Porcelain tile panels offer a luxurious and durable solution for flooring, countertops and wall installations. However, their large size and substantial weight require careful handling to ensure successful placement and minimize the risk of damage. In this article, we'll explore the best practices for handling, picking up and maneuvering gauged porcelain tile/slabs.

Understanding Porcelain Tile Slabs

Before delving into handling techniques, it's crucial to understand the characteristics of porcelain tile slabs. Because of gauged porcelain’s strength—in a large size and thin depth—these panels/slabs are versatile options for commercial or residential projects from countertops to shower walls to furniture and exterior cladding. 

ANSI A137.3 describes the minimum physical properties and grading procedures for gauged porcelain tiles and gauged porcelain tile panels/slabs. It provides quality criteria for buyers, specifiers, installers, manufacturers, and the public in general. “Gauged” means manufactured to a thickness that is specific and largely associated with installation and use. Tile panels/slabs are those that are one square meter in facial area or larger.

Considerations For Working with GPTP/S

ANSI A108.19 provides procedures and requirements for interior installation of gauged porcelain tiles and gauged porcelain tile panels/slabs. We also have standards for the installation of these panels for exterior installations found in ANSI A108.20. These products require unique installation and workmanship considerations, so workers should be familiar with ANSI A108.19 guidelines and installation requirements for GPTP/S, and should have participated in installer qualification programs as outlined in ANSI A108.19, like the NTCA regional training program.

Preparation is Key

Proper preparation is essential before working with gauged porcelain tile panels/slabs. Here are some key steps to follow:

  • Evaluate the installation site to determine the best approach for transporting the slabs.
  • Elevators may be too small to accommodate the tiles in their full formats. Pre-planning of the size of the tile and the related logistics required to move the material to the point of installation is crucial. 
  • Make provisions for clear pathways when tiles need to be moved (i.e. from storage areas for the crates to the installation area or from a fabrication station to the installation area).
  • Clear the work area of any debris or obstacles that could pose a hazard during handling. Make sure the surface is clean, level and free from moisture to prevent slips or accidents.
  • Ensure you have adequate manpower for GPTP/S projects. When removing gauged porcelain tile panels/slabs from the shipping crate, always use at least two installers. A minimum of three workers is recommended for the installation, though contractors often schedule four or more.

Tools and Equipment

Many new products have come on the market for handling and moving panels/slabs. Keeping abreast of the latest innovations to better handle and work with GPTP/S will help to facilitate your installations.

  • Equip yourself with the appropriate tools and equipment for handling porcelain tile slabs safely. This may include a suction cup framed rack, handling devices, carts, handling systems, slab trolleys, slab tables, slab carrying clamps, a vibrating tool, lippage control devices, special gloves and safety goggles.
  • Make sure panels and slabs are free of debris and dust before using any suction tool.
  • Thoroughly remove all dust and contaminants from the surface using a microfiber towel to ensure the best outcome with any of the tools and equipment used. 

Proper Lifting Techniques

When lifting porcelain tile slabs, it's essential to use proper technique to avoid strain or injury. Follow these guidelines recommended by the NTCA:

  • Follow the manufacturer's guidelines for lifting and carrying the slabs. 
  • Employ mechanical aids such as suction cup lifters or slab carrying clamps to lift and maneuver porcelain tile slabs. These tools provide a secure grip and distribute the weight evenly, reducing the risk of accidents.
  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and maintain a stable, balanced posture while lifting. Keep your back straight and use the strength of your legs to lift, rather than relying solely on your back muscles.
  • When lifting with a partner, communicate clearly and coordinate your movements to ensure smooth and controlled handling. 

Maneuvering Techniques

Maneuvering porcelain tile slabs requires careful coordination and precision to avoid damage. Follow these tips for smooth and efficient handling:

  • Before moving the slab, plan the route you will take to transport it to the installation site. Avoid tight corners, narrow passageways or uneven surfaces that could pose challenges. 
  • Be aware of your surroundings and watch for potential hazards such as door frames, walls or other obstacles. Clear the path ahead and ensure there is sufficient space to maneuver the slab safely.
  • When carrying the slab, use firm but gentle grips to prevent slippage. Avoid placing excessive pressure on the edges or corners, as this could cause chipping or breakage.


Mastering the art of handling porcelain tile slabs requires careful preparation, the right tools and equipment, proper skilled labor, correct lifting techniques and precise maneuvering. By following the guidelines outlined in this article, you can properly handle porcelain tile slabs in your next installation project. Remember to always prioritize safety and use mechanical aids whenever possible to reduce the risk of injury or damage. With training, practice and attention to detail, you can achieve the right result and create stunning tile installations that stand the test of time.

NTCA offers various training and education opportunities to tile installers and other industry professionals. To learn more and register for one of our free, standards-based workshops or regional trainings, visit NTCAtraining.com.