds
  • Exceeds the 28-day strength properties of ordinary screeds after just 1 day
  • Available in 40 lb. (18 kg) bags

Add ARDEX E 100™ Screed Improvement and Bonding Slurry Additive to improve elasticity, compressive and tensile strengths, workability, plasticity and abrasion resistance.

custom-subCUSTOM’s LevelQuik® RS (Rapid Setting) Self-Leveling Underlayment helps level floors prior to the installation of ceramic tile, natural stone, resilient flooring, carpet, wood and other floor coverings. This quick-setting underlayment can be applied to 1-1/2” thick in one pour and seeks its own level in minutes. With proper installation, the use of LevelQuik RS can achieve an extra-heavy rating for high impact use in food plants, dairies, breweries and kitchens. LevelQuik RS may be applied in residential structures with floor joists up to 24” off center. Formulated using Controlled Cure Technology®, LevelQuik RS helps eliminate installation problems such as bond failure, crumbling and staining of resilient flooring caused by the free moisture found in traditional underlayments.

tec-subTEC® Ready To Use Skimcoat & Patch is an exceptional-performing, high-quality, water-based compound designed to skim coat, smooth and level irregularities from a featheredge up to 1⁄4” (6 mm) in a single application. Excellent for use over a variety of substrates, it provides a suitable surface for even the most demanding floor coverings. This product is ideal for use as an embossing leveler with no additional additives. It dries to a smooth surface within three to four hours under normal conditions, for same-day flooring installation. It is available in 1-quart or 1-gallon pails.

usg-subUSG Corporation, a leading building products company, and XL Brands, LLC, the nation’s largest private-label floor covering adhesive manufacturer, have partnered to introduce USG Durock™ Brand X2 Primer-Sealer, designed to use with USG Levelrock® Brand and USG Durock™ Brand self-leveling gypsum underlayments for installation of floor coverings in as little as four hours. It may also be used for priming concrete or wood subfloors prior to application of the aforementioned underlayments. USG Durock™ X2 Primer-Sealer offers a 10-year limited system warranty when used in conjunction with an XL Brands manufactured adhesive. Together, USG and XL Brands claim they are the only manufacturers to offer such a warranty in the tile and flooring industry.

NTCA Update – TECH 2015

trowel-and-errorNTCA revamps classic Trowel & Error video

New DVD to be available in fall 2015

NTCA is completely revamping its classic 1996 “Trowel and Error” training video, which demonstrates the proper way to trowel thin-set mortar for full coverage and a strong bond. The new video will be available on DVD in the NTCA Store at, as well as in membership packets and on the NTCA YouTube Channel for easy sharing on social media. It features narration by CUSTOM’s Mike Micalizzi and demonstrations by NTCA presenter Michael Whistler.

Many bad habits can develop when setting tile, such as troweling mortar in a swirl pattern or spot bonding, instead of applying mortar in a straight line using the correct trowel. These habits weaken bond or create other problems.

“In 1996, NTCA’s then-executive director Joe Tarver realized that troweling in a straight line helped release the air from under a tile when it was installed, thus getting better coverage of the mortar,” said Jim Olson, NTCA assistant executive director and coordinator of the NTCA committee in charge of revamping the video. “At that time, a large tile was 12” x 12”; we are now installing 12” x 24”, 24” x 24” and larger, so we decided it was time to update the video and introduce the new methods, standards and products in this new version of ‘Trowel and Error’.”

Trowel and Error clearly illustrates the proper methods for adhering tile of all sizes – including large 12” x 24” and 6” x 24” formats. It also addresses tile warpage, large format description, guidelines for floor flatness, backbuttering, correct trowel size and use of large-and-heavy-tile mortar.

TandE-pics“The changes in technology to larger formats and multiple pattern sizes often include floor preparation,” said NTCA executive director Bart Bettiga. “The new video will address this issue as well as show the installation technique.”

All of this is concisely presented in a little over five minutes, shaving nearly two minutes off the original 7+ minute video.

The new Trowel and Error is an initiative of the Trowel and Error Remake subcommittee of the NTCA Training and Education Committee. The committee is coordinated by NTCA’s assistant executive director Jim Olson and includes committee members Mike Micalizzi from CUSTOM, NTCA’s Michael Whistler and Becky Serbin, Training and Education Committee chairperson and Five Star Contractor Jan Hohn of Hohn & Hohn, Inc., and Five Star Contractor David Allen Company’s Martin Howard. CUSTOM’s Will White helped hone the technical information and CUSTOM’s Athena Reschke spearheaded the production of the project.

Initial filming is taking place on August 26, with the goal of debuting the updated “Trowel and Error” video to NTCA board members at Total Solutions Plus in Savannah, Ga., this October.

ACT Certification – TECH 2015

scott-conwellThin Porcelain Tile Installation: the newest Advanced Certification for Tile Installers

By Scott Conwell, FAIA, LEED AP BD+C,
director of Industry Development &
Technical Service, International Masonry Institute;
and Lupe Ortiz, NCTI Apprenticeship coordinator

This is an exploration of the new Thin Porcelain Tile Certification in the Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers program that was introduced at Coverings in April. In addition to the efforts of TCAA, BAC and IMI mentioned by the author, open shop tile contractor association NTCA – in conjunction with Scott Carothers, training director of CTEF – has been spearheading development of this certification, kicking off talks and discussion to provide a realistic, accurate and complete testing program for TPT, even in the absence of published standards. Information about ACT certification can be obtained by visiting, emailing NTCA’s Bart Bettiga at [email protected] or CTEF’s Scott Carothers at [email protected]

– Lesley Goddin

The certification for Thin Porcelain Tile (TPT) installation made its debut at the Coverings international trade show held in Orlando, Florida, in April 2015. Thin porcelain tiles presently range in sizes generally 1 M x 3 M (39-3/8” x 118-1/8”) and 1.5 M x 3 M (59” x 118-1/4”). Custom sizes: 1M x 1M, 1.5 M x 1.5 M are spectacular and impressive to architects and designers, but practical considerations in installing this material continue to challenge tile contractors. Tile Contractors Association of America (TCAA), International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers (BAC), and International Masonry Institute (IMI) are at the forefront of solving these challenges through their involvement in the Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT) program.

1-act-techANSI A137.3

One major factor limiting the use of TPT until now is the absence of an ANSI standard for this material and the resulting reluctance of some designers to specify a material that had no standard. The accredited standards committee, with representation from TCAA, BAC and IMI, has been working since 2013 to develop a standard and, at the April 2015 meeting, the committee circulated a first draft of the new ANSI A137.3 American National Standard Specifications for Thin Porcelain Tile and Thin Porcelain Tile Panels. The standard defines “thin porcelain tiles” as units up to 1 square meter, and “thin porcelain tile panels” as units greater than 1 square meter. The draft standard has a well-defined purpose and scope but much of the actual data such as methods of manufacture, test methods, and performance criteria remain to be debated, discussed, and agreed on. The committee acknowledges the importance of installation issues and is considering the input of the ACT work group in the development of this new standard.

2-act-techBest-practice certification

With respect to the TPT ACT certification, the ACT advisory group acknowledges that without the benefit of tile industry accepted ANSI standards and methods, the ACT program has developed the TPT curriculum to educate the installer with currently available best practices and to provide a mechanism to certify his or her skills and knowledge of the TPT products that is derived from manufacturers’ recommendations and adaptation of other ANSI standards for items like proper substrate prep, mortar coverage, grout joint variation and lippage. The decision to move forward with ACT certification came about with input from TCAA contractors, BAC leadership, and IMI tile instructors as a strategic tactic to claim this work for our trade.

Material handling

Even before installation, a tile contractor is faced with many challenges just handling a material of such great size. Transporting it from the shop to the jobsite to the area of work requires special equipment and plenty of room to maneuver. Consider the limited elevator ceiling heights and confined work areas of some projects, and physical constraints immediately become apparent. Having an adequate crew is critical. Fortunately for the ACT installers, the ACT certification not only focuses on the handling of these big tiles but on the installation main critical points such as proper substrate prep, layout, and installation process, which addresses the most critical points in the evaluation.

3act-teMortar coverage and cure time 

The proper application of mortar is critical to the success of a TPT installation. Thinset mortar with an extended open time is usually appropriate, as the process of applying the mortar to 10, 30 or 50 square feet of wall or floor and back buttering an equal area of tile can take some time. The mortar at the center of the tile, far from any grout joints, is likely to take a very long time to cure. For this reason the ACT advisory board has specified tiles no larger than 1m x 1m for the ACT certification, and is considering formalizing a statement cautioning designers on sizes greater than 1m x 1m. Such a position statement by labor would be similar in nature to the position statement issued two years ago cautioning designers not to use TPT thinner than 6mm in flooring applications due to the absence of standards on minimum breaking strength and resistance to impact loads.

Because TPT is not only large but also very thin (3+ mm – 6mm), the installers must apply mortar to full coverage to avoid potential breakage due to point loads after the installation is complete. “Full coverage” is defined in ANSI to mean 80% minimum coverage for interior non-wet areas, and 95% coverage for exterior and interior wet areas. What is expected out of the ACT Installers? Again, without the benefit of tile industry accepted standards, the installers are held to 60%-70% mortar coverage on walls and 95% or greater on floors with the goal of 100% coverage, especially on all outside edges walls and floors.

The quality of the substrate can greatly affect the mortar coverage. For example, a floated mud wall provides greater flatness and stiffness than cement backer board on studs. Also, the absorptive qualities of the mud bed will help speed up the setting or curing time of the thin-set mortar. The ACT advisory group has communicated these findings to the ANSI accredited standards committee currently developing the new ANSI A137.3, American National Standard Specifications for Thin Porcelain Tile and Thin Porcelain Tile Panels. Because of our unique insights as the installers in the industry, TCAA, BAC, and IMI are playing a vital role in the development of this important standard.

ACT certifications

It is the goal of the ACT advisory group to make ACT certifications as accessible as possible. The 2015 TCNA Handbook recognizes by name all the installers certified to date in each of the five initial ACT certifications. IMI and International Masonry Training and Education Foundation (IMTEF) are currently delivering certifications at training centers in all major markets, and they offer the certifications several times each year at the John J. Flynn International Training Center in Bowie, Maryland. For more information on scheduling ACT certifications for your key installers, call Terry Hays, Deputy Director, BAC/IMI International Training Center at 301-291-2120 or via email at [email protected].


TEC® Feature Story – TECH 2015


One of the most awarded BMW dealerships in the United States, located in Southern California, recently underwent a makeover. Flooring and wall renovations at the 90,000-sq.-ft. facility, undertaken with TEC® products, had to live up to the dealership’s superior reputation aesthetically and provide the performance required for the demanding showroom environment.

tec-1The California dealership touts its commitment to customer service as a reason for its success, and the recent renovations aimed to even further enhance the customer experience. 123,832 sq. ft. of tile create a sleek, high-end aesthetic in all parts of the dealership – from the service area to the stand-alone iCar building, which houses a model of the five-door urban electric car.

Coast Floors, Inc., Irvine, Ca., undertook the tile installation in phases, beginning with the service area and drive. The dealership’s service department employs dozens of technicians and advisors who quickly diagnose and repair vehicles, so efficiency was of the utmost importance. Coast Floors, Inc. relied on TEC products to get the service area up-and-running quickly. Their first task was correcting imperfections in the substrate, using TEC® Fast-Set Deep Patch. The cement-based underlayment is designed specifically for deep fills, ramping, and leveling concrete and plywood subfloors. TEC Fast-Set Deep Patch was perfect for the job because it accepts tile in just 1 to 1-1/2 hours, allowing for efficient installation.

“TEC Fast-Set Deep Patch helped us create a consistent floor in the mechanics’ area,” says Shawn Kennedy of Coast Floors, Inc. “It allowed us to quickly bring the substrate up to industry standards for an efficient turnaround.”


TEC products adopt hefty responsibilities

The service area and showroom host dozens of cars, each weighing thousands of pounds. The tile and the materials underneath it have to support not only these vehicles, but also automotive lifts and equipment. With those performance requirements in mind, BMW specified clinker tile – known for its resistance to shock – in the service area. The tile was installed with TEC® Ultimate Large Tile Mortar, which delivers non-sag/non-slump characteristics for wall and floor applications.

tec-3TEC Ultimate Large Tile Mortar passed rigorous ASTM C627 Robinson floor testing – a test that predicts a floor’s performance under several different conditions – which enabled it to be specified for heavy commercial environments, like an auto dealership. During testing, the tile assembly withstood 450 rotations of three steel wheels bearing a load of 250 pounds each, without any damage. Additionally, it exceeds the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) A118.4 and A118.11 shear bond specifications. With those qualifications, installers knew TEC Ultimate Large Tile Mortar – and the other selected TEC products rated for heavy commercial use – would withstand the rigors of a car dealership.


TEC Power Grout®, which is also rated for heavy commercial applications and exceeds ANSI A118.7 specifications, finished off the floor with strong grout joints. TEC Power Grout delivers unique aesthetic benefits as well. In the showroom, porcelain tile provides an elegant platform for the latest BMW models for sale. Gray tile in a running brick pattern is accented by TEC Power Grout in Charcoal Gray. The color-consistent joints and understated tile allow customers to see the cars shine on a refined and elegant stage.

“TEC Power Grout sets rapidly,” says Kennedy. “Because of Power Grout, the technicians could start working on cars quickly.”

tec-5Standing out in the crowd

While many of the tiled details of its showroom and service area align with other BMW dealerships, the building that houses BMW’s iCar sets the dealership apart. While other dealerships simply offer the iCar, this Southern California dealership features the model in a building of its own. The car stands out among wood-look and royal blue porcelain tile. The royal blue tile, airfreighted from Spain, surrounds the car on both the floor and walls, forming a 3-D frame for the car. TEC® AccuColor® Premium Unsanded Grout – Cornsilk matches the wood-look tile and contrasts with the blue tile, creating a sophisticated showcase for a sophisticated product.

Because most of the tile in the building was imported, replacing it would be both difficult and costly. To help the tile maintain its appearance, Coast Floors, Inc. used TEC® HydraFlex™ Waterproofing Crack Isolation Membrane throughout the dealership. Like TEC Ultimate Large Tile Mortar and TEC Power Grout, TEC HydraFlex is rated for heavy commercial applications. HydraFlex also exceeds ANSI A118.12 specifications for crack-isolation membranes. In demanding environments like this dealership, it stops in-plane cracks up to 1/4” wide at the subfloor from telegraphing to ceramic and stone tile. Its ready-to-use flexibility can be applied to substrates immediately, and because it dries within two to three hours, Coast Floors, Inc. could use it while keeping their installation on schedule.

Tile work at the dealership was completed in May 2014. The general contractor was AUTOBUILDERS General Contracting Services, Inc., West Palm Beach, FL.

For more information about TEC, visit


The TEC® brand is offered by H.B. Fuller Construction Products Inc. – a leading provider of technologically advanced construction materials and solutions to the commercial, industrial and residential construction industry. Headquartered in Aurora, Illinois, the company’s recognized and trusted brands – TEC®, CHAPCO®, Grout Boost®, Foster®, ProSpec® and others – are available through an extensive network of distributors and dealers, as well as home improvement retailers. For more information, visit

TEC®, Power Grout®, HydraFlex™ and AccuColor® are trademarks of H.B. Fuller Construction Products Inc.

Methods & Standards – TECH 2015

kevin_coxExploring the Methods and Standards Committee – a contractor’s forum for positive change

By Kevin Fox, Methods and Standards Committee chair

The Methods and Standards Committee is a contractor’s forum, designed to discuss issues and products that impact the professional tile installer on a day-to-day basis. It consists of approximately 12 members that are residential and commercial contractors. The committee also has a few industry-recognized tile consultants. I like to put the group’s mission in very simple language: “What installation issues are we having problems with, and how can we solve them?”

Some of the topics under discussion are referred to the NTCA Technical Committee (see James Woelfel’s article in this issue), as it may be something the committee feels would be better shared with the tile industry through the NTCA Reference Manual. But other items would be best addressed in the TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation. Let me give you a few examples.

M-S-picA new method in the 2015 NTCA Handbook is for Curbless Shower Receptors (see B421C, pg. 246).  A member of the committee, Joe Kerber, of Kerber Tile Marble and Stone, introduced this method a few years ago at a meeting in 2011 (Ed. note: see TileLetter, July 2015, page 94 for a detailed discussion of this method’s evolution from Kerber himself). Joe is a residential contractor and was installing curbless showers for his clients. He saw a need for this method to be in the TCNA Handbook. Many other committee members were installing the same both residentially and commercially, especially in health care facilities. It took several years of the committee vetting the method and once everyone agreed on it, it was submitted to the TCNA Handbook Committee for their consideration. I would guess everyone reading this article will benefit by this new published method.

The committee also performs simple edits or clarifications that we feel need to be addressed. A good example would be one that hits home with my business. If you look at TCNA Method B421 in the 2011 edition, there is a note that says “Continuous bond waterproof membrane.” The committee felt the word “continuous” needed to be clarified.

In my business, when this method was specified, we would send a RFI (request for information) to the architect to clarify what their interpretation was on the membrane requirement. The replies would range widely from 6” above the floor line to all the way to the ceiling. This was also a problem some of the consultants were seeing in their investigative work, and the interpretation of 6” above floor was the culprit of failures. Thus the committee made a submission to the TCNA Handbook Committee, and the result was in 2013 this method was clarified to “Bonded waterproof membrane continuous to full height of tile assembly.” Just a few simple words added, but this misinterpretation could cost a tile contractor thousands of dollars.

The committee is very busy discussing topics that we feel will help the tile industry. I hope the work we do will positively affect your business.

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