March 4, 2015

Stone – February 2015

mapei_sponsorMIA receives Macael Award in Spain from AEMA

On November 21, 2014, MIA president Tony Malisani (Malisani, Inc. of Great Falls, Mont.) accepted the coveted “Institution Award” at the 28th edition of the Macael Awards in Macael, Spain. This award was one of nine awards given by the Asociación de Empresarios del Mármol de Andalucía (AEMA), the leading natural stone association in the Almeria region of Spain.

“It is my honor and great privilege to receive this award on behalf of the members of the MIA,” Malisani said. “The Marble Institute of America (MIA) has 1,700 members that are located in 56 counties around the world. It is our belief that one way to strengthen the stone industry in the United States is to strengthen our ties with the international natural stone community. The marble industry here is one of the oldest, and is also one of the most innovative. Certainly there is much we can learn. We are hoping to continue our outreach and increase cooperation, communication, and education with the Asociación de Empresarios del Mármol de Andalucía.”

0215-STONE-1During the event, AEME president Antonio Martinez highlighted that a strong global stone market demands that collaboration occur between stone associations. He acknowledged that the MIA’s standing in the natural stone industry for developing technical standards, safety initiatives, current development of an international import/export handbook, and innovation were factors that caused the AEME to recognize the MIA with the “Institution Award,” a special award for stone trade associations.

The event drew 500 attendees from several countries and was an impressive presentation and recognition of outstanding stonework. Malisani noted that “with over 10% of the MIA membership residing outside of North America, it is rewarding for the MIA to be recognized for outstanding programs that benefit the entire global stone industry.”

In addition, The MIA also had the opportunity to meet with AEME officials to present several key industry initiatives including the newly adopted, ANSI-approved sustainability standard championed by the Natural Stone Council (NSC). AEME’s first vice president and MIA member Eduardo Cosentino hosted the MIA delegation that included Malisani, MIA secretary David Castellucci (Kenneth Castellucci and Associates of Lincoln, R.I.), and MIA executive vice president Jim Hieb.

In the upcoming months, the MIA and AEME will also be collaborating on a translation of the MIA’s Dimension Stone Design Manual (DSDM) into Spanish to further expand the use and understanding of technical standards.

MIA’s Castellucci added, “We also had a very good conversation about safety, quality standards, and education for architects, as well as stone professionals. It was also great to tour their technology center (Fundación Centro Tecnológico Andaluz de la Piedra) and discuss advances in stone testing and other technology.”

TexaStone Quarries earns NSF sustainable stone certification

NSF Sustainability, a division of global independent public health organization NSF International, has certified TexaStone Quarries to the sustainability assessment standard for stone – ANSI/NSC 373 Sustainable Production of Natural Dimension Stone.

0215-stone-2Certification to ANSI/NSC 373 is based on point totals to achieve Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum level certification. TexaStone’s quarry earned Gold level certification and its processing facility earned Silver level certification, which includes criteria for the environmental aspects of stone production including water, transportation, site management, land reclamation and adaptive reuse, and management of excess process materials and waste. Monitoring and periodic re-evaluation is required to maintain certification. Once a full chain of custody is established and certified, stone products moving from quarry to customer can also carry the ANSI/NSC 373 Genuine Stone mark.

“Dimension stone is a sustainable product because it is natural and has a long durability, but the industry wanted to identify how the stone was processed from the quarries and the processors,” said Tom Bruursema, general manager of NSF Sustainability. “As the first to earn certification to ANSI/NSC 373, TexaStone leads its industry in adopting more sustainable practices that help its customers and organizations meet the continued growth in green buildings.”

Transparent, credible standards along with independent third-party certification are important to meet the demands of members of the construction industry seeking more sustainable stone products. This includes government agencies (local, state and federal) and others seeking to comply with U.S. Executive Order 13514, which aims for 95% of governmental contracts to include products and services with sustainable attributes, as well as a U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) standard for sustainable construction (GSA PBS-P100 facilities standards for the public building service).

“The purpose of the ANSI/ NSC 373 standard is to drive sustainability practices in the natural stone industry. At TexaStone, we have made a commitment to transforming our organization into a more sustainable company to lead our industry in the transition to verified, more sustainably extracted and processed natural dimension stone,” said Brenda Edwards, owner of TexaStone Quarries.

Certification to ANSI/NSC 373 by quarries and processors such as TexaStone is the first step in the product certification process for natural dimension stone. Full certification for stone products will be achieved through a combination of ANSI/NSC 373 certification for quarries and processors along with the Natural Stone Council Chain of Custody Standard for Natural Dimension Stone (NSC COC) requirements for the rest of the distribution chain.

Tech Talk – February 2015

TEC-sponsorAchieving successful natural stone installations


By Tom Plaskota, Technical Support Manager, H.B. Fuller Construction Products

Although advances in manufacturing have expanded the possibilities of man-made tile, natural stone remains highly sought after for both residential and commercial installations. A truly timeless building material – among the world’s oldest – natural stone offers a look that cannot be perfectly emulated by a manufacturing process. By guiding your clients to the right stone and setting it with the most appropriate materials, you will achieve beautiful and durable installations.

Natural stone, as its name suggests, is quarried from the earth. Because of this, it does not offer the perfectly consistent appearance of man-made tiles. Encourage your clients to view several sample tiles from the same lot before making their selection. That way, they can get a sense of how their tile’s appearance may vary.

This diverse material is available in a variety of finishes, and the finish your client selects should be dictated by the project’s environment. Polished stones, for example, are very reflective and may be more sensitive to scratching than other tile types. Honed, flamed/thermal and water-jet finishes are rougher, often obtaining higher slip-resistance ratings than polished finishes. Direct your clients toward higher slip-resistant finishes for floor installations – especially in wet areas.

0215-tech-1If your client’s installation will be on an exterior surface, be sure that the tile they select can withstand freeze/thaw conditions. Specific ASTM tests will verify how well a material may hold up in extreme conditions. Suppliers should be able to provide guidance and technical data to support the recommendations.

Similarly, installations in wet environments – like a shower or pool – require particular attention to stone selection. Many green marbles warp when exposed to water, even from water-based adhesives. These moisture-sensitive stones should not be used in wet environments and should be installed with 100% solid epoxy mortar. Take absorption into account during your selection. The higher the amount of water absorption, the greater the likelihood of damage caused by moisture.

Both performance and aesthetics will determine the setting materials to accompany the natural stone you and your client select. Some natural stones – including light-colored marbles, limestone and onyx – can experience staining or darkening from grey mortars. It is best to specify white mortars for these applications.

0215-tech-2Regardless of color, natural stone requires a minimum of 95% mortar coverage. No voids in the adhesive can exceed 2 square inches and no voids should exist within 2” of tile corners. To achieve consistent coverage, use a larger U-notch or square trowel than you would for similarly-sized ceramic tile. You can also back-butter the natural stone to help ensure 95 to 100% coverage.

Grout is the final ingredient for a successful natural stone application. Particles in sanded grout may scratch limestone, travertine, marble and onyx. If using one of these softer natural stone tiles or polished stone, specify unsanded grout and use grout joints of 1/8” or narrower. Be sure that the grout selected – sanded or unsanded – will not stain the natural stone. Using a grout color similar to that of the natural stone tile will help minimize this risk, as will applying a sealer or grout release prior to grouting. Use the same sealer prior to grouting that you plan to use afterwards.

0215-tech-3To make cleanup easier, consider using a grout bag to grout natural stone installations, particularly with textured tiles. Mix small batches of grout, scoop them into the bag, and squeeze grout from the bag directly into joints. Use a grout float to pack each joint, and then scrape away the excess. If the tile is less textured, use a float to apply the grout directly into the joints.

If you have any questions about the aesthetic or performance compatibility of your tile and setting materials, create a sample board using your client’s natural stone with the mortar and grout you’ve selected. This process will help you determine whether staining is prominent and how the grout and tile look together. Share it with your client to ensure that they will be happy with the final installation.


Qualified Labor – February 2015

1_CTI_20x20“Knowledge is power,” for recently-certified installer Kevin Hurla of Fox Ceramic Tile

By Lesley Goddin

Recently, seasoned installer Kevin Hurla embarked on the journey to become a Certified Tile Installer (CTI) through the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) program ( Hurla has been with Fox Ceramic Tile in St. Marys, Kan., since February 2014. Fox Ceramic Tile, which specializes in commercial work, gained NTCA Five Star Contractor status in 2011.

kevin_hurla“I know installers who went through the course, and I took an interest,” Hurla said, who has logged 20 years as an installer, starting as a finisher in 1989 and then completing a two-year apprenticeship.

After taking the written test online, Hurla completed the hands-on test at ISC Surfaces in Kansas City on September 19, 2014. ISC Surfaces’ host Brent Stoller holds the record for hosting the largest number of CTI tests at one site. In fact, he received the first annual CTI Host of the Year award in 2014.

Hurla didn’t think either the written or hands-on tests were difficult. “The whole process has information that installers should know to ensure proper installation,” he said.

Hurla is proud to be a CTI. “The CTI symbol is displayed on the back of our company uniform, and on the sleeves of the Certified Tile Installers,” he explained.

Kevin Fox, PE, owner of Fox Ceramic Tile, added, “We have eight tile setters on our team, and 100% of them are Certified Tile Installers. I have just hired two more tile setters and they are scheduled to take the test in March.”

Fox said that his company just got the green light for a Department of Labor-approved apprentice program – and the CTI test is the final requirement to achieve journeyman status. “What started out as something I was asking the tile setters to consider now has become a requirement if they want to reach full journeyman scale,” Fox said. “I think the certification is that important.”

According to Hurla, becoming a CTI has lasting benefits. “It gives me confidence in my ability to  find the correct solution to any obstacles that may arise,” Hurla said. “I also carry the CTI books in my truck so I can look up any questions I don’t know off the top of my head. “

Since passing the tests, Hurla said he pays “close attention to the products I use and the proper instructions on how to use them.”

Fox added, “Having certified tile installers has been part of the strategy in targeting larger and negotiated work. It is just one of the aspects GCs see, along with the company’s involvement with NTCA and Five Star that shows we are a company that not only ‘says’ we will perform on a project with qualified mechanics (everyone says that), but that we have shown our passion for the industry by validating the skills of the installer and investing the time and talents of the company by being active in the industry’s organizations.” Fox is a NTCA State Director and a member of the NTCA Methods and Standards Committee.

The value of what Hurla learned while going through the certification process and its impact on his work prompts him to endorse every opportunity to gain education. “The most important thing to remember is ‘knowledge is power,’” he said. “If you think you know it all, you’re limiting yourself.”

The next level of certification is Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT), which offer certification for union and open-shop installers in any or all of these skill sets: Large-Format Tile and Substrate Preparation, Membranes, Mud Floors, and Shower Receptors ( The prospect of taking his career to the next level excites Hurla.

“If I have the opportunity to take the ACT certification I would jump at the chance to educate myself even more,” he said.

Business Tip – February 2015

Five ways to get strong referrals – and lots of ‘em

SponsoredbyMAPEImarc_wayshakBy Marc Wayshak

Running a small business in today’s economy requires a departure from conventional business rules. In order to sell a product or service, businesses can no longer rely upon old-school sales tactics of bygone eras. Prospects are overwhelmingly distrustful of the traditional sales pitch; they’re busier than ever and they have access to more information than ever before.

As a result, small business owners must master a new set of tactics in order to make sales. The key is to start with strong referrals.

It’s no secret that getting referrals from clients who believe in your services is an effective way to connect with new clients. But in today’s business world, it’s not enough to just get referrals – they have to be strong, and there have to be lots of ‘em! Here are five ways to get lots of strong referrals:

1. Ask for introductions, not “referrals”! Salespeople often tell me that when they ask for a referral, all they get is a name, a phone number and an instruction to “tell him I sent you.” This is not a referral – it is, at best, a warm lead. The term “referral” is vague and unclear, which is why requests for them can frequently lead to disappointing outcomes. Instead of asking for referrals, ask for introductions. You want to be introduced directly to the person you want to meet, after all. The introduction can take place via face-to-face meeting, phone call, email exchange, or social media, but the key is that an actual introduction is made. Now, promise yourself you’ll never ask for a “referral” again!

2. Get over your fear and ask! I’ve done extensive research on what holds people back from getting more introductions, and it always comes back to the same issue: fear. Asking for introductions shows vulnerability and can feel uncomfortable. But the reality is that if you don’t ask, people will not think to introduce you. It’s your job to ask everyone in your network for introductions on a regular basis. The more you ask, the easier it becomes. In all of my years as a sales strategist, I’ve never heard of someone losing a client because they asked for an introduction. So what do you have to lose?

3. An introduction a day…really adds up. I have a challenge for you: ask for one introduction every work day. It’s a task that takes less than five minutes, but it holds enormous potential for your business. Here’s how.: One introduction per day equals five per week; five introductions per week equals 250 introductions per year. That’s a lot of introductions! Let’s say that you receive only one in five of the introductions you ask for – that still means you’ll receive 50 introductions in one year. If you turn half of those introductions into sales, then you’ll have closed 25 new pieces of business. What are you waiting for?

4. Ask for help. Help. That simple four-letter word is one of the most powerful in the English language. When you ask for help, people generally want to give it to you. On the other hand, people are turned off by phony confidence and a reluctance to accept assistance. So ask for help when it comes to introductions, just as you would in any other context. Start the introduction conversation by saying, “I’m wondering if you might be able to give me a little help.” Let the person say that she is happy to help – which she probably will be if you have any relationship at all. Then ask for the introduction to the type of prospect you’re looking to meet.

5. Help people help you. Salespeople frequently squander the chance to get introductions by not clearly explaining the exact type of prospect they’re looking to meet. When someone says that he’s willing to help you out with introductions, don’t respond, “Well, who do you know?” This forces the person to have to figure out which of the 1,000 people he knows to introduce you to. Instead, be laser-focused on the exact type of person you want to be introduced to. For example, you might say, “I’m looking to meet high-end custom-home builders or remodelers who invest in qualified labor.” When you get very specific, you narrow a person’s mental rolodex down to 1-3 people. Bingo!

When you focus on receiving more introductions (and actually take action!), your business can grow exponentially. If each of your clients introduced you to one new client, your business would double. By following these five simple strategies, you can bring on more clients without a massive effort.

Marc Wayshak ( is a sales strategist who created the Game Plan Selling System. He is the author of two books on sales and leadership including his latest book, Game Plan Selling ( a regular online contributor to Entrepreneur Magazine and the Huffington Post Business section. Get his free eBook on 25 Tips to Crush Your Sales Goal at (Twitter: @MarcWayshak)

Ask the Experts – February 2015

SponsoredbyLaticreteIn November 2014, TileLetter published the story, “Stacking the deck: manufactured/natural stone veneers pros and cons,” on page 54. Later that same month, this question about installing brick veneer came in from an NTCA member:


Hello – I’m an existing NTCA member, with a question about an upcoming project involving brick veneer.

Does method W243 – 14 apply to brick veneer, and if so, is it applicable in a basement environment? Are there any limitations as to when or where this method can’t/shouldn’t be used?


The method W 243 – 14 that is referred to in the TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation is a suitable installation method for installing “thin” veneer brick paver tiles but not an acceptable method for “full thickness “ brick veneer installations. “Thin” is typically 5/8” thickness or less. This direct-bond method is only applicable due to weight-pounds per square foot dead load applied to substructure including the facial surface of the gypsum backer unit .

Full thickness brick veneer is much too heavy to direct bond to a gypsum backing unit using this method.

Limitations are listed in the method, such as environmental temperatures not to exceed 125 degrees F and stud spacing not to exceed 16” on center.

Gerald Sloan, NTCA trainer

Our second dialogue concerns a question of replacing grout or the entire floor that was damaged as a result of a flooding situation. Expert response by industry consultant David Gobis helped this homeowner settle the matter with her insurance company.


My kitchen floor is tile that is about 10 years old. We recently had new countertops installed along with a backsplash. We kept the tile floors because they were in beautiful condition. On January 8th, 2014, a second-floor bathroom pipe froze and burst onto our kitchen tile floor. That water sat in an area for about 6-8 hours. Now we have tile that clicks and grout that is coming up in the area where the water sat. The insurance company wants to just re-grout the area and not do anything with the loose tiles. My husband and I have had tile experts to the house who would not recommend just patching the grout since the tile is no longer attached to the board underneath. Please email me your thoughts.


Grout will not fix a floor that clicks, which is likely the wooden panel riding up and down a nail. With a flood, the water works its way through the grout and becomes trapped in the supporting wood structure under the tile. With most tile having a glazed (glass-like surface) it takes a long time to dry out. That causes the wood to change dimension by swelling, often breaking the tile or cracking the grout. While it is possible a regrout will help  the problem, it is not likely. I would let them try their grout fix offer with the caveat that if it does not work  they will look at replacement – and I would ask for it in writing.

David M. Gobis CTC CSI, Ceramic Tile Consultant


Since your last email I just wanted you to know that the insurance company did come to our home along with a tile expert. And what you said is the same thing that the tile expert said. So we have had a new tile floor installed in the kitchen to replace the damaged one.


You answer it!

We received this technical question – what is YOUR opinion about who is the responsible party for this job – the licensed contractor? The first unlicensed contractor to grout the floor – or the last? Send responses to

If an installer installs a tile floor and a second installer grouts the floor but then a third installer removes that grout and re-grouts the floor who is responsible for the floor? The original floor was installed (no grout) by a licensed contractor, grout was done by an unlicensed individual hired by the homeowner, and then a third individual was hired by homeowner to remove the grout and re- grout.  The individuals doing the grouting were independent and not working for the original company.


Vitória Stone Fair – Marmomacc Latin America 2015 has announced the dates for one of the largest Marble and Granite Fairs in the world; February 3 – 6, 2015.  Ornamental and raw stone buyers from all over the world will fly to Espírito Santo in the southeast region of Brazil to negotiate products and services. In 2014, this fair closed over $200 million in businesses. There will be 420 exhibiting companies, 120 foreign companies and over 25,000 visitors from 66 countries.

The exhibition will be held in Vitória, the capital of Espírito Santo, a state with one of the biggest marble and granite reserves in the country, with a great variety of colors and textures. The host state of Vitória Stone Fair has been significantly contributing to the Brazilian trade balance. The stone production in the state represents about 5 million tons a year. The event attracts visitors from Brazil and Latin America, such as stone importers and exporters, contractors, decorators, architects and professionals from the sector; companies dedicated to extraction, processing and commercialization of ornamental stones; suppliers of abrasives, consumables, machines, equipment, tools and services.

Brazil is the third largest granite exporter of the world. The state of Espírito Santo accounts for 50% of the national production of ornamental stones and for more than 70% of the Brazilian export operations. Today, the country is the main supplier of stones to the North-American market, responsible for 30% of the volume imported by the USA. In 2014, the stone exports to the North-American market totaled $790 million.

From 12th place in the consumption ranking in 2001, Brazil now occupies the 4th place (source XXIV Report Marble and Stone in the World) and is already being seen as one of the largest players in the ornamental stone and finishing sector in the world, only after China, India, and the United States. The position was conquered in just a decade by offering a big range of extremely differentiated natural stones and investments made in the industrial parks with acquisitions of more modern machines for the stone extraction and processing operations.


Vitória Stone Fair / Marmomacc Latin America 2015 is promoted by the Trade Union of the Industry of Ornamental Stones, Lime and Limestone in Espírito Santo (SINDIROCHAS) and the Technological Marble and Granite Center (CETEMAG). It is organized by Milanez & Milaneze, in cooperation with the VeronaFiere Group and counts on the support of the Brazilian Center of Ornamental Stones Exporters (CENTROROCHAS), the Brazilian Association of the Ornamental Stone Industry (ABIROCHAS) and Marble Institute of America (MIA) in the United States.

Show hours

February 3 to 6, 2015     From 01:00 p.m. to 08:00 p.m. with access until 07:00 p.m.

Floriano Varejão Exhibition Park – Rodovia do Contorno
BR 101 Norte – Carapina – Serra – ES – Brazil
CEP 29161-064
Online Credentials:


Tech Talk – January 2015

TEC-sponsorFollow directions, not intuition, for best results with today’s mortars

Lesley beach picBy Lesley Goddin

“Mortar products today are so much better than they were years ago,” said new NTCA president and NTCA Technical Committee chairman James Woelfel, of Artcraft Granite, Marble and Tile Co., from Mesa, Ariz. “That’s why you don’t see as many failures as you ‘should’ see, if you were using mortars from 30 years ago.

“Mortars today are so fantastic,” Woelfel added. “Today, we have flowable/thixotropic and non-sag mortars. They are phenomenal – but they are a double-edged sword,” he said, stressing that if they aren’t used properly, the installation will fail spectacularly.

Woelfel – together with several technical representatives from manufacturers who have collaborated on authoring and editing the mortar section of the NTCA Reference Manual- have some important recommendations for getting the best results from today’s mortars.

Use the right material for the job

An obvious – but oft-ignored recommendation – is to use the proper mortar for the proper tile, Woelfel said. “The more expensive mortar doesn’t cost you more than $.05-$.07 a foot or maybe all the way up to $.15 more a foot,” he explained. “By using the right mortar, you are really buying yourself insurance. Since mortar is the least expensive part of a tile installation, if you are depending on the savings on that mortar to make you a profit, you are going down the wrong road. And if you are improperly using an inexpensive mortar, and building it up, are you really saving money in both material and time?”

Water ratio – follow directions, not intuition!

Second, be sure to mix the mortar the way the manufacturer recommends.

“The mortars being built today are very complex formulations and a lot of ingredients in these formulas require the proper amount of water,” said Leigh Hightower, technical services manager for MAPEI. “Contractors are used to mixing mortars to feel, but today’s mortars have a lot of materials in them that don’t wet out very quickly. If the mortar looks too thick as it is being mixed, and more water is added when it is mixed up, when it does go into solution, it is too thin. Mortars today need to be mixed with a measured amount of water according to instruction and not feel,” he said.

Tom Plaskota, with TEC/H.B. Fuller Construction Products, added, “job site conditions can affect installation and temperature-range limitations are pushed to the limit with the pace of fast track construction these days. This occurs on both the low and high ends of the temperature range, depending on what part of the country you are in and what time of year it is.”

Woelfel cited some of his experiences setting tile in the desert climate of Arizona. He said it’s easy to “overwater thinset in dry climates; there’s more chance to shrink here as it dries. Thin-set mortar sets up faster in Arizona and New Mexico – in fact, in Arizona this June, we set a record for 2% humidity.”

Woelfel said this is a problem because even if one is following strict manufacturer recommendations, those recommendations generally aren’t based on use in extreme conditions. “[Mortar is] tested at 75 degrees and 55% humidity,” Woelfel said. The tendency for mortars to skin over too fast in low-humidity settings is especially crucial when working with large-format, or large thin porcelain tile. Once that happens, there’s no bond.

Woelfel favors the development of more mortars that accommodate the particular conditions contractors encounter around the country – high humidity, or super-low humidity – so contractors have a reasonable amount of open time to set the tile.

“Most people in my area are subcontractors,” Woelfel said. “They are putting tile in as fast as humanly possible, which means they will trowel out 40’ to 50’ of thinset and just drop the tile. They don’t key it in, and it stays on top of the trowel marks. When it’s pulled up, it’s almost clean. There are a lot of failures in Phoenix due to mortar skinning over,” Woelfel said.

Bubbles weaken bonds

Woelfel also cautions contractors to take time with mortars and let them slake. “You need to mix with a low rpm mixer at the proper speed that the manufacturer recommends,” he said. “Otherwise, you can get air bubbles, which makes the mortar set up faster and become weaker. You have to let it rest and coalesce.”

A new name and clearer definition

Large and heavy tile (LHT) mortar, has gone through a transformation – and not just in name only – from the previous “medium-bed” mortar moniker. “Medium-bed” mortar was coined to refer to a MATERIAL – a type of mortar, not a METHOD of tile setting, according to MAPEI’s Hightower. But over time, it became misunderstood and mis-specified in the A&D community as a method of smoothing out imperfections in the substrate in lieu of the proper practice of using a self-leveling underlayment. Contractors got caught in the middle, Hightower said, when they started to be expected to smooth out substrate irregularities with medium-bed mortar, used up to 3/4” in thickness instead of going the proper route of using a self-leveling underlayment. The industry responded to this conundrum by changing the confusing name and limiting the thickness recommended to 1/2” to avoid misuse of this important material. For more information, check out this month’s “By the Book” section in which ProSpec’s Beverly Andrews talks about new parameters for use of LHT mortars or what we formerly called “medium-bed” mortar.

Up-and-coming products for LTPT

LHT mortar segues into mortars many manufacturers are developing specifically for large-unit thin porcelain tiles. These mortars are tied in closely with the standards discussions about large thin porcelain tile (LTPT). As these mortars are in development, contractors are offering feedback on realistic performance criteria. Some manufacturers required 1/64” lippage tolerance, Woelfel said – something unattainable with bigger thin tile. This is where the NTCA Technical Committee, TCNA and other industry entities are putting their heads together to formulate products and methods that will meet the needs of the contractor with excellent performance while the large thin porcelain tile itself is under close scrutiny in terms of performance characteristics and installation recommendations. Stay tuned to TileLetter for ongoing news about LHT mortars for LTPT throughout the year!

Ask the Experts – January 2015

SponsoredbyLaticreteThis month’s conversation is between a knowledgeable female do-it-yourself tile setter and Dave Gobis, CTC CSI Ceramic Tile Consultant. It illustrates the vast amount of misinformation that’s passing as expertise at point-of-sale. It’s a classic tale of buyer beware, and know-your-stuff.


My shower is almost complete, having installed my cement boards over a wood structure covered with plastic sheeting. I have used 100% silicone to seal all joints including those between the cement boards and my mortar bed. I am also going to waterproof all the cement boards with a waterproofing membrane. I know I’m supposed to use latex thinset for the floor. What kind of mortar do I use to install the tiles on the walls of my shower? As per the TCNA, I’m supposed to use latex thinset for the walls as well but a tile dealer I work with has told me that I can’t use latex-modified thinset for my walls because it will take three months to cure on account of the plastic I put on my wood structure. I would be much obliged for your help. Thank you.


Your tile dealer is misinformed. Your waterproofing membrane would be even less permeable than the plastic which has holes in it from fastening the board. There is truth that a longer drying period is required when installing tile with latex over a waterproof membrane. The thinset will use about a third of the water for mixing the thinset in growing a cement matrix, the rest will have to evaporate through the grout joints. Leave the joints open a few days before grouting and you will be fine. Cement grout is porous and will allow any residual moisture to pass if needed.

– David M. Gobis CTC CSI
Ceramic Tile Consultant


Thank you for your reply on the latex thinset; I just didn’t know who else to turn to and was getting exhausted with the different input I was getting from my tile suppliers.

In the same vein, should I wait three months to install glass doors on my curb tiles? Not that I mind; if I have to wait, I will. Furthermore, if I have to wait weeks to grout, I won’t mind either. At this point, being so close to finishing, I don’t want to mess up anything.


What was the reason for waiting three months on the shower door? Have never heard anything remotely close to that. Biggest thing is to not puncture the waterproofing. If you could let the tile set up for a week to 10 days that would be good enough.

– David M. Gobis CTC CSI
Ceramic Tile Consultant


You’ve just answered all my questions. The three-month cure time was told to me by one of the two tile stores I bought my tiles from. Based on that information, I started asking myself about the glass shower doors on the curb. Such is the nightmare of having no experience! Thank you so much for your prompt answers. Have a great one.


The misinformation out there is abundant. It’s sad that people know so little about their chosen line of work. It certainly keeps me busy, but it’s a hard way to make a living when all you sell is what you know. The tile setter I was with when I got your three-month email chuckled and said something about a knucklehead.

– Good Luck, Dave


I’ve been doing my own tile work for 20 years, but had never undertaken a shower from drain pipe to shower head. It became clear to me as well that misinformation was rampant, even amongst the professionals showing how to do it on YouTube. I could not get proper instructions on the internet or YouTube until I got hold of the ANSI code and the TCNA instructions. Even if you do decide to follow the code, as I decided to do, most stores don’t know the code and/or don’t follow it which has made my project that much more difficult as products are not always available. I feel like I’m speaking a foreign language to these people. You should’ve seen the hardware store reps when I asked for wet sand. Not to mention that some of these reps have tried to sell me gypsum or thin cement boards (3/8”) for my shower walls. One of these reps at a big box store actually told me – with Oatey pan liner package in hand – that I didn’t have to do a mortar bed after putting my PVC pan liner on my pre-pitch; I could put the tiles directly on my PVC pan liner and save myself the trouble of doing a mortar bed (!?!?). He even said, with certainty, that this was up to code (after I told him it wasn’t).

Tell your tile setter that he is right; knucklehead it is. Now, all I have to do is go back to the knucklehead and put in a special order for my latex thinset because they don’t carry these products in their stock room.

Again, Dave, much obliged.  I will sleep better tonight knowing that I now have the proper information.

Business Tip – January 2015

mapei_sponsorConstruction employment swells in 228 metro areas

In reports from the Associated General Contractors of America, good news continues for construction employment, with construction employment growing in 228 metro areas. The report also emphasizes the need for qualified workers to answer the demand as construction grows. In addition, a new bill passed by the House will allow employers and employees to protect retirement benefits. Details follow.

Construction employment expanded in 228 metro areas, declined in 64 and was stagnant in 47 between October 2013 and October 2014, according to a new analysis of federal employment data released in December 2014 by the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials said the construction job gains come as new federal figures show year-over-year growth in construction spending and many firms report impacts from growing shortages of qualified workers.

“Even as a number of markets continue to struggle with declining construction demand and employment, most metro areas are adding construction jobs as the industry slowly recovers,” said Ken Simonson, chief economist for the association. “As spending on construction continues to climb, more and more firms will struggle with the impacts of a labor market that is not keeping pace with demand.”

Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, Texas, added the largest number of construction jobs in the past year (12,900 jobs, 7%), followed by Dallas-Plano-Irving, Texas (11,000 jobs, 9%), Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, Ill. (9,200 jobs, 7 %) and Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, Wash. (8,300 jobs, 11%). The largest percentage gains occurred in Pascagoula, Miss. (28%, 1,800 jobs), Terre Haute, Ind. (24%, 1,000 jobs), Cleveland-Elyria-Mentor, Ohio (21%, 7,800 jobs), Cleveland, Tenn. (19%, 300 jobs) and Fargo, N.D.-Minn. (19%, 1,700 jobs).

The largest job losses from October 2013 to October 2014 were in Bethesda-Rockville-Frederick, Md. (-4,500 jobs, -14%), followed by Edison-New Brunswick, N.J. (-3,000 jobs, -7%), Gary, Ind. (-2,800 jobs, -15%) and Putnam-Rockland-Westchester, N.Y. (-2,200 jobs, -7%). The largest percentage decline for the past year was in Steubenville-Weirton, Ohio-W.V. (-36%, -800 jobs), followed by Fond du Lac, Wis. (-15%, -400 jobs), Gary, Ind. and Bethesda-Rockville-Frederick, Md.

Association officials noted that newly-released federal figures show construction spending increased by 3.3 % between October 2013 and October 2014 as demand for residential construction and other private-sector segments slowly expands. Even public-sector construction spending experienced an all-too-rare increase between September and October. At the same time, 83 % of firms report trouble finding qualified workers, which is limiting competition and forcing many firms to change the way they operate.

“Instead of capitalizing on the emerging recovery, many firms instead are struggling to find qualified workers to fill their construction crews,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “It is time to rethink our educational priorities when we have too many unemployed men and women who lack the skills to earn the kind of above-average wages construction work affords.”


House-passed spending bill

protects retirement benefits

In addition, Sandherr recently released the following statement regarding passage in the House of Representative of a Omnibus Spending bill that included a series of association-backed reforms designed to allow employers and employees to protect and improve multi-employer retirement programs:

“The House’s wise decision to include a series of multi-employer pension reforms in the broader spending bill will protect retiree benefits, help keep thousands of employers competitive and ensure that the broader economy continues to benefit from the billions of dollars that pension funds invest each year. The most important aspect of these new reform measures is that they finally provide employers and employees with the flexibility to voluntarily act to shore up multi-employer retirement plans. Without these new measures, thousands of retirees would likely have been forced to accept the savage cuts to their retirement benefits that come when the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation is forced to step in. This is the culmination of three years of joint labor and management cooperation to shore up troubled plans.

“The Senate and President Obama must move quickly to enact these needed reform measures so that thousands of employees and their employers can have the tools needed to protect their hard-earned investments and benefits,” Sandherr concluded.

Tech Talk – December 2014

TEC-sponsorCold weather tiling

By Lesley Goddin the NTCA Reference Manual

December means cold weather for most of our 50 states, so this month’s Tech Talk literally takes a page out of the NTCA Reference Manual to discuss the particulars and cautions that surround setting tile in cold weather.

The NTCA Reference Manual is an essential industry guide that references real-world, in-the-field situations, in most cases with a cause-cure-prevention format. It also contains letters that can be customized to various parties in the project to legally communicate problems to keep tile contractors harmless in a dispute. This indispensable publication is now available to the entire industry. Visit or click on the “store” link at NTCA’s website, and select books and periodicals to get your copy today.

Following are the recommendations for successful cold weather tiling:


The professional installation of tile in cold weather presents a number of problems. The best results will be obtained when the environment and the products are about room temperature. Each bonding material will require specific precautions.

Tile bonding and grouting materials must not be applied to surfaces that contain frost. Tile must not be installed in areas where the substrate is not maintained above 50° F (10 C) or where the substrate is above 100° F (38 C). Temperature of the substrate shall be 60° F (16 C) and rising for application of epoxy and furan unless otherwise specifically authorized by its manufacturer. Maintain epoxy and furan at a stable temperature between 60° F (16 C) and 90° F (32 C) during the curing period.

Industry specifications do not recommend setting tile below 50° F. If work below that temperature is unavoidable, common sense procedures and precautions should be observed. Be aware that it is the temperature of the tile products, bonding materials and substrate which count – not just the air temperature of the room.

Cold weather slows cement hydration (curing)

It is recognized that cold weather slows the strengthening of cement mortars and grouts and allowances must be made for the resulting risks.

As the temperature drops from 50° F to 35° F, the strengthening of cement slows concurrently, until at 35° F it almost ceases. When these conditions occur, additional time must be allowed for the cement bonding materials to sufficiently harden before traffic is allowed. If the water in fresh cement is allowed to freeze solid, particularly near the surface, the small ice crystals expand, separate the sand and cement, and destroy the strength of the mortar, resulting in a bond failure.

2-TT-1214In cold temperatures, grouting done before the bonding material is strong enough to accept traffic, will cause movement of the tile resulting in irreparable bond failure. When the temperature is below 50° F, grouting should be done immediately after the tile is set or wait at least two to three days. No traffic should be allowed during this period. When continuing a job, special precautions must be taken to keep all traffic off the tile that was set the previous day.

When using blower heaters to protect tile from freezing, caution must be taken to avoid rapidly drying out the tiled area directly in front of the heaters. There is a risk of drying out the air in heated areas preventing proper curing of mortar and grout. It is advisable to damp cure under these conditions.

The use of electric heat is preferable to oil or gas-fired temporary heaters that can cause chalking carbonation and weakening of fresh mortar or grout.

Cover ungrouted surfaces during the initial setting period for protection against drafts and freezing temperatures. Fast-setting mortars, although susceptible to freeze damage, may reduce curing time if the manufacturer’s recommendations are followed.

Epoxies and urethanes

Epoxies require special cold weather precautions. The most likely conditions to occur because of cold temperatures are:

1. A thick stiff mix.

2. Difficult application.

3. A very slow cure and strength gain.

For these reasons, most epoxy products are recommended for use between 70° F and 80° F. Low temperatures can cause epoxies to become so stiff they are unworkable and curing time is extended beyond practical limits. Epoxies should be stored at room temperatures at least 48 hours before mixing. Most epoxy problems result from improper and insufficient mixing.

3-TT-1214Cold weather tiling tips

Nadine Edelstein, winner of a 2010 TileLetter Tile Design Award for the slate strip mosaic in the Maury Island residence outdoor entryway and a 2013 Coverings Installation Design Residential Stone Design Award for the Dragonflower Vine raised-bed garden pathway in Seattle, Wash. Edelstein installed both winning projects during the during the cold northwest winter.

Conditions for the Maury Island project included temperatures in the 30s and wind whipping through the space. The crew bundled up to stay warm and took measures to keep the concrete substrate and curing mortar above 40 degrees. Edelstein said she “used electric blankets over the set tiles layered over with insulating blankets and tarps to keep the heat in. The next day we used the blankets to preheat the areas we intended to set.”

For her 2013 Dragonflower Vine project, elaborate measures included a framed enclosure built over the entire 500+-sq.-ft. garden. “This was covered with heavy-duty tarps that were secured with full five-gallon buckets hanging off the sides!” Edelstein said. “This kept us dry and provided enough ventilation so that we could use a 100,000 BTU propane heater, which kept the chill off of us while we worked. We then employed the same electric blanket technique to help our mortar cure.”

A note of caution from industry expert and ceramic consultant Dave Gobis, CTC – be sure to provide plenty of ventilation – as Edelstein did – when tenting a project. “A tented installation or the cement could kill you from either carbon monoxide or dioxide. Be sure you have plenty of air moving through the enclosure.”