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ask the experts
Cove base installation; tile variation
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Ask the Experts Q&As are culled from member inquiries to NTCA’s Technical Team. To become a member and make use of personal, targeted answers from NTCA's Technical Team to your installation questions, contact Jim Olson.
I have a question regarding the method of installation of cove base. Does cove base have to be installed flush with the floor tile or can it be placed on top of the floor? Both methods can be used, right?
ANSWER: In your email, you describe two different methods of installation and yes, you are correct – it can be installed either way.
There is currently no industry standard describing how to install cove base tile. However, there are a few things to consider before choosing which way you install this tile.
The architect/engineer (design professional) may have an opinion on how they would like to see this work completed. If a design professional is involved with this project, I would strongly encourage you to set up a meeting with them before the tile work begins to make sure everyone is clear about the expectation.
The local building code/local environmental health department may require the cove base to be flush with the floor tile for sanitary purposes. Again, I would encourage you to ask questions and be clear on expectations.
A movement joint is required. TCNA Handbook detail EJ-171, 2022 (page 434) requires the installation of a movement joint around the perimeter of all tile floors, as well as a movement joint in all changes of plane (for example – where the floor meets the wall). EJ-171 is very clear on how to integrate movement joints into our tile assembly. This includes adding a backup strip and sealant.
If you do not have a copy of the Tile Council of North America (TCNA) Handbook for Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation, it can be purchased by visiting https://tinyurl.com/TCNAHandbook.
One last thing to mention – we appreciate hearing from a general contractor who cares about proper tile installation. Do you know if the tile contractor you are working with is a member of the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA)? If they are not yet a member, I would enjoy having the opportunity to share with them the many benefits of becoming a member. Please share this website link with them for further information: https://www.tile-assn.com/page/ntca-member-benefits
NTCA’s mission is to offer unparalleled installation training and education to the tile industry.  I hope you found this helpful!
– Matt Welner, NTCA Trainer
QUESTION: How important is it to NOT put the same tile variation next to each other? My tile installer had several of the same tile installed, side by side. It was a dead giveaway that this was non-natural porcelain and NOT natural marble, which it was trying to simulate.
ANSWER: The short answer is that the appearance of the finished installation is extremely important if it matters to your client/end user, and if it makes the difference between acceptability of the finished installation and you getting paid for installing it. There are tile industry standards and guidelines for visual inspection for acceptability of finished tile work and descriptions of shade variations. There are also recommendations to create a pre-installation mockup to ensure the end user will be happy with the finished installation. – Mark Heinlein, NTCA Training Director