April 20, 2014

Natural Stone Council issues position statement on OSHA’s Silica PEL Proposal

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Last November, the Natural Stone Council MSHA/OSHA Committee issued a position statement about OSHA’S recently released proposed silica rule. What follows is the Natural Stone Council’s (NSC) position statement in its entirety, with the caveat that the position paper is a working document and will be updated and revised as needed.

stonecouncilPosition statement on OSHA’S Silica PEL Proposal

The following position paper is written on the behalf of The Natural Stone Council (NSC), which is comprised of 12 organizations representing all types of dimensional stone businesses that quarry and fabricate in the United States. The members include Allied Stone Industries, Building Stone Institute, Elberton Granite Association, Indiana Limestone Institute, Marble Institute of America, Mason Contractors Association of America, National Building Granite Quarries Association, National Slate Association, Natural Stone Alliance, New York State Bluestone Association, Northwest Granite Manufacturers Association, and Pennsylvania Bluestone Association. Collectively, all agree that employee safety is the first priority of the dimension stone industry.

stone1Issue:

On August 23, 2013, the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) released a proposal (Docket ID# OSHA-2010-0034) to reduce the permissible exposure level (PEL) for silica by 50%. The new level would be 50 micrograms of respirable silica per cubic meter of air over an eight-hour period. The U.S. Mine Safety & Health Administration (MSHA) has stated its intent to issue a similar proposal for the mining industry. OSHA’s proposal has been published in the Federal Register and the public has until January 25, 2014 to submit written comments.

NSC position:

All NSC member organizations agree that airborne crystalline silica is dangerous and proven measures are necessary to protect exposed employees, but also believe that OSHA’s current silica PEL standard provides protection when best practices are applied in the workplace. If adopted into the Code of Federal Regulations, this new proposal will impact all dimension stone industry businesses that mine and process natural stone containing silica by increasing compliance costs and likely jeopardizing jobs.

In an effort to join with other industries affected by this proposal and to respond to OSHA with one voice, the NSC joined the Construction Industry Safety Coalition (CISC). The CISC is comprised of several industry trade associations whose members represent thousands of employers and hundreds of thousands of working men and women.

one2Arguments against the proposal:

1. Data on silicosis cases does not show a need to modify the present PEL. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) stated that the incidence of silica-related deaths declined by 93% from 1968 to 2007 under the current silica PEL. OSHA says a reduced PEL is needed and estimates that the change will save 700 lives per year and reduce the number of silicosis cases by 1600 per year. It is estimated that over 50% of businesses with airborne silica exposure have never been tested. How can the current PEL be deemed inadequate if it is not known whether or not the majority of the regulated businesses are in compliance?

2. OSHA has underestimated the compliance costs for affected businesses. Figures presented by OSHA estimate the rule will cost industry approximately $640 million to implement (an estimated cost of $550.00 per year for a business with fewer than 20 employees), and provide $3-5 billion in benefits. The American Chemistry Council estimates an implementation cost of $5.5 billion with $1.1 billion in lost revenue, and the Construction Industry Safety Coalition estimates the cost to implement at $1-2 billion with $700 million in benefits. Given the requirements of the new PEL, it appears that the Department of Labor has underestimated the cost to implement the change. If these figures are incorrect, the credibility of the entire OSHA report and proposal comes into question. The need for any federal rule change needs to be based on accurate data.

In addition to the cost of compliance, new regulations take away capital essential for expansion and/or improvement. While safety is vital, regulations that are not correlated to specifically-quantified diseases and/or injuries make U.S. companies less competitive in the global market.

3. There are serious questions about whether or not available sampling equipment and analytical methods can produce accurate results for the proposed limits. Evironomics, Inc. and the URS Corporation advised the American Chemistry Council (ACC) that measuring exposure to a 50 microgram PEL would be “impossible.” The testing methods for measuring silica concentrations below 100 micrograms per cubic meter of air are not accurate, and the margin of error is almost equal to the proposed PEL. How can compliance be determined if the technology does not exist to accurately determine the exposure level?

Proposed solutions:

1. OSHA should indefinitely extend the comment period until their extensive report can be fully studied to determine the accuracy of the data. 135 days is not enough time to do this and address all questions.

2. To determine the true cost of the proposed PEL, and whether or not it is actually needed, we recommend these steps.

  • First – perform an industry-wide analysis and investigation as to the actual number of businesses that present a silica exposure to their employees. Ascertain how many of these businesses have been inspected, and how many have silica-dust containment and controls in place for their workers. Quantify the number of businesses that potentially do not have controls in place or have never been inspected to establish the real effectiveness of the current PEL.
  • Second – the Department of Labor should publish detailed information on actual diagnosed silicosis cases in OSHA-regulated businesses that were using proven engineering controls and NIOSH-recommended respirators.
  • Third – OSHA should work with the stone industry to determine accurate costs of implementing the proposal.

3. Conduct independently-verified, risk-assessment studies to determine the true risks of silicosis in a compliant workplace. OSHA is obligated to provide the “best available evidence” on any new proposal, and this guideline must be followed. Sound decisions must be based on accurate information.

4. The NSC offers to work with OSHA (and MSHA) for practical and cost-effective crystalline silica regulation based on sound and proven data that will improve the safety and health protection of workers.

The dimension stone industry is a major part of the nation’s economy. According to recent Department of Labor figures, 4,380 stone quarries directly employed 35,248 workers, and 2,125 fabrication facilities directly employed 23,666 workers. Additional indirect employment is estimated to be greater than 100,000 people with a total estimated payroll for the industry approaching $4 billion annually. It is the Natural Stone Council’s belief that our government should be responsive to the needs and concerns of this industry.

Formed in 2003, the NSC unites a diverse industry of natural stone producers by bringing together the various natural stone associations to actively promote the attributes of natural stone. The NSC is funded entirely through donations. To learn about the NSC, its initiatives, and to pledge support, visit www.naturalstonecouncil.org. Duke Pointer, executive director, can be contacted at [email protected].

Business Tip – February 2014

 

mapei_sponsorLeadership and Management:
working together for your good

By Wally Adamchik, president, FireStarter Speaking and Consulting

wally_adamchikYou remember the commercial, “Tastes great, less filling?” The one about the beer that tasted great and didn’t fill you up – combining two fine qualities into one beer.

In your business, you also need to demonstrate multiple abilities. Whether you are just getting started or have been in business for decades, to be successful in business today, a combination of both leadership and management skills is required.

That sounds easy, but there is one problem: leadership and management are two separate skills. I once had a speaker before me at a convention assert that they are arch enemies. I took the stage after him and totally disagreed. I contend that they are intimate allies.

To understand the difference, we first need to change them. Leadership is about change for better results; it challenges the status quo and looks at the long term. It is about people. Management is about consistency for better results; it maintains the status quo, focusing on short-term results; it maintains the status quo, focusing on short-term results. It is about structures and procedures. Leadership and management seem to contradict each other but they don’t.

Skills can be learned

Usually, when we think of leaders, we consider larger-than-life historical figures and we don’t include ourselves. Give yourself some credit. You can lead too. Take a look at the things leaders do. Ultimately, these things revolve around “soft skills.” These intangibles do not come naturally to many people in construction. It is not how you are wired. The critical few things that leaders do are set direction, align resources, and motivate and inspire people. These are skills that can be learned.

Management, on the other hand, is about “hard skills.” Management focuses on the business of the business, the black and white, not the gray. It involves planning and budgeting, organizing and staffing, and controlling and measuring. There are far more managers than leaders. Even though these skills are essential to the success of any business, they are not instinctive either.

One of the best tools at your disposal for leading and managing in the field is the daily huddle. Done well, this short but important investment of time insures high production for the day. Done poorly, it is a waste of time that simply puts the crew farther behind. Ideally, the huddle is a conversation about production targets and techniques, safety issues and overall opportunities for improvement from the day before. The huddle sets the direction for the day, gets the crew working together and gives a goal to shoot for.

Research shows, and experience confirms, that the higher you go in the organization the more you must lead. In fact, depending on the size of the firm you might be leading 50% of the time if you are the president. Very large firms will see that number move to 80%. Conversely, at the crew level we expect to see 80% management and 20% leadership. The sad fact is that we don’t see much leading at the crew level. We see orders being given and plenty of controlling and problem-solving but precious little motivating and aligning.

Rather than being mutually exclusive, these two skills are, in fact, interdependent. The successful tile business person of the future must respond to the new reality. The labor situation is not getting any better. Just because you were good once doesn’t mean you will continue to be successful today. Customers are more demanding, there is no labor waiting on the bench, and margins are thin. However, the person who can blend the seemingly contradictory skills of management and leadership is poised to bring their company into a more competitive and profitable position.

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 – February 2014

SponsoredbyLaticreteIf you are seeking technical help on a project, expert members and staff at NTCA are at the ready to provide you with the information you need to create a successful, enduring and beautiful install for your clients. Residential or commercial, interior or exterior, feel free to email
[email protected] to get your questions answered and gain valuable professional support for your project.

Here’s an example of a NTCA member reaching out to the network at NTCA for clarification on installing tile over stucco.

QUESTION

0214_AtE_stuccohouseI would like some feedback on a project for one of my designers.

We have an exterior stucco home on which the designers want to install a chiseled-edge, travertine stone accent in three front areas where the windows are. We plan on doing a modular pattern with 8”x8,” 8”x16,” 16”x16” and 16”x24” pieces, 3/8” thick.

The stucco is in great shape – it’s just been pressure washed. My only reservation is that I am not sure if the stucco is painted or if the color is in the finish. There’s no way to find out from builder, as they are no longer in business!

Any ideas would be welcome.

ANSWER

Many manufacturers allow installation over sound stucco, and yes, the caveat is that it must NOT be painted. Since you will be tiling over areas, choose one (or all) that will receive tile and do a small demo of the existing stucco. You don’t need a very large piece (maybe 1”x1”x1/4” thick) that will allow you to determine if the stucco is solid color throughout. Pulverize a portion of your piece to see. Generally, a solid color throughout indicates unpainted stucco, but check for a skin of paint on your sample piece.

Michael WhistlerNTCA technical consultant and presenter

My advice is to reach out to your local installation material manufacturer rep and have him specify the means of setting the stone. I often use my manufacturer reps in the same capacity and have them write the specification. This should protect you in the event of a failure. The tricky part with this is determining whether the color is mixed into the stucco or is it painted. I’m sure there are ways to determine such. Good luck and hope all is well!

Buck Collins, Collins Tile & Stone, Aldie, Va., NTCA Five Star Contractor

Can you use a grinder with a diamond blade and scarify the face? If you can, this is a good bet no matter what the coating is. There are also wire wheels that can be attached to a grinder that are not as invasive as a diamond blade. Buck is right: get a system from a manufacturer that will stand behind their product. Hope this helps.

John Cox, Cox Tile, San Antonio, Texas, NTCA Five Star Contractor

Tech Talk – January 2014

TEC-sponsorInstalling ceramic tile, glass tile and stone in interior wet areas

Slope, weeps, and flashing are key to managing water and avoiding failures

Donato PBy Donato Pompo, CTC, CSI, CDT, MBA,
Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants (CTaSC),
University of Ceramic Tile and Stone (UofCTS).  

Exterior decks and balconies, and interior showers and bathrooms have historically been problematic areas for the installation of ceramic tile, glass tile, stone tile and other stone products. Typically problems are due to installer error, such as not using appropriate materials for those applications, or not having clear enough specifications. In each case it is the result of not following industry standards. Exploration into the intricacies of exterior decks and balconies can be an entire article in itself, but for this story, we will focus on interior showers and bathrooms.

Industry standards are created by industry consensus groups consisting of installers, producers, and industry experts through organizations such as ANSI (American National Standards Institute), TCNA (Tile Council of North America), ASTM (America Society for Testing and Materials) or ICC (International Code Council).  These consensus group members combine their many years of experience with science to establish standards so problems and failures can be avoided and not repeated.  Thus if standards are not followed then known potential problems can’t be avoided.

As a forensic investigator for over 11 years, I have investigated many failed interior showers and bathrooms. I have found that the common denominators to tile and stone failures in these applications were the lack of proper slope, plugged weep holes, and inadequate flashing to contain or manage the water that resulted in various types of damages.

Managing water volume

techtalk_pic

First, consider the volume of water that showers are subjected to on a daily basis. Since these areas are likely to be subjected to more water than a typical roof is subjected to annually, it is imperative that extra care and attention are spent on specifying and constructing them. This is accomplished by properly managing the water so it is controlled and safely evacuated from those areas.

Lack of adequate slope is a common problem in interior wet horizontal applications such as shower floors, shelves and seats. It is very clear in the tile and stone industry standards, as well as in the Uniform Plumbing Code (UPC), and in the IRC (International Residential Code) or IBC (International Building Code) building codes, that the slope to drain, or away from the building, should be a minimum 2% slope. That calculates to 1/4” per foot (6 mm per 305 mm). UPC says the slope to drain in a shower must be a minimum of 1/4” per foot (6 mm per 305 mm), but not more than 1/2” per foot (13 mm per 305 mm).

Not only is it important for that slope to drain to be at the surface of the tile or stone, but it is critical that the minimum 1/4” per foot (6 mm per 305 mm) slope to drain is at the surface of the waterproof membrane or drain plane. Drains come in two sections. Where the drain clamps down on the waterproof membrane below the surface of the tile assembly, there are weep holes in the drain assembly, so that any water that migrates to the waterproof membrane can then evacuate into the drain through the weep holes.

Problem #1: Improper slope to the drain

1-techtalk

There are  three common problems that we run into. First, the waterproof membrane is not properly sloped to the drain. In a shower this can result in the tile mortar bed staying constantly damp, which creates a musky odor in the room, or it may cause a stone or tile floor to look wet. Excessive moisture might result in the stone spalling (deteriorating) and/or staining.   Sometimes we find that the waterproof membrane is flat or even negatively sloped away from the drain, or that there are low spots on the membrane surface where water collects.

Problem #2: Plugged weep holes

2-techtalk

The second common problem is drains with plugged weep holes.  Industry standards state that the weep holes are to be covered with pea gravel or with a plastic weep hole protector to make sure the weep holes stay open. Often this weep hole protection is left out, and mortar is placed over the weep holes, plugging them. Thus, if the waterproof membrane is properly sloped to drain, the water cannot escape into the drain. Again, this can result in the tile mortar bed staying constantly damp, which results in the musky odor in the room, a wet-looking floor or stone spalling or staining.

The term “spalling” refers to the deterioration of the surface of a stone. It is the symptom of a stone being subjected to excessive moisture over time. Spalling is typically caused by moisture migrating from the stone’s underlying substrate up through the stone to its surface where the moisture evaporates. As the moisture travels from under the stone through the cementitious materials, and through the stone itself, the moisture picks up various minerals (salts) which dissolve in the moisture. When the moisture reaches the surface of the stone it evaporates and the minerals precipitate into a solid again.  This expansion or crystallization of the mineral, referred to as efflorescence, causes the surface of stones to deteriorate to some degree.

Whether it is a shower or an exterior deck or balcony, the waterproof membrane surface must be sloped to drain or away from the building. Shower pans or receptors are supposed to have a pre-sloped mortar bed installed over the base substrate before installing the waterproof membrane. The pre-slope needs to have a minimum slope of 1/4” per foot (6 mm per 305 mm).

Problem #3: Membrane breaches3-techtalk

That brings up the third common problem that we find in showers: waterproofing or vapor retarders that are not complete or continuous. They tend to lack flashing at transition areas. Considering the potential collateral damages a defective balcony can develop, it is important to construct it like a big shower pan. Assuming that the deck has been properly pre-sloped, the waterproof membrane must continue, or be flashed, up the wall at least 3″ (76 mm) above any thresholds to prevent water from causing any potential collateral damages. All seams, penetrations and transitions must be properly waterproofed, flashed and sealed with a sealant. These are the areas that are most vulnerable to having problems, so they need to be given the extra attention to ensure they are installed correctly. The waterproof membrane should never be penetrated, unless it is unavoidable, and then the penetration has to be properly flashed and sealed with the appropriate sealants to ensure it will never leak.

Often we find that decks are sloped to their outer edge without any type of gutter or drain. The water drains over the side of the balcony and eventually results in staining along the siding, or staining and spalling the stone if there is stone siding. The latest trend is to use trench or linear drains that work very well and can be installed at the perimeters of decks or showers.

4-techtalk

So how can a tile installer make sure that showers are given the attention they need to avoid failures? It is the same old answer.  Follow industry standards and manufacturers’ directions. It doesn’t matter who is at fault when there is a problem; everyone ends up paying – either in time to defend themselves, money to fix the problem or with their reputation. So it is in everyone’s best interest to make sure that tile and stone installations are done properly. (Editor note: please visit www.tileletter.com for the full text of this story, which also addresses exterior installations).

Ceramic Tile Consultant, 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). Donato has over 35 years of varied experience in the ceramic tile and stone industry. CTaSC provides services in Forensic Investigations, Quality Control Services for products and installation methods to include writing specifications, training programs, testing, and on-site quality control inspection services. CTaSC is a professional consulting business comprised of accomplished ceramic tile consultants, stone consultants, ceramic tile and stone installers, architects, engineers, general contractors, construction scientists and other industry specialists and experts conveniently located throughout the US and Canada. You can reach Donato by visiting the company website at www.CTaSC.com, emailing [email protected] or calling 866-669-1550.

But I didn’t bid it that way…

dave_debearBy David deBear, CTC, CSI, Custom Building Products,
national construction service manager

All too often we end up in a rush to pump out bids that seem to be “routine” day-to-day things. Lucky you! You were awarded the project and come to find out, you were low bid – and for all of the wrong reasons!

Let’s focus on commercial projects for the sake of this story.  It’s pretty common to have basic pre-determined installation numbers for bidding large commercial projects. Other than tile pricing, this includes labor pricing, mobilization costs, insurances, logistics, etc., and the installation materials cost. These numbers are based on history and, for the most part, have always worked.

Where do the problems come in? Technology is always evolving, new materials are specified but we typically don’t pay attention to the detail in the project manual, finish schedules and the specs. Often times we are consumed by the take-offs and the square footage numbers.

So here comes the issue at hand – If you are using historical numbers for installation materials and methods, and don’t dive into the bid package – you just might miss a few things expected of you like epoxy grout, waterproofing or anti-fracture membranes. This may leave you complaining to your general contractor (GC), “But I didn’t bid it that way.”

Being the low bid can be a double-edged sword! You may wind up with low (or no) profit, and start beating up your suppliers for better pricing, or start the change order and “value engineering” conversations with the GC and architect.  Not a pretty sight.

Food for thought

When tile and installation material manufacturers hit the streets with their architectural teams, they spread the message of higher quality and performance, and the need to use higher-performing installation systems with high-tech porcelain, glass, stone, large-format, – and now slim tiles.

There are mandatory licensing and continuing education requirements for all architects, which have been building for years through the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the National Licensing Boards. As a part of this process, new technology, new standards and new design ideas are brought to architects, designers and spec writers. The information is related to our industry’s advances and to systems-integration technology across all divisions of construction. It’s conveyed by our industry organizations and manufacturers using the AIA’s continuing education system.

So what does this have to do with us in the tile business? Think “liability.” Architects do not want to assume liability for a less-than-adequate tile installation due to the tile or the installation system, and as such, they are constantly looking for the best-quality and most effective system for the project.

Architects will research and specify materials that work together, based on science and manufacturers’ written instructions. This includes items such as surface prep for larger-format tile installation, and deflection of the substrate, especially when tile is installed above grade, or stone tile is used. The entire installation system and its requirements are also well researched.

Industry documentation: essential resources

0114_handbook_picsWhere do you suppose they go for this information?  Industry documentation: The American National Standard Institute (ANSI) Specifications for the Installation of Ceramic Tile (Material & Installation Standards), which include A108 (the methods), A118 (the materials) and A136 (organic adhesives). The ANSI Specifications for Ceramic Tile and the ANSI Specifications for Glass Tile have the recent tile standards upgrade to the tile standards (ANSI A137.1 and ANSI A137.2 for glass tile). Also available is ANSI Specifications for Sustainable Ceramic Tile, Glass Tiles and Tile Installation Materials otherwise known as Green Squared®. Other industry staples are the TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation, ASTM International, and manufacturers’ reps (visit www.tcnatile.com and click on Publications or visit the NTCA Store at www.tile-assn.com to obtain these publications). Believe it or not, architects actually read this stuff!

Good folks from our industry dedicate their time and expertise to participate on the ANSI Committees, TCNA Handbook Committee, and other industry organizations such as the Technical Committees of the National Tile Contractor’s Association (NTCA) and the Tile Contractor’s Association of America (TCAA). These folks help develop the standards of our industry. This group of tile and setting-material manufacturers, consultants, industry organizations, contractors and many other industry personnel participate to help all of us do a better job with consistency and high quality.

Be informed of updates when bidding

Our standards are always being improved, expanded or upgraded to keep up with technology, such as the High Performance Cement Grout Standard – ANSI A118.7, and a new standard for bonding mortars: ANSI A118.15 Improved Modified Dry-Set Cement Mortar. We also have newer standards for Anti-Fracture Membranes – ANSI A118.12, and for Sound Reduction Membranes – ANSI A118.13 as well as the aforementioned glass tile and Green Squared standards.

Many committees are hard at work creating standards for self-leveling underlayment, uncoupling membranes, slim-tile installation methods and many more areas relevant to our industry. It’s essential for you and your staff to stay current with all of the standards and methods so you won’t miss anything in the bid process or the specs, and prevent you from lamenting, “But I didn’t bid it that way.”

Common bid oversights – and how to avoid them

Part 1 of the spec section for tile work, section 09310, contains references to other sections which are often overlooked or missing from the bid package. Be sure you obtain these missing sections so you have the complete information on work in other sections that affect the tile installation.

Use the Request For Information (RFI) process to clarify an item in the spec – do not assume (We all know what happens there)! Typically when an RFI is sent through the pipeline, all bidders get the written response, creating a level playing field.

Be clear about Division 3, Cast In Place Concrete specs. The concrete sections have many factors that will affect the tile installation, including lightweight concrete mixes, air-entrained concrete mixes, flatness tolerances and the dreaded curing compounds.

Research Basis of Design and Performance specs

Basis of Design references a specific branded item such as a thin-set mortar or underlayment, yet allows other manufacturer products to be used, provided they meet the design criteria. The Basis of Design material is the standard for the work.

Performance specs will cite specific ANSI or ASTM criteria.  This is important because there are defined standards for materials and/or methods. General statements and “or equal” specs are eliminated.

In some cases, structural drawings may be required for above-grade or post-tension construction.  These items are important since deflection, concrete creep and load designs come into play, especially where large-format tile is specified. (Use the RFI if the appropriate tile setting materials are not specified). Pay close attention to the TCNA details specified too. Movement joint details! Need I say more?

Time invested is time saved

We in the materials manufacturing side of the business all too often see the scramble to value engineer or negotiate for better pricing on select items. We are even occasionally asked to communicate with the architect or GC to eliminate things like a membrane or epoxy grout from a project on behalf of the contractor – because it was missed on bid day or a generic number was used for installation materials.

The GC never wants to hear “But I didn’t bid it that way.” This problem can be eliminated by being more connected to the industry to which we all belong.

So – here’s an idea: become a better student and get involved in your own continuing education. Get the industry manuals and books (read them too). Attend the seminars both locally and at the various conventions throughout the country and learn the industry inside and out. Rely on your product reps to provide their current product information. We are all on the same team here.

All these efforts will raise the integrity of our industry, and raise the profit margins for all of us.  After all, that’s why we’re here.

–––––––––––––––

Custom Building Products employs a dedicated team of Regional Technical support staff and a Nationwide Architectural Consulting team. Custom Building Products also offers the Emerald System of environmentally-friendly installation products – and is the only setting-materials manufacturer whose system includes Carbon Offset Credits. CUSTOM also provides state-of-the-art technology such as Fusion Pro Single Component Grout, equipping you with all of the essentials to keep you informed, current and profitable. Visit www.custombuildingproducts.com for more information.

Business Tip – January 2014

Financial Operations

mapei_sponsorIn this issue of TileLetter, we continue with the Financial Operations section of the NTCA Business Reference Manual, as found on page 31 of this document. In the November 2013 issue of TileLetter, we examined overhead analysis, accounts payable and receivable and invoicing. We continue now with a look at contracts, depreciation and job costing. Check upcoming TileLetter issues for more tips and recommendations on running your business efficiently and profitably. To download the entire NTCA Business Reference Manual, visit www.tile-assn.com.

f. Contracts

It is important to have a contract for any work provided by your company. This is for your protection and your clients. A contract clearly spells out what services you are going to provide, where and how much. This document can be as short as one page to many pages. It needs to be worded very carefully. You can see what other contractors are using and adopt a similar document. Make sure an attorney reviews it.

Good contracts also have well-defined pay schedules on them. This takes all the guessing out of when you will be paid and how much. You should also include a “Notice of Right to Cancel” form ( commonly called Right of Rescission) with your contract. Each state is different, so check out what your state requires. A state form must be provided in addition to a federal one.

BT_0114_graphicChange orders should be developed and given to the client as the change is taking place. Clients will pay you more easily and faster when they know there is a legitimate change to their job and scope of work. You cannot wait till the end of the job to provide this! Too much information is forgotten and the urgency from the client to pay you is lost. Take care of each change as it occurs.  It will only help your cash flow.

g. Depreciation

When you depreciate, you allocate the cost of an asset over the useful life of the item. Large ticket items are often depreciated over several years.

h. Job costing 

Job costing is a comparison of what you charged for a job versus what it cost to get the job done – labor cost, material cost, overhead. When evaluated over several months, your job costing reports can give you a good indication of what types of jobs are most profitable for your company. “Work in Progress” reports use similar information to give you an indication of the job’s profitability as the work proceeds.

Ask the Experts – January 2014

SponsoredbyLaticreteQUESTION

We were wondering if you could advise us as to whether we should install support brackets for our granite countertop and breakfast bar. The overhang is 4’ W x 1’ D x 1” thick.

ANSWER

It is always a good idea to have more than “sufficient” support for overhangs. Corbels are the easiest solution, and can be made in almost infinite styles and out of almost any solid material, including the stone you are using for your countertops. Plate steel, bolted to the top of the bar framing, is also a good solution. Some installers say additional support is not needed, but I have seen many, many failures in unsupported countertops, usually because a person (like an electrician or painter, or the homeowner changing a light bulb) has climbed up there.

Michael K. Whistler, presenter/technical consultant NTCA

QUESTION

I am installing .197” thick ceramic penny-round tile over cement backer board on a bathroom floor. I am having trouble with too much thinset oozing up through the grout joints. I am using a 1/4” x 1/4” square notch trowel. Can you recommend the proper trowel size and technique for this application? Once the thinset has been applied and scraped, should I flatten the ridges to minimize the thinset oozing up?

I saw a reference to your standards about flattening the ridges when using small mosaic tiles less than 3”, but I want to make sure I am applying the right amount of material. I have not been able to get any recommendation from the manufacturer.

ANSWER

You are absolutely correct that flattening the notch trowel ridges is the way to stop squeeze-up in the joints while still getting full coverage on the tile. Make sure you comb the notches all in one direction before flattening. You will also find that beating in the sheets with a beating block, wood float or hard rubber epoxy float will help in this process. Not only will this help eliminate squeeze-up, you will have a flatter installation.

Be careful when using a v-notch trowel, as most do not provide sufficient thinset between the tile and substrate. Maybe try a “worn” 1/4” x 1/4” and flatten the ridges, or a 1/4” x 3/16” trowel.

– Michael K. Whistler, presenter/technical consultant, NTCA

QUESTION

I live in Orange County, Calif.,  and want to start a tile business. I’m not sure what licenses are needed. I have not gone to school for tiling and have no experience. I want to know how to go about this please.

ANSWER

A tile contractor in California needs to have a C54 State Contractors License. You must demonstrate that you have previous experience to be eligible to apply to take the test.

The best and most common route to becoming a tile setter is to find a job working for a tile company as a helper where you will learn all the basics of the tile trade. If, after a time, you prove yourself as a dependable helper, most companies will allow you to advance to apprentice status, whether formal or informal, and will begin letting you install tile and teaching you proper methods. After several years, you can usually advance to journeyman tile setter where you will be responsible for installing projects from start to finish.

If at this point you decide to take on the business part of the job – in addition to the installation side – then it’s time to study for and take the C54 test. Once acquired, you need only get a business license from the city where you work and find some clients.

After you are properly trained, it would also be a good idea to take the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation test to become a Certified Tile Installer. This positions you as a purveyor of qualified labor and builds your customers’ trust in your skills and what you can offer them. And of course, you may want to consider joining and becoming active in the NTCA to keep your knowledge of products and methods sharp, as they inevitably change and evolve over time.

Michael K. Whistler, presenter/technical consultant, NTCA

Installing ceramic tile, glass tile and stone interior wet areas

By Donato Pompo, CTC CSI CDT MBA, Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants (CTaSC), University of Ceramic Tile and Stone (UofCTS).

(Editor note: a condensed version of this story appears in the January 2014 issue of TileLetter)

 Exterior decks and balconies, and interior showers and bathrooms have historically been problematic areas for the installation of ceramic tile, glass tile, stone tile and other stone products.   Typically problems are due to installer error, not using appropriate materials for those applications, or not having clear enough specifications.  In each case it is the result of not following industry standards.

 

Importance of industry standards

Industry standards are created by industry consensus groups consisting of installers, producers, and industry experts through organizations such as ANSI (American National Standards Institute), TCNA (Tile Council of North America), ASTM (America Society for Testing and Materials) or ICC (International Code Council).  These consensus-group members combine their many years of experience with science to establish standards so problems and failures can be avoided and not repeated.  Thus if standards are not followed then known potential problems can’t be avoided.

 

Excessive moisture:

culprit in tile and stone failures

In the last ten years or so, since the demand and use of tile and natural stone has grown so dramatically, there have been a lot more failures caused by tile and stone being subjected to excessive moisture.  Obviously tile and stone are very resistant to problems as indicated by the fact that there are tile and stone installations that are still standing and functional after thousands of years of use and exposure to various weathering conditions.

But when a number of things are done incorrectly in a tile and stone installation, particularly where water is involved, it can lead to extreme damages that can cause visually aesthetic damages and substantial collateral damages of adjacent materials, which can significantly reduce the functional life of the tile or stone application.

On the other hand, if tile and stone are installed correctly, per industry standards and product manufacturer’s directions, these products can provide trouble-free installations that can provide many years of pleasing aesthetics and successful performance that will be our legacy to future generations.

In over 11 years as a forensic investigator, I have found the common denominators to failed exterior decks and balconies, interior showers and bathrooms are the lack of proper slope, plugged weep holes, and inadequate flashing to contain or manage the water , resulting in various types of damages.

First, consider that exterior decks and balconies are often not only subjected to water directly from rain, but often water is channeled through drains and scuppers to these areas further subjecting them to higher volumes of water.  Plus these areas are often washed down regularly so they are further subjected to large volumes of water.

Consider the volume of water that showers are subjected to annually.  If one person takes a 12-minute shower each day in an average size shower with reasonable water pressure and using an appropriate shower head, the amount of water it is subjected to is equivalent to a roof being subjected to about 1,000 inches of rain water per year.  Since these areas are likely to be subjected to more water than a typical roof is subjected to annually, it is imperative that extra care and attention is spent on specifying and constructing them. This is accomplished by properly managing the water so it is controlled and safely evacuated from those areas.

 

 Be savvy about slope

Lack of adequate slope is a common problem in both exterior horizontal applications as well as interior wet horizontal applications such as shower floors, shelves and seats.  It is very clear in the tile and stone industry standards, as well as in the Uniform Plumbing Code (UPC), and in the IRC (International Residential Code) or IBC (International Building Code) building codes, that the slope to drain, or away from the building, should be a minimum 2% slope.  That calculates to 1/4″ per foot (6 mm per 305 mm).  UPC says the slope to drain in a shower must be a minimum of 1/4″ per foot (6 mm per 305 mm), but not more than 1/2″ per foot (13 mm per 305 mm).

Not only is it important for that slope to drain to be at the surface of the tile or stone, but it is critical that the minimum 1/4″ per foot (6 mm per 305 mm) slope to drain is at the surface of the waterproof membrane.

Drains come in two sections.  Where the drain clamps down on the waterproof membrane — below the surface of the tile assembly — there are weep holes in the drain assembly, so that any water that migrates to the waterproof membrane can then evacuate into the drain through the weep holes.

One of three common problems that we run into is first that the waterproof membrane is not properly sloped to the drain.  In a shower this can result in the tile mortar bed staying constantly damp, which results in the room taking on a musky odor or it may cause a stone or tile floor to look wet, and the excessive moisture might result in the stone spalling (deteriorating) and/or staining.   Sometimes we find that the waterproof membrane is flat or even negatively sloped away from the drain, or that there are low spots on the membrane surface where water collects.  These same conditions can be found on an exterior deck or balcony.  Obviously an exterior deck or interior commercial floor with multiple drains is a somewhat complex installation for the waterproof installer and the tile installer. In these cases, you will have transition areas that peak and slope in one direction or the other towards the respective drain.  So it is critical to make sure that the drains and slopes are properly laid out to allow for all the water that reaches the membrane to readily evacuate through the drain weep holes.  Even when there are drainage mats installed on top of the waterproof membranes to facilitate the evacuation of water from the mortar bed into the drain, if the waterproof membrane is not properly sloped it can result in expensive problems.