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Tile & The Tempest

Sika and International Flooring brave the storm for Ritz-Carlton, Naples, Fla.

September 28, 2022. If the sky is sullen, then the sea is downright seething. The unchecked ache in the shoulder has become a claxon portending an unforgiving storm. The Ritz-Carlton, with all its grace and splendor, will not be spared when the winds crescendo and sea overtakes the land. The power is failing. Time to lay down the trowel. Evacuate.

Renovating a Naples jewel

SikaTile®-815 Secure Grout retains its flawless appearance after Hurricane Ian flooded the Ritz-Carlton.

The Ritz-Carlton in Naples, Fla., has been the high point of luxury of the affluent Gulf Coast community since 1985. The planned renovations that began in May 2021 were intended to renew the hotel’s grand luster. Elevating the guest experience was the central drive behind the renovations, and the construction of the new Vanderbilt Tower, addition of 92 new suites and expansion of the Club Lounge would be central to this vision. A transfiguring marriage of marble and gold would adorn the reimagined spaces. Understated creams, greys, blues and greens would uphold the updated aesthetic and reflect the natural surroundings of the hotel’s southwest Florida surroundings. No space of the hotel would be untouched by sweeping modernization.

A complete SikaTile® system ensures that the installation at Ritz-Carlton, Naples withstands all punishment.

PCL Construction, the project’s general contractor, enlisted International Flooring Inc. (IFI) to transform the Ritz-Carlton’s floors and walls. The materials that would set the nearly 12,000 sq. ft. of stone and tile needed to lend luxurious longevity to the installations. A SikaTile® system was chosen for its strength and timeless appearance, two essential qualities in the challenging Florida climate, which can turn from calm to calamitous with little warning. 

SikaTile®-100 Moisture Guard ensures zero water penetration through protected installations

IFI began work in September 2021. The bathrooms of the now-474 guest rooms and suites received new stone and tile for nearly all surfaces. SikaTile®-100 Moisture Guard provided a waterproof barrier that protected the facilities and adjoining spaces. The volume of oversized stone and tile was locked into place with SikaTile®-400 LHT Pro Set. Silver SikaTile®-815 Secure Grout delivered the complementary elegance that accentuated the guest spaces’ revised aesthetic, while Merkrete MK-100SC 100% Silicone Caulk provided the necessary expansion joints.

xA complete Sika system was also applied to Ritz-Carlton’s vast exterior areas, including the new outdoor restaurant, Sofra. Pool, bungalow and cabana spaces likewise received a Sika warrantied system that ensures that the tilework would provide a lifetime of enjoyment for the Ritz-Carlton’s valued clientele.

For PCL and IFI, the $51-million renovation proceeded largely on schedule and without incident throughout 2021 and most of the following year. A comparatively mild hurricane season for the state instilled hope for successful completion of the tilework by year’s end. Come September, however, a meandering disturbance named Ian would upset the timeline and bring catastrophe to Naples and the Ritz-Carlton.

International Flooring used a Sika system for the hotel’s monumental renovation.

Deluge, damage and defiance

On September 28, 2022, Ian strengthened to a category five hurricane. It found its way to the Gulf of Mexico and started bearing eastward with its menacing 160-mph winds and gathering sea swell. When it became clear that Naples would bear the initial blow of Hurricane Ian’s continental landfall, crews and personnel evacuated the Ritz-Carlton property. 

According to IFI Senior Account Manager Mike Grant, Ian forced rain and Gulf waters deep into the hotel. The new Vanderbilt Tower took the brunt of the storm surge. Water filled first-floor public spaces such as the pool bathrooms and cabanas, reaching as high as six feet inside the building. For two weeks, IFI’s two tile crews were forced to wait out the storm and its lingering impact from home. When the water rolled back and the spaces were declared safe for reentry, Grant’s crews surveyed the new challenges the storm presented.

Sofra, the hotel’s new outdoor restaurant, is restored using a SikaTile® system following catastrophic flooding.

The spaces protected by the SikaTile® system performed as intended, with the SikaTile®-100 Moisture Guard preventing water penetration through the tile and stone installations. This eliminated the need for floor surfaces to be repaired or replaced. Many wall surfaces, however, demanded extensive rework. While the Sika system prevented water from going through the waterproofed tile system, rising waters had unfettered access into several walls through unprotected surfaces on the opposite side. This unanticipated penetration dictated that drywall on both sides (as well as all finished wall surfaces) needed to be replaced. 

Flooding of spaces storing construction materials complicated recuperative efforts. Four-foot swells rendered unprotected thinsets and mortars unusable. According to Grant, about half the materials could not be recovered, which further frustrated efforts to get back on track. It took careful coordination with Sika to arrange for timely delivery of replacement materials to the storm-ravaged location.

IFI achieved the flatness necessary to support large tiles with SikaLevel® 325.

For weeks after work resumed, the crews at IFI had to operate under temporary, and at times uncertain, conditions. The course of the storm also altered ambient conditions at the tile job site. Once again, Sika personnel were ready with support to ensure successful application of its tile systems. By June 2023, IFI’s crews completed the tile work on the troubled project, allowing the Ritz-Carlton to defiantly reopen the following month.

“Highest of compliments to our partners at International Flooring,” said Sika Director of Tile Setting Todd Boos. “They faced unimaginable circumstances that could have easily prevented them from completing this job with quality results. As expected, the Sika system performed exceedingly well under catastrophic conditions, minimizing additional labor, materials and job delay expenses related to tile re-installation. At Sika, we work tirelessly to provide our partners with the materials they need to create secure, durable installations, under the most extreme application conditions.”  

SikaTile®-400 LHT Pro Set secures more than 12,000 sq. ft. of tile at Ritz-Carlton, Naples.
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