The rationale for having this 37’-diameter world map mural was to offer a brightly colored, interesting-looking floor that would welcome all visitors, patients and hospital workers upon entering the facility. The designers selected large format, pre-cast terrazzo tiles produced by Wausau Tile, Inc. in an exquisite array of colors. Whereas for this project many of these functioned as “field tiles,” a great number of them were shipped to Waters Edge, the highly-acclaimed waterjet cutting and fabrication specialist located in Burlington, Iowa, to be precision-cut and assembled into this masterpiece of floor design as the very focal world map.
“This was a large project for waterjet and as a result, a great number of steps had to be taken to ensure total quality,” stated Jeff Crowner, President of Waters Edge. “Even though the tiles were big (24” x 24” x 5/8”) which meant we could have some sizable pieces to use in our assembly, we wanted to put all the pieces of the map, no matter how large, together very tightly. The grout joints between the field tiles were 1/8” wide; those between the waterjet-cut pieces were 1/6” wide. Ultimately, this worked out fine.”
Crowner went on to state that each waterjet-cut tile was assembled with fiberglass mesh and flexible setting material. A layout grid was produced, indicating via number where each individual tile was to be positioned in the final floor installation. Nine crates were built to ship the custom-cut tile directly to the jobsite. On top of each of these crates was a picture of the floor, letting the installer knows exactly which tiles were included within. “We try not to allow even the tiniest margin for error,” added Crowner.
By this time, most people in the flooring and/or hard surfaces trades are familiar with waterjet technology. Quickly defined, it consists of a computer-driven arm with a nozzle at its end, capable of slicing into highly dense materials such as granite, using a jet-stream of water at high velocity and pressure… or, a mixture of water and an abrasive substance such as tiny particles of garnet. People should think of it as a greatly accelerated and concentrated process very similar to water erosion found in nature. When it comes to cutting hard surfaces such as porcelain tile, granite and other flooring materials, this computer-run process guarantees perfect cuts that may be repeated time after time after time. This means that in the unlikely situation a waterjet-cut floor design is damaged, it can quickly and accurately be recreated, as the original cutting instructions have been saved via computer.
Dense and thick materials can now be precisely cut at a speed three times greater than that offered by waterjet technology just ten years ago. Whereas such precision and speed are important for systematic production in today’s accelerated world, Waters Edge cautiously applies this same efficient approach to its daily working regimen. “The key to a project such as this,” explains Crowner “is simply being very methodical. Just because we can cut a piece of granite faster today than we could a few years ago, doesn’t mean we can cut corners time-wise when it comes to assembling the fabricated materials, packaging them for shipment to the jobsite or creating an intelligent schematic crafted specifically to communicate to the installer regarding what tiles go where. Cutting used to be the biggest challenge. Now, its just one part of the puzzle we physically put together and then ship out.”
The entire floor mural theme was conceived by Visalia Ceramic Tile (the company which handled the installation) in the following colors from Daltile’s Terrazzo Tile Series by Wausau Tile: TZ67 Socialite; TZ64 Attitude; TZ35 Mint Julip; TZ06 Tree Moss; TZ53 Analytical; TZ69 Optimistic. The “chips” which make up a great percentage of both the integral and surface areas of each tile added great depth to the map, according to Crowner. “The characteristics of the terrazzo added waves to the ocean areas and a perceived topographical feel to the map’s continents,” he stated. The entire World Map Mural was installed using modified latex thin-set per TCNA guidelines. Children’s Hospital Central California purchased tile materials from Dal-Tile, which is the exclusive national distributor of Wausau Tile. “This may be the most beautiful waterjet tile installation I have ever seen,” exclaimed Eric Schlundt, Fresno, CA manager of Daltile. “The simplicity of the way the installer just put the map down piece-by-piece was a sight to behold. It was all so well-planned. I was there almost each day during the installation and was amazed at how professionally everything was handled, from the packaging of the cut tiles, to the schematics given to the Visalia team, to the actual installation.”
A project such as this in the past would take months and months to evolve from concept to completion. Not so in this case. According to Wausau’s Rob Mulry, “The project was ordered on 5/5/11. Both field tiles and those which were waterjet cut and fabricated shipped to the jobsite on 7/8/11. Frankly, this could have been done even quicker, but there were some minor issues for Wausau, as a couple of the colors (such as the sea blue) were brand new, and this was the first time they had been run at 5/8” thick. We wanted to make sure they were perfect.”
Installation only took one week and, “The contractor raved about the ease of installation and the precision of the waterjet work,” added Mulry. “The hospital’s staff seemed very happy, as well.”