California Dreamin’ Made Easy with Sound Reduction by CUSTOM

Thanks to a CUSTOM tile installation system with sound reduction, residents at an oceanside condo development are listening to waves, not footsteps overhead.  This mid-rise project in Santa Monica, Calif. showcases large format natural stone tile in 150 luxury condos and penthouses.  Located just one block from the Pacific Ocean, the LEED Silver certified residences are adjacent to famous attractions like the Santa Monica Pier and the 3rd Street Promenade.

In a multi-story, tiled project including balconies, two concerns were paramount: effective waterproofing and credible sound attenuation.  The Executive Architect, KTGY Group, specified a complete system of CUSTOM membranes, mortars and grouts in these areas where performance is critical.  “We consulted with CUSTOM on some of the challenging aspects of the project and they recommended a system that provided the solutions,” said Axel Stoltz, senior project architect with KTGY.

Public walkways and private balconies at the condos were tiled along with bathrooms, kitchens, a rooftop pool and spa, exterior veneer and even a pet spa room.  Each condominium received extensive and lavish tile treatment in all bathrooms, with marble floors and shower walls in a number of units.  Most of the porcelain and natural stone tile, including marble, travertine, quartzite and limestone, was imported from Italy, Turkey and Spain.

Bathroom floors, showers and tub surrounds were all treated with RedGard® Waterproofing and Crack Prevention Membrane. RedGard is a liquid-applied elastomeric membrane that bonds to a variety of surfaces including drain assemblies and provides a continuous barrier to both water and moisture vapor.   It is listed with IAPMO as a shower pan liner and exceeds all applicable ANSI standards for waterproofing.  RedGard also isolates cracks up to 1/8″ to protect the natural stone tiles over suspended flooring.

Tile of all sizes, from 5/8″ x 1-1/4″ to 24″ x 24″, on both walls and floors, was set with ProLite® Premium Large Format Tile Mortar.  ProLite is a non-slump, non-sag formula with high flexibility and excellent handling characteristics.  It also exceeds ANSI A118.4TE, A118.15TE and A118.11 without the need for additives.  Bathroom tile was grouted with PolyBlend®, a polymer-modified grout that produces dense joints that resist shrinking. PolyBlend Non-Sanded Grout was used with glass mosaics and other sensitive materials, including metallic tile, to prevent scratching the surface.

Sound attenuation is a concern in all multi-story, multi-family developments – especially for owners of luxury condos. To minimize the transmission of impact sound, like footsteps, from reaching occupants on the floor below, the tile assembly required an effective sound reduction membrane.  Impact Insulation Class (IIC) is an objective measurement that rates the impact sound performance of a floor/ceiling system. The higher the IIC rating, the better the impact noise control.

CUSTOM EasyMat® Tile & Stone Underlayment with SoundGard® Technology can achieve an IIC of 71 over an 8″ concrete slab with an acoustical ceiling. Based on independently proven performance, EasyMat was ultimately chosen to reduce impact sound transmission at the condos.

EasyMat is up to 25 times lighter and 4 times faster to install than traditional backerboard, and is also water resistant, making it ideal for intermittently wet areas like bathrooms. Above all, EasyMat provides superior sound reduction, which was further demonstrated by independent acoustical testing conducted at the job site. “We are very pleased with the sound-proofing from EasyMat.  It was less expensive, easier to install and gave better performance than a competitive product from another manufacturer that was tested during construction,” said Andre Ruggeri, CEO of Ruggeri Marble.

Each of the condos has a balcony to take advantage of the ocean and downtown views. Balconies abutting or erected over occupied living space offer special challenges for tile contractors.  The first step in the balcony assembly was a polyurethane coating with sand broadcast, which was recommended by a waterproofing consultant on the project. A pressure coat of ProLite RS Rapid-Setting Mortar was used with a mortar bed built over it to provide the required pitch for drainage away from the building.

RedGard was then applied to prevent moisture migration into the mortar.  Porcelain tile in 4″ x 26″ and 18″ x 18″ formats was installed with rapid-setting ProLite RS, which is designed for use with large and heavy tile, and is also ready for grouting in less than three hours.  Because of continuous exposure to sun and sea air, this exterior tile was grouted with Prism® Color Consistent Grout.  Prism is a fast-setting, polymer-modified grout that will not mottle or shade regardless of humidity and it will not effloresce compared to standard cement grouts.  “All of the tile installation products performed beautifully – there has been no need for repairs,” added Ruggeri. “I only use CUSTOM in my installations.”

Both of the extensively tiled buildings in the development achieved LEED Silver status and several of the CUSTOM tile installation products used contribute to LEED certification.  ProLite and Prism are both part of CUSTOM’s Emerald System® line of environmentally responsible products for green building. Emerald System products include lightweight, recycled content, and are guaranteed to comply with leading environmental agencies.  They also offer the project Carbon Offset Credits to reduce greenhouse gases. ProLite weighs 40% less than traditional mortars and a 30 lb. bag covers the same area as a 50 lb. bag of standard mortar.

As an added benefit for peace of mind, RedGard, EasyMat and Prism are all eligible for up to a Lifetime System Installation Warranty when used as component of a qualifying system.



Santa Monica, CA

Year Completed:



KTGY, Los Angeles, CA


Charles Pankow Builders, Pasadena, CA

Tile Contractor:

Ruggeri Marble and Granite, Wilmington, CA

CBP Architectural Consultant:

O. John Diaz, CSI, CTC, national architectural services coordinator

CBP Regional Technical Representative:

Jose Leyva, territory manager; David Stephens, technical services representative