Over 1,000 showers, from concept to completion
The Choctaw Casino and Resort expansion in Durant, Okla., completed in 2021, included expansion of the casino itself along with 1,000 new hotel rooms, conference rooms, retail space, and other amenities. The entire project was completed in 2.5 years, with 350,000 sq. ft., of tile installed in six months. Approximately 1,200 showers were at the heart of this project, with the goal of ensuring these would be fully waterproofed and last for years to come. This project is an excellent example of how every step in the process is important to help ensure success. The combination of high-quality installation systems, training and service, and regular communication allowed the team to achieve alignment on the project goals and come up with a plan to ensure they would be met.
Players and roles
The Choctaw Nation employed JCJ Architecture and Tutor Perini Building Corporation as designer and builder for the project. JCJ was founded in 1936 and has seven locations across the United States. They work extensively in both institutional and commercial design. Tutor Perini was formed through the merger of two companies in 2008 that have roots dating back to 1949 (Tutor) and 1894 (Perini). The global corporation, including its 20+ subsidiaries, provides services in building, civil engineering, and other specialty projects. Tutor Perini selected Spectra Contract Flooring, the largest commercial flooring contractor in the United States with over 50 locations nationwide, to install the flooring.
JCJ specified Schluter Systems for waterproofing the 1,000+ showers on the project. Tutor Perini and Spectra had some knowledge of the Schluter shower system but with a project of this scale, turned to Schluter to ensure every detail was perfect. Schluter representatives Ryan Dode and Justin Reed made it their mission to bring them up to speed and support them throughout the project. This education began with building several mock ups for the contractors to compare with competitive systems. Demonstrating the installation process and explaining the benefits convinced them it was the best system for the job and created a strong foundation for cooperation and successful implementation on the project.
Cast iron clamping ring drains had already been embedded in the post-tensioned concrete floors during construction. Instead of removing those drains, the contractors were able to use the Schluter drain adaptor kits to convert them into integrated bonding flange drains. Once the drains were converted, the sheet-applied Schluter®-KERDI bonded waterproofing membrane could be installed to create a watertight assembly that prevents moisture from infiltrating the substrate. Using the drain adaptors also kept the concrete floors and fire ratings intact, saving an estimated $250,000 in labor. It also helped them keep to the aggressive schedule. The Schluter prefabricated EPS foam shower trays with factory-applied waterproofing membrane were another key system component. They eliminated the need to mix and place dry pack mortar beds, which reduced dust and saved labor and time since there was no need to wait for a mortar bed to set. The trays could be easily cut on site to accommodate off-center drains, so the flexibility of a mortar bed application was maintained.
Arguably, the most important feeling for people to have during any project, let alone one of this scope, is confidence. The pre-project planning and mock ups built the foundation, but training and installation success brought it to the next level. Dode and Reed weren’t satisfied with the Schluter shower system being selected –the benefits had to be realized in practice. They were active partners with the tile contractor, general contractor, and owner’s representative throughout the tile installation part of the project. This included training, site visits to answer questions, and suggestions to optimize the process. Validation of these efforts were observed in the project results.
Water testing of the first-floor showers drew a veritable crowd of observers. Twenty people were in attendance, including the third-party inspector that performed the tests and representatives from the tile contractor, general contractor, owner, and Schluter Systems. The number of observers fell to 15 for the second-floor showers, eight for the third-floor showers, and so on. The process was stable and quality assurance was built in to where water tests could be reduced to spot checks.
30% to 40% faster install
Perhaps the most visible benefit realized on the project was the faster pace of installation. Tutor Perini estimated that using the Schluter shower system saved them 30% to 40% of the time required for a traditional shower system. The speed and efficiency Spectra achieved while maintaining quality results was remarkable. They were even encouraged to slow down or take a break because they were pushing the other trades ahead of them in construction. It was a role reversal for the tile installers compared to many projects in which the other trades are pushing. This is the basis for Tutor Perini advocating for the Schluter shower system on future projects.
Trust and success go hand in hand
The Choctaw Casino and Resort expansion was a success story in many ways. Foremost, the trust built among all parties from specification to installation produced high-quality tiled showers faster than was ever thought possible. Building the relationships and confidence with the contractors in a way that took them from having some familiarity with the system to pushing for it on future projects was especially gratifying. Thank you to JCJ Architecture, Tutor Perini, and Spectra Contract Flooring for helping us tell this story.
Sean Gerolimatos is the director of research and development for Schluter Systems LP. He has been with the company since 2003. Gerolimatos has served as a member of the Tile Council of North America's Handbook Membrane Committee, the National Tile Contractors Association's Technical Committee and has written articles for numerous trade publications including TileLetter. Gerolimatos's academic background is in civil engineering. He has a bachelor's degree from Clarkson University and a masters from Cornell University.