September 2, 2015

MIA releases new “From the Quarry to the Kitchen” Video

The Marble Institute of America (MIA) recently released the From the Quarry to the Kitchen video. This educational video, presented in an easily-accessible, consumer-friendly format, features all new content and offers a behind-the-scenes look at where natural stone comes from and how it is used. The video is ideal for showroom displays and is perfect for sharing on company websites and social media. It provides “beneficial information on the entire process, from how natural stone is quarried, cut, and installed, to how it adds beauty and value to your home,” said Carol Payto of Mont Granite, where portions of the video were filmed.

From the Quarry to the Kitchen reflects current stone trends and highlights natural stone’s availability and affordability. “Consumers are always interested in learning where their natural stone comes from,” added Stephanie Guilfoyle, MIA Controller and Office Manager.  “It is fascinating for them to see the journey each stone takes before becoming part of their home.”

From the Quarry to the Kitchen is available for purchase through the MIA Bookstore and is available to non-members. MIA members receive preferred pricing and can order customized versions that feature their company logo as well as an encoded social media file. For more information on availability and pricing, visit


MIA Honors AKDO as Educator of the Year for CEU Program

The Marble Institute of America (MIA) recently honored AKDO as “CEU Educator of the Year” for presenting the most MIA CEU classes in 2014. 19 speakers from the Bridgeport, CT, company presented 61 classes, with a total of 747 attendees. CEU class topics included:

·         Natural Stone 101: Everything You Need to Know about the World’s Oldest Building Material

·         Natural Stone & Green Design

·         Marble Use in the Kitchen

·         Stone Care: What You Should Know

MIA's Sarah Gregg presents a certificate to Diane Hayden, AKDO's showroom supervisor. AKDO was named MIA's CEU Educator of the Year for 2014.

MIA’s Sarah Gregg presents a certificate to Diane Hayden, AKDO’s showroom supervisor. AKDO was named MIA’s CEU Educator of the Year for 2014.

MIA CEU classes are designed for architects, designers, and construction professionals to gain continuing education credits to satisfy yearly requirements set by associations including AIA, IDCEC, LACES, NKBA, and GBCI.

Robert Bacon (Daltile), chair of MIA’s CEU Education Committee, said: “Congratulations to AKDO for leading the continuing education charge in 2014. In fully embracing MIA’s CEU program, AKDO has illustrated a true understanding of the mutual benefits available through this program.”

Diane Hayden, AKDO’s showroom supervisor, stated: “AKDO strives to be a go-to source for information about natural stone, and partnering with MIA helps us accomplish our goals. It’s exciting to work with MIA. There is a constant flow of new information and research that benefits our entire industry, and AKDO is grateful for that.”

MIA’s CEU program benefits the natural stone industry as well as the architecture, design, and construction communities. “The general goal is to help these professionals become more knowledgeable on stone and its uses for building and design,” said Sarah Gregg, MIA CEU Administrator. “They become better equipped to answer consumer questions regarding stone. The CEU class attendees are more likely to promote and specify stone for future installations.” Bacon agrees: “Promoting the proper use of genuine stone in construction projects is vital for the continued success of the stone industry.”

Hayden spoke highly about the benefits of joining the MIA CEU speaker’s bureau: “Participating in the speaker’s bureau has resulted in stronger relationships with the designers, architects, and industry professionals we work with day-to-day, because they know we can help with their stone questions.”

For more information about MIA’s CEU program, and to learn how to join the speaker’s bureau or schedule a presentation, please visit


About MIA:

The Marble Institute of America (MIA) has served as the authoritative source of information on standards of natural stone workmanship and practice and the application of natural stone products for 70 years. Membership in the association is worldwide and includes over 1,700 natural stone producers, exporters/importers, distributors/wholesalers, fabricators, finishers, installers, and industry suppliers in 55 countries committed to the highest standards of workmanship and ethics. MIA offers an industry accreditation program for fabricators and installers, markets a range of technical publications and consumer pamphlets on natural stone, sponsors business and technical meetings and seminars on industry-related topics, provides educational programming for architects and construction specification professionals, and conducts the annual Pinnacle Awards competitions recognizing outstanding natural stone projects worldwide. More information can be found on the association’s website:


Sustainability Feature – August 2015 “Green Issue”

The January 2015  deadline for HPDs:  did we survive?

bill_grieseBy Bill Griese, LEED AP BD+C, Standards and Green Initiative manager, Tile Council of North America

Do you remember the panic over Y2K? It was seemingly all anyone could talk about toward the close of 1999. At the stroke of midnight on December 31st, it was believed the year 2000 would be indistinguishable from 1900, causing all computers to crash and creating financial and infrastructural chaos.

A Y2K-like scare gripped the manufacturing community near the end of 2014. At least 26 of the largest architectural firms in the U.S. mandated manufacturers supply HPDs (Health Product Declarations) for all building products by January 1, 2015. Stated consequences for failing to meet the deadline ranged from pursuit of alternative product options to complete deletion from product catalogs.

Some building product manufacturers, including a few in the tile industry, met the January 1 deadline for HPDs, but many didn’t. And yet, as with Y2K, everyone is doing just fine.


So, what is happening with HPDs?

HPDs, which involve building product disclosure of chemical ingredients and associated risks and hazards, are still very much a part of the overall green building conversation and continue to be heavily supported within the architectural community. In fact, today there are seemingly more inquiries about human health ramifications of products than there are about environmental ramifications. Nevertheless, since the January 1 “deadline” has come and gone, the urgency for HPDs has relaxed to a certain extent. This can be attributed to three main factors: delayed implementation of LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Version 4, the as-yet unreleased Version 2 of the HPD Open Standard, and the lingering controversy surrounding HPDs in general.


There are many initiatives driving the adoption of HPDs, but the biggest is arguably USGBC’s (US Green Building Council) LEED. When LEED Version 4 was released in late 2013, it was announced that “points” would be awarded toward certification for the use of products with HPDs in LEED building projects. The 60,000-plus registered LEED projects and 20,000-plus certified LEED projects, along with LEED’s substantial influence in the green building marketplace, thrust HPDs into the spotlight. However, after the release of LEED Version 4, it was announced that projects could be registered in accordance with older versions of LEED through most of 2016. As a result, according to a USGBC presentation given at a Chemicals Summit in April 2015, there have been just 18 projects certified to LEED Version 4, only one of which claimed HPD-related points toward certification.

Version 2, HPD Open Standard

Another factor slowing the pace of architectural adoption of HPDs has been the delayed release of Version 2 of the HPD Open Standard, the document that defines the requirements and chemical cutoff thresholds for manufacturers to follow when creating HPDs. Version 2 will contain some new and several modified requirements for HPDs, and many manufacturers have elected to wait for its release before issuing HPDs for their products.

Material contents vs. end-user exposure

Finally, even with widespread architectural demand, some remain reluctant to accommodate HPDs. There is an ongoing debate over material content vs. end-user exposure, and manufacturers and scientists alike agree that pure chemical ingredient reporting can be misleading, especially when chemicals are encapsulated or are only one component of a harmless compound.

Even though their adoption has been delayed, chances are good that HPDs are here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future. Organizations like USGBC have invested substantial time and effort in establishing provisions for HPDs in building project specifications. USGBC will require the use of LEED Version 4 exclusively beginning in October 2016, and many have predicted that this will generate more demand for HPDs. Additionally, the HPD discussion will likely be reinvigorated when Version 2 of the HPD Open Standard is released. And finally, manufacturers recognize the general rise in demand for material health transparency and are working toward consensus on HPD solutions that are technically correct and provide relevant information.

What’s next for the tile industry?

TCNA and its members are well versed in LEED Version 4’s HPD-related requirements and can provide education and project solutions in preparation for increased demands as 2016 approaches. Additionally, TCNA has been in communication with the HPD Collaborative, the organization responsible for developing the HPD Open Standard, and it is expected that special considerations will soon be given to certain building materials, including some ceramics, recognizing them as inherently inert with no assumed health risks. And because ceramic tiles are made from natural ingredients that are fused together to form a homogenous and inert product, the ceramic tile industry can readily provide HPDs to satisfy a variety of project requirements.

Did we survive the January 1, 2015 deadline “crisis”? Not only did we survive, it is expected that the tile industry will remain in good position as health-related green building initiatives such as HPDs evolve, with support from various parties working to increase awareness and ensure HPDs accurately address ceramic tile.

Tech Talk – August 2015 “Green Issue”


Encountering steel trowel-finished concrete floors that do not have a fine broom finish

lynchBy Tom D. Lynch, CSI

Every thin-set, applied-tile installation method over concrete substrates found in the TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation calls for floors to “have a steel trowel and fine broom finish free of curing compounds.” When encountering floors that do not meet this criteria, a myriad of unanswered questions immediately arises:

What process should be used to scarify the floor to make it comparable to a fine broom finish, e.g. acid etching, grinding, or shot blasting? Is there an industry-acceptable alternative to a fine broom finish? If so, what is it? There is also the issue of possible residue left from curing compounds, which the concrete contractor may or may not admit to using. Lastly, who is to pay for prepping the surface to comply with the architect’s specifications and the TCNA Handbook?

(Ed. note: NTCA, in conjunction with ASCC, NWFA and FCICA issued a joint position statement: Division 3 versus Division 9 Floor Flatness Tolerances, Position Statement #6. This statement addresses some of the questions raised in this story. It is contained in the 2015/2106 NTCA Reference Manual, which can be ordered at

Good questions all, but why do floors scheduled to receive ceramic tile hardly ever have a fine broom finish in the first place? There are many possible answers to this question. The fine broom finish requirement appears in the 09300 tile specifications, but one must usually refer to the selected TCNA method of installation to see it spelled out in writing. Concrete contractors most likely do not read the tile specs when bidding a job and they rarely own a TCNA Handbook. Many times room finish schedules calling for vinyl composition tile or carpet that do not need fine broom finishes may get upgraded to ceramic tile long after the concrete has been poured. Another scenario might be that slabs get poured in large open spaces long before interior walls get erected, so mapping out areas that are to receive tile becomes difficult and time consuming for the concrete contractor. No matter what the reasons, a fine broom finish must be applied to freshly-poured concrete and that means it is/was the responsibility of the concrete finisher to apply; not the tile contractor.

CSP-kitLet’s get back to the issue of what can be done to make a smooth steel-troweled finished slab acceptable to receive tile. I have a suggestion. The International Concrete Repair Institute (ICRI) has developed a Concrete Surface Profile (CSP) system to shed some light on concrete surface preparations. The CSP “kit” contains a set of nine samples of different degrees of scarification that can be obtained by shot blasting concrete floors.

shotblastingmachineShot blasting machines can utilize different-sized steel shot that get blasted onto concrete floors under varying degrees of force for different lengths of time to develop a desired profile.

Slab texture is of paramount importance to enhance good bond performance for thin-set mortars and my experience has shown that a CSP-3 profile closely resembles the texture that a fine broom finish on freshly poured concrete will provide. As an added benefit, shot blasting can remove curing compound residues that might be present on the surface of the concrete.

Concrete Surface Profiles are currently being used to prepare concrete floors for many types of floor finishes such as trowel applied epoxy resins. These CSP profile ratings are something that can be architecturally specified, so maybe it is time to get our industry involved and officially include them in thinset-applied ceramic tile installations. It would definitely reduce installation failures, and that is really what this article is all about!


Tom D. Lynch is an experienced and accomplished technical consultant to the ceramic and stone tile industry. Honored to be one of the first Recognized Industry Consultants by the NTCA, Lynch now has 53 years of experience from which to draw. He can be reached at 181 Sunnyside Park Road, Jefferson, NC 28640 or by phone at 336-877-6951. Website is Email at [email protected]

Qualified Labor – August 2015 “Green Issue”

1_CTI_20x20ACT certification enriches Neuse superintendent’s abilities

Juan Sauceda is the first Neuse Tile Service installer to obtain ACT credentials

By Terryn Rutford, Social Structure Marketing


Juan Sauceda recently completed his Advanced Certified Tile Installer (ACT) certification in Membranes and Shower Receptors. He is one of many Neuse Tile Service installers to have successfully completed the Certified Tile Installer (CTI) exam over the last decade, but the first to achieve ACT certification. “I felt like it was an opportunity,” Sauceda said. “The company didn’t have anybody with that label, and they just wanted to go for it.”

1-QL-neusetilePaige Smith, vice president, said Neuse ( sends installers to National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) and Certified Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) education programs because, “It distinguishes us from the many competitors we have in the market. It’s also a great opportunity as [the installers] study for the tests to refresh what they already know, and it gives them pride in what they do.”

As Neuse Tile’s superintendent and installer for over 13 years, Sauceda took the ACT exam in order to “enrich [his] abilities.” Sauceda said, “When you’re in the field, sometimes you learn on your own; there are very few opportunities to see other points of view. [Taking the test] is a good way to see other ways to get things done. Different techniques. You just expand your knowledge.”

Sauceda became a CTI about eight years ago and has continued to learn and improve over the last decade. Becoming a CTI and ACT helped Sauceda learn different tile setting techniques that literally cut the time in half it that it took him to do it before.

Neuse Tile Service is a NTCA Five Star Contractor based in Youngsville, N.C., from where past NTCA president Nyle Wadford hails. The company uses the CTI and ACT credentials everywhere it possibly can. Smith said, “We try to promote any of the programs that are in our area through our social media, anything that we attend and any offerings we want our customers to know are available for continuing education.” Smith pointed out that paying attention to continuing education distinguishes Neuse Tile as a company that cares about its customers and their employees, which hopefully gives them a leg up over the competition.

Business Tip – August 2015 “Green Issue”


Creating a sustainable culture for your business


By Wally Adamchik, president FireStarter Speaking and Consulting



A few years ago I was working with a large client to help plan their annual meeting. There would be over 1,000 attendees with mostly internal speakers who had worked to create the content.

One of the groups was assigned the topic of sustainability. After several months of planning and development, the steering committee met for a dry run. We were all caught off guard when the sustainability group presented sustainability in the context of people. They argued that if the company didn’t work hard to create a great culture that attracted and retained the best people it would not endure. It was hard to disagree. And here we are looking at sustainability in this issue so let’s take a closer look at sustainability from a people perspective.

In construction, sustainability starts with design. That’s no different with the people side of your business. Your firm has a distinct culture. Does that culture stem from a dedicated and deliberate effort or is it the result of inattention and lack of effort? Either option is a choice. Best-in-class firms make the choice to invest in their culture and make it a place people want to work.

With culture established, we now look to people. To create a sustainable culture where people stay for the long term you must be very intentional and disciplined in selection. The U.S. Marines are known for creating Marines from civilians. The better-kept secret is their ability in the selection process – during recruiting – to select people who actually want to be Marines. It is far easier to make a Marine from someone who wants to be a Marine than from someone who doesn’t want to be one.

We know construction is not a glamour industry, but that doesn’t mean we have to hire anyone who can fog a mirror. It’s not easy to find top-tier people, but it’s worth the effort. Maybe you find people in the second tier and work to make them top tier. Do you know the characteristics of the people who succeed in your company? Identify those traits and then find candidates who have them. What about referrals? Internal referrals from current employees are the best way to find qualified employees. Do you have a real, robust, and not cheap referral program?

Creating top-tier talent requires training and leadership. You cannot expect people to perform if they have not been trained correctly. In fact, inadequate training contributes to high turnover as people leave because they don’t feel like they can do the job correctly. All the training in the world though will not create great employees. It is a foundation to build on, but leadership is required to give people a reason to lean in and engage with their heart, as well as with their hands.

Another facet of sustainability is disposal. I hate to say it but sometimes we do need to get people off our team. Do you do this with dignity and respect or with an email on Friday afternoon? I know what you think you do but we have all gotten this wrong at least once in our life. The important part here is not that a former employee feels treated fairly and respectfully after being dismissed. The important part is that current employees see how you treat people and will not have the “they are going to wrong me like that someday too” feeling. There are many examples of firms that have downsized and morale increased because of the process they used and the way they involved people along the way. What is your process for insuring people walk out the door with their dignity?

In ecology, sustainability is about how biological systems remain healthy and productive. Achieving sustainability will enable the Earth to continue supporting human life. In business, a bigger view of sustainability, beyond products and processes, is to include people who will enable your firm to continue supporting profitable operations.


NTCA has partnered with Wally Adamchik to bring his interactive virtual training system at 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 – August 2015 “Green Issue”


I was referred to you through my tile supplier. I am a general contractor and I would like to ask you a question regarding a former project of mine.

I took on a tile job for a person in an electric wheelchair. The chair weighs several hundred pounds (plus the amount of the person, probably 170 lbs-180 lbs). Before I started, the old tile in her hall, kitchen and entryway had broken, resulting in loose tiles. She had told me that her wheelchair was the cause of the damage. Those tiles were 12” x 12”, installed long ago. She wanted new tile installed throughout the house. I installed 18” x 18” ceramic tiles. I used flexible thinset, and 1/4” cement board. I staggered the board and used screws (in the correct sequence) as recommended by the manufacturer’s instructions. The joists are 24” center. Expansion joints were used throughout.

I have installed many jobs with these specs in the past without any issue whatsoever. The customer has said some of the tiles have loosened and the grout is cracking. I suspect this is due to the wheelchair (which is, of course, out of my control). I am looking for your opinion if you can share it with me based on this information.


There is no industry method for 1/4” backer over 24” centers. I understand it is done often and if all the stars are aligned and everything done correctly it might work. However, with a rolling wheel load extra precautions would be required. The PSI of a wheel is much greater than normal foot traffic. The deflection between 24” centers is too great. Flexible thinset doesn’t compensate for lack of a supporting structure. You need another layer of plywood at a minimum and I would consider some bridging as well to stabilize the truss/joist.

David M. Gobis CTC CSI, Ceramic Tile Consultant


I’ve been setting tile on and off for the past 11 years, and it wasn’t several years after getting started that I learned about the importance of using expansion joints in tile. That’s thanks to working under Mike Hearn, one of the few Certified Tile Installers in Atlanta, Ga.

I’d like to get your opinion on one project. I just moved to Guayaquil, Ecuador with my wife to be closer to her family. My father-in-law is in the final stages of building a house here where all the flooring and bathrooms are tile. They are nearly finished installing 24” x 24” rectified porcelain upstairs and 24” x 24” non-rectified porcelain downstairs. Each level is approximately 1000 s.f. and is tiled continuously throughout the entire floor.

On the rectified tile, the joint looks like maybe 1/32” and on the non-rectified it looks like about 1/16”. I emphasized to my father-in-law on several occasions the importance of expansion joints.  I’ve even pointed out how you can see them used here in malls and many commercial applications.  Well, they did not use any – and they grouted in hard around the perimeter.

thermal-heatThe subfloor is concrete and the walls are concrete as well. The first thing he said when I walked in was that he checked on it, and because here the temperature variations are minimal, there was no need for expansion joints. This is frustrating because they could have at least left a gap around the perimeter without any aesthetic change since it will be covered by base.

So I did some research on temperature variations here in Guayaquil. The average monthly temperature variation is only 5 degrees Fahrenheit, that’s the difference between the lowest average monthly temperature and the highest average monthly temperature. The average daily variation, and also the max, from day to night is 16 degrees Fahrenheit.

The only thing I could think to do about it now would be to cut out expansion joints around the perimeter of the rooms, but I’d like to get your opinion before I confront my father-in-law.

I know in the end this is his problem, but having worked in the industry I hate to see so much money invested into projects that will likely fail prematurely.


I had an argument like this on a project in Hawaii. They said the other projects had been in more than 20 years with no problems and chose to not use soft joints. A few years later one of those projects lost bond.

Temperate climates are helpful, but:

• Soils do move

• Tile gains size long term with moisture absorption from the slab, and cleaning.

• Sun exposure creates unequal thermal mass.

• Large tile has a fraction of the grout joints smaller tile does. Compression strength of grout is, maybe 1,500 lbs to 3,000 lbs. Compression strength of tile, laterally, is 25,000 lbs – 30,000 lbs. Big tile, fewer sacrificial grout joints. My experience is if you have a 12” x 12” and a 24” x 24” in the same installation, like a border, the 24” will go first. I see this a lot on malls where they have a fair amount of footage to observe.

• Small joints or butt joints have nearly no buffer of sacrificial grout.

Based on temperature range alone, this is likely not a problem. But, everything in a building moves and it all moves at different rates. My opinion would be this is low risk – not no risk – unless it is wet soil and sunny, then raise it a few notches. The picture attached shows the different temperature early in the morning on a floor that received sun exposure (yellow) and the shaded area (purple).

I have been down to Mexico a half dozen times in recent years in the Southern part of the country for bond loss due to expansion issues.

– David M. Gobis CTC CSI, Ceramic Tile Consultant

Thin Tile – July 2015

mapei_sponsorRetail rebirth in Ottawa

Architects and technicians use Neolith large thin tile to transform outdated department store into a sophisticated Nordstrom retail location

1-thin-0715Elegant. Light. Warm. When thinking of the Nordstrom brand, very specific descriptors emerge that evoke the chic, high-end style of the upscale retailer. Following a 2012 announcement that the former Sears location at Ottawa’s Rideau Centre would be reinvented as Nordstrom to anchor the $360 million modernization and expansion of the center, a great deal of care was taken to select architects, technicians and consultants that understood the brand, the vision and the goal. As the number-one retail design firm in the world – designing more than 150 new and remodeled Nordstrom stores in North America – Seattle-based architecture firm Callison was selected for the project in this high-traffic location in the heart of Canada’s capital.

2-thin-0715Callison ( began planning, digging deep into the design process and creating what would be an epic, dramatic revamp of 14,000 sq. ft. of dreary, worn exterior and interior storefronts. The completed elevations were sleek and specific, designed with large thin tile in a bright, gleaming white with subtle polished accents that would never stain, fade or discolor. The exterior façade would need to overcome the often harsh weather conditions in Ottawa, where temperatures of -20 degrees Celsius are common. An installation system that held tile firmly in place without grout lines was another necessity to carry out the team’s full vision. Callison realized this was a tall order.


With several key “must-haves” for the project, Callison began looking into potential solutions that would not sacrifice the design details that were so important to the overall aesthetic. After looking at a variety of surfacing materials, Callison was drawn to Neolith by TheSize (, a sintered compact surfacing product – that utilizes clays and other components – already used frequently in Europe for commercial façades. The product had a reputation for being incredibly durable and resistant to scratching, fading, staining and extreme temperatures. After meeting with Travis Conrad, architectural consultant for Neolith (, Callison’s team was feeling confident for the first time that their vision might become reality.

4-thin-0715“As architects, we definitely thought about design and the aesthetics of the project foremost, but design visions don’t often link directly to a functional solution, especially when looking at a high-traffic commercial project like the Nordstrom at Rideau Centre,” said Michael Lee, principal, Callison. “The product addressed our concerns from a design perspective – an array of tile colors to create patterns of horizontal movement, limited grout lines, varying panel heights and lengths to further reinforce the random nature of the façade, allowing for lasting warm colors – but also from a functional perspective in terms of durability.”

Neolith’s unique manufacturing process, which uses high pressure and high temperature to create a compact, nonporous surface, enables the product to withstand harsh conditions and emerge unscathed. A key concern for this project related to weather, as many compact materials are unable to withstand the coefficient of linear expansion in Ottawa, or the extreme fluctuations in temperature. Neolith’s design and use of 6”, 8” and 18” wide 6mm slabs in 5’ and 10’ lengths – in tandem with the unique Ceramitex mechanical installation system – provided a secure way to fasten the product without fear of cracking or splintering.

5-thin-0715Neolith and the accompanying installation system also provided several design benefits to the project. The exterior storefront has several sharp angles and edges, as result of the façade being raised away from the main structure. Using Neolith, a chamfer miter is possible, allowing for seamless L-shaped pieces for cladding the outside corners. This simplifies installation, improves overall aesthetic and avoids the use of unsightly vertical lines where sealing caulk often gets dirty and discolored. This project utilized both 90- and 135-degree miters, giving the building an effortlessly seamless appearance installed by Ontario Panelization, based in London, Ontario, Canada.

Aside from a clean, smooth look, the architects were also searching for specific colors. To contrast with the concrete and stone buildings surrounding the area, the façade was to be mostly bright white in matte and polished finishes with tan and grey accents. The team selected the pure Arctic White color in a satin finish as the base and accented that with scattered tiles of Barro, Perla and Arena in satin and polished finishes to round out the color scheme, supplied by Innovation Surfaces in Santa Ana, Calif. Neolith’s portfolio of nearly 50 colors and four finishes gave the team a vast amount of aesthetic freedom to get the design just right.

“Once my team [at Neolith] learned about the design goals and confirmed that functionality wouldn’t be an issue, you could see the architect team breathe a complete sigh of relief,” said Travis Conrad, architectural consultant, TheSize Surfaces. “We were happy to be able to offer a product and system that evenly matched the high-end quality of the Rideau Centre, Nordstrom and Callison, and let the architectural team focus on crafting a truly beautiful space.”

Qualified Labor – July 2015 – Collins Tile and Stone

Steve Keator, Collins Tile and Stone

CTI supports best practices; boosts client trust, installer confidence and marketability

1_CTI_20x20By Terryn Rutford, Social Structure Marketing

Steve Keator, director of Field Operations for Collins Tile and Stone in Ashburn, Va., can’t say enough about the value of being a Certified Tile Installer (CTI) affords his customers.

steve_keator“As a CTI, the work that I produce satisfies the greatest expectations and quality of work within the industry,” said Keator. “We establish trust and confidence with our clients when they know that our skilled CTIs are capable of performing all work using industry best practices and techniques resulting in superior quality and lasting installations.”

Having CTIs on staff makes Keator’s job easier. “I am responsible for maintaining a level of quality control over the tile installations by making sure that industry best practices and techniques are performed within each kitchen and bathroom remodeling project,” he said. “This task is easier for me because all of our tile mechanics are CTI certified.”

collins_logoCollins Tile and Stone leverages the CTI credentials of its employees in all its marketing. “We promote CTI credentials and post the CTI logo throughout our marketing materials, including our website, social media outlets (FB, Houzz, Pinterest), Angie’s List, and in the email signature of all employees,” Keator said. The company also designates that it is a company that employs CTIs on each business card.

“We promote the CTI logo on our company vehicles as well,” Keator said. “In addition, we cite CTI certification of our installers on every proposal and contract we provide to our clients to establish the high level of expertise of our tile installers.”

Keator took the CTI evaluation in November 2010 at Daltile in Richmond, Va. He took the written test in person and found finishing the hands-on portion in the allotted six hours to be the hardest part. Keator was grateful for his existing level of technical knowledge and the written test reinforced the necessity of industry methods and standards for producing top-quality installations.

And although the CTI evaluation is not a training course, Keator said, “[I] gained a greater understanding of the necessity of pre-sloping and proper weep hole protection, proper mud pan installation, different types of joist systems, and substrates and their requirements.”

After installing tile for five years, Keator, pursued CTI certification to advance his education and to increase his skills as a tile tradesman. All of this prepared him for a supervisory position.

Why should someone become a CTI? “Being a CTI sets me apart from other tile mechanics in the industry,” Keator said. “As a CTI, my skill level is proven and I know I am capable of building quality tile installations that will last. This has helped me to personally take pride in my work, as well as to build my career from an installer to a supervisor. I am more marketable with these [proven] skills and provide value to every job I complete.”

In addition to increasing the marketability of Keator and his employing company, he said that being a CTI has instilled an increased level of confidence in his installers and himself. “I am using industry best practices and techniques,” he said. “The fact that our company employs CTIs equates to a highly skilled [and] educated workforce.”

Keator has advice for installers thinking about becoming a CTI: be prepared. “Although the [written exam] was open book, I had to be fully prepared and well versed in tile installation technique and knowledge,” he said. Since “the manuals are rather large and comprehensive, it was imperative that I came prepared for the exam and was familiar with the information in order to locate references quickly, as needed, throughout the test.”

Tech Talk – July 2015

TEC-sponsorBuilding the perfect shower

By Lesley Goddin

Installing showers are one of the most frequent jobs encountered by a tile setter – and one of the most challenging. Managing water issues imparts another dimension to the USUAL demands of tile installation projects. In this edition of Tech Talk, we connect with some tile contractors who are experts at shower installations to learn about pitfalls of these projects and how to overcome them with beautiful results.

Top challenges

John Cox, owner of NTCA Five Star Contractor company Cox Tile in San Antonio, Texas, noted that logistics – especially getting materials to higher floors – take some planning. “Most residences do not have elevators, so scaffolding and ladders are the only means of getting materials to the bathroom.”

1-tt-0715Weather also is a contender for “muddying up” bathroom installs. That’s because to achieve the stunning bathroom effects it produces, Cox Tile muds its walls using the one-coat method, which is made all the more difficult when weather conditions are wet and humidity is high.

Both Cox and Buck Collins of Five Star Contractor Collins Tile and Stone in Ashburn, Va., cite walls that are neither plumb nor square as being problems on the job. Collins says this challenge is exacerbated by today’s use of “large-format tiles, seats and recessed niches,” and attacks the problem by plumbing the walls before rebuilding them. Cox added that his company is “exerting more labor and energy correcting workmanship issues,” such as lack of skilled labor and costs to create a plumb and square canvas on which to install tile. “We have to use a scratch and brown coat to our walls due to the depth when they are out of plumb or out of square,” Cox said.

When working with walls that need flattening, Joe Kerber, owner of Five Star Contractor Kerber Tile, Marble & Stone, Inc. from Shakopee, Minn., said that 1/16” sheetrock furring strips, available at big box home centers, can be used to fur out walls that are not flat or straight. He insisted, “Make sure that the walls you are going to set tile on are flat, not necessarily plumb.”

Kerber also noted that pitch to the drain can be a challenge when working with barrier-free showers. (see Kerber’s By the Book article on curbless showers in this issue.) “Sometimes we have to reframe the floor system to accommodate the correct pitch for the particular room,” he said.

Another issue that comes with shower installs is seats that are prone to leaking, Collins said. To alleviate this problem, Collins uses “pre-formed seats and niches to elevate any potential issues.”

Martin Brookes, owner of Five Star Contractor Heritage Marble & Tile, Inc., in Mill Valley, Calif., shared that his company has discovered that sometimes showers “will be redesigned after bid stage to a steam room without the owners being aware of the significant up charge and design changes to accommodate this scenario.”


Top tips for shower installs

Much of the wisdom around shower installs centers on waterproofing – clearly a key component to any successful shower or steam room project.

Cox recommended that contractors, “Understand and know the value in waterproofing. Especially niches, benches, seats, jambs and window frames. These are long-term problematic areas that do not get treated properly. They show up later down the line and are generally costly problems to correct.” Brookes declared that “Waterproofing the shower enclosure and shower pan is key in longevity of the shower stall. It’s critical to identify ahead of time if you need a trench drain instead of a traditional shower drain. Not every application will allow for the use of a trench drain with a barrier-free walk-in type shower stall. Sometimes the floor will need to be re-engineered to accommodate this application. Steam room applications will require a whole different approach and a different set of specifications to make it fully functional.” And be sure you “have proper pitch to the drain on all horizontal surfaces,” Kerber said.


Brookes confirmed, “The importance of waterproofing all niches and penetrations should be understood. All mounted accessories should be considered, and appropriate backing installed before preparation work begins. Follow the rules and understand the waterproofing requirements and your installation will survive for many years to come.” Brookes underscored the importance of reading and clearly understanding TCNA standards, as well.

Kerber pointed out, “Use correct installation procedures for your waterproofing. Remember, it’s not just waterproofing, its water management.” He also emphasized that contractors “get a good layout of the tile selections on all the walls, whether it is only two or as many as nine – as is the case of a shower we are working on right now. Sometimes this process takes time, practice, patience, and wisdom.” Kerber stressed using mortar or thinset to install tile. “Absolutely no acrylic adhesives in a shower,” he said. And use “premium grouts and caulks. No acrylic caulk at the shower floor.”

4-tt-0715Another essential is proper installation of shower pans, Cox said. “Understand that a shower is a working assembly,” he explained. “Pre-slope is critical, folding your corners, wrapping your curbs, and putting the proper corners on where needed. We build ours with bricks or blocks for long term. Also know that any curb built with wood cannot have any fasteners on the top or inside that will lead to water intrusion.”

And above all, before even starting, “Educate the builder and framer on how it affects your labor when they do not pay attention to their quality control,” Cox concluded.