Thinking Big: TEC Creates New Class of Exterior Adhesive

Thinking Big: TEC Creates New Class of Exterior Adhesive

When Danny Fulton, owner of Fulton Tile and Stone in Evansville, Indiana, needed to find the perfect product to adhere gauged porcelain tile panels to the exterior of Big Rivers Electric’s new corporate headquarters, he knew who to call – his contacts at H.B. Fuller. 

H.B. Fuller’s TEC brand associates had been developing a new single-side application, pre–mixed adhesive to handle the most extreme jobs – exterior porcelain gauged tile panels, submerged applications and glass. The adhesive needed to withstand wide extremes in temperature and caustic underwater applications like chlorinated swimming pools. And it had to be easy to use.

It was a tall order, and the TEC team at H.B. Fuller and their product distributor, Louisville Tile were ready.

Tested in Lab and in the Real-World

We asked ourselves “How can we develop a pre-mixed exterior tile adhesive that meets and exceeds our customers’ expectations?” said John Anderson, Senior Product Manager, H.B Fuller.

For several years, the TEC team had been testing numerous iterations of a totally new product category – exterior non-water-based, modified silane adhesive. John and the R&D staff put the product through grueling tests, especially for exterior and submerged conditions. “The product had to withstand a lot of freeze/thaw cycling, without a degradation of strength properties,” said John.

They performed over 200 freeze/thaw cycles in conditioning chambers and freezers. “We tortured the product back and forth between extreme heat and cold. Because of its chemistry, it had great range. We didn’t see a drop in strength despite what we put it through,” said John.

And in the field, Fulton Tile and Stone had tested several versions of the product. All parties agreed, TEC TotalFlex® XMS Tile Adhesive was ready for the big stage. A run of the product was shipped to Danny to use on the most complex exterior project Fulton Tile had ever tackled.

Handles Cold Weather Exterior Applications

When Danny’s team began, it was already October in the Midwest. Dropping temperatures would have been a big concern using traditional water-based mortars, possibly requiring costly and time-consuming tenting to ensure proper overnight cure temperatures were maintained.

Because TotalFlex® XMS is not a water-based product, it avoids these barriers. It works beyond temperature cure limits—working from 40 degrees to 95 degrees Fahrenheit. (Mortars have a 50-degree minimum.) And TEC Installation Systems offers a warranty for exterior applications—something the competitors do not.

“Not having to be concerned about temperatures, is a humongous game changer,” said Danny, whose firm specializes in installing large-format panels.

Does the Heavy Lifting for Gauged Porcelain Tile Panels

Like a growing number of jobs today, the Big Rivers project was specified with gauged porcelain tile panels. Offering a wide range of colors, the panels look great—mimicking marble, onyxes and natural stone, as well as modern stone and concrete. They beautifully cover large areas with fewer grout lines/joints. It’s no wonder architects and designers love them! The consistency of the man-made designs offer better opportunity to book-match panels for a flowing, finished look.

For this new corporate headquarters, the porcelain gauged tiles used were LaminamSpA I Naturali Statuario Venato Matte from Crossville®. The faux statuary marble panels added a sophisticated touch to the first-floor entry, covering vertical columns and continuing under the soffit areas. It defines the first floor and adds emphasis to the main entry.  

But with these big porcelain tiles, come some big challenges. 

The Big Rivers project included 8,400 square feet of panels – that’s 240 exterior panels measuring 3.5 x 10 feet each (or 39 mm x 119 mm). Because these panels are so thin, they require special handling and specialty tools like suction cups. These Statuario Venato 3+ panels are 3mm thick, fiberglass resin bonded mesh on the back for integrity, so they won’t crack. And the added challenge was these enormous panels needed to be scissor-lifted to 16 feet in the air!

“It’s very tricky,” said Danny. “Gauged porcelain panels handle more like glass. They are very brittle and can’t be twisted or tweaked.” The panels have to remain rigid throughout handling and adhesion—from the box to the worktable, to lifting into position and adhering into place.”

The team used a TEC installation system of products on the job. HydraFlex™ Waterproofing Crack Isolation Membrane was used on the walls to cover the panels and make them waterproof. TEC AccuColor 100® Silicone Sealant was used on all the joints. TEC product applications were overseen by Kevin Weinzapfel, Commercial Coordinator at Louisville Tile.  

Getting Airborne with a Lightweight, Labor-Saving Solution

TotalFlex® XMS only needs to be applied to one surface—no need to back-butter the tile and prepare the substrate like traditional cement-based mortars. This literally cuts the time in half. In the Big Rivers headquarters project, Danny chose to apply adhesive to the porcelain panels. 

The lighter weight of TotalFlex® XMS versus sand-heavy traditional mortars meant that the large gauge panels could be lifted into place with less chance of breakage. 

“It’s more lightweight, making the panels easier to lift,” said Kelly Snapp, Technical Sales Representative for H.B. Fuller. “You don’t need to scissor lift with 50 lbs. of mortar on the tiles. Because the tiles are only 35mm thick, any wrong move will shatter it.” 

No Mixing – Use Right Out of the Pail

The product is ready to go right from the 4-gallon pails. No mixing is required. This means you don’t have to have additional labor on site to mix the mortar—crews just open the pails and get to work. There is also no need for mixing equipment, requiring water and electricity—and clean-up is easy. “The combination of no mixing and one-surface application speeds up the process tremendously,” said John. “What normally takes 4-5 people, now takes 3-4 people.”

Easy to Use With Great Grip, Trowelability and Workability

TotalFlex® XMS has an even, creamy consistency that hangs on to the trowel. “Installers raved about how easy it was to use,” said Danny.

Good Trowelability

“The adhesive offers a smooth, buttery consistency that is easy to work with,” said Danny. He and his team liked its “perfect consistency”⎯not too thick and gummy, not too runny. “The last thing we want is for it to be dripping off the panel.”

No Sag

“If using a ½ inch trowel, there is no slump, so the adhesive can hold that height,” said Kelly. That’s important because most tiles have warp. The ideal product should provide full coverage. If a product slumps, an air pocket can form, which makes it easier for the tile to crack.

“It offers nice trowel ridge/trowel tension,” John agreed. “Once you’ve lifted the panel into place on the wall, just tap and the product properly wets out the surface.”

Good Workability and Open Time

TotalFlex® XMS offers good green grab so it’s easier to get into place, but it also has a longer open time to provide the workability to adjust if needed. 

“Maybe you want to move it up 1/16” to ½”—the product allows that,” said John. “Open time is substantially longer than competitive products—we offer 60 minutes compared with 30 – 45 minutes with competitors.” 

Kelly pointed out that the new adhesive helps give workers more leeway on timing. Mortar can quickly skin over, which means “the crews  have to be very quick.” 

Faster Cure Time

A quicker cure time speeds up workflow, allowing workers to move to the grout phase in 12 hours versus the traditional 24 hours with mortar-based products—that’s twice as fast!

Superior Strength Offers an Effective Adhesive 

Strong Grab

The project demanded good grab, not only for the vertical exterior applications, but also to adhere to the ceiling surfaces on the soffits. The TEC modified silane adhesive offers great green grab for superior initial tack and higher strengths.

Exceeds ISO Standards

“We put the product through 200 freeze/thaw cycles,” said John. “This exceeds the standard set by the International Standard Organization (ISO) and ISO 14448 for exterior wall-time adhesion. We’re the only company out there that has passed that test that I’m aware of.”

Safe and No Waste

“This new technology is non-toxic, so users don’t need to worry about health concerns,” said John. “There’s less waste. If you don’t use all of the product in one job, you can simply put the lid back on and save for the next.” 

Flexible Uses

“There isn’t much this product won’t stick to,” said John. “Because of the make-up, it’s super versatile. And it works well in tough conditions—you can see the results on the Big Rivers building.”

“This is extremely important for today’s porcelain gauged panels which have a mesh backing for strength,” said Kelly. “Not all mortars will want to stick to that and handle fiberglass materials.”

Kelly also shared a recent project where TotalFlex® XMS was used for a swimming pool repair. Because the adhesive is totally waterproof, it allowed the team to repair, install and refill the pool in eight days. Normally, using a mortar, the pool would need to reach a full cure, which could be 28 days. That means the pool was only shut down for one week—versus one month! 

It’s great for other applications as well. Because the adhesive is pure white, it’s perfect for transparent applications like glassincluding large format. Some competitive products contain black specs that could show through.

A Partnership Built on Trust

Fulton Tile had been the beta test partner for TotalFlex® XMS Tile Adhesive, providing valuable real-world feedback on how the product performed. It was only fitting that Fulton Tile be the first customer to use a full run of the product. Well, actually, a full-run prior to the product even getting final labels. 

“We’ve appreciated H.B. Fuller’s support on this,” said Danny Fulton. “We were the only contractor throughout the country working on this. I trust the company wholeheartedly. They would not put it in our hands if they didn’t believe it would work. I thought if they can stand behind it, we can too.”

“Danny had a lot of faith,” said Kelly. “The second field trial gave them confidence it would do what it needed, and were able to warranty for exterior use. It was nice to be able to meet Fulton Tile’s expectations and get the right product for these guys, especially when they were truly instrumental in getting this where it needed to be.”

With the introduction of the TEC TotalFlex® XMS Tile Adhesive, H.B. Fuller is hoping to make big changes in the industry. It’s the only modified silane, no mix, single-side application product available, truly pushing the limits on strength, applications, and temperature cures. 

“I feel that H.B. Fuller has always been an innovator – taking TEC products very quickly from design to reality,” said Kelly. “That’s one of our advantages. And having great industry partners like Fulton Tile gives us real-world experience so we can take things to the next level.” 

“This is a game changer for the industry,” said Danny Fulton.

Posted by
TEC Staff