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President's letter
Mastering mud
Martin G. Brookes, President, National Tile Contractors Association
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In this month’s TileLetter, our Editor Lesley Goddin is focusing on mud walls, and I thought this would be a good subject to expand on in my President’s letter. In my tile business, clients often ask me if I install tile on a mortar bed. In California the application of a mortar bed is a common practice because earthquake activity may shift a structure so that the floors and walls are no longer plumb or level. Thus, these surfaces will require preparation to provide a sound, flat and level surface. For those who are unfamiliar with the application of mortar beds, you may ask when it is appropriate to use a mortar bed instead of a cement backer board or backer board system. My decision to use the mortar bed method is based on a number of considerations. For example, I assess whether excessive unevenness in the substrate is present, whether there is a need to incorporate a slope in a shower floor, and the type of tile being used in the installation. If an installation requires the use of a mortar bed, it is important to ensure that the installer has been adequately trained and is competent to use this installation method. The tile installer may acquire this skill through on-the-job training or specialized courses offered by manufacturers. A few years ago, LATICRETE hosted a workshop on the use of mortar beds, which sparked interest in using this installation method. The Facebook group MUD was formed shortly after, which is a great way to get acquainted with this installation method and meet tile installers with knowledge and experience in this area. Mario “Tile Guy” Garcia is an influencer on this subject, and he recently hosted a Mud event in Idaho Falls that brought the tile community together from all over the country, providing education and training. These events and groups are essential to ensure that tile installers are knowledgeable and that their installations meet industry standards and best practices for mortar bed installations. Once the installer has received training and acquired skills in using this method, the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF), through its advanced certification programs, offers certification in both mortar bed floors and walls. Having this certification can help qualify your business to perform this kind of work. I hope you seek out and become familiar with mortar bed installation methods, which are described in the TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation. The Handbook is provided as an NTCA member benefit. Installers who have adopted and perfected this method will tell you how rewarding it is to see a perfectly-sculptured substrate that is tile ready and perfectly true, plumb and square. Once you have learned the mortar bed technique and honed your skills, you will have the confidence to take on the most demanding installations that require a more precise level of expertise.