Tech Talk – April 2017

A tour through NTCA’s “Innovative Tools” Coverings 2017 presentation

An array of tools that make tiling easier, safer and more efficient will be on display

By Lesley Goddin

This year, at Coverings ’17 (taking place as this book is going to press), NTCA technical trainers/presenters Mark Heinlein and Robb Roderick are conducting a Coverings Conference session called “Innovative Tools in the Tile Industry.” In addition, the session will be presented in Spanish by NTCA technical trainer Luis Bautista, and David Allen Company’s Marcos Castillo. NTCA training and education coordinator Becky Serbin will also be on hand at the session.

The session explores a number of tools available in the industry right now and their benefits. For our Tech Talk section this issue, we are presenting a synopsis of the tools that will be presented in this session, along with photos and the URL, so you can research them on their own and see how they might enhance your installation experience or efficiency.

Several of the products selected for the session offer tremendous innovation in the ability to remove dust, especially in light of OSHA’s new requirements for limiting the amount of crystalline silica in the workplace. These new safety standards are to go in to place this summer. These include the iQTS244 dry-saw, and Alpha Tool’s HEPA Dry Vacuum and Ecoguard series of dust collection devices.
The iQTS244 10″ tile saw from iQ Power Tools is a dry-cut saw with a vacuum attached on the bottom. This saw makes precise cuts in a dust-free environment without the use of water. NTCA technical trainer/presenter Robb Roderick said, “Traditional wet saws have a tendency to spray water around the jobsite, which is why they are normally set up outside or in a garage. This saw works great in freezing temperatures where wet saws would have difficulty.” www.iQpowertools.com

 

Alpha Professional Tools offers the Alpha® Hepa Dry Vacuum, with an extra-large capacity HEPA filter system and a power 2-hp motor. The drop-in HEPA filter is individually certified to have a minimum efficiency of 99.97% at .3 microns. Alpha is updating this vacuum, and a new model will be available in the near future.

 

In addition, Alpha offers the Ecoguard series of dust collection devices (pictured is the Ecoguard EG, an Economy Grinding Dust Collection Cover for larger grinders, fitting most 6” to 8” grinders). When connected to an industrial vacuum the Ecoguard EG moves easily and creates a virtually dust-free grinding experience. Roderick said, “Cutting and grinding creates a lot of dust which can have adverse effects in the user, and require extensive amounts of efforts cleaning up the mess. These products help eliminate those issues.” www.alphatools.com

 

When it comes to mixers, the RUBITOOLS’ Rubimix -9 electric mixer offers a configuration that is more comfortable to the user for mixing thin-set and grout than that offered by traditional  drills, Roderick said. It also has adjustable speed setting allowing you to use it to mix multiple types of products with one mixer. The versatile mixer allows mixing adhesives, resins, paints and other materials by changing the mixing paddle. Its double grip with bi-material handles has improved ergonomics and greater user comfort.

RUBI also has developed a rubber graduated RUBI-KANGURO “ITALIANO” bucket, which is easily cleaned and has greater longevity. Roderick noted that traditionally tile installers have used plastic buckets to mix thinset or grout. “To be used again, the buckets must be cleaned daily,” he said. “Because of the rigidity of the plastic after thin-set or grout hardened, the dried materials are nearly impossible to removewithout damaging the bucket. These buckets are rubber and much more easily cleaned when setting materials have dried in them.” The buckets have reinforcing ribs and a base and mouth which are designed to make the bucket very structurally robust. www.rubi.com.


Gundlach is distributing a new Montolit Masterpiuma P3 cutter– and it’s Montolit’s #1 bestselling cutter. “This cutter has gotten rave review on several tile-related Facebook sites, because  of its ease of use and its ability to cut virtually every type of tile available,” Roderick said. “Many of our members are amazed at how well it works.”


It can cut all types of tile quickly and accurately, ranging from thicknesses of 0-22mm. It even makes cutting on a diagonal safe and simple. It features an accurate, powerful and effective ergonomic push scrib handle, a self-adjustable patented scoring system and easy, fast set-up, transport and storage due to the patented foldable design. Adaptable for large-format tiles as well. www.montolit.com

Not every tile line offers bullnose pieces for finished edges. But the Raimondi Bull Dog™ bullnose machines, made by Raimondi and distributed by Donnelly Distribution LLC, allows installers to make custom bullnose pieces of porcelain or stone easy. The pump-cooled machine bullnoses and bevels, offering rough, finished and polished levels of finishing. www.raimondiusa.com

 

Another product from Raimondi is the Raimondi Maxititina Multi-Functional Floor Machine with Grouting Paddle. While this is not a NEW machine, it is innovative in that it allows contractors to grout a floor without kneeling, clean a floor, or grind/scarify or prepare subfloors to improve the bond. It allows installers to level out high spots on concrete, and power grout a job at 55 rpm, spreading the grout and packing the joints full. It also can seal floors in a jiffy, and polish them to a desired level of shine, at 110 rpm.

 

Also useful is the Berta by Raimondi which has a large replaceable sponge drum which rotates to clean freshly-grouted floors, which is a major time saver on large floor installations.

Finally, with dimensions of tile growing larger and larger, the ETM Grip by European Tile Masters facilitates handling and back-buttering of gauged porcelain panels. It has 12 fully-adjustable suction cups and four adjustable handles, can be configured to multiple lengths (up to 10’) and multiple shapes (including U and Z shapes), and can be tilted from 90 to 15-degree angles. The ETM Grip allows two people to move and manage today’s larger format tiles with ease. www.europeantilemasters.com

Tech Talk – March 2017

Using the NTCA Reference Manual to prevent or solve radiant heat issues

By Lesley Goddin 

Radiant heat and electric floor warming is one of the fastest growing sectors in the tile industry. In fact, in our TECH and TRENDS issues, it’s one of the biggest section – with more products being introduced that take advantage of NEST or smart phone technology to monitor and operate automated temperature controls, or new mat-and-cable configurations that speed installation while offering a more custom layout and guarding against cracking at the same time.

Electric floor warming systems seem to get simple to install all the time – a far cry from the days of cumbersome hydronic pipe systems. These simple, easy mat-and-cable systems make installation fast and relatively easy.

That being said, there are cautions when installing radiant heat systems that are best heeded to ensure a flawless project. The 2016/2017 NTCA Reference Manual examines Radiant Heat Issue for Tile & Stone Installations in chapter 6: Specialized Installation Procedures, page 134. Presented in a Problem/Cause/Cure format and compiled from decades of field experience, the recommendations in the NTCA Reference Manual help installers prevent problems in the field and give guidelines on managing them if they do occur.

For instance, a few of the scenarios include:

Problem: Excessive tile lippage

Cause: Lack of mortar of self leveling underlayment cement used to encapsulate the radiant heat system

Cure: Securely attach the radiant heat system so it stays flat on floor and cover the system with sufficient mortar or self leveling underlayment cement. 3/4” of dry pack of 3/8” SLU over the system.

Problem: Grout or mortar system is very powdery or weak.

Cause: Provided the grout and mortar system was properly mixed and installed, the main cause would be running the radiant heat system before the cement based products are allowed to cure: a minimum of seven days.  Excessive moisture exposure from below or above may impact mortars or SLUs.

Cure: Make sure all parties involved with the radiant heat system know the system cannot be put in service until the installation products are allowed to cure.

Problem: The thermostat overheats or even melts when the radiant heat system is turned on.

Cause: Damage of this type generally is caused by overloading the circuit, trying to heat too much floor area on one thermostat or running a 120v thermostat on a 240v circuit.

Cure: Make sure the radiant heat system is matched in terms of voltage and sized correctly to the circuit capacity and thermostat. It also could indicate the wire nuts are not sufficiently tightened. Make

sure a licensed electrician makes the final connection.

Problem: The radiant heat system doesn’t warm up.

Cause: The main reason for this is a broken or severed heating element.

Cure: Take care to protect the heating system during installation. This problem will require splicing/repairing the heating element.

Problem: The radiant heat system doesn’t provide evenly spread or consistent warmth.

Cause: The main reason for this is varying or wrong spacing of cables or tubes. Follow manufacturer’s recommendations. Lack of insulation under the heat system may also cause heat-loss or heat-sink in areas of the subfloor. Proper insulation underlayment should be designed by the architect.

Cure: Re-design floor and heat system installation including insulating tile underlayment. This cure will require splicing/repairing the heating element. In case of heat loss due to lack of insulation under the heat system, the application must be redesigned.

The NTCA Reference Manual provides more recommendations for successful radiant heat installations – and successful installations for a range of situations and products. To obtain your copy, visit the Industry Technical Manuals section under the NTCA Store link on the NTCA website, www.tile-assn.com, or enter http://bit.ly/2mqafg9 into your browser.

The SunTouch SunStat® Connect Programmable Touch Screen w/ Wi-Fi / Model# 500875  lets you control floor heating remotely, using a mobile app or via the web. Adjust floor heating settings any time from anywhere. Additional features let the system compensate for weather changes to save on energy use.suntouch.com

The OJ Microline® touchscreen thermostats can be used with any electric floor heating system to provide intelligent, intuitive, programmable and adaptive control. WLAN connectivity allows homeowners to remote control their heating system via an app from anywhere at all. www.ojelectronics.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Schluter’s DITRA-HEAT-TB, now DITRA-HEAT-DUO, reduces sound transmission in multi-story residential buildings, while warming the floor and supporting the covering to ensure a lasting installation.  It also offers faster warm-up times. www.schluter.com

Nuheat electric radiant floor heating systems offers a variety of solutions from pre-built custom mats, off-the-shelf standard sizes, cable for on-site modifications fitting perfectly into uncoupling membrane. The Nuheat line of Next Generation Thermostats includes the industry’s first WiFi-enabled thermostat that Works with Nest, taking comfort and energy savings to the next level by working together to automatically adjust to your schedule, sensing and reacting to your ever changing lifestyle. www.nuheat.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RPM Mats, “the original” heat wire installation mat system, can be used to replace anti-fracture membranes and are designed to ease the installation process for all brands of electric in-floor heat wire with wire spacing at any 1/2″ increments. Made in the USA of recycled materials. www.rpmmats.com

The Warmup 4iE® thermostat finds the smart way to heat your home more efficiently. Two options are offered, with and without WiFi. The 4iE can be installed like a traditional underfloor heating thermostat or 3-wire thermostat for central heating. The WiFi is simple and intuitive to set up. Free installer training classes, and a selection of decorator faceplates available. warmup.com

 

 

 

 

 

Providing consistent comfort and control for many years, the Warm Tiles® New FGS (programmable) & FG (non-programmable) model thermostats offer state-of-the-art temperature control, and easy programming functionality.A sensor embedded in the mortar below the finished floors monitors the actual floor temperature to obtain optimal comfort levels. http://bit.ly/2mLdy58

The WarmlyYours TempZone™ Heating Cable (Twin) warms any room with an ultra-low EMF. The twin conductor has a 15’ cold lead and is available in two voltage options and a range of lengths. It can also be paired with the Prodeso Cable Installation Membrane, an uncoupling and crack isolation membrane with rounded square-shaped reliefs,  that offers versatile layout options and waterproofing. Warmlyyours.com

 

 

Tech Talk – October 2016

TEC-sponsorSealers, maintenance and more

Contractors offer value-added service, keep connected with customers

By Lesley Goddin

The tile or stone is installed, the area cleaned up, and you step back and admire your work, then go on to your next job, right?

Nope.

Contractors say cleaners, sealers and maintenance packages can add protection to the project and its long-term beauty and performance, and keep contractors connected to their customers so they are top of mind for that next tile or stone job or referral to a friend or business.

Not a one-size fits-all proposition

Martin Brookes, of NTCA Five Star Contractor Heritage Tile and Marble, Mill Valley, Calif., said that manufacturers have mispromoted sealers over the years, giving the impression that “the installer applies a magic substance to a surface that allows them to abuse the tile and grout, when in fact it’s more of a protectant that gives added amount of time to remove a substance, over a non-protected surface.”

Brookes said that not all tile or grouts require a sealer, and sealers exposed to UV light may need regular reapplication. “It’s not a one-shoe size fits all scenario.”

Sealer applied and allowed to flash on the surface, possibly on stone that was too hot or sealer applied in direct sunlight.

Sealer applied and allowed to flash on the surface, possibly on stone that was too hot or sealer applied in direct sunlight.

Heritage highly recommends a maintenance package when stone is installed. “We recommend StoneTech® Revitalizer as maintenance cleaner, and always warn of not using harmful toxic cleaners around natural stone and metallic tile,” he said. “We have however noticed over the years that ‘green’ cleaning products don’t have the cleaning power of the more toxic, harmful ones so there is a compromise.”

Brookes also said that the combination of green cleaning products, shower gels, shampoo, body oils and the humid environment of a shower is contributing to frequent growth of the bacterium Serratia Marcescens. This gram-bacterium, which creates a pinkish-reddish-orange slimy bloom on surfaces, is a culprit in urinary tract and respiratory infections, especially in hospital settings and where instrumentation is involved for the patient.

“We educate the end user on the limitations of a sealer and inform them it’s not a one-time application; regular maintenance and reapplication will safeguard their investment,” he said.

An attempt to remove a stain with a poultice only made the situation worse.

An attempt to remove a stain with a poultice only made the situation worse.

Products used:

  • STONETECH /LATICRETE sealers
Becoming the local go-to maintenance experts

For NTCA State Ambassador Dirk Sullivan of Portland, Oregon’s Hawthorne Tile, requests for repairs and recaulking or regrouting have been frequent since he started his business in 2000. This kind of work “helped pay the bills” during the 2008-10 economic downturn, he said. But once the business of larger, custom jobs picked up again, there wasn’t much time to pursue this type of work.

Until Sullivan had a revelation: “If we had a team to manage this specific line, we could become the go-to experts,” he said. “Not only that, but we could have a team ready to set up maintenance programs as we completed our high-end custom jobs.” Longtime employee Jason Ballard (CTI, ACT) was eager to take on this new role, applying his “eye for detail, understanding of TCNA standards and excellent customer service.”

Hawthorne Tile has evolved its selection of products, choosing Dry Treat, a relatively exclusive product in the region. It added in LATICRETE and AquaMix products to fill some holes in local representation.

After meeting Fila’s Jeff Moen at Coverings early this year, Sullivan was super impressed with the line of cleaners and the “top-notch customer service” offered by this company, which includes educating Hawthorne staff – and by the fact that Hawthorne would be the exclusive distributor of the line.

“As we complete our projects, we give our customers a gift bag with sample cleaning products and instructions as well as a refrigerator magnet with our restoration team contact number and info for re-ordering cleaning products as they need it,” Sullivan said.

“We have found that this type of full service means we have a loyal customer for life. Not just when they need tile installed – which as it turns out… is not often enough!”

Products used:

  • Dry Treat
  • LATICRETE
  • AquaMix
  • Fila
3-tech

J&R Tile crews applying sealer on different types of surfaces.

Pre-construction discussion,  free maintenance education ends headaches

How do you combat lack of care in commercial kitchens, lack of sanitary cove base in restroom facilities and the darkening and residue buildup consequences of using dirty mop heads with regular detergent soap?

If you are Five Star Contractor J&R Tile, Inc. of San Antonio, Texas, you offer custom maintenance packages free for the property owner of a new construction or remodel to pass on to the custodial staff, along with complimentary product samples with demonstrations to help staff members use proper procedures to maintain their warranty and keep the project looking great.

Free? Yep, that’s what NTCA State Ambassador Erin Albrecht of J&R Tile said. The company trains and educates maintenance/facilities personnel on application, leaving the door open for calls or questions. “Most don’t know – or don’t know where – to purchase professional strength tile and stone cleaners,” she said. “We offer services, but we leave the stickers on the bottles on where the customer can reorder and our cards to contact us to order and ship to them.”

4-techFila products are the company’s go-to, due to its outstanding customer support, and a useful iPhone app for staff and customers that displays a flowchart of the proper product for each application. Lori Coates, StoneTech rep out of Houston, also provides unbeatable customer service.

“If we had more partnerships like this in the industry commercially, our installations as contractors would be longer-lasting and more aesthetically-pleasing. That relationship would build customer loyalty with the contractor, and brand loyalty with the product. The staff always knows they can trust you because you care about your installation, long after the project is complete.”

In addition to the free maintenance service, J&R dialogs in pre-construction about cove base and other options like metal trims. “We believe when cove bases are deleted because trim pieces can be pricey with budgetary constraints, it is our due diligence to offer solutions for the life of the installation with the end user in mind,” she said.

And J&R has found in problematic commercial kitchens where they are called in to “regrout,” management has been inaccurately or incompletely informed about how to maintain their floors. “Most of these facilities have gotten to the point where standing water is in the kitchen and it is a health/safety hazard.”

Providing a custom maintenance package, with proper instructions from the get-go, eliminates these problems, and contributes to satisfied customers and repeat business.

Products used: 

  • Fila
  • STONETECH

Tech Talk – August 2016

TEC-sponsorExterior porcelain rainscreen wall systems

june-tech-01By Rich Goldberg, AIA, CSI –
Professional Consultants International LLC & PROCON Consulting Architects, Inc.

(Editor note: This is the third in a series of three articles by Rich Goldberg about exterior ventilated façades. This installment examines a case study project incorporating a ventilated porcelain rainscreen exterior wall system.)

 

Introduction

The first article in this series appeared in April 2016 TileLetter, and provided an overview of exterior ventilated porcelain rainscreen wall technology, including exciting new developments in porcelain panel sizes, thicknesses, and systems for precise engineering and mechanical attachment of porcelain panels to building façades. The concept of “ventilated rainscreen” walls was explained, including the benefits of ventilated wall cavities and continuous insulation to meet strict energy code requirements.

The second article appeared in June 2016 TileLetter, and explored the challenges facing the tile industry with rapid changes in tile technology and consumer demand.  To survive, we must adjust to some rather uncomfortable changes. The ancient proverb “Live by the sword, die by the sword” is certainly in vogue today as all industries are struggling to survive by making drastic changes to adjust to entire new technologies. Our design and consulting firm is no different, as we are in the process of making a challenging and complex transition to designing and engineering ventilated porcelain facades.

In this installment, we will explore a case study of the design and construction of a cutting-edge school building project. I will share with you some of the behind-the-scenes design and engineering of a typical ventilated porcelain rainscreen wall system, as well as a pictorial sequence of the project under construction.

CREC Museum Academy
Bloomfied, Conn.

The case study project is the CREC Museum Academy in Bloomfield, Conn., currently under construction. The Capital Region Education Council (CREC) Museum Academy offers education outside the traditional learning environment for 522 students in grades PreK – 5. By opening up the worlds of history, visual arts, living museums, performances and exhibition, students have a forum to develop their own curiosity about the world in which they live.

The design concept for the 75,000-sq.-ft. building follows the philosophy about fundamental changes in elementary level education. The exterior façade was designed around the ventilated rainscreen concept not only for functional reasons (ventilated cavity for ideal thermal and moisture control, energy efficiency of continuous insulation and air/moisture/vapor barrier, ease of access for maintenance), but also for conceptual reasons (expression of embracing new building technologies, curiosity of “how buildings work”).

Figure 1

Figure 1

The exterior façade contains approximately 35,000 sq. ft. of porcelain panels in addition to insulated glass windows and curtain walls. The porcelain panels are mechanically attached to an aluminum sub-frame, both of which were precisely engineered by PROCON and prefabricated by manufacturer Crossville-Shackerley. The system, commercially known as the “Sureclad® System,” was selected not only because of the ventilated rainscreen capabilities, but also because of the design attributes unique to this system: 1) access to remove and replace any porcelain panel, 2) flexibility for adjustment in all dimensions, and 3) properly designed components to allow for coastal wind loads, differential thermal movement and seismic activity.

 

Design and engineering

The fact that this wall system is completely pre-fabricated eliminates many of the typical field fabrication challenges for tile contractors. However, the trade-off is the challenge associated with complex coordination and understanding of dimensional tolerances and as-built field conditions – you simply cannot make any significant cuts to fit in the field, and the proper handling to prevent breakage due to lead times for prefabrication is critical. Another attribute of the Crossville-Shackerley Sureclad system was quick turn-around fabrication at their U.S. facility.

 

Figure 2

Figure 2

Figure 1 is an example of the precise design and engineering of the aluminum sub-frame for a full-scale mock-up of this project. The elevation of the framing indicates the placement and precise dimension of each component. Despite our precise design, the construction of the back-up wall (metal studs and gypsum sheathing) was out of plumb as is all too common with most field-constructed rough wall systems.

 

Figure 3

Figure 3

Construction sequence

Figure 2 shows the application of the air/moisture/vapor (AMV) barrier to the back-up wall sheathing. The AMV is a critical component of the continuous thermal and moisture-control function of a ventilated rainscreen wall. Even the penetrations for the aluminum support brackets fasteners through the AMV must be considered, as well as thermal breaks (green plastic isolation pads) between the aluminum brackets and the structural back-up wall. Air/moisture/vapor control is now highly regulated by building codes as well as by fire codes (NFPA 285).

Figure 3 is a view of the support bracket installation. The ease of installation of the porcelain panels is critically dependent on the layout and precision alignment of these supports.

Figure 4

Figure 4

Figure 4 shows how the windows have a sub-frame which envelope the ventilated cavity and allows the window to be flush with the porcelain panel surface. The sub-frame contains continuous flashing and waterproofing to tie in with the AMV. Windows can also be recessed using a similar metal frame or porcelain panel returns.

Figure 5 illustrates the installation of vertical T-shaped structural supports. These vertical supports serve several functions: 1) to allow attachment of the horizontal channels to which the porcelain panels are attached; 2) to transfer wind and gravity loads to the underlying structure, and most important 3) to provide adjustment of plumb and flatness alignment to underlying walls, which often exceed acceptable tolerances.

Figure 5

Figure 5

Figure 6 is a view of the installation of continuous insulation. Our firm always recommends that architects use mineral wool insulation in ventilated rainscreen wall systems. This is first and foremost because this material is completely fire safe, unlike foam insulation, despite dubious manufacturer claims for open-jointed ventilated-cavity wall systems. This material is also available with a black painted facing, so that no yellow, pink or other shiny material is exposed to view through open joints between the porcelain panels. The insulation is continuous, with the exception of thickness of the brackets and vertical T-shaped supports, which is allowed under strict energy codes.

Figure 6

Figure 6

Figure 7 is a leading edge view showing the installation of the horizontal supports for the porcelain panels. You will note that these aluminum supports are provided in a black anodized coating so that no shiny aluminum is exposed to view through open joints between the panels; this is the only exposed metal along horizontal joints. The Sureclad system design is unique in that there is only one horizontal support rail per tile panel course, compared to all other systems which 1) require two horizontal rails for each panel, and 2) once a panel is in place on a two-horizontal rail system, there is no room to lift up and remove a panel once the panel above is installed. The one-horizontal rail profile allows panels to be secured by engagement into a channel contained in the top of the horizontal rail profile, then tilted up into place and secured with a stainless steel fastener through the open joints between the panels into the lower portion of the horizontal profile to receive the panel above.

Figure 7

Figure 7

Figure 8 shows how once all of the underlying components are in place and properly aligned, the installation of the porcelain panels is incredibly simple, with very high production rates – the façade literally looks substantially complete in a matter of days! As discussed in the April 2016 article, the porcelain panel technology is advancing at a rapid pace, and we are already developing design and engineering requirements as well as handling and installation details for mechanically attached large-format porcelain tile panels similar in size (3 x 10 feet / 1 x 3 m and greater) to those currently available in large-format thin porcelain tile panels (LTPT). Anticipate the inevitable changes to the tile industry and seize the opportunities!

Figure 8

Figure 8

Richard P. Goldberg, AIA, CSI, NCARB is an architect and president of Professional Consultants International, LLC – Connecticut, and PROCON Consulting Architects, Inc.-Florida, both building design and construction consulting companies. Goldberg specializes in exterior building envelope systems, with sub-specialties in concrete, porcelain tile, natural and engineered stone, brick and concrete masonry, terrazzo, glass and waterproofing material applications.

Goldberg holds National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) certification, and is a registered architect in the U.S. in multiple states, including Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Florida. He is a professional member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI). Goldberg participates in numerous tile industry standards committees, is a National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) Recognized Industry Consultant, and received the prestigious NTCA Ring of Honor Award in 2014.

Tech Talk – July 2016

TEC-sponsorSuccessful glass tile installation for pools

By Tom Domenici, area technical manager, H.B. Fuller Construction Products

tech-01Once you’ve seen a swimming pool finished with glass mosaic tiles, their popularity for both residential and commercial installations is immediately appreciated. Because they reflect natural light, glass mosaic tiles can give swimming pools a lustrous, shimmering appearance. They’re available in almost any color, size and pattern imaginable.

Here are the seven main components of a beautiful and long-lasting glass tile pool installation.

Porcelain or glass tile is the right choice for saline pools. Use a premium mortar that can withstand salt exposure and a chemical-resistant grout.

Porcelain or glass tile is the right choice for saline pools. Use a premium mortar that can withstand salt exposure and a chemical-resistant grout.

1. Choosing tile

Today, mosaic glass tile manufacturers often create sheets of tile by bonding the individual tiles to a paper or plastic facing or by adhering the backs of the tile to an open-weave mesh that allows the mortar to come into contact with the tile backs. Using this type of tile can help save time. However, if a water-soluble adhesive was used to bond the mosaic tiles to the mesh backing, that adhesive could re-emulsify once submerged. To avoid this, confirm with the tile manufacturer that the mosaic glass tile itself, and the sheet mounting method used, are suitable for pool installations in their environment, whether interior or exterior. Or use paper-faced tiles, which provide an unimpeded surface on the tile back for bonding.

2. Cutting tile

If the tile layout requires partial sheets, simply score the plastic sheeting, mesh or paper holding the tiles together with a utility knife as needed. If you need to cut the tiles themselves, use specialized glass mosaic tile cutting tools, as other cutters may shatter the small tiles.

The Robert D. Love Downtown YMCA in Wichita, Kan., contains more than 50,000 sq. ft. of mosaic and large-format tile.

The Robert D. Love Downtown YMCA in Wichita, Kan., contains more than 50,000 sq. ft. of mosaic and large-format tile.

3. Waterproofing pools

Over the primary waterproof membrane on the shell of the pool (per TCNA P602-16), you must provide a secondary waterproofing and crack isolation membrane.

Before applying the secondary membrane, smooth the substrate with a deep patch and patch additive that’s fast-setting, or a bonded mortar bed. Then clean the substrate of all contaminants, residues and dirt. Pre-fill all concrete cracks up to 1/8” wide. Treat all control joints, substrate joints, field seams and corners; anywhere vertical surfaces meet horizontal surfaces, such as curbs, bench seats and columns; anywhere dissimilar materials meet, such as drains and expansion/control joints.

Then, apply the waterproofing membrane. Install it just below the tile to help prevent water from leaking into the mortar bed and to help prevent problems associated with saturation and moisture expansion. For an efficient installation, use a membrane that allows for the direct bonding of tile. After the membrane is properly cured, test for leaks.

 

NTCA Five Star Contractor Fox Ceramic Tile of St. Marys, Kan., turned to TEC® products to aid with fast-paced tile installation in a variety of challenging environments.

NTCA Five Star Contractor Fox Ceramic Tile of St. Marys, Kan., turned to TEC® products to aid with fast-paced tile installation in a variety of challenging environments.

4. Setting tiles

 

Glass mosaic pool tile applications require polymer-modified mortars that are suitable for submerged installations. Keep in mind the mortar’s color can affect the appearance of clear or translucent glass mosaics. White mortars typically produce the most pleasing and consistent appearance – allowing glass tile to maintain its natural luminosity. Similarly, mortar ridges may be visible through clear or translucent tiles. Therefore, after troweling the mortar, use the flat side of the trowel to flatten mortar ridges before setting tile. Back-butter the tile to achieve a uniform appearance and proper coverage.

5. Grouting tile

Only certain grouts are appropriate for submerged areas. Consider a high-performance, ready-to-use grout or an advanced-performance cementitious grout, that can be used in submerged areas for glass tile installation. Saltwater pools require a grout that can be fully submersible and has chemical resistance, such as an epoxy grout. Proper pool water chemistry is essential for the future condition of the tile and grout. Use an appropriate flexible caulk joint, in place of grout, for predetermined movement joints in the tile installation.

The 110,000 sq. ft. LEED®-Certified facility features large -format porcelain tile on its lobby floor, ceramic and porcelain tiles throughout the building, and porcelain mosaics in its pools, whirlpool and steam room. 

The 110,000 sq. ft. LEED®-Certified facility features large -format porcelain tile on its lobby floor, ceramic and porcelain tiles throughout the building, and porcelain mosaics in its pools, whirlpool and steam room.

6. Wait time

Advise your customer to refer to the grout and mortar manufacturer wait time before filling the pool with water to allow the tile grout and mortar to fully cure before use in submerged areas.

7. Maintaining tile

In general, glass mosaic tile is very low maintenance. It is naturally stain resistant, and the use of a high-quality grout will help the installation maintain its appearance. However, tile in even the cleanest pools will eventually accumulate calcium deposits and other residue.

Cleaning techniques will vary depending on the tile system and condition, but always do a small sample test area to determine the best procedure.

Regardless of the type of tile used, fun in the swimming pool begins with a successful tile installation. If you follow these simple steps and manufacturer instructions, your tile glass project will make a splash for a long time after your work is completed.

 

For this job, installer Fox Ceramic Tile used TEC® products to address each space’s unique demands, including time constraints and exposure to heat and harsh chemicals.

For this job, installer Fox Ceramic Tile used TEC® products to address each space’s unique demands, including time constraints and exposure to heat and harsh chemicals.

The TEC® brand is offered by H.B. Fuller Construction Products Inc. – a leading provider of technologically advanced construction materials and solutions to the commercial, industrial and residential construction industry. Headquartered in Aurora, Illinois, the company’s recognized and trusted brands – TEC®, CHAPCO®, Grout Boost®, Foster®, ProSpec® and others – are available through an extensive network of distributors and dealers, as well as home improvement retailers. For more information, visit www.hbfuller-cp.com.

 

Exterior porcelain rainscreen wall systems

june-tech-01By Rich Goldberg AIA, CSI, NCARB
Professional Consultants International, LLC and PROCON Consulting Architects, Inc.

In the first article on this subject, I provided an update on large-format porcelain tile panel technology, and its emerging use as a mechanically attached cladding panel in exterior rainscreen building façade construction. The overall technical concepts of rainscreen wall systems were also summarized. In this installment, I will focus on the detailed technical issues associated with this new technology, and the challenges to tile contractors who choose to grow their business with this emerging porcelain tile technology.

Training and re-tooling for tile contractors

The challenges for education, training and re-tooling are best examined by breaking down the three major components of porcelain panel rainscreen wall systems:

  • Porcelain panel
  • Structural support framework
  • Structural back-up wall and ancillary components
Fig. 1 Details of prefabricated porcelain panels.

Fig. 1 Details of prefabricated porcelain panels.

Porcelain panels – Most quality porcelain rainscreen systems utilize panels that are completely pre-fabricated and delivered ready to install (Figure 1). In our design practice, we avoid any manufacturer’s system that allows field fabrication of such precision wall systems. The cutting of each panel, many with unique and precise dimensions, and the precision required for drilling and setting mechanical anchors (Figure 2) dictates that the majority of porcelain panels be pre-fabricated under controlled factory conditions to deliver a high-quality, durable wall system.

Fig. 2 Precision attachment detail for lower portion of panel, allowing for expansion, contraction and structural movement.

Fig. 2 Precision attachment detail for lower portion of panel, allowing for expansion, contraction and structural movement.

Many tile contractors are already familiar with large-format thin tile (a.k.a. LTPT or “gauged large format porcelain tile”), and understand the specialty equipment and training necessary for proper delivery, handling and installation of such panels for interior walls and flooring. Depending on the size of porcelain panels used in exterior rainscreen walls, such equipment may also be necessary in addition to specialty hoisting sub-frames and lift equipment. Safe handling is especially critical, not only due to the expense of each panel, but in many cases due to the unique dimensions of each panel (you can’t just take another tile from the box!).

Structural support framework – as with the porcelain panels, the majority of the aluminum framework used to support the porcelain panels is typically proprietary and provided pre-fabricated by the manufacturer; we likewise avoid manufacturer’s systems that rely on stock framing components and allow contractors to construct solutions in the field that have not been engineered or vetted by performance testing in the laboratory.

Fig. 3 Tile contractor training session for aluminum framework and porcelain panel installation procedures.

Fig. 3 Tile contractor training session for aluminum framework and porcelain panel installation procedures.

The proper installation and alignment of the supporting framework is the most crucial aspect in the construction of porcelain panel rainscreen wall systems. This is a significant departure from the “brick (tile) and mortar” skills typical of the tile trades, and requires skill and training in metal framing procedures (Figure 3). Again, based on experience, I only recommend considering manufacturer’s systems that provide fully pre-engineered and pre-fabricated proprietary supporting framework.

Similar to the porcelain panels, capabilities to understand and manage both the engineered shop drawings and the architect’s detail drawings are critical, especially due to the interfaces with other building systems such as the alignment with windows and attachment to the underlying structural wall components.

Structural back-up wall and ancillary components – this is the most complex and project-specific aspect of porcelain panel rainscreen wall systems, but the least problematic sub-system for the tile contractor. Tile contractors need to focus education and training efforts on the following:

  • Types of structural back-up wall systems – metal stud/sheathing (most common), concrete masonry units, or concrete
  • Waterproofing – continuous AMV (air, moisture, vapor) membranes
  • Insulation – continuous rigid insulation (outboard of back-up wall)
  • Flashings and accessories – metal and sheet-membrane flashings, primarily at interfaces with other building systems (window sills, heads, roof copings, etc.)
Figures 4 and 5 - Installation of porcelain rainscreen panels in progress, revealing ventilated air cavity and air, moisture and vapor (AMV) barrier installed by others.  Note this project did not require any outboard continuous insulation.

Figures 4 and 5 – Installation of porcelain rainscreen panels in progress, revealing ventilated air cavity and air, moisture and vapor (AMV) barrier installed by others.  Note this project did not require any outboard continuous insulation.

june-tech-06On many projects, the manufacturer’s engineer would coordinate efforts to evaluate the architect’s details and provide engineering requirements for attachment of the supporting framework to the back-up wall. Similarly, on many projects, the installation of the AMV would be performed by a waterproofing contractor in advance of the rainscreen wall system (Figures 4 and 5), and the project may or may not require external continuous rigid insulation (Figure 5). However, the manufacturer of the wall system is not responsible for providing those materials. In some cases, though, general contractors prefer the sub-contractor responsible for the installation of the porcelain panel rainscreen wall system to also coordinate and install the AMV, insulation, and all flashings (Figure 6) for single source responsibility.

Fig. 6 Coordination of installation with base of wall flashing and interface with cast stone base specified to avoid snow removal damage at base of columns.

Fig. 6 Coordination of installation with base of wall flashing and interface with cast stone base specified to avoid snow removal damage at base of columns.

Shop fabrication and erection drawings – In our design practice, we find that the biggest challenge for tile contractors, aside from specialized equipment and training required for handling and installation of these systems, is developing the resources and capabilities to understand and manage the crucial role of shop fabrication and erection drawings. Most quality porcelain rainscreen system manufacturers provide for and supply engineered shop drawings in the cost of their system, so tile contractors only need to concentrate training / human resources required to effectively manage the process. This not only includes technical capabilities for interaction with the manufacturer, their engineers, and the building architects, but also the logistics required for panel delivery, marking and sequencing logistics. The allocation of human resource time alone is probably the most underestimated task required for successful porcelain panel rainscreen wall systems.

Needless to say, the above considerations are not only important to construction, but also to bidding these types of projects. In the last installment of this series, I will review a case study of both completed and in-progress projects to provide more insight into actual construction.

Richard P. Goldberg, AIA, CSI, NCARB is an architect and president of Professional Consultants International, LLC – Connecticut, and PROCON Consulting Architects, Inc. – Florida, both building design and construction consulting companies. Goldberg specializes in exterior building envelope systems, with sub-specialties in concrete, porcelain tile, natural & engineered stone, brick & concrete masonry, terrazzo, glass and waterproofing material applications.

Goldberg holds National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) certification, and is a registered architect in the U.S. in multiple states, including Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Florida. He is a professional member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI). Goldberg participates in numerous tile industry standards committees, is a National Tile Contractor’s Association (NTCA) Recognized Industry Consultant, and received the prestigious NTCA Ring of Honor Award in 2014.

Tech Talk – May 2016

New product technology for trendy bathroom remodels

tec-logo

Sponsored By TEC

Bathroom remodels are sound investments for your customers. The rate of return tends to be 75% or more of the initial investment, which is significantly higher than many other home renovations. The 2016 Kitchen & Bath Design Trends Report predicts that “transitional” style will dominate this year’s bathrooms. Transitional style blends the traditional with the contemporary – balancing comfort with sophisticated, clean lines. You can provide your customers with transitional style by incorporating the following three types of products.

Preformed components

One way the 2016 Kitchen & Bath Trends Report suggests that transitional style can be achieved is with open storage and built-in shelving.

may-tech-01Preformed components – like niches – can provide unique open storage options for residential bathrooms. Preformed components are consistent and easy to install – great for fast multi-unit residential and hospitality installations. Look for products like TEC® Preformed Components that integrate seamlessly with existing surface prep solutions, mortar, tile and grout. For protection against mold and mildew, choose a product that comes coated with an IAPMO-approved, waterproof membrane that meets ANSI A118.10.

Preformed components are a great way for tile installers to add a design element that fits with today’s building trends.

In-floor heat innovations

In-floor heating systems also align with the transitional aesthetic. They serve as an “updated classic” for stone and tile floors. Moreover, they are a great selling point when listing a home. They may reduce heating costs, so they are a true investment – not simply a design trend.

Beyond adding value to the home, features like in-floor heat bring a feeling of luxury and warmth (literally) to bathrooms, to make getting up in the morning and getting home in the evening more relaxing. Although they are considered luxury items, improvements in efficiency have made them a more viable option for both building owners and contractors.
The right products can also cut down on the special ordering and lag time associated with radiant heat installations. For example, TEC™ In-Floor Heat is customizable on-site to fit any space – eliminating the lag time of special orders.

may-tech-02Advances in technology have made installations more efficient as well. In the past, in-floor heating installations had many cumbersome steps: the system had to be installed, anchored and encapsulated in a self-leveling underlayment. Today, some products – including TEC In-Floor Heat – can simply be embedded in mortar. Then, tile and stone can be installed directly over them.

Despite many advances, the wiring of installation systems can still present a challenge. Look for products that offer the simplest wiring available to avoid frustrating installations. The new TEC In-Floor Heat mat does not have coils or wires that require patterning—saving installation time. For all systems, be sure to use an electrical source with the correct voltage. If you hook up to a power source with the wrong voltage, it could damage the system.

Before adding radiant heat installation to your repertoire, check your local building codes. Some areas of the country require a licensed electrician to complete the installation, while others allow a tile contractor to do so. Almost all manufacturers recommend that a licensed electrician complete all electrical work.

may-tech-04In-floor heat systems are available à la carte or in kits. Since they are luxury items, look for products with touchscreen or programmable thermostats to provide the utmost convenience for your clients. Most thermostats can be set for either ambient room temperature or floor temperature.

Grout color trends

This year’s trends also include neutral colors – like greys, whites and beiges. Look for grouts that fit this description. Although beautiful, these light colors can also be more subject to unsightly staining than darker grouts. With that in mind, you should recommend stain-proof and mold- and mildew-resistant grouts, like TEC’s DesignFX® grout, shown below. These durable characteristics offer convenience to your customers and help preserve the aesthetic of their spaces.

may-tech-05New product innovations have made installing high-end bathrooms easier. By carefully selecting the most efficient products, you can make stylish bathroom remodels more convenient for your customers and more profitable for your business.

The TEC® brand is offered by H.B. Fuller Construction Products Inc. – a leading provider of technologically advanced construction materials and solutions to the commercial, industrial and residential construction industry. Headquartered in Aurora, Illinois, the company’s recognized and trusted brands – TEC®, CHAPCO®, Grout Boost®, Foster®, ProSpec® and others – are available through an extensive network of distributors and dealers, as well as home improvement retailers. For more information, visit www.hbfuller-cp.com.

Tech Talk – March 2016

TEC-sponsorTile and stone lippage:

Achieving acceptable tile lippage through quality tile and stone installations

Donato PBy Donato Pompo, CTC, CSI, CDT, MBA

Tile lippage is the vertical displacement between two adjacent tiles of a ceramic, glass, or stone tile installation. Excessive lippage can lead to a number of problems: the edge of the tile with excessive lippage can have a propensity to chip; furniture and appliances can get caught on edges and not slide easily across the floor; and most important today is that excessive tile lippage can be a safety hazard particularly to the elderly with our aging population. Tile lippage is an inherent characteristic of installed tile. It is not possible to eliminate it completely, but it can be minimized within reason.

(Ed. note: This is part two of a two part article. Part one appeared in the February issue of TileLetter, as the the Tech Talk feature.)

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Installation methods – The tile installation method used can help limit tile lippage, or it can contribute to excessive tile lippage. Adhering the tile directly to the substrate, particularly if it hasn’t been properly prepared to meet the industry requirements for flatness, can make it difficult to avoid tile lippage. On the other hand, installing tile in a fresh dry-pack mortar bed while it is still in a plastic stage can help compensate for the tile dimensional variations because the installer can embed the tile into the fresh mortar.

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This looks like excessive lippage due to type of lighting and viewing angle, but it isn’t.

Installer skill and workmanship – Another factor that can contribute to excessive tile lippage is the lack of skill and workmanship by the tile installer. It is very important how skilled and conscientious the tile installer is, and the lack of those qualities can be a contributing factor to excessive tile lippage. If the installer isn’t experienced and skilled enough, or isn’t detail minded, then poor workmanship can cause or contribute to excessive tile lippage. It is important that qualified skilled tile installers who understand – and are current with – industry standards are used for tile and stone installations to help ensure a successful installation.

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This is measuring lippage from previous photo, which shows that the ceramic tile lippage is less than 1.6 mm (1/16”) which is within standards.

Unavoidable lippage at drains – There are some applications where tile lippage to some degree is unavoidable. ANSI A108.02-2013-4.3.7 cautions that the lippage requirements don’t apply to tiled floors sloping to drains specifically when using tiles that are 6” x 6” (15 mm x 15 mm) and larger. The larger the tile surface area the greater the potential for tile lippage under these conditions. That is why you will often see tiles cut in half on a diagonal near drains that have sudden changes in slope. That doesn’t mean the installer can have extreme tile lippage; it still needs to be reasonable considering the conditions. Using the relatively-new trench or linear drains can be good solution to avoiding this problem.

Perceived excessive tile lippage – Another tile lippage problem is perceived excessive tile lippage, when in fact lippage is reasonable and within allowable standard tolerances. The culprit is lighting. Even the best of tile installations can have perceived excessive tile lippage when the light is shining on the tile surface at a certain angle relative to the viewing angle. This is more problematic with large rectangular tiles with narrow grout joints installed on walls, particularly if the tile is installed in a staggered pattern. Just look at some tile exterior veneers when the sun is directly shining on the tile surface and you will find certain angles where it looks like there is so much lippage that you can climb up the wall, when in fact it is within tolerance. On the other hand, under other viewing angles or lighting conditions you don’t see excessive tile lippage in these same installations.

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The perception of lippage is affected by the angle of the light falling upon the wall.

Optical illusion caused by lighting – Sometimes lighting causes shadowing at the grout joint, creating an optical illusion that there is excessive tile lippage. This can occur in interior and exterior applications with natural lighting or with artificial lighting. The TCNA Handbook warns that the use of wall-washer and cove-type lighting – where the lights are located either at the wall/ceiling interface, or mounted directly on the wall – may produce shadows and undesirable effects with tiles. Similar shadows are created from natural lighting on interior walls and floors when light shines from an angle through windows and doors. I have investigated a number of projects, both commercially and residentially, where there were complaints of alleged excessive tile lippage only to find out during our inspection that it was reasonable and within allowable industry tolerances. On the other hand, I have seen cases where there was indeed excessive lippage when the above referenced contributing factors were not properly managed.

How tile installers can avoid actual or perceived excessive lippage – It is the same old answer: follow industry standards, and don’t accept substrates that don’t meet industry standards, unless you are being paid to fix them.

It does not matter who is at fault when there is a problem – everyone ends up paying, either in time to defend themselves, money to fix the issue, or with their reputation. It is in everyone’s best interest to ensure tile installations are compliant to industry standards. The following paragraphs summarize the key steps that should be followed for tile and stone installations to avoid excessive tile lippage.

  1. Require a mock-up to be built that will become the standard upon approval for installation methods and for workmanship for aesthetic quality. It should include the specified lighting that the tile will be subjected to. If the client doesn’t allow for a mock-up, then after the first portion of the tile installation is completed, require that the client approve it and agree to use it as the standard for balance of the installation. This will help eliminate false expectations by the client, and if corrections are needed, it will be a lot less costly to fix it.
  2. Use good quality installation products because they typically perform better.
  3. Make sure your tile installers, both setters and helpers, are current with industry standards. They should be certified or verified to demonstrate they know and are current with industry thin-set standards (e.g. Certified Ceramic Tile Installers [CTI] through the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation [CTEF]; Tile Installer Thin-set Standards [ITS] Verification through the University of Ceramic Tile and Stone [UofCTS]).
  4. The stone should meet ASTM standards for its respective geological classification. Ceramic tile should meet ANSI A137.1 standards, and glass tile should meet ANSI A137.2 standards. Be sure to closely inspect the tile before installing it. If the warpage or sizing appears to be excessive either refuse to install it or get a written letter from the client approving the consequences. Then install a mock-up and get the client’s approval before proceeding.
  5. Considering the tile’s sizing and warpage tolerances, and the tile size and installation pattern, recommend a reasonable grout joint width to your client.
  6. Be sure to inform your client that lighting can cause the perception that there are excessive irregularities in the tile installation, when in fact the installation is consistent with industry tolerances. Tell them that light fixtures must be placed in a manner to avoid direct lighting on tile wall surfaces. You don’t need to tell them how to do it, as that is not your expertise. You can give them the language from our standards that warns of the problems that can occur if the lighting isn’t placed properly.
  7. Evaluate the substrate to make sure it meets ANSI requirements for flatness. If it doesn’t meet the ANSI standards then reject it and don’t proceed until it is corrected. Or you can correct the substrate for an additional fee. Cementitious self-leveling mortars or patching mortars can work well for repairing or preparing substrates for your tile installation. ANSI A108.02 states that if there are any obvious defects or conditions preventing a satisfactory tile installation, the installer is to notify the architect, general contractor, or other designated authority in writing, and is not to proceed until satisfactory conditions are provided that will allow for an acceptable installation.
  8. Use the TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass, and Stone Tile Installation, the Marble Institute of America Dimension Design Manual, and the ANSI A108 standards as tools to persuade your clients of the need for you to follow the standards to ensure an acceptable tile installation. Being knowledgeable of these important standards will give you more credibility with your clients and will help you avoid costly problems.
  9. If the architect’s specification is ambiguous or if there is something wrong or missing, always submit an RFI (request for information) for clarification before proceeding with the work.
TT4-316

Viewing angle affects perception of lippage. Better lighting reduces the perception of lippage in this image – even though it’s the exact same wall with acceptable – but unsightly – lippage earlier in the story.

Conclusion

Excessive tile lippage can lead to damaged tile edges as various objects sliding on the floor hit these unsupported tile edges. Excessive tile lippage can cause trip and fall incidents, particularly for those elderly who tend to shuffle when they walk and use walkers. Even in commercial settings, tile lippage can be problematic and annoying as carts and other equipment clack as they run over tile edges.

Excessive tile lippage, or perceived excessive tile lippage, can be avoided by following the industry standards. Excessive tile lippage is typically due to a combination of improperly prepared substrates, improper installation methods, improper use of materials, and poor installer workmanship performance. Perceived excessive tile lippage is typically due to improper lighting design, overly narrow grout joints, and not following industry recommendations. Avoid the false expectations by the specifier or client by informing them of the potential issue in advance.

To avoid these problems, installers must be current with industry standards and follow those standards and the product manufacturers’ directions while installing the tile. Installers are mechanics with the skill level to provide quality workmanship, but they should not be expected to make architectural decisions – architects must give the installers the information and details they need to do their job correctly.

Many installers learn their skill on the job and do not have the opportunity to learn the industry standards. So it should be required that the tile installers are up to date with the current industry standards.

I have never investigated a tile or stone failure and found that all the industry standards and manufacturers’ instructions were followed. It is always the opposite. The failure is never due to one deficiency, but is generally due to many compounding deficiencies. Simply put, the key to a successful tile and stone installation is to follow industry standards.

Donato Pompo, CTC, CSI, CDT, MBA, is the founder of Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants (CTaSC), and of the University of Ceramic Tile and Stone (UofCTS). He has more than 35 years of experience in the ceramic tile and stone industry from installation to distribution to manufacturing of installation products. Donato provides services in forensic investigations, quality control (QC) services for products and installation methods, training programs, testing, and onsite quality control inspection services. He received the 2012 Construction Specifier Magazine Article of the Year. Donato can be reached at donato@ctasc.com.

Tech Talk – February 2016

tec-logoTile and stone lippage:

What is acceptable tile lippage and how do you avoid excessive tile lippage through quality tile and stone installations?

Donato PBy Donato Pompo, CTC, CSI, CDT, MBA

Tile lippage is the vertical displacement between two adjacent tiles of a ceramic, glass, or stone tile installation. Excessive lippage can lead to a number of problems: the edge of the tile with excessive lippage can have a propensity to chip; furniture and appliances can get caught on edges and not slide easily across the floor; and most important today is that excessive tile lippage can be a safety hazard particularly to the elderly with our aging population. Tile lippage is an inherent characteristic of installed tile. It is not possible to eliminate it completely, but it can be minimized within reason.

(Ed. note: This is part one of a two part article. Part two will appear in a future issue of TileLetter.)

Standards for tile lippage

There are industry standards for determining what is acceptable or excessive tile lippage. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) A108.02-2013–4.3.7 for the installation of ceramic tile states that for grout joints less than 1/4” (6 mm) wide, the allowable lippage is 1/32” (1 mm) plus the inherent warpage of the tile. For grout joints that are 1/4” (6 mm) wide or wider, the allowable lippage is 1/16” (2 mm) plus the inherent warpage of the tile. There has been some confusion in the interpretation of this standard, which is discussed in detail later. The Marble Institute of America (MIA) simply says that there can be no more than 1/32” (1 mm) lippage for natural stone tile installations.

Substrate tolerances

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Stone tile that does not have excessive lippage. Photo from Premier Tile of Oaksmall, Calif.

The challenge in trying to meet the standards to minimize tile lippage has to do with a number of compounding conditions. One of those conditions is the condition of the substrate in terms of flatness, which can affect tile lippage particularly when you are adhering direct to a concrete slab. Per industry standard ANSI A108.02-2013-4.1.4.3.1-.2, the substrate needs to be prepared prior to the tile installation so that the maximum allowable variation from the required plane for tiles with all edges shorter than 15 inches (380 mm), is no more than 1/4” in 10 feet (6 mm in 3 m) and no more than 1/16” in 1 foot (1.6 mm in 0.3 m). For tiles with at least one edge 15 inches (380 mm) or longer, the maximum allowable variation from the required plane is not more than 1/8” in 10 feet (3 mm in 3 m) and no more than 1/16” in 2 feet (1.6 mm in 0.6 m). A very irregular substrate makes it difficult for the tile installer to compensate and install the tile so lippage is minimized.

Medium bed thin-set mortars:not designed to compensate for out-of-tolerance substrates

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Limestone with excessive lippage.

Many tile installers and specifiers misunderstand the use of medium bed thin-set mortars. There is a misperception that medium bed thin-set mortar adhesives – which can be applied as thick as 3/4” with some products – will compensate for substrates that are excessively out of plane. Industry standards for thin-set mortar adhesives, such as modified dry-set cement mortars standard ANSI A118.4-2012-2.1, clearly state that thin-set mortars are designed as direct-bond adhesives and are not intended to be used in truing or leveling underlying substrates or the work of others. Substrates need to be prepared before adhering the tile to them. High spots on concrete slabs need to be ground down and low spots need to be filled with special patching

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Limestone installation without excessive lippage.

mortars. Cementitious self-leveling mortars can be used over concrete and wood subfloors to achieve the appropriate flatness or slope to meet project requirements. Medium-bed mortars are only meant to be used for large-and-heavy tiles so they don’t sink into the thin-set mortar during the installation, or to be used to compensate for ungauged tiles that vary significantly in thickness from each other.  Because of this common misunderstanding, the industry is in the process of eliminating the name “medium-bed mortar,” and changing it to “dry-set mortar for large- and-heavy tile (LHT mortar), which is limited to 1/2” (12 mm) thickness after embedment.

Tile warpage

Another compounding factor that can contribute to excessive tile lippage is how much warpage the tile has. Today with such large tiles, particularly the rectangle shapes whose long-to-short-side ratios can be extreme, tile warpage can cause unavoidable actual or perceived lippage, which is discussed later.

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Measuring 1.8 mm (9/128”) of tile lippage, which is excessive for stone, but acceptable for ceramic tile.

Please note that all ceramic tiles, including porcelain tiles — which are a type of ceramic tile — have some degree of warpage. This isn’t anything new. The irregularities in ceramic tile, just as in natural stone, are what give these products their character and desirable appearance. Ceramic tiles have always had warpage and other dimensional variations, although today’s current manufacturing technology results in greater consistency in ceramic tile production. The ANSI A137.1 Specifications for Ceramic Tile standard has established allowable tolerances criteria for each type or category of ceramic tile.

Calibrated versus rectified tiles

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Measuring excessive tile lippage in stone at 4 mm (5/32”) on a floor tile.

Porcelain ceramic tiles are much denser and are more controllable in their manufacturing, although they do have warpage. Standard calibrated porcelain tiles have tolerance requirements that allow more variation in warpage and sizing dimensions. Rectified porcelain ceramic tiles have been ground after manufacturing so their dimensional tolerance variations are much more limited. This allows the tile to be installed with a narrower grout joint width. Some manufacturers will say the grout joint can be as narrow as 1/16” (2 mm), although I never recommend a grout joint less than 1/8” (4 mm) wide. A 1/16” (2 mm) wide grout joint is too narrow to adequately fill to full depth for maximum support of the tile edge. Failure to fully fill the joint can result in grout coming loose later.

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Natural stone slate floor installation that shows excessive tile lippage due to improper installation

The 1/16” (2 mm) wide grout joint also isn’t wide enough to allow for adjustments during the installation to help compensate for dimensional tile variations and to help minimize the potential for tile lippage. The more dimension variation a tile has, the wider the grout joint should be to keep grout joints looking consistently straight and to minimize potential tile lippage. That is why you see grout joints on irregularly-sized Mexican paver tiles that are 3/4” (20 mm) wide or wider, which helps compensate for the broad variations in their dimensional sizes.

Grout joint widths

ANSI standards and the MIA state that the grout joints can never be less than 1/16” (2 mm) wide. I often see where tiles are butted together and this can lead to some serious problems. One potential problem is tile edge chatter where the edges of the tile chip because the tiles compress against each other. This is caused by normal expansion within the tiles caused by moisture or temperature fluctuations or from the dynamic building structural movements.  Another potential problem with tiles butted up to each other, particularly if there aren’t adequate movement joints installed within the tile assembly, is that tiles can become debonded and tent up from the compression stresses; particularly if they are not bonded well to their substrate.

Measuring tile lippage of 2 mm (5/64”).

Measuring tile lippage of 2 mm (5/64”).

Staggered tile pattern standards

Tile warpage generally occurs at the tile corners or at the center of the tile. For that reason the ANSI A108.02 standards state for running bond tile patterns (tiles are installed in a staggered or offset pattern) using tiles where any tile side is greater than 15” (380 mm), the grout joint size shall be on average a minimum of 1/8” (4 mm) wide for rectified tiles, and a minimum of 3/16” (5 mm) wide for calibrated tiles. The grout joint width shall be increased over the minimum requirement by the amount of edge warpage on the longest edge of the tiles being installed. For example, for a rectified tile exhibiting 1/32” (1 mm) edge warpage on the longest edge of the tile, the minimum grout joint width will be 1/8” (4 mm) +1/32” (1 mm) or 5/32” (5 mm) for running bond tile patterns. Again, the wider the grout joint the more you can minimize irregularities in the tile and minimize tile lippage.

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Measuring excessive stone tile lippage of 2.38 mm (3/32”).

Warpage concentration limitations

Currently the ANSI A137.1 standards don’t limit how much warpage can be concentrated within certain spans of the tile. This can be problematic because the tile might not exceed the maximum allowable warpage, but its warpage could be concentrated at the tile corner or at the center of the tile, for which the tile installer can’t fully compensate. For this reason the ANSI committee is currently considering adding language to the standards to limit warpage concentration.

Staggered tile pattern limitations

Because tile warpage can be so much more problematic with tiles that are being installed in a running bond pattern, there are other limitations stated in ANSI A108.02-2013-4.2.3.8.2. This particular standard covers the compounding effects of the warpage from two adjacent tiles. It states that tiles being installed in a running bond pattern where the tile side being offset is greater than 18” (457 mm) long, the running bond offset cannot exceed 33% of the tile length, unless otherwise specified by the tile manufacturer. Mock-ups should always be required for approval prior to the tile installation to make sure that the end user understands what they are getting and to avoid any false expectations.

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Note gap between two tiles at end and the concentrated warpage at the end of ceramic tile wall.

How to calculate allowable tile lippage

Now let’s go back to the allowable tile lippage standard that says that the allowable lippage is either 1/32” (1 mm) or 1/16” (2 mm), depending on the tile and the width of the grout joint, in addition to the inherent warpage of the tile manufactured in accordance with ANSI A137.1. Tile Council of North American (TCNA) website (www.tcnatile.com) interprets this as meaning that the inherent warpage of a particular tile is the actual warpage that the specific tile has when installed. Some people incorrectly interpret this to mean that you can take the maximum allowable warpage stated in ANSI A137.1 and add that to the respective allowable lippage value. If that were true, then in my opinion, from a standard-of-care point of view for professional tile installations, the calculated lippage would be unreasonable and excessive.

Square edge versus chamfered edge tile

Another compounding factor that can contribute to excessive tile lippage is whether the tile being installed has a sharp square-edge or if it has an arris with a slight chamfered edge. The sharp square-edge tiles are more prone to showing tile lippage and other variations, where the chamfered edge tile will be more forgiving. The chamfered edge will make the grout joint width wider at the tile surface.

Donato Pompo, CTC, CSI, CDT, MBA, is the founder of Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants (CTaSC), and of the University of Ceramic Tile and Stone (UofCTS). He has more than 35 years of experience in the ceramic tile and stone industry from installation to distribution to manufacturing of installation products. Donato provides services in forensic investigations, quality control (QC) services for products and installation methods, training programs, testing, and onsite quality control inspection services. He received the 2012 Construction Specifier Magazine Article of the Year. Donato can be reached at donato@ctasc.com.

Tech Talk – January 2016

TEC-sponsorSelecting the right grout for the job

By Tom Domenici, TEC Western Technical Manager, H.B. Fuller Construction Products

It’s easy for contractors to get lost in the sea of grout product offerings. While grout color is crucial to design, grout type is integral to tile installation performance and longevity. Using the proper grout for a job helps ensure a successful tile installation – it’s only a matter of learning what grouts work best for specific applications.

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Whether it’s cement, ready-to-use, or epoxy grout, taking the time to properly select a grout suitable for a specific job is critical to a successful installation.

Cement grouts: sanded or unsanded? 

Cement grout, which is made of cementitious powder, is easy to work with and is traditionally valued by contractors. Cement grout is mixed with water, and is then slaked and remixed before application. This allows the water, portland cement and other ingredients to react properly for a successful installation. Cement grout can be either sanded or unsanded.

Unsanded cement grout is designed specifically for grouting small joints up to 1/8” wide. Unsanded grout is often used on walls, tub enclosures and countertops. It also can be used for grouting marble and other natural stone floor, where sanded grouts could scratch delicate tile surfaces. Unsanded cement grout should not be used on grout joints greater than 1/8” in width as it may shrink or crack.

Sanded cement grout can be used for grout joints 1/8” wide and larger. Sanded grout is primarily used for floor tile applications or for walls and countertops with wider joints. Sanded grout should not be used on certain tile surfaces, including sensitive glazed ceramic tile, glass, marble, stone and agglomerate tile as it can scratch, stain or damage the tile surface. Follow tile manufacturer recommendations or test a small area prior to use to determine its suitability.

Ready-to-use grouts 

Ready-to- use grouts can provide a crack/shrink/stain-resistant grout solution for time-sensitive installations. Premixed grouts are often used in both interior and exterior environments. Unlike cement grout, ready-to-use grout doesn’t require mixing with water. The pail can be simply opened and the grout applied – saving mixing time. In addition to time-saving benefits, another advantage of ready-to-use grout is that unused portion of the product can be sealed in the container and can be reused later for touchups or other jobs.

Epoxy grouts

Made of epoxy resins, epoxy grout is extremely durable and virtually stain proof. It is ideal for environments that are exposed to harsh conditions or chemicals – such as commercial kitchens and restaurants. However, epoxy grout may be difficult to work with during installation.
Whether it’s cement, ready-to-use, or epoxy grout, taking the time to properly select a grout suitable for a specific job is critical to a successful installation.

The TEC® brand is offered by H.B. Fuller Construction Products Inc. – a leading provider of technologically advanced construction materials and solutions to the commercial, industrial and residential construction industry. Headquartered in Aurora, Illinois, the company’s recognized and trusted brands – TEC®, CHAPCO®, Grout Boost®, ProSpec®, Foster®, and others – are available through an extensive network of distributors and dealers, as well as home improvement retailers. For more information, visit www.hbfuller-cp.com.

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