Learn how these versatile, and gargantuan, surfaces will change your timelines and workload. Plus, how to field homeowners’ questions about this new category in surfaces.
Already a popular concept in Europe, these extra-large-format porcelain slabs are fairly new to the US market. Giant 10 x 5-ish foot slabs usually come in a couple of thin profiles around 6 mm and 12 mm. They give you an opportunity to easily bring projects the scale and style of natural stone slab where stone might be cost or installation prohibitive.
The Versatility of Porcelain Surfaces
Your clients already know the power of porcelain on the floor. It’s tough, easy to clean, and beautiful. Roy Viana, Director of Natural Stone and Slab at Daltile, says, “There’s a familiarity in the U.S. with porcelain on the floor. It’s a great performer. Just translate all those capabilities to the countertop, large vertical applications like fireplaces and feature walls and you’ll easily be able to tell your clients the value of these large porcelain surfaces.”
While it has obvious applications in the commercial industry, residential applications are wide and varied: countertops, vanities, shower walls, tub surrounds, fireplaces, floors, feature walls, exterior cladding, outdoors/patios. “They look amazing and can go just about anywhere other than the shower floor or pool,” says Amber Leigh Hartman, Senior Marketing Manager at Daltile.
Handling & Transportation
This extra-large format does require some specialized equipment, tools, and training but once you’re set up, porcelain surfaces are easy to work with. Most porcelain slabs ship on an A-frame so a forklift with 8-foot forks or fork extensions and glass lifters on a boom or crane are necessary for moving the slabs. Suction cup grips make for easy and safe handling once you’re on site. The lightweight slabs are simple to manage with specialized tools and at least three people.
Prior to moving any porcelain slabs, identify and prepare its resting place. “Proper handling and protection is important to keeping the slab in pristine condition until it is installed,” says Jerry Joyce, Senior Manager of Field Services at Daltile.
Fabrication & Installation
The most important part of installation for floor and wall when it comes to gauged porcelain is a flat (no more than 1/8 inch variance over 10 foot surface), supportive surface. “Most walls and floors will need to be prepped with a patching compound or floated with self-leveling underlayment,” says Joyce.
For countertops, Daltile recommends pre-applying a ½ inch thick high-density foam backer or cement board directly to the slab for better support, especially when cutting holes for sinks or other countertop features,” says Joyce. The porcelain slab can then be installed over a prepared substrate or ¾ inch exterior grade plywood set on top of cabinets. Slabs should not be applied directly to plywood attached to cabinets. However, porcelain slabs can be installed directly over existing natural stone or other solid surfaces on the countertop or vertical surface.
It is crucial that large gauged porcelain slabs have 90% mortar contact. As with all large-format tile, LFT mortar is necessary and back buttering is recommended. Seams are installed using the same process as natural stone using acrylic or epoxy bonding agent. Be sure to properly bond any backer board to the porcelain at the seam with adhesive. Refer to the manufacturer’s installation instructions for preferred setting materials and tools for optimal results.