News & Press: President's Letter

TECH 2019 President's Letter

Tuesday, October 15, 2019  
Posted by: Trish Moss
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Technology and the tile trade

“I’ve been doing it this way for 20 years.” No doubt you have heard someone say this, or words to that effect. Think of how absurd that comment is as you look around to see advances in almost every aspect of our lives. One thing that may not have changed is that we cannot imagine what our world will be like even 20-30 years from now.

In our craft, many traditional methods may never be improved on. But I find it unlikely that anyone in the industry today is doing things EXACTLY as they did 20 years ago. Thirty years ago we were getting used to the “new large 12” x 12” tile.” Then 16” and 18” tiles gained popularity requiring installers to true the substrate. That accelerated the use of flowable hydraulic cement mortars, commonly (incorrectly) referred to as “self-leveling preparation mortars.” The consumer’s interest in larger formats helped drive improvements in manufacturing where we now see 5’ x 10’ porcelain panels as commonplace. Couple that with significant improvements in the quality of digital printing and there is little comparison to materials produced a few decades ago. The 118.15 dry-set mortar looks, smells, feels and trowels much differently that the 118.1 “dirt in a bag” I started out using.

From innovative leaps in manufacturing to simple things like leveling clips, changes continue to improve equipment, mortars, tile, sealers, methods – everything! Innovations will challenge you to improve your game and stay current with what you do. There is no disputing how fast our craft is changing. Consider that mosaicists and craftspeople pretty much did things the same way for over 3,000 years. By comparison, changes we are experiencing today are happening at light speed. It is exciting that our access to innovation is limited only by our willingness to pursue and embrace it.

Another change being actively developed to keep pace with improvements in our trade is a revision to the American National Standards Institute’s (ANSI) A-108 Materials and Installation Standards. An effort has been underway for some time to evaluate how to update the standards to incorporate new and improved materials into a renewed document. Advances in tile and allied products have provided consumers with new choices and presented today’s craftsperson with more technically challenging installations. These changes are requiring that we evaluate the standards and assure inclusion of the multitude of products available today. New tile materials and technologically-superior installation products challenge traditional skills and highlight the need to evaluate and – in some cases – update the information in the standards.

The revisions may be quite significant. The format and organization of the information is still being evaluated. If you read through the ANSI standard with a critical eye, it is easy to notice that much of the information is derived from a time long before more technically advanced tile materials, mortar additives, and aggregates that are part of many of today’s most basic materials.

Early drafts center around a document that builds the installation from the bottom up, floor or wall, without repeating information already presented, and in layers that allow introduction of new innovative materials with reliable performance criteria to be placed in the appropriate layer. While similar to the existing format, reviewing existing language for edits and updates will be thorough and should allow for easier review of related/affected information in previous layers to provide a more direct path to edit information when including new products or updates in the future. Over the last several decades, as changes and introductions were made, sometimes they were added without fully evaluating or editing other areas of the manual. As a result, some of the information became quite dated.

The format is still open to change. Much collaboration will be needed for the document to gain the approval of the full committee. The hope is to improve the standard to provide very specific information that stays within the bubble of a technical manual for installations guidelines to achieve provable repeatable performance criteria for any products included in the standard.

Chris Walker
NTCA President
Vice President, David Allen Company
Chairman, ANSI A-108
Chairman, US TAG ISO TC-189
Board of Directors ABC-VA
Voting Member TCNA Handbook
Voting Member NTCA Reference Manual
chriswalker@davidallen.com