November 6/13, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 11
By Dean Cunningham
Large format tiles allow consumers to unleash a world of design possibilities and achieve a flawless, minimalist appearance to any residential or commercial space. As the contemporary, modern design trend continues to be a favorite among the consumer as well as installation professionals, large format tiles are creating major advantages in the marketplace.
When large format tiles were first introduced to the flooring industry, the tiles typically measured 1 or 2 feet in width and length. Now, after nearly a decade of development from tile flooring manufacturers, large format tiles can be as large as 10 feet x 5 feet or even larger in some custom flooring applications.
As large format tiles made of porcelain began building momentum with designers, the term “thin porcelain tile” was coined. Due to its increased popularity, manufacturers began producing larger sizes in different materials such as ceramic, glass and stone. Thin porcelain tiles have since been designed to be half the thickness and weight of conventional tile, making them lighter to carry on the jobsite and easier to work with than actual stone slabs. Because of their versatile style and manageability, large format tiles are often chosen by designers and installers alike to be featured on floors, countertops and walls, and they are continuously utilized in innovative ways. For example, with open floor plan layouts currently on trend, large format tiles are the ideal choice when needing to seamlessly integrate indoor and outdoor spaces such as the kitchen to the patio.
Large format tiles also often alter room size perception, tricking the eye into thinking the space is actually much larger than it appears. Additionally, tiles of this size mean far fewer grout lines and thinner grout joint widths, resulting in an easy-to-clean, uninterrupted finish.
In recent years, these materials have presented new installation requirements and challenges. To completely benefit from the aesthetically pleasing nature of these finish types, there are several considerations to keep in mind when installing large format tiles.
To avoid lippage, proper substrate preparation is critical to achieving a flat, even finish and achieving the required coverage. When using self-leveling products, it is important installers also address moving joints and cracks in the substrate. If not addressed and repaired, moving joints and cracks can transfer up and cause cracks in the finish.
Other issues: Lack of proper adhesive mortar coverage can lead to cracked tile and grout and potentially loss of bond to the large format tiles. Since the panels are often very thin, it is also important for installers to pay extra attention to cleaning out any leftover adhesive mortar in the joints to ensure enough grout fills the grout joint.
Because of their size, large format tiles often require a longer cure time than standard tiles, especially when using a dense, porcelain-bodied product. To be proactive in meeting industry needs, manufacturers are required to stay on the cutting edge of technology and produce products that allow for a faster return to service.
Dean Cunningham is technical services manager for Laticrete. In his current capacity, he is responsible for a team that provides technical assistance to specifiers and construction professionals.