From the Editor’s Desk: Introducing tiledealer.org
 
March 1st, 2004

by Janet Arden, Editor
Mar-Apr 2004

This month TileDealer magazine debuted its companion website, www.tiledealer.org. I encourage you to visit this site soon.

All of us at TileDealer believe the website is important to our readers and advertisers for a number of reasons.

First, of course, it gives TileDealer an Internet presence. If you are at all like us, you do a lot of Internet research. The website makes TileDealer features, columns, and advertisers available at your fingertips. What was the new product you read about in Innovations? What was the website the Sales & Management column directed you to?

If you are a TileDealer reader and want to contact one of our advertisers, click on “Request Advertiser Information,” and send an immediate request to as many of our advertisers as you would like to hear from.

If you are a TileDealer advertiser, you are only a click away from readers looking for more information on your product or service. We think this is a more efficient, more responsive system than the traditional reader response card.

If you are looking for a product, the Distributor Search function allows you to search by name, location or product category. This feature is powered by CTDA’s database of members, providing you hundreds of contacts and potential business relationships.

I hope you will take great advantage of these features of tiledealer.org. However I also want to encourage you to use the reader poll, also known as “What do you think?” as well as the “Contact Us” features of the website.

“What do you think?” is an informal poll for site visitors. It offers TileDealer the opportunity to take the industry’s pulse on given topic and report results back to you. As I write this, the poll asks visitors how their companies economic outlook for 2004 compares to 2003. Most important, tiledealer.org is an evolving website designed to meet reader, advertiser and industry needs. That’s why “Contact Us” is important. Click there to send us your comments, questions and suggestions.


Innovations
 
March 1st, 2004

Mar-Apr 2004

The Bostik Findley Introductions

The Bostik Findley Flooring Group has introduced 19 new grout colors and a new Hydroment Grout Color Kit to display all 46 grout colors. The new color introductions reflect several key color trends impacting grout sales and related construction and design trends. The introductions reflect the company’s goal of “staying ahead of the color curve,” so distributors and retailers, and their end customers (including architectural firms, design centers, dev4eelopers, construction companies, contractors and consumers) have dozens of complimentary colors to choose from when selecting a Hydroment grout. Bostik Findley has also introduced Hydroment ® All Set Advanced , a ready-to-use urethane-based antifracture and waterproofing membrane specifically designed for use beneath thin-set ceramic tile and stone installations on vertical and horizontal surfaces. A one-part, elastomeric waterproofing/crack isolation membrane, Hydroment Ultra-Set Advanced is suitable for use over a variety of substrates in commercial and residential applications, including concrete, cement block walls, cement backer board, gypsum board, exterior grade plywood, and more. Hydroment Ultra-Set Advanced meets ANSI A1118.10 for waterproofing membranes beneath thin-set tile and stone; ASTM C-836-89 requirements for high solids content, cold liquid applied elastomeric waterproofing membranes for use with separate wearing course; ASTM C627-81 specifications for anti-fracture capabilities; and Uniform Plumbing Code 3471 for non-metallic shower pan liners. Hydroment Ultra-Set Advanced is safe, non-flammable, and complies with all current state and federal regulations for Volatile Organic Compounds. (www.bostikfindley-us.com, 978-777-0100)

Innovative Stone Retro Available in Mosaic Stone Format

Innovative Stone Inc. has launched RETRO Mosaics, a unique checkerboard servies fashioned in Italy and perfect for countertops, vanities, tabletops and furniture and other furnishings. RETRO technology blends a mixture of 93 percent crushed quartz with a polyester resin binder to deliver rich base colors. Lapis lazuli, multi-colored Murano glass chills, mirror flecks, metal shavings and mother of pearl are infused into the base mixture. Fabricated like granite with a similar hardness factor, RETRO has excellent hardness physical properties, stain, and scratch resistance. Polished and honed RETRO surfaces (wet and dry) meet or exceed OSHA and DOT requirements and ADA recommendations in accordance with ASTM C1028 Static Coefficient of Friction of Ceramic Tile and Other Like SurfacesStandard Mosaic color blends include Chiascuro (black, white and two shades of gray) Commedia (black, white, green terracotta, yellow and royal blue) Frivolo (white, cream and peach) Notturno (white, crème, terracotta and brown) Ondata (white, cream and peach), Scacchi (black and white), and Umbra (white, gray , peach, terracotta and light blue). Individual squares are ¾-inch by ¾ inch; RETRO Mosaics are available in 4-foot by 10-foot by 1-inch thick slab format. . (www.innovativestone.com, 800-627-8663)

Pietre Travertine & Crema Marfil Ilva SA is presenting the Pietre Travertine series, an exquisite and stylish rectified porcelain tile with the look of cross-cut travertine marble. The resilient Pietre Travertine tile is being offered in shades of bianco, beige, noce and rosso. The line includes matching borders, listellos, bullnose, and inserts. Pietre Travertine in available in 14-inch by 14-inch, and 18-inch by 18-inch floor tiles, 3.2-inch by 3.2-inch mesh-mounted mosaics and 3.2-inch by 7-inch brick, and 7-inch by 7-inch wall tiles.

Ilva has also introduced Crema Marfil with three textures – polished, antique and natural – in a through body porcelain tile with natural stone finishes appropriate for both residential and commercial installations. Crema Marfil is offered in a variety of floor and wall combinations and in mesh-mounted mosaics. The line includes a variety of accessories: listellos, glass and marble inserts, metal liners, torellos, corners, bullnoses, sink rails, quarter rounds and more. (305-667-7090)

Studio Line Online Studio Line glass tile is displaying its affordable, quality glass tile on the web at www.studiolineglasstile.com. By just a click of the mouse, customers can view vibrant installation and product shots of Studio Line, including the firm’s beautiful 27 colors. Installation techniques, a warranty description, distributor locations and an email contact form are also all featured at www.studiolineglasstile.com. Studio Line, the easily installed, un-tempered glass tile is available in a variety of sizes from 1-inch by 1-inch through 8-inch by 8-inch squares and a number of rectangular sizes. Durable and guaranteed not to fade or scratch after an installation, Studio Line is the glass tile perfect for any type of interior/exterior wall or wet room installation. (239-275-7331, www.studiolineglasstile.com)

New Wheel Kits TI-PRO™ a division of the North American Tile Tool Company (NATTCO), is now offering the professional wheel kits in two sizes. The 7/8″ Carbide Replacement Wheel Kit (PCK2005) is used for all TI Pro model tile cutters and are Titanium coated wheel for longer life. The 1/2″ Carbide Replacement Wheel Kit (DCK1066) is available for all 13″ model tile cutters. “Our wheel kits are of the same high quality as our other tools for the industry,” stated NATTCO’s President Brian Turner. NATTCO is the total source in North America for all ceramic tile and natural stone installation tools. The TI-PRO division offers tools specifically for professional installation contractors. (800-406-TILE, www.nattco.com)

Tile, Grout & Stone Care from SGM, Inc. Southern Grouts & Mortars, Inc. (SGM, Inc.), a leader in Installation Systems for Ceramic Tile and Dimension Stone, is pleased to announce it has introduced a brand Line of GROUT, TILE & STONE CARE – aimed at cleaning and sealing grout, tile and stone. These products are effective formulas that prevent other contaminants from destroying the surface. The line of Cleaners & Sealers simplifies maintenance and helps the floor retain its natural color longer! These heavy-duty products have a liquid consistency that allows the product to be applied effortlessly utilizing a sprayer, sponge or brush. This contractor’s choice cleaners & sealers can be used on wall and floor applications. (800-641-9247 www.sgm.cc)

Latest Roberts Catalog Online From surface preparation products to adhesives, heat bond tapes and the widest range of tools available for all floor covering installations, the newest Roberts catalog contains detailed information about the company’s complete line of floor covering installation products. The 52-page full color catalog contains new Roberts’ products and highlights new features on old favorites. This new catalog is also available online at www.robertsconsolidated.com or by accessing the Roberts link from the parent website, www.qep.com. The online catalog has multiple search options to help locate items quickly and easily, detailed product descriptions with thumbnail and enlarged images, and a downloadable PDF version. (561-994-5550)

Precision H2O Refires Murals for Perfect Edge Precision H2O, a leader in waterjet designs, ensures that murals, emblems, insignias and logos will reflect a beautifully finished, healed edge due to the company’s unique re-firing process. Through the re-firing process, all waterjet-cut pieces appear to be cut and custom-glazed within the final design. The end result is a look both professional and artistic. “The re-firing process is proof of our dedication to a perfectly created mural with softer finished edges,” said Peter Mileo of Precision H2O. Kilns, in which the waterjet-cut creations are fired, belong to the Quarry Tile Company – sister firm to Precision H2O. Precision H2O has the ability to cut a multitude of murals, medallions and logos that retailers, hospitals/institutions, government buildings, offices and schools can select from standard or custom made designs using this process. The firm also has the ability to inset various materials into a design to create complex murals, detailed signage, corporate logos and geometric shapes. (509-536-9214, www.precisionh2o.com)

Warmup Undertile Heating Warmup has the ideal solution for dealing with customers’ cold feet – the main objection against ceramic or stone flooring. The innovative heating element, as thin as a nickel, won’t affect floor levels and its flexible design means that it can be laid in the most awkward of rooms. Warmup’s intention is to simplify the often over complicated process of radiant electric heating. There is no need to dig up existing flooring so it is a great choice when remodeling bathrooms or kitchens and for new additions such as sunrooms. Everything necessary to install the system is contained in one box and can be installed in a matter of hours. Tape the heating element to the floor and tile over it – it’s as simple as that. The system includes a digital programmable thermostat with four timer settings so that the system fits your customer’s lifestyle. Warmup Undertile Heating System meets the latest UL standards and comes with a 10-year warranty. ( www.warmup.net)

MAPEI MAPEI has begun incorporating BioBlock, a powerful new anti-microbial technology, directly into its industry-leading tile grouts and caulks to inhibit the growth of odor and stain-causing mold and mildew. Nick DiTempora, president of MAPEI Americas, said with this onestep process, installers are ensured that MAPEI’s Keracolor™ and Ultracolor® grouts and Keracaulk™ lines are protected against mold and mildew without the need to add a second component to the mixture during installation. Mold has become a major public issue due to its damaging effects on buildings and, in some instances, people. Moist areas, such as showers and kitchen sinks, are particularly susceptible to mildew growth, which can damage and discolor the grout and tile. BioBlock technology shields grout from these damage-causing microbes. BioBlock is an extension of MAPEI’s strategy of providing ecologically conscious building materials. The company first began using mold-inhibiting technology in selected products in its ECO line of floor covering installation systems several years ago. MAPEI’s grouts and caulks are available in a pallet of 30 matching colors, all protected with BioBlock. More information about BioBlock is available at www.mapei.com. (1-800-42-MAPEI, www.mapei.com)


Industry Insights
 
March 1st, 2004

Mar-Apr 2004

Louisville Tile Distributors

Louisville Tile Distributors recently hosted its Day at the Races customer appreciation event at Louisville’s world-renowned Churchill Downs. The annual extravaganza was co-sponsored by Florida Tile and TEC. 350 people participated in the festivities, which included specially sponsored races, paddock tours, a buffet meal and plenty of fun. Louisville Tile Distributors, Inc. is based in Louisville, KY, with locations in Tennessee (Chattanooga, Knoxville, Nashville), Ohio (Cincinnati), Indiana (Evansville, Indianapolis), and Kentucky (Lexington, Louisville). Serving the Midwest and Southeast since 1955, Louisville Tile distributes tile products and supplies for commercial and residential use to the trade.

Girard General Manager at Georgia Marble Georgia Marble Company and Polycor recently announced the promotion of Normand Girard as General Manager of the Georgia Stone Quarries, Inc. Over the past six years, Girard has held the General Manager position at the Quebec-based firms Granilac and Polycor. He also functioned as Operations Manager at Polycor. Girard’s focus as General Manager of the Georgia Stone Quarries includes implementing the wire saw extraction method at the quarries to increase productivity and product quality. “The wire saw extraction method is an exciting advancement for the Georgia Stone Quarries. It’s great to be part of such an innovative team,” said Girard. Girard currently resides in Woodstock, Georgia. (800-334-0122)

World Ceramic Tile Manufacturers Forum The Turkish Ceramic Tile Manufacturers Association recently held the 10th annual World Ceramic Tile Manufacturers Forum, bringing together representatives from ceramic tile associations in the United States, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Japan. The forum, held in Istanbul, Turkey, included the ideas and expertise of leaders from the Turkish Ceramic Association, Tile Council of America, Desvres, Assopiastrelle, Centro Ceramico, Icot-Ryowa Co., Ltd., Inax Corporation, Cera Messe Co. Ltd., Fujimi Ceramic Co. Ltd., TodorokiSeito C. Ltd., Japan Manufacturers Association, and Ascer. Discussion topics included statistics, country reports, trade issues, WTO negotiations, ISO and CEN standardization, environment, health & safety issues, and public safety actions. The World Ceramic Tile Manufacturers Forum was established in 1996. Participants meet in alternating host countries to discuss common interests within the industry.


Ceramic Tile’s World-Wide View
 
March 1st, 2004

Ceramic Tile’s World-Wide View

by Jeffrey Steele Mar-Apr 2004

Imported tiles reflect the history and culture of the manufacturing country, as well as growing manufacturing and marketing sophistication.

Tile is a worldwide product and today’s tile marketplace is dominated by imports. In a November 2003 report on the State of the U.S. Tile Industry, the Tile Council of America (TCA) said that 78% of the ceramic tile in America is imported. The most recent 12-month numbers, as reported by the US Customs Service, are for 2002. They indicate Italy continued to dominate imports to the US with 708 million square feet. Spain ranked second with 391 million square feet and Mexico closely followed with 289 million square feet. Brazil ranked fourth with 240 million square feet.

Countries as far flung as Turkey, Egypt and China have joined traditional players like Italy, Spain, Mexico and Brazil. The consumer, of course, is the winner here – with more styles, formats, and even prices to choose from. The challenge is for the dealer and distributor to balance the old with the new, the accessible with the exotic, and price with quality. What follows is by no means an exhaustive review of imported tiles. It is a look at trends in the import market.

No matter what the country, tile production offers a balance between artistic tradition, manufacturing capability and technology. As president of Portland, Me.-based Communicators International, a marketing and communications firm long associated with the ceramic tile industry, Ron Treister knows the countries producing great tile, and points to places like Brazil, Argentina, Turkey and Mexico as among his favorite exporters. Some of the finest ceramic tile, he believes, comes from Brazil, a country with what he terms “world class manufacturers” using Italian technology.

Spanish tile imports to the US have always been important, but have seen significant increases in recent years (up 15-percent from 2001 to 2002) since identifying the US as that country’s #1 export market. Inma Roca, Florida-based representative of Tiles of Spain, credits the appealing quality/price ratio of Spanish products.

Italy continues to hold the largest share of the US tile market, 26.9-percent according to TCA numbers. Italian designers have delivered looks the American consumer wants and, for many years, at a remarkably affordable price, even for higher end products. Although many industry leaders point to the poor Euro exchange rate which has recently driven prices up and to sophisticated products from other countries as reason to seek other resources, Italian tiles continue to dominate.

WHAT COUNTRY IS YOUR FLOOR FROM?

A quest for the world’s most striking tile is a primary mission of Los Angeles-based Country Floors/Country Tiles, a 40-year-old importer with 84 accredited distributors in the United States. Country Floors has seven company showrooms, including US locations in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Greenwich, Connecticut, New York City and Dania Beach, Florida.

Marketing and advertising manager Eric Carlson reports the “Country” in the company’s name refers not to rustic decors, but to the fact that Country Floors seeks tile products from countries across the globe. “The product mix we arrive at really results from the personal passion of the owners and founders of the company, Norman and Shannon Karlson,” Carlson, no relation, says.

Country Floors imports from Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, Holland, Morocco, Tunisia, Israel, Mexico and many other nations. Offering tiles from all these countries provides Country Tiles and its customers “the historical veracity of all the tiles and images, the decorative motifs and craftsmanship,” Carlson says.

The fact these products are from an array of nations isn’t as important as the craftsmanship and regional decorative influences they feature. For example, the majority of decorative tiles from Portugal are characterized by exquisite hand painting featuring both geometric and organic motifs. Many of the Moroccan tiles the company imports are mosaic, and their common attributes are that they’re all hand cut and hand manufactured to precisely fit and eliminate grout lines. In the Netherlands, Country Floors works with just one supplying company, owned by a family that’s produced tile for more than 400 years. The quality of the craftsmanship and designs has remained unchanged through the centuries.

This uniqueness sets Country Floors apart from other importers, in Carlson’s view. “It’s part of our brand,” he says. “When people are looking for the historical, the real thing, they know they can come to Country Floors and find it. They know they’ll find accessible materials, but will find in the same place materials to achieve a really special installation by using exquisite materials along with commodity materials.”

Despite the far-flung origins of the tile it imports, Country Floors doesn’t worry about the reliability of the supply. “The passion and vision of the founders of our company, and their experience in travel and craftsmanship, have allowed us to develop and nurture a group of suppliers internationally that provide beautiful work in the historical traditions of the countries they represent — and also provide continuity of quality for the American consumer,” Carlson says.

REGIONAL CHARACTERISTICS

Tile products from around the world are also a selling point at Ann Sacks, a Portland, Oregon-based retailer with 17 showrooms across America. Ann Sacks imports from Israel, Mexico, France, Germany, Bulgaria, Turkey, Belgium, Egypt and China, as well as Italy and Spain.

One of the attractive aspects of importing from a range of countries is the opportunity to obtain stone indigenous to particular regions, says senior designer DeeDee Gundberg. “Tile we get from Israel is produced from Jerusalem Gold, a limestone indigenous to that region,” she remarks. “That’s not to say I can’t find a stone in that color range from Mexico, but it wouldn’t be the same stone. I can find a yellow-colored stone in a lot of different places, or a white stone in a lot of different places… If it happens to come from Israel, Belgium, Germany or whatever, that’s not what I’m looking for. I’m looking for characteristics of the stone. I’m marketing characteristics of the stone, not tile from a particular country.” Citing another example, she points to Cararra marble, a world-renowned material from Cararra, Italy. China produces a marble it calls Cararra, but that tile is very white and decidedly different from the Italian Cararra. “We import the Italian, because it has a particular veining that we find much more beautiful than the very stark white Cararra,” Gundberg says.

Mexico and Turkey are famous for their travertine, a stone known for its distinctive indentations and texture. While many countries export travertine, Gundberg particularly likes the product from Mexico and Turkey. Travertines are used often in flooring, fireplaces and walls in both residences and hotels. With a travertine, “you’re purchasing it for the aesthetic, the color, the surface finish and the edge details,” she explains. “Is it honed, polished or tumbled? These are all surface finishes you can give to a stone to make it look a certain way.”

TURKISH EXPORTS OFFER VALUE AND QUALITY

Gundberg, Carlson and DeMeo all point to the quality and value offered by Turkish manufacturers. TileDealer talked with Kaleseramik, a renowned Turkish tile manufacturer with exports to more than 50 markets and a production capacity of 62 million square meters. The variety of the company’s product range, its state-of-the-art technology, and extensive experience in the international business field distinguish the Kale Group from competitors. The manufacturer employs twin-press technology on porcelain products The company’s Kale Stone attracts not only interior designers and architects at markets, but also major contractors who understand the sophisticated technical characteristics of the product.

The Group’s exports are mainly to the European Union (Germany, England, France, Benelux), Russia, Canada, Israel and the United States. The US market is being served through privately- owned distributors like East-Coast Tile Group, D&B and Santa Fe. Kalebodur floor tiles and Çanakkale Seramik wall tiles are exhibited at all major trade shows around the globe including Cersaie and Coverings.

WHAT ABOUT CHINA?

The world’s largest producer of tile is not Italy, but China. U. S. Customs Service reports that in 2002 China exported 32.5 million square feet of tile to the US TCA expects that number to jump to as much as 55 million square feet when complete numbers are released for 2003.

Tom DeMeo, who along with brother Joe DeMeo owns Tile and Marble Outlet in Santa Cruz, California, stocks and sells some tiles from China. Chinese manufacturers produce ceramic, porcelain ceramic, glass and metal tiles as well as cut stone and stone slabs. China, he says, does not yet fit American design well. “[The Chinese] are good at the slick, contemporary European look.” They are reluctant, he says, to do the rustics favored in this country. However, DeMeo says, price is the lure. These imports allow him to meet a particular price point otherwise unreachable, especially given current exchange rates. DeMeo also points out that time also drives imports. On the west coast he can get delivery of tile in 2-½ weeks from China as opposed to 6-8 weeks from Italy. This also saves him the cost of inventory.

ITALY & SPAIN CONTINUE AS THE DESIGN LEADERS

A look at just some of the latest Italian introductions to the American market reveals the design leadership of the leading European tilemakers. Impronta Italgraniti is the merger of two major Italian ceramic tile manufacturers: Impronta Ceramiche which produces glazed porcelain tiles for both residential and commercial applications and Italgraniti, manufacturer of through-body porcelains primarily for commercial projects. Impronta Italgraniti USA is the stateside arm of these companies and maintains a large inventory of products specifically chosen for the North American marketplace within its Springfield, Virginia, warehouse. They are introducing series like Cantine Toscane and Gitane which offer the earthy colors and larger formats (17 by 17-inches and 21 by 21- inches), both strong design trends in this country, along with a variety of accessory pieces that are driving style right now. Innovative Stone’s RETRO Mosaics, an Italian checkerboard series perfect for countertops, vanities and furniture, pushes the use of tile onto furniture and adds color.

Roca says Spanish investments in research and technology have resulted in production capacity equal to that of Italy and believes that the country’s artistic advances have resulted in design leadership. For example, Diago is introducing TEX-TILE at Coverings 2004. It replicates the texture and look of tweed and is produced in camel, toast, gray and pearl. One of Spain’s largest manufacturers, Azumi, is introducing Paris, part of its Zen-inspired, White Fashion collection dominated by different shades of white. The field tile is complemented by Boreal, a colorful glass accent piece that picks up on the increasing popularity of glass tile.

ECONOMICS PLAY A PART

If there’s any trend affecting the imported stone market, it may be the inclination of retailers like Ann Sacks to import more heavily from Mexico and Israel than in the past. The dollar’s current weakness versus other currencies, particularly the Euro, makes importing from European countries exceptionally expensive. In the past, Gundberg says, she didn’t choose a stone based on its country of origin, but the dollar’s weakness is now influencing her decisions. DeMeo agrees. Right now he says, imports from Turkey are more affordable than Mexico. Turkey, he says, is “dominating travertines, limestones and mosaics because of price.”

SOUTH OF THE EQUATOR

Mario Klappholz, president of Ceramic Consulting Corporation in Miami, believes the tile now being produced by Ilva in Buenos Aires, Argentina, can stand on its own against product from any country. In fact, the firm has just announced that its total production of field tile will now be in porcelain.

Vanessa McIntosh, Ilva’s Export Manager, says, “Porcelain is so dense and tightly pressed, that it will withstand much more pressure, loading and impact than any other product installed on the floor today.” She points out that, “Porcelain tile is produced using the finest natural ingredients combined with a rigidly controlled manufacturing process that utilizes the most advanced processes and technology. Porcelain outperforms ceramic, slate, marble, even granite for years of low-maintenance looks that last.”

Ceramic Consulting Corporation, which represents foreign factories in the US, handles product development, marketing, sales and collections for distributor and wholesale customers. The company represents factories in Turkey and China as well, but has imported the Ilva tile from Argentina for a dozen years. “From day one, our goal was not to compete in the low-end markets with other South American factories,” Klappholz says.

“Our main competition is Italy. We compete with Italian tiles. We make different tiles, mostly rustic and stone looks. We don’t really imitate others. We try to get our ideas from nature, trying to make our tiles look like natural stone and marble. Every series has a different stone: a travertine look, a slate look, a limestone look.”

Ilva makes designs and colors for the American market, producing beiges, bone, creams and earth colors that Americans tend to prefer. The company also offers lines in all sizes, including larger 18-by-18 and 20-by- 20-inches. Ilva also produces “subway tile” measuring 3-½-by-7 inches and mosaic sheet-mounted tile in 3-by-3 and 2-by-2-inch configurations. “All the small sizes we sheet mount, so it’s easy to install,” he adds. The company also produces trim pieces, including cove base, quarter rounds, sink rails and other decorative pieces for walls and floors. These pieces feature woods, metal and glass, as well as real stones, Klappholz reports.

Because Ilva stays ahead of design trends, many of its lines have endured seven or eight years and continue to sell briskly. Distributors appreciate this design longevity because they avoid changing their sampling every couple of years. “We’re always coming out with either one or two new lines each year,” Klappholz adds. “Of course, the very old lines are discontinued after a while, and that gives us a chance to add more products.”

Ceramic Consulting Corporation produces a number of displays, architectural binders, sample boards and brochures to promote the Ilva line. Klappholz says the company tries to provide a broad assortment of marketing tools, so distributors can really get behind the tile. Not only is the shipping supply from Buenos Aires reliable, but Ceramic Consulting Corporation stands behind the product. “Customers know if they have a problem — a product failure, an installation failure – we stand 100 percent behind our customers.”

Among other factors, dependability is likely one reason Crossville Ceramics opted to choose Ilva to handle manufacturing of its private label Empire series starting five years ago. The design, quality and appearance of the double-loaded, through-body pure polished and unpolished technical porcelain are reasons for its enormous popularity, Klappholz believes.

The future looks encouraging for Ilva, he adds. “We have fantastic workers, our factory can be put up technically against any Italian factory, and we’re always investing in the newest technical equipment on the market. There’s nothing out there we can’t make.”

A SHRINKING WORLD?

Observers vary on one final issue — whether globalization is providing more opportunities for tile producers from around the world. Gundberg says she doesn’t believe more countries are exporting to the US than in the past. “But people are paying a little more attention to what they have to offer, because it’s so expensive to import from Europe right now,” she opines.

Carlson, on the other hand, believes globalization “certainly has” offered opportunities to regions and nations formerly unrepresented and unappreciated in the US“Going to any trade show would show anybody that,” he says. “There are new countries being represented every year. There are new countries working to gain access to the American marketplace.”

Whether a dealer sells tile from Europe, the Far East, South America or a combination of sources, one trend remains – imports. In their efforts to meet the needs and tastes of the increasingly sophisticated American consumer and keep materials affordable, dealers and distributors will continue to welcome new import players to the industry. Quality, variety and price keep the customer happy.


What is Deflection, and Why Should You Care?
 
March 1st, 2004

One-on-One with Architect Paul Mankins

By Cathy Szmurlo Mar-Apr 2004

Award-winning Des Moines architect Paul D. Mankins has turned his early fascination with architecture into an enviable list of contributions to the profession itself. Mankins will share his expertise about designing with tile when he participates in a panel discussion at Coverings, the tile and stone industry’s annual trade show to be held March 23-26 in Orlando, Florida.

Mankins brings an impressive list of credentials to the conference. He is an associate principal at Herbert Lewis Kruse Blunck Architecture, serves as the American Institute of Architect’s (AIA) Iowa president, is the editor of Iowa Architect Magazine and teaches at Iowa State University’s Department of Architecture. His firm was presented with the 2001 AIA Firm Award. Since 1994, he has garnered more than 19 AIA-affiliated awards as well as the Design Achievement Award from the Iowa State University’s College of Design.

TileDealer interviewed Mankins recently to learn how he incorporates his personal design ideas into a variety of projects and to hear his views on the evolving use of ceramic tile in professional design.

TileDealer: What drew you to become an architect and how has the profession changed over the years?

Mankins: I have known that I wanted to be an architect since I was about six years old. I grew up in a house that was designed and formerly owned by an architect. Des Moines also has two institutions that exposed me to world class architecture at an early age. One was Drake University. Their campus, which is comprised of buildings by Mies, Saarinen, Weese, Barnes, and others, is one of the best collections of mid-century modernism in the nation – it was a half mile from my home. The other institution was the Des Moines Art Center, which includes wings designed by Saarinen, Pei, and Meier. I think both of these institutions had a significant impact on my view of the discipline.

They revealed that architecture, when practiced at the highest level, is a compelling, powerful art form. Seeing these examples, how could I have chosen to do anything else? The profession has increasingly become more specialized. The mid-sized firm (between 20 and 50 people) is disappearing. Small, boutique design firms and large, corporate firms are dominating the field. Technology in both design and manufacturing has exponentially increased our productivity. In addition, the number of choices available to designers has increased due to “mass produced customization.” Technology has caused both conditions.

TileDealer: You have received numerous design awards over the years for large and small projects. Which award has given you the most satisfaction and why?

Mankins: I was fortunate to be part of the leadership of this firm, Herbert Lewis Kruse Blunck Architecture, when we were selected to be the 2001 Firm Award recipient from the American Institute of Architects. It was very rewarding for a practice located in Iowa to be selected from amongst the nation’s 25,000 architectural firms. We feel as if this award allowed us to represent the “forgotten middle” of the nation and show that good work is produced in surprising places.

TileDealer: What personal design philosophy do you incorporate into your projects?

Mankins: Our philosophy is best summarized as a pursuit of elegance. Elegance is defined as “grace and refinement” (art) and “precision” (science). It encapsulates the difficult balance between art and science that is, in my view, at the root of architecture. We look for elegance in our work. Often this is manifest in a restrained material palate culled down to the essential components necessary to solve a client’s problem while, at the same time, elevating these materials to produce a meaningful spatial experience. We would call this an elegant solution – one that is simultaneously functional and meaningful.

TileDealer: How does the use of ceramic tile come into play during the design planning stages?

Mankins: Typically material choices are initially made for functional, perfunctory reasons (i.e. heavy traffic, wet location, etc.). As the design develops, the material qualities become more important such as translucency, texture, color, scale, etc.

TileDealer: Can you give an example of a project you’ve been involved with that included an innovative use of ceramic tile?

Mankins: We are working on a loft project right now that is making extensive use of glass mosaic tile on both the floor and walls of a bath. This richly colored material is being contrasted against a stainless steel shower enclosure.

We recently finished a Student Union in which we used ceramic mosaic tile to introduce a strong, regulating pattern and saturated color into an otherwise neutral space.

TileDealer: How do you think the use of ceramic tile has changed in commercial and residential applications?

Mankins: There are many more choices – color, material composition, size, patterns – and these choices are being used in places they may not have previously been used.

TileDealer: How do you anticipate that use will change in the future in both new construction and renovations?

Mankins: I expect more and more choices. Glass tile has become increasingly popular. I think “mass produced customization” will continue to allow designers to, in effect, design custom tile from mass producers. We will go on working with small, artisan producers as well, and I think there will continue to be a place for the small producer.

TileDealer: In your opinion, is ceramic tile usage or type different for a Midwest-based project versus something in, say, California or Florida?

Mankins: I think the climate in the Midwest does change tile use here. Freeze thaw cycles would nearly exclude exterior installations. However, most of the limitations are in the imaginations of the designers, and I think in that area we can compete very successfully.

TileDealer: How do you go about evaluating tile products for possible selection?

Mankins: We have two parallel tracks for evaluating tile and stone products. One is obviously aesthetic – what the product looks like, what is the finish, color, texture, size, module, etc. This is very important and rates high in the evaluation. We are typically looking for some unconventional, novel aspect to the product that will provide a fresh look. The other track is performance – durability, absorbency, slipperiness (if a floor product), workability, cost, etc. These are critical issues as well due to long term maintenance, liability, and cost concerns. Ideally, we are looking for a durable, workable, inexpensive, cheap, and beautiful new product. Do you have any recommendations?

TileDealer: What are your goals for attending and speaking at Coverings this year?

Mankins: I have been asked to join a roundtable to discuss what architects look for in evaluating tile products. It will be a great opportunity for me to learn what is new in the industry and what interesting products I might use on a future project. In short, I will probably learn more from the attendees than they ever learn from me.


One-on-One with Architect Paul Mankins
 
March 1st, 2004

By Cathy Szmurlo Mar-Apr 2004

Award-winning Des Moines architect Paul D. Mankins has turned his early fascination with architecture into an enviable list of contributions to the profession itself. Mankins will share his expertise about designing with tile when he participates in a panel discussion at Coverings, the tile and stone industry’s annual trade show to be held March 23-26 in Orlando, Florida.

Mankins brings an impressive list of credentials to the conference. He is an associate principal at Herbert Lewis Kruse Blunck Architecture, serves as the American Institute of Architect’s (AIA) Iowa president, is the editor of Iowa Architect Magazine and teaches at Iowa State University’s Department of Architecture. His firm was presented with the 2001 AIA Firm Award. Since 1994, he has garnered more than 19 AIA-affiliated awards as well as the Design Achievement Award from the Iowa State University’s College of Design.

TileDealer interviewed Mankins recently to learn how he incorporates his personal design ideas into a variety of projects and to hear his views on the evolving use of ceramic tile in professional design.

TileDealer: What drew you to become an architect and how has the profession changed over the years?

Mankins: I have known that I wanted to be an architect since I was about six years old. I grew up in a house that was designed and formerly owned by an architect. Des Moines also has two institutions that exposed me to world class architecture at an early age. One was Drake University. Their campus, which is comprised of buildings by Mies, Saarinen, Weese, Barnes, and others, is one of the best collections of mid-century modernism in the nation – it was a half mile from my home. The other institution was the Des Moines Art Center, which includes wings designed by Saarinen, Pei, and Meier. I think both of these institutions had a significant impact on my view of the discipline.

They revealed that architecture, when practiced at the highest level, is a compelling, powerful art form. Seeing these examples, how could I have chosen to do anything else? The profession has increasingly become more specialized. The mid-sized firm (between 20 and 50 people) is disappearing. Small, boutique design firms and large, corporate firms are dominating the field. Technology in both design and manufacturing has exponentially increased our productivity. In addition, the number of choices available to designers has increased due to “mass produced customization.” Technology has caused both conditions.

TileDealer: You have received numerous design awards over the years for large and small projects. Which award has given you the most satisfaction and why?

Mankins: I was fortunate to be part of the leadership of this firm, Herbert Lewis Kruse Blunck Architecture, when we were selected to be the 2001 Firm Award recipient from the American Institute of Architects. It was very rewarding for a practice located in Iowa to be selected from amongst the nation’s 25,000 architectural firms. We feel as if this award allowed us to represent the “forgotten middle” of the nation and show that good work is produced in surprising places.

TileDealer: What personal design philosophy do you incorporate into your projects?

Mankins: Our philosophy is best summarized as a pursuit of elegance. Elegance is defined as “grace and refinement” (art) and “precision” (science). It encapsulates the difficult balance between art and science that is, in my view, at the root of architecture. We look for elegance in our work. Often this is manifest in a restrained material palate culled down to the essential components necessary to solve a client’s problem while, at the same time, elevating these materials to produce a meaningful spatial experience. We would call this an elegant solution – one that is simultaneously functional and meaningful.

TileDealer: How does the use of ceramic tile come into play during the design planning stages?

Mankins: Typically material choices are initially made for functional, perfunctory reasons (i.e. heavy traffic, wet location, etc.). As the design develops, the material qualities become more important such as translucency, texture, color, scale, etc.

TileDealer: Can you give an example of a project you’ve been involved with that included an innovative use of ceramic tile?

Mankins: We are working on a loft project right now that is making extensive use of glass mosaic tile on both the floor and walls of a bath. This richly colored material is being contrasted against a stainless steel shower enclosure.

We recently finished a Student Union in which we used ceramic mosaic tile to introduce a strong, regulating pattern and saturated color into an otherwise neutral space.

TileDealer: How do you think the use of ceramic tile has changed in commercial and residential applications?

Mankins: There are many more choices – color, material composition, size, patterns – and these choices are being used in places they may not have previously been used.

TileDealer: How do you anticipate that use will change in the future in both new construction and renovations?

Mankins: I expect more and more choices. Glass tile has become increasingly popular. I think “mass produced customization” will continue to allow designers to, in effect, design custom tile from mass producers. We will go on working with small, artisan producers as well, and I think there will continue to be a place for the small producer.

TileDealer: In your opinion, is ceramic tile usage or type different for a Midwest-based project versus something in, say, California or Florida?

Mankins: I think the climate in the Midwest does change tile use here. Freeze thaw cycles would nearly exclude exterior installations. However, most of the limitations are in the imaginations of the designers, and I think in that area we can compete very successfully.

TileDealer: How do you go about evaluating tile products for possible selection?

Mankins: We have two parallel tracks for evaluating tile and stone products. One is obviously aesthetic – what the product looks like, what is the finish, color, texture, size, module, etc. This is very important and rates high in the evaluation. We are typically looking for some unconventional, novel aspect to the product that will provide a fresh look. The other track is performance – durability, absorbency, slipperiness (if a floor product), workability, cost, etc. These are critical issues as well due to long term maintenance, liability, and cost concerns. Ideally, we are looking for a durable, workable, inexpensive, cheap, and beautiful new product. Do you have any recommendations?

TileDealer: What are your goals for attending and speaking at Coverings this year?

Mankins: I have been asked to join a roundtable to discuss what architects look for in evaluating tile products. It will be a great opportunity for me to learn what is new in the industry and what interesting products I might use on a future project. In short, I will probably learn more from the attendees than they ever learn from me.


Understanding the Income Statement
 
March 1st, 2004

By Dirk Schilling Mar-Apr 2004

How often and how closely you analyze your financial statements says a lot about how you manage your business.

Too often business owners take the financial statements prepared by their accountants and drop them in a desk drawer or file folder as soon as the accountant leaves their office. Most business owners are not accountants and many don’t really understand these statements and fail to utilize one of the best resources for managing their business. Some of the blame lies with your accountant. Your accountant should make sure that you know how to read your financial statements, know how to look for trends in them, know how to monitor your receivables and payables, and know how to track labor and materials to sales. This article will not provide you with all the knowledge you need to best utilize the power of your financial statements, but it is a good start.

THE INCOME STATEMENT

At the end of the month, your company or your accountant should generate an Income Statement, which may also be referred to as the Profit and Loss Statement. Understanding your income statement is the key to improving your profits. Many of the answers you need to improve your bottom line are found here or in the detail that makes up this statement. It is important to generate these statements monthly, because the sooner you discover problem areas the sooner you can take corrective action.

Take a look at the simple income statement shown here. In this example, all sales are grouped together. However, if you want to track different sources of income (revenue), you may segregate the income account (gross sales) to determine if the sales of one type of product or service are going up and the sales of another are going down. This would allow you to reduce purchases of slow moving inventory and run promotions to increase activity. Be sure to segregate only what you can measure and manage.

On the direct expense side, you have the chance to discover where your profit is by costing merchandise directly against the sale. For example:

Floor Tile Sales $2,500
Product Cost $1,500
Difference $1,000
Wall Tile Sales $2,000
Product Cost $800
Difference $1,200
For the Month of
January, 2004
Gross salesLess returns

Net sales

$15,000650

$14,350

Cost of goods sold
ProductsDirect labor

Gross profit

$7,2001,100

$6,050

Less General & Administrative
expenses
SalariesRent

Interest

Utilities

Telephone

Freight/postage

Office supplies

Advertisement & promotions

Miscellaneous

Total expenses

Net (before tax) profit

$1,500600

375

195

250

66

70

350

240

$3,646

$2,404

R. Dirk Schilling is a principal in the accounting and
consulting firm of Dugan & Lopatka, CPAs, PC in Wheaton,
Illinois.

What this tells you is that the profit margin is higher on wall tiles than on floor tiles, so it is in your interest to inventory, advertise, and promote wall tiles.

WHY PERCENTAGES MATTER

Each item of your income statement should also have a percentage (%) number attached as well as a dollar value. This is important because the key to profitability is to focus on budgets as to what profit margins must be maintained and what expenses must be controlled. The use of percentages is also useful in period-to-period comparisons. If your volume varies by season, the only way to identify the outcome is to see how the percentages of profits and expenses change from period to period. This also helps you establish
budgets.

You know how your company did but how good is that? Are you ahead or behind other companies like yours? Most industries have information on normal expected performances against which you can compare your financial performance to those of your peers. CTDA members can use the association’s annual “Performance Analysis Report”(PAR). This report applies specifically to tile distributors and is designed to be a tool for CTDA members to use in meeting this need. When comparing to others, you should look at direct costs comparisons including labor and material costs (percentage of revenue), gross profit margins, costs of employee benefits, occupancy costs and interest paid. You may want to consider other key performance indicators, but these are standards.

One final thought on the profit and loss statement. Work with your accountant to change your chart of accounts and create line items to better manage your business. Hidden costs and problems can drain profitability if not discovered, measured and controlled. Review all of your financial statements with your accountant. Ask questions.

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