November 26, 2015

The Spieth Effect: when things get wonky, recommit and refocus

SponsoredbyMAPEIBusiness Tip – November 2015

By Wally Adamchik, president FireStarter Speaking and Consulting

wally_adamchikUnless you have been under a rock lately, you’ve probably heard about a guy named Jordan Spieth. He had a Hall of Fame golf season as a 21-year-old. He is the PGA Tour Player of the Year – but he actually had a tough time along the way. His record-breaking season and his struggles are an example for us all.

Spieth played in 25 events. He missed 4 cuts. That is a 16% failure rate! Nobody is talking about what went wrong for him. Nobody is criticizing him for missing the cut in two of the final four events, because he rallied and won the last event of the year. Along the way, he managed to win two major championships and contend in two others. But when everyone thought he would sweep the playoffs, he played some really bad golf. Really bad. How often are you on a roll at work, and then things go bad? What do you do? As a leader, do you rally the troops? Or do you point the finger? Do you realize you cannot perform at a peak level all the time? I hate to admit it, but it’s true.

Sportswriter Luke Kerr-Dineen offered some interesting insights when Spieth missed those cuts in the playoffs. Number one: he was tired. He had played more events (27) than Tiger Woods did in his prime (20). I can relate. I travel for my job. I like it, but after a point, it gets to be too much. Today, we are faced with too much to do in too little time. And we compound things by staying ever-connected to our smartphones. We all get tired, but we don’t all deal with it well. It’s simple: if you don’t give yourself time to recover and recharge, you will miss cuts, too. And when you miss cuts, it costs the company – and it might cost you.

Insight number two: late in the season, Spieth changed equipment. Pros are pretty particular about their equipment. Spieth replaced the set of irons he had been using all year with a fresh set (same make, model, specs, etc.). It was the same, but… it wasn’t. How often are we faced with a new technology or concept that frustrates us? Heck, just updating software on our devices can be a horror story. What about that new accounting or field productivity software?

My favorite insight regarding Spieth was number three: there was no reason. “Golf is hard. Golf is weird. Golf is maddening. Sometimes you play well for no reason and play badly for no reason. That is why golf is hard, weird and maddening.” No, you cannot go to your boss and say work is hard, but you can recognize that there are times that you have done all you can do, and that next time will be better. That doesn’t mean you don’t analyze what went wrong and work to make it better. But you do accept that things won’t always go perfectly.

Your daily goal is to do the best you can. It takes preparation and planning to execute well. Even with that prep and planning, the execution isn’t always optimal. Sometimes you drop the ball; sometimes you get a bad bounce. Be like Jordan Spieth. Recommit and refocus–and win the next time.

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 – November 2015


I have a 1929 Washington, D.C., house with 6” diagonal boards as a subfloor that is over joists 12” on center. I was going to glue and screw 3/4” AC grade Douglas fir over top of the 6” diagonal boards and screw through to joists. This would be to support 24”x24” x 3/4” marble tile. Is there a better way?


You are definitely going in the correct direction. To make your installation better, you should use some type of tile substrate as your next layer. While some cementitious mortars will stick to EGP, it is not really a GOOD way to go. There are many, many options for your tile substrate layer. After that, be sure to use a large-format mortar for your large-format tiles. Use plenty of mortar for sufficient coverage (95% minimum) and back butter all tiles. Be careful if you are using green, black or red marbles as many are highly water sensitive, and require alternate methods or mortars.

Michael Whistler, NTCA presenter


I am not in the tile business, but I do have a tile/ grout question. We have a slow water leak that appears to be originating in our shower enclosure. It appeared as a dark stain along with warping of the manufactured flooring in the adjoining room.

The shower floor is below grade. Our single-family house is built on a concrete pad with no basement level. A professional leak detector thinks the water is coming through what may or may not be tiny cracks in the tile grout. The house is 10 years old and we never had the grout sealed. Now we’ve told by a grout sealing service that we should have the old grout taken out and replaced and sealed. He ran his fingernail down a random grout line and showed us how the grout is getting powdery which wouldn’t have happened had we sealed the grout from the beginning.

I wouldn’t hesitate but we’ve been quoted $675 to do this. That will also include caulking the seams where the shower floor meets the walls. I do notice a long hairline crack in the one long vertical seam. After he finishes, we’ll take up the damaged floor boards and see if we can detect any further moisture for a few weeks before repairing the floor.

Is it reasonable to conclude that daily showering in our two-person household can cause moisture to slowly get into the wall and then under the flooring of the adjacent room? Also, is sealing grout in shower enclosures in order to prevent this kind of deterioration really effective and highly recommended?


Unfortunately your problem is not uncommon. Grout is not waterproof, and a sealer will not make it waterproof. Waterproofing of a shower is done by an entirely separate process from the tile installation. It sounds like you may have a minor leak in your shower pan liner or waterproofing. Regrouting, caulking, and sealing may slow it down but it will not resolve the problem.

Grout sealer will not prevent grout from getting powdery. Soft grout joints are normally an installation issue. At 10 years it could be a shower usage issue due to soap and body oil that induced breakdown of your grout if you don’t clean it on a regular basis. Religious reapplication of a sealer is not likely to change that either. Mine is 22 years old and sees similar use with no sealer and it looks like the day it was installed. I am not particularly dutiful on the cleaning either.

David M. Gobis CTC CSI,
Ceramic Tile Consultant

Substrate preparation for exterior installations

tom_plaskota_webTEC-sponsorBy Tom Plaskota, Technical Support Manager, H.B. Fuller Construction Products

Exterior tile installations have many variables. As with all projects, substrate conditions, tile size and type, and space usage determine the installation strategy. Exterior installations have an additional complication: climate. The best way to ensure the successful installation of exterior elements is to give them a strong foundation – by carefully preparing the substrate.

The most common substrate for exterior installations is concrete, thanks to its durability and structural strength. The following guidelines should be followed when working with concrete.

1-tt-1015Evaluate and clean the surface

Formally and thoroughly evaluate the concrete substrate prior to undertaking an exterior installation. First, check for a clean surface. This is for more than aesthetics – a dirty surface can reduce bond strength. The ASTM method for checking for contamination is wiping down the concrete surface with a dark cloth and then checking to see how much dust it picked up. Beyond surface dirt, you need to confirm your substrate’s integrity. Structural strength is not a guarantee. Sometimes in the concrete finishing process, bleed water may rise to its surface. This causes a diluted surface layer, which lacks the strength of the rest of the concrete.

Measure the integrity of the surface

2-tt-1015To measure the integrity of a surface, use a tensile bond tester. The minimum tensile bond strength requirement is 72 PSI for a successful installation. You can also test for integrity with a less formal process. Simply take a razor knife and attempt to scrape the surface of the installation. If you can easily disrupt the surface, the substrate probably has laitance that should be corrected prior to installation. The remedy for a weak layer of laitance is removal, which is usually done by sandblasting.

Newly-poured concrete is often treated with a curing compound. Curing compounds can disrupt the bonds of mortars and surface preparation materials. Conduct a porosity test to determine whether your substrate is contaminated. Place several drops of water on the concrete. Water must penetrate concrete within 60 seconds for the substrate to be considered porous. If water remains on the surface, it is evidence that the sealer may disrupt bonding.

3-tt-1015In the case of contamination, you may need to remove the top layer of concrete using a shot- or sandblaster. Some primers can enable bonding over certain curing compounds. If you know the type of curing compound used, check with the manufacturer of the primer and adhesive to ensure suitability.

In contrast, if the water is absorbed within a few seconds, your substrate may be too porous. If the substrate is excessively porous and your installation is in a hot, dry, environment, it may absorb water from your thinset. In those cases, you may be able to use primer to manage the porosity of the surface. Maintaining moisture in the thinset enables proper cure and bond strength. Whenever you use a primer, check with the primer manufacturer for its limitations and suitability.

4-tt-1015Check for variation

You need to check for variation in the substrate’s plane in accordance with the tile size. In some cases, a slope is appropriate to allow for draining. However, avoid slopes in places that can develop puddles and ponding, which can turn into dangerous ice.

Prevent cracking

There’s a saying in the tile industry: “There are two types of concrete: one that’s cracked and one that’s going to crack.” On exterior installations, cracks can become centers of movements, which can transfer to tile installations. Crack-isolation membranes can mitigate the effects of substrate expansion and contraction, which results from moisture and temperature changes. A crack-resistant test apparatus is used to evaluate the performance of crack-isolation membranes as per ANSI A118.12. Two concrete blocks are placed side by side to simulate a crack, and tile is applied over it, on top of a membrane. A crank spreads the simulated crack apart, so experts can evaluate how far the crack will open before cracking the tile. Another part of the test is a point load test – which requires that the membrane withstand a force of 1,000 lbs. before tile cracks to meet the requirements of a crack-isolation membrane.

5-tt-1015Building codes

Exterior wall installations may be subject to local building codes. As the TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation suggests, you should check the codes to see what surface preparation for the placement of a water-resistant barrier versus a waterproof membrane or vapor-retarder membrane. Code should take into account local climate conditions that may affect your installation.

For more tips on exterior installation, view a webinar I recently presented for the NTCA. “Strategies for Exterior Tile Installations” can be viewed at

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Successful networking is key to growing and sustaining a business

mapei_sponsorBusiness Tip – October 2015

Members of CTDA (, enjoy many tangible business benefits including access to education and certification programs, discounts on business services such as credit card processing, freight and logistics, fleet leasing and many others. However, perhaps the most valuable benefit is not tangible: the opportunity to connect with people in the industry in an organic way. We call this networking.

BT-1015Attending meetings such as Total Solutions Plus ( or – taking place this month in Savannah, Ga., or Coverings taking place next April – is a great way to re-connect with manufacturers, contractors and distributors from all over the country as well as make new acquaintances. Events such as receptions, tours and golf tournaments allow for opportunities to interact in a non-business setting. It’s in these settings that relationships are formed and nurtured. Relationships forged at meetings such as Total Solutions Plus can lead to life-long business relationships as well as

There is an old adage; “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” In today’s competitive business climate, networking is a key component of growing and sustaining a business. Successful networking relies on creating honest, interesting conversation including asking questions, active listening, and follow up. It is key to be yourself and be confident in your abilities.

Holding volunteer positions is also a great way to get involved in an organization and initiate networking opportunities: sitting on a committee is an excellent way to increase your network in a professional manner. CTDA has multiple committees ( or that meet twice a year to help the association provide more value for its members.

Organizations such as CTDA, NTCA, TCAA and TCNA encourage networking to improve and grow their respective industries. Conducting business with someone that you trust and know can lead to increased opportunities for all parties involved.

After a great conversation with an old partner or new contact at Total Solutions Plus, you should follow up, expressing that you enjoyed meeting the person or catching up. This allows the relationship to continue to grow even after the meeting. New contacts this year could be good friends by 2016’s Total Solutions Plus in Indian Wells, Calif.

To learn more about membership, please contact [email protected] or to join CTDA, please visit our website ( or

Ask the Experts – October 2015


I’m writing you from the Tampa area. I’m a current NTCA member and have followed your writings for quite some time. I’m a 30-plus year tiler and remodeler. I’ve run into a bit of a problem and I’m stumped, and wondering if you can help me out.

Recently I tiled a shower with 6” x 12” glass over waterproofing membrane. I’m getting some cracked tile on the field walls. First it was one but now I’m up to three. I used a 1/32” grout line and grouted with unsanded. Of course my setting material was unmodified. So please chime in as to why I might be having trouble. I would like to find a resolution before I make my repairs.

This glass product is some of the hardest glass I’ve ever worked with. Difficult to snap cut and wet saw cut with glass blade – it kept cracking in various places. I’m not sure if the quality of the glass poses a problem. Thanks for your help, thoughts and opinion.


Based on your description, it is likely surface tension or lack of flexural value in the glass and shrinkage of the thinset. Installing impervious glass over an impervious membrane causes a very long cure cycle. I have seen glass crack months after it was installed. Cracks when you cut say surface tension and shrinkage to me. It would be pretty expensive to prove that out but pretty sure it could be proven.

David M. Gobis CTC, LLC
Ceramic Tile Consultant


A condo complex called me to look at their elevators. Currently, they have five elevators with 1” x 1” mosaic that is crumbling after 10 years of use. They want to know what my suggestion is to replace it.

What have you seen normally go into an elevator? These are on the Gulf Coast and see lots of exposure to water. I see problems with the type of underlayment I would choose as well as the ability to adhere it to a metal floor. There is 3/4” between the elevator floor and the bottom of the door. I need material and installation recommendations.


I get this question fairly often or slightly different versions of it. Most often the cause of cracking tiles and grout joints can be attributed to excessive substrate deflection.

The elevator cabs chosen for these construction projects are not designed for tile or stone floor finishes. The manufacturer of these elevator cabs will list acceptable floor finishes that usually only include soft goods such as vinyl, carpet, and wood products. In order to be considered for tile or stone the substructure should be constructed in such a way as to not to deflect or “bend” more than a small amount under a concentrated heavy load. There are elevator cabs that are designed to meet these minimum requirements but they are usually much more expensive so they are not chosen in most construction

As for installing tile in these most common elevator cabs that are not designed for such, it is risky and not recommended.

There are products available that may reduce the risk of cracking tile and grout joints such as epoxies, but no warranties from these manufacturers are available. I hope this information helps.

Gerald Sloan,
NTCA Trainer


ATE-1015I’m a San Diego handyman. I hired a licensed tile contractor to tile some shower enclosures standard 32” x 60.” I have 15 years experience and installed floors and showers myself.

The installer basically put large +/- 2”x 2” by 2-1/2” high blobs of thinset on the back corners and center of the tile (5) and pushed it onto the wall, leveling the tile with the adjacent pieces as he went. It does not stick out proud from the finished wall because he used 1/4” backer board on the studs. I have only seen 1/2” used but the manufacturer’s website does “approve” 1/4” for walls. Nowhere in the code could I find mention of substrate thickness.

I am concerned about the structure and more importantly the grout. It’s expected to just rely on the thin edges of the tile to hold it. I won’t be using him again but the union guy backing this installation method has me confused. Is this an approved type of installation?


You are correct to be concerned about this issue.

Industry and manufacturer standards recommend 80% coverage at dry areas and 95% coverage in wet areas and exteriors (both with all edges and corners supported). It is almost impossible to achieve these high coverage percentages using the “five spot”

Unfortunately “five spot” usage has become more prevalent in the tile industry in recent years due in part to the choice of large-format tile for the project, as well as the installer trying to install these large-format tiles over substrates that are not within proper flatness tolerances.

These choices by many installers are causing an inordinately high percentage of job failures. As far as using 1/4” backer directly over studs 16” o.c., I am uncertain whether that is an allowable practice according to the manufacturer.

Michael Whistler,
NTCA Trainer

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 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