Installer Briefing: The Birth of a Standard The birth of a standard involves thousands of hours of industry work before the final result is delivered! November-December 2004
November 1st, 2004

By Eric Astrachan

Standards provide our industry with guidelines that result in more consistent and often better quality products and installations. Importantly, standards provide assurance to the customer that they can rely on those products and installations—if the products and methods conform to standards. Every standard in the tile business begins as a series of submissions, which then undergo data analysis, numerous revisions, and committee discussions to ensure the delivery of an industry-consensus document.

This year the Tile Council of North America (TCA) is working on the delivery of three industry-consensus documents—the 2005 Handbook for Ceramic Tile Installation, the American National Standards Institute’s (ANSI) Specifications for the Installation of Ceramic Tile (A108/A118/A136.1) and the ANSI Specifications for Ceramic Tile (A137.1).

We serve as the secretariat for ANSI’s American Standards Committee (ASC) A108. The standards within the scope of the ASC A108 include A108, A118, A136.1, A137.1, and glass tile. These voluntary standards define performance criteria for ceramic tile, criteria for tile installations, and test methods and physical properties for ceramic tile installation materials. They are intended to serve as a guide to the general public, manufacturers, distributors, architects, designers, tile contractors, testing laboratories and other professionals in the tile industry.

As the Secretariat for ANSI and the TCA Handbook, we oversee the creation and maintenance of these standards. We do not create the standards; rather, the members of the ANSI and Handbook committees create them. These committees are composed of industry representatives representing a cross-section of more than 40 industry organizations and individuals. Manufacturers, labor organizations, users of tile, and industry consultants are all represented on these Committees.

The Tile Council’s role is that of a facilitator and Secretariat for this process. As such, we work to keep the process open, honest, and moving forward. We ensure that everyone can be heard and try to keep the discussion focused on what benefits the consumer and is technically valid.

Stage One: Subcommittee Discussions

In the initial stage of standards development, submissions received by the Tile Council are reviewed to determine if they would benefit from sub-committee involvement before submission to the main Handbook or ANSI ASC Committee. In most cases, although draft proposals have already received input from many people, the submission may still benefit from a TCA subcommittee review. In some cases, a new subcommittee is formed specifically to help develop a submission while in other cases, an existing TCA committee may be called upon to help.

This is not a requirement, however, and a submitter could choose to submit their proposal directly without subcommittee help.

Some submissions are formed by existing TCA subcommittees. Of course, the majority of submissions come from non-committee members and we encourage anyone with an interest in standards to consider making a submission. If a submission is sent out to a subcommittee, it is disseminated through a web-based electronic forum. Any submitter is welcome to join the subcommittee that will be discussing their submission and to participate in those discussions. These forums were invaluable in helping to reach consensus prior to the TCA Handbook and ANSI Committee meetings held the week of June 22nd. For the most recent series of meetings, five subcommittees and forums were involved in reviewing methods for the Handbook and ANSI Standards: Backerboard, Underlayment, Membrane, Glass, and Inspection. In total, nearly 100 people contributed to these subcommittees.

Once the subcommittees completed their task, the submissions were posted on a web site for the ASC A108 and Handbook committee members to review prior to the June meetings.

Industry professionals are encouraged to visit the ANSI ASC A108 Secretariat’s web site ( and the Handbook Committee’s web site to view Committee agendas and submissions.

Stage Two: Committee Meetings

The week of June 21st, we began a series of standards-setting meetings with more than 120 participants. This was an unprecedented effort to assemble industry experts and advance many standards during the same week. To accommodate this many people, we converted an old training area into a conference room for the meetings.

On Tuesday, June 22nd, we completed an eight laboratory, seven surface, “round robin” test to determine the precision of the C1028 coefficient of friction test method. This was the result of many months of research in which every step of the test method was reviewed and revised where needed. Overall, a significant reduction in the standard deviation of the method was made.

On Wednesday, June 24rd, staff from eight major U.S. manufacturers met with TCA staff to discuss the first revision of the A137.1 manufacturing standards in 16 years. Thanks in large part to a major effort by Dal Tile, a wholly revised and updated draft standard was prepared in advance of the meeting and distributed to the participants. From this group’s input, further revisions are being made.

On Thursday, June 26th, about 75 people attended the TCA Handbook meeting. This record attendance was nearly double the attendance of the last meeting, which itself set a record.

This reflects tremendous industry participation and demonstrates the continued importance of the Handbook in an increasingly complex construction environment.

On Friday, June 25th, a similarly-sized group attended the ANSI A108 standards meeting, at which two crack isolation standards were discussed and passed. These standards are now out for approval by written ballot (by those who could not attend the meeting) and then will be submitted for public review.

Stage Three: Handbook Publication

At the June 25th meeting, the Handbook Committee approved more than 200 edits and 15 new guidelines for the 2005 Handbook. Once these were approved, TCA staff began compiling the additions, deletions and edits for publication in January 2005.

The key new guidelines include:

1. Poured gypsum underlayment for concrete and wood

2. Poured gypsum underlayment with hydronic radiant heat

3. Cementitious self-leveling underlayment for concrete and wood

4. Cementitious self-leveling underlayment with hydronic radiant heat

5. Cementitious self-leveling underlayment with electric radiant heat

6. Exterior Glue/Laminated Wood Panel Underlayment

7. Cementitious-Coated Foam Backer Board—already approved for walls, now approved for floors

8. Fiber-Reinforced Water-Resistant Gypsum Backer Board—already approved for floors, now approved for walls and tubs

9. Pre-formed shower curbs

10. Better definition for uncoupling membranes

11. Information for glass and porcelain tile installations

12. Information for sound reduction

13. Revision of expansion joint guidelines

14. Definition of “limited water exposure” area

Stage Three Continued: ANSI Standards—Balloting, Public Review, Consensus Efforts, and Publication.

While the consensus of the Handbook Committee goes directly to publication after the Handbook meeting, changes to the ANSI standards do not. This is because those standards require balloting from all members of the Committee and an attempt to resolve any negative comments that are received. Changes to the Handbook only require a majority of the Committee present at the meeting, although in practice most contentious issues are referred back to subcommittees for further development.

These additional requirements for ANSI standards, and the time associated with each, adds anywhere from 6 months to 2 years to the development of a standard and hundreds of additional hours of work by the Tile Council. This is well worth the time and work required, because it insures that every effort is made to reach consensus before a standard is issued!

Next time you have a question about a tile installation, refer to your TCA Handbook for Ceramic Tile Installation and the ANSI A108/A118/A136.1 standards for answers. They are the best answers our industry has produced. If you have suggestions for improvement, you are welcome to submit them to the Tile Council.

Eric Astrachan is the executive director of the Tile Council of North America (TCA). TCA was established in 1945 to expanding the ceramic tile market in the United

States. To learn more about TCA, please go to

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