December 2019 President's Letter
Tuesday, December 3, 2019
Posted by: Trish Moss
Standards Development - Acronym Soup
The companies you see in the pages of TileLetter have representatives that contribute to the process of creating, reviewing and updating the ANSI, TCNA and NTCA technical documents. There are many spokes on the wheel that revolve around the standards process. There are plenty of organizations and their acronyms. Identifying them can be confusing at best, at worst intimidating. ANSI – American National Standards Institute and the ANSI Manual; TCNA – Tile Council of North America and the TCNA Handbook; NTCA – National Tile Contractors Association and the NTCA Reference Manual, MMSA – Materials and Methods Standards Association; and ASTM – American Society for Testing and Materials and its many manuals. These groups work to identify installation products and methods that meet the highest standards of manufacturing and are instructions for installing products that will repeatedly provide reliable performance and longevity. The testing requirements should assure that all products meet the claims they make and do what they say they will do. They instruct the purchaser and installer how and where they should be used.
Using the manuals is straightforward once you get used to them. But like everything, they have their own nuances that take a time of adjustment. There is a thing we call “Methods Speak.” I got to learn it sitting in meetings, listening to members of the committees construct language intended to keep everyone out of hot water, when inevitably, something does not go as planned. Surprisingly, very minor changes to sentences and words in methods language can have extremely detrimental outcomes in the event of a failure. The person most exposed in those failures is often the tile contractor who also, sadly, is usually the person least capable of defending or paying for a failure, even though they may be responsible for it. The NTCA and other organizations involved with the methods development process bring their point of view and expertise while looking out for their perspective. Many of the people involved are representatives of various labor organizations. Labor organizations attempt to assure that the standards do not, by accident or by unintended omission, make the installation contractor any more liable for the installations performance than can be reasonably assumed when properly using the products and following the standards.
I consider myself lucky to have been involved with methods development for almost two decades. To some folks, this is tantamount to watching paint dry. For me, this has provided a window to understanding the Handbook recommendations (TCNA) and the installation standards (ANSI). I began to truly appreciate the standards during my first, potentially significant, failure. I realized later that knowing the standards would have informed me about what I was missing and how to eliminate or at least lessen my exposure. At the time, I was just becoming aware of why the manuals were so important or how to truly understand their value. That’s when I realized that the more complicated the work we were getting became, the more educated I needed to be about how to get it properly installed. The tools were in my office, I just had not paid attention to them.
Fast forward 30 years. Much of the information in those documents remain in place today. However, the materials we used then have undergone reformulation and improvements that make them new products with enhanced capabilities. Add in all of the new setting materials, membranes and specialty tile products, then throw in some 5'x10' porcelain panels and you have a giant serving of HIGH-RISK STEW made for the installation contractor. In the November TileLetter, I mentioned we are proposing changes to the ANSI document. The basics of those changes were introduced to the NTCA Reference Manual and TCNA Handbook meetings at Total solutions Plus. The purpose of the proposed changes is to update the installation standards and keep them flexible and able to incorporate the many new materials and their methods and allow being rapidly introduced to the industry. It’s an effort to make the best possible Acronym Soup.