Installer Update: New Standards Will Redefine the Tile Market.
May 1st, 2006


Does one mortar really outperform another?

By Mike Micalizzi, Manager, Technical Services, MAPEI Corporation

May-June 2006

The best scientific minds around the world have spent endless hours and tens of thousands of dollars developing new grouts and mortars that promise to speed up your installations, reduce your callbacks and increase the life of your installations. The question in every contractor’s mind is naturally, “Is there really a difference between all these products; and, if so, how can I tell?”

The answer is: Yes, there is a BIG difference.

After years of research and negotiation, the mystery of mortars is about to become de-mystified. Through voluntary participation, a body of technical experts operating under the oversight of the ISO 13007 Classification Standards Technical Committee 189 have agreed upon a set of universal, global standards for the tile-setting industry. ISO is the International Standards Organization, made up of members from the National Standards Bodies of more than 190 countries. (ANSI is the National Standards Body of the United States .)

Essentially a combination of American, British and European ceramic tile adhesive standards, these new standards require that an adhesive pass certain minimum performance tests before it can be accredited with a performance classification. The classification is expressed in letters of the alphabet and numbers. The letters indicate the type of adhesive and special characteristics, while the numbers indicate whether the performance is “normal” or “improved.”

In total, there are more than 35 different combinations under which a product may be classified using the ISO 13007 performance standards versus the existing—and more familiar—eight (8) ANSI classifications. The bottom line? Contractors and installers no longer have to interpret the marketing hype that has become increasingly common within our industry. Instead, they can choose mortars based upon installation conditions and product classifications.

Why are standards only becoming available now?

It took a long time for all the ISO members to agree on which tests could be reliably performed and give meaningful results. The ISO 13007 standards require manufacturers to prove product performance in more detail and in more consumer-friendly ways. Under this new classification system, manufacturers must be able to prove and declare on the packaging itself how the product performed under various tests. One example is the text for adhesive strength after freeze/thaw cycles—a test that involves 14 days of curing, then 21 days of water immersion, then 25 freeze/thaw cycles, then a test to meet a minimum prescribed shear force. If this sounds complicated, it is. Manufacturers must gear up for these new standards. This often involves expensive equipment, better-trained technicians, and more precise engineering.

The process may be complicated from the manufacturers’ side, but the end result for the installation industry (including architects and specifiers, distributors, dealers, contractors and installers) is a simple-to-follow alphanumeric classification system. Those manufacturers at the forefront of this technology will leap ahead of their competitors by providing today’s increasingly sophisticated customers with needed information for their purchase decisions.

Chart courtesy of MAPEI Corporation

How do the ISO 13007 Classification Standards impact the tile-setting business?

With upwards of 115 mortars on the market within the U.S. alone, product differentiation has been a minefield for the installation market. Once the ISO 13007 Classification Standards enter the U.S. market, contractors and installers will be able to make better-informed decisions about the choice of products for their particular installation. Under the new standards, manufacturers bear the burden of proving that the product does, in fact, perform as they are promising.

With immediate and strong support anticipated from the architectural and specifier communities, U.S. manufacturers are moving quickly toward classification of their product lines. It is believed that once product categories are called for within design specifications, all levels of the installation supply chain will be impacted. For manufacturers, the race is on. For distribution channels, a major shift in expected installation knowledge is imminent.

Is this just a clever way for manufacturers to sell higher-priced products?

Interestingly enough, an installer may be able to reduce costs with these new classifications. Depending upon the installation conditions and the materials chosen, he may find that the product he is currently using is over-engineered for the installation. ISO 13007 classifications are designed to pinpoint the correct product for any installation.

Are other installation materials covered under this new system?

In addition to adhesives of all types (mortars, mastics, epoxies, etc.), grouts are being classified as well. Although there are not nearly as many combinations of ratings, grouts have at least 19 classifications they can fit into—such as an improved cementitious grout that is fast-setting (CG2F). See chart for more detail.

When is the industry going to see the benefits of adapting the ISO Classification Standards into their businesses?

That depends upon the manufacturers’ products dealers choose to carry. Depending upon their level of commitment toward the future, manufacturers are at different stages of testing their products’ performance. Within the United States , a few companies began testing about two years ago. Those manufacturers should begin their new packaging rollouts within the year. For others, it’s a game of catch-up.

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