Contributed by Dean Moilanen
The finishing trades most often come into play at the end of the construction project. In many cases, the end result is decorative, ornamental, and breathes life into the vision of the finished project. The installation of ceramic tile and natural stone is a finishing trade which must deliver on an aesthetically pleasing expectation AND be a resilient, long lasting, wearing surface. Unfortunately, all too often, critical installation methods and standards are not followed, with the end result culminating in failure.
Ironically, this uptick in installation failure comes at a time when the combined forces of the tile and stone industry are proactively reaching out to offer training and certification for contractors and installers. The National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA), The Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF), and Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT) are just some of the organizations offering comprehensive education and training.
The downturn in the construction industry, which occurred during the last recession, saw a vast outflow of qualified installers from the industry. The challenge still remains to locate and train individuals to address the demands of a rebounding trade. This challenge has played a role in some of the nagging failure issues that continue to occur. These failures are based more on a lack of installer knowledge and competence, then deliberate shoddy practices.
Simply put, yes, you “really have to do that”, follow the ANSI or ASTM standard that is, if you want to steer clear of problems and failures. Listed below are just two of the concerns which need to be addressed in today’s ceramic tile and stone industry.
If there is one overwhelming area of concern when it comes to the success or failure of a tile or stone installation, it would be the adequate bonding of the tile or stone to the substrate. ANSI A108.5-2.2.2 outlines the process of achieving the coverage needed to bond tile or stone to the wall or floor substrate. Summarized, the adhesive used to bond the tile or stone must be applied uniformly and evenly to the substrate; no “rainbow arches of adhesive”, no “five spotting” or daubs of adhesive placed in irregular fashion on the substrate, serving as “targets” for bonding of tile.
Minimum coverage required (the amount of bonding agent affixed to the underside of the tile) can range from 80% in “dry” areas to 95% in wet areas. Wet area bonding has heightened concern, as any voids in the setting bed can serve to trap moisture and result in microbial growth (mold). The lack of adequate bond between the substrate and tile or stone finished surfaces is the culprit in all too many failures.
Wet area waterproofing concerns continue to plague tile and stone installations as well. Of growing concern is the need for tile and stone shower detail to withstand vapor migration, as steam/vapor (resulting from shower usage) migrates to behind the tiled shower wall. The moisture damages the interior wall details and oftentimes finds a food source that contributes to mold.
ASTM E96 Procedure E is a performance standard for waterproof membrane systems, which when called out in specifications ensures a “steam room” level of performance on the shower walls of these wet areas. Typically, the products meeting this standard are applied to the outer face of a suitable wall substrate in shower details, with the tile then bonded to the membrane. When assessing the viability of product to be used with regard to this ASTM standard, be sure to source independent third party testing for validating a product’s performance claims.
There is now language and documentation available to architects and specification writers which calls for qualified labor, and is available from the National Tile Contractors Association. Implementation of this language would aid industry efforts to improve installation quality.
Contributed by Cherise Lakeside
(Editor's Note: Please make sure you've read Part 1 of this article here)
5. The Actual Specification Section for your Work: At our workshops and presentations, the general feedback from Subcontractors has been that they only look at the sections specific to their work, if they look at the specifications at all. This is a mistake and you are exposing yourself to added risk if that is how you operate.
Part 1 GENERAL of the Section is the third layer of Administrative Requirements on the project. These requirements are specific to your product. Part 1 will include things like submittals, warranty, pre-installation meetings, codes, closeout procedures, samples, mock-ups, testing, etc. SPECIFIC TO YOUR PRODUCT/INSTALLATION. These requirements are IN ADDITION TO the General Conditions (Broad Project Requirements) and the Division 01 Requirements (Specific Project Wide Requirements). Basically, you have three places to look to understand what you are required to do and provide.
Part 2 PRODUCTS is everything you need to know about the products you are to provide for your work. Manufacturer, type, style, size, color, transitions, accessories, etc. You will also find things like factory testing requirements.
Part 3 EXECUTION includes all of the information and requirements for the installation of your product. This can include things like pre-installation testing, limits on substitutions, performance criteria, operation and controls, shop fabrication, assembly, finishing methods, installation instructions, preparation, site quality control, cleaning, closeout activities, training and maintenance.
The bottom line is that there is very important information in the full drawings and specifications of which you need to be aware. Having full knowledge of these items will help you spot conflicts between the drawings and specifications, understand what work is expected of you and help you reduce risk from the very beginning. If you are awarded the project, this early knowledge of the requirements will help you ask the right questions, plan your work efficiently, proactively address issues and save you time.
This article represents only a portion of the knowledge you should have if you work in any discipline in Architecture, Engineering or Construction. The good news is, there are places you can get this knowledge with programs that are well rounded and affordable.
The Construction Specifications Institute offers cradle-to-grave education in Project Delivery through the CDT (Construction Documents Technologist) Education Program. You can find out more here: https://www.csiresources.org/certification/cdt
The FCICA (The Flooring Contractors Association) offers the CIM (Certified Installation Manager) Program which also offers education in Construction Documents. Information on that program is located here: https://www.fcica.com/CIM
We hope you join us at the table for better coordination and collaboration with less risk!
(This article was previously published in the Flooring Contractor Magazine, Volume 13 No. 3, which you can read here. )
Contributed by Cherise Lakeside
It is an enlightening experience when you get out from behind your desk and start talking to other people in the industry. It doesn’t take much time to figure out that every discipline approaches a project and the documents from a unique and different perspective.
What is a real travesty in Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) is that many of us are not getting adequate Contract Document education in our colleges, universities, trade programs or on the job. This leads to added risk, cost overruns, conflicts, disputes, time delays and sometimes even litigation. The worst part is that it is an easy thing to fix. If we were really moving forward, Contract Document education would be required for everyone working in the built environment.
Right now, our education mainly comes from a trial by fire. You screw up on the job and then you learn what you should not do again. Unfortunately, we continue to hand down bad habits, misconceptions and incorrect information from senior to junior staff. As a result, we continue to make the same mistakes. We would like to try to start fixing that.
This article is meant to give you just a taste of some of the things you should be thinking about and looking at before you submit your bid and, if awarded the contract, before you start the work. Trust us when we say there is plenty more to learn but hopefully this will give you a head start.
Every single bulleted item above has the potential to affect the time you have to spend on the work of the project, which then affects the bid you need to prepare. Nobody wants to find out after they have signed a contract that the project has extensive submittal requirements that may take a lot of hours, or an expensive mock-up or something else that you did not include in the bid because you didn’t see it. Remember, you are required to review ALL of the Contract Documents.
Click here to read Part 2 of 'Construction Documents: What Don't you Know?'
(This article was previously published in the Flooring Contractor Magazine, Volume 13 No. 3, which you can read here. )
Contributed by Marvin Kemp
Anyone who knows me well knows a couple of things about me: I love practicing architecture, I have a deep commitment to making our industry better and I feel that only through collaboration and inclusion can we make our industry better.
I live in a suburb of Baltimore, MD, but our office is downtown on Pratt Street in the Inner Harbor area. I drive through neighborhoods of poverty and blight on my commute to and from work most days. I have no experiences in my life to compare with what these neighbors go through every day. I watch and read the news daily and it seems that we are failing much of our inner city. And not just Baltimore, but most cities in the U.S. My parents live outside of Dallas and we talk about the same issues facing the folks who live in the impoverished areas of that city.
I see it on our job sites and I discuss with others in the industry: we cannot get enough people to come into construction as skilled or unskilled workers. I don't know what the reasons are, but there seem to be some barriers to entry.
I also see something else: a gender gap. Our office has 92 people and 38 are women. There clearly is no shortage of women interested in studying architecture, landscape architecture and urban planning. When I was studying architecture in the late 1980's, we still had professors who felt that women did not belong in our profession and actively attempted to fail them. We've come a long way, but more work is needed in design professions, especially ensuring both genders have leadership opportunities.
But, when was the last time you saw a woman working on a construction site? I occasionally run across a plumber or electrician who is female, but they are so few and far between, it seems incredible. That's not to mention the harassment, chauvinism and pay inequity that these women experience when they actually start working. I see the graffiti on our job sites, so I can only imagine what women see, hear and feel if they step on those sites.
I think we need to start a dialogue on these issues and I know some already are having conversations."
We also need to remove as many barriers to entry into construction as we can. Part of that effort is taking place in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania with a program started by the Greater Lehigh Valley Chapter of CSI called "Let's Build Construction Camp For Girls." This is a program for high school age girls in the Greater Lehigh Valley to attend a free camp to learn about the building trades. Check out GLV CSI's web-site for information on the camp, which includes their 2018 session from July 9th to the 13th.
Its inaugural year was in 2017 and was a huge success. There are other CSI chapters considering starting a similar program to help break down some of those barriers to entry into the construction industry. What else can we do?
(Editor's Note: You can read the introductory blog post on the 'Let's Build Construction Camp For Girls' from the Greater Lehigh Valley Chapter of CSI's President, Jon Lattin, on the Let's Fix Construction site here, as well as a follow-up on the Camp here.)
Contributed by David Stutzman
Design and construction projects require an enormous number of participants to complete each facility. The basic teams include owners, architects, contractors, and suppliers. The lines of communication are well defined, especially after the construction contract is executed. But how are the teams collaborating before the contract is signed?
In no particular order…
The relationship between the owner and architect is well defined by the agreement for the design services. According to AIA agreement Document B101, the owner and architect share information at each design phase. The owner provides the project program and budget. The architect reviews the information and advises the owner if there are any concerns before the design is started. They discuss alternatives for the design approach and for the construction project delivery method. The communication is nearly continuous as the design is refined and solidified while progressing to the completion of the construction documents.
When the owner retains a contractor or construction manager for preconstruction services, the architect communicates with the contractor about cost, schedule, and constructability. When the architect and contractor are collaborating during design phases, the owner can have greater confidence that the ultimate design will meet the owner’s budget and schedule.
Product representatives, whether manufacturer’s direct employees or independent representatives, will meet with the architect team, including the specifier, to advise about the use of specific products for particular applications. The discussion is particularly valuable to resolve unusual conditions, to verify the product performance will meet the owner’s project requirements, and to understand the product cost implications created by the design decisions.
The specifier typically begins by challenging the architect – asking many questions to determine the design intent and confirm project systems, assemblies, products, and materials. The Q&A process becomes a dialog to ensure all aspects of the project will be specified correctly so the owner realizes the quality expected in the completed facility.
The specifier may recommend alternative systems and products that offer advantages to the project. And the specifier will connect the architect to suppliers, subcontractors, and other resources needed to solve particular design problems. The architect and specifier discuss alternatives to determine the optimal design solutions for each application.
Subcontractors provide invaluable real-world experience, with both product and installation. They can advise architects and specifiers about the practicality of construction details, installation sequencing, system costs, and product availability through local distribution channels. The owner may engage subcontractors during design to provide design assist services to develop project specific details and shop drawings before design is complete.
Unlike suppliers who typically furnish product prices only, subcontractors can provide installed system costs that reflect the expected project complexity.
Availability can be a significant issue, especially for short duration projects and just-in-time manufacturing. When architects select the perfect product that is not available in time, project completion may be delayed.
Traditionally, the subcontractor is rarely given an opportunity to contribute during the design process, except as part of a design assist process. The architect team, including specifiers, tends to rely on suppliers for product and system information. Suppliers are rarely responsible for complete systems, while subcontractors always are responsible for complete systems. Be sure to include subcontractors in the process.
Each team and every team member has a contribution to make. The best design responses will take advantage of experience and expertise that is readily available. Together, through active collaboration before the construction contract is signed, the teams can help ensure the owner’s project requirements will be met when construction is complete.
(Editor's note: This blog post, along with numerous others, appeared originally on the Conspectus website. You can view an archive of Conspectus' posts here.)
Let's Fix Construction is an avenue to offer creative solutions, separate myths from facts and erase misconceptions about the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry.
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