The introduction of thin panel porcelain tile or thin tile porcelain panels – or which for now seems to be the most popular name, thin porcelain tile (TPT) – is quickly revolutionizing the tile market. It is so new to the U.S. market that the official name has yet to be determined or standardized. This new player in the field is one meter wide by three meters long (approximately 40” by just less than 10’) and covers about 33 square feet. Some manufacturers are even producing tiles that are one and one-half meters by three meters ... or nearly 50 square feet each!
Currently these products do not have any ANSI product or installation standards, which can make their installation somewhat risky if the installer is not properly trained. For the installer who has no experience with these products, the best route is to seek information from the source. Some of these manufacturers have done in-depth studies on how the product performs and have produced proprietary installation procedures.
Secondly, it is critical to determine if the tile manufacturer has developed installation methods in concert with a mortar manufacturer. The best way to install this product in the absence of industry standards is to follow both manufacturers’ guidelines to the letter. They have developed the techniques that work and do not leave the installing contractor all alone to figure out how to get this new product in place safely. Realize that one panel can cost in the neighborhood of $500 to $1,200 each. Not too many contractors can absorb that kind of loss on a job if one or more tiles are broken and unusable.
The key point is to do your homework before it is time to get the tile from the crate to the floor or the wall. Ask as many questions as possible. Talk with non-competing installers who have gained valuable experience and would be willing to help you gain insight into this installation process. As you can see in the accompanying photo, the two man team used a rack to handle and place the TPT without damage. Also, if the job is a floor installation, be absolutely certain that the manufacturer recommends their product for floor use.
Check the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) Workshop Program calendar for their Thin Tile Program which trains installers how to handle, cut and install TPT. Additionally, the Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT) program is developing a TPT test which will certify the mechanic’s skills and knowledge on this new product so that it can be installed safely, efficiently and most importantly, profitably.