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HomeTechnicalInnovative shower construction system streamlines renovation at Grand Traverse Resort and Spa...

Innovative shower construction system streamlines renovation at Grand Traverse Resort and Spa Hotel

Welch Tile Solutions and TEC® tile installation materials team up for lightning-fast installation

A finished shower at Grand Traverse Resort, installed in record time with WTS and TEC setting materials. “At the resort, the shower installations each took perhaps one hour, instead of the more than two days for traditionally installing substrate, properly waterproofing, setting and grouting the tile,” said H.B. Fuller’s National Technical Manager Heather Ruhl.

Grand Traverse Resort and Spa is considered a landmark in northern Michigan and an essential player in the region’s tourism. True to its name, the resort takes great pride in ensuring the guest experience is truly “grand.” From November 2022 to May 2023, the resort underwent an expansive $10.5M renovation on its six-story hotel, to transform the 240 existing guestrooms and add two new guest suites. Throughout the design process, the team responsible was committed to capturing the beauty of northern Michigan and honoring the traditions of the property’s owners – The Grand Traverse Band (GTB) of Ottawa & Chippewa Indians. By incorporating organic elements from nature and GTB tribal artwork, the design team achieved a warm and familiar, yet chic and contemporary ambiance. 

Given its compressed renovation timetable, the resort sought the expertise of local partners to meet construction goals. NTCA Five-Star Contractor Welch Tile and Marble, a trusted company from near Grand Rapids, was selected for its outstanding reputation and its innovative new time-saving prefabricated shower system, Welch Tile Solutions (WTS). The patented system proved instrumental in delivering the 242 beautiful new guest bathrooms on schedule and within budget, aligning perfectly with the resort’s focus on quality craftsmanship and attention to detail. 

Game-changing, time-saving innovation

Dan Welch, owner of Welch Tile, is well known in the tile industry for his extensive experience, innovation and dedication to quality tile installations. Prior to the pandemic, Welch and his team began working on WTS as a way to help sustain both the business and the tile industry during economic downturns and the chronic skilled labor shortages faced by tile installers. With its efficiency, affordability and high quality, WTS has become a win for Welch, a win for the tile industry, and a win for the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa project.

After reviewing the resort’s renovation plans, Welch knew immediately that WTS would be game-changing for the project’s tight timeline. WTS was already successfully installed in hundreds of locations, but the resort’s hotel would be WTS’ largest project to date. Welch noted, “It was gratifying that the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa team was open to innovative ideas. I explained the advantages of Welch Tile Solutions, and the hotel’s project team was quick to approve use of our system for all 242 shower installs.” 

Partnership and experience strengthen performance

The WTS system includes a unique prefabricated shower pan and wall panels that not only save time, money, and wear and tear on installers, but also ensure high-quality end results while meeting industry standards for waterproofing. When developing WTS, the team at Welch used their extensive experience to anticipate and address every possible obstacle to proper shower pan construction and tile/wall panel installation. When an adhesive challenge fell outside their wheelhouse, Welch turned to long-standing partner H.B. Fuller, maker of TEC® tile installation materials. As experts in adhesives, H.B. Fuller helped Welch test and choose the right Swift®bond Adhesive with the exact properties needed to successfully bond the WTS waterproofing membrane to the shower base. Welch trusts TEC tile installation materials for their WTS projects.

WTS can accommodate just about any tile, drain location and shower wall design. No other prefab system offers the quality, design flexibility and performance of the Welch solution. The system even has built-in flexibility to meet on-site variations in drain location. The hotel’s new shower design of a herringbone tile pattern for the floors and large porcelain tile panels for the walls posed no issues for TEC and WTS. Welch preassembled the shower pans and wall panels in its West Michigan area facility and then shipped components 130 miles to the resort’s jobsite for installation. In house, Welch designed an innovative, adjustable work table to save time and installers’ knees, backs and hips by keeping project components at a comfortable, waist-high working height during fabrication. A more comfortable installation allows workers to maintain peak performance and results and reduces the amount of time installers are on their knees during installation. 

Installation materials’ labor-saving technology

For the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa shower tile installations, Welch chose TEC® TotalFlex® 110 Universal Polymer-Modified Mortar for its exceptional open time and ultra-smooth troweling, as well as its outstanding performance in submerged applications. The mortar offered robust non-sag/non-lump adhesion for both the hotel’s large porcelain 24″ x 48″ wall tiles and the small floor tiles. Megan Garvey, Welch’s Manager of Manufacturing and Marketing, explained that “TotalFlex Mortar was an ideal choice for this project, because working with it is so easy and turnaround is so quick. The super smooth trowelling was an especially important advantage since our installers had 242 showers to build and a compressed time frame.”

Finished shower walls and floors, installed within a day’s time with the WTS system. Megan Garvey, Welch’s Manager of Manufacturing and Marketing, mentioned that TEC® Power Grout’s quick cure, enabled caulking to begin in as few as four hours after grouting at the Welch facility.

For grouting, TEC® Power Grout added stain proof* properties and strength that will keep the hotel grout looking great for the long term. With resistance to shrinking, cracking and wet conditions, Power Grout will withstand the rigors of daily guest use. Garvey mentioned that they appreciated the grout’s quick cure, so that caulking could begin in as few as four hours after grouting at the Welch facility. Color-matched TEC® AccuColor 100® 100% Silicone Sealant was also used in the preassembly. In addition, Power Grout’s strength helped withstand the rigors of shipping the WTS components.

Once shipped to the resort, a small team of Welch installers efficiently installed the 242 WTS shower pans and wall panels. Work progressed at a fast pace as the Welch teams of two installed the shower pans with TEC® Full Flex® Premium Thinset Mortar and then put up the wall panels. The installation was finished with TEC® AccuColor 100® 100% Silicone Sealant. With quick cure time of just 24 hours for the showers, the Welch workers were fortunate to be able to stay in the newly-remodeled resort hotel rooms overnight and continue the efficient installations the next day. 

The largest shower base finished, using the WTS system with TEC® TotalFlex® 110 Universal Polymer-Modified Mortar, TEC® Power Grout and TEC® AccuColor 100® 100% Silicone Sealant.

H.B. Fuller National Technical Manager Heather Ruhl visited the WTS pre-assembly construction and subsequent installation at the resort. Ruhl observed that “Welch Tile Solutions’ highly efficient process with no sacrifice in quality is game-changing. The non-stop prefabrication process was impressive to watch. TEC products have become a seamless part of the WTS construction methodology. At the resort, the shower installations each took perhaps one hour, instead of the more than two days for traditionally installing substrate, properly waterproofing, setting and grouting the tile.”

The Grand Traverse Resort and Spa’s renovation has been well-received by the public. Welch Tile and Marble’s innovative WTS enabled timely completion of the guest showers, saving the project months of construction time vs. traditional shower build-outs. Leveraging Welch Tile’s experienced team and trusted TEC installation materials, the WTS process delivered the luxurious aesthetic that guests expect at the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa. With a proven track record and a commitment to excellence, Welch Tile is eager to bring the benefits of WTS to new geographies, offering the innovation’s efficiency and ability to accommodate unlimited tile options to future projects.   

*Power Grout is stain proof to most common water-based stains when cleaned immediately. The prolonged exposure of any stain will increase the likelihood of permanent staining or discoloration of the grout surface.

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