“Little black dress” of stone tile brings classic look to a new bath
Daltile’s Stone Mosaics, accents and tile are creating “a wonderful life” for blogger
Melissa Smith has always been inspired by the timeless charm of the movie “It’s A Wonderful Life,” and finding romance in the everyday. The potential seen in the house at 320 Sycamore Street in the Jimmy Stewart/Donna Reed classic film is what inspired her to start a blog by the same name.
320 Sycamore (www.320
sycamoreblog.com) has featured room-by-room home renovations as the family moved from a home in Texas, to Virginia, to a brand new home south of Salt Lake City. With the opportunity to start fresh, she sought to make her master bathroom an oasis, away from the typical chaos of a household of five growing children.
With the help of her contractor, Gary Griffith of Designer Home Interiors of Spanish Fork, Utah (www.dhifloors.com), she was able to create a new space with classic appeal. She selected a variety of Daltile natural stone mosaics and accent pieces in Carrara white.
“I’ve heard Carrara marble called the ‘little black dress’ of tile,” said Smith. “So I knew it was perfect for the timeless, classic look I was going for.”
In the shower, Smith chose Daltile’s Stone Mosaics Carrara White Oval Mosaic for an accent stripe, but was unaware that the thickness did not match that of the classic white tile covering the shower surround. Griffith provided a solution by recommending pencil rail to hide the discrepancy. Daltile’s Marble Collection First Snow Elegance Pencil Rail was chosen and nicely frames the accent stripe. The same look was applied to the bathtub surround.
Smith continued to think outside the box with the flooring and chose Daltile’s Stone Mosaics Carrara White Hexagon Mosaic. Griffith noted that marble’s soft texture makes it a bit challenging to install and maintain, but with a little extra care, it can be a stunning choice. He used non-sanded grout and setting materials from MAPEI, and sealed the floor to avoid damage. The white grout and light-colored tile on the floor will require regular cleaning to maintain its shine. Smith noted she would never think of installing the delicate tile in the kids’ bath, but for just her and her husband, she doesn’t mind taking extra care.
The accent wall was an unexpected addition. After laying out the design for the room, Smith ended up having some extra tile on hand, but she didn’t waste time putting it to use, and found a home for it behind the vanity and mirror. Griffith installed the tile vertically, which initially surprised Smith.
“I guess I just envisioned the tile going horizontally, like traditional subway tile would,” said Smith. “But it goes to show the versatility of tile like this; turning it on its side gives a unique look and truly makes the wall a focal point.”
She noted that in the light, the tile almost shimmers like a mirror. It has become her favorite feature in the room.
Both Smith and Griffith mentioned they were surprised to see the variety of shapes and sizes of tile Daltile offered in the Carrara marble.
“I thought of course I would find subway tile and hexagon shapes, but these mosaics were very unexpected!” Smith remarked.
“In other homes in this community we have been installing your traditional 12” or 13” tile or sometimes a 12” x 24” standard porcelain,” said Griffith. “This project was a nice diversion from the norm. Others in the neighborhood are now requesting a similar look.”
Happy to be settling into her new home, Smith still feels a bit buried by boxes and is slowly finding a home for everything. However, the master bathroom, one of the first completed rooms in the house, is a tranquil escape from the chaos.
When asked what’s next on her renovation list, she said she plans to enjoy the newness of the home for now. She might consider a fireplace renovation, but for the time being she just plans to kick up her heels and enjoy an old holiday classic.
By Lesley Goddin the NTCA Reference Manual
December means cold weather for most of our 50 states, so this month’s Tech Talk literally takes a page out of the NTCA Reference Manual to discuss the particulars and cautions that surround setting tile in cold weather.
The NTCA Reference Manual is an essential industry guide that references real-world, in-the-field situations, in most cases with a cause-cure-prevention format. It also contains letters that can be customized to various parties in the project to legally communicate problems to keep tile contractors harmless in a dispute. This indispensable publication is now available to the entire industry. Visit https://store.tile-assn.com/p-63-20142015-ntca-reference-manual-non-member.aspx or click on the “store” link at NTCA’s website www.tile-assn.com, and select books and periodicals to get your copy today.
Following are the recommendations for successful cold weather tiling:
The professional installation of tile in cold weather presents a number of problems. The best results will be obtained when the environment and the products are about room temperature. Each bonding material will require specific precautions.
Tile bonding and grouting materials must not be applied to surfaces that contain frost. Tile must not be installed in areas where the substrate is not maintained above 50° F (10 C) or where the substrate is above 100° F (38 C). Temperature of the substrate shall be 60° F (16 C) and rising for application of epoxy and furan unless otherwise specifically authorized by its manufacturer. Maintain epoxy and furan at a stable temperature between 60° F (16 C) and 90° F (32 C) during the curing period.
Industry specifications do not recommend setting tile below 50° F. If work below that temperature is unavoidable, common sense procedures and precautions should be observed. Be aware that it is the temperature of the tile products, bonding materials and substrate which count – not just the air temperature of the room.
Cold weather slows cement hydration (curing)
It is recognized that cold weather slows the strengthening of cement mortars and grouts and allowances must be made for the resulting risks.
As the temperature drops from 50° F to 35° F, the strengthening of cement slows concurrently, until at 35° F it almost ceases. When these conditions occur, additional time must be allowed for the cement bonding materials to sufficiently harden before traffic is allowed. If the water in fresh cement is allowed to freeze solid, particularly near the surface, the small ice crystals expand, separate the sand and cement, and destroy the strength of the mortar, resulting in a bond failure.
In cold temperatures, grouting done before the bonding material is strong enough to accept traffic, will cause movement of the tile resulting in irreparable bond failure. When the temperature is below 50° F, grouting should be done immediately after the tile is set or wait at least two to three days. No traffic should be allowed during this period. When continuing a job, special precautions must be taken to keep all traffic off the tile that was set the previous day.
When using blower heaters to protect tile from freezing, caution must be taken to avoid rapidly drying out the tiled area directly in front of the heaters. There is a risk of drying out the air in heated areas preventing proper curing of mortar and grout. It is advisable to damp cure under these conditions.
The use of electric heat is preferable to oil or gas-fired temporary heaters that can cause chalking carbonation and weakening of fresh mortar or grout.
Cover ungrouted surfaces during the initial setting period for protection against drafts and freezing temperatures. Fast-setting mortars, although susceptible to freeze damage, may reduce curing time if the manufacturer’s recommendations are followed.
Epoxies and urethanes
Epoxies require special cold weather precautions. The most likely conditions to occur because of cold temperatures are:
1. A thick stiff mix.
2. Difficult application.
3. A very slow cure and strength gain.
For these reasons, most epoxy products are recommended for use between 70° F and 80° F. Low temperatures can cause epoxies to become so stiff they are unworkable and curing time is extended beyond practical limits. Epoxies should be stored at room temperatures at least 48 hours before mixing. Most epoxy problems result from improper and insufficient mixing.
Nadine Edelstein, winner of a 2010 TileLetter Tile Design Award for the slate strip mosaic in the Maury Island residence outdoor entryway and a 2013 Coverings Installation Design Residential Stone Design Award for the Dragonflower Vine raised-bed garden pathway in Seattle, Wash. Edelstein installed both winning projects during the during the cold northwest winter.
Conditions for the Maury Island project included temperatures in the 30s and wind whipping through the space. The crew bundled up to stay warm and took measures to keep the concrete substrate and curing mortar above 40 degrees. Edelstein said she “used electric blankets over the set tiles layered over with insulating blankets and tarps to keep the heat in. The next day we used the blankets to preheat the areas we intended to set.”
For her 2013 Dragonflower Vine project, elaborate measures included a framed enclosure built over the entire 500+-sq.-ft. garden. “This was covered with heavy-duty tarps that were secured with full five-gallon buckets hanging off the sides!” Edelstein said. “This kept us dry and provided enough ventilation so that we could use a 100,000 BTU propane heater, which kept the chill off of us while we worked. We then employed the same electric blanket technique to help our mortar cure.”
A note of caution from industry expert and ceramic consultant Dave Gobis, CTC – be sure to provide plenty of ventilation – as Edelstein did – when tenting a project. “A tented installation or the cement could kill you from either carbon monoxide or dioxide. Be sure you have plenty of air moving through the enclosure.”
Youngstown Tile & Terrazzo, Inc.
Specialty: Providing a superior tile installation on any industrial, commercial or residential project at a reasonable price. Our professional management team and highly skilled and experienced installers deliver a quality installation on time and under budget.
Youngstown Tile and Terrazzo Co., Inc. (YTT), a family-owned business with a family atmosphere, was founded in 1947 by Attillio Bertolini, focusing on quality installations of ceramic tile, terrazzo and marble. The company was purchased in 1981 by Bertolini’s son-in-law Paul Sherba, who remains the owner and president of YTT today.
In the early years, YTT focused its efforts mainly in the retail market, concentrating on shopping malls and major retailers such as May Co., Dillard’s department stores, and Limited brand stores. Since 2007 the company’s direction and day-to-day management has been handled by vice president Jeff Mason, and senior project manager Josh Cohol, together moving YTT forward in many new and exciting directions. YTT has developed a web presence at www.yttinc.com and has branched out into polished concrete, both decorative and industrial epoxy flooring, and granite countertops. It recently opened a retail showroom.
YTT currently employs 18 dedicated and highly-skilled people including office manager Tracy Higgins, superintendent Don Ferko, and estimator Keith Mason, all of whom oversee individual areas of the business. The bulk of YTT’s employees are field personnel, many of them second-generation employees and craftspeople, thus emphasizing YTT’s commitment to a strong family culture. These highly skilled craftspeople and the professionalism of the entire YTT team are the foundation on which YTT has built a reputation of excellence in the ceramic tile industry.
NEOMED Health and Wellness Center
One recent project that highlights YTT’s commitment to excellence is the new Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED) Health and Wellness Center in Ravenna, Ohio. This 177,000-sq.-ft. facility was constructed by Ruhlin Construction at a cost of $65 million, and had a construction duration of approximately 18 months. The building includes a STEM+M (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics + medicine) high school, a conference center including two ballrooms and a 3,400-sq.-ft. quarry tile banquet kitchen. This project also featured a 355-seat lecture hall, café, coffee shop, tenant space for future medical offices, pharmacy, central atrium, and a physical therapy suite. The building’s fitness center includes two pools, aerobics area, weight room, gymnasium, and rock-climbing wall.
After the project, Ruhlin Construction offered the following testimonial to its experience working with YTT. “Youngstown Tile & Terrazzo was critical to the successful completion of the NEOMED Health, Wellness, and Medical Education Center project. As the new showpiece building for the NEOMED campus, this project combined both a very aggressive construction schedule with a high level of finishes and high expectation for quality. YTT provided the manpower and experience necessary to complete their tile work in an accelerated timeframe with no sacrifice in quality. The Ruhlin Company is thankful to YTT for their efforts on this project and looks forward to more successful projects with them in the future.”
The Youngstown Tile & Terrazzo family is looking forward to the future, and providing their customers both new and old with high-quality installations and great customer service on each and every project.
I learned a lot in the Marines. One of the things I learned was the importance of people. I also learned how important it is to pause from time to time and thank people for their contribution. And then there are the times when we need to do more than pause; we need to stop.
Gene Duncan (“Dunc”) is a former Marine who wrote several books about his time in the Corps. His books are a collection of funny, sad, and poignant “letters” relating the experiences of two professional Marines, truthfully telling it like it was in the fifties, sixties, and seventies. As a young officer of Marines, I learned from reading Dunc. Like you, I continue to learn from reading. Consider that you are reading this issue of TileLetter.
Dunc wrote about the importance of letting people know you cared. In fact, taking care of people is a chapter in my first book, No Yelling: The Nine Secrets of Marine Corps Leadership You Must Know To Win In Business. He cited Thanksgiving and Christmas as two times that deserved special attention. His advice was to form up your platoon and put the Marines “at ease.” Then walk through the ranks, talking to each Marine, asking about their holiday plans, making sure they were taken care of. Finally, he advised, look them square in the eye while shaking their hand, and say, “Thank you for your valuable contribution.” The first time I did this, it felt a little awkward – but it felt good also. It felt good because I could feel the connection with my Marines and I knew they appreciated my action. This appreciation leads to higher performance and deeper loyalty. The kinds of things that differentiate your business and make it succeed.
I realize you’re not going to put your people into platoon formation, but I do know that you can visit them in their workspaces or on the jobsite and extend the same courtesy and respect that I did when I talked to my Marines. You’ll be amazed at the impact this will have. You may decide, Christmas being so close to Thanksgiving, that you’d prefer to “spread out” your thanks. That’s fine; choose another important holiday when people traditionally take time away from work, celebrating with family and friends. The day you select should be special to the members of your team. In our multi-cultural society there are other options. Your recognition on this occasion will make a positive impact on them.
A word of caution: don’t do this if you don’t believe it. If you are the type of leader who really does value your people and views them as important peers in the process of creating your product or service, then this will be well received. If you view people as expendable production assets, and use this advice as a technique to motivate them, forget it – they will see right through you. Last year a client of mine did this for Christmas and he could not stop talking to me later about what a positive experience it was.
In closing, I want to look you in the eye and thank you for reading. I can’t set you up in platoon formation, but please accept my gratitude for your trust and confidence in me. Best wishes for a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2015.
NTCA has partnered with Wally Adamchik to bring his interactive virtual training system at www.firestartervt.com to NTCA members. Contact him at [email protected] to learn more about how the NTCA/FireStarterVT partnership can save you training dollars while improving your leaders at all levels.
Schluter hosts testing at Plattsburgh, N.Y. headquarters
The Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) working in conjunction with Schluter Systems, LP recently hosted and conducted the first hands-on testing of the Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT) program entirely for open-shop tile contractors at the Schluter headquarters in Plattsburgh, N.Y. The installers taking the ACT tests first had to have successfully completed the CTEF Certified Tile Installer (CTI) testing of their skills and knowledge. Previous tests at The International Surface Event and Coverings included equal numbers of open-shop and IUBAC union installers.
During the two-day testing – September 15 and 16 – the pre-qualified CTEF Certified Tile Installers demonstrated their hands-on abilities in the following skill sets: Large Format Tile and Substrate Preparation, Membranes (both sheet and liquid), Mortar Bed (Mud) Floors and Shower Receptors. Prior to taking the hands-on portion of the ACT exam, each installer was required to successfully complete the online knowledge test proving their command of the test subject. Installers sought certification in select skills, not necessarily certification of every skill for every installer – the four installers yielded nine certifications.
The four installers who took the exam at Schluter in September were: Juan “Santos” Sauceda, Neuse Tile Service, Youngsville, N.C.; Mark Iosue, Mi Terra Custom Tile Interiors, Philadelphia, Pa.; Scott Heron, Precision Tile Company, West Columbia, S.C. and Josh Pair, OTP Tile, Marble, & Granite, Fayetteville, Ark.
Schluter territory manager Phil Woodruff devised the concept of ACT testing at Plattsburgh. He has also set up a Certified Tile Installer testing in Acme, Mich. (Traverse City area) in conjunction with a Schluter Innovation Workshop on December 11. “Phil has already registered the maximum number of 20 installers to take the CTI hands-on test, which is still a month away,” Carothers said. “Awesome work!”
Successful ACT installers are listed on the CTEF website, which also links to the ACT website, providing potential clients with a pool of talented and qualified tile installers. These installers now meet the specification requirement calling for qualified labor as shown in the Tile Council of America (TCNA) Handbook
and many architectural specifications, including the Arcom MasterSpec®. The call for the use of qualified labor on jobsites under section 9300 Ceramic Tile specifications is growing. The ACT Certification Program provides the residential and commercial consumer with the confidence that their project will be completed correctly, the first time.
For more information, please view the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation website at www.tilecareer.com.
The NTCA Webinars – that’s where!
Over the last year, NTCA has presented free, archived webinars on Building a Bulletproof Spec, Grouting Solutions for Commercial Kitchens, Barrier-free Design, Residential Contracts and Other Standard Business Practices, Linear Drains, Grout and Tile Specifications, Membranes, Thin Tile Installation, Large Format Tile & Substrates, and Showers.
These conference-grade talks – sponsored by industry experts and their representatives and moderated by NTCA assistant executive director Jim Olson – also offer the opportunity to ask questions of the presenter and review the information or share it with your team through the archives.
On the calendar so far for 2015 is a Thin Tile Update in January, sponsored by LATICRETE; Curbs, presented by The Noble Company in May, and another LATICRETE-sponsored webinar in September on updates to the 2015 TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation.
Other sponsors for webinars yet to be determined will be sponsored and presented by Custom Building Products (March and November), Coverings, Schluter-Systems, MAPEI, TEC®, Wausau Tile, and Daltile, with more on the roster.
Though you don’t have to be a member of NTCA to access the webinar through the link at Training/Education opportunities at www.tile-assn.com, being a member ties you into a community that values excellence at all levels of business. Enjoy and profit from the webinars and consider becoming a NTCA member. Contact Jim Olson at [email protected] or 601-939-2071 for details.
The National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) staff and its Board of Directors met in October at Total Solutions Plus. As we put the finishing touches on 2014 – and more importantly focused on strategic objectives moving forward – it was evident that many established goals have been reached in the past few years, indicating the association is positively impacting the industry and creating value for its members.
While this is very good news for the NTCA, the board of directors quickly identified new and important objectives for the staff to begin to develop and implement. As executive director of the NTCA since 2002, I want to take a moment to thank the Executive Committee and Board of Directors for their leadership, guidance, and dedication to the industry and the NTCA. This particular Board of Directors has been instrumental in helping the staff to reach its goals. It is an example of how a trade association can make a difference, with a blend of dedicated volunteers and a staff that works tirelessly because it is a passion and a career and not just a job. I am truly blessed to be a part of this group.
In an effort to communicate with our TileLetter readers, here are some highlights of the Board of Directors meeting related to 2014 results and 2015 strategic planning.
2014 will go down in NTCA history as a landmark year for many reasons. First and foremost, it was the year that we reached a long-established goal of attaining 1,000 members. As of November 10th, NTCA has 1013 members in good standing, and counting! We want to continue to build on this number, and are committed to expanding our outreach to provide value for our members. It will be important to develop new programs that can benefit NTCA members in 2015 and beyond.
NTCA supports the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) in numerous ways, and the CTEF also reached a landmark in 2014, as it welcomed the 1,000th installer to pass the Certified Tile Installer program. It has been a challenge to launch a certification program in an industry with little or no licensing requirements, but the CTEF is getting it done. Now that there is an increasing labor pool available, we expect the certification program to grow at a much brisker pace. In addition, the Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers Program (ACT), is in its second year of development, and was approved for inclusion
in the TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installations qualifications for qualified labor. This will help both the CTI and ACT certification tests to be specified.
The Board of Directors identified several key areas where the association can make a difference moving forward into 2015 and beyond. We also welcome any input from our TileLetter readers and from NTCA members.
The first action taken was to strengthen committee participation and involvement in areas such as training and education, membership development, standards and methods, and conference planning. In order to accomplish many of the tasks that have been identified by these committees, the NTCA is seeking to hire a proven professional in the position of education and curriculum director. This leader will help develop educational content on the internet and in the field. They will also work closely with the CTEF on certification development and will be responsible for growing the NTCA Five Star Contractor program.
As the industry continues to rebound from a severe economic recession, it is clear that the availability of quality individuals to learn the tile trade is dwindling. NTCA will be more active and aggressive in developing apprenticeship and training programs for vocational and trade schools, and community colleges. We also know that we have to offer sound technical, management and business training for our members. We intend to use the internet to aid us in this objective, but we also will offer more regional training opportunities for our members, with the goal of preparing tile installers to take and pass the CTI and ACT certification tests.
These are just a few of the highlights from our board meeting. NTCA will meet again in January at The International Surface Event in a full day of strategic planning to lay the groundwork for the next two years. We welcome your thoughts and input on our direction.
Dave, I came across your article The Importance of Using Expansion Joints this morning. I’m tiling (porcelain) a good size interior room (~15’ x 44’) with staggered, plank-style tile in the long direction. According to the TCNA Handbook, I should have at least one movement joint. However, with this layout I would need to terminate the tile runs somewhere in the middle to lay in a straight movement joint across the width of the room, breaking up the flow of the tile.
I have not come across any solutions to this aesthetic problem. With perimeter spacing, limited temperature variation, and no direct sunlight, I’m tempted to skip the movement joint.
Expansion joints have always been a battle; nobody wants them and installers don’t want the extra work that they know will result in complaints about appearance if they do put them in. Early in my career I ignored them and felt they were not necessary. Having a fixed place of business for over 20 years and hourly employees, that came back to haunt me. Anyone could find me whenever they so desired, and when they had problems they did.
The lesson learned was we either put movement joints in or have someone sign a form letter saying they chose to ignore our advice and not to have them installed. Some were offended, and others chose to sign. It was never a good feeling either way when we encountered resistance.
The value of expansion joints – also known as movement accommodation joints – is not realized for years after the installation. It doesn’t matter what part of the country you live in, including Hawaii. Tile expands and contracts with changes in temperature. Tile expands on a limited long-term basis and does not contract with exposure to moisture, be it water or vapor.
Concrete experiences endless shrinkage and wants to curl, in addition to the tile properties. Keep in mind the tile is getting bigger while the slab is getting smaller. Concrete slabs without effective vapor barriers experience a high degree of vapor transmission. We commonly receive calls about tile tenting after big storms. Wood structures experience endless dimensional changes due to moisture changes. Above-grade installations experience deflection, be they wood or concrete. If it is your turn to have Christmas for the family (yes, we get those calls), it will experience increased deflection it is not accustomed to.
All structures move, all tile moves. If you chose to roll the dice because you feel yours is different, that is your decision. Based on personal experience, having done thousands of installations over three decades, I would say 80% of the time you will be OK for 10, 20, maybe 30 years or more. The installation will likely fail due to lack of movement accommodation at some point. The question is – will you be there when it happens? Tough call to make when your desired ambiance will be destroyed by their inclusion. The cost to replace the floor will be double what it was going in. The risk management decision is yours.
Yes, I have had this conversation many times. By the way, stair-step joints are better than no joints and include a 1/4” at the perimeter if you do put them in. Keep both free of thinset. Believe me, it makes a difference.
Another year has come and gone. I hope it was a good year for you. It’s marked some real milestones for both NTCA and CTEF – NTCA celebrated its 1,000th member in October (see related story in this issue) and CTEF has certified its 1,000th Certified Tile Installer this year. Those are great accomplishments, especially with the pall hanging over the economy only a few years ago, and the continued need for an increasing labor pool.
Amidst these great accomplishments, there will always be something that can be done better – and dedicated members of our industry are working to make sure those things are improved. One of these key individuals is Dan Welch of Welch Tile & Marble, Kent City Mich., who finishes up this year as NTCA president. Dan has been extremely passionate and hard working during his tenure of leading this association, and I’d like to express thanks on behalf of our staff and industry for his tireless efforts to make this industry better for everyone in it. He’ll continue as the NTCA chairman of the board as James Woelfel of Artcraft Marble & Tile Co., takes the reins in January (welcome James!). James’ passion knows no equal, so get ready for another inspiring two-year ride with James as president.
As we enter 2015, I want to draw your attention to the Coverings Installation Design Awards call for entries (visit http://www.coverings.com/page.cfm/Link=18/t=m/goSection=5_17 or http://tinyurl.com/n7wa7fs for details). I know there is an abundance of stunning, mind-blowing projects out there – be sure to enter yours by January 20, 2015. There’s a related story in this issue that previews the new industry-wide event planned for the awards program at Coverings this year: a live showcase of products, combined with announcements and a cocktail reception, along with coverage in TileLetter and Contemporary Stone & Tile Design. This is a great opportunity to get exposure for your company and its expertise and artistry locally, and nationwide recognition for your excellence.
Finally, I want to wish you happy holy-days – whatever that means to you, your friends and family. This is a time of year to count blessings – and friends, colleagues, and co-workers in this industry are numbered among mine. May your celebrations be bright, warm, happy and healthy, and may your new year be prosperous.