Tile and stone projects: roles and responsibilities

Two of the most important aesthetic components of construction are the floors’ and walls’ finishes. We often don’t realize the extent of collaboration required between the design team, general contractors, finish installers, finish suppliers and material manufacturers, to ensure long-term use of the completed installation.

Each component of construction is regulated by codes from municipalities, provinces, states and countries, and by factors within their own industries. Recommendations for tile and stone installations, for example, are supported by the Terrazzo, Tile and Marble Association of Canada with the Specification Guide 09 30 00 Tile installation Manual (2012-2014 current edition), updated regularly to reflect changes to the construction industry.

Precise communication and a full understanding of individual responsibilities between all parties involved in the project are crucial components for success. What are the specific responsibilities? Here are some basic guidelines to consider when detailing roles and responsibilities of the project team.

Finish supplier

Finish suppliers are responsible to ensure their product will meet the aesthetic, warranty and functional needs of the owner/design team. They must also provide a precise industry/code/standards identification of materials and methods.

Preparation/installation material manufacturer

These product manufacturers are responsible to ensure their product will meet the warranty and functional needs of the owner/design team. Simply put, manufacturers provide products designed to meet the performance requirements of the project. They will provide product qualifications to meet the requirements outlined by the design team and as stipulated by industry standards. Manufacturers provide thorough documentation, the performance values of their products as well as the site conditions required to meet these declared values. Manufacturers do not take responsibility for the methodology chosen to achieve code, preparation, structural requirements or other duties. These fall under the responsibility of the general contractor and the finish installer.

NOTE: A distributor is not the technical representative for the manufacturer and, as such, it is important the design team ensures the actual manufacturer supports any information provided.

Finish installation firms

The installer must ensure he can prepare the substrate and install the finish properly, according to industry standards and the instructions provided by the material manufacturer. He must assure the chosen installation material meets the requirements stipulated by the finish manufacturer. He must also attain assurances from the general contractor that all structural, substrate and any other conditions concerning the chosen application can be met.

General contractor

The general contractor must ensure the structural and installation criteria as provided by the sub-trade can be respected. This includes allocation and provision of proper installation and protection environments, as well as respecting cure times before exposing the installation to work from other trades. The general contractor/construction manager must execute all of the requirements set forth in the project specifications.

Design team (architects, engineers, designers, site managers)

As it is a team effort to fulfill the project needs, the design team is the team leader. The design team usually has the final decision in determining to whom the responsibility for each component of the project belongs. Using consultation from the other team members, they ensure the choice of materials and methods are doable. Prior to specification, they can alleviate site issues by ensuring compatibility between products and chosen installation methods by consultation with manufacturers’ representatives.

NOTE: Industry standards and recommendations are developed by testing and historical monitoring over many years. They are based on minimal requirements and conditions. Project success is based on the conditions stipulated in these recommendations. Whenever recommendations are presented contradicting or non-conforming to these recommendations, they should be supported with warranty, matching or better than the warranties provided by the suppliers of the industry standard method.              

The Terrazzo, Tile and Marble Association of Canada was founded in 1944 to promote standardized installation techniques and to provide technical resources.


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