Business Tip – April 2016

mapei_sponsorSocial media: the new networking

(Editor’s note: Clearly, social media is a powerful tool to put you in touch with key people and audiences in your industry. In our Coverings issue, we had a story dedicated to social media, and this CTDA contribution continues the theme. The message is clear: get online, and get sharing, posting, liking, pinning and tweeting!)

Networking is crucial to the success of any organization. An especially important benefit of associations is the networking opportunities members enjoy. Networking used to occur mainly through social events, meetings, and small groups. However with advances in technology and the advent of social media, there are many more opportunities for networking and a multitude of possibilities for expanding your business’s network.

To ensure your business is taking full advantage of social media, your business should have a social media strategy, measurable goals and specific tactics.

Your company’s social media strategy ought to have the same organization as any other corporate strategy your company follows. Make your strategy #Specific. Set a clear image of what success looks like. Set #Measurable objectives to evaluate your progress such as “Increase our followers on Facebook by 50 this year.” Ensure your strategy is #Attainable and realistic to achieve within the time specified. Of course anything you do must be #Relevant meaning it should align with your company’s mission. Finally, your strategies must be #Timely – that is, you should assign a timeline for each .

One of the first tasks you will want to undertake is to understand the variety of social media platforms available to you and, of course, those that your desired audience is using.  Some of the current platforms to consider include: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Houzz, YouTube, Yelp, and Google+.

Important social media measurements could include: follower (or participation) numbers and growth over time; increasing total impressions (views of your company’s profile by day); increasing engagements (messages, comments or check-ins from your audience); and increasing link clicks from your company’s posts. A great way to track your company’s success is through a content manager such as Sprout Social, Shareist, or Hootsuite. Also, Facebook offers its own free insights section on your company’s page.

When starting off small, you may want to consider setting a portion of time every day to spend managing your company’s social media. Start with responding to your engagements (good or bad) within 24 hours. Then focus on promoting something new every day, whether it be #MarbleMonday #TileTuesday, #WebinarWednesday, etc.

On those days when you are short on content and to refrain from being repetitive, have some days focus on others. Retweet on Twitter, comment, like or share on Facebook or repin on Pinterest.

The value of #hashtags

ALWAYS #hashtag. #hashtag – ing is an effective way to ensure your company’s post is viewed by the most people. The more views, the more followers and the more followers, the more FREE marketing your company receives. Strategically select a trending or common #hashtag to accompany your post. Also, pick one #hashtag that your company will use in all of its posts on all social media platforms; the more posts with that #hashtag, the better off your company is. Within the social media platform #hashtags are searchable, so if you use a hashtag like #CTDAmember with your Facebook post, anytime anyone searches for #CTDAmember, your posts will come up.

You’re not taking full advantage of #networking, if @yourcompany isn’t active on #socialmedia. Social media has evolved into so much more than reconnecting with your long-lost high school friends. It has become a way professionals connect with each other. Your business must not miss out on this unique #marketingtool which is mostly FREE.

To learn more about social media, join CTDA for our #CTDAWebinar on Social Media on May 19th with Shannon Vogel, director of social media, Creating your Space. Learn how to leverage your business and expand your networking opportunities. If you’re online, follow this link to learn more about CTDA Webinars; otherwise, enter https://www.ctdahome.org/content/education/webinars-list.asp into your browser. Webinars are free for members or a small fee per non-member company.

To learn more about membership, please contact [email protected] or to join CTDA, please visit our website at www.ctdahome.org. And don’t forget to like us on Facebook and Twitter @Ceramic Tile Distributors Association (CTDA).

Ask the Experts – April 2016

SponsoredbyLaticreteQUESTION

I am installing an indoor/outdoor patio for a continuous look on a cement substrate. The tile is 16” x 48” porcelain. The outdoor portion will be raised approximately 2” with a mud float. Should I use a bonded mud float or install a cleavage membrane? Additionally should I reinforce the float with lathe or not? Finally, I am in Austin, Texas, so I am wondering if I should put a membrane on top of the float to help prevent problems when there is a rare freeze. Thank you for your expertise.

ANSWER

Thank you for contacting the National Tile Contractors Association.

The closest TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation method to follow for the exterior portion of this project is F103B. This method details a wire-reinforced mortar bed (maximum 2” thick) on top of a drainage mat/system. A drainage mat makes an ideal cleavage membrane since it promotes quicker evacuation of water from the tile/mortar bed system. Refer to TCNA Handbook methods F103B, F111 and F121 for details including specifications for cementitious bond coat mortar.

Sloping away from the structure is required for any exterior area, both for the substrate and the mortar bed. A minimum slope of 1/4” in 12” of horizontal run is required and is the typical specification to meet code. The slope of the substrate and the mortar bed need to match each other to produce a uniform thickness mortar bed. Prevention of water flooding back to the structure is the main reason, but slope and drainage are also a great help in reducing efflorescence issues.

A waterproof membrane is a good idea as long as there is not excessive moisture in or beneath the slab, which can be caused by poor landscape drainage design or clay-type soils for an on-ground installation. Moisture in the slab should be checked before deciding to install a waterproofing or crack-isolation membrane. Most membranes are suitable for moisture presence up 5 lbs/1,000 sq. ft. Some manufacturers state their product can be used up to 12 lbs/1,000 sq. ft. Check with the manufacturer of the membrane to determine what their product can handle. Moisture in excess of 12 lbs/1,000 sq. ft. will require significant mitigation before the project can proceed.

It is critical to pay strict attention to the planning and installing of soft joints and expansion joints. Installation of a membrane does not eliminate the need for proper movement joint placement. Soft joints must be installed in the mud bed and tile in line with the control joints. Expansion joints must be installed in the tile every 8’ – 10’ in the exterior and in the interior section if it is adjacent to a large surface area of windows and glass doors. Expansion joints are also required at the interior/exterior dividing wall and all other interior and exterior walls, cabinetry etc. See TCNA Handbook method EJ-171 for more details.

To ensure acceptable lippage with the installation of the large format tile it is very important to begin with a flat substrate. Your mud bed flatness must ensure a maximum variation in plane of 1/8” in 10’. You will also want to consider a 1/3rd offset layout if the tiles have any warpage. A lippage tuning system may also be beneficial.

I hope this helps!
Mark Heinlein,
NTCA technical trainer

Business Tip – March 2016

SponsoredbyMAPEIDo your people know the play? Practice the daily huddle to align your team

wally_adamchikBy Wally Adamchik, FireStarter Speaking and Consulting

It works for (insert your favorite quarterback here) and it can work for you, too. It is, perhaps, one of the most effective leadership and management tools at your disposal, and takes just a few minutes to execute. But it is rarely used. You should start doing it tomorrow. If you are already doing it, you should work to make it better. What is it? A daily huddle.

You need to tell your people things they need to know to do their job. They want to hear those things. Contrary to popular belief, there are employees at all levels and all ages who want to do a good job. Many of those who are disengaged feel that way because the boss is not communicating with them.

The daily huddle is a fine solution. And it can work in any industry. The concept is simple. Before the workday starts, you gather your team to deliver key information to align them for the day. Are there any special events/visitors/incentives? How about a key training or safety tip? Perhaps you will talk about production or sales targets for the day. All this information gives them direction and helps them to be more productive. You also might toss in some feedback about how things went yesterday. (While this is not a time to single out poor performers, you may highlight some wins from the day before.)

Make sure to ask for input and questions. If the huddle is a new concept for your team, people will be reluctant to share anything initially. But, over time they will see you are serious about the huddle and will work with you to make it better. I have seen, and participated in, huddles that were also a stretch-and-flex period to increase safety awareness and to warm up cool muscles before starting physical labor. It sends a strong message that the company is serious about safety when the boss joins in the huddle and the flex when he is visiting. I have also seen bosses blow off that part – and that sends a message, too! Communication is one of the keys to success in just about any endeavor. I have never conducted an employee satisfaction survey for a client in which the results indicated there was too much communication. In fact, over 85% of my surveys have indicated that communication from management is in need of drastic improvement. The huddle is a quick, easy and inexpensive way to fix a major problem.

Why it works

Let’s look at why it works. First, it is personal. No texting or email is involved. This is direct, eye-to-eye contact – still the most compelling form of communication we have. When we look someone in the eye we know we have their attention and we can see them understand our message. Also, engaging in eye contact shows people they are important, that you want to communicate with them. It conveys the message that you trust them enough to share this information with them. When you ask for their input, you are literally saying, “I want to hear what you have to say. I am interested in you and the value you contribute to our team.”

It comes down to trust and respect. And it educates and aligns people on key business issues. They feel like they are part of the team and they operate from a “we,” not a “they,” perspective. When I interview an employee and he speaks of his firm in terms of “they do… they say,” it makes me cringe. It is as if the employee does not actually consider himself part of the company, but rather some visitor who has little stake and even less affiliation or sense of camaraderie. Keeping people informed is your job. Setting direction is one of the primary roles of a leader. In the case of the huddle, the direction is short-term. We are not communicating the strategic plan of the company; we‘re merely stating the goals of the day.

What‘s the payoff? You get employees who are more motivated and educated to do the job. Does it always work? No, not every single employee may respond to the huddle – but most will. I can guarantee though that starting the day without a huddle insures a workforce that is uninformed and de-motivated. And not even the worst quarterback in the league would attempt that.

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.

Ask the Experts – March 2016

SponsoredbyLaticreteQUESTION

I have a question regarding polished porcelain mosaic tiles. Polished porcelain is becoming more popular these days with so many “marble” looks being manufactured. I have a client wanting to use a polished porcelain for her shower walls and would like to use the coordinating polished porcelain 1.5” x 2.5” basket weave mosaic for the shower floor (it is not available in matte). Is it ok to use any polished porcelain mosaic on a shower floor? Please advise.

ANSWER

Small mosaics generally do not pose a slip/fall hazard in wet areas, even if they are polished. The grout joints are so closely spaced that they create a type of textured surface that lends good traction, even in wet areas with lots of water on the surface. Mosaics have traditionally been used in shower floors with high success and little risk of liability.

– Michael Whistler
NTCA Trainer

QUESTION

Our company has been asked to look at a marble floor that is staining and “rusting.” This has only started happening within the last year or two of the floor’s 15-20 year life. There seems to be no etching or loss of sheen (which does not rule out chemical absorption, I am aware). We have been assured that the cleaning process/chemicals have not changed. The floor is on concrete, with occupied space below, and no evidence of moisture-related damage in that area’s ceiling. Before tearing out this floor and replacing it, I would like to be able to suggest what may be the cause and possible solution prior to going in and having unforeseen issues. Any assistance would be greatly appreciated.

ANSWER

White marble tiles can contain deposits of iron. As a mineral, iron oxidizes and turns the marble yellow or brownish red when exposed to water or acids, similar to the way metal rusts. It is possible for the oxidation process to occur many years after the tile was installed. The rusting of the tile may have been initiated or accelerated if the tile installation has recently been exposed to a large amount of water or if the chemistry of the wash water has changed.

It is possible to check the water supply for iron. A plumbing supply store should be able to provide a test kit. If iron is detected, the water supply can be chemically treated to remove the iron.

The tile itself can be tested for iron content. A yellowed tile can be removed from the installation and sent to a lab for testing. If there is attic stock tile that has never been installed, it can also be tested. Comparing the test results of the tiles will help determine whether the iron content was native to the tile or introduced through the water supply.

The rusting process is a chemical change internal to the tile and is difficult or impossible to reverse. It may be possible to remove the stain by applying a poultice consisting of a thick plaster of a product called Iron Out, which contains sodium sulfites. Test a small area by applying the paste and keep it damp for several hours. Remove the solution with a wet vac and clean water. Make sure your wash water does not contain iron. If the stain is removed, the entire floor can be treated in this manner. The process will cause some etching and the surface will likely have to be re-polished.

If you determine iron oxidation is not the cause, you may discover the cleaning agents or the cleaning procedure has changed (such as using the same mop and wash water on the marble after being used in a dirty environment). Marble is porous and has naturally occurring pinholes. After years of wear, the surface of the marble may have become less polished and more open to absorption of dirt. Normal traffic or a dirty mop could be introducing dirt into the pinholes.

After you have ruled out iron mineral staining and suspect cleaning is the cause, it is possible to clean the marble with an alkaline solution. Test the alkaline cleaning solution on a small area before attempting the entire floor. The cleaning process will require scrubbing, which will likely dull the surface. The surface can be re-polished.

The size and scope of the project may determine the best course of action. Ultimately, removal and replacement may be the solution.

I will be interested to know what you discover in your investigation and the approach you take to correct the issue.

– Mark Heinlein
NTCA Trainer

By the Book – March 2016

brought_by_CTEFCurbless shower design: requirements and options

514-pompoBy Donato Pompo, CTC, CSI, CDT, MBA, Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants (CTaSC); University of Ceramic Tile and Stone (UofCTS)

Curbless showers are showers without a raised shower dam as is traditionally found in tiled showers. Initially, curbless showers were necessary to facilitate shower access by wheelchair users, particularly in public facilities like hotels and hospitals. Now curbless showers are popular for their look.

To ensure successful installation of this increasingly in-demand shower style, specifiers and installers must know the requirements and options for constructing them. With the dam removed to make a shower “curbless,” it becomes extremely important to utilize alternate means for managing the water, which is accomplished primarily through slope, waterproofing, and water-containment techniques. A few things I always recommend are:

  • Ensure the shower floor is sloped 1/4” per foot toward the drain. This can be difficult when the drain is in the center of the shower floor. Linear trench drains are getting more popular since they can be located at the back of the shower, which is more practical for providing floor slope and accommodating a wheelchair. Many also find them more aesthetically pleasing.
  • The bathroom floor outside the curbless shower must be the high point of the room so water can drain toward the shower.
  • The bathroom door threshold can act as a quasi-dam, to prevent water that migrates outside of a curbless shower from migrating outside of the bathroom entirely.
  • All transitions and penetrations in the room must be sealed with an ASTM C920 sealant.
  • Proper construction of accessible and curbless showers can be tricky, due to the many codes and standards that must be referenced to ensure compliance. There are national and international building and plumbing codes, local codes, and tile industry guidelines. Any combination of these may apply to any given shower. If, in addition to being code-compliant, a curbless shower must also be handicap-accessible, there are also the federal requirements of the Americans with Disability Act (ADA), given in the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design.
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To ensure successful installation of the increasingly in-demand curbless shower style, specifiers and installers must know the requirements and options for constructing them.

To waterproof or not to waterproof, that is the question

Recently, required waterproofing of bathrooms adjacent to curbless showers has been a topic of discussion, likely resulting from a change to the 2015 Uniform Plumbing Code (UPC), Chapter 4 Section 408.5, which now says: “The immediate adjoining space to showers without thresholds shall be considered a wet location and shall comply with the requirements of the building, residential and electrical codes.” Some interpret that to mean that such areas must be waterproofed. I do not interpret the code change that way, as there are no requirements given in International Building Code (IBC), International Residential Code (IRC), or Electrical Code to waterproof wet areas. The interpretation that waterproofing is required likely stems from thinking of wet area requirements in the context of tile industry practices, which often relates to waterproofing.

UPC lists one variety of curbless shower – those designed to their accessibility standards – as an exception to its aforementioned requirement to follow IBC, IRC, and Electrical Code. These showers are instead subject to design criteria given in a table (Table 1701.1), but none of the requirements in that table refer to waterproofing either.

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Curbless shower methods B421C (shown) and B422C, are voluntary guidelines. They require a continuous bonded waterproof membrane on the floor and walls of the shower itself, with that waterproofing extending outside the shower at least one foot beyond the high point of the floor.

Likewise, the 2016 TCNA Handbook does not require full waterproofing of a curbless-shower-adjacent bathroom. Curbless shower methods B421C and B422C, which are voluntary guidelines, require a continuous bonded waterproof membrane on the floor and walls of the shower itself, with that waterproofing extending outside the shower at least one foot beyond the high point of the floor; additional waterproofing outside the shower is suggested as a consideration, but not required.

Nonetheless, although my interpretation is that waterproofing of a bathroom adjacent to a curbless shower is optional, I always strongly recommend full waterproofing of the floor, with the waterproofing flashing up the walls at least 3”, to avoid water damage in those areas. I have found that when consumers become aware of the option to waterproof the entire bathroom floor or not, they will pay the added cost for the added value and protection. On the other hand, when consumers were not given the option, and then have a leak incident

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This is an example of a ceramic tile curbless shower adjacent bathroom floor sloped the wrong way. Proper installation should have the floor sloped towards the shower drain.

in their bathroom that resulted in water traveling below through ceilings and into adjacent rooms causing great collateral damage, they are very unhappy with their tile supplier or installer for not giving them a choice. So you are doing a disservice to your customers if you don’t give them a choice, which at the same time helps limit your liability.

Is a curbless shower allowed?

Interestingly, while some codes address how to construct a curbless shower, others address whether a curbless shower is even allowed. Some local codes prohibit curbless showers due to how they interpret the UPC, while other local codes provide guidelines, with some requiring that adjacent bathroom floors be waterproofed as a continuation of the shower. In such cases, waterproofing of a bathroom adjacent to a curbless shower goes from recommendation to requirement due to local code being more stringent and specific than UPC.

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This natural stone tile curbless shower has the adjacent bathroom floor sloped the right way towards shower drain.  The waterproofing under the stone was continued up the wall 3” at the base. These two measures help contain water in the event of a leak, preventing expensive water damage to adjacent areas and beyond.

In addition to UPC, several other building codes address shower construction: International Plumbing Code (Section 417), International Residential Code (Chapter 27, Section P2708), and International Building Code (Chapter 11, Accessibility Section 1107.6.1.1, Chapter 25 sections 1210, 2509, and 2511). Although they, too, leave waterproofing of bathrooms adjacent to curbless showers optional, it’s important to be familiar with their requirements to ensure shower compliance in all other respects.

When utilizing codes and guidelines, be sure to reference the correct edition. Code bodies have “code cycles” for making changes and updates, and states, counties, cities, etc., adopt and adapt codes on their own timelines. Often, the code in effect in a given locale is not the most current version available, making it even more challenging to construct a curbless shower “by the book.”

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This natural stone tile curbless shower adjacent bathroom floor is sloped the right way towards shower drain. The level demonstrates that the shower receptor is sloped towards the drain, located in the back of the shower.  

 

Donato Pompo, CTC, CSI, CDT, MBA, is the founder of Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants (CTaSC), and of the University of Ceramic Tile and Stone (UofCTS) – a Bronze sponsor of CTEF. He is an NTCA-recognized industry consultant who specializes in shower failure investigations and architectural shower installation specifications.

Thin Tile – March 2016

SponsoredbyMAPEIThin tile: the truck is here…now what?

dan-marvinBy Dan Marvin, Director of Technical Services, MAPEI Corporation

Even though the industry talks about thin tile, what they’re typically referring to is ‘really big tile that just happens to also be thin.’ The reason thin tile is becoming popular has nothing to do with its thickness and everything to do with the sheets being very large and beautifully decorated. If you’ve waited until the truck shows up with the idea of dealing with it once you’ve seen it, you’ve already made the first mistake. Preparation is key!

Know your foe
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Apply thin-set mortar, achieving full coverage of large thin porcelain tiles.

Thin tile starts as huge sheets of tile (3’x 10’ and 5’x 10’ are common sizes) that can then be cut down at the factory or job site as needed. The key is to know what will be showing up. Because thin tile is typically made in Europe, it is quite often measured in meters. A bill of lading showing 1 x 3 sheets of thin tile without any other indication of size most likely means you will be ending up with 1 meter (39”, a bit over 3 feet) by 3 meters (117”, just shy of 10 feet). Another typical size is 1 x 1 (39”x39”). The process for handling a crate of 1m x 3m tile varies considerably from the process for handling cartons of 1m x 1m.

Stick a fork in it
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Use frame and suction cup systems for careful handling of large thin porcelain tile when applying to walls and floor.

Assuming you will be receiving crates of 1 m x 3 m you WILL need fork extenders for your fork truck. The crates are loaded into the trucks length-wise, so even if you handle them from the side around the warehouse, to get them out of the truck they will need to be supported along the length of the crate. A ten-foot tile will come in a crate (or A-frame) almost 12’ long, so a minimum of an 8‘ fork extender will be required to get well past the middle of the crate.

Why are the fork extenders important? Although the tiles are somewhat flexible, they do have a limit to how much they can bend. If the tiles are allowed to bend too much in the crate, you will end up with a very expensive problem as some or all of the tiles may crack.Even worse, the tiles are often mesh reinforced on the back so you may not know you have cracked them until you are applying mortar (or even grout!).

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Using paddle working from center to outside of tile to ensure air bubbles are removed.

Smaller sizes of thin tiles such as the 1m x 1m sizes will typically come in very large cartons on more conventional pallets, but even these must be treated with care. Avoid stacking the pallets beyond the manufacturer’s recommendations and keep all banding and edge protectors in place until they are placed where they will be used at the job site.

Wide load

Most job sites are cluttered with tools, materials, mixers, saws, and other people. A 12’ long crate is challenging to handle when there is nothing in the way, and becomes even more cumbersome in a typical work environment. Have a staging area set up before the truck arrives and an aisle wide enough to allow the tile to come through. Be careful where turns are required and remove anything on the floor that will cause the fork truck to bounce. In a worst-case scenario, an installer may have to carry the tiles individually from the receiving area to the work site. In this case, inexpensive corner protectors and the correct suction-cup frame for your size of tile will be critical.

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A lippage control system helps keep lippage to a minimum and the large thin porcelain tile flush with each other.

Another issue installers face is transporting the tiles to different levels. Typical freight elevators may not be large enough to accommodate full crates or A-frames. Think about thin tile panels as similar to large sheets of glass when dealing with them on a job site. Rigging, winches, or cranes may be required to get them to their final destination.

Staying on edge

When handling large tile panels, it is best to keep it on edge as much as possible. Suction cups and a team approach are a must for handling. Since the edges are the most delicate parts of the tile, cushion them when setting the tile down. When the tile must be laid flat (to cut it or apply mortar, for example) a rigid frame will provide a “backbone” for the tile to keep it from flexing. The same frame also allows the tile to be placed all at once.

Train before you leave the station
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The right equipment is essential to moving the large thin porcelain tile without damage. This frame from ETM uses suction cups for a secure hold until the tile is installed. Suction cups and a team approach are a must for handling.

Training is especially critical for everyone who will be handling and installing thin tile. There is a learning curve to handling, cutting, and placing the tile successfully, and chances are an installer may break a few $500 sheets of tile trying to master the techniques on their own. All importers of thin tile panels and installation products companies offer training on how to handle and install these tiles. Every installment of Coverings, Surfaces, and Total Solutions Plus includes sessions on thin tile, usually with a hands-on component. Tool companies that offer thin tile tools will be happy to train you on their use. The tile industry is making a concerted effort to get the information out there because they want the same thing the installer wants, successful installations with no call-backs.

This article touches on just a few of the critical aspects for handling thin tile panels. There are specialized tools for handling and cutting it, special mortars and application techniques required to get full coverage, and tips and tricks for placing the tile in a way that maximizes the opportunities for success. Although thin tile requires specialized training, installers who are comfortable handling and installing the product find that they have a niche in the market and don’t have to compete as hard on price to get the job. By understanding the nuances of the product, stunning installations that will last for generations are possible.

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When the tile must be laid flat (to cut it or apply mortar, for example) a rigid frame will provide a “backbone” for the tile to keep it from flexing. The same frame – such as this one from ETM – also allows the tile to be placed all at once.

Qualified Labor – March 2016

1_CTI_20x20You’re in good hands with a Certified Tile Installer

Saugerties, N.Y., contractor gets certified for personal pride and customer assurance

By Terryn Rutford, Social Structure Marketing

EJT-logo

EJT-eric

Eric Tetreault, owner, EJT Contracting

Eric Tetreault, owner of EJT Contracting, has been a Certified Tile Installer (CTI) since 2011 and an Advanced Certified Tile (ACT) Installer since 2014. Tetreault explained the importance of certification, saying, “The industry as a whole needs a way to honor, celebrate – as well as isolate and market – certified labor. There is far too much unqualified work going on out there. And for customers, it can be overwhelming to try to figure out who is qualified and not, as well as who is properly trained, knowledgeable, experienced, and skilled.”

For people who don’t see the need for certification, Tetreault said, “Do it for yourself if not for any other reason. If you fail, you’ll know where you need to improve. If you pass, you’ll know you’re among the best and the brightest in the country. It’s an elite status that I personally am proud to be a part of.” If bragging rights aren’t enough to convince other installers they should become certified, Tetreault added, “I’ve found that with the right approach, people are comfortable with paying more for qualified labor than they would otherwise.”

Being certified, “has certainly improved my customers’ trust in me,” Tetreault said. “I work with builders and designers who work with other installers and I seldom get the average, or the easy jobs. As a certified installer,  I’ll always be the one to do the higher-end job; the job with more details, the job with particular challenges, and the jobs that need any sort of special consideration.”

The tile industry has no federal or consistent state-to-state guidelines for tile installers. In some states tile installers require a contractor’s license, but in many states no licensing or certification is required at all. Tetreault said, “Competition is very cutthroat out there. There is no barrier-of-entry into the industry, so you have everyone from the very best to the very worst competing on a level playing field. I decided to get certified to help my customers understand that there are independent testing and certifications out there to validate a person’s skills, expertise, experience, and professionalism. Since I present myself as a certified installer, they can feel assured that they are in good hands, as well as research the program to understand the certification process and the commitment [it shows] to the work I do.”

Tests are a challenge

Tetreault admits he was challenged by the tests. “I like it that way,” Tetreault said. “If it were too easy, it would only be a piece of paper.” Tetreault described the test, “The hands-on test was far more difficult than expected. The layout, design, and details were not as easy as they look[ed]. When finished, the test module was dissected for judging of the parts that are not seen and often overlooked. Every last detail of the install was inspected and judged. It was stressful.”

And if that wasn’t hard enough, Tetreault said, “The written test was even more challenging. The questions were highly specific, and not just common knowledge. There’s no way someone would know the answers to these questions who wasn’t dedicated to the tile industry exclusively.”

The certification process is a chance to really see the standard to which all tile installation needs to rise. During testing, the judges, “really go over [the test module] with a fine-tooth comb looking at craftsmanship, performance, manufacturers’ recommended practices, industry standards, neatness, and cleanliness.” This kind of perfectionism raises the bar for tile installers everywhere.

Tetreault completed the ACT certifications in Membranes, LFT, Mud Floors, and Shower Receptors and plans on taking the Mud Walls certification as soon as he becomes more proficient. Tetreault said, “I plan on taking any new ACT tests as they become available.”

Located in Saugerties, N.Y., EJT Contracting has been specializing in residential and remodeling tile installation since 2007. Tetreault found out all about certification while visiting the Certified Tile Education Foundation and decided that certification, “was well worth the effort.” Now that he is both CTI and ACT certified, Tetreault said, “My customers do seem to trust me more than ever before.”

Tech Talk – March 2016

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TEC-sponsorTile and stone lippage:

Achieving acceptable tile lippage through quality tile and stone installations

Donato PBy Donato Pompo, CTC, CSI, CDT, MBA

Tile lippage is the vertical displacement between two adjacent tiles of a ceramic, glass, or stone tile installation. Excessive lippage can lead to a number of problems: the edge of the tile with excessive lippage can have a propensity to chip; furniture and appliances can get caught on edges and not slide easily across the floor; and most important today is that excessive tile lippage can be a safety hazard particularly to the elderly with our aging population. Tile lippage is an inherent characteristic of installed tile. It is not possible to eliminate it completely, but it can be minimized within reason.

(Ed. note: This is part two of a two part article. Part one appeared in the February issue of TileLetter, as the the Tech Talk feature.)

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Installation methods – The tile installation method used can help limit tile lippage, or it can contribute to excessive tile lippage. Adhering the tile directly to the substrate, particularly if it hasn’t been properly prepared to meet the industry requirements for flatness, can make it difficult to avoid tile lippage. On the other hand, installing tile in a fresh dry-pack mortar bed while it is still in a plastic stage can help compensate for the tile dimensional variations because the installer can embed the tile into the fresh mortar.

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This looks like excessive lippage due to type of lighting and viewing angle, but it isn’t.

Installer skill and workmanship – Another factor that can contribute to excessive tile lippage is the lack of skill and workmanship by the tile installer. It is very important how skilled and conscientious the tile installer is, and the lack of those qualities can be a contributing factor to excessive tile lippage. If the installer isn’t experienced and skilled enough, or isn’t detail minded, then poor workmanship can cause or contribute to excessive tile lippage. It is important that qualified skilled tile installers who understand – and are current with – industry standards are used for tile and stone installations to help ensure a successful installation.

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This is measuring lippage from previous photo, which shows that the ceramic tile lippage is less than 1.6 mm (1/16”) which is within standards.

Unavoidable lippage at drains – There are some applications where tile lippage to some degree is unavoidable. ANSI A108.02-2013-4.3.7 cautions that the lippage requirements don’t apply to tiled floors sloping to drains specifically when using tiles that are 6” x 6” (15 mm x 15 mm) and larger. The larger the tile surface area the greater the potential for tile lippage under these conditions. That is why you will often see tiles cut in half on a diagonal near drains that have sudden changes in slope. That doesn’t mean the installer can have extreme tile lippage; it still needs to be reasonable considering the conditions. Using the relatively-new trench or linear drains can be good solution to avoiding this problem.

Perceived excessive tile lippage – Another tile lippage problem is perceived excessive tile lippage, when in fact lippage is reasonable and within allowable standard tolerances. The culprit is lighting. Even the best of tile installations can have perceived excessive tile lippage when the light is shining on the tile surface at a certain angle relative to the viewing angle. This is more problematic with large rectangular tiles with narrow grout joints installed on walls, particularly if the tile is installed in a staggered pattern. Just look at some tile exterior veneers when the sun is directly shining on the tile surface and you will find certain angles where it looks like there is so much lippage that you can climb up the wall, when in fact it is within tolerance. On the other hand, under other viewing angles or lighting conditions you don’t see excessive tile lippage in these same installations.

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The perception of lippage is affected by the angle of the light falling upon the wall.

Optical illusion caused by lighting – Sometimes lighting causes shadowing at the grout joint, creating an optical illusion that there is excessive tile lippage. This can occur in interior and exterior applications with natural lighting or with artificial lighting. The TCNA Handbook warns that the use of wall-washer and cove-type lighting – where the lights are located either at the wall/ceiling interface, or mounted directly on the wall – may produce shadows and undesirable effects with tiles. Similar shadows are created from natural lighting on interior walls and floors when light shines from an angle through windows and doors. I have investigated a number of projects, both commercially and residentially, where there were complaints of alleged excessive tile lippage only to find out during our inspection that it was reasonable and within allowable industry tolerances. On the other hand, I have seen cases where there was indeed excessive lippage when the above referenced contributing factors were not properly managed.

How tile installers can avoid actual or perceived excessive lippage – It is the same old answer: follow industry standards, and don’t accept substrates that don’t meet industry standards, unless you are being paid to fix them.

It does not matter who is at fault when there is a problem – everyone ends up paying, either in time to defend themselves, money to fix the issue, or with their reputation. It is in everyone’s best interest to ensure tile installations are compliant to industry standards. The following paragraphs summarize the key steps that should be followed for tile and stone installations to avoid excessive tile lippage.

  1. Require a mock-up to be built that will become the standard upon approval for installation methods and for workmanship for aesthetic quality. It should include the specified lighting that the tile will be subjected to. If the client doesn’t allow for a mock-up, then after the first portion of the tile installation is completed, require that the client approve it and agree to use it as the standard for balance of the installation. This will help eliminate false expectations by the client, and if corrections are needed, it will be a lot less costly to fix it.
  2. Use good quality installation products because they typically perform better.
  3. Make sure your tile installers, both setters and helpers, are current with industry standards. They should be certified or verified to demonstrate they know and are current with industry thin-set standards (e.g. Certified Ceramic Tile Installers [CTI] through the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation [CTEF]; Tile Installer Thin-set Standards [ITS] Verification through the University of Ceramic Tile and Stone [UofCTS]).
  4. The stone should meet ASTM standards for its respective geological classification. Ceramic tile should meet ANSI A137.1 standards, and glass tile should meet ANSI A137.2 standards. Be sure to closely inspect the tile before installing it. If the warpage or sizing appears to be excessive either refuse to install it or get a written letter from the client approving the consequences. Then install a mock-up and get the client’s approval before proceeding.
  5. Considering the tile’s sizing and warpage tolerances, and the tile size and installation pattern, recommend a reasonable grout joint width to your client.
  6. Be sure to inform your client that lighting can cause the perception that there are excessive irregularities in the tile installation, when in fact the installation is consistent with industry tolerances. Tell them that light fixtures must be placed in a manner to avoid direct lighting on tile wall surfaces. You don’t need to tell them how to do it, as that is not your expertise. You can give them the language from our standards that warns of the problems that can occur if the lighting isn’t placed properly.
  7. Evaluate the substrate to make sure it meets ANSI requirements for flatness. If it doesn’t meet the ANSI standards then reject it and don’t proceed until it is corrected. Or you can correct the substrate for an additional fee. Cementitious self-leveling mortars or patching mortars can work well for repairing or preparing substrates for your tile installation. ANSI A108.02 states that if there are any obvious defects or conditions preventing a satisfactory tile installation, the installer is to notify the architect, general contractor, or other designated authority in writing, and is not to proceed until satisfactory conditions are provided that will allow for an acceptable installation.
  8. Use the TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass, and Stone Tile Installation, the Marble Institute of America Dimension Design Manual, and the ANSI A108 standards as tools to persuade your clients of the need for you to follow the standards to ensure an acceptable tile installation. Being knowledgeable of these important standards will give you more credibility with your clients and will help you avoid costly problems.
  9. If the architect’s specification is ambiguous or if there is something wrong or missing, always submit an RFI (request for information) for clarification before proceeding with the work.
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Viewing angle affects perception of lippage. Better lighting reduces the perception of lippage in this image – even though it’s the exact same wall with acceptable – but unsightly – lippage earlier in the story.

Conclusion

Excessive tile lippage can lead to damaged tile edges as various objects sliding on the floor hit these unsupported tile edges. Excessive tile lippage can cause trip and fall incidents, particularly for those elderly who tend to shuffle when they walk and use walkers. Even in commercial settings, tile lippage can be problematic and annoying as carts and other equipment clack as they run over tile edges.

Excessive tile lippage, or perceived excessive tile lippage, can be avoided by following the industry standards. Excessive tile lippage is typically due to a combination of improperly prepared substrates, improper installation methods, improper use of materials, and poor installer workmanship performance. Perceived excessive tile lippage is typically due to improper lighting design, overly narrow grout joints, and not following industry recommendations. Avoid the false expectations by the specifier or client by informing them of the potential issue in advance.

To avoid these problems, installers must be current with industry standards and follow those standards and the product manufacturers’ directions while installing the tile. Installers are mechanics with the skill level to provide quality workmanship, but they should not be expected to make architectural decisions – architects must give the installers the information and details they need to do their job correctly.

Many installers learn their skill on the job and do not have the opportunity to learn the industry standards. So it should be required that the tile installers are up to date with the current industry standards.

I have never investigated a tile or stone failure and found that all the industry standards and manufacturers’ instructions were followed. It is always the opposite. The failure is never due to one deficiency, but is generally due to many compounding deficiencies. Simply put, the key to a successful tile and stone installation is to follow industry standards.

Donato Pompo, CTC, CSI, CDT, MBA, is the founder of Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants (CTaSC), and of the University of Ceramic Tile and Stone (UofCTS). He has more than 35 years of experience in the ceramic tile and stone industry from installation to distribution to manufacturing of installation products. Donato provides services in forensic investigations, quality control (QC) services for products and installation methods, training programs, testing, and onsite quality control inspection services. He received the 2012 Construction Specifier Magazine Article of the Year. Donato can be reached at [email protected].

Stone Feature – February 2016

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Lessons from creating the labyrinth at Grace Episcopal Church in St. Helena, Calif.

mapei_sponsorBy Ron Treister, Communicators International

Fr. William MacIlmoyl at Grace Episcopal Church had a secret dream. With retirement around the corner, he wanted to give his congregation lasting gift of silence. “Modern life is so stressed, so busy, we all need a way to bring more silence into our lives,” says “Fr. Mac.”

He felt the best way to do that was to build a labyrinth in front of the newly renovated sanctuary. “I walked my first labyrinth years ago,” Fr. Mac says. “I look at it as a yoga, a contemplative technique not unlike saying the rosary. For 20 minutes you allow your mind to sink into silence, to get away from the business of the day and come to center.”

1-stoneSteve and Joan Heller also had a dream. Before Steve retired from General Mills, he and his wife purchased an 11-acre vineyard near St. Helena. After relocating there, they took a leadership position in the parish. Fr. Mac asked if they would make a donation as seed money for a labyrinth. To Fr. Mac’s surprise, within a week Steve and Joan not only agreed to use their donation for the labyrinth, but also to spearhead its construction. Steve immediately assumed the role of labyrinth construction coordinator and Joan lent support by setting up a labyrinth website as a way to create an open communication with the congregation about the project.

Robert Ferre recommends Creative Edge

While researching labyrinth construction design and techniques, the Hellers discovered the work of Robert Ferre, president of Labyrinth Enterprises and one of the founders of the Labyrinth Society. Steve contacted Robert by email and asked if he could recommend a company to construct the labyrinth. Robert replied: “If you want extraordinary work, go with Creative Edge Master Shop in Fairfield, Iowa, the country’s largest and oldest fabricator of architectural floors and landscapes using water jet technology.”

2-stoneCreative Edge’s Ron Blair was in charge of the fabrication of the Grace Episcopal labyrinth. “This was my first labyrinth project, although Creative Edge has fabricated many labyrinths using a wide variety of materials, from granite to stone to vinyl and carpeting,” Blair said. “I learned early on that Fr. Mac wanted to replicate the Chartres labyrinth, making the project nearly 43’ in diameter.”

As a comparative religion major at the University of California at Santa Barbara, Blair studied the sacred geometry of the Chartres cathedral in France. It helped that Robert Ferre had already measured the Chartres labyrinth down to the 1/16”. In his generous way of making the labyrinth available to everyone, Ferre had given his perfectly measured CAD diagram to Creative Edge, so the design was already completed.

Creative Edge President/CEO Jim Belilove and his wife, Ginger, traveled to St. Helena to meet Fr. Mac and Steve and see the site. Fifteen months after the initial meeting, the ground was prepared and the granite was cut by Creative Edge waterjet machines into the curving shapes that fit together like puzzle pieces, creating a perfect replica of the mystical Chartres labyrinth at Grace Episcopal Church.

Reaching consensus on stone and color

3-stoneFrom the start, Fr. Mac and Steve wanted to reach consensus with the entire congregation. “One of the things you learn as a church pastor – you have to collaborate,” says Fr. Mac. “We didn’t want a single member of our congregation to feel uncomfortable with the colors or materials we’d chosen. And when we started, probably 98% of the congregation didn’t even know what a labyrinth was.”

Getting an entire congregation to make color and stone choices – rather than one or two decision-makers – made Blair’s task as project manager more complex. Steve handled communications with the congregation, but it took three or four rounds – nine months – to come to a consensus.

That brings us to the next principle of the labyrinth: Go at your own pace. When walking a labyrinth, it’s not a race to reach the goal. As in any spiritual pilgrimage, it’s an inner journey that unfolds as slowly or quickly as it needs to.

Steve said, “For starters, the Grace Episcopal Church is a beautiful structure dating back to the 1800s, made of tufa, volcanic rock. In the process of tripling the size of the sanctuary in recent years, the congregation chose, with great care, to keep true to the original architecture. They even located the original local tufa quarry where the original building stones were sourced. “Now, with the labyrinth, we are adding 1,400 square feet of hard-scaping within 10’ of this cherished building, almost touching it. So we didn’t want the labyrinth colors to be too starkly contrasting or too contemporary. We wanted it to look organic.

“Tufa is a golden color with rose and brown tones. So there were some members who thought an earthy, golden limestone labyrinth would match the beautiful golden tufa of the building. This is where the experience of Creative Edge saved us from making an expensive mistake. Ron gently steered us away from that choice, explaining that in their experience, limestone is easily stained. For durability, he suggested granite.

Guidance from Creative Edge ensures walking safety

“But polished granite can be slippery when wet,” Steve continued. “Ron explained that for safety reasons, the surface had to be roughened by applying a high-temperature flame treatment to create tiny chips in the stone. Though necessary, this process takes away some of the beauty of polished granite. So to get some of the beauty back, a high-pressure water treatment is applied to smooth it out a bit.

“So every time we chose a sample on a website, we had to have the granite supplier apply these treatments,” Steve explained. “It would come back to us looking quite different than the web photo due to the treatments, sometimes for the better, but sometimes for the worse. We also learned that granite comes in two thicknesses – 3 cm and 2 cm – but only the 3 cm granite would work for our project.”

Blair also narrowed granite choices to North American quarries, since nobody wanted to wait several years for the granite to be shipped from overseas. The quarries had to have sufficient amounts available so all the slabs could come from the same lot, ensuring that they would match each other.

Steve added, “We knew there would be two colors, one light and one dark, and once we had selected three samples for each color, I’d place them at the entryway of the sanctuary. Then I’d wait for 10 people to gather, and I’d write down their reactions. After about 10 of these gatherings, I’d have enough information to choose the next round of samples. “

Steve’s process was one of listening for consensus. “It was subjective. We went through three or four evolutions of samples before we got what we wanted: two beautiful colors of granite, Crystal Gold for the path and Masabi Black to outline the edge of the path. It was a great feeling, because by the fourth round, 90 to 95% of the people said ‘you’ve nailed it.’”

A joyful experience

Blair stated, “Even though this process certainly took a lot longer than normal, working with Steve and Fr. Mac and seeing the process unfold was a joyful experience. There was something special about having the entire congregation take part in the process. They did a marvelous job and came up with a wonderful palette.”

4-stoneEven the fundraising was easy. With the generous seed money from the Hellers, the rest of $250,000 came almost immediately. One member of the congregation, Jonathan Plant, donated the services of his landscape architecture company to position and landscape the labyrinth.

Fr. Mac says that when he walks a labyrinth, he stays in the center until it’s time to go. “It’s a time of receiving, of divine union,” he said. “We remember who we are at the deepest level, which is God.” He continued, “The labyrinth is a great teacher. Every time there are different lessons. Every time I go into the center and offer myself to God in whatever ways are useful. Some of them are conscious and some unconscious, but I come away with insights and answers.”

When asked to share his hopes for the labyrinth at Grace Episcopal Church, Steve said, “I hope it’s a place where people find spiritual safety, relaxation, and peace. I see it as a prayerful place, a place where people can learn about meditation.” Steve also wants to encourage people to move ahead with their labyrinth plans no matter what their budget. “I first walked a labyrinth made of canvas,” he said,“I saw one that was made of old shoes. You can buy kits to make a labyrinth out of patio pavers. Money does not have to be a barrier. It’s up to your imagination.”

“At Creative Edge, we are happy to help anyone build a labyrinth,” concluded Belilove. “Our waterjet machines can cut intricately curved designs out of costly granite or marble, medium-cost paving stones or terazzo, low-cost vinyl or carpet. In other words, no matter what your budget or materials, we can create it.

As for Fr. Mac, he is a happy man. By the time he retires next May, he will have experienced the joy of walking the labyrinth at Grace Episcopal Church many times – a “cherished dream coming true,” he said. He will have witnessed the members of his congregation enjoying the peace and stillness that a labyrinth journey brings.

And, he is hoping, the community will have unlocked its secrets as well. “Grace Episcopal Church has built this labyrinth as much for the community as for our congregation,” says Fr. Mac. He recently received a call from a fifth grade teacher asking if she can bring her class once the labyrinth is finished, and says they welcome schoolchildren, seniors, veterans – anyone and everyone in the community. Father Mac says, “We are looking forward to sharing this beautiful experience with people who have never walked a labyrinth before, who may arrive without a clue of what to expect and yet can experience sacred moments of awakening and peace.”

 


 

Institute memberships approve MIA+BSI two-year joint  venture

In December 2015, it was announced that the memberships of the Marble Institute of America (MIA) and the Building Stone Institute (BSI) have voted to enter into a two-year joint venture. Effective January 1, 2016, the combined organization, MIA+BSI, the Natural Stone Institute, began operating as a consolidated organization. Each organization will also maintain its individual identity during the two-year period.

2015 BSI president Rob Barnes (Dee Brown, Inc.) remarked, “This joint venture, with its combined equity, will provide additional value to the industry and its members. MIA+BSI will ensure our continued relevance as we work together to become the world’s premier natural stone association.”

2015 MIA president Dan Rea (Coldspring) agreed, “I believe this is tremendously important for the stone industry. The time is right for likeminded people across the industry to join efforts to defend and grow the use of natural stone.”

In 2016, MIA+BSI will focus on five key initiatives, in addition to the myriad of ongoing programs underway for each organization:

Introduction of Dimension Stone Design Manual, Version 8, which includes additions pertaining to restoration and maintenance. Technical committees will be formed to expand references to thin stone and flagstone paving in the manual.

Addition of safety programs for quarriers (in addition to extensive current offerings available for fabricators, installers, and stone distributors).

Launch a Natural Stone Promotional Campaign.

Development of industry advocacy groups.

An expanded legislative outreach program.

The Board of Directors and staffs of both organizations are reviewing and combining operations and are excited to begin putting plans to action immediately. More information regarding the MIA+BSI joint venture will be available soon. The first joint presence occurred at TISE West in Las Vegas.

Learn more at www.marble-institute.com and www.buildingstoneinstitute.org.

Qualified Labor – Dave Karp, Tile Fusion LLC

1_CTI_20x20Dave Karp, Tile Fusion LLC

Certification: a standard to validating professionalism, skills and willingness to excel

By Terryn Rutford, Social Structure Marketing

tile-fusion-logoAfter eight years as a tile installer, Dave Karp became a Certified Tile Installer (CTI) at Daltile in Plymouth, Minn., in 2008.

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Dave Karp, owner, Tile Fusion LLC

“I found out on a Sunday night that Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) was coming to town on Tuesday,” Karp said. “I sent emails that night and called first thing Monday morning to make sure I could get in. I felt it was a great way to separate myself from the rest of the guys in town.”

A year later Karp opened Tile Fusion in Shakopee, Minn., specializing in high-end, meticulous, and detailed residential tile installation. Becoming a CTI gave Karp the confidence to pursue his own tile shop. “[Certification] made me feel stronger as an installer, more professional, and better at selling myself.”

The CTI exam consists of two parts – a hands-on portion and a written-portion. “The written test wasn’t too difficult, being open book,” he said. “I read the book a couple of times.” For Karp, the hands-on portion was a different story. “I was in the same room as two of the Twin Cities’ premier installers,” Karp said. “Legends I’d call them: Joe Kerber and Jan Hohn. It meant the world to me to be able to show everyone what I’ve got.”

During the test, students have two days for preparation, tile setting, grouting and taking the written exam. It can be a very stressful experience that requires both quick thinking and quick acting. “The tile supplied to us was 4” X 4” white ceramic and 12” X 12” porcelain, but there were two different dye lots,” he explained. “I used this as a design feature – one color for the border and checkerboard for the center.”

Gerald Sloan, former NTCA trainer, judged Karp’s work and was impressed by his decision to include 1/16” joints. “I still feel good thinking back on that day,” Karp said.

In addition to being a CTI, Karp is wedi, Schluter, and StonePeak-MaxFine thin tile certified. And he became a member of the National Tile Contractor’s Association (NTCA) after hearing Gerald Sloan speak in August 2009. “He spoke of education, technical knowledge and professionalism within the industry and how the NTCA is leading the way. I signed up that night to be a member.” Karp is also a member of the Handmade Tile Association.

Karp is currently preparing for the Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT) in vertical mortar. NTCA membership and CTEF certification provide incredible value to the tile installer. The NTCA and CTI logos distinguish his estimates and invoices from those of competitors, and give tangible proof of an installer’s expertise. “I promote certification as a standard to validating who you are, your professionalism, skills and willingness to excel.”

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