Installation Tips: C Category Products-CERAMIC
We provide these ceramic tile and mosaic installation instructions as a supplemental, general installation and grouting guideline only, as it pertains to most applications. The technical service departments of setting material manufacturers should be consulted regarding specific installation and material use questions.
Ceramic tiles are manufactured to satisfy industry specifications for glazed wall tile and are recommended for residential and commercial use. Ceramic tiles are impervious to water and stains, highly resistant to chemical attack, resistant to fading and discoloration.
Below are a few additional insights beyond the already provided common industry installation recommendations. These are not intended to replace the existing industry guidelines but to allow you to better understand the overall contractor activities. Please be sure of your contractor's certification and references and their familiarity with proper methods and materials. Only experienced and professional tile installers should install our products.
Below are recognized and recommended industry authorities for standards details and for providing proper installation guidelines:
The 'National Tile Contractors Assoc.' - (NTCA) training (workshops, installation videos, training manuals)
The 'Tile Terrazzo and Marble Association' (TTMAC) and the
Tile Council of North America' (TCNA), 'Ceramic Tile Installation Handbooks'
As with all hard surface materials, ceramic tiles and mosaics should not be exposed to high abrasion, heavy traffic or impact.
The end user, not the contractor, is responsible for ensuring the tile delivered is the tile originally selected for the project. Open and inspect each carton. As the manufacturer, we always take every precaution to eliminate any defective or unacceptable tiles before they reach the consumer and we will replace any such tiles at no cost to you.
Upon confirmation that the product is as ordered, the contractor should inspect for suitability, ensuring the sizing, dye lot shading and tone are consistent for the shipment, by selecting random control samples. Control samples are invaluable. If additional material is needed these can aid in determining acceptable matching. Once installed, it is no longer the tile supplier's responsibility and no adjustments will be made. INSTALLATION CONSTITUTES ACCEPTANCE!
Variations in color, shade and size are inherent in all fired ceramic products, particularly hand-made products such as ours. Such variety only serves to enhance the final beauty of the installation, and is controlled within a range of acceptance and aesthetic design. With all tiles, contractors should ensure that tiles are mixed randomly from different boxes as they are being installed, ensuring acceptable variation in shading/size/relief/tone to blend together in the final installation.
Ceramic tiles can be installed over all conventional tile setting substrates such as walls, floors, countertops, backsplashes, etc. Glazed ceramic tiles are impervious and will not absorb liquid; this makes them stain resistant, frost resistant and durable. The following substrates are considered acceptable:
- Well cured mortar beds-ANSI A108.1B Standards (cured a minimum of 7 days).
- Cementitious backer units (CBU) to ANSI A118.9 Standards (Note: An ANSI A108A-2.1.8 membrane is required behind all CBU installations in wet areas).
- Concrete slabs (on grade) cured for 21 days minimum.
- Gypsum board (dry areas only) installed to ASTM C1396 or ASTM C1396M-04 Standards.
All surfaces to receive tile shall be sound, smooth, flat, clean and free of dust, oil, grease, paint, tar, wax, curing agents, primers, sealers, adhesive residue, release agents or any other deleterious substance or debris which may prevent or reduce adhesion to the substrate.
Installation materials / Mortars and Grouts are available through tile dealers, home centers, and major setting material companies.
ADHESIVES - MASTICS (Limited Use)
'Type 1' Organic adhesives (mastic) are considered acceptable ONLY for 4 width or smaller tiles. With larger format (6 width or larger) vitrified ceramic tiles the adhesive (mastic) is sealed off at the edges, which is like putting a lid on the can of adhesive. On the backside center portion of tiles, the adhesive remains wet and bond is not properly achieved.
Some cementitious mortars and epoxies are acceptable alternatives.
Choosing the best mortar for the job is important to assure a long-lasting installation. With larger format ceramic tile units, once the tile has set firmly, the longer you can leave the surface un-grouted the better - we recommend 48 hours.
Types of Setting Materials to Use - There are numerous thin-set mortars available which are suitable for adhering ceramic floors or walls in dry areas. Please consult the manufacturer's product data sheets for specific installation instructions. We recommend that you choose a premium quality, polymer-modified mortar with outstanding flexibility and bond strength, meeting or exceeding ANSI A118.4 material specifications.
Use enough setting material to ensure 80%+ tile surface coverage but avoid so much that it will squish above the top of the grout joint. Use a 3/16 X 1/4 V-notched trowel and DO NOT flatten the combed ridges created while troweling the bonding material. Apply only as much bonding material to be covered with tile within 10 to 15 minutes or while tile surface is still wet and sticky. Do not allow the bonding material to skim over. With firm, even pressure, apply tile down into the bonding material. Push the tile ¼ perpendicular to the combed material. This will allow the combs to cover the back and eliminate the combed ridges. Use a wooden beating block or rubber grouting float to flatten the surface. Align each tile as it is installed to create uniform grout joints. Clean excess setting material from the surface of the tile with a damp cloth or sponge while the setting material is fresh. Allow tile to set until firm.
Grout color can determine the aesthetic final appearance of any ceramic mosaic installation and should be selected carefully. Ceramic mosaic tiles have varying degrees of surface texture that will collect grout during the grouting process. While thorough cleaning after grouting will remove most of the grout, there may still be remaining grout within pinholes, surface creases, texture or relief. The amount of grout visible after installation will depend primarily on the color contrast between grout color and tile color, how well the tiles were cleaned during grouting, and viewing distance. The aesthetic appearance of grout left within the tile, not just the grout joints, has a way of aesthetically unifying the overall grout and tile.
Grouting may be done after tile is firmly set (we commonly recommended approximately 24 hours after installation). Apply sanded grout carefully with a rubber float, making sure that grout joints are completely full and free of voids and pits. Clean the surface with a clean, damp cloth or tile industry hydrophilic sponge. These sponges are used for clean-up of ceramic tile, especially after grouting, and easily rinse clean while filtering out particles for a clean surface.
Allow grout to set until a haze forms on the tile and the grout in the joints sets firmly. Use a soft, clean, dry cloth to polish off haze and remaining grout residue. This step is key to avoiding unwanted grout residue and should be done as the work progresses, while grout is fresh and before it fully hardens. The final cleaning of grout haze is done approx. 30 - 45 minutes after initial grout cleanup and tile polishing is done with a clean, dry cotton cheesecloth or terry towel approx. 12 hours after grouting. Allow the grout to cure for a minimum of 7 days before aggressive use or steam cleaning.
Epoxy Grouts are popular for use with ceramic tile because of their longevity, strength, and relationship with the ceramic. Grouts like SpectraLOCK® or Kerapoxy® have a chemical composition that resists stains and breakdown. They are also non-porous and non-absorbent. When mixed with antimicrobial products such as Microban®, epoxy grouts also inhibit the growth of mold or mildew, a common occurrence with regular cementitious grout. Non-absorbent epoxy grouts require little maintenance, so while they may cost more than cement grout up front, they more than make up for it over time. Working with the Epoxy grout is more labor intensive and sticky, and requires a lot of washing after. However, while the rubbery plastic-like characteristics of epoxy grouts make for a more challenging application, a stronger finished product is obtained, and epoxy grouts will not fade or change color over time.
Set times for epoxy grouts are comparable to their cement counterparts but the do not cure in the same way as cement based products; instead, they thermal set. Once this occurs, there is no ability of removing residues or films.
Once again, it is imperative to follow the manufacturer's instructions for
the products and, if in doubt, please consult the dealer you purchased the setting materials from or your installer for more information. We make no representations as to the fitness for purpose of third party Mortars and Grouts.
Some standard cautions:
- When mixing setting and grouting materials with electrical mixing devices DO NOT exceed 300 RPM (or the manufacturer's recommendations).
- All mortars and grouts need to slake (sit) 10-15 minutes after mixing, and remixed before using.
- Wear appropriate gloves and mask when working with dry and wet installation products.
- All methods and material choices should be reviewed with the setting-material supplier or manufacturer.
- All mortar beds must be cured a minimum of 7 days before ceramic tile is to be installed.
- Areas to be submerged, such as ponds, pools or fountains should be cured no less than 21 days before filling
TROWEL SIZE - Trowel sizes are always intended as a guideline only and results should be checked during installation to make sure that proper coverage is achieved.
BACK-BUTTERING MORTAR - The practice of back-buttering is often recommended to help achieve maximum coverage; when setting ceramic tile 80% + mortar coverage is to be obtained. We recommend the application of a straight combed troweled mortar. According to ceramic industry field reports, laboratory bond tests have determined that back-buttering can achieve equal bond strengths as the direct bond thin-set method on cement mortar beds, cured 7 days.
COMBING MORTAR - The most satisfactory results have been achieved in straight-combing the mortar to the wall, placing the tiles and then seating them, by pushing the tiles perpendicular to the combed mortar, forward then back, rolling the combed mortar into itself and coating the back of each tile, thus maximizing bond.
EXPANSION JOINTS! EXPANSION JOINTS! EXPANSION JOINTS! (Joint Placement)
All hard surfaces like ceramic tile require expansion joints!
It is vitally important that proper allowance be made for movement in ceramic installations.
All buildings will move, thus accommodation for this movement is necessary. To properly review and place expansion joints, the best time to discuss and deal with the issue is before the installation takes place. This will help to avoid problems and any finger pointing after the installation is completed. Ceramic tile expands and contracts. This movement needs to be accommodated in the installation, particularly where temperature changes may occur.
Be sure to use caulked joints on all inside corners where walls intersect, especially in showers, backsplashes and cook top areas. This recommendation is a standard installation procedure for ceramic tile installation. Ceramic tile is a very durable material but only when installed properly. Ceramic tile should not be subjected to excessive mechanical or thermal shock. All installation materials should be used according to the manufacturer's instructions.
Generally, the allowance for movement should be made around the perimeter of the room and any hard abutments within the tiled area / cold joints. All installations require these perimeter expansion joints. It is essential that vertical and horizontal planes be caulked, NOT grouted. The minimum width for the perimeter joints is ¼ (6mm). If the perimeter will be covered with a base molding, then the joint can be left open to allow for the movement. If the joint will be exposed, then it should be treated with a suitable flexible sealant or caulking. In addition, if the size of the installation is large enough to warrant field movement joints, then they should be placed as directed as outlined by the construction documents or the North American Tile Council's Handbook for Ceramic Tile Installations - Detail EJ171-[Current Year]. For additional information, consult the Tile Council of North America's Handbook --Section 'Movement Joint Design Essentials EJ171-[Current Year]'.
EXTERIOR APPLICATIONS - These will require more frequent and wider expansion joint placement and widths. It is NOT advisable to cut-in expansion joints after the tile or stone installation has been placed and grouted. Damage can occur before saw cutting and may be irreversible. Therefore, following industry requirements to construct the joints as the work progresses is the best course of action.
In addition, the space left for the movement joint should be clear of anything that can potentially restrict movement, including thin-set mortar, spacers, dirt and debris.
SWIMMING POOLS - Normally, all competent systems rely on the contractor to make choices and recommendations that best suit the conditions, scheduling, availability and other needs of the installation project. In the case of a swimming pool installation, movement joints for a pool should be specified by the architect, not the tile contractor. Expansion Joints in a pool installation are critical to avoid post-installation cracking/breaking/crushing of tile. The contractors experience and understanding of the industry guidelines for pool installations is essential, but there are numerous elements to a customized pool and each needs to be viewed and considered first-hand during designing ceramic tile installations in water immersed applications. With continuous water immersion applications, minimum cure time after grouting is 21 days before flood testing or filling with water. Follow the setting materials manufacturer's recommended cure times.
CUTTING CERAMIC TILES
Ceramic tiles are best cut with with a wet saw. Use a high quality wet saw with a diamond cut-off or carbide blade. To prevent rough edges, ceramic tiles must be cut in a slow manner.
Turn the tile upside down and cut half way through and flip tile over and continue to cut through tile will minimize the chipping.
Drilling holes through ceramic tile can be accomplished with a diamond core bit using a drill with low speed (250 to 300rpm). Misting the tile and drill bit with a spray bottle of water during drilling is imperative to prevent ceramic from cracking. On horizontal surfaces, a circular dam made from putty can be shaped to hold water as a reservoir around the drill bit and hole being cut. If tiles have not been installed, drilling from both sides will minimize chipping and cracking. Additionally, if partitions or fixtures are to be attached with anchoring bolts, drill holes 1/8 larger to avoid stress transfer to the tile.
The installer shall take precautions to protect the finished work from damage by other activities. Do not allow construction traffic on fresh tile or grout joints.
Cold Weather - The curing of tile installation mortars, adhesives and grouts is retarded by low temperatures and finished work and setting materials should all be protected from freezing.
Personal safety requires using protective eye wear, dust mask, and gloves, when required. Take a careful and methodical pace and avoid fatigue, to reduce any potential hazards while cutting, drilling and installing ceramic tiles.
CLEANING & MAINTENANCE
Normal cleaning of ceramic tile can be done with room temperature water and light duty diluted neutral detergent cleaner. Ceramic tiles can be routinely cleaned with any non-abrasive cleaning solutions that are commonly recommended for ceramic tile. For the CERAMIC MATTE/DRY line of tile, we recommend use of mild soap and warm water, using a soft bristle brush if needed. For the CERAMIC GLOSS line, use of products such as - SC Johnson Windex® or 'Fantastik®' (Clean & Shine) are both acceptable ceramic and light-duty hard surface cleaners.
The Tile Council of America offers detailed grout cleaning information on website, under Technical Services URL: www.tileusa.com/faq_main.htm
Additionally, on our website, we have supplemented these recommendations with installation specifications provided by some leading North American setting material producers.