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Specification Writing in North America

The United States has a wide and detailed body of standards and a large number of documents available on ceramic tiles and adhered installation. Besides, it has a long history [the Handbook for Ceramic Tile Installation reached its 45th edition in 2008].

It is also a pioneer in the proposal of guides for the selection of materials [ceramic tiles, adhesives, grouting materials…] and in the edition of installation handbooks, including the installation of natural stone and glass mosaic.

The Tile Council of North America [TCNA, Inc.], with more than 60 years of history, also gave birth to the first construction solutions adapted to use and environmental conditions of coverings. These guides on wall and floor tiling have been taken as reference in the elaboration of the Australian standard AS 3958.

Together with the United Kingdom and Germany, they were the first to propose construction solutions for the most problematic modular rigid coverings, either due to the nature of the substrates or to the functional requirements

Handbook for Ceramic Tile Installation of the Tile Council of North AmericaList of standards of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI)The Canadian tile installation specification guide TTMAC (2002)

The documents issued from the United States are based on a set of standards covering both specifications of materials and installation, as well as the test methods for the evaluation of characteristics [see SPECIFICATIONS].

The Handbook for Ceramic Tile Installation [45th Edition, 2008] establishes a set of covering systems; selection is recommended according to:
  • Wall and floor tiling
  • Function of the type of substrate [masonry or concrete, wood and steel], type of building [commercial or residential] and exposure to water [dry or scarcely exposed environments, wet environments], for claddings
  • Function of the type of traffic [residential, light, heavy or very heavy ] and the type of substrate [concrete or wood], in floorings

It also provides a guide for the selection of grouting materials [cementitious, epoxy, furan, silicon, and mastics] according to the type of ceramic tile [extruded ceramic, earthenware tiles, porcelain, mosaic, stone], location [indoors, outdoors] and exposure to water [dry or wet], also providing recommendation on the width of tile-to-tile joints and assessment of stain resistance and cracking resistance.

The fact sheets of each construction solution are structured in sections, apart from providing a layout of the multilayer system: Recommended uses, requirements, materials, preparation by other trades, preparation by tile fixing companies, movement joints and specifications for installation.

The continuous reference to standards in each section turns the Handbook in a useful document for North American specification writers when drawing up the technical requirements specifications in covering projects.

Construction solutions appearing in the Handbook include:
  • Non-waterproof exterior floors, with drainage
  • Waterproof exterior floors
  • Interior floors over concrete floor, with or without separation or waterproof layer
  • Interior floors with chemical resistance on concrete substrates
  • Interior floors over wooden substrate, in the floating modality or installation with organic adhesive
  • Exterior claddings on masonry or concrete envelopes, installation with mortar or adhesive
  • Interior claddings over masonry or concrete substrates, over regularizing layers, either reinforced or not, and thick-bed installation with mortar or thin-bed installation with adhesive
  • Interior claddings on dry partitions [wood, cardboard-gypsum, panels…], with or without reinforcement mesh or waterproof membrane. Thin-bed installation with adhesive.
  • Cladding of ceilings
  • Cladding of bathtub walls
  • Cladding of showers, including trays
  • Cladding of swimming pool beaches, edges and basins
  • Cladding of counter tops, bars and stone benches
  • Cladding of stairs, over concrete, wood and metal substrates
  • Cladding of refrigerator rooms
  • Cladding of saunas
  • Cladding over pre-existing tiling
  • Cladding of thresholds and window stools
  • Sound rated/fire rated claddings
  • Sound rated floors
  • Design and execution of movement joints

The Handbook for Ceramic Tile Installation is complemented by standards A108 (parts 01, 02, 1A, 1B, 1C, 4, 5, 6, 8-17) [devoted to specifications for installation], A118 (parts 1‑12) [devoted to bonding and grouting materials, as well as waterproof membranes], A136.1 (2008) devoted to organic adhesives for tile installation and A137.1 [devoted to ceramic tiles]

Besides, the North American industry also provides documents of interest to spread the adhered installation technology. A good example of this is the publication on tile installation on façades[1] by Laticrete International, Inc. in 1998.

Further information on the Organizations publishing the documents described is available on Internet:
100 Clemson Research Blvd.
Anderson, SC 29625
Tel.: 864-646-8453
Fax: 864-646-2821

11 W. 42nd Street
New York, N.Y, 10036
Tel.: 1.212.642.4900
Fax: 1.212.398.0023

100 Barr Harbor Drive,
West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2959
Tel.: (610) 832-9500
Fax: (610) 832-9555

810 First St. NE, #510
Washington DC, 20002
Tel.: 202-289-5440;
Fax: 202-289-3707

Batterymarch Park
Quincy, MA 02269-9101
USA  02169-7471
Tel.: 1 617 770-3000
Fax: 1 617 770-0700
  • Canada also has a Tile Installation Manual [Specification Guide 09300], published by the Terrazzo, Tile & Marble Association of Canada [TTMAC], whose contents and structure are very similar to the TCNA Handbook. Based in the USA standards and in some Canadian ones, it is published in English and French. 

30 Capstan Gate, Unit 5, Concord, ONTARIO L4K 3E8 Canada
Tel.: (905) 660-9640
Fax: (905) 660-5706

[1] ‘Direct Adhered Ceramic Tile, Stone and Thin Brick: Technical Design Manual’. Richard P. Goldberg. Laticrete International, Inc. (1998)

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