October 10, 2015

Thin Tile – September 2015

SponsoredbyMAPEIThin tile makes maximum impact on Florida homeowner’s accent wall

By Cris Bierschank, MAPEI Technical Services consultant

When a resident of South Florida recently purchased a townhouse, one of the key features he was excited about was vaulted ceilings, which gave his home a more spacious feel. However, this meant that he had a 29’ long wall that met the peak of the roof at 17’ with a diminishing slope down to 10’. His dilemma? What to do with this large, blank canvas.

He wanted a finished covering that would really make an impact on this 400 sq. ft. of wall. The capability of the new, thin-bodied porcelain tiles to deliver a bold statement was just what he was after. The variety of patterns are nearly limitless with new printing and finishing techniques that mimic virtually any surface found in nature – even metallic looks.


Since his décor would include a lot of copper, metal and wood pieces, he decided on a more industrial look and chose Crossville’s Laminam porcelain Oxide series (Nero) in 3’ x 10’ thin slabs, to be set in a horizontal brick pattern.

0915-thin2The installation crew from Bryant Tile and Marble, Inc., West Palm Beach, Fla., did a superior, professional job. The homeowner chose them because they had been trained by Crossville for large thin porcelain tile (LTPT) installations. Since these thin-body large format tiles are relatively new to the marketplace, many consumers are not aware of all of the steps required to ensure that a tile of that size is flat and aligned with the adjoining tiles.

A 24” x 24” tile used to be considered to be a huge tile, but it would take approximately 100 of these tiles to set a 400-sq. ft. wall compared to only 13 or 14 3’ x 10’ pieces.

There’s very little room for making adjustments for a wall with many high or low spots when working with tiles of this size and thinness. Depending on the type of substrate the installer is working with – in this case painted drywall with patching compound residue left on the surface – it is vital to provide a surface that the mortar can bond and grab to both chemically and mechanically. MAPEI’s ECO Prim Grip, a synthetic resin-based primer with bond-promoting silica aggregates suspended in a dispersion, was the perfect primer for the wall.

When tile installation began, it was apparent how important the ledger board row of tiles is in ensuring a true reference point for installing the rest of the tiles. It gives an aesthetically pleasing finish to the entire project. It was also important that the MAPEI Ultralite S2 Mortar was troweled on the entire surface, both the wall and tile, to maximize the contact from the back of the tile to the substrate without any voids under these large tiles.

Even something that might seem simple, such as cutting in an electrical outlet or fitting each tile to a sloped ceiling that started at 17’ high and ended at 10’, takes great expertise when working with LTPT. All accommodations had to be figured into the overall 50% offset brick pattern, while maintaining consistent grout joint lines and ensuring no lippage from tile to tile while setting.

Since a major feature of these tiles is a more seamless look, the installers created a minimal joint size (1/16”). Filling the grout joints with MAPEI’s Flexcolor CQ (in Cocoa) gave the project a polished look, tying all of the tiles together.

The homeowner has received many compliments from friends about his “bold design choice,” and he feels that he has increased the appeal and potential resale value of his home. “But I don’t plan to move anytime soon!” he said.

Key factors for LTPT installation

Innovations in lightweight, large thin porcelain tile technology have changed the face of the construction industry—significantly reducing the overall dead load weight of a building without compromising strength and durability. It is important to remember that LTPT is relatively new to the marketplace, being markedly different than standard body tiles due both to the larger format – up to 3’ x 10’ (1M x 3M) – and decreased thicknesses of 1/8” to 1/4” (3mm to 6mm). This has required all key players in the installation process to re-think how to install these tiles – from the surface preparation to mortar selection, tools and application method.

0915-thin3Due to reduced tile thickness and increased size, it is critical to establish a baseline when installing these tiles on the floor. Using the TCNA service rating (based on the ASTM C627; Robinson test method), a series of baselines, referred to as “service requirements,” have been established and published in the most current TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation. The categories are: Extra Heavy; Heavy; Moderate; Light; and Residential. Always consult the LTPT manufacturer for the service rating, specific area of use and limitations prior to installation.

In addition to establishing the proper tile to be used according to the service requirement, there are four key areas to address during installation:

1. Surface preparation

The substrate should have a permissible variation of no more than 1/8” in 10’ (3 mm in 3,05 m) from the required plane; nor more than 1/16” in 24” (2 mm in 60 cm) measured from high points on the surface with a straight edge. Floor flatness is best achieved using a self-leveling underlayment and primer prior to tile placement.

2. Proper mortar selection

Once a flat surface has been achieved, it is important to choose a mortar that will give maximum coverage to both the back of the tile and the substrate, thus ensuring a strong bond that can perform to the service rating that has been designated for the installation, e.g., residential.

MAPEI supplies a number of mortars that achieve the level of coverage performance necessary for LTPT, including the Granirapid® System, the Kerabond/Keralastic™ System, the Kerabond T/Keralastic™ System, Ultraflex ™ LFT™ Rapid, Ultraflex LFT, Ultraflex RS, Ultralite™ Mortar.

The company’s newest offering, Ultralite S2 Thin Tile Mortar (ISO 13007 classification C2ES2P2) is the first mortar specifically designed to install thin tile, solving many of the challenges associated with large-format thin porcelain tile. Ultralite S2 takes this installation technology to the next level through its superior transfer properties, extended open time and wet-out characteristics – optimizing coverage.

3. Proper trowel selection

It is important to use a trowel configuration that maximizes mortar coverage between the substrate and the tile, minimizing air pockets and voids. Often, this means using a non-traditional Euro Notch or slant notch trowel to achieve maximum coverage.

4. Use of a lippage control system

Using a mechanical system, with either straps or wedges, enables the installer to apply equal pressure on the tile, pulling it down into the mortar and locking the entire system together. Once the mortar has dried sufficiently – typically 24 hours – the lippage control system can be removed. This installation system provides improved contact between the tile and substrate while reducing the chances of lippage.


Tech Talk – September 2015


NTCA Reference Manual:
General statements on mold, moisture emissions

Pools, showers, wet areas and tubs, by their very nature, are at high risk for both mold and moisture emissions. The NTCA Reference Manual addresses these issues in Chapter 7 with General Statements on both Mold and Moisture Emissions. If you are working in bathrooms, pools, steam showers or wet areas, familiarize yourself with these recommendations. For more helpful information, obtain a copy of the NTCA Reference Manual. Not a member? Visit the NTCA Store at www.tile-assn.com and purchase one today.

General Statement on Mold

Mold is one of the biggest enemies in our homes today. Molds are simple microscopic organisms called “Fungi” that are found in the environment. The majority of molds live in plant or animal matter and are necessary for life on earth. Mold is, in fact, the method by which nature cleans up unwanted matter on earth. Mold has existed since the earth was formed. It is only now, due to our improved tighter construction methods, that moisture is being trapped in our homes, causing mold growth problems. It is not necessary to spend time or money to identify the specific type of mold present; most customers consider all molds bad.

There are 3 basic categories of mold that are of interest to the ceramic tile industry:

1. Superficial, which is a maintenance issue.

2. Chronic existing mold, which requires professional mold remediation help, and

3. Potential mold, which is the main area of our concern. Preventing moisture intrusion will prohibit mold growth in the area of the tile installation. Mold requires 4 elements to grow: Mold Spores, temperature, food source, and moisture. The only requirement in the tile installation that can be controlled is moisture availability. Moisture control is, in fact, mold control.


When you discover existing mold in an installation you must:

1. STOP. DO NOT proceed. Stop all work immediately.

2. Notify all appropriate contractors/owners involved with the job. A mold remediation expert should be hired. The liability of mold or its remediation is not the responsibility of the tile installer.

3. Do not proceed with the job until ALL parties have signed off that the mold situation is addressed properly and that all concerns were satisfied.

4. To prevent mold from reoccurring, all tile assemblies should be installed carefully and correctly, including but not limited to using mold resistant materials. Moisture control products can be utilized to prevent any moisture from penetrating the tile work and possibly re-activating the mold.

tt-mold2General Statement on Moisture Emissions

PURPOSE: The intention of this general statement is to bring to the attention of the tile contractor the problems of moisture emission in certain installations.

Many conventional tile installations have few problems with moisture emission. Ceramic tile typically does not have the same type of problems as wood, carpet, and vinyl when it comes to moisture emissions in as much as the moisture typically does not affect tile installations; however, some other flooring materials either do not allow moisture to pass through them or may be sensitive to moisture and therefore may be adversely affected by moisture. A tile contractor should be careful when installing the following materials over concrete slabs:

• Agglomerate tiles – (cement or resin based)

• Stone tiles

• Setting with epoxy

• Grouting with epoxy

• Non-vitreous tiles with epoxy grout

• Terrazzo tiles

• Efflorescence (cement grouts)

• Organic adhesives

• Concrete tiles

• Crack isolation or waterproof membranes

In these installations, the membrane, setting material and tile or stone manufacturer should be contacted for further instructions and for moisture emission protection requirement.

The tile contractor should bring any issues of the substrate to the general contractor’s attention (or owner, if there is no general contractor). The general contractor, builder, or owner should pay for random Calcium Chloride tests (ASTM F1869-04). The tile contractor/general contractor or tile contractor/owner should agree on who will perform the tests, and what kind of moisture test should be done.

Qualified Labor – September 2015

1_CTI_20x20Cain Curtis, Certified Tile Installer #362

One of the select few in Atlanta

By Lesley Goddin

Cain Curtis, owner of A Tile Experience in Atlanta, has been a tile setter longer than he hasn’t. His dad and uncle were both in the business, so he wound up helping on jobs when he was only 13 or 14. It was natural that he follow in their footsteps.

cain_curtisIn 2011, he joined NTCA. But the year before, in mid-May, he decided to take the Certified Tile Installer exam, administered on site at Traditions in Tile in Buford, Ga., by CTEF’s Scott Carothers.

“At the time, we were in the height of the construction slowdown/recession,” Curtis said. “I was subcontracting for a store; I went through six jobs in a year trying to find work. I started realizing what I didn’t know about my trade. And it came down to someone less qualified than me wanted me to show them how to do it and then pay me peanuts. I wanted to set myself apart.”

Back then, the written exam was administered onsite at the same time as the hands-on portion of the test, and having studied, he breezed through it. “They sent me the book and I read [it],” he said. “There wasn’t a single question that I didn’t know. It was an open book test, with the questions in the exact same order as they appear in the back of the book. It was super easy. I was one of last people done with hands on test, but first one done in the written test.”

The hands-on test was a different story. “It was harder than I thought it was going to be,” he continued. “And having Scott doing the testing…he’s a scary man to be poking and prodding at your tile installation!”

But he passed, and was credentialed as Certified Tile Installer #362 – now one of only about 35 Certified Tile Installers in the state of Georgia among thousands of tile setters, according to Curtis. He also plans to pursue ACT certification as well, “to see if I can pass it,” he said.

Despite his Certified Tile Installer credentials, which he displays on his business cards, Curtis still bemoans the number of times he gets underbid by unqualified or even unlicensed contractors – though sometimes he gets called back for cleanup. He tells a story about a recent customer who called him to say her drywall guy said he could do the subway tile backsplash for only about half of Curtis’ bid. The company got 18 A+ reviews on a popular website. But not surprisingly, the $350 job failed, so instead of paying $600 or $700 to do the job right the first time, this customer had to shell out $1200, plus whatever she paid to the drywall guy who originally installed the job.

Curtis would love to see more designers, architects and distributors know and understand what certification represents – not a “certificate that says you showed up at a training,” Curtis explains. Because he finds certification is not well understood in his region, he finds “telling people what I am doing is the biggest sell.”

He reinforces his certification and his skills by going “to every educational opportunity I can in my area. I find that sometimes people are looking for someone with experience with a certain product, and since I keep myself educated, I get experience with everything I can.”

Curtis encourages more tile setters to take the exams. “I’ve recommended it to a number of people to learn that they don’t know what they are doing, and to others because they are almost there. If you think you are good enough, go sign up to take it – you’ll know instantly!

“I’d like to see more people take it and be a more level playing field with the competition, so it wasn’t apples and oranges bids,” he concluded.

Business Tip – September 2015

SponsoredbyMAPEIAGCA report: 2015 construction up in 37 states from July 2014

This month’s Business Tip checks in with the Associated General Contractors of America (AGCA) for a snapshot of what’s percolating in terms of construction activity across the country. Here’s the current report. – Lesley Goddin

Construction employment expanded in 37 states and the District of Columbia between July 2014 and July 2015, while only 28 states and D.C. added jobs between June and July, according to a recent analysis of Labor Department data by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGCA). Association officials noted that the construction industry appears caught between divergent economic trends that help employment in some areas and hurt it in others.

“Construction continues to grow overall but fewer states are participating in the expansion than was true a year ago,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “The uneven growth reflects the cross-cutting trends in the overall economy, as tight government budgets, plunging commodity prices and weak overseas demand lead to project cancellations in some states even while activity accelerates elsewhere.”

California added more new construction jobs (48,900 jobs, 7.3%) between July 2014 and July 2015 than any other state. Other states adding a high number of new construction jobs for the past 12 months include Florida (26,500 jobs, 6.6%), Washington (15,300 jobs, 9.6%), Texas (14,400 jobs, 2.2%) and Michigan (12,400 jobs, 8.7%). Arkansas (14.9%, 6,800 jobs) added the highest percentage of new construction jobs during the past year, followed by Idaho (13.7%, 4,900 jobs), Nevada (10.7%, 6,800 jobs), Washington and Michigan.

Thirteen states shed construction jobs during the past 12 months, up from only three with construction job decreases a year earlier. West Virginia (-16.0%, -5,400 jobs) lost the highest percentage of construction jobs. Other states that lost a high percentage of jobs for the year include Rhode Island (-7.9%, -1,300 jobs), Ohio (-7.0%, -13,800 jobs) and Mississippi (-4.3%, -2,100 jobs). The largest job losses occurred in Ohio, West Virginia, Indiana (-5,100 jobs, -4.1%) and Mississippi. Construction employment was flat in Vermont.

Florida (4,800 jobs, 1.1%) added the most construction jobs between June and July. Other states adding a high number of construction jobs include Oklahoma (3,000 jobs, 3.9%), California (3,000 jobs, 0.4%) and Arizona (2,400 jobs, 1.9%). New Mexico (4.9%, 2,000 jobs) added the highest percentage of construction jobs during the past month, followed by Oklahoma, Arkansas (3.6%, 1,800 jobs) and Oregon (2.9%, 2,300 jobs).

Twenty-one states lost construction jobs during the past month while construction employment was unchanged in Virginia. New York (-4,500 jobs, -1.3%) shed more construction jobs than any other state, followed by Indiana (-4,400 jobs, -3.6%), Ohio (-2,300 jobs, -1.2%) and Connecticut (-2,200 jobs, -3.6%). Indiana and Connecticut lost the highest percentage of construction jobs between June and July, followed by West Virginia (-2.4%, -700 jobs) and Minnesota (-1.8%, -2,000 jobs).

Association officials said that contractors in parts of the country where construction demand is growing report worsening shortages of qualified workers to fill available positions. They said that as demand for construction continues to grow, those shortages will only get more severe.  That is why they urged federal, state and local officials to act on the measures outlined in the association’s Workforce Development Plan.

“Education officials need to include high-paying jobs in construction among the career choices they encourage and help prepare students to pursue,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer.



Ask the Experts – September 2015


I’m contacting you regarding talc on the back of tiles. Since there are no standards or guidelines regarding talc on the back of tiles from the manufacturer, what does your organization suggest for the tile installer? Are they required to clean this off, or can it be installed as is?


The talc is actually called “kiln release” and is used to stop tiles from fusing to the conveyor belts in tile firing kilns. Usually there is not enough to create a problem, but when there is too much, which will create bonding failures, you have two choices: wash the backs of all the tiles and allow to dry, or back butter all the tiles with the flat side of the trowel.

– Michael Whistler, NTCA presenter


I have a question regarding the TCNA Handbook. Is it required to have a soft joint between the floor tile and the vertical tile bullnose base?


According to Method EJ- 171 in the TCNA Handbook, you must provide movement accommodation at all perimeters as well as all changes in plane. So if you install your floor tile first, you must provide an open space (or sealant-filled joint) between the floor tile and the wall (or cabinet, toe kick, tub, etc.). Then set the tile base on top of the floor tile, thereby covering the visible gap.

If you are installing the base first, you still must have perimeter movement accommodation, accomplished by leaving the joint empty of mortar and grout and filling with compressible backer-rod and sealant, or use a pre-manufactured perimeter movement joint (available from a number of manufacturers). These details are shown in Method EJ-171 in the TCNA Handbook.

– Michael Whistler, NTCA presenter


We are dealing with a 70-plus hollow-tile issue. Our villa was built and the tile installed in 2011. The hollow tile started in January 2015 with two hollow tiles. As of May 2015, there are 70-plus hollow tiles. We would like to know the cause of the problem and the appropriate resolution.


Hollow tile is usually caused by bond loss. The timeline you describe is relatively common when tile is not provided with appropriate movement accommodation, an important part of any tile installation.

– Dave Gobis, CTC, CSI, Ceramic Tile Consultant

INQUIRY, continued

The original installer concluded the installation was good but the concrete settled, therefore the tile detached and became hollow. With this being the situation, he said this is what is supposed to happen (meaning the tile should become hollow rather than cracking) and that we are lucky we don’t have more cracked tile (about 10 now). He wants to inject the 70-plus hollow tiles with epoxy and replace the cracked grout and drill holes from the injection. This view is supported by the builder with whom the floor is under warranty until December 2015.

The two independent tile companies both concluded that the tile was improperly installed and needs to be replaced to address the underlying problem and that when tile is installed properly this should not happen (meaning 70 hollow tiles).

Our villa is in Venice, Fla. There is about 900 sq. ft. of ceramic tile. There are hollow tiles in all six tiled rooms with one room not being connected to the others. The hallway is where two hollow tiles started and now nearly all the tile in the hallway are hollow with cracked grout.

If you could advise as to the proper procedure to correct this tile issue, we would greatly appreciate it. Please contact us if you have any questions or need any clarifications. Thank you for your help.

ANSWER, continued

Your original installer is uneducated, ill informed, and incorrect.

I can’t speak for the other two tile contractors but they know more than the first one.

Injecting is something done to mask installation shortcomings. Based on your pictures, there is minimal bond to the surface, plus I still believe, a lack of movement accommodation. This is a very common problem and one that occurs frequently in Florida. I have been to Florida numerous times for this issue for several years now. Based on what I see replacement is probably appropriate.

– Dave Gobis, CTC, CSI, Ceramic Tile Consultant


ANSI group gathers at Crossville to develop thin tile standards

This week – September 9, 10, and 11 — tile industry experts and leaders are gathering as part of an ANSI subcommittee to hash out details pertaining to thin porcelain tile standards. Porcelain tile manufacturer Crossville is hosting the group at its facilities at Crossville, Tenn.

Results from this week’s meeting will be reported at the NTCA Technical Committee meeting taking place in Savannah, Ga., during the Total Solutions Plus conference next month. The plan is to submit thin porcelain tile standards for the ANSI meetings scheduled during Coverings 2016, to be held in Chicago, Ill.

NTCA Recognized Consultant Richard Goldberg of Procon International examines mortar coverage at Crossville, as tile industry leaders work on installation standards for thin porcelain tile.

NTCA Recognized Consultant Richard Goldberg of Procon International examines mortar coverage at Crossville, as tile industry leaders work on installation standards for thin porcelain tile.



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 www.marble-institute.com.


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 www.marble-institute.com/ceu.


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: www.marble-institute.com.


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 www.tile-assn.com)

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 www.tomlynchconsultant.com. Email at [email protected]