Thin Is In! (The New Technology in Porcelain Tile)
July 2nd, 2012

by Thomas J. Kotel

Doing more with less has become the rallying cry in business and in personal lives. It seems everyone is looking for ways to save time, money and resources to become more efficient in what they do.

The flooring industry has been no different. First came the advent of large-format tile designs, providing the customer with greater coverage (not to mention some great new looks) while using fewer total tiles. Still, large-format tile came with its own challenges, not the least of which was the weight of the material. On wall installations especially, large-format, traditional thickness porcelain or ceramic tile can be a bit labor intensive. Luckily for designers and installers alike, a solution has evolved!

Cotto D’Este, an Italian manufacturer, has developed a revolutionary new technology to create Kerlite, a large-format, thin porcelain tile that weighs a fraction of standard thickness tile while still providing the strength and durability of porcelain. Incredibly, Kerlite is just 3mm thick and ideal for walls in residential or public buildings, both indoors and out. Kerlite Plus adds a fiberglass mesh backing, making it 3.5mm thick. This backing makes Kerlite Plus suitable not only for walls, but for floor installation as well. An added bonus of Kerlite Plus is that it can be installed over existing flooring, saving the installer time, money and the mess of tearing off and disposing of old material. The mesh backing coupled with the thin design makes it easy to score and shape the tile to fit rolled-edge countertops, columns and other imaginative applications while ensuring the tile sticks solidly to the adhesive on the substrate.

Now let’s talk size. Kerlite puts the “LARGE” in large-format tile with a variety of sizes up to a maximum of 39-3/8” x 118-1/8”! The variety of color and style choices available makes cladding exterior walls not only functional, but fashionable as well.

Mid-America Tile, the exclusive Midwest distributor of Kerlite, recently had the opportunity to introduce this thin tile technology to the Architectural and Design community at a forum hosted by the International Masonry Institute (IMI) at their training center in Addison, Illinois. Matt Nordloh of MAPEI presented Leaner, Greener, Larger, Lighter: Thin Tile Systems to over 70 architects and manufacturer reps in attendance. The session outlined the features and benefits of thin body tiles including design and installation requirements and techniques for successful projects. Following the class, attendees went downstairs to see firsthand demos and product presentations of the benefits of Kerlite Plus tile given by representatives of Kerlite, MAPEI, Tuscan Leveling Systems, Mid-America Tile and Wedi. Attendees were also able to view a wall mock-up featuring a 39-3/8″ x 118-1/8″ sheet of Kerlite Plus tile.

The attendees left with an appreciation for the possibilities of this unique, new technology and shared many positive comments about the product.

Mid-America Tile also brought its thin-tile message to over 40 union contractors at the Ceramic Tile Contractors Association of Chicago (CTCAC) monthly meeting and dinner, held at the International Masonry Institute’s training center. Attendees were treated to presentations by representatives from Kerlite, MAPEI, Mid-America Tile, Tuscan Leveling System and Wedi, showing the features and benefits of Kerlite as well as the proper installation products and techniques to help ensure successful projects.

One of the most impressive highlights of the presentation was when one of the attendees was handed a hammer and invited to strike a piece of standard thickness porcelain tile. After the tile shattered into a several pieces, he was asked to do the same to a piece of Kerlite Plus 3.5mm thin tile. Despite repeated blows from the hammer, the Kerlite Plus tile remained intact.

The contractors came away from this meeting impressed with the strength and ease of installation of this new product.

There is little question that thin tile is here to stay. As professionals and end-users become more educated about and comfortable with the technology, they are sure to see the advantages of using it on many of their projects.

Mid-America Tile currently stocks selected styles and colors of Kerlite Plus in 39-3/8 x 39-3/8” and 39-3/8” x 118-1/8” sizes. We don’t stop there, though. Mid-America Tile can supply everything the professional contractor needs to help ensure the best results when installing Kerlite Plus, including:

  • Full lines of recommended substrates, mortars, grout and waterproofing components from MAPEI;
  • The Tuscan Leveling System which virtually eliminates lippage during the installation of large-format tile, both on the floor or on the wall;
  • The new, patented Sigma “Kera-Cut” tile cutter, designed specifically for use on thin, large-format tile. Kera-Cut tile cutters are available in two sizes and have a 5-year warranty.

Mid-America Tile, headquartered in Elk Grove Village, IL, is a family-owned wholesale flooring distributor and importer specializing in Ceramic, Porcelain, Glass, Metal, Natural Stone Tile, Commercial Resilient, Electric Radiant Floor Heat, and Installation Products. Now in its 51st year in business, Mid-America Tile provides products and solutions to Architects, Designers, Developers, Home Builders, Contractors and Specialty Floor Covering Dealers involved in Hospitality, Health Care, Education, Residential and Commercial projects.  For inquiries regarding Kerlite Plus and other products, contact Dan Skowron, Marketing Coordinator, at  See more at


Thomas J. Kotel is the president of Mid-America Tile.

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