Floors by the book

SPECIFICATIONS
Dan Marvin
When ceramic or stone tile is the flooring of choice for a project, specifiers have a tremendous resource in the Handbook for Ceramic, Glass, and Stone Tile Installation. It is published yearly by the Tile Council of North America (TCNA) and is often referenced when specifications require installations be done according to ‘industry standards.’ While the Handbook itself is not a standard like the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), American National Standard Specifications for the Installation of Ceramic Tile, it collects best practices for the successful installation of tile and stone.

The TCNA Handbook dates back to the 1950s when it included two methods for setting tile—bonded and unbonded mortar beds. Since then, it has grown to include over 400 pages filled with more than 200 methods for addressing different substrates, environments, and finishes. All these methods are vetted by a consensus process that includes representatives from the manufacturing, specifying, and installation categories.

While the resource is published yearly, major revisions are proposed and voted upon using a two-year cycle. Methods for stone tile installation were incorporated into the Handbook in 2012 with input from the Marble Institute of America (MIA). Recent additions include two new methods for curbless showers (i.e. B421C and B422C) and new methods for installing stone tile over concrete substrates with radiant heat systems (i.e. RH111A, RH112, RH112A, RH116, and RH116A).

The sheer size of the resource can be intimidating, but it contains critical information that makes it an important reference for design/construction professionals. The most directly applicable portions of the Handbook are the methods themselves. The methods are numbered so the proper reference can be included in a specification. The numbers start with F (floor), W (wall), B or SR (bathtubs and steam rooms), C (ceilings or countertops) or P (pools and water features). After that comes a number and date. Some methods may look redundant. For example, there are two F113 methods—F113-16, Thin Bed Installation Over Concrete, and F113A-16, Thin Bed Installation Over Above-ground Concrete. The A denotes the installation is above ground.

Finding the correct method starts at the end of the book with the method locator listed by application. A quick glance at methods for interior floors identifies several for above-ground concrete and even more for on-ground concrete. For example, each method lists the number and page on which it can be found.

The ‘Environmental Exposure Classifications’ table is a useful chart to double-check the correct method has been identified. This four-page chart classifies every method according to the environment it may need to withstand in its service. The environments are subdivided into residential and commercial.

The methods are further subdivided by number according to the amount of moisture the installation can withstand. The range of numbers denotes:

  1. a dry installation;
  2. limited water exposure;
  3. a wet installation;
  4. high humidity/heavy moisture;
  5. high temperatures as well as high humidity/heavy moisture exterior;
  6. an exterior installation; and
  7. a submerged installation.
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