Summer is on it’s way and we know you’re ready to enjoy your patios!

Now is the time to finish the patio with a new outdoor flooring system. Extra 20 system by Caesar has been designed to make outdoor flooring quick and easy to install, immediately usable and with easy access for inspection at any time simply by lifting the floor slabs. These benefits, combined with the technical resistance features of Caesar porcelain stoneware tiles, make Extra 20. perfect for northern Michigan outdoor applications. The flooring system is no longer linked to the structure and it has a better resistance to thermal expansion, therefore avoiding the risk of breaking and cracks. A particularly important benefit for terrace and patio applications that are exposed to direct sunlight and adverse weather conditions. Moreover, it is easy to correct level defects of the surface thanks to the adjustable supports equipped with self-levelling heads, as well as problems due to lack of water drainage as water quickly flows under the treading surface thanks to the spaces present between adjacent slabs. Above all, thanks to the “dry installation system”, the laying of these slabs does not require any adhesives or grouts making installation very easy, quick and clean. The materials are always removable and reusable.

It’s also a great solution for outdoor applications that need to have an easy access under the treading surface for technical reasons, a space designed to hide cabling and hydraulic piping allows the opportunity to check and change them at any time, thus reducing maintenance time and costs in comparison to traditional floors.

How does it work? The system consists of modular slabs and polypropylene supports. Single-piece porcelain stoneware slabs by Caesar, perfectly squared and rectified with a thickness of 20mm and a anti-slip finish “‘press fit” on to the polypropylene supports. The substrate onto which the slabs are to be installed, must be solid, resistant and water-proof, with a sufficient incline to guarantee the correct flow of rain water. The installation foresees the setting of the supports, equipped with four spacers to allow an adequate joint between adjacent tiles. Suitable cuts must be done on borders and edges in order to get close to the walls.

Stop by the showroom for a closer look!

It’s a new year, and thin is in!

One of the hottest trends that we’re seeing at all the latest floor covering shows has got to be the emergence of thin tiles. These thin tiles start at a thickness of about 2.5mm for wall applications and up to about 6mm for floor applications. Manufacturers tout a range of advantages, including installation over existing floor or wall coverings, eliminating the need for ripping out existing finish materials in renovation projects, thus saving time and money in labor costs. It’s the perfect solution for covering up that old, out of date shower tile that you’ve been dying to get rid of but don’t want the hassle of tearing your shower apart. Because the tiles are available in slab form, sizes as big as 48″ x 142″, installing them will create a very clean and uninterrupted appearance!

Because this is such a new product there are no nationally-recognized installation standards for thin tiles. Efforts to develop ISO standards for thin tile and installation standards are afoot. The TCNA is collaborating with labor to quickly develop installation standards for North America to reduce incidents of performance failures due to incorrect methods or materials. For now, some important factors installers must consider in thin-tile installation are: Lippage must be virtually non-existent to avoid chipping damage. Coverage must be 100% at the edges to prevent cracking. The amount of extra tile needed for a job can be much more than a regular project if the pieces being installed are large. The larger tiles can be easily broken. Some tips from the field include: Using a trowel with slanted teeth to allow the mortar to lay down more easily without sliding the tile to comb over the trowel ridges. Although it goes against the grain of traditional tile installations, walk on the tile to embed it into the mortar. “This tile is flexible…stepping on it pushes it into place”. Beating it into the mortar with a rubber hammer can cause breakage.

Here are a few thin-tile products to look out for:

Cotto d’Este: Black-white, from the Kerlite collection, is manufactured to a slim 3mm thickness using the Lamina process. Sleek and contemporary, Black-White comes in 3×1 meter and 1×1 meter in black and white. Eco-friendly manufacturing is earmarked by reduced emissions and 25% natural gas consumption, plus recycled materials for packaging. Large porcelain stoneware slabs above 3.5mm thick are reinforced with fiberglass mesh.

Gardenia Orchidea: Crete Di Piandella Fornace is the latest innovation from Crystal Ker brand, which uses traditional press technology in a new way to produce extra fine, extremely thin, very white porcelain stoneware in 2.5mm thickness for wall covering and 4.5mm for flooring.

Laminam: Linfa ceramic slab features Lamina technology to produce a 3 meter-long, 3mm thick tile with surface effects that imitate various types of wood such as cotton, hemp, bark and coconut. Linfa is made with up to 48% recycled content.

Lea Ceramich: Slimteck Re-Evlolution 3mm porcelain now comes in sizes as large as 40″ x 118″, in a new resin-like texture created by Lamina technology.

Refin: Skin is a the brand-new, 4.8mm slim porcelain stoneware. Using dust-pressed technology, Skin offers the same technical and resistance features of standard thickness porcelain stoneware tiles, with added benefits offered by thin tile.

Stop into the showroom to see samples of the latest and greatest!

Solid Vs. Engineered…how to choose the perfect wood floors for your home

First let’s define Solid and Engineered wood flooring…

Solid wood is milled from a single 3/4″ thick piece of hardwood. Because of its thickness, a solid hardwood floor can be sanded and refinished over several generations of use. Solid wood flooring expands and contracts with changes in your home’s relative humidity. Normally, installers compensate for this movement by leaving an expansion gap between the floor and the wall. Base molding or quarter round is traditionally used to hide the extra space.

Engineered wood is produced with three to five layers of hardwood. Each layer is stacked in a cross-grain configuration and bonded together under heat and pressure. As a result, engineered wood flooring is less likely to be affected by changes in humidity and can be installed at all levels of the home.

Before deciding on Solid or Engineered hardwood flooring, consider these three factors:

Location, Location, Location…
The location of your hardwood flooring basically falls into three categories:

  1. On Grade – at grout level
  2. Above Grade – any second level or higher
  3. Below Grade – any floor below ground level, including basements or sunken living room.

Traditional solid hardwood flooring is not well suited for below-grade installations, because of the possibility of moisture issues. The construction of an engineered hardwood gives it enhanced structural stability that allows it to be installed at any grade level when a moisture barrier is used during installation.

What type of subfloor do you have?
If you plan to install over concrete, you must use an engineered product to ensure structural integrity. Solid wood flooring or Engineered flooring may be used over plywood, wood, or OSB subfloors.

Will there be moisture in the room?
If you are considering flooring for a bathroom where continuous moisture is expected, you will want to select a product other than hardwood. While the moisture resistance of an engineered hardwood makes it suitable for rooms below grade or grout level when installed with a moisture barrier, it is not advisable to install any hardwood flooring in a bathroom.

Living in Michigan we are all well aware of the rapid changing climate from day to day. Especially in the summers with the high humidity. Solid hardwood floors are not recommended for homes on the water without air conditioning or a way to control the humidity levels.

Exterior tile installations done right from start to finish…

Back in the day… Our substrate of choice was mortar and our bond cat was pure cement placed over wet mortar. It didn’t make a difference whether it was a floor or wall, the material was the same, sand and cement. On a knowledge basis, you wanted to make sure the tile was freeze-thaw stable. You also needed to know how your sand and cement would behave. When setting tile into fresh mortar it is typically beat in place, which provides a mechanical lock into the damp or wet mortar with no voids under the tile. These types of installations have been known to last literally thousands of years in exterior installations and are still performed today on a somewhat limited basis. The same type of performance can be achieved with a thinset mortar over a poured slab. Most of the considerations to be made remain the same with exception to the setting materials. Here are some secrets of success and industry recommendations.

Drainage slope – Exterior tile needs to shed water as rapidly as possible. While there is no official “rule” on how much slope is required, the 1/4″ in 10′ used for showers is widely accepted as the bare minimum. This slope needs to be in the slab and should not be made of fill material such as mortar, which is much more porous than concrete and will actually hold the water rather than allowing it to drain. If the slab area must be properly sloped with a fill material, the used of an appropriate properly installed waterproof membrane should be considered mandatory to avoid moisture retention in the fill material. If the area to be tiled abuts a structure, that membrane must be appropriately flashed into the structure and a proper movement joint constructed at the wall line. Not all membranes are suitable for this type of application so choose carefully. In general, avoid using waterproofing in exterior unless there is a specific reason to do so. They can cause nearly as many problems as they solve, particularly when it comes to developing efflorescence issues. When the opportunity presents itself, use of a drainage mat under a mortar bed can be very helpful in promoting rapid drainage of the floor system, greatly reducing efflorescence issues; but remember, the water has to drain to someplace to be effective.

Selection and Application of Setting Materials – Not all thinsets are suitable for prolonged exposure to moisture. In exterior applications it is wise to spend a few extra dollars to insure you are using a good premium bonding material suitable for the application. When using a polymer or latex modified product you must also make sure there are provisions to protect the newly set tile from direct exposure to the sun, which can cause rapid drying and thus low bond strengths. Protection must also be provided in insure the polymers have opportunity to coalesce or dry. This is not the typical tile setter’s 12-hour overnight cure; we are talking days, not hours for many thinsets. Recommendations will vary according to formulations but three to seven days protection should be considered a minimum time frame. If you don’t have the time to wait consider using a rapid-set type materials, but even with rapid-set, a simple overnight cure may not prove adequate.

Thinset coverage is everything when it comes to exterior tile work. The industry recommendation is 95 percent for exterior and wet areas. Failure to achieve good coverage is often responsible for the efflorescence that seems to never go away. Moisture left in voids (i.e. trowel ridges) under the tile will dry out to a gaseous form and pass through the grout joints. As soon as the alkaline laden moisture hits the air, the salts will dry leaving their crystalline deposits behind. Exterior tile work is all about good thinset and coverage. No matter what your troweling technique, you’re likely going to have to flat trowel the backs of the tile if it is of any appreciable size or has one of those moon crater backs. A good grout job, one that is nice and dense, full to the top of the tile or edge of the bevel, sheds water much better than one that is low and soft.

Movement Joints – With sun exposure there are certain to be numerous cycles of pushing (as the tile expands) and pulling (retracting as it cools down). This will likely be over damp thinset which means the bonding strength is less than it would be when dry, as typical in all cement products. With all installations, properly placed and constructed movement joints are critical to long-term performance of exterior or any other type of tile work. Lab test are run all the time on thermal expansion and moisture expansion. Rarely has anything been tested that did not move when exposed to heat and/or moisture. In all but the rarest of instances, exterior tie work dries out completely, and even then, it’s only temporary. Moisture growth in tile is a long-term, one-way growth; it is bound to get bigger. We know that when tile gets copious amounts of sun and thus becomes hot, it grows. During the evenings or periods of non-sun exposure, it contracts. Hence the reasons for more frequent joint spacing in exterior tile work.

Taken from article by Dave Gobis.

Tile keep getting bigger and bigger…

Ceramic tile continues to get bigger and the quality better. Consumers seem to love it; bigger tile, less grout, easier maintenance. I remember when large tile was considered 12×12, 25 to 30 years ago. We had much of the same conversations then as we do now about how we will get that tile to lay flat on the floor.

No one can argue that less grout certainly has the potential to make floor care easier. But, anyone who has ever installed large format tiles can tell you it certainly isn’t easier or less time consuming to install. The bigger the tile gets, the more difficult installation becomes. With 18×18 becoming the normal floor tile and 24×24 gaining ground, 3’x3’ or 4’x4’ can’t be far away. We are also starting to see much thinner tile in large sizes for the purposes of exterior cladding.

Setting material manufacturers have been developing many new products to aid big tile installation. Many of these new products are highly engineered and task specific. In the past most manufacturers worked on a good, better, best system. These traditional thin-set products provided different levels of performance and are still adequate for many of today’s larger tile product applications; but often with current construction techniques, consumer expectations, and installation requirements, sometimes tile installations benefit from task-specific products.

Very large tile requires what is known as super flat floors. While it is possible to specify the necessary tolerances during the building process, they come at a substantial additional cost. The skilled labor able to produce such surfaces can also be challenging to find.

Of course much of our work is over an existing slab work installed sometime ago. When attempting to correct out-of-plane conditions with thin-set while installing tile is very labor intensive and often results in an unsatisfactory installation. Floor filled underlayment products, self levelers, or even mortar bed may be required to achieve satisfactory flatness needed for large tile installations.

The next big challenge is selecting the appropriate bonding material. Selecting the appropriate thin-set does not have to be a daunting task but you must consider both the site conditions and end use. If you are fortunate enough to have a flat surface you may want to consider a contact mortar. With very large tile or if the area needs to be quickly returned to in service conditions, a rapid set version may be available. Using traditional thin-set were additional build-up is required is a recipe for disaster. Regular thin-set is designed for a side profile thickness of 3/32” x 3/8”. When used in thicker applications it loses its ability to bond and shrinks excessively causing factures in soft tile and stone and possibly bond loss on dense tile such as porcelain.

A big tile article would not be complete without a discussion of grout joints and rectified tile. Rectified tile is squaring the tile on all sides by cutting or grinding so that measurable variance from tile to tile is minimized. Don’t forget that big tile and small grout joints still need movement joints. Even the perfect job is not going to stay that way if the installation cannot move as needed when required.

Taken from article by Dave Gobis.