April 20, 2020 (Anderson, SC) – An update to the International Building Code (IBC) will allow designers to use adhered porcelain tiles as large as 48×48 inches or 36×72 inches on building facades. The proposed change, driven by the International Masonry Institute (IMI) and the Tile Council of North America (TCNA), was certified by the International Code Council Board of Directors this month and will go into effect in the 2021 IBC.
Prior to the update, the IBC limited adhered porcelain tile to a maximum of 24 inches on one side and a maximum of 3 square feet per tile. In common tile sizes, that means the largest permissible tiles were 20 inches x 20 inches and 12 inches x 24 inches. Advances in porcelain tile manufacturing have resulted in extremely large and extremely thin tiles, as thin as 1/8 inch, now being widely available. Moreover, tile setting mortar is now more resistant to tensile and shear forces, thanks to advances in polymer- modified Portland cement mortar technology. The combination of these factors – thinner, lighter tiles and stronger mortars – already allow larger tiles to be successfully adhered to exterior facades. The 2021 IBC will make it possible for designers and builders to specify such without requiring the code variance process.
With this update, designers, building owners, and construction professionals will have more flexibility to select tile as an alternative to precast concrete, metal panels, and other materials for building exteriors, expanding the tile market and work opportunities for qualified tile contractors and installers.