The promise of shared learning and growth hung in the warm, dry air of Idaho Falls at the 2023 MUD Event, hosted by Tile Trends, in early August. Amidst the scraping of shovels and humming mixers, a tiny preschool-aged MUD6 attendee – wearing green rubber gloves four times the size of her hands – smashed a flood-test rubber duck into a bucket of mud. Onlookers chuckled, amused.
Nearby, a supposedly-retired mud master in his mid-eighties, Pete Steed, effortlessly demonstrated the most efficient way to load up a trowel and float a wall. These two participants demonstrated how MUD6 spans the generations, familiarizing a pre-schooler to the craft, and providing the wisdom of seasoned expertise.
Rogue Bergerson of Bergerson Tile, Stone & Cabinets, Astoria, Ore., silently studied Pete’s movements. Then, Pete handed him the hawk and trowel and said, “Give it a try.” Mario “TileGuy” Garcia – originator of the event over six years ago – passed by and warned, “If you hold [the tools] wrong, your arms will be on fire in two minutes.”
After floating the wall, Bergerson said, “Pete was awesome. He got me to put mud on the wall without getting it all over the floor. That is not to say that we don’t do mud…We incorporate mud in almost all of our shower pans.”
Garcia and many others provided valuable feedback about proper methods to attendees, including: John Roberts, Technical Sales Specialist at Beno J Gundlach Company and CTI Evaluator; Scott Carothers, Academic Director of CTEF; Mike Foster, President of Tile Trends; and Terry Hall, Ardex Technical Trainer.
Sal Azzolino, Owner of Argo Tile and Stone, San Francisco, Calif., noted how important the MUD Events are for expanding knowledge about proper substrate prep. For him, tile and mud go hand in hand. “[Installers need to know] what’s going on under the tile,” he said.
Joppe Aguirre, Owner of Cascadia Tile Company LLC, Redmond, Ore., who passed the ACT test for mud floors at the event, felt a little unsure about whether he should provide instruction. “I asked Mario if I could jump in on one of the walls and help somebody out,” Aguirre said. “He gave me the OK.”
Incorporating mud skills on the job
The person Aguirre helped was Ismael Hernandez Pina, Tilemaster & Home Repair, Spanish Fork, Utah, and Certified Tile Installer #1640. Pina was new to floating walls. Aguirre said, “He friend requested me on Facebook…He wants to practice and create his own module at home.” Pina wants to use mud for floating fireplaces. Making that connection “was pretty cool,” Aguirre said.
Logan Bounds, Owner of Atlas Tile Co., Vineyard, Utah, who passed his CTI test at the event, has attended MUD twice. At the first event, he learned how to float a wall. He said at MUD6 he learned “a way to burn mud in on a scratch and brown.” He hasn’t become comfortable enough to utilize these skills on projects yet, but he is “inching toward it.”
Ben Rivkin, Owner of River Building Group LLC, Hailey, Idaho, recommended mud for basement showers with out-of-plumb walls where one wall is cement. “True it up. Get it ready for tile,” he said. From a business owner’s perspective, Rivkin raved about mud. “I do well selling mud… It’s really solid.” He also noted how inexpensive mud is.
Azzolino talked about an all-marble project in a 100-year-old building with walls made of one-inch black iron and metal lathe. He decided to use mud on this project. “The walls were not meant for [drywall],” he said. “They were meant…for mud.”
Josh Leavitt, who runs a sole proprietorship in Nampa, Idaho, participated in a timed wall floating contest at the event. He shared a story of how he used mud skills on a project with long, tall window wells. “When they poured the concrete, there were not originally plans to put tile on it,” said Leavitt. He and his business partner successfully prepared the substrate for large-format material by grinding down high spots and floating large valleys.
Leavitt also pointed out that when the usual materials and supplies are not available, installers with mud skills can still prep a substrate for tile. “Knowing how to mud [during COVID] was very beneficial.”
Attendees learned how products integrate with mud
Part of the reason companies have a presence at the MUD Event, according to Leavitt, is that they can “show how their products can integrate with mud.” He used GoBoard as an example. “They waited for the MUD Event so that they could unveil their new dream setup…where you can use the mud pan easier with their system and still get the warranty.”
Attendees took home valuable information from Schluter, TEC/HB Fuller, Gundlach, LATICRETE, MAPEI, ARDEX Americas, Sika, Blanke, GoBoard, Rapid Recess, Rodkat, Beast Mixer, Noble Products, and others. What kind of valuable information? Here is one example among many.
Anthony Oliver, Owner of Oliver’s Tile of Woodland, Calif., packed high-performance deck mud in a shower floor module with a bonded flange drain. Oliver said, “Schluter introduced me [to bonded flange drains]. Before that, I was doing traditional water in/water out systems.” He brushed his hand along the surface of the mud and asked Ardex’s Terry Hall, “Is it ok that [the mud] is rough?”
Hall demonstrated, “Use the edge and push down. Keep working it back and forth. When you get done, it will look like traditional mud.”
Later, Schluter’s Shannon Huffstickler talked about the module’s bonded flange drain and answered questions Oliver and others had about the system.
Oliver, who also brought his son Justin to the MUD6, won the same shower drain system in the giveaways at the end of MUD6. He will have a chance to use the knowledge he took away from the event in an upcoming shower project.
An evolving event
Chris Francisco of Tile Outlet & Granite, Boise, Idaho, has been to all the MUD Events except one. He said, “I saw things change the most when [MUD] came to Idaho. Mike Foster did a great job. You can learn more now than you could in the first few years. We used to just party. Now it is getting to what it should be.”
Accessible, inclusive, and very hands-on, MUD6 was a fun, educational event. MUD6 helped solidify the idea that the MUD Event is continuing to evolve into something truly unique.
Interested in immersing yourself in a weekend of mud training, demos and camaraderie? Join the MUD Event’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/mynameismudevent to keep up to date with tips, information and details about the 2024 event.
Alice Dean is the owner of Top Floor Writer. She writes creative and technical content for stone and tile restoration contractors, installers, inspectors, and others in the tile and stone industry.