Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Ditra Flooring Membrane Underlayment System Reality Check

I've been installing tile most of my adult life. From the first introduction of Durock then Hardi board,  Even back as far as metal wire and hand "dry pack" concrete bed floors. I personally prefer Hardi board for my installation as I understand the "water barrier" properties of this product and would recommend this product and use it exclusively in my own house as a tile underlayment.
Although I am always open to the introduction of new products and always open minded to something that might prove to be a better product or a improvement upon current installation methods.
I've know of many tile installers who swear by the installation process of the "Ditra" product. But upon a closer inspection of the product and the installation process both from a common sense and scientific prospective I have great concern regarding the quality and longevity of a "Ditra" tile installation.
First, why do many installers swear by the product I believe it is exclusively because it is so easy to use. It is light weight  no nails needed no carrying heavy boards cuts easily with a knife  and installs quickly .But I am not so concerned that my installer have a easy installation in my home  but more so I get a quality installation that will last a lifetime! I am afraid this product  doesn't live up to that expectation And here's why .

The "Tile Installation | Tile Repair " manufacturer requires the use of unmodified  thin set mortar to both install the "Ditra" membrane on top of a wood sub-floor as well as then install again with unmodified thin set  the tile on top of the "Ditra". This type of thin set is the lowest quality type of thin set available costing like $5 per 50 lb bag. Right on this bag of thin set itself it says "for use on concrete floors" It also says to use "acrylic mortar admix" in this product (prohibited with DITRA). Now using Ditra on wood floors is defiantly not a concrete floor installation. Instead you are adhering plastic (DITRA) onto wood with a product that states right on the bag "for concrete floor installation only" right on the bag!!! This thin set again is the lowest grade thin set available on the market . And your tile is stuck to your floor only as good as the thin set concrete you use to install it. Now common sense and science dictate to me that by using this product in the way the manufacturer suggests you are in fact getting about the lowest quality tile installation possible.

I've attached some photos of the thin set and the Ditra so you can see this for yourself and make your own decision on the quality of this very expensive product . Now I don't claim to know everything about tile installations  nor do I claim " to be the best building material supplier" I only offer my 30+ years of experience in installing tile and my professional opinion. I would love to hear from other expert tile installers on this issue. And again will approach these other opinions with a open mind.  Regards  chris

Ditra membrane adhered to floor with unmodified thin set

notice this thinset mortar says on bag ad acrylic mortar admix for strength

See this product stated for concrete floor installations Also notice it says meets requirements WHEN mixed with additive

See how this thin membrane is adhered to floor with only UNMODIFIED low grade thin set to wood floor

As mentioned earlier when I pulled this post aside in order to review and discuss the feedback we received with Chris. I admitted I had not done a thorough job of doing my research and checking everything, but Chris insisted I put the post back up as he stands by his original post. In my haste to put the post on hold, I erased the very helpful comments from all kinds of tile experts. I assume there is a way to retrieve such comments, but Chris wants this post up, and so here it is. IF you did comment, would you mind reposting it so Chris can have more information. I again take responsibility for this chain of events-first time here on Tile Installation and Repair-Consumer Help Blog. We appreciate your patience. Thank you. Diana. 

High-tech Fiberboard Made from Waste Fiber

There's a new green building material on the market that is light, strong, and flexible, and can be made into just about any shape, including complex molded shapes, without the need for any glues, harmful chemicals, or toxic ingredients. This material, called ECOR, is a high-strength fiberboard made using only water, heat, fiber, and pressure, and takes a low-value product (waste fiber) and turns it into a high-value green building material.

At its most basic, ECOR, from Noble Environmental, is a corrugated fiberboard panel (kind of like cardboard) that can be used for everything from interior home design and furnishings to furniture to construction to consumer products, and can integrate a wide range of colors and textures. A panel of ECOR is similar to other panel products, including sheetrock, composites, particle board, and others, but is 75% lighter than conventional panels, making it a great choice for packaging, signage, and displays, as well as for applications such as stage sets and interior design elements.

"ECOR is a USDA certified 100% Bio-based, recycled product made from 100% cellulose fiber materials. Fiber sources include an unlimited variety of readily available, low-cost, underutilized, and waste raw material sources. Including old corrugated cardboard (OCC), old newspaper (ONP), office paper, discarded wood chips, residual agricultural fibers including Bovine Processed Fiber (BPF), kenaf, oat, coffee, coconut, and other waste fibers available worldwide."

ECOR fiberboard is said to contain no toxic adhesives, additives, formaldehyde, or other sources of off-gassing, and to produce virtually zero airborne VOCs (volatile organic compounds). In addition to being a 'clean' green building material, because ECOR is made from waste fiber, which is widely available, it's also a great example of turning waste to value.

Spokane firefighter redesigns fire ax

Local Spokane firefighter Scott McCann redesigned the traditional ax used by firefighters. McCann, a veteran firefighter started developing the Badaxx in 2012 and now has a working prototype that he's hoping to get into production.

The Badaxx is a combination of the two types of axes traditionally carried by firefighters in the line of duty, the pick ax and the flathead ax. McCann combined the two and added other features to create a tool that will help first responders do their jobs more efficiently and potentially save lives.

He says due to the evolution of building materials over the years, a lot more plastic is used now which allows fires to spread more quickly. This puts firefighters in dangerous situations more often.

"We can actually find ourselves farther into a house with changing fire conditions and actually get trapped," says McCann. "With this if somebody gets trapped above the ground floor you could set it into any kind of building material and hook into it and use a bailout kit rope to repel down to safety."

The anchor feature is one of the new developments that McCann feels will be a big asset to those in the line of duty. So far he says there is a lot of interest in the product.

"I've actually got interest from about forty different countries where people are watching this and seeing what goes on," McCann tells KHQ.

To get the prototype into production and eventually distributed, McCann started a Kickstarter campaign for the multi-utility ax and has a funding goal of $75,000.

At last the time of this article he was in the $65,000 range. He only has ten days left to reach that monetary goal, but the Kickstarter campaign has it's drawbacks.

"If we don't reach the $75,000 goal, we receive nothing. It's all or nothing funding," says McCann.

There are several levels on the site at which you can contribute. The minimum contribution is only $5.00 but larger contributors could actually receive an ax, if the goal is met.

McCann says he has been using the Badaxx on his truck for several months now and is hoping to get them out to every state. For every six contributors of $50 or more they will send a Badaxx to a different state fire department. So far, six other states have been recipients.


BY Binder PR & Marketing Cmm | Posted: Monday, December 29, 2014 10:01 AM

$90 Million Expansion Project Features Green Design and Construction Using Locally Sourced, Recycled Materials, High-Tech Glass and Innovative Layout to Foster Collaboration

ST. LOUIS (December 29, 2014) – Olin Business School at Washington University and the St. Louis design-construction team of Tarlton Corp. and Mackey Mitchell Architects announce the $90 million Knight Hall and Bauer Hall expansion project on the Danforth campus has been certified LEED® Gold by the U.S. Green Building Council®.

LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design™, is the U.S. Green Building Council's rigorous green building certification program that recognizes best-in-class building strategies and practices through four levels of certification: Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum. To receive LEED Gold certification, building projects must earn a minimum of 60 points on the USGBC rating scale. The Knight and Bauer Halls expansion project earned 60 points.

Tarlton has completed two additional LEED Gold projects on the Washington University Danforth campus: Seigle Hall (Social Sciences & Law) and the McMillan Hall Addition. In addition, the firm constructed the LEED Certified Earth and Planetary Sciences Building at Washington University in 2004, the first LEED project completed in the city of St. Louis.

Mackey Mitchell Architects has provided design services to Washington University (including the Washington University School of Medicine) for the last 20-plus years and has completed a number of LEED-certified buildings on campus. These include the LEED Gold South 40 House; LEED Silver Village East Student Housing and Umrath Rubelmann Student Housing; LEED Certified renovation of Mallinckrodt Center; and the LEED Platinum-anticipated Hillman Hall for the Brown School of Social Work.

"We're delighted to complete our third LEED Gold project," said Tarlton President Tracy Hart. "Sustainable construction has become standard practice in our industry, with building owners and project teams looking to build sustainably on every project, registered or not. Having built our LEED Silver headquarters in 2004, we know how to build these buildings, and we're proud to help create healthful environments that make St. Louis an even better place to work."

The 177,000-square-foot expansion project is the largest single project completed on the Washington University Danforth campus in the shortest span of time, nearly doubling Olin Business School's footprint on the campus. The construction process and fast-track schedule was a project management triumph for the design-construction team.

Moore Ruble Yudell was the project's architect of record. Major subcontractors include Buro Happold, mechanical engineer; William Tao & Associates, mechanical engineer; KPFF Consulting Engineers, structural engineer; Cole, civil engineer; MPC Enterprises Inc., precast concrete; Ben Hur Construction Co., steel fabricator; John J. Smith Co., masonry; Sachs Electric; and Rock Hill Mechanical Corp.

The Olin Business School expansion project champions craftsmanship in its innovative design. Knight and Bauer Halls, topping five stories each, are united by a dramatic five-story glass atrium that provides abundant natural light to an expansive amphitheater-style forum below. The inviting space unites the ensemble of buildings housing seven classrooms, study rooms, a 300-seat auditorium, 75 faculty offices, lounges, office, and other spaces to foster interaction.

A Legacy of Building Green on the Washington University Campus

A leader in promoting green construction, Washington University now has 18 LEED Gold or Silver buildings on the Danforth and School of Medicine campuses. Mackey Mitchell and Tarlton have been involved in several.

The Olin Business School expansion began with the demolition of Eliot Hall to make way for the new Knight and Bauer Halls. The many sustainable processes and features of the project include:

-          More than 12,000 tons of material was hauled away. Of this, 81 percent, or 10,000 tons, was recycled.

-          More than 23 percent of building materials contain recycled content.

-          More than 26 percent of building materials were sourced within a 500-mile radius.

-          More than 59 percent of wood used is Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified.

-          Advanced HVAC systems result in a 21 percent reduction in overall energy use for comparable building.

-          Advanced water systems reduce water use by 36 percent for comparable building.

-          Water bottle filling stations encourage use of reusable water bottles.

-          Ample bike storage and a shower facility in Bauer Hall encourage and support bicycle commuting.

-          Electric vehicle charging stations are available at the Millbrook Garage across from Knight Hall.


About Mackey Mitchell
Mackey Mitchell Architectsis one of the region's leading design firms with a national reputation for expertise in higher education projects. With offices in Lawrence, Kan., and Asheville, N.C., the firm's architectural portfolio includes Washington University in St. Louis (for 20-plus years); the University of Notre Dame; Webster University; Saint Louis University; the University of Missouri System; Missouri Botanical Garden; Central Institute for the Deaf; Christian Brothers College High School; Texas Tech University; Rose Avenue Residence Hall, Indiana University; and Miami University, Oxford, Ohio.

About Tarlton
Providing general contracting and construction management services since 1946, Tarlton is a WBENC-Certified Women's Business Enterprise that completes projects up to $150 million for wide-ranging clients in the higher education, health care, life science, power and industrial markets. Tarlton thrives on meeting construction challenges on complex projects and in sensitive environments.

About Olin Business School

The Joh

Stunning domed chapel of wood built for divine communion

From cross-laminated timber to high-rise wooden buildings, wood may be the greenest building material available, as it sequesters carbon for the building's lifetime, and is a renewable resource. There are many ways to utilize it; Korean firm Shinslab Architecture created this impressive space for a Protestant and Presbyterian community of retired missionaries of the Nam Seoul Grace Church, in a mountainous, forested village south of the capital of Seoul.

© Shinslab Architecture

Named the Light of Life Chapel and seen over at ArchDaily, the space utilizes a series of massive Siberian red cedar timbers that were donated to the church back in 2008 by a businessman. The building's glass-lined exterior attempts to blend into its surroundings, and gives no clue to the tremendous, day-lit space of wood hidden within. The idea, the architects say, is to create "a world apart" from the exterior mass, its "own universe" :

While remaining within the principles of Protestantism and in the expression of Christian symbolism, the project attempts to bring forth emotions from a liturgical, philosophical, spiritual and artistic point of view.

© Shinslab Architecture
© Shinslab Architecture

According to the designers, the dome-like space was specifically chosen to echo early Calvinist ideas about church reform to create a suitable and inspiring space of worship, relative to Catholic ideas of hierarchy and the power of the priesthood. Here, instead, the designers note that the circle represents a "communion of the faithful, the equality of men in front of God and the abolition of hierarchy within the church" -- rather than a mediated distance from the divine, here we have a "personal encounter with God." Divinity is of course, situated at the space's centre, symbolized by a fragile, aluminum cross standing in a pool of water.

© Shinslab Architecture

The surface of the dome is delineated by the sheared trunks of 834 upright cedar "trees," which are supported by a by the grounded timber poles which in turn hold a steel grid structure. It is further supported by a complementary network of steel lines. The whole hemispherical space is covered by a glass pyramid that allows natural daylight to pass through.

© Shinslab Architecture
© Shinslab Architecture
© Shinslab Architecture

Building Airtightness Specialists Offer New Solutions to Canadian Builders

475 High Performance Building Supply (475), a building materials company based in New York City, is offering a new solution for building professionals in Canada seeking to meet requirements for airtightness and indoor air quality mandated by increasingly stringent buildings codes and R-2000 certification. Leading German air and moisture control system manufacturer Pro Clima has recently agreed to grant exclusive Canadian distribution of their product line to 475. Pro Clima's membranes, tapes, and adhesives were awarded best-in-test by German consumer product testing organization Stiftung Warentest in 2012 and are ideally suited to building robust, highly insulated buildings in cold climate regions.

The market for high quality green building materials continues to grow as builders, architects and building professionals respond to demand for energy-efficient buildings that address climate change and increasing uncertainty of energy costs. A primary method for delivering on this demand is building enclosure airtightness. Considered more important than thermal insulation in providing a comfortable and energy efficient building, airtightness is also a prerequisite for ensuring high indoor air quality and to provide robust protection of the building structure from moisture damage.

Founded by architects, 475 is a source for building knowledge and components for North America. They focus on serving high performance design and construction needs, especially those interested in the Passive House building standard. The name "475" is a reference to the heat demand requirement of the Passive House standard, 4.75 kiloBTUs per square foot per year, representing approximately a 90% reduction in heating energy demand from average building stock.

"We're honored, excited, and motivated by Pro Clima's partnership," said 475 co-founder Ken Levenson, "although we've worked with Canadian customers from the start, this agreement allows us to build and strengthen our services there."

Among 475's most popular products is the INTELLO interior air barrier and intelligent vapor retarder. INTELLO is termed an "intelligent" membrane, due to its ability to respond to humidity and vapor buildup within the building assembly. The vapor permeability of the material changes to allow proper drying of the building enclosure, thereby ensuring continued protection from mold, rot, and structural damage over the life of the structure.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Dubai Exports' strategy helps local building and foods firms reap rich rewards in CIS markets

Mohammed Ali Al Kamali, Director of Exports Market Development in Dubai Exports

• Food trade with Russia grows annually by 74% between 2011 and 2013
• 48% annual growth in exports of construction materials to Kazakhstan; 12% average annual growth in re- exports of similar products to Azerbaijan 
Dubai - Dubai Exports , the export promotion agency of the Department of Economic Development (DED) in Dubai, has seen its strategy of identifying potential markets overseas and targeting specific sectors in such markets bringing rich dividends from the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) region during the last three years.
Sustained campaigns by Dubai Exports in CIS and its adjoining markets, particularly Azerbaijan, Kazakshtan and Russia, with focus on the construction, foods and food products sectors have seen UAE companies emerging as major suppliers to these markets with trade exchange between these countries and Dubai rising considerably.

Dubai's food exports to Russia rose from AED 15 million in 2011 to almost AED 211 million in 2013 while construction and building materials exports to Kazakhstan grew from AED 17.8 million to AED 39 million during the same period. Azarbaijan also imported AED 903 billion worth of construction and building material from Dubai in 2013 as against AED 716 billion worth of similar goods in 2011.

Dubai is a major source markets for an array of high quality products including aluminum, precious metals, ceramics, and edible oils and fats, plastic, sugar and confectionery, fertilisers, glass and glassware, copper, iron and steel products to Russia and CIS. In terms of value gold jewelry and plastic materials constitute Dubai's leading exports to Russia and CIS.

Dubai Exports , in co-ordination with various trade bodies and governments, has been participating regularly in a series of international exhibitions and trade missions in Russia and CIS to promote bilateral trade, particularly exports and re-exports from Dubai.

Commented Engineer Saed Al Awadi, Chief Executive Officer of Dubai Exports : "The excellent results we have been able to generate in and around CIS proves the effectiveness of our strategic plans systematically evolved through evaluating overseas markets and their requirements as well as the availability of competent local exporters. Once markets are identified Dubai Exports prepare an action plan to penetrate those markets through a package of services. Local manufacturers and exporters are invited to participate in international exhibitions and trade missions where they can connect with potential buyers."
Al Awadi stated that Dubai Exports aims to promote local UAE companies across specialised international exhibitions for sectors such as construction and building materials, retail, foods, food products and packaging as well as focus on other promising sectors through a series of trade missions and bilateral meetings in target markets. " Dubai Exports ' unrelenting efforts in product diversification and market expansion to cover emerging markets, the CIS markets in particular, will be strengthened in the coming years to take advantage of wide-ranging opportunities across different markets," he added.

Mohammed Ali Al Kamali, Director of Exports Market Development in Dubai Exports , said: "The average exports growth to Kazakhstan we achieved during 2011-2013 was 48% while re- exports to Azerbaijan grew 12% annually during the same period. Food exports to Russia increased 273% while food re-exports grew 122% between 2011 and 2013. It shows how critical and beneficial are the services Dubai Exports provides to local companies."

Kamali pointed out that Dubai Exports seeks to strengthen the position of Dubai and the UAE as a competent hub across overseas trade fairs and missions, including leading industry events in Azerbaijan, Kazakshtan and Russia. In BakuBuild trade fair in Azerbaijan Dubai Exports was honoured as the best pavilion in 2013, demonstrating the support and services provided by the agency to local companies in exports, logistics and market penetration. The Foundation will be held in the next stages of a series of trade missions to those countries.

Kamali added that Dubai and the UAE has a growing number of local firms capable of expanding to new markets owing to of their service excellence and diversity of the products offered.

In 2014 too Dubai Exports maintained its focus on Azerbaijan, Kazakshtan and Russia by organizing pavilions for local construction and building materials firms in the BakuBuild and KazBuild (Kazakhstan) exhibitions and for foods and food products companies in the World Food Moscow fair. More than 50 UAE companies participated in these events.

Turning construction into creativity

Anthony Owens enjoys working with his hands to create beautiful objects with tile.

His three-dimensional murals can be seen at various locations throughout Frederick, Md.

And if that makes the 59-year-old Boonsboro man an artist, then so be it.

Although he grew up as a diplomat's son and spent his childhood in Asia, Owens identifies himself as a regular blue-collar guy who, through circumstances, found that he had artistic talent.

Owens calls his journey to art a "kind of confusing story because it's very unconventional."

"I've been a general contractor my entire life," Owens said. "I've been self-employed for 36 years. Then, ironically, 15 years ago, I was living in Frederick County but working in Washington County and fell off a roof and nearly died. In the process of recovery, I was led to believe I should be doing things less physical."

So Owens, who was in his mid-40s at the time, decided to order some mosaic tiles "just for the heck of it."

He had no formal training, except years of laying tile for bathroom floors with his company, Anthony Owens Modeling and Repair.

He said as a child, he didn't feel he was exceptionally artistic, but he felt he might be able to turn his construction know-how from practical to art.

"I just ordered mosaics, and that was that," he said.

Owens started attending art shows up and down the East Coast, and was selling his mosaic art pieces. But eventually, he stopped.

Then about three years ago, Owens was on a job with his company, where he was preparing a wall for a mural.

"And to thank the gentleman for giving me that job, I gave him something I made," Owens said. "He said, 'Holy cow! Can you do this to the mural?' I said, 'Well, I'd give it a try.'"

And with that, Owens went from his smaller pieces to larger-scale public pieces of art. That was six murals ago; he's working on his seventh.

"A mural, by definition sounds like a really cool picture," Owens said. "But I actually don't paint at all. So to make my murals unique, different and one-of-a-kind, I add a three-dimensional component."

Mosaic, he said, is actually kind of a broad term.

"Some of them are glass tiles, some of them are floor tiles I've shaped to make different figures," he said.

Owens said what he does is not that common in the United States.

The last mural Owens finished was Frederick's first civil rights mural of Lord Nickens, a local civil rights leader. The piece was commissioned for the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and is on the side of the Bernard W. Brown Community Center on North Market Street in Frederick.

The mural covers 80 feet. Owens worked with artist Jack Pabis on the piece that not only includes a portrait of Nickens, but seven 7-foot-long birds.

"It took an enormous amount of time. It's thousands of shaped mosaics," he said.

Owens said he takes a different approach with each mural. Sometimes clients tell him what they would like, sometimes he has his own ideas and other times he and his clients work together to produce the end product.

"For instance, when I did one at The Banner School in Frederick, I asked them what they wanted, and the headmaster and I came up with a plan," Owens explained. "When I did one with the Maryland Ensemble Theatre, the person I was collaborating with wanted to do something abstract, so we came with some ideas and interpreted it together."

Owens said he has footed the bill for some murals himself. But he was paid for his work and time for one he completed for the Frederick Housing Authority's civil rights mural.

The two murals he's known for the most, he said, are the "North of Fourth" mural, sometimes referred to as "Sun and Moon," and the civil rights mural. They were made from discontinued floor tiles. He worked with Pabis on both.

"You literally get a box of 12-by-12 tiles and somebody says, 'Make seven birds look powerful and taking flight,'" he said referring to the Nickens piece.

He said each job is "intriguing and challenging."

Owens said Pabis painted the tiles for three of the murals. For the other ones, he used other products, such as glass mosaic tiles, which are highly colorized.

"You always end up buying more material than you end up using," he said. "It's a strange thing because I don't know anybody else that does it, so I don't really know how to compare it."

To make the civil rights mural, Hood College donated studio space in which Owens and Pabis did their work. However, he said the mural he's currently working on often is on the floor of his house. Sometimes, parts of a mural can be found on his living room and bedroom floors, he said.

"People think that artists are screaming liberals or ex-hippies, there's just a preconceived notion," he said. "The biggest kick is that when people find out who I am. They're like 'It's him.'"

Owens said that working on murals with the tiles isn't far removed from the basics of construction.

"Because I think there's an artistic element to almost anything you build with your hands — if you're building an addition, if you're hanging drywall — these skills have been taken for granted in this country," he said. "My fellow blue-collars are very talented men. And many of them, maybe not all, but many of them have artistic capabilities they're not even aware of. And I was fortunate enough to go down a path which led me into exploring what is inside myself. I, by no means, believe that artists are any sort of elitists or have some grand vision or anything like that."

Because he's still a blue-collar guy, he still has to pay those blue-collar bills by keeping up his contracting business. He said as people have realized he is the same guy responsible for doing the Frederick murals, he has gotten requests for more elaborate tile work at homes and businesses, such as the Celtic symbol in front of the ladies' bathroom at Bushwaller's in Frederick.

And although he has done most of his work on the other side of South Mountain, Owens said he wants people to know that he's a Washington County resident.

"We do a lot of cool things over here," he said.

When it comes to interpreting his work, Owens said he doesn't "really care what people see."

"The main theme I try to transfer in art is there really is magic out there," he said. "Life can go in many directions that we can't control. But what we can control is that there really is a sense of magic out there, and hope and color and just positive karma."

Sliter earns prestigious industry award

The Western Building Material Association has awarded Tom Sliter, owner of Sliters Lumber and Building Supply, the annual Distinguished Dealer Award.

The honor is given to association members who demonstrate outstanding and distinguished service to the building and material industry.

However, those who know Sliter know that his dedication does not end with the building industry. He is well-known throughout the valley as one who continually gives back to the community without question or hesitation.

"He does just about everything," said Kendra Dalke, an accounts specialist for Sliters Lumber. "He's very involved."

Sliter was chosen for the award because of his continued involvement in the Somers community, through donations to charity projects and his involvement with the Somers Company Town Project that strives to preserve the history of the town. Sliter assisted the Town Project group in restoring a steam locomotive that now sits at the end of the Rails to Trails pedestrian/bike path. He also has donated time and supplies to build a pavilion to house the train.

Sliter was pivotal in helping the group bring the Culpepper and Merriweather Circus to Somers for the first time in 73 years.

"I was sitting in my office one day, and he comes in out of the blue and said 'the circus is coming!' — just like that," said Sliter's son, Andrew, speculating that the circus will come back again in 2015 thanks to his father's hard work. "It was an amazing event, and he was able to help make it happen."

Sliter also has been involved with the annual building of unique playhouses. Each year, the playhouses are constructed with supplies donated from Sliters Lumber and Building Supply, and are completed in an original style, modeled to look like anything from ice cream parlors to blacksmith shops. The playhouses are displayed at the Flathead Home and Garden Show and Kalispell Center Mall. They are raffled off, with all the proceeds benefiting the Nurturing Center.

Sliter was born and raised in the Flathead Lake area, and graduated from Valparaiso University in 1969. Following college, he became a systems engineer for the International Business Machines Corporation in Chicago before returning to the family business in 1979.

According to his son, Sliter always has been a modest man, but his entire staff understands why Sliter was chosen for the award.

"We may not be all about grand innovations, or anything big like that, but we're consistent," Andrew Sliter said of Sliters Lumber and Building Supply. "The company has always been about setting a higher standard for our customers, and delivering unwavering service."

The store was founded by Everit and Neils Sliter in Somers in 1924. Over the years, the company has added a building supply store in Bigfork and a hardware store in Lakeside.
The Western Building Material Association is a regional trade association serving building material dealers throughout Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington.

Foshan Hudson Economics and Trade Co., Ltd
Tel: 86-757 8330 6657
Fax: 86-757-82279527
Web: http://hudsonchina.com

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Replacing cracked tiles as easy as pie

DEAR TIM: I've got numerous cracked ceramic floor tiles, and my wife wants them replaced. I'm very lucky in that the builder and previous owner left extra tile for just this reason, I suppose. Can you guide me through the entire process, including the grouting, so it looks like a pro did it? I'll be forever indebted to you, and maybe my wife will bake you a pie. – Corey C., Sun Valley, California

DEAR MARK: Hmm, a pie's in this deal? I'm all over that. I realize it's rude to put in a request, but I'm dying to have a succulent pecan pie. Let's talk tile now.

Removing and replacing a single ceramic floor tile is not too hard, depending on how it was installed. If your house is 100-plus years old and the tile was set in a mortar bed, it's going to be like extracting a wisdom tooth from a 65-year-old man. If it's a simple floor tile that was installed in a bathroom on cement board with organic mastic, it's going to be a breeze. It's all about how the tile was adhered to the substrate.

The first thing I recommend when removing a floor tile is to carefully remove all the grout around the tile. This can be done with a power tool or by hand. Perhaps the best power tool to do this is a newer vibrating multitool that's equipped with a rounded carbide bit blade that's no wider than 1/16 inch. Use goggles or safety glasses and great lighting, and be alert. Take your time so you do not nick or scratch the tiles adjacent to the cracked tile.

If you're going to do this by hand, you need to use a hammer and an older beat-up flat-head screwdriver. You slowly and carefully chip away the grout. Doing it this way can be mind-numbing.

With the grout out of the way, there's now less chance that you'll damage any adjacent tile during the removal process. If the tile you want to remove is touching up against any other tiles in the floor, the initial stress of removing the tile pieces can put pressure against the adjacent tiles and possibly crack or chip them.

If the floor tile is not touching any other tile, you can tap the tile with a dull masonry chisel near a corner and start to crack off small pieces about the size of a dime. After you crack a piece off, do whatever is necessary to get the piece up from the floor.

Once all the tile is out, now you have to excavate the thinset mortar or organic adhesive that was used to adhere the tile to the floor. You can do this by hand or with a power tool. The vibrating multitool with a flatter carbide bit or tip will help you do this. If you have to do it by hand, you might discover that a stiff 1 1/2-inch putty knife held at a low angle does a great job.

Once you think you have all the thinset or organic mastic out of the way, test it and see. Drop a replacement tile in place of the cracked one and use a straightedge over the tile to see if you have at least 1/8 inch of space between the entire top of the tile and the bottom of the straightedge. You want the straightedge to be resting on the adjacent tiles on all sides of the replacement tile to check for the air space. Rotate the straightedge at least 90 degrees to check for the needed gap.

I'd recommend using cement-based thinset to adhere the tile to the floor. It doesn't give after it's dry, as organic mastic does, and it will help to prevent future cracks. Be sure the substrate is free of all dust and loose material.

You can buy small notched hand tools to help put down the correct amount of thinset. The size of the notches depends on the size of the tile you're installing. Go to a store that sells just tile, and the manager there will make sure you have the correct tool.

When you set the tile in the new thinset, you need to make sure the entire tile is contacting the thinset and there are no gaps. This may mean you have to put the thinset on different thicknesses if the substrate is not in the same plane as the top surface of the finished tile floor. Gently drop the new tile onto the fresh thinset and lightly tap in place so its top surface is flush with all the adjacent tiles. Use the straightedge again to help you here.

Allow the tile to set and cure for at least 48 hours before grouting it. Protect it so no one walks on it. You need to match the grout color perfectly. To do this, the existing floor grout needs to be clean. The best grout cleaner I've discovered is powdered oxygen bleach. You mix it with water, stir, allow the powder to dissolve and then pour it on the grout. After 30 minutes scrub, rinse and allow to dry to see the new clean grout. The grout must be dry so you can match it to the color cards if it's a colored grout.

When grouting, do not add too much water to the new grout. You want it the consistency of cake batter. When striking the joints, do not use a dripping sponge. Squeeze all the water out of the sponge when dressing the grout joint.

Don't worry about sending any whipped cream with the pecan pie. I can get that on my own. I'd love to see before and after photos of your job … and one of the smile on your wife's face when she sees your expert installation!

Hudson`s Microlite Flooring Tiles 800 x 800 mm for Parlour / Walls / Bedrooms

Hudson`s Microlite Flooring Tiles 800 x 800 mm for Parlour / Walls / Bedrooms
Editor: Alvin Chan                     Tags:  Flooring Tiles
Factory and Wholsaler:
Foshan Hudson Economics and Trade Co., Ltd
Tell: +86 0757-82279676

Gray Modern Kitchens

Gray Modern Kitchens

Gray Kitchens: Nothing spells "sleek" and "refined" like the color gray. Known as the ultimate neutral tone, midway between white and black, gray makes an excellent choice for a background kitchen color. The color gray reminds us of wisdom, knowledge, and intellect. Modern gray cabinets show a high level of sophistication, and are often found in high-end kitchens and modern homes.

Gray Kitchens - Trends: Gray is essentially a timeless color. Perhaps because we associate it with black and white photography, gray is perceived as a classic, long-lasting color. Like a gray suit or skirt, a classy gray kitchen should never look dated. Contemporary and modern kitchens often emphasize monochromatic color schemes (black, white, and gray), as you'll see here. You'll find dozens of pictures of kitchens on this site featuring gray cabinets, either as the central color or as a contrasting accent in two-tone kitchens.

Gray Kitchens - Everyday Use: Gray is an excellent color for everyday use. Dust will not be immediately visible on a gray surface, so constant cleaning will not be absolutely necessary. Your modern gray kitchen should be treated like a pair of gray dress pants. They're easier to care for than white or black cabinets, but cleanliness is still important since gray is such a sleek and refined color. Since dust tends to stand out visually on a dark surface, dark gray kitchen cabinets may require more frequent gentle dusting than lighter gray cabinets. Planning in advance can pay off with a lifetime of enjoyment in your modern gray kitchen.

4 Ways to Work Effectively with Designers and Building Owners

4 Ways to Work Effectively with Designers and Building Owners

1)      Tired of Trying to Meet Unrealistic Expectations? Help Align Designer's Vision with Reality

When designers lack in-depth knowledge of your trade, it can lead to unrealistic expectations – and ultimately, disappointment. Designers might show building owners pictures and idea boards of concepts that wow the client aesthetically, but miss the boat with functionality and practicality. While it's nice to work with a designer who has faith in your abilities, the mantra "the installer will make it work" can lead to disgruntled designers, disappointed building owners and frustrated installers.

To make sure that you successfully achieve the visions of designers and building owners, encourage the building team to involve you in the planning process. As you review drawings and plans, be prepared to offer creative alternatives to any problem areas – before you begin installation. The earlier you address any discrepancies between the design vision and the potential outcome, the happier all parties involved will be. Moreover, offering insight on design details gives you an opportunity to demonstrate your expertise – an additional value to the designer and building owner.

2)      Putting in Hours as an Unpaid Consultant? Get Credit Where Credit Is Due

When designers, architects and general contractors increasingly rely on your insight, you may realize that you're spending more time on a project than you are billing. If you sense that the design-build team will ask for your advice often during the planning period, consider implementing a consultation and design contract. This ensures that you are properly compensated for the time you spend thinking about, discussing and working on a project. This type of contract also establishes your place on the building team, properly crediting you as an integral member.

You can also integrate consulting work into your overall business strategy and publicize that you offer this valuable service. Designers, architects and building owners will benefit from your expertise, and your business will grow as you get more face time with a variety of members of the design-build industry.

3)      Ready to Avoid Callbacks? Explain the Value of Subfloor Prep and Quality Materials

When designers and building owners have a firm budget, they may be inclined to allocate funds to visible elements – rather than addressing what lies beneath the installation's surface. However, as you know, failure to properly prepare the substrate prior to installation can lead to callbacks that are frustrating and costly for both the installer and building owner.

Be prepared to explain the value of any necessary subfloor prep to designers, general contractors and building owners. For example, find statistics that show the costs of closing a building due to lack of proper moisture mitigation. Share pictures of flooring and tile problems that could have been prevented by substrate preparation – and explain what you do to avoid those issues. You don't want to scare your customers, but you do want them to understand what is required for a successful, long-lasting flooring or tile installation.

4)   Sick of Getting Out-Bid? Reconsider How You Go After Jobs.

tile+installation+job+bid+adviceThe contractor who carefully examines the plan and addresses all necessary details – including surface preparation – may put in a higher bid than the contractor who only cares about getting the job. Know how to defend your bid, and have reliable references and a portfolio to explain the quality of your services.

To show your ability to stay within budget, consider submitting multiple bids. Bid to the spec, and submit an additional bid that reflects your opinion on the job and addresses concerns beyond the initial budget, like surface preparation or higher-quality setting materials. This strategy demonstrates that you understand the parameters of the job, but also allows you to be forthright about the best way to tackle the installation.

Customers that are familiar with your company will appreciate your work and understand its value. For that reason, maintaining and building relationships with repeat clients can be more effective and efficient than entering the competitive bid process. When planning your marketing efforts, keep previous designers and building owners in mind.

The key to working successfully as part of a project team is promoting communication and understanding. Open, honest communication between all members of the team, through all steps of the installation process, will help you avoid frustration, contribute to successful installations and build strong relationships that can lead to more business in the future.

Top Kitchen and Bathroom Remodeling Trends for 2015

Homeowners plan to go big in 2015, according to an Angie's List survey of more than 1,000 highly rated remodeling professionals. And after years of being overlooked for showier rooms, the bathroom is poised to be the most popular remodeling project — though kitchens remain a focus, too.

This remodeled bathroom features new tile, a freestanding tub and modern color scheme. (Photo courtesy of Luxury Home Solutions)

The average consumer wants a custom, luxury bathroom enough to pay for it, experts say. For years, homeowners wanted a bathroom remodel to cost $15,000, according to Tom Sertich, president of highly rated Kirk Development Co. in Phoenix, but now the starting point is $20,000.

Dale Conrad, owner of highly rated Conrad Kitchen, Bath and Remodeling, based in Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania, says it's not unusual for a bathroom remodel to cost up to $50,000. "People are getting used to spending more money for their bathrooms," Conrad says.

The bathtub break-up

Is a bathroom complete without somewhere to bathe? Many consumers think so.

remodeling trends
remodeling trends
Walk-in showers with no tubs are trending for 2015. (Photo by Brandon Smith)

"We have a lot of people who are just putting in a nice master shower and leaving the tub out," says Geoff Horen, CEO of highly rated Lifestyle Group Residential Remodeling in Indianapolis. These walk-in showers include large rain head faucets and handheld sprayers, he adds.

Conventional wisdom held that a home's resale value suffered if the bathroom didn't have a bathtub, says Maria Cartage, owner of highly rated Cartage Home Remodelers in Northlake, Illinois. However, as more homeowners plan to stay and age in place, comfort and accessibility trump resale values, she adds.

remodeling trends
Remodeling trendsFree-standing bathtubs also remain popular. (Photo by Brandon Smith)

Homeowners who still want a tub opt for freestanding bathtubs, such as the contemporary basin style or antique clawfoot tubs, rather than whirlpools or fiberglass, Conrad says.

Continuing the luxury trend, fiberglass is out completely. According to 89 percent of survey respondents, tile is a must for showers and floors.

Tile style

Bathroom remodelers agree: the popular newcomer is 12-inch by 24-inch tile.

Cartage says staggering these rectangular tiles on bathroom floors and shower walls creates a flow throughout the room. These tiles edged out the intricate patterns with different size tiles. "The mixed tile look is out," Cartage says.

remodeling trends

Staggering rectangular tiles is in, flooring experts say. (Photo by Brandon Smith)

For general living areas, wood-grain tiles, made of ceramic or porcelain, remain popular. These tiles come in sizes from 6-inch by 36-inch to 8-inch by 8-feet, and come in traditional oak or rustic barn wood finishes, among many others. "People like the look of wood, but they don't like the maintenance," Horen says, adding tile doesn't swell when wet or need refinished like wood.

Another reason for tile's popularity is growing interest in radiant floor heating, Horen says. "A product like that [radiant floor heating] used to be directed only toward high-end clients," he says. "Now it's becoming more mainstream."

Luxury vinyl made strides in 2014, and 38 percent of respondents say it's in. However, 32 percent say it's not, and the last 30 percent say their customers want "real" flooring.

remodeling trends
Luxury vinyl flooring gets mixed reviews from service providers. (Photo courtesy of member Scott M., Charlotte, North Carolina)

Nick Cohen, owner of Advanced Builders & Contractors in Tarzana, California, just northwest of Los Angeles, says he only uses luxury vinyl flooring in basements and game rooms, since it's cheaper than tile but easier to clean than carpet.

'Gray is the new beige'

From kitchens to bathrooms, consumers turn to gray as a modern standard for walls, cabinets and tile. "It's the new neutral," Horen says. "It's just a trend that we've seen come into play in the last few months that I expect to continue."

remodeling trends
An earthy gray with bold accent colors gives a room elegance. (Photo by Jessica Anderson)

Earthy grays — rather than colder, sterile hues — are a pleasant neutral that won't feel like a fad after a few years, Horen says. Homeowners sometimes splash in bolder colors to accent the neutral, but in the rooms Horen has renovated, the gray alone is usually enough. "We are seeing people use it in a variety of places, particularly kitchens and bathrooms lately," he says.

Kitchen trends

As with bathrooms, homeowners plan to spend more on kitchen remodels, but styles hold steady.

Glazed cabinets, sometimes gray, are popular. Cohen says consumers get a better value if they spring for custom cabinets, and they're choosing custom more frequently.

"People should definitely consider getting custom cabinetry done, especially in the kitchen, because that's going to be used on a day-to-day basis," he says.

When it comes to appliances, rumors of stainless steel's demise are greatly exaggerated. According to 70 percent of surveyed contractors, stainless remains king.

remodeling trends
Consumers prefer stainless steel appliances, service providers say. (Photo by Summer Galyan)

Cohen says stainless is the go-to for kitchen appliances, unless the customer wants custom-made fronts that match the kitchen cabinets. "That's the only case when they will not opt to buy stainless steel appliances," he says.

Homeowners are exploring different countertops, but granite remains most popular, Sertich says. "People are looking at quartz or Silestone [a brand of quartz]," he says. "But I would say that we're probably still putting in 80 percent granite."

A space for stuff

Homeowners still want to open up their living areas by removing walls, but now they want storage to eliminate clutter, as well.

Keeping rooms, usually located near or adjacent to the kitchen, serve as a multi-use space to store items, or relax on a sofa and snack, do homework or watch television.

While the name for these rooms originated in colonial times, the concept is still new today. Though 49 percent of contractors say keeping rooms are in, 11 percent disagreed, and another 40 percent asked: "What's a keeping room?"

remodeling trends
Consumers want bigger, more organized closets. (Photo courtesy of Eco-Nize Closets and ORG Home)

Contractors raised no questions about the continued popularity of closets, on the other hand: 89 percent agreed that homeowners want bigger, better closets.

Cohen says consumers buy more clothes now, and since most want a master suite, they add a walk-in closet — oftentimes one per spouse. "For new homes and homes that are going to be remodeled, that's going to be the trend," he says.

Go big on your home

When it comes to cost, 62 percent of remodeling contractors agreed customers were willing to spend more, while 29 percent saw no difference. A total of 51 percent say their recent remodels grossed $1,000 to $5,000 more on average than in 2013, while 23 percent say their jobs were up $5,001 to $10,000.

signing a contract
Because signing a contract holds you accountable for high costs, be sure you know the details included.

Consumers should plan to pay more upfront, with many remodelers starting to charge for design fees or estimates.

But it's not that more business gives remodelers the leverage to add fees, Conrad says. "I'm not charging it because I'm too busy. I'm billing them because I want a commitment," he says, adding that companies simply can't afford to pander to window shoppers.

Cartage says her company plans to start charging a design fee, even though numbers are up. "What we're noticing is that they [consumers] are taking a lot longer to shop around," she says, adding that consumers often collect competing bids to force down the price of their preferred contractor. "So they're spending a lot more money, but they're taking longer."

Friday, December 26, 2014

Birdsell exhibit a nuanced understanding of history

The Birdsell mansion at Colfax and William is a relic of South Bend's past, but an art exhibit in the massive house builds on the structure's historic identity to raise questions about the city's present and future, as well.

The work of 21 artists is spread throughout the mansion, lurking on the other side of doorways and around corners, upstairs and down, tucked in dilapidated corners and hung in broad, brightly lit spaces. The show is a treasure hunt out of time, one that encourages introspection about the fleetingness of the lives we live and the fate of the things we build.

Nowhere is the diversity of the show more apparent than just inside the front door, where installations by Charles Jevremovic and Justin Barfield flank the entryway. Jevremovic's collection of vintage electronics, dimly lit and bathed in the sound of spectral radio transmissions, delivers a jarring temporal shift; we are in the Cold War era, well after the mansion was built but certainly long before today. Step through the door to the right, though, where Barfield's massive organic construction grows through the house's ceilings and walls, and we're in the future, as the Earth reclaims the building.

Jack O'Hearn's work, an amazingly detailed construction of a 1970s den, is a living installation in which visitors are encouraged to interact with the piece and the artist. Emily Scott Beck's relief sculptures reduce domestic relationships to simple figurative forms and fragments, and Sarah Edmands Martin's wall drawings and texts tell more specific domestic stories. Mary Fashbaugh's brailed texts are more difficult to read, suggesting the way in which the building's stories are hidden and require us to tease them out.

Other artists address the building's journey from luxury to decline. A collection of work by Notre Dame photography students in the third-floor ballroom speaks to the mansion's origins in the industrial boom of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and it is ideally located in a room whose windows afford views of the city's contemporary downtown.

The work of Nalani Stolz, Allison Polgar and Andrew Strong confront the specifics of decline, both in the building's actual physical structure and in the culture that surrounds it. Stolz and Strong explore the transformation of the material stuff of the house, the furnishings and building materials; Polgar looks beyond the house and considers architecture of a very different kind.

Some of the artists step beyond the constructs of history and economics to look at the essentials of nature that underlie all of it.

Barfield's giant root-like construction draws the most obvious connection between the building and nature, and the small sculptures of Rachel Suzanne Smith bring more discreet natural forms into the house. The work of Katelyn Seprish and Lauren Stratton, with their unflinching ruminations on the reality of the body, physicality and sexuality, can help us to think about the people who lived and worked in the building as corporeal beings instead of as historical figures.

As a whole, the Birdsell exhibition is an important step toward a nuanced understanding of the city's history. It stays clear of sentimentality and revisionism, and it's not afraid to refer to stories whose endings aren't necessarily pretty. It is surprising in its honesty, and when it's combined with the facts of the mansion's history, it's an invitation to think frankly about where we've been and where we're going.