Tech Talk – October 2016


TEC-sponsorSealers, maintenance and more

Contractors offer value-added service, keep connected with customers

By Lesley Goddin

The tile or stone is installed, the area cleaned up, and you step back and admire your work, then go on to your next job, right?


Contractors say cleaners, sealers and maintenance packages can add protection to the project and its long-term beauty and performance, and keep contractors connected to their customers so they are top of mind for that next tile or stone job or referral to a friend or business.

Not a one-size fits-all proposition

Martin Brookes, of NTCA Five Star Contractor Heritage Tile and Marble, Mill Valley, Calif., said that manufacturers have mispromoted sealers over the years, giving the impression that “the installer applies a magic substance to a surface that allows them to abuse the tile and grout, when in fact it’s more of a protectant that gives added amount of time to remove a substance, over a non-protected surface.”

Brookes said that not all tile or grouts require a sealer, and sealers exposed to UV light may need regular reapplication. “It’s not a one-shoe size fits all scenario.”

Sealer applied and allowed to flash on the surface, possibly on stone that was too hot or sealer applied in direct sunlight.

Sealer applied and allowed to flash on the surface, possibly on stone that was too hot or sealer applied in direct sunlight.

Heritage highly recommends a maintenance package when stone is installed. “We recommend StoneTech® Revitalizer as maintenance cleaner, and always warn of not using harmful toxic cleaners around natural stone and metallic tile,” he said. “We have however noticed over the years that ‘green’ cleaning products don’t have the cleaning power of the more toxic, harmful ones so there is a compromise.”

Brookes also said that the combination of green cleaning products, shower gels, shampoo, body oils and the humid environment of a shower is contributing to frequent growth of the bacterium Serratia Marcescens. This gram-bacterium, which creates a pinkish-reddish-orange slimy bloom on surfaces, is a culprit in urinary tract and respiratory infections, especially in hospital settings and where instrumentation is involved for the patient.

“We educate the end user on the limitations of a sealer and inform them it’s not a one-time application; regular maintenance and reapplication will safeguard their investment,” he said.

An attempt to remove a stain with a poultice only made the situation worse.

An attempt to remove a stain with a poultice only made the situation worse.

Products used:

Becoming the local go-to maintenance experts

For NTCA State Ambassador Dirk Sullivan of Portland, Oregon’s Hawthorne Tile, requests for repairs and recaulking or regrouting have been frequent since he started his business in 2000. This kind of work “helped pay the bills” during the 2008-10 economic downturn, he said. But once the business of larger, custom jobs picked up again, there wasn’t much time to pursue this type of work.

Until Sullivan had a revelation: “If we had a team to manage this specific line, we could become the go-to experts,” he said. “Not only that, but we could have a team ready to set up maintenance programs as we completed our high-end custom jobs.” Longtime employee Jason Ballard (CTI, ACT) was eager to take on this new role, applying his “eye for detail, understanding of TCNA standards and excellent customer service.”

Hawthorne Tile has evolved its selection of products, choosing Dry Treat, a relatively exclusive product in the region. It added in LATICRETE and AquaMix products to fill some holes in local representation.

After meeting Fila’s Jeff Moen at Coverings early this year, Sullivan was super impressed with the line of cleaners and the “top-notch customer service” offered by this company, which includes educating Hawthorne staff – and by the fact that Hawthorne would be the exclusive distributor of the line.

“As we complete our projects, we give our customers a gift bag with sample cleaning products and instructions as well as a refrigerator magnet with our restoration team contact number and info for re-ordering cleaning products as they need it,” Sullivan said.

“We have found that this type of full service means we have a loyal customer for life. Not just when they need tile installed – which as it turns out… is not often enough!”

Products used:

  • Dry Treat
  • AquaMix
  • Fila

J&R Tile crews applying sealer on different types of surfaces.

Pre-construction discussion,  free maintenance education ends headaches

How do you combat lack of care in commercial kitchens, lack of sanitary cove base in restroom facilities and the darkening and residue buildup consequences of using dirty mop heads with regular detergent soap?

If you are Five Star Contractor J&R Tile, Inc. of San Antonio, Texas, you offer custom maintenance packages free for the property owner of a new construction or remodel to pass on to the custodial staff, along with complimentary product samples with demonstrations to help staff members use proper procedures to maintain their warranty and keep the project looking great.

Free? Yep, that’s what NTCA State Ambassador Erin Albrecht of J&R Tile said. The company trains and educates maintenance/facilities personnel on application, leaving the door open for calls or questions. “Most don’t know – or don’t know where – to purchase professional strength tile and stone cleaners,” she said. “We offer services, but we leave the stickers on the bottles on where the customer can reorder and our cards to contact us to order and ship to them.”

4-techFila products are the company’s go-to, due to its outstanding customer support, and a useful iPhone app for staff and customers that displays a flowchart of the proper product for each application. Lori Coates, StoneTech rep out of Houston, also provides unbeatable customer service.

“If we had more partnerships like this in the industry commercially, our installations as contractors would be longer-lasting and more aesthetically-pleasing. That relationship would build customer loyalty with the contractor, and brand loyalty with the product. The staff always knows they can trust you because you care about your installation, long after the project is complete.”

In addition to the free maintenance service, J&R dialogs in pre-construction about cove base and other options like metal trims. “We believe when cove bases are deleted because trim pieces can be pricey with budgetary constraints, it is our due diligence to offer solutions for the life of the installation with the end user in mind,” she said.

And J&R has found in problematic commercial kitchens where they are called in to “regrout,” management has been inaccurately or incompletely informed about how to maintain their floors. “Most of these facilities have gotten to the point where standing water is in the kitchen and it is a health/safety hazard.”

Providing a custom maintenance package, with proper instructions from the get-go, eliminates these problems, and contributes to satisfied customers and repeat business.

Products used: 

  • Fila

Business Tip – October 2016


mapei_sponsorProduct and services remix could get your sales moving

If your company’s sales results were a dance floor, how would it look? Are the numbers jumping off the page, dazzling you with their lively performances? Or are they slow, sluggish – perhaps even disappearing entirely? To keep the party moving, every business needs to regularly remix its line of products or services.

ctda-logo-loresThere are many potential causes of a sales slowdown. But these troubles aren’t all bad — they can help you shape your revised offerings. Start with the obvious: Are your customers drifting away? Conduct market research to find out whether they still like what you’re selling or if their needs have changed. Evolution is normal, so be ready to adjust your menu to keep pace.


CTDA membership increases your opportunities to network – and travel. This group of CTDA members enjoyed a trade mission to Turkey in 2014.

There are a few telling market research questions that are key to successful market research. Ask the consumer for his or her biggest challenges/ frustrations regarding your product, i.e. ceramic tile, and what those challenges are costing them. Next ask what goals in the near future they have regarding your product. Present your product (which would solve their challenges) and ask if they would be interested in the product and how much would it be worth to them. Finally confirm the best method of marketing by asking for the consumer’s preferred method to receive information regarding your product.

Also look into how long you’ve been offering the same products or services, and whether you’ve saturated the market. Some things have enduring value, but demand for others can wane as new products take the spotlight. Regular evaluations can help you decide whether you should:

Test a product or service in a different market or geographic area,

“Reinvent” a product or service (for instance, by repackaging or renaming it), or

Discontinue it.

Finally, don’t ignore the economy – both national and local. Market conditions can influence the sales of even the strongest products or services. Try to bolster the strongest ones, but also consider discontinuing weak ones or adding new ones that reflect the strength of the local economy. In an economic downturn, you may also find that reinventing your weak products will increase their sales; package them differently or price them competitively and you may see an increase in sales.

An effective remix of your products or services can turn a sad song into a happy tune.

CTDA helps you succeed in your business through a variety of programs and services that include educational opportunities, webinars, and discounts on shipping, client collection services, telephone charges, auto rentals, and more. CTDA offers networking and relationship-building opportunities through participation in Total Solutions Plus all-industry conference and Coverings annual trade show. Membership in CTDA also increases your national exposure and gives you access to the annual membership survey, a valuable resource to evaluate your company in terms of profit improvement, employee compensation, distribution and company performance. The CTDA website, CTDA Educational Opportunities, Weekly Newsletters and TileDealer Blog are all free resources that will “keep you in the loop” as well. CTDA is always looking for ways to improve the benefits of membership. To learn more about membership, please contact [email protected] or 630-545-9415 visit the website at Like CTDA on Facebook and Twitter @Ceramic Tile Distributors Association (CTDA). 

Ask the Experts – October 2016



I have a project in Park Ridge, Ill., which requires replacing the ceramic tile on the floor. Originally the owner decided to install a 12” x 24” tile, but due to sloping issues, such tile cannot be installed. Therefore the owner switched to a smaller tile, a 3” x 3” mosaic. Would the labor to install either size tiles be the same? If not, which one costs more? Please advise. Thank you!


Installing mosaic tile typically requires additional time for the cutting, straightening and handling of many individual tiles and grout joints even if, or sometimes because, they are mesh-mounted.

Installing large format tile such as 12” x 24” on a substrate that does not meet minimal acceptable flatness requirements of 1/8” in 10’ can require additional labor and materials for such activities as grinding and flattening the substrate with appropriate patch or self-leveling underlayment and their primers. Large-format tile (any tile with one side longer than 15”) will also require setting material designed for large-and-heavy tile. Due to any inherent warpage, this may require the use of a larger gauged trowel to assure required minimum bond coat coverage, which may result in the need for additional mortar.

I hope this helps.

Mark Heinlein,
NTCA Technical Presenter
[email protected]


Our rectified porcelain wall tile is three years old. We need to re-grout or caulk these thin grout lines. Which is better: silicone caulking or unsanded grout? For both I would use the caulking gun. Thank you!


Grouting is a complex and integral component of any tile installation. Grouting requires a degree of knowledge and experience with materials, environmental conditions, tile types, tools and techniques. Qualified professional tile contractors possess these traits.

I do not recommend using caulk in the joints between the tiles.

When removing the existing grout, take care not to chip the edges and corners of the tiles. You will want to ensure that you end up with a joint that is at least two-thirds the depth of the tile. Sharp utility knife blades, high quality grout rakes and oscillating tools with carbide grout removal blades are some of the tools you may want to consider using. It often requires a combination of all these tools to do the job.

ate-1Depending on the width of the joints you will want to select a grout that will adequately fill the joints. If using a portland cement-based grout:

  • Use unsanded grout for joints 1/8” wide and less.
  • Use sanded grout for joints 1/8” and wider.

Many manufacturers now make an acrylic, siliconized-acrylic or urethane based “single-component” or “ready-to-use” grout that may be acceptable for all ranges of grout joints. This information will be listed on the grout packaging. Whether the wall is in a dry or wet area, such as a shower, may make a difference for your grout selection.

You will want to grout the joints using an appropriate type of grout float making several passes at 45-degree angles to the joints to ensure you pack the joints full of grout. Then hold the float at a 90-degree angle to scrape the excess grout off the face of the tiles and across the joints, again at a 45-degree angle to the joints to avoid dragging any grout out of the joints. Based on the type of grout you are using, allow it to set up per the manufacturer’s instructions before forming the joints with an appropriate sponge. Then, based on the manufacturer’s instructions, clean the tile with single passes of a lightly damp sponge, once again at 45-degree angles to the tile. Change your grout cleaning water frequently. Again – read and closely follow the grout manufacturer’s instructions for the type of grout you have selected.

I do strongly recommend using a 100% silicone sealant (caulk) in the perimeter joints and any changes in plane (such as where your wall meets the floor and ceiling and where it meets an adjoining wall). Many grout manufacturers make 100% silicone sealant that color matches their grouts. Be sure to use a sealant (caulk) and grout from the same manufacturer.

Depending on the size of the wall, you will want to consider the need for expansion joints (soft joints) within the tile field.

ate-2I suggest you consider hiring a qualified tile contractor to perform this work. In addition to performing the work, a qualified contractor will be able to analyze the existing installation and help you determine the best materials for the job, saving you the hassle of trying to become an expert on your own. You may do a zip code search on either the NTCA or CTEF websites located at these links.

I hope this helps.

Mark Heinlein,
NTCA Technical Trainer/Presenter
[email protected]

Technical Feature: Choosing the Correct Acoustical Underlayment

techfeat-01By Ryne Sternberg,
Business Development Engineer, Pliteq, Inc.

Over the past 10 years, multi-family construction has increased demand for hard surface flooring, whether this be tile, stone, engineered wood, or vinyl plank. Unfortunately, these hard floor coverings accentuate sound vibrations, which lead to complaints from residents. When sound enters high-rise concrete structures, it travels through the concrete as vibration and radiates into multiple units, disturbing occupants. Installing a high-performance acoustical underlayment underneath the finished floor prevents these vibrations from entering the structure. This interstitial layer between the finished floor and concrete structure decouples the contact points, limiting excess impact noise or any other vibrations caused by the structure.

The International Building Code (IBC) has mandated multi-family construction to meet certain levels of sound attenuation in two classes, sound transmission class (STC) and impact insulation class (IIC). These classes take care of airborne (STC) and impact (IIC) noise. Airborne noise includes loud music, yelling, singing, etc. Impact noise can be caused by activities like high heels, moving furniture, or dancing. Ratings are given to a floor-ceiling assembly when it has been tested in a third-party NVLAP accredited laboratory. Ratings mandated for minimum levels of sound control are STC/IIC 50 when tested in a laboratory and STC/IIC 45 when tested in the field. If these levels are not met, developers, architects, and contractors may be liable for the repairs needed to meet IBC and local building code requirements.

techfeat-03Test according to real-world conditions

Some manufacturers take advantage of these simplified standards by providing a test report that is high performing but not representative of real-world conditions. Many developers, architects, and contractors believe if there is a test report with a rating above minimum code, the products included will be acceptable for that building. This is not always the case, since laboratory and field tests can be manipulated to show false ratings of products presented.

Understanding how tests are performed is the best way to distinguish between materials that are qualified to meet the IBC requirements and those that are not. The most important detail to understand is that one acoustical underlayment does not achieve an IIC rating on its own. The entire floor-ceiling assembly, including the finished floor, acoustical underlayment, subfloor structure, and ceiling details, is required to achieve these ratings.

One of the biggest discrepancies when testing an assembly is an IIC rating of a bare concrete slab compared to one with a drop ceiling. An 8” bare concrete slab on its own will not meet IIC 50, but with a 10” drop ceiling full of insulation, it will reach IIC levels into high 50s or low 60s. Manufacturers may use drop ceilings to help boost their underlayment and show higher results. Issues arise when the floor-ceiling assembly of a design calls for a bare slab and the specified product was tested with a drop ceiling.

techfeat-02When choosing an acoustical underlayment for tile and stone, two major properties should be met: acoustics and crack isolation. Acoustics can be verified through a third-party laboratory test or a field test conducted by an acoustical consultant using ASTM E492, E90, and E1007 standardized test methods. Crack isolation can be verified using ASTM C627 Robinson Wheel Testing to meet minimum residential ratings. Companies that provide a significant amount of testing on both fronts insure results to architects and developers. Specifying products from these companies leads to confidence in a finalized product and overall fewer complaints from building occupants.

Ryne Sternberg is a chemical engineering graduate of Penn State University, and business development engineer with Pliteq Inc. – an engineering firm dedicated to providing products that will satisfy acoustical standards, crack isolation of tile and stone as well as any other requirements placed on floor-ceiling assemblies of design. All products are derived from recycled rubber content, which achieve the best vibration and acoustic results and contribute to LEED. These products are backed up with over 700 completed laboratory and field test reports. For more information, visit

Qualified Labor: Edwardo Martinez

ctiCertification provides confidence; shows commitment and excellence

By Terryn Rutford, Social Structure Marketing

Edwardo Martinez and Surfaces 15, the residential remodeling/renovation and commercial company he co-founded two years ago with Greg Twarog in the Chicago area, are committed to standing out in the tile industry. Martinez discovered Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) certification through the online Tile Geeks Facebook group and jumped right into the deep end.

ql-02Martinez, a second-generation installer who’s been a tile setter practically from birth, took the Certified Tile Installer test at Coverings 2016, front and center on the Coverings stage. “I did it backwards,” Martinez said, “No studying, no prep work. I filled a spot last minute. I did it to test my skill and knowledge.” There is a book to study for the certification and while most people take some time to look it over, Martinez jumped at the last minute opportunity. “I was not planning on taking it, but a post on Tile Geeks by (NTCA State Director, Tennessee) Bradford Denny changed the course of history,” he said.

Martinez decided to become certified, “to challenge my personal skill set. I wanted to stand out and be different from any other contractor and show commitment and excellence in my field,” he said. Martinez described certification as “the next best option other than being union, in the non-union world.”

The tile industry lacks a universal, national licensing regulation. Some states don’t have any licensing requirements at all for tile installers. The CTEF certification provides a universal standard, recognized by the tile industry, by which tile companies can prove their merits and consumers can find reliable, skilled installers.

ql-01In addition to these benefits, Martinez points out, “[certification] has made making new networking relationships a lot easier.” Becoming certified has also provided Martinez with more confidence in his skill set and his status  “as a true professional and industry leader.” With certification in hand, Martinez has the justification for charging more for his services, because it sets him apart from the norm. According to Martinez, “By being certified, we are able to impact the labor trade in a way it has not been done before.” Having grown up in the trade, Martinez has been in the industry for more than twenty years, but still finds great value in being a Certified Tile Installer. Certification is “well worth the investment and makes you a part of a whole new network,” Martinez said.

Editorial Feature: Crack Isolation and Waterproofing

Permeation, crack isolation and how they impact waterproofing choices

edit-01By Dean Moilanen
Director of Architectural Services, Noble Company

I call Las Vegas the Petri dish of waterproofing, because Las Vegas has more hotel rooms (over 160K) than any city in the country.  With demanding, fast-track construction schedules, and streaks of stubborn “wild west” independence, what winds up in shower pans and wet areas sometimes can resemble a lab experiment gone awry.

The demand for luxurious, durable, and safe showers, spas, and wet areas spawned twin challenges to hotel and casino owners. The “durability challenge” forced hotel/casino owners to get creative in their mission to eliminate failing shower pans and wet areas. The “safety challenge” tasked these owners with banishing the threat of microbial growth – aka mold – in stud-wall cavities and other areas of the guest environment.

edit-02A small army of forensic experts, waterproofing consultants, and risk-mitigation attorneys, hired by the hotel owners, turned their attention to the challenges outlined above in 2004-2005. They first focused on movement concerns, and the impact on waterproofing longevity.

It came as no surprise that the areas around the drain, the pan-to-wall plane transition movement joint, and saw-cut, cold joints areas had higher incidences of failure if the waterproof membrane could not tolerate these movement forces.

Membranes meeting high-performance standards to the rescue!

In the end, job site variables, varying levels of installer competence, and independent, third-party product test results were all factored into the solution path: waterproof membranes that met the ANSI A118.12 high-performance standard were less prone to failure in these areas of movement concern. ANSI A118.12 high performance means the membrane and tile can withstand 1/8” of movement before failure of the system. There are products from various manufacturers that meet this requirement. Architects ensured these performance metrics would be maintained by requiring all performance/test data on any product be conducted by independent, third party testing agencies.

edit-03This evolution in specifications for waterproofing/crack isolation is not a closed or proprietary specification solution. There are numerous Division 9 allied-product manufacturers who can supply this type of waterproof membrane. Also, this evolution of high-performance waterproof/crack isolation membranes does not marginalize or discredit waterproof membranes that meet the standard level of 1/16” of movement before failure. These products have offered decades and millions of square feet of successful, waterproofing/crack isolation. With the advent of an objective testing method of ANSI A 118.12 to quantify membrane performance, and with the ever-more-demanding owner/client wanting take every precaution, there is an undeniable move in Division 9 specifications towards referencing this ANSI standard as an objective benchmark of waterproofing/crack isolation performance.


As we touched on earlier in our discussion, permeation, (i.e. steam), has become another important performance metric to take into account when selecting the waterproof membrane for your project. Those of us with a few years in the tile industry will recall when installations consisted of a loose-laid shower pan, floated walls, cement backer-board, and unfortunately – in some areas of the country – green board. Back then there seemed to be a lot fewer concerns or evidence of mold making its way back into stud-wall cavities, or other areas of the home. Houses back in the day were able to breathe, and showers of that time were a lot more utilitarian, as were the attitudes about how much time was spent there.

edit-04Construction methods, shower design and technology, and our own evolving attitudes about the duration and frequency of showering have resulted in a lot more steam in the shower. How much steam?

Well, those same Las Vegas casino/hotel owners who tasked their waterproofing army with finding a solution to movement concerns in waterproofing, also set out to identify the critical path towards stopping vapor migration penetrating areas outside the shower.

Their findings can be distilled down to this: hospitality showers, locker rooms, health clubs, university student gang showers, and hospitals can generate so much steam with the frequent and long nature of these showers that they are in reality mini steam-room environments. The upsurge in mold remediation cases, and situations where steam had migrated into stud-wall cavities and living spaces, was the result of the perfect storm of changing construction methods, which gave us tighter, less breathable buildings and showers. At the same time our culture has been trained to view showering as an experience, an escape, to be savored – not rushed. Consider a resort hotel, with a family of four, and the time they will spend in that shower. It is no wonder that seemingly overnight, there seemed to be a tidal wave of vapor-migration/mold issues. The images scattered throughout this article, courtesy of Charles Nolan, Millers Flooring America, Lafayette, Ind., show the kinds of failures that result from when low permeation waterproofing membranes are not included in steam and wet-area installations.

edit-05Treat steam-room conditions with steam-room engineered products

Again, the solution was – and is – elegantly simple: if you are faced with a waterproofing/vapor-permeation condition that exhibits a steam room level of steam/vapor, specify and install a waterproof membrane that is suitable for steam room applications. In this area, do not waiver. The only membranes to be specified and installed, if you are going to address the mini steam-room conditions noted earlier, are membranes which comply with ASTM E-96. There are more than a few instances in which a tile contractor assumed his favorite shower pan membrane could rise to the occasion of stopping vapor migration, and alas it could not – and it did not – achieve that goal.

In my own travels I have seen a waterproof membrane used on the shower walls in a four-star hotel, and when the walls were peeled back after three-and-a-half years, there was black mold nestled in the stud-wall cavities.

edit-06This solution is also not closed, or proprietary: there are a number of waterproof membranes, available from a variety of manufacturers, that can meet the requirements of ASTM E-96. But at the risk of sounding redundant: INDEPENDENT THIRD PARTY TESTING is the ONLY way one can be assured a product’s claims are legitimate. There are a number of quite reputable manufacturers who rely on their company’s marketing department, or their own in-house tests to suffice. Architects and specification writers may employ language in their documents that requires all testing to be third party ONLY.

The performance requirements of waterproofing in wet areas and showers have become more demanding as construction methods have changed, coupled with lifestyle changes that place more demands on the shower environment and wet areas. There always will be a good/better/best option for waterproofing, crack isolation, and permeation, but in the space provided here we have made note of best practices with regard to ANSI A118.12 and ASTM E-96 and how they provide an effective pathway to superior performance.

Noble Company, founded in 1946, manufactures premium-quality sheet membranes and shower elements for tile installation, including waterproofing membranes, linear drains, niches/benches, pre-slopes, shower bases, adhesives and sealants for the plumbing and tile industries; engineered antifreeze/heat transfer fluids and accessories for heating/cooling and freeze protection for fire sprinkler systems. The company is headquartered in Spring Lake, Mich., with manufacturing facilities there and in Baton Rouge, La.

Thin Tile – September 2016

thin-01DAC, MAPEI, ETM ace USTA installation of Fiandre 5’x10′ porcelain gauged panels

Teamwork transforms challenging project into a grand slam

by Lesley Goddin

The 25’ x 36’ wall of Fiandre 5’ x 10’ porcelain gauged panels in the two-story office building were deftly installed by NTCA Five Star Contractor David Allen Company (DAC) with support from MAPEI and European Tile Masters (ETM).

The 25’ x 36’ wall of Fiandre 5’ x 10’ porcelain gauged panels in the two-story office building were deftly installed by NTCA Five Star Contractor David Allen Company (DAC) with support from MAPEI and European Tile Masters (ETM).

A 63-acre campus in Lake Nona, Fla., Orlando, is home to the U.S. Tennis Association’s (USTA) largest training and player development center. The site, which was formerly a cow pasture, is expected to create more than 150 jobs and will be the new home of the University of Central Florida varsity tennis team. Expected to be complete by the end of this year, this is the USTA’s first outdoor facility, which allows players to train and compete year-round.

The facilities include more than 100 tennis courts for players of different skills levels from from youth tennis team events to national championships for those ages 90 and over. A lodge is planned to accommodate players during training, and a mammoth stadium that can house two simultaneous tennis matches and 1,200 spectators.

The center also includes offices for USTA Player Development, and USTA Community Tennis Division that will relocate from Boca Raton, Fla., and White Plains, N.Y., respectively. The office building houses a tennis pro shop, fitness area, locker rooms, player lounge and cafeteria on the ground floor. The office building is also home to a 25’ x 36’ installation of Fiandre 5’ x 10’ porcelain gauged panels, deftly installed by NTCA Five Star Contractor David Allen Company (DAC) with support from MAPEI and European Tile Masters (ETM). The panels were installed in the ground and second floor of the office building.

DAC used ETM equipment and MAPEI Ultralite S2 mortar to affix the large porcelain panels to the wall.

DAC used ETM equipment and MAPEI Ultralite S2 mortar to affix the large porcelain panels to the wall.

Preparation for this project started when DAC’s superintendant, foreman and lead installer – as well as project manager Cynthia Bendiksby – attended a thin-tile installation training offered by Crossville, with which DAC has a Laminam project starting up this month, Bendiksby said. DAC attendees became familiar with handling and installing the colossal thin porcelain panels, a skill that laid the groundwork for a two-day MAPEI training at the USTA site immediately before installation began. MAPEI regional technical rep Gerald Sloan, and sales reps Dan Costa and Joe Shoemaker were on site to support this training.
“We were assisted by MAPEI and ETM representatives,” Bendiksby said. “We used MAPEI Ultralite S2 and the lifting and setting equipment manufactured by European Tile Masters.” This was a challenging installation, due to the size of the 5’ x 10’ tile panels, said Jim Whitfield, MAPEI technical director. The panels were to be installed vertically up to the third story, finishing 35’ in the air, three panels high.

Previewing the project, DAC’s Bendiksby observed, “Needless to say, there will need to be a ton of practice, from mixing the S2 thinset (which none of my crew have worked with), spreading/keying both the tile and the wall, loading it onto a scissor lift and getting it all done within the shortest timespan possible before it skims over in the 90 degree Florida heat.

Tile and Dens Shield backer board are back-buttered, and ready for the next porcelain panel.

Tile and Dens Shield backer board are back-buttered, and ready for the next porcelain panel.

“Already I am seeing issues with the weight of the panel with three men on a scissor lift and how to get the panel up to that height while mounted on the rack,” she said.

Excellence and ingenuity save the day

Team MAPEI and ETM to the rescue! MAPEI technical rep Sloan, and sales reps Costa and Joe Shoemaker assisted the DAC team in back buttering and notching on the ground. The large mortared Fiandre Marmi Maximum Premium White tiles were then passed up to installers on the scissor lift. From there, the DAC lift crew had to ascend with the rack loaded with tile and mortar and place it on the Dens Shield backer, already troweled with mortar.

But this didn’t happen before some fancy footwork involving the lift. Whitfield suggested 2” x 6” lumber be attached to the front of the scissor lift platform, overhanging to form an extension table on which to set the rake and tile. From there, the plan was to raise the scissor lift straight up, and ease the rack and tile with mortar off the 2” x 6” onto the wall, into the troweled mortar.

Mick Volponi’s Mechanical Lippage Tuning (MLT) System was used to prevent lippage in these enormous tiles.

Mick Volponi’s Mechanical Lippage Tuning (MLT) System was used to prevent lippage in these enormous tiles.

The problem was that there was no 2” x 6” lumber at the site. Ben Szell of ETM – who earned the nickname “MacGyver” by Bendiksby for his ingenious solution on this project – dismantled one of his ETM racks to build a secure aluminum extension that would hang out of the platform and support the tile rack securely.

The DAC crew proclaimed the MAPEI Ultralite S2 mortar “a hit. Everyone liked how creamy it was; how coverage was achieved and the lightweight factor helped with this large heavy tile,” Whitfield said.

Bendiksby added, “The joints were filled with Mapesil Avalanche. Equipment included the European Tile Masters trowel, cutting table, e-grips, sawhorses – and most obviously an electric lift capable of carrying three men plus a 200-pound tile with outrigging. MLT was the leveling system.”

Over the course of the eight days of installations, the team went through a few dry runs, and worked through the issues with tools and the scissor lift.

“But in the end, we really came up with a solid method of installation everyone was comfortable with,” Whitfield said. “Martin [Howard, of DAC] commented to me at the TCNA Handbook meeting, that after a few panels they knew, if they had to do it again, they could complete the project in just a few days.”

The Fiandre tile and DAC’s flawless installation make for a beautiful backdrop.

The Fiandre tile and DAC’s flawless installation make for a beautiful backdrop.

Business Tip – September 2016

bus-rauschWhat’s on your bucket list versus what’s in your bucket

By Steve Rausch, industry consultant

Many folks spend time thinking about, and developing a fantastic “bucket list” about where they want to go on vacations and what they want to see and do. Yet those same folks rarely put this much effort into their business or work life. It doesn’t matter if you are the owner of a company or just an hourly employee, you should be spending some time working on your “business bucket list.” I have several starting suggestions below for you to consider.

There’s nothing wrong with having a “to-do list,” but consider adding a more important list, a “to think about” list. On this ongoing list you record the thoughts, ideas, and concepts you want to think about to help improve what you do in business to earn your living.

What about spending time improving your business skills? If you are the owner of the company, maybe you want to take a course at a local college on modern business management practices. If you’re the office manager, maybe consider a class on improving your business accounting skills. Many of you are installers, obviously, and there are a range of opportunities to improve your knowledge of the products you use daily and the skills you use to install those products. (Editor’s note: Consider attending a NTCA Tile & Stone Workshop or CTEF Educational Program when they roll through your area, an industry conference, take part in a NTCA Webinar or visit NTCA University to brush up on some skills and knowledge. Visit for more information on these opportunities, many of them free.) Knowledge does cost in terms of both your time and sometimes your money, however, the lack of knowledge costs far exceed the costs of staying current in your skills. One of my favorite statements is “IF you believe you don’t have the time to do it right the first time, where will you find the time to go back and fix the problem?”

What about spending time improving your communications skills?  The first key to good communication is to have a consistent way to gather information, knowledge, experiences and then a system that works for you to remember it, store it and have it available so that you can use it. And preparation is the key. I tried using 3” x 5” cards, however, that didn’t give me the ability to efficiently store and recall data. I now use a softcover-bound notebook so I have a permanent record. If you are using a smart phone or laptop, consider trying a program called Evernote (, which not only takes your notes and stores them, but allows you access from multiple locations.

Everything you do somehow is affected by and depends upon proper communications, so plan to spend time weekly improving these skills. People quickly judge you by your spoken or written words; make sure you communicate that you are a person worth spending time with.

Now finally, I want to share four words with you that I learned years ago in a course I took that has returned value to me every single month since I took that class:

Interest. Sharpen your curiosity and your interest in life, work, and people. Those are the big subjects: life, work, and people. What about life? The questions you might have about life and the mysteries of life. What about work? Develop questions about how to improve where you spend so much of your life, earning your living. And finally, what about people and human behavior? This skill will make everything else clear.

Fascination. NOW, go from being interested to being fascinated. Interested people want to know, Does it work? Fascinated people want to know, How does it work? What goes on below the surface? I can see that it works, but what makes it work?  Develop your ability to ask great questions.

Sensitivity. Try to put yourself in someone else’s shoes ( Try to feel what they feel. Try to hurt like they hurt. Have sympathy and compassion. Sensitivity is trying to understand where someone might be at the moment. The reason that they’re angry may not be obvious. Many times when folks lash out at someone, they are really angry at themselves or another situation and it just flows out in the wrong direction. The biggest lesson I’ve learned here is how to prevent this from happening FROM ME towards others.

Knowledge. So we’ve got interest, we’ve got fascination, and we’ve got sensitivity. Here’s one more word: knowledge. You just have to know. Collect knowledge in your journal, from your ongoing education. Fill up your mental and spiritual and emotional bank ( so that it becomes like an unending reservoir to draw from. Then take the time and effort to SHARE your knowledge with others. Consider becoming the trainer who teaches others those same skills you’ve worked so hard to learn.  Maybe even spend a few minutes writing a magazine article about what you’ve learned!

Steve Rausch has been involved in the tile and flooring business for over 30 years and is currently an industry consultant specializing in sales, marketing, and interpreting technical issues in understandable terms. You can contact Steve at [email protected] or 404-281-2218.

Ask the Experts – September 2016

When installing floor tiles, should you tile to the walls or leave a small space for movement and flexibility?

In answer to your question about whether to leave a space where a floor meets a wall – Yes! A gap of approximately 1/4” should be left at all changes in plane (for instance where a floor meets a wall) around the perimeter of the installation. This gap should be present in the underlayment and tile. If no trim will be installed to cover the gap, a “soft joint” can be made with appropriate sealant, or certain trim profiles can be installed to accommodate movement and expansion. This gap should also be left where tile abuts cabinetry, pipes or other permanent fixtures. Any other change in plane such as where a wall meets another wall must also have a soft joint installed to allow for movement and expansion. Also, expansion joints must be properly placed and installed in the tile field depending on the location and size of the installation. Additionally, control joints and saw cut joints in concrete must be honored through the surface of the tile to avoid future cracks in the finished installation. These specifications and the many, many other details related to a successful tile installation can be handled by your qualified contractor and certified labor.

– Mark Heinlein,
NTCA technical trainer/presenter

I have a job we are installing a wet bed on top of concrete and I would like to install an uncoupling membrane on top of the wet bed for crack prevention. My question is, will an uncoupling membrane help to prevent cracks in the concrete from penetrating through to the tile?

There are many products and some installation methods that can help mitigate in-plane cracks from telegraphing to the tile surface.

Manufacturers of uncoupling membranes are best at describing the performance characteristics they warrant their individual products for. If you share with me your geographic location and contact information I can request a technical representative from that company get in direct contact with you, or your preferred uncoupling membrane distributor should be able to put you in touch with a technical representative from the company.

Since it sounds like you are installing a mortar bed, perhaps installing a cleavage membrane to create an unbonded mortar bed system may be an additional solution for you to consider. Details for this type of installation can be found in the Method F111 in the TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation.

– Mark Heinlein,
NTCA technical trainer/presenter

Green Squared Certified® Sustainable Tiles and Tile Installation Materials Qualify for New LEED Credit

leedBuilding design professionals, facility managers and others seeking LEED building certification by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) can now look to certified sustainable ceramic tiles, glass tiles, and tile installation materials to earn the needed credits. To contribute, tiles and related installation materials on a project (mortars, grouts, etc.) must meet the extensive environmental and social responsibility requirements of Green Squared, the ceramic tile industry’s multi-attribute, cradle-to-grave sustainability standard.

Specifically, Green Squared Certified products now qualify to contribute toward a new LEED Pilot Credit offered for using “Certified Multi-attribute Products and Materials.” The credit requires that certification details, including which Green Squared electives were satisfied, are disclosed, and that a product lifecycle assessment (LCA) has been conducted.

The intent of the newly-available credit is “to encourage the use of products and materials for which life-cycle information is available and that have environmentally, economically, and socially preferable life-cycle impacts,” according to USGBC.

To garner a LEED point under this credit, at least 25% by cost of the permanently installed building products on a project must meet a USGBC-approved product sustainability standard, like Green Squared, and have third-party validation to prove it. For Green Squared Certified products, that validation comes from a thorough assessment and certification from any of three international sustainability leaders: UL Environment, NSF International, and SCS Global.

green-squared-certified“USGBC included Green Squared as an approved multi-attribute sustainability standard because the criteria are rigorous and fully in-line with the intent of the new credit,” says Bill Griese, the Director of Standards Development and Sustainability Initiatives for Tile Council of North America (TCNA). “It’s not easy to get on that list. The Committee looks at each standard closely to make sure products that meet them are truly sustainable. The credibility of the LEED program relies on that being a rigorous review and approval process.”

In other words, by scrutinizing sustainability standards and recognizing only those that truly identify sustainable products, this LEED pilot credit makes it easier to build green by providing the criteria from which a specifier can choose products.

“When you see the Green Squared Certified logo you know the product manufacturer has invested in sustainable production,” says Griese. “USGBC recognition underscores that and helps those looking for LEED certification through use of sustainable materials.”

The new pilot credit is available immediately for registration on current LEED v3 and v4 projects and will continue to be available when USGBC transitions exclusively to LEED v4 in October 2016. How much a Green Squared Certified product contributes toward earning this pilot credit depends on the amount of recycled content, closed loop manufacturing waste reclamation, and/or regional raw materials used to produce the product.

Griese, who worked with USGBC and other sustainability experts on the new pilot credit further added: “The release of this new Pilot Credit establishes an important precedent for the specification of certified multi-attribute sustainable products for the years ahead. It affords architects and designers the flexibility to select product types based on design preferences and cost, and then to optimize based on sustainability within each relevant selection.”

The new pilot credit was posted to the LEED Pilot Credit Library August 15, and the full text is available at

About Green Squared
Green Squared (ANSI A138.1) is the North American ceramic tile industry’s multi-attribute sustainability standard and certification program for sustainable products, with conformance requirements addressing the environmental and social impacts of tiles and tile installation materials. Products that are third party certified as meeting ANSI A138.1 by an approved Green Squared certification body may bear the Green Squared Certified mark.  For more information, visit

About TCNA
TCNA is a trade association representing manufacturers of ceramic tile, tile installation materials, tile equipment, raw materials, and other tile-related products. Established in 1945 as the Tile Council of America (TCA), it became TCNA in 2003, reflecting its membership expansion to all of North America.

The Tile Council is recognized for its leadership role in facilitating the development of North American and international industry quality standards to benefit tile consumers. Additionally, TCNA regularly conducts independent research and product testing, works with regulatory, trade, and other government agencies, offers professional training, and publishes industry-consensus guidelines and standards, economic reports, and promotional literature. For more information, visit

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