On November 21 and 22, 2019, renowned porcelain artist, Roberto Colonetti, hosted a free workshop at The Stone Shop in Ankeny, IA. Colonetti, who is known for his innovative installation techniques, specifically with porcelain vanities, is a current Australian resident who travels to countries all over the world to give hands-on demonstrations of his methods.

Thanks to more than one dozen sponsors — Atlas Plan, Architectural Granite & Marble, Ardex, Breton, Cercol, Cosentino, DeFusco Industrial Supply, Helix Professional Tools, Laticrete, Metro Porcelain, Midwest Tile, Montolit Tiling Tools, Nero, Porcelain Mafia — as well as The Stone Shop, whose employees have been implementing Colonetti’s techniques for quite some time, the workshop was realized.

We began by observing Colonetti's innovative way of constructing porcelain vanities, with an in-depth demonstration using XPS foam backer board from Nero and 6-mm-thick gauged porcelain tile panels (GPTP). Attendees were fascinated by the unconventional method, which is tried-and-true. Many of the people I spoke with said it was the first thing they were going to experiment with when they got back to their shop.

From there, we delved into all things GPTP — from proper transportation to recommended installation methods. Utilizing various transporting and cutting tools from Montolit Tiling Tools, including the Superlift, Flash Line and Table-One, fabricators learned how to correctly handle, cut and transport the large-format materials, which are gaining a lot of traction in both the stone and tile industries.

There were also several hands-on demonstrations of various adhesives that were created specifically to bond this type of material to walls and floors, since its properties vary from that of natural stone or standard-size porcelain/ceramic tiles. Adam Christiansen, technical sales manager at Nero and owner of Advanced Flooring, LLC, in Lawrence, KS, installed an entire shower using three different products — Ardex Americas’ X 77, Bostik’s Bosti-Set and Laticrete’s 257 Titanium — on 126- x 56-inch pieces of Dekton by Cosentino. Attendees were able to compare and contrast the different formulas, which was interesting to observe.

After applying the adhesives, Christiansen demonstrated two ways of adhering the large-format tiles to walls to ensure total coverage. First, he utilized a Battile thumping suction cup from Montolit, which is a lightweight, battery operated handheld tool that sends vibrations to remove any air bubbles from behind the tile’s surface. He also demonstrated how to use a beating block, which is a large rubber paddle that completes the same function as the thumping suction cup, without the advanced technology. “This thins the thinset and makes it more fluid so it can truly bond to the wall,” Christiansen said.

On the second day, we explored the capabilities of Breton USA's Combicut DJ/NC 550 with 8-mm-thick Dekton by Cosentino using two different types of blades that were created for gauged porcelain tiles and other ultra-compact surfaces — Tenax's Dekton blade and Helix Professional Tools' Helion 3 blade. The blades were run at varying speeds and pushed to their limits on the CNC machine to show how they perform.

Meeting all of these fabricators who are now working with tile and wanting to educate themselves about the proper techniques and installation methods is not only refreshing, but a good sign of industry growth.