Tile Standards: Tools for Sale, Installation of Ceramic Tile

By Bart Bettiga, NTCA


National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA)

Innovation in ceramic tile and installation materials manufacturing has revolutionized the tile industry. Tile is now available in very large and slimmer formats (thin porcelain tile and panels), and multiple size options, utilizing many different materials such as ceramic, porcelain, glass, metal, stone etc.

This variety in format and manufacturing has created multiple creative opportunities for design and specification, opening the way for products to be used in interior and exterior spaces that were traditionally considered unsuitable for tile or stone. Indeed, there are many reasons for a bright future in our industry, and we have technology to thank for this. Yet, this same innovation is creating our greatest challenge as we swiftly develop standards for these new products and properly communicate this information to the tile industry.

The Tile Council of North America (TCNA) and the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) offer essential industry standards, guides and reference materials to help you stay current with the industry. That being said, standards are developed after products have a proven track record of success. Therefore, it is also important to work closely with manufacturers and distributors when new technology is introduced. Decisions to specify, sell or install products without standards should be closely examined, and specific product recommendations and warranty information should be documented and followed.

The SubCommittee to develop ANSI A108.19 is working hard to introduce the installation standard for Thin Porcelain Tile and Thin Porcelain Tile Panels as quickly as possible.
The Subcommittee to develop ANSI A108.19 is working hard to introduce the installation standard for Thin Porcelain Tile and Thin Porcelain Tile Panels as quickly as possible.

Any company involved in the sale or installation of ceramic tile and natural stone tile needs to have these materials available to them. Both associations offer their resource materials at very affordable prices while spending thousands of dollars annually to maintain the documents and to keep them current.

Many people are unaware of the incredible value and information these documents offer. Knowledge is power, and in many instances, it is also money. Many installation failures and tear outs could have been avoided if people paid attention to the standards available to them or used the information to their advantage when navigating through a problem that may or may not have been their responsibility.

Although reference materials can be complex, there are three basic elements to address:

  1. Specification and design considerations
  2. Installation requirements and recommendations
  3. Building and construction requirements and preparation by other trades

Each document or standard has a specific purpose, and it can be challenging to understand what materials you should order. The following information is a guide to available resources to assist you in deciding what you need. Some materials are available in as a book, CD or digital download. Pay close attention to that information when you visit the website stores.


National Tile Contractors Association Reference Manual

Use to prevent failures and troubleshoot problems in the field

This problem-solving manual is a comprehensive culmination of knowledge, and research and development of the NTCA Technical Committee members, ceramic tile contractors, distributors, manufacturers and others allied to the ceramic tile industry. Letters and templates used to communicate and document jobs are included. The NTCA Reference Manual is essential for distributors, manufacturers and retailers who are asked to look at project complaints, as well as tile and flooring contractors. The NTCA Reference Manual was designed to complement the TCNA Handbook and ANSI Standards.


TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass, and Stone Tile Installation 

Clarifies and standardizes installation specifications

This guide details installation recommendations or methods required for a given set of products and applications. It explains the properly designed, constructed, and prepared substructure using materials and construction techniques that meet nationally recognized material and construction standards.

Included are:

  • Product selection guides for ceramic, glass, and stone tiles
  • Guidelines for wet areas
  • ISO mortar and grout specifications
  • Information on substrate flatness requirements
  • Information on grout joint sizes and patterns, and workmanship standards excerpted from ANSI installation standards.


ANSI A108-A118-A136.1 American National Specifications for the Installation of Ceramic Tile

Provides voluntary standards for the installation of ceramic tile

American National Standard Specifications A108.01, .02, .1A, .1B, .1C, .4, .5, .6, .8, .9, .10, .11, .12, .13, .14, .15, .16, and .17 define the installation of ceramic tile.

A118.1, .3, .4, .5, .6, .7, .8, .9, .10, .11, .12, .13, .15, and A136 define the test methods and physical properties for ceramic tile installation materials. These standards are intended to be referenced or included in the ceramic tile sections of project specifications.

Innovative products like mechanical edge systems are used to test thinset mortar coverage for Thin Porcelain Tile
Innovative products like mechanical edge systems are used to test thinset mortar coverage for Thin Porcelain Tile.


ANSI A137.1-2012 American National Standard Specifications for Ceramic Tile 

Details voluntary standard specifications for ceramic tile

This publication lists and defines various types, sizes, physical properties, and grading procedures for ceramic tile, including mosaic tile, quarry tile, pressed floor tile, glazed wall tile, porcelain tile, trim units, and specialty tile. This standard provides quality criteria for buyers, specifiers, installers, manufacturers, and the public. It is intended for reference or inclusion in the ceramic tile section of project specifications and contracts.

Note: This standard includes the new testing method and requirement for dynamic coefficient of friction (DCOF).


ANSI A137.2-2013 American National Standard Specifications for Glass Tile

Lists voluntary standards and definitions for glass tile

This voluntary standard lists and defines various types, sizes, and physical properties for glass tile. Some of the key issues addressed by the standard are:

  • Methods of manufacture
  • Categorization by size
  • Mounting criteria for mounted glass tiles
  • Definitions and test procedures for measuring translucence
  • Strength criteria
  • Thermal shock resistance using real life temperature ranges
  • Levels of recycled content

This standard provides quality criteria for buyers, specifiers, installers, manufacturers, and the public. It is intended for reference or inclusion in the glass tile section of product specifications and contracts.

In addition to these materials, the TCNA released versions 1 and 2 of ANSI A138.1, which addresses Green Squared (the industry standard for sustainable tile and installation products).

Thin Porcelain Tile and Thin Porcelain Tile Panels Standards in Development

Since Thin Porcelain Tile or TPT, is a relatively new product in the United States market, any widespread knowledge of the product and installation techniques is limited. The technology is so innovative that it requires unique knowledge and skill, different tools, and careful planning before and during the installation.

Having been developed, tested and manufactured abroad, currently there is NO American industry standard established or adopted by either the ANSI or TCNA committees. That will change sometime soon, as both product and installation standards are in development. Work is being done to create ANSI A137.3, which will cover the product specifications for TPT tiles. These specifications will serve as a reference standard for buyers, specifiers, installers, building owners and users of standard grade and second grade Thin Porcelain Tile, Thin Porcelain Tile Panels, and specialty Thin Tiles and Panels. These specifications will also provide a reference standard for producers involved in the manufacture of these products.

Moreover, the installation standard for TPT and Thin Porcelain Tile Panels is simultaneously in development. This will be identified as ANSI A108.19-Installation of Thin Porcelain Tile and Thin Porcelain Tile Panels by the Thin-Bed Method with Latex-Portland Cement Mortar. It will be closely tied to ANSI A137.3, so that those specifying the product can also properly call out the installation standard to complement it. A carefully selected group of tile industry professionals from the manufacturing and installation sectors are working to develop the installation standard.

Finally, until these standards are developed, the NTCA and other leading trade associations representing labor created a position statement on TPT to help guide the seller and the installer in protecting themselves. At the same time embracing this innovative new technology. We urge you to attend training programs offered by the manufacturers who have introduced the products into the U.S. market, and to follow their recommendations very closely.

To access this position statement, visit the NTCA website at www.tile-assn.com, and find the Consensus Docs tab to download the document.

For detailed information on ANSI standards and the TCNA Handbook, visit: www.tileusa.com. For information on the NTCA Reference Manual, visit the NTCA website and store at: www.tile-assn.com.

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