Thin Tile – September 2016

thin-01DAC, MAPEI, ETM ace USTA installation of Fiandre 5’x10′ porcelain gauged panels

Teamwork transforms challenging project into a grand slam

by Lesley Goddin

The 25’ x 36’ wall of Fiandre 5’ x 10’ porcelain gauged panels in the two-story office building were deftly installed by NTCA Five Star Contractor David Allen Company (DAC) with support from MAPEI and European Tile Masters (ETM).

The 25’ x 36’ wall of Fiandre 5’ x 10’ porcelain gauged panels in the two-story office building were deftly installed by NTCA Five Star Contractor David Allen Company (DAC) with support from MAPEI and European Tile Masters (ETM).

A 63-acre campus in Lake Nona, Fla., Orlando, is home to the U.S. Tennis Association’s (USTA) largest training and player development center. The site, which was formerly a cow pasture, is expected to create more than 150 jobs and will be the new home of the University of Central Florida varsity tennis team. Expected to be complete by the end of this year, this is the USTA’s first outdoor facility, which allows players to train and compete year-round.

The facilities include more than 100 tennis courts for players of different skills levels from from youth tennis team events to national championships for those ages 90 and over. A lodge is planned to accommodate players during training, and a mammoth stadium that can house two simultaneous tennis matches and 1,200 spectators.

The center also includes offices for USTA Player Development, and USTA Community Tennis Division that will relocate from Boca Raton, Fla., and White Plains, N.Y., respectively. The office building houses a tennis pro shop, fitness area, locker rooms, player lounge and cafeteria on the ground floor. The office building is also home to a 25’ x 36’ installation of Fiandre 5’ x 10’ porcelain gauged panels, deftly installed by NTCA Five Star Contractor David Allen Company (DAC) with support from MAPEI and European Tile Masters (ETM). The panels were installed in the ground and second floor of the office building.

DAC used ETM equipment and MAPEI Ultralite S2 mortar to affix the large porcelain panels to the wall.

DAC used ETM equipment and MAPEI Ultralite S2 mortar to affix the large porcelain panels to the wall.

Preparation for this project started when DAC’s superintendant, foreman and lead installer – as well as project manager Cynthia Bendiksby – attended a thin-tile installation training offered by Crossville, with which DAC has a Laminam project starting up this month, Bendiksby said. DAC attendees became familiar with handling and installing the colossal thin porcelain panels, a skill that laid the groundwork for a two-day MAPEI training at the USTA site immediately before installation began. MAPEI regional technical rep Gerald Sloan, and sales reps Dan Costa and Joe Shoemaker were on site to support this training.
“We were assisted by MAPEI and ETM representatives,” Bendiksby said. “We used MAPEI Ultralite S2 and the lifting and setting equipment manufactured by European Tile Masters.” This was a challenging installation, due to the size of the 5’ x 10’ tile panels, said Jim Whitfield, MAPEI technical director. The panels were to be installed vertically up to the third story, finishing 35’ in the air, three panels high.

Previewing the project, DAC’s Bendiksby observed, “Needless to say, there will need to be a ton of practice, from mixing the S2 thinset (which none of my crew have worked with), spreading/keying both the tile and the wall, loading it onto a scissor lift and getting it all done within the shortest timespan possible before it skims over in the 90 degree Florida heat.

Tile and Dens Shield backer board are back-buttered, and ready for the next porcelain panel.

Tile and Dens Shield backer board are back-buttered, and ready for the next porcelain panel.

“Already I am seeing issues with the weight of the panel with three men on a scissor lift and how to get the panel up to that height while mounted on the rack,” she said.

Excellence and ingenuity save the day

Team MAPEI and ETM to the rescue! MAPEI technical rep Sloan, and sales reps Costa and Joe Shoemaker assisted the DAC team in back buttering and notching on the ground. The large mortared Fiandre Marmi Maximum Premium White tiles were then passed up to installers on the scissor lift. From there, the DAC lift crew had to ascend with the rack loaded with tile and mortar and place it on the Dens Shield backer, already troweled with mortar.

But this didn’t happen before some fancy footwork involving the lift. Whitfield suggested 2” x 6” lumber be attached to the front of the scissor lift platform, overhanging to form an extension table on which to set the rake and tile. From there, the plan was to raise the scissor lift straight up, and ease the rack and tile with mortar off the 2” x 6” onto the wall, into the troweled mortar.

Mick Volponi’s Mechanical Lippage Tuning (MLT) System was used to prevent lippage in these enormous tiles.

Mick Volponi’s Mechanical Lippage Tuning (MLT) System was used to prevent lippage in these enormous tiles.

The problem was that there was no 2” x 6” lumber at the site. Ben Szell of ETM – who earned the nickname “MacGyver” by Bendiksby for his ingenious solution on this project – dismantled one of his ETM racks to build a secure aluminum extension that would hang out of the platform and support the tile rack securely.

The DAC crew proclaimed the MAPEI Ultralite S2 mortar “a hit. Everyone liked how creamy it was; how coverage was achieved and the lightweight factor helped with this large heavy tile,” Whitfield said.

Bendiksby added, “The joints were filled with Mapesil Avalanche. Equipment included the European Tile Masters trowel, cutting table, e-grips, sawhorses – and most obviously an electric lift capable of carrying three men plus a 200-pound tile with outrigging. MLT was the leveling system.”

Over the course of the eight days of installations, the team went through a few dry runs, and worked through the issues with tools and the scissor lift.

“But in the end, we really came up with a solid method of installation everyone was comfortable with,” Whitfield said. “Martin [Howard, of DAC] commented to me at the TCNA Handbook meeting, that after a few panels they knew, if they had to do it again, they could complete the project in just a few days.”

The Fiandre tile and DAC’s flawless installation make for a beautiful backdrop.

The Fiandre tile and DAC’s flawless installation make for a beautiful backdrop.

Thin Tile – July 2016

mapei_sponsorUpdate on ANSI product installation standards; recent projects featuring gauged porcelain tile panels/slabs

by Lesley Goddin

In our continuing quest to bring you useful information about the surging use of large thin porcelain tile, we bring you some news from the ANSI meeting concerning proposals for ANSI A137.3 (product standards) and ANSI A108.19 (installation standards) that was held during Coverings in Chicago this past April. In addition, we have a collection of projects below that show some of the ways large thin porcelain tile is being used on a range of projects.

The meeting

To start, a very productive ANSI meeting took place during Coverings in Chicago. The proposed draft standard under discussion for ANSI A137.3 has tables providing properties for three tile types: Nominal Thickness 5.0 mm to 6.5 mm (Table 4), Back-Layered with Nominal Thickness 5.0 mm to 6.5 mm (Table 5), and Back-Layered with Nominal Thickness 3.5 mm to 4.9 mm (Table 6). The Committee discussed the properties developed through lab testing and real world applications, but consensus was not reached. The proposed standard also allows for future tables to be included for additional tile types such as thicker tiles for raised flooring (and other) applications.

A proposed draft installation standard was also presented for tiles with properties in Table 4, with further work on the standard in progress.

Discussion turned to how to label, name and describe these tiles in the standard, depending on their thickness, size, and various marketing terms. TCNA explained that the name in a standard should not be conflated or merged with how tiles are labeled, but how the tiles are described should be sufficiently neutral to allow companies to market and label them however they choose to brand their products. Any effort to mix individual company marketing needs with the labels in a standard would be unlikely to achieve true consensus.

To this end, the proposed standard was labeled, “American National Standard Specifications for Gauged Porcelain Tiles and Gauged Porcelain Tile Panels/Slabs.” The standard is so named because the properties in Tables 4 – 6 are based on a narrow (i.e. gauged) range of thicknesses. Further, it allows manufacturers to choose how to label their products depending on their marketing, i.e. either as panels or slabs.

The next ANSI A108 Committee meeting will be held at Total Solutions Plus, Hyatt Indian Wells Resort near Palm Springs on Friday, October 21, 2016. In the meantime, many groups of stakeholders and interested parties are meeting separately, and with TCNA, to work towards further understanding and consensus.

The projects

Following are a number of recent projects that use gauged porcelain tile panels for interior and exterior application. As was described in the Laminam by Crossville entry, installers trained in the handling and installation of these products were employed on the job. NTCA recommends working with only contractors who have experience, certification or training in installing these products, for the smoothest installation process and best ongoing performance of the tiles themselves.

thin-01Laminam tile was supplied by Stone Tile International for the Sherway Gardens Expansion in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, which is presently underway and due to finish in fall of 2016. This high-end mall has a total expansion of 100,000 sq. ft. One of the highlights of this project is the installation of some very large 1 m x 3 m porcelain veneer in an exterior setting. Maple Group of Toronto installed 3,000 sq. ft. of large, thin tiles with MAPEI’s Granirapid with Ultracolor Plus grout after MAPEI’s Mapelastic 315 was used to waterproof over concrete. The gauged porcelain panels were installed around the large entryway and two smaller entrances. The tile was also cut into pie-shaped wedges to form large tile circles on the ceiling of the mall’s interior.

Inalco Slimmker – 1,800 sq. ft. of Inalco Slimmker, a Tile of Spain brand, was installed in October 2014 by Belcor Builders of Plainview, N.Y., in a high-end Spanish furniture showroom in Midtown Manhattan. The 6mm Slimmker Foster Blanco Plus Natural tile measures 40” x 40”.

thin-03 thin-02

Laminam by Crossville – LaFayette Junior/Senior High School in LaFayette, N.Y., was renovated by Ashley McGraw Architects in October 2015 with materials engineered to perform long and hard to accommodate the wear and tear of the space, keep maintenance simple, and provide a look that fits with the grander scale of the renovated space. The school auditorium called for wainscoting along the walls, with a monolithic appearance and minimal grout joints. Enter Crossville’s Laminam Travertino Avorio 3+, supplied by Vestal Tile Distributors and installed by Integrated Industrial Services of Syracuse, N.Y., in a vertical orientation above the handrail. The installation team at Integrated Industrial Services had learned the techniques for proper installation of Laminam by Crossville porcelain tile panels by attending an in-house seminar held by distributor Vestal Tile in January 2016 that included representatives from adhesives manufacturer ARDEX Americas, European Tile Masters, and Vestal Tile.

thin-04 thin-05

Lea Ceramiche – Shinberg.Levinas Architects recently won a Ceramics of Italy Competition Residential Award for the Turnberry Residence in Rosslyn (Arlington), Va. The project features 5,000 sq. ft. of Slimtech Basaltina Stone in Sabbiata and Naturale colors by Confindustria Ceramica manufacturer Lea Ceramiche. Jud Tile from Vienna, Va., installed the 3’ x 9’ tile in a complete interior renovation of the bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and exterior balcony in 2013. Flooring and walls for all living spaces were also covered with the Slimtech Basaltina tiles, which are available in 3mm and 3.5 mm, and created a smooth continuous flow from interior to exterior, with minimal joints that almost disappear, reinforcing the idea of an open loft space.

thin-06 thin-07

Florida Tile – On St. Patrick’s Day 2015, the DLR Group’s Chicago office was scheduled for a lunch-and-learn session with Mid-America Tile, who was introducing Florida Tile’s new Thinner large-format thin porcelain tile. As it turned out DLR Group showed a lot of interest in the product, not for a client, but for its own use for the lobby floor, which had suffered a previous failure due to the original tile and gypsum-based underlayment used. DLR Group principals liked how Florida Tile’s Thinner Aventis 19.5” x 39” tile made a seamless transition with existing finishes, and the 3.5mm thickness posed no problem with the minimal clearance of already-installed entry doors. MAPEI technical services and Krez Group came in to review the substrate, which they subsequently shotblasted and leveled with MAPEI M20. Architectural Contracting installed 1,200 sq. ft. of tile with MAPEI Ultraflex LFT mortar, creating full coverage and MAPEI’s stain-resistant, premixed Flexcolor CQ grout. The MLT System was also used to create a flat, lippage-free surface, finished with Blanke stainless steel transition strips. The project won a 2015 Crain’s Coolest Office award.


Tall and slim tile is de rigueur at Coverings in Chicago

By Lesley Goddin

Chicago, Ill. – Exhibitor booths at last month’s Coverings 2016 global tile experience were packed with the possibilities of large, thin, “gauged” porcelain tile (read the sidebar at page bottom for the new “gauged tile” definition!) – even as the industry works towards finalizing and adopting standards for product and installation of these tiles and slabs. What follows is a sampling of product on display at the show, often in marble, travertine or Crema Marfil aesthetics.

Crossville's Bianco Statuario from Laminam's I Naturali line.

Crossville’s Bianco Statuario from Laminam’s I Naturali line.

Crossville – 1 M x 1 M and 1 M x 3 M Laminam panels in 3+ mm and 5.6 mm thicknesses come in a range of finishes, like the Oxide collection of authentic metallic aesthetics, the new Satori finish that offers textured, plaster-like wabi-sabi looks, and the I Naturali collection of stone finishes including Bianco Statuario (stone on counter and desk front), and Calacatta d’Oro, a very popular marble trend at the show.

Florim Magnum

Florim Magnum

Florim – Magnum is the name of Florim’s mammoth thin porcelain tile slab program, with 5’ x 10’ formats that are only 6 mm thin. This book-matched marble shower is only one of the finishes available.

Inalco Ker

Inalco Ker

Inalco – Tile of Spain producer Inalco showed Ker in a Calacatta Statuario, installed as a heat-resistant, stain-resistant counter, flowing into a sink. Made in 1/2” counter thickness, Ker is also offered in 6 mm for walls and 12 mm for floors in 40” x 8’ lengths, designed to be easier to fit into small spaces.

Iris US

Iris US

Iris – Iris Ceramica in Italy is the mother company of Iris USA, StonePeak and Graniti Fiandre, with manufacturing facilities in Tennessee. Iris has a tradition of large, thin porcelain, available now in Maxfine 5’ x 10’ 6 mm porcelain slab sizes, Plane large thin slabs at StonePeak and Maximum Tiles by Fiandre.



Levantina – Techlam is a thin tile that doesn’t require epoxy mortar for installation. Thicknesses start at 3 mm up to 5 mm (included 3+3 and 5+5 for specific applications) for walls and floors. It comes a range of aesthetics, including stone, wood, steel, and other effects. Also new at Coverings was Levantina’s unique 36” x 24” x 1/2” and 36” x 18” x 1/2” formats of Crema Marfil Coto® tiles and its black Canfranc marble – a Levantina exclusive – now also available as a tile, in polished and vintage finishes. These new formats also include a microbevel in the stone, designed to reduce chipping; and the 36” x 18” format is especially easy and lightweight to handle.

Cotot D'Este Kerlite

Cotto D’Este Kerlite

Florida Tile – This company celebrated its 10th anniversary of Panariagroup ownership during Coverings. One of the announcements was that the Cotto D’Este brand – also owned by Panariagroup – is now being added to the Florida Tile operations. That means in addition to Florida’s Thinner lightweight thin porcelain panels, the company will also distribute Kerlite with a dedicated customer service center. Luca Setti will oversee Cotto D’Este USA, Sean Cilona is the director of marketing and product development and Doug Hayes is sales director. Florida Tile is preparing an updated web presence to reflect the line addition, all new U.S. merchandising and CEUs specially for the Cotto D’Este brand. Kerlite is offered in a range of thicknesses: Kerlite’s original 3 mm thickness; Kerlite Plus with 3 mm and a fiberglass mesh backing; Kerlite twin, that sandwiches a fiberglass mesh layer between two 3 mm slabs for heavy floor traffic applications; and Kerlite 5 Plus, which is a 5 mm slab with a fiberglass mesh backing.

Progress on product and installation standards; new terminology for “thin tile” develops

At the Tile Council of North America (TCNA) press conference, executive director Eric Astrachan discussed the ongoing development of ANSI A137.3: draft product standard for “gauged porcelain tiles and gauged porcelain tiles/slabs” and ANSI A108.19 draft installation standard for “gauged porcelain tiles and gauged porcelain tiles/slabs.” Inherent in these standards development is an evolution of language from “thin” to “gauged” porcelain tiles (up to 1 square meter or approx 10 sq. ft.) and “gauged” porcelain slabs (larger than 1 square meter). The term “gauged” emphasizes the precision required to manufacture tiles to a particular thickness. The first draft of ANSI A108.19 was released to the committee on April 17, for collaborative development that combines best practices recommended by manufacturers with experience gained by the installation community including tile and installation materials manufacturers; contractors/installers, and associations.

Next steps include continued efforts toward consensus, with the balloting of both standards (product and installation) by year-end likely. TCNA is leading the effort to review all related ASTM tile testing methods and how they apply to gauged tiles and tile panels/slabs.

Thin Tile – March 2016

SponsoredbyMAPEIThin tile: the truck is here…now what?

dan-marvinBy Dan Marvin, Director of Technical Services, MAPEI Corporation

Even though the industry talks about thin tile, what they’re typically referring to is ‘really big tile that just happens to also be thin.’ The reason thin tile is becoming popular has nothing to do with its thickness and everything to do with the sheets being very large and beautifully decorated. If you’ve waited until the truck shows up with the idea of dealing with it once you’ve seen it, you’ve already made the first mistake. Preparation is key!

Know your foe

Apply thin-set mortar, achieving full coverage of large thin porcelain tiles.

Thin tile starts as huge sheets of tile (3’x 10’ and 5’x 10’ are common sizes) that can then be cut down at the factory or job site as needed. The key is to know what will be showing up. Because thin tile is typically made in Europe, it is quite often measured in meters. A bill of lading showing 1 x 3 sheets of thin tile without any other indication of size most likely means you will be ending up with 1 meter (39”, a bit over 3 feet) by 3 meters (117”, just shy of 10 feet). Another typical size is 1 x 1 (39”x39”). The process for handling a crate of 1m x 3m tile varies considerably from the process for handling cartons of 1m x 1m.

Stick a fork in it

Use frame and suction cup systems for careful handling of large thin porcelain tile when applying to walls and floor.

Assuming you will be receiving crates of 1 m x 3 m you WILL need fork extenders for your fork truck. The crates are loaded into the trucks length-wise, so even if you handle them from the side around the warehouse, to get them out of the truck they will need to be supported along the length of the crate. A ten-foot tile will come in a crate (or A-frame) almost 12’ long, so a minimum of an 8‘ fork extender will be required to get well past the middle of the crate.

Why are the fork extenders important? Although the tiles are somewhat flexible, they do have a limit to how much they can bend. If the tiles are allowed to bend too much in the crate, you will end up with a very expensive problem as some or all of the tiles may crack.Even worse, the tiles are often mesh reinforced on the back so you may not know you have cracked them until you are applying mortar (or even grout!).


Using paddle working from center to outside of tile to ensure air bubbles are removed.

Smaller sizes of thin tiles such as the 1m x 1m sizes will typically come in very large cartons on more conventional pallets, but even these must be treated with care. Avoid stacking the pallets beyond the manufacturer’s recommendations and keep all banding and edge protectors in place until they are placed where they will be used at the job site.

Wide load

Most job sites are cluttered with tools, materials, mixers, saws, and other people. A 12’ long crate is challenging to handle when there is nothing in the way, and becomes even more cumbersome in a typical work environment. Have a staging area set up before the truck arrives and an aisle wide enough to allow the tile to come through. Be careful where turns are required and remove anything on the floor that will cause the fork truck to bounce. In a worst-case scenario, an installer may have to carry the tiles individually from the receiving area to the work site. In this case, inexpensive corner protectors and the correct suction-cup frame for your size of tile will be critical.


A lippage control system helps keep lippage to a minimum and the large thin porcelain tile flush with each other.

Another issue installers face is transporting the tiles to different levels. Typical freight elevators may not be large enough to accommodate full crates or A-frames. Think about thin tile panels as similar to large sheets of glass when dealing with them on a job site. Rigging, winches, or cranes may be required to get them to their final destination.

Staying on edge

When handling large tile panels, it is best to keep it on edge as much as possible. Suction cups and a team approach are a must for handling. Since the edges are the most delicate parts of the tile, cushion them when setting the tile down. When the tile must be laid flat (to cut it or apply mortar, for example) a rigid frame will provide a “backbone” for the tile to keep it from flexing. The same frame also allows the tile to be placed all at once.

Train before you leave the station

The right equipment is essential to moving the large thin porcelain tile without damage. This frame from ETM uses suction cups for a secure hold until the tile is installed. Suction cups and a team approach are a must for handling.

Training is especially critical for everyone who will be handling and installing thin tile. There is a learning curve to handling, cutting, and placing the tile successfully, and chances are an installer may break a few $500 sheets of tile trying to master the techniques on their own. All importers of thin tile panels and installation products companies offer training on how to handle and install these tiles. Every installment of Coverings, Surfaces, and Total Solutions Plus includes sessions on thin tile, usually with a hands-on component. Tool companies that offer thin tile tools will be happy to train you on their use. The tile industry is making a concerted effort to get the information out there because they want the same thing the installer wants, successful installations with no call-backs.

This article touches on just a few of the critical aspects for handling thin tile panels. There are specialized tools for handling and cutting it, special mortars and application techniques required to get full coverage, and tips and tricks for placing the tile in a way that maximizes the opportunities for success. Although thin tile requires specialized training, installers who are comfortable handling and installing the product find that they have a niche in the market and don’t have to compete as hard on price to get the job. By understanding the nuances of the product, stunning installations that will last for generations are possible.


When the tile must be laid flat (to cut it or apply mortar, for example) a rigid frame will provide a “backbone” for the tile to keep it from flexing. The same frame – such as this one from ETM – also allows the tile to be placed all at once.

Thin Tile

SponsoredbyMAPEIThin tile project combines on-site training and expert installation

Laminam by Crossville, MAPEI, and Schluter products make detailed bank project a success

By Lesley Goddin

When the Commerce Bank in Garden City, Kan., sought to build a new facility, they wanted a clean, easy-to-maintain material on all its bank teller walls.


The Fox Ceramic Tile team uses prescribed tools and equipment to safely move large thin porcelain tile (TPT) on the Commerce Bank job.

Howard & Helmer Architecture of Wichita, Kan., turned to Laminam by Crossville, a large thin porcelain tile to get the job done. The 1m x 3m Urban Influence Filo 3+ offered a subtle metallic chain mail-like texture in the dark grey Ghisa hue.

“We chose to use the Laminam porcelain product at the Commerce Bank teller stations not only because of the aesthetic quality, but also the exceptional durability that it offers at high traffic areas,” said David White, AIA, president of Howard & Helmer Architecture.

This was to be a challenging installation, said Kevin Fox, owner of NTCA Five Star Contractor Fox Ceramic Tile from St. Marys, Kan., who was charged with the project. “It was a very difficult one because of the detail of the cuts and all the corners using Schluter metals that was required,” Fox said.


The crew back butters the Laminam by Crossville large thin porcelain tile to achieve complete coverage.

The first step was being sure all the installers on the project were trained on how to handle, work with and install the Laminam panels, which are only 3 mm thick.

Enter Brent Stoller, installation specialist and training manager with ISC Surfaces with locations in Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma. Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) training director Scott Carothers said, “ISC Surfaces is the only Laminam training facility in the U.S. outside of Crossville itself.” Stoller is a very supportive board member of CTEF. He received CTEF’s CTI Host of the Year award in 2014, and is on record for hosting the largest number of Certified Tile Installer tests at one site. So Stoller “desires to see installations done correctly and is always willing to offer assistance when needed,” Carothers added.


Schluter Rondec and outside corners gave an elegant finish to the walls.

To that end, Stoller came from Kansas City to the Garden City jobsite to train Fox’s crew before they began the project. “[He helped] train our tile setters on the latest techniques using the most up-to-date installation tools,” Fox said.

“The ISC Surfaces location in Kansas City, Kan., has been doing Crossville/Laminam Training since December of 2012, training 27 installation companies with 81 installers through December 2015,” Stoller explained.

“Our trainings are done in our Kansas City location based on tool requirements; full panel installations, floor and wall, and the transportation issues inherent with those requirements,” he continued. The company offers its customers job-site starts and first-day supervision especially on a first-job scenario based on job-start timing and Stoller’s availability.

ISC Surfaces arose from a blend of several companies over the years: Interstate Supply, Case Supply and AMC Tile, said Stoller. Case supply was the Crossville distributor in the Kansas City territory. Over the past 23 years, Stoller’s relationship with Crossville’s Tim Bolby and ISC’s proactive approach to training


Installing the Laminam by Crossville TPT.

and industry commitment through training opened the door to partner with Crossville. In December 2012, ISC was invited on board by Crossville to grow the segment of thin porcelain tile. Active in all levels of the industry, ISC Surfaces is also a host site for both the CTEF CTI and ACT programs with six locations in Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma and service to Southern Illinois.

Once trained at the job site, Fox’s team of Certified Tile Installers had additional obstacles to overcome. “We had to work around the countertops,” Fox said.

All installation materials were from MAPEI, starting with the primer for the exterior-grade plywood substrate: MAPEI ECO Prim Grip, with MAPEI Ultralite S2 mortar for the Laminam sheets, grouted with MAPEI Ultracolor Plus. MAPEI sales rep Brett Robben worked with Fox to develop a package of products that offered single-source benefits and a system warranty.

The project took a tremendous amount of care and precision. “Although only 20 sheets of Laminam were used, the installation consumed 60 pieces of Schluter Rondec and 50 outside corners,” Fox said.

The completed project offers sleek, easy-to-maintain work stations for tellers, expertly installed.


A lippage control system keeps both pieces of TPT per wall side flush. Walls were installed, and counters assembled.

Thin Tile – September 2015

SponsoredbyMAPEIThin tile makes maximum impact on Florida homeowner’s accent wall

By Cris Bierschank, MAPEI Technical Services consultant

When a resident of South Florida recently purchased a townhouse, one of the key features he was excited about was vaulted ceilings, which gave his home a more spacious feel. However, this meant that he had a 29’ long wall that met the peak of the roof at 17’ with a diminishing slope down to 10’. His dilemma? What to do with this large, blank canvas.

He wanted a finished covering that would really make an impact on this 400 sq. ft. of wall. The capability of the new, thin-bodied porcelain tiles to deliver a bold statement was just what he was after. The variety of patterns are nearly limitless with new printing and finishing techniques that mimic virtually any surface found in nature – even metallic looks.


Since his décor would include a lot of copper, metal and wood pieces, he decided on a more industrial look and chose Crossville’s Laminam porcelain Oxide series (Nero) in 3’ x 10’ thin slabs, to be set in a horizontal brick pattern.

0915-thin2The installation crew from Bryant Tile and Marble, Inc., West Palm Beach, Fla., did a superior, professional job. The homeowner chose them because they had been trained by Crossville for large thin porcelain tile (LTPT) installations. Since these thin-body large format tiles are relatively new to the marketplace, many consumers are not aware of all of the steps required to ensure that a tile of that size is flat and aligned with the adjoining tiles.

A 24” x 24” tile used to be considered to be a huge tile, but it would take approximately 100 of these tiles to set a 400-sq. ft. wall compared to only 13 or 14 3’ x 10’ pieces.

There’s very little room for making adjustments for a wall with many high or low spots when working with tiles of this size and thinness. Depending on the type of substrate the installer is working with – in this case painted drywall with patching compound residue left on the surface – it is vital to provide a surface that the mortar can bond and grab to both chemically and mechanically. MAPEI’s ECO Prim Grip, a synthetic resin-based primer with bond-promoting silica aggregates suspended in a dispersion, was the perfect primer for the wall.

When tile installation began, it was apparent how important the ledger board row of tiles is in ensuring a true reference point for installing the rest of the tiles. It gives an aesthetically pleasing finish to the entire project. It was also important that the MAPEI Ultralite S2 Mortar was troweled on the entire surface, both the wall and tile, to maximize the contact from the back of the tile to the substrate without any voids under these large tiles.

Even something that might seem simple, such as cutting in an electrical outlet or fitting each tile to a sloped ceiling that started at 17’ high and ended at 10’, takes great expertise when working with LTPT. All accommodations had to be figured into the overall 50% offset brick pattern, while maintaining consistent grout joint lines and ensuring no lippage from tile to tile while setting.

Since a major feature of these tiles is a more seamless look, the installers created a minimal joint size (1/16”). Filling the grout joints with MAPEI’s Flexcolor CQ (in Cocoa) gave the project a polished look, tying all of the tiles together.

The homeowner has received many compliments from friends about his “bold design choice,” and he feels that he has increased the appeal and potential resale value of his home. “But I don’t plan to move anytime soon!” he said.

Key factors for LTPT installation

Innovations in lightweight, large thin porcelain tile technology have changed the face of the construction industry—significantly reducing the overall dead load weight of a building without compromising strength and durability. It is important to remember that LTPT is relatively new to the marketplace, being markedly different than standard body tiles due both to the larger format – up to 3’ x 10’ (1M x 3M) – and decreased thicknesses of 1/8” to 1/4” (3mm to 6mm). This has required all key players in the installation process to re-think how to install these tiles – from the surface preparation to mortar selection, tools and application method.

0915-thin3Due to reduced tile thickness and increased size, it is critical to establish a baseline when installing these tiles on the floor. Using the TCNA service rating (based on the ASTM C627; Robinson test method), a series of baselines, referred to as “service requirements,” have been established and published in the most current TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation. The categories are: Extra Heavy; Heavy; Moderate; Light; and Residential. Always consult the LTPT manufacturer for the service rating, specific area of use and limitations prior to installation.

In addition to establishing the proper tile to be used according to the service requirement, there are four key areas to address during installation:

1. Surface preparation

The substrate should have a permissible variation of no more than 1/8” in 10’ (3 mm in 3,05 m) from the required plane; nor more than 1/16” in 24” (2 mm in 60 cm) measured from high points on the surface with a straight edge. Floor flatness is best achieved using a self-leveling underlayment and primer prior to tile placement.

2. Proper mortar selection

Once a flat surface has been achieved, it is important to choose a mortar that will give maximum coverage to both the back of the tile and the substrate, thus ensuring a strong bond that can perform to the service rating that has been designated for the installation, e.g., residential.

MAPEI supplies a number of mortars that achieve the level of coverage performance necessary for LTPT, including the Granirapid® System, the Kerabond/Keralastic™ System, the Kerabond T/Keralastic™ System, Ultraflex ™ LFT™ Rapid, Ultraflex LFT, Ultraflex RS, Ultralite™ Mortar.

The company’s newest offering, Ultralite S2 Thin Tile Mortar (ISO 13007 classification C2ES2P2) is the first mortar specifically designed to install thin tile, solving many of the challenges associated with large-format thin porcelain tile. Ultralite S2 takes this installation technology to the next level through its superior transfer properties, extended open time and wet-out characteristics – optimizing coverage.

3. Proper trowel selection

It is important to use a trowel configuration that maximizes mortar coverage between the substrate and the tile, minimizing air pockets and voids. Often, this means using a non-traditional Euro Notch or slant notch trowel to achieve maximum coverage.

4. Use of a lippage control system

Using a mechanical system, with either straps or wedges, enables the installer to apply equal pressure on the tile, pulling it down into the mortar and locking the entire system together. Once the mortar has dried sufficiently – typically 24 hours – the lippage control system can be removed. This installation system provides improved contact between the tile and substrate while reducing the chances of lippage.


ANSI group gathers at Crossville to develop thin tile standards

This week – September 9, 10, and 11 — tile industry experts and leaders are gathering as part of an ANSI subcommittee to hash out details pertaining to thin porcelain tile standards. Porcelain tile manufacturer Crossville is hosting the group at its facilities at Crossville, Tenn.

Results from this week’s meeting will be reported at the NTCA Technical Committee meeting taking place in Savannah, Ga., during the Total Solutions Plus conference next month. The plan is to submit thin porcelain tile standards for the ANSI meetings scheduled during Coverings 2016, to be held in Chicago, Ill.

NTCA Recognized Consultant Richard Goldberg of Procon International examines mortar coverage at Crossville, as tile industry leaders work on installation standards for thin porcelain tile.

NTCA Recognized Consultant Richard Goldberg of Procon International examines mortar coverage at Crossville, as tile industry leaders work on installation standards for thin porcelain tile.



Thin Tile – July 2015

mapei_sponsorRetail rebirth in Ottawa

Architects and technicians use Neolith large thin tile to transform outdated department store into a sophisticated Nordstrom retail location

1-thin-0715Elegant. Light. Warm. When thinking of the Nordstrom brand, very specific descriptors emerge that evoke the chic, high-end style of the upscale retailer. Following a 2012 announcement that the former Sears location at Ottawa’s Rideau Centre would be reinvented as Nordstrom to anchor the $360 million modernization and expansion of the center, a great deal of care was taken to select architects, technicians and consultants that understood the brand, the vision and the goal. As the number-one retail design firm in the world – designing more than 150 new and remodeled Nordstrom stores in North America – Seattle-based architecture firm Callison was selected for the project in this high-traffic location in the heart of Canada’s capital.

2-thin-0715Callison ( began planning, digging deep into the design process and creating what would be an epic, dramatic revamp of 14,000 sq. ft. of dreary, worn exterior and interior storefronts. The completed elevations were sleek and specific, designed with large thin tile in a bright, gleaming white with subtle polished accents that would never stain, fade or discolor. The exterior façade would need to overcome the often harsh weather conditions in Ottawa, where temperatures of -20 degrees Celsius are common. An installation system that held tile firmly in place without grout lines was another necessity to carry out the team’s full vision. Callison realized this was a tall order.


With several key “must-haves” for the project, Callison began looking into potential solutions that would not sacrifice the design details that were so important to the overall aesthetic. After looking at a variety of surfacing materials, Callison was drawn to Neolith by TheSize (, a sintered compact surfacing product – that utilizes clays and other components – already used frequently in Europe for commercial façades. The product had a reputation for being incredibly durable and resistant to scratching, fading, staining and extreme temperatures. After meeting with Travis Conrad, architectural consultant for Neolith (, Callison’s team was feeling confident for the first time that their vision might become reality.

4-thin-0715“As architects, we definitely thought about design and the aesthetics of the project foremost, but design visions don’t often link directly to a functional solution, especially when looking at a high-traffic commercial project like the Nordstrom at Rideau Centre,” said Michael Lee, principal, Callison. “The product addressed our concerns from a design perspective – an array of tile colors to create patterns of horizontal movement, limited grout lines, varying panel heights and lengths to further reinforce the random nature of the façade, allowing for lasting warm colors – but also from a functional perspective in terms of durability.”

Neolith’s unique manufacturing process, which uses high pressure and high temperature to create a compact, nonporous surface, enables the product to withstand harsh conditions and emerge unscathed. A key concern for this project related to weather, as many compact materials are unable to withstand the coefficient of linear expansion in Ottawa, or the extreme fluctuations in temperature. Neolith’s design and use of 6”, 8” and 18” wide 6mm slabs in 5’ and 10’ lengths – in tandem with the unique Ceramitex mechanical installation system – provided a secure way to fasten the product without fear of cracking or splintering.

5-thin-0715Neolith and the accompanying installation system also provided several design benefits to the project. The exterior storefront has several sharp angles and edges, as result of the façade being raised away from the main structure. Using Neolith, a chamfer miter is possible, allowing for seamless L-shaped pieces for cladding the outside corners. This simplifies installation, improves overall aesthetic and avoids the use of unsightly vertical lines where sealing caulk often gets dirty and discolored. This project utilized both 90- and 135-degree miters, giving the building an effortlessly seamless appearance installed by Ontario Panelization, based in London, Ontario, Canada.

Aside from a clean, smooth look, the architects were also searching for specific colors. To contrast with the concrete and stone buildings surrounding the area, the façade was to be mostly bright white in matte and polished finishes with tan and grey accents. The team selected the pure Arctic White color in a satin finish as the base and accented that with scattered tiles of Barro, Perla and Arena in satin and polished finishes to round out the color scheme, supplied by Innovation Surfaces in Santa Ana, Calif. Neolith’s portfolio of nearly 50 colors and four finishes gave the team a vast amount of aesthetic freedom to get the design just right.

“Once my team [at Neolith] learned about the design goals and confirmed that functionality wouldn’t be an issue, you could see the architect team breathe a complete sigh of relief,” said Travis Conrad, architectural consultant, TheSize Surfaces. “We were happy to be able to offer a product and system that evenly matched the high-end quality of the Rideau Centre, Nordstrom and Callison, and let the architectural team focus on crafting a truly beautiful space.”

Thin Tile – May 2015

mapei_sponsorIn the thick of it with thin tile at Coverings

By Lesley Goddin

ORLANDO, Fla. – As the font of all things new and cutting-edge, where else to view the hottest thin porcelain tile products but at Coverings, held at the Orange County Convention Center here last month? Here are just a few of the products exhibitors had on display at the massive, sold-out show.

crossvilleLaminam by Crossville

I Metalli in the Laminam by Crossville line offers large thin porcelain tile with a metallic, diamond plate look and texture, for walls. In four colors, including Ferro Ossidato, an oxidized iron look, pictured. The metallic effect is extremely authentic – it’s hard to believe this is TILE!


Florida Tile

Aventis, Time 2.0 and Restore HDP are three of the new lines in Florida Tile’s Thinner large thin porcelain tile in 100 cm x 300 cm, or nominal 39” x 118” formats. The 3Plus tiles are 3.5mm, in the Aventis and Time 2.0 lines, and the 5.5mm 5Plus comes in the Restore HDP series (shown). Pressed at a force of 15,000 tons psi, these slabs are light and flexible. Rectified, with a thin fiberglass backing, the tiles are easy to handle and designed to be durable.


Tiger Gold large thin porcelain tile comes in the Precious Stones collection. This 6mm thin porcelain emulates gemstones in 30” x 60” or 60” x 120” formats. Choose from 23 different gemstone effects. Fiandre also launched Fiandre Maximum Ultralite in 5’ x 10’ slabs in the Fiandre Maximum Ultralite line in seven different collections from wood looks to resin looks.


Magnum is the new 5’ x 10’ thin porcelain tile format for Florim. It’s 6mm thick and comes in 5’ x 10’ sizes in 20 of the bestselling Florim lines as well as selected Rex lines. It differs from other thin porcelain tile offerings in that it is extruded, not pressed.


Italian tile factory LEA debuted additional lines in its Slimtech series of thin porcelain tile, which comes in 3.5mm and 5.5mm with fiberglass backing. New looks include Timeless Marble and the colorful Pixel, offering bright tones.

Thin Tile – March 2015

SponsoredbyMAPEIThin tile beautifies three-story lobby

The G. Fred DiBona Building, located at 1901 Market Street in Philadelphia, serves as the headquarters of Independence Blue Cross (IBC). The iconic glass and steel building, built from 1987-1990 and opened in 1990, has been home to Blue Cross as its major tenant for almost 25 years. Starting in 2010, IBC launched a new brand campaign, and an important part of the new identity was the renovation of the 45-story building. The corporate facelift included rejuvenation of all 45 office floors and a full-floor cafeteria for its 3,400 employees, as well as a complete refit of the three-story lobby.

2-ttLocal architectural firm Myer Design of Ardmore, Pa., redesigned the lobby inside and out. While the work was in progress, employees were redirected to a second entrance for their convenience and to provide an unobstructed work flow. A major project in the lobby featured the installation of Crossville Laminam 1 meter x 3 meter x 3mm thin porcelain tile. The thin tile – Laminam by Crossville®’s Filo collection in Mercuriowas new to the architects, who found it a novel material with which to work.

3-ttThe original granite on the 30-foot-tall walls was left in place. Thanks to MAPEI’s ECO Prim Grip bond-promoting primer, the thin tiles were able to be set directly over the granite. ECO Prim Grip enhances the performance and adhesion of mortars to existing ceramics, natural stone and other difficult-to-bond substrates.

Installations with large thin porcelain tiles present special challenges that the installers from Belfi Bros. and Co., Inc. resolved with well-coordinated teamwork. Belfi Bros. is a very reliable Philadelphia-based contractor that has pioneered thin tile installations in the area. The thin tile was laid out while MAPEI’s Ultraflex LFT mortar for large-format tiles was being mixed. Then, while one team applied the mortar over the ECO Prim Grip on the walls, another team back-buttered the large thin tiles a few at a time. Working from bottom to top, the installers lifted the tiles into place on the walls. As the installation moved up the wall, the installers used a scissors lift to hoist the tiles up to each new level.

It is essential for the tiles and wall to be mortared at the same time to ensure that full coverage can be achieved and that the mortar does not dry out before placement is complete. Ultraflex FLT met all the requirements of the 10,000-square-foot job.

8-ttMAPEI’s Ultracolor® Plus grout provided the perfect complement for the thin tile joints. A tile-leveling system is a must for large, thin tile installations, providing a clean, even grout space that enhances the monolithic look of the finished project. This premium, sanded grout can be used on joints from 1/16” to 1” (1,5 mm to 2,5 cm). DropEffect technology reduces surface absorption to help repel water, dirt and grime from penetrating grout joints. Ultracolor Plus is specially formulated with MAPEI’s High-Hydrated Cement Technology (HCT) to eliminate the common problems related to Portland cement grout, such as color consistency and efflorescence.

It took about three months to install the wall tile and another 10,000 sq. ft. of floor tiles in the IBC lobby. The general contractor had no issues with the work, and the owners loved the results. Together with Crossville, the thin porcelain tile supplier, the contractors, designer, owner and MAPEI distributor all worked together to produce a novel installation that gained honors for the project. The G. Fred DiBona Building received two TOBY (The Outstanding Building of the Year) Awards from BOMA Philadelphia (Building Owners and Managers Association) for 2014. The project was named the Best Renovation of the Year and received a TOBY Best of the Best Award for its lobby.

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