From the Editor’s Desk: Why Are You Reading TileDealer?
 
May 1st, 2004

 

by Janet Arden, Editor May-June 2004

I hope it’s because you find useful information here – new products and ideas, better ways to handle business issues, answers to technical problems, and more.

Earlier today my outlook was brightened with an email message that read, in part, “Your timely article in TileDealer magazine, ‘What is Deflection & Why Should You Care?’, saved a tile contractor and general contractor in Central Florida a LOT of time, aggravation and money! The conversation had been going in circles with the architect saying the TCA recommendations were ‘overkill’…to make a long story short, your detailed article, particularly concerning maximum deflection between the joists, brought everyone to the same page…and a correct TCA installation will now occur.”

The devil, as they say, is in the details.

The cover story in this issue considers setting materials and the important role the right material for the right tile plays in achieving the best installation. Do your customers and end users understand the options available and how to make the best choice? Details. This issue of TileDealer also tackles mold. It’s pervasive and potentially expensive. But the right materials and installation practices can actually help prevent it. Details. Again.

“What is Deflection” was just the beginning. In this issue TileDealer begins a continuing dialogue with market segments such as architects, designers, homebuilders, and installers. The topics will vary from issue to issue, but the purpose is always the same: what these representatives of the marketplace want you, the tile dealer, to know about their use of ceramic tile. This month Bart Bettiga, Executive Director of the National Tile Contractors Association, talks about how to install under-tile heating and certified tile consultant Patti Fasan shares her observations about the design trends in 2004.

Our bottom line is your bottom line – we want to help you sell more tile. And we want to help you do it better, with less cost, fewer complaints, more efficiencies, and ultimately more profit. In the issues ahead, we’ll consider how to install large format tiles, design for accessibility, sell to the over 55 market, and more.

“What Is Deflection And Why Should You Care” by Dave Gobis, Executive Director of the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation and a third generation tile setter, was straight-forward and informative, the kind of information you can read and use. At TileDealer we know we can’t be all things to all people, but we do know we can deliver product, market and how-to information to make your business better.


Trends in Setting Materials: New Materials and Formats for New Installations
 
May 1st, 2004

by Jeffrey Steele May-June 2004

The marketplace of ceramic tile and stone has evolved enormously over the past decade. Today’s tiles are larger and feature more natural composition. Porcelain has captured a bigger share of the market. And tile is now being imported from a wider area of the globe than ever before.

But tile and stone aren’t the only aspects of the business undergoing change in recent years. So too have the demands distributors, dealers and installers make upon setting materials. These materials have had to become stronger and quicker curing to adapt to changes in tile size and composition.

No one is more aware of this swiftly changing world than the manufacturers of setting materials. These companies have cranked up their research and development divisions and created a new generation of setting materials, ideally suited to the whole new generation of tile.

Adhering to recent trends

Jerry Hansen, sales manager with Houston-based Texas Cement Products, is among setting materials industry observers who’ve watched the evolution of the market.

“The types of tile we’re seeing today are very, very dense body,” he reports. “And we see a lot of porcelain tile. Porcelain tile literally has the water absorbency of less than one-half of one percent. In addition, ten years ago, the average size floor tile was 8 by 8, whereas today it’s closer to 16 by 16. What that means for us, in installing products, is that we have to use different products today.”

Ed Metcalf, senior vice-president of sales and marketing for Bethany, Ct.-based Laticrete International, a leading provider of setting materials, echoes that sentiment. Tile is becoming denser, more stone is being used, and larger and larger modules are becoming the norm, he points out. “Those three factors have increased the performance requirements for installation systems,” he adds.

Laticrete International works closely with distributors to help their dealers comprehend the full sales potential that exists not only in ceramic tile but in the installation system chosen. Many dealers don’t fully understand that setting materials provide the same potential for sales and profits as does carpet padding installed beneath carpeting, Metcalf observes.

“What a lot of dealers do is simply subcontract the labor,” he says. “And typically when it’s done that way, the installer is responsible to show up with the installation material. Two things result: one, the installer may show up with the wrong materials, and secondly, the dealer loses out on an add-on sale. What we’re finding is with the growth of ceramic in the residential market, these factors are just increasing in importance.

“So dealers can help themselves by marketing, recommending and selling the correct installation system. That helps them avoid a claim or complaint, but also helps them increase the average ticket sale.”

What’s Available?

Among setting materials manufacturers, among the best known is Middleton, Mass.-based Bostik Findley, one of the largest adhesive companies in the world. Product manager Phil Pitts, who is in charge of the company’s ceramic tile setting material line, has seen a lot of changes in the past 10 years, and reports his company is responding to that market metamorphosis.

A decade ago, he notes, glazed white body or glazed red body tile was set with an inexpensive and generic base grade thin set comprised of sand and cement mix. But today, the most popular and common setting materials are latex thin sets containing redisbursable polymers in the bag. These tend to be available in good, better and best qualities, he points out.

“I liken that to what you see at the gas pump, where you have 87, 89 and 92 octane,” he says. “Some buy the highest grade because they require performance and because it makes them feel good. The same sort of thing is occurring with tiles.”

Bostik Findley’s high-end, high-performance mortar is called Hydroment Reflex. Very popular in wood frame construction markets, it bonds well to all types of tile, so it’s excellent for use with porcelain. In addition, Pitt says, “the high level of polymers in the bag make it flexible, so it’s ideal for wood frame construction where there’s deflection.

“It’s also very sought after in the tract home market, where the homes are slab on grade. The fresh slabs, or green slabs as they’re called, are shrinking, and the highly flexible mortar helps prevent those shrinkage cracks from damaging the tile.”

Bostik Findley’s mid-range product is called Single Flex. This brand is highly appropriate for both porcelain tile and plywood construction, while offering a bit more affordability than the Reflex. At the most economical end of the scale is Hydroment PM, which stands for Polymer Modified. “It’s absolutely great for most installations, and provides the best value,” Pitts says.

The company is responding to the increasing preference for larger tiles with Big Tile & Stone, a specialty mortar that provides the thicker setting bed required when installing 16-by-16 and other very large tiles. It’s excellent for marble, granite, travertine and limestone, Pitts says.

Finally, Bostik Findley offers Porcelain Mate. It’s specially designed for installations in which porcelain tile is laid over cement or concrete substrates.

One of the most knowledgeable observers of the ceramic tile setting material industry is Kica Loliyong, product manager for tile and stone installation systems with Mapei, based in Deerfield Beach, Fla. According to Loliyong, today’s setting materials manufacturers are being required to develop products that work not only with larger tiles, but with thicker tiles – tiles that are 5/16 or 3/8 of an inch thick as opposed to the quarter-inch thickness of yesteryear’s products. “And as you go into stone, that gets even thicker and has more body,” he adds.

Mapei has responded to the new generation of larger-format and thicker tile and stone products with several product launches. Two of the more notable are UltraContact and UltraContact RS. Both products, says Loliyong, provide “full or 100 percent contact between the tile or stone and the thin set. It eliminates all the back buttering exercise, all the beating in with a rubber mallet. What you end up with is just put your tile in place and move on to the next tile, because you have 100 percent contact with the back of the tile.”

UltraContact RS, which stands for Rapid Setting, cures faster. With regular UltraContact, an installer can grout after about 16 to 24 hours. The UltraContact RS reduces that time frame to three to four hours. “So if you’re a contractor facing a time constraint, and you’re working on a tile than needs a medium bed thin set, you go with the Ultracontact RS,” Loliyong reports.

Another leading company is Southern Grouts & Mortars, based in Pompano Beach, Fla. This 26-year-old enterprise has four manufacturing facilities across the country, producing installation systems for ceramic tile and dimension stone.

SGM’s primary line is sold to distributors, which in turn sell to builders, contractors, installers and retailers. The company markets surface preparation, waterproofing, installation products, grouting, caulk, cleaners and sealers, according to general manager Bob Pritchard.

New from the company is Porcelain Set, a mortar designed for the installation of porcelain, glass and large-format tiles over a wide variety of substrates. Another product is Southcrete 1132, which is one part anti-fracture and waterproofing membrane. Southcrete 1132 is a load-bearing membrane designed for ceramic tiles and dimension stone. It produces a continuous barrier without standing adhesion to the concrete slabs, helping reduce the risk of substrate cracks transferring to the hard-surface flooring.

Based in Arlington Heights, Ill., Specialty Construction Brands boasts an interesting history. For years, the company originally known as TEC Specialty Products was the building manufacturing division of the H.B. Fuller Company. About 14 years ago, TEC was spun off into a separate company, but remained a wholly-owned subsidiary of Fuller.

Last December, TEC joined with another Fuller subsidiary, Foster, to form Specialty Construction Brands. But it still sells TEC as well as Foster brands.

“TEC’s strategy has been targeting the upper end of the market,” reports brand manager for setting systems Sandy Eich. “As we looked at our heritage and the strength of the brand, it’s been innovation into those high-performance products. For instance, we were the company that innovated in the one-part mortar system, back 20 years ago when Full Flex was introduced.”

Stick-to-it-tiveness

The company has continued innovating that system, she adds. It introduced Super Flex, the first crack isolation mortar, about nine years ago. Last year came the introduction of 1 Flex, a “system in a bag” that offers crack isolation up to an eighth of an inch, Eich says.

Why call it a system in a bag? “[With] most other manufacturers in the industry, it would be a two-step system,” she explains. “You would have to put down some kind of a membrane first, and then adhere the tile to the mortar. With the 1 Flex, everything is in the bag. You don’t have to put in a separate membrane; you just install the tile with the 1 Flex. The formulation and the technology is such that it will crack isolate up to an eighth of an inch. So you’re taking one whole step and a layer of product out of the installation process.”

The company’s research and development has most recently brought forth Double Duty Plus, a mastic for tubs and showers. The product’s unique characteristic is that it will hold 16-by-16-inch tile or stone, including porcelain. “There’s no other product I’m aware of you can use for such a dense, heavy duty product,” Eich comments. “So a contractor can start anywhere on the wall, and he doesn’t have to use spacers. It’s got that kind of grab and non-slip characteristics.”

At Laticrete International, the focus is on marketing a system called the Laticrete Residential Tile and Stone Installation Solutions Program. According to Metcalf, the program offers a limited range of products and is easy for dealers to understand. The program is targeted at all the challenges that today’s tile products like porcelain, stone and large modules present. And all of the program’s products contain Microban™ antimicrobial component.

The foundation of the program is Laticrete SpectraLock™ grout, which has achieved enormous success with consumers because it eliminates the main complaints consumers voice with cement grout, including staining, cracking, shading and mottling, Metcalf explains.

The ironic aspect of those problems, he adds, is that one of the least costly components of a tile installation – the cement grout – is causing 90 percent of the complaints.

“With SpectraLock, you’re paying a bit more upfront, but in the end, the end users are willing to pay a bit more in return for a product that meets their expectations,” Metcalf says. “That means they never have to seal it, it’s going to be cleanable to the original color, and it’s going to be consistent in color across the installation. You have a happier customer. It’s a matter of managing expectations. If they don’t want to upgrade, they’ve made the decision to avoid spending the extra money. They’ve chosen cement grout over the SpectraLock.”

Texas Cement Products, Inc., celebrating its 40th year in business, is the manufacturer of setting materials under the brand names TexRite and C-Cure. It also manufactures grouts and mortars for the installation of ceramic tile, as well as underlayment products for the patching and leveling of floors and walls prior to installation of floor coverings or ceramic wall tile.

The larger ceramic tiles being used today require not only more mortar, but a different kind of mortar, Hansen says. The larger the tile, including some up to 24-by-24 in size, the longer it takes for mortars to set up. That problem is compounded by the fact that newer porcelain tiles have almost no water absorbency, he notes.

Ten years ago, the average floor tile had a water absorbency of about eight percent, and a wide variety of mortars could be used underneath. Water would be absorbed into the substrate and the body of the tile, and help bond the tile to the substrate.

By contrast, today’s average floor tiles, including porcelain, have a water absorbency of about three percent. Because there’s less opportunity for the water to be absorbed into the body of the tile, the application calls for an adhesive bond that will dry and cure under the tile, Hansen says.

“In many cases, installers are used to setting in one day and coming back the next day to grout,” he notes. “But when you have tiles that have no absorbency, it takes much longer for that mortar underneath to cure, and it can only cure through those grout joints. It has to be fully set. Otherwise, the tile will slip when you walk on it. So it requires 72 hours, the amount of time the industry is recommending today prior to grouting.”

That presents a major hurdle for installers, he adds. So Texas Cement Products has recently introduced specialized products for porcelain that permit mortar to set more quickly, allowing grouting to be completed sooner. One product, RapidBond, sets in four hours and is ideal for applications that require rapid setting, Hansen says. The other, PorcelainSet, is a standard mortar that can be used in most installations where speed is not as essential.

Unveiled several months ago, both RapidBond and PorcelainSet are brandnames under the TexRite marque, and are sold by Texas Cement Products to distributors, who in turn sell to installers.

The choices available in setting materials give the dealer, installer and customer a range of price points and levels of quality. Choosing and using the right setting material can make or break a tile installation. Tile dealers who educate the user and then recommend and sell the right system for each tile have fewer failures, more satisfied customers, and a larger average ticket sale.

For more information:

www.bostikfindley-us.com. 800-641-9247

e-mail sales@sgm.cc

www.tecspecialty.com

www.laticrete.com

Texas Cement Products, 713-682-8411

www.mapei.com


Mold: What You Need to Know Now
 
May 1st, 2004

New and old ways to deal with it

May-June 2004

Mold. If you haven’t had a customer complaint or even found evidence in your own home or business, you’ve read about it in newspapers or magazines or heard the stories on television or radio. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have all weighed in on mold. News about it is as pervasive as the fungi itself.

Mold is a big story because it is potentially a big – and expensive – problem.

First, there is the issue of health problems. Despite dire predictions and earlier reports, mold does not present an imminent danger to the general public. It does, however, lead to a range of allergic reactions in susceptible individuals – from stuffy noses and burning eyes to asthma attacks and more. In 2002, the CDC launched a five-year study to determine if the mycotoxins produced by indoor mold affect human health. The combination of substantial mold infestation and especially susceptible individuals has led families to abandon their homes or municipalities or school districts to close entire buildings until remediation could be completed.

Remediation is the second big issue. Because mold spores live off of certain building materials, the mold microorganisms can eventually destroy these materials. Ceiling tiles, wallboard, and insulation are just some of the materials easily infested and hard to clean. Tile grout and cements are another target. Minor mold infestations may be cleaned on the spot.

However in some cases small amounts of visible mold are clues to substantial mold infestations inside and behind these materials. (Remember that molds love dark, moist conditions). Sometimes the only way to get rid of mold is to get rid of these materials. Walls, floors, ceilings, even ductwork are expensive to tear out and replace. Building occupants – residents, students or workers – often have to be relocated for the duration of the cleanup.

Liability is the third issue driving the mold story. Headlines have, of course, captured public attention with the substantial monetary awards resulting from class action lawsuits. Not surprisingly, insurance companies have backed away from covering mold. It is regularly excluded from residential, commercial and construction policies.

As with so many other ills, an ounce of mold prevention is worth the proverbial pound of cure. However, new construction techniques and energy standards may be at least partly to blame for the recent rise in mold claims. Energy consumption is an important consideration in residential and commercial construction and renovation. Architects and developers have designed airtight structures to keep extremes of heat and cold outside. One side effect of airtight design is the retention of moisture inside the building. When air conditioning is added to this mix, mold can develop in areas where the moisture accumulates.

In many cases airtight construction is compounded by fast track construction schedules that do not let materials normally installed wet (such as mortar, cement, grout, plaster, etc.) dry sufficiently. In other cases, inappropriate storage allows some materials to get damp or even wet. However, they’re installed anyway. Unfortunately, today’s airtight construction techniques mean some of these materials may never dry and – even worse – may lead to the development of mold that remains hidden until the infestation is significant.

Why it’s expensive

A study by the Insurance Information Institute, completed in August 2003, has shed some light on the costs of mold to the construction industry. Insurance claims for mold damage average $15-30,000, where other claims average only $3-4,000. According to the report, US insurers paid out at least $3 billion in mold-related claims in 2002. Over $2 billion of that amount came from 227,000 claims that were filed in Texas, often referred to as the “ground zero” state. The numbers are also growing rapidly in California, Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Nevada. All this activity has driven up the rates of homeowners insurance. Homeowners policies that contain mold exclusions, except in the case of exceptional perils such as hurricanes or earthquakes, have been approved by insurance departments in 39 states plus the District of Columbia.

The reduced affordability of insurance remedies for mold infestations has led to greater activity in the courts. High-profile cases, with exceptionally large settlements, have led many homeowners with mold problems and no insurance coverage to sue the architects, developers and contractors for remediation and, in some cases, punitive damages. In the cases of commercial buildings, building owners and management operators are also drawn into the lawsuits.

While the market for housing remains strong, mold can put the jobs of people employed in the construction of single-family homes at risk. According to the Institute’s report, construction of single-family homes provides jobs for about 750,000 people in the three states with the highest mold problems – Texas, Florida, and California. This represents about $25 billion in wages. The issue of mold, including insurability, has already delayed or even halted some home sales and new construction in these states. The Insurance Service Organization, Inc. reports that condominium construction in parts of California has run into huge obstructions because of a surge in “construction defect litigation” and this has brought on a big increase in contractors’ insurance costs.

Since mold exclusion policies have come into effect in various states, the homeowners’ insurance issue has begun to moderate. However, the mold issue has moved over into the commercial field, including apartments/condos/co-ops, schools, office structures and municipal buildings.

Dealing with it

In the tile industry, manufacturers have made significant progress in reducing the risks of mold with the development of antimicrobial protection that is built into installation products. Backerboard, waterproofing materials, cements and caulks are available with antimicrobial protection. However, the contractor and consumer need to be educated about these products and they must be specified for the installation. Experience has shown that many professionals prefer products with the antimicrobial agent manufactured into them, rather than relying on the application of a separate agent on the jobsite.

Tile dealers who suggest antimicrobial materials to consumers can point out that the industry estimates those materials add just 1-3-cents per square foot to material installation. It’s a small price to pay to inhibit mold development, especially given the life expectancy of most ceramic installations. The flip side of not using these materials is the potential for the consumer to seek redress – if and when mold develops – from anyone involved with the installation, including the dealer.

The Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), whose members have been directly involved in mold remediation and liability issues, recommends that contractors must protect materials from water damage, handle them according to the requirements of the manufacturers, and account for any water required by any construction process. Because the mold source can come from moisture related to leaks or improperly stored and/or installed materials, preventing mold is everyone’s business.

Special thanks to Diane Choate, Mapei, for her help in preparing this article.

The Big Three: oxygen, food & moisture
According to the EPA and the American Industrial Hygiene Association, molds – also sometimes known as mildew – are forms of fungi found everywhere indoors and out. Like many fungi, molds produce microscopic spores easily spread in the air. When spores land on a hospitable surface – one that provides moisture, oxygen and food – the mold grows.Because moisture is essential to mold growth, eliminating moisture – especially in the form of leaks – is key to eliminating mold. Cleaning up mold without resolving the moisture problem is a temporary solution. The mold inevitably returns.

Consumers who suspect mold, can get additional information from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) at www.epa.gov/iaq/molds. The most commonly cited guidelines are published by New York City, called “Guidelines and Assessment and Remediation of Fungi in Indoor Environments.” They are available at www.ci.nyc.us/html/doh/epi/moldrpt1.html. Consumers faced with a mold infestation covering more than ten square feet should contact a professional indoor environmental specialist.


One-on-One with Bruce DePasquale
 
May 1st, 2004

 

By Cathy Szmurlo May-Jun 2004

After some 30 years in the ceramic tile industry, Bruce DePasquale has made a big move to the operations side of the business. Since October, he’s been brand manager for ceramic tile and natural stone for carpet manufacturer Shaw Industries.

DePasquale began as a licensed ceramic tile contractor in the state of California, where he was active for several years and then decided to sell retail. In the 1980s, he worked for the largest marble and stone importer in the country. He also became regional sales manager and then national sales and marketing manager for Villeroy and Boch, which, he says, was the largest manufacturer in the world at the time. A stint as vice president of sales and marketing for Laufen was followed by creation of his own consulting firm, where he worked with a Spanish tile manufacturer and a granite supplier in the U.S.

DePasquale says his recent appointment by Shaw has been met with a lot of positive feedback. “People view my addition by Shaw as a commitment to the ceramic tile industry.”

TileDealer recently spoke to DePasquale about Shaw’s expansion into tile markets. We wanted to learn his thoughts on the differences between manufacturers and distributors, as well as where he thinks the industry will be in the next five years.

TileDealer: You have been familiar with the ceramic tile industry for some time. What background knowledge do you bring to this new venture for Shaw?

DePasquale: My background has been primarily with the manufacturing sector selling to distributors. I believe that Shaw, while not being a manufacturer, should act and think as one in its approach to the market. I will bring that attitude, vision and thinking to the products that my team develops for them.

TileDealer: In your opinion, how does a manufacturer’s thinking differ from a distributor’s thinking?

DePasquale: The biggest difference is that as a distributor your options are really limitless as far as product style and design. You have available to you so many different levels of manufacturing – from the very simplistic to the very stylized. If you are a distributor, you can purchase any one of these, provided your customer base can handle it.

But if you are a manufacturer, you are limited to the capacity and the technology that your factory can accommodate.

TileDealer:: What makes this an ideal time for Shaw to expand into the tile industry?

DePasquale: Well, Shaw has been in the tile business for a while now, so the question is a little misstated. Generally speaking, it is no secret that tile is one of the flooring products that has had consistent growth over the last decade, and I can’t think of anyone that believes that growth is going to stop.

TileDealer: You have been involved with ceramic tile manufacturers, distributors and now Shaw. What are the major differences between the three?

DePasquale: What a great question, unfortunately it would take an entire magazine to answer it. Manufacturers tend to be pretty myopic, meaning that they are focused on keeping their kilns operating at full capacity – hopefully driven by demand, of course. That is the key to their success. Costs are critical to control, and quarter pennies mean something to them.

Distributors are different within their own group. Between the traditional tile distributor and the full service floorcovering distributor, there is a wide range of differences. The one thing they have in common is their need for inventory control, expense containment and turn and earn. Manufacturers motto: Loaded and Loyal… Distributors motto: Turn and Earn. Crash!

Shaw is both a manufacturer, albeit not ceramic tile, and a distributor. We have a unique situation in that we can deliver to our customer a complete house of flooring products. While it is impossible to be all things to everyone, we can come pretty close to that where flooring is concerned.

TileDealer: How will Shaw differentiate its long-standing carpet markets with the tile and stone markets? Do you anticipate tile and stone taking away some of your current market share?

DePasquale: Well, no one can ignore the growth of tile and stone in the market, so our long-standing carpet customers are seeing the value of these products. There is no need to differentiate – educate yes, differentiate, no.

Tile and stone take away from our current market share? We consider it gaining market share. As I stated earlier, no one can ignore this product segment’s growth and consumer acceptance. Shaw is not going to watch others service this important product group and not participate.

TileDealer: Carpet seems to have a broad market appeal when it comes to color and style. For instance, beige is equally popular in Tampa as it is in Seattle. But tile preferences seem to be more regional – what works in Phoenix may not work in Minneapolis. How does a national company like Shaw address this difference?

DePasquale: The only regional difference we see now with tile is color – the stone look is everywhere you go. Shaw has done extensive research on regional color preferences. We make sure that a color palette for a particular product crosses over the national scope of color selections. Sometimes a product can be done in only three colors – sometimes it takes more.

TileDealer: What do you think the company will gain or learn from involvement with the tile industry and CTDA?

DePasquale: I, personally, have been involved with the CTDA for a long time. Sometimes you are a member of an organization to support it, not just because you are looking at it as a supplier of valuable knowledge, although I will welcome all it can offer. I look forward to the management seminars where valuable industry information is shared and there is the opportunity to meet with other executives in the industry and exchange ideas.

TileDealer: In your opinion, what will the tile industry look like in 5 years?

DePasquale: I am not sure what we will have in the way of products. It seems we have been in the stone look stage for a long, long time, but I haven’t seen any real threats to it. I guess eventually we will run out of rocks to copy.

From a distribution standpoint, I see more consolidation or elimination of smaller distributors, except in the smallest of markets. The large distributors are growing and the Shaw’s of the world are getting stronger. I see the remaining distributors taking more control of their markets, either by starting contracting companies (directly or indirectly) or by expanding their services to offer more of a full service program for their customers, and of course, using Shaw as their source of supply.


Installer Briefing: Heated Floor Installations Tile and stone industry keeps up with increased demand for warm floors
 
May 1st, 2004

By Bart Bettiga May-Jun 2004

The ceramic tile and natural stone industry has experienced enormous growth over the last several years. A healthy economy, trends in building larger kitchens and bathrooms and increased consumer demand have contributed to this trend.

In addition to market trends, advancements in technology have helped drive increased tile and stone usage. Improvements in both tile and stone production as well as the products to install them have played a large role in our industry’s explosion.

Perhaps no other advancement in technology has had a bigger impact than the increased use of radiant heating in tile and stone installations. Designers and architects have always loved the look of our products, but for years homeowners objected to them due to the cool surface. Radiant heating has eliminated this objection. Tile and stone now offer an inviting source of warmth. Initially, radiant heat was used primarily in cold weather markets, but that has recently changed. With radiant, tile may be turned on to be warm in cold weather, then turned off for a cool feel in warmer months. Tile is thin, but also dense and conductive, thus it transfers heat exceptionally well.

Hydronic Systems

According to the Radiant Panel Association, hydronic tubing sales nearly doubled in four years. In 1998, 121 million square feet of hydronic tubing were shipped in the United States. By 2002, this number had increased to 213 million square feet, a whopping 44% increase! These systems are usually used when the customer wishes to heat a large area, often the entire house. The decision to use hydronic systems is generally made by the builder and the client, not the distributor or tile contractor. The challenge to the contractor is to install the tile correctly over hydronic tubing.

The Tile Council of America Handbook for ceramic tile installation recognizes three ways to install tile over hydronic tubing systems. The first installation (F111-03)[Editor's note: numbers refer to installations in the Tile Council of America Handbook] over a concrete subfloor outlines a situation where the radiant heating tubes are laid over the slab. The contractor must screed fill flush to the top of the pipes before placing a cleavage membrane and reinforced mortar bed in place. At this point, the contractor can install over a workable mortar bed or come back later and apply the tile with a dry set or latex modified mortar on a cured bed.

Installation F141-03 requires a wood subfloor in which the radiant pipes are installed in the same way as F111-03, over the subfloor with screed fill flush to the top of the pipes. The cleavage membrane and reinforced mortar method is the same process as well. It is important to note the required subfloor is 19/32-inch plywood or 1-inch nominal boards when joists are 16-inches on center.

A new hydronic method in which the pipes are encapsulated into a poured concrete floor was introduced in 2003. This method, (RH110-03) calls for the tubes to be installed into the mortar. The portland cement must be at least ¾-inch over the top of the tubes. It is also important to note that this detail calls for a crack isolation membrane to be applied to the substrate prior to the installation of the tile. Distributors and contractors should consult with the manufacturers of both the crack isolation system and the adhesive manufacturer to be used for specific installation instructions.

It is also important to note that in many markets gypsum-based underlayments are being poured over the hydronic tubing where tile is to be installed. The National Tile Contractors Association considers gypsum-based underlayment to be a questionable substrate, as it expands and contracts at a different rate than cement. This does not mean that you cannot successfully install tile over this system. It does mean that you need to consult with the adhesive manufacturer and the crack isolation manufacturer to ensure you are covering your bases when tiling over this system. Get a written warranty blessing your process! This is your best insurance on a job of this magnitude.

Another popular method being used today involves the use of cementitious, self-leveling underlayments. These systems are installed by the tile contractor, and can be pumped or mixed and poured over the tubes. Generally this is done in two pours.

In this scenario, a primer needs to be applied to the first pour to prevent a cold joint. Again, consult with the self-leveling manufacturer for proper instructions. An advantage to this method is that the manufacturers of mortar systems generally also make the self-leveling products, leaving the contractor with a better chance of achieving a solid warranty.

Electric Systems

The use of electric radiant heat systems has simply exploded in recent years. An electric system may be the best choice for small areas like a single master bathroom. Typically, low-profile electric floor radiant systems are installed right in the thinset used to set a finished tile or stone floor. A thermostat controls the temperature of these systems.

There are many manufacturers of electric radiant heat systems. Some products come in mats; others are cables attached to the substrate or rolled goods with the cables already inside of them. Most of these systems must be embedded in the thinset. The Tile Council of America introduced three new methods for electric radiant heat systems in the 2003 Handbook. Follow these instructions carefully. The three methods outlined provide details over concrete (RH115-03), cementitious and fiber cement underlayments, (RH135-03) and a double layer plywood system (RH130-03). Be sure to consult with the manufacturer of the underlayment being used for their installation requirements. Specifically ask them if a crack isolation system is required.

The National Tile Contractors Association also recommends that the tile contractor apply a bond coat with the flat side of the trowel to the substrate. Then, the electric system is applied to the bond coat prior to the installation of the tile. When installing tile over electric systems, you need to make sure you are not troweling the thinset being used thicker than an adhesive manufacturer will allow. Consult with the manufacturers for specific installation instructions and product recommendations over these products. This includes the adhesive, underlayment and electric system manufacturers.

Many of the electric system manufacturers have outstanding websites which help you to lay out the floor and to price the project quickly. Also pay close attention to requirements in the TCA Handbook for the use of expansion joints provided in detail EJ171. Costs of these systems vary, but when a consumer really looks at the value added to the home, the investment is often justifiable.

It is important to note that crack isolation systems are not required in the TCA Handbook details on electric radiant heat systems. This does not mean they should not be considered.

Methods for installing tile, stone and marble over these systems are evolving. Get specific installation instructions in writing to protect yourself. Also, the TCA Handbook Committee will be meeting in the summer of 2004 for further method updates. Play close attention to the 2005-2006 Handbook release to see if any changes or modifications occur. Contact the Marble Institute of America for their recommendations for natural stone installations over these systems.

Sources For Information

Specific manufacturers’ websites are helpful but a word of caution is necessary because they are proprietary in nature. Other sources to be considered include the Radiant Panel Association at 970-613-0100 or www.RPA-info.com. You may also want to consult with the Tile Council of America at www.tileusa.com or the Marble Institute of America at www.marble-institute.com for specific details regarding tile or stone installations over these products.

Bart Bettiga is the Executive Director of the National Tile Contractors Association and a former President of the Ceramic Tile Distributors Association. The National Tile Contractors Association, established in 1947, represents the entire tile and stone industry and is dedicated to providing quality education to ensure proper installations. For more information, contact NTCA headquarters at 601-939-2071 or www.tile-assn.com.


Designer Briefing: Design Trends to Follow What’s new in tile design trends? It’s all about mixing and matching.
 
May 1st, 2004

 

May-Jun 2004

TileDealer caught up with certified tile consultant Patti Fasan at Coverings to get her “insider’s view” of tile trends 2004. Technology has driven a lot of this year’s trends.

Today’s tile programs include dozens of formats for every tile. Sizes start at the smallest mosaics, 1-inch by 1-inch or 2-inch by 2-inch and move on to include 24 by 36-inch rectangles and larger, with a full range of square and rectangular options in between. The variety lends itself to detailed installations, including borders on floors and walls, wainscoting on walls, and more.

Fasan leads attendees at her Coverings style seminars through a list of what’s “in”. Large formats represent just one of the technological developments. Technology has also introduced:

Rectified tile. Water jet cutting makes all sides of the tile uniform. The result is an absolutely flat tile that replicates stone or even wood. Tiles fit so closely together that grout is almost invisible. This is a new look & a new installation.

Weathered steel finish that looks like it’s oxidizing metal, but unlike metal, it won’t bleed onto adjacent surfaces. Fasan believes architects will embrace this look.

Double pressing refers to tile that is pressed, decorated, glazed, pressed a second time, then fired to incorporate the glaze into the tile. The resulting color depth mimics stone but offers the installation and maintenance advantages of tile. Only four manufacturers (one in Spain, two in Italy and one in Turkey) offer this technology.

 

The color palette options:

Last year’s vanilla and cream are deeper and warmer. Warm taupes, red/browns, and faded blacks help to balance the technology in our lives.

Black & white. Classic glamour from the 30s, along with lipstick red. Black listels frame other tiles.

Wow colors from the 50s – lemon, tangerine, lime. Rust is making a comeback with mossy greens and cream.

Stainless steel influence in glass tiles and ice blues.

 

Shape & texture:

Multiple listels that can be stacked horizontally to imitate stone or vertically to accentuate an arch or other architectural detail.

Molded, three-dimensional tiles in small and larger formats to create texture and pattern when used with companion two-dimensional pieces. This is especially dramatic in subtle white-on-white or gray-on-gray installations.

Subtle, tone-on-tone designs that mimic fabric finishes like damask.

 

What do these choices mean for the dealer?

End users are going to see more sophisticated designs combining a full range of sizes and/or textures in monochromatic layouts, eye-popping color combos using brights and neutrals, combinations of glass and porcelain, and more. Fasan believes this growing number of choices adds up to great opportunities for the dealer. These same consumers are going to search out designers and suppliers who can produce these looks for them. This favors the professional designer, says Fasan, because it takes skill to achieve the sophisticated layout to assemble and maximize the material. Fasan believes that the consumer wants technology along with expert design. It isn’t available everywhere and it’s what differentiates the dealer from the big box store.

“If you aren’t in the high end and don’t know how to design in all the sizes,” says Fasan, “you’re going to get burned.”

 


Innovations
 
May 1st, 2004

 

May-June 2004

Rad-Flex Radius Finders

Finding a radius has never been easier with the invention of the Rad-Flex Radius Finder from Roberts. With the new 10-804 and 10-808 Rad-Flex Radius Finders, the radii of any difficult “bull-nose” stair, curved wall or pattern can be easily transferred directly to the flooring material for perfect cuts. Available in 4-foot and 8-foot lengths that can be combined to form longer lengths, the 10-804 and 10-808 contain an accurate and secure locking system to maintain the radius, a high carbon spring steel to easily shape the radius and riveted screws to prevent surface scratches or fiber snagging. This product is excellent for carpet, ceramic, stone, masonry, trim and molding, framing, glasswork and landscaping, making this innovative tool a necessity for any flooring needs. Roberts is committed to supporting the professional installer’s needs. (800-423-6545; www.robertsconsolidated.com)

New PermaBase® Offering

National Gypsum Company now has ¼-inch PermaBase® Brand Cement Board Underlayment. “To satisfy the needs of our customers, we converted our 5/16-inch board to ¼-inch, says Craig Robertson, Market Manager, Cement Backerboard. “The new ¼-inch Cement Board Underlayment allows our customer to build the floor surface to any height needed, allowing for easier transition from tiled floor to other surface materials.” The unique structure of PermaBase combines a cementitious core sandwiched between two layers of fiber mesh. It is the only product in the industry with its patented EdgeTech® technology. The tapered, double-wrapped edge design is virtually resistant to chipping, fragmenting, and crumbling from on-the-job use, providing the best edge for workability, durability, and stability in the industry. PermaBase Brand ¼-inch Cement Board is traditionally utilized as an underlayment for ceramic tile on floors and countertops. It is ideally suited for interior high-moisture areas, such as tub and shower enclosures, sink surrounds, etc. One of its best features is its “score and snap” ability which allows the installer to cut this product with a utility knife and snap it off easily. Additional features include compatibility with all setting agents, double-wrapped edge for closer fastener application of nails or screws without crumbling or spinout, and 30-Year Limited Warranty on interior applications.

Rustic Porcelain Portinari and Porcellanato Pietra Portinari

Cecrisa S.A., a leading company in the Brazilian market of ceramic coverings, is presenting its new Rustic Porcelain Portinari and Porcellanato Pietra Portinari collections. The new products bring a new proposal, where they reflect trends in color, shape and texture, obtained from recent international fairs. New Lines include:

Stucco Line inspired by ancient plasterwork painted with whitewash and aged by nature. With its rustic style, it has a collection of special products based on stencil painting techniques (paintings with hollow molds). It is presented in the 15 x 15 cm size and colors in pastel shades, which are: Reboco Wh, Reboco Yl, Reboco Sl, Reboco Bl and Reboco Cotto. It is indicated for inside ambiences, such as kitchens and bathrooms.

Spring Line: Shiny with intense colors, yellow, peach, chocolate, rope, white, cyano, royal and green. For interior installations, it is produced in the 15 x 15-cm size, with special finishing items for benches, mosaics and hand-painted articles.

Metropolis (Metrópole) Line based on urban design taken from the three stones that gave rise to the product: Pietra Vicentina (white), Jura Marmo (gray) and Pietra Damasco (savanna). For commercial and residential interior installations, and is presented in sizes 30 x 60 and 45 x 45 cm.

Shape Line: The novelty of this line lies in its rectangular shape: 10 x 30 cm for matte products and 15 x 30 cm for shiny ones. In trendy colors (turquoise blue, orange, citric green and lime), basic colors (graphite, gray and white) and sober colors (cocoa, tobacco and cream). Interior and exterior installations.

Slate: Part of the Geo Line from the Porcellanato Pietra Portinari collection of residential and commercial floorings. In sizes 45 x 90 and 45 x 45 cm, supplemented by special items measuring 15 x 15 and 15 x 45 cm, and various mosaics for composition on floors and walls. (48-431-6152)

North Prairie Tileworks introduces Prairie Lattice

North Prairie Tileworks of Minneapolis, Minn., introduced its newest handmade ceramic tile design, Prairie Lattice, at Coverings 2004. Prairie Lattice is a complete departure from traditional squares and rectangles of ceramic tile. The design is a series of hand-cut ceramic tiles defined by an interlocking pattern of flowing lines and graceful arches. The design is available in red and buff stoneware and matched with one or more of North Prairie’s glaze colors from their palette of over 81 colors. Available in 4-and 6-inch base sizes, the four-inch base design with a trim piece fits perfectly within an 18-inch kitchen backsplash. The 6-inch base design combines with North Prairie’s Baseboard (5-1/2 by 1-inches) or Large Classic Base Trim (3-1/4- by 1-3/4-inches) and capped with one of North Prairie’s small trim or chair rails produces a unique wainscoting wall treatment or fireplace surround. The design is inspired by a series of spirals found in nature and is a collaboration of the staff of this twelve-year-old Arts & Crafts ceramic studio. (www.HandMadeTile.com)

Sure Seal provides solution to sealer application

Installation contractors and tile and stone professionals have searched for years for a solution to the problems associates with applying a quality sealant to grout and porous natural stone surfaces. The two major concerns involve the reluctance of installers to schedule a return trip and the complicated application. Traditional sealers have always required a minimum of 48-72 hours for the grout to begin ti sure before applying. Additionally, applying sealer to grout lines only is a tedious task installers typically defer to the end user. Sure Seal products can be applied with a pump sprayer or, in the case of the aerosol version, simply sprayed on the grout lines less than twenty minutes after installation. Sure Seal dries invisibly, eliminating the need to wipe excess sealant from the tile. Since Sure Seal allows the surface to breathe, it does not impede the natural curing time of the grout. (www.buysureseal.com)

Laufen introduces double-pressed porcelain

Building on its reputation as a technological leader in the tile industry, Laufen has unveiled a new line of double-pressed porcelain products called Stone Evolution. The tile is pressed, glazed and then pressed a second time before going to the kiln. The second press produces the appearance of natural stone and seals the surfaces resulting in a less porous product with lower water absorption. Stone Evolution includes the Solaris and Jupiter series, both offered in a variety of sizes and packages, making the design options limitless. With homogenous dimensions and thickness, the installation of Stone Evolution is easier than that of natural stone. The only maintenance required is routine cleaning. Compared to natural stone, it is less porous, has greater hardness and mechanical resistance, and greater resistance to staining and freezing. (www.LaufenUSA.com)

Omega Backerboard

M-Squared Innovations’ Omega Backerboard has all the qualities of traditional fiber and cement based backer products with several added advantages. The unique chemical properties make moisture problems, tile adhesion, and sheer material weight a thing of the past. Omega Backerboard is lightweight and easy to lift, acts as a vapor barrier, can be cut with traditional tools, can be screw attached to within 1/4″ from seams, does not produce dust when cut, resists job site damage and more. It’s ability to conform to curves without fracture enables the product to be used in ways that traditional products cannot. Omega Board has passed local building standards for residential installation. M-Squared is excited by the “Zero Waste Factor” of Omega. Instead of paying to dump waste into a landfill, contractors simply ship waste trim to the Minnesota facility where it is chipped and incorporated into more product. Omega Board is it’s ability to mitigate mold when used as a separation product between a wood base and a tile/granite/marble counter top, black mold is a thing of the past. (507-438-1864)

Blue Cat Tile

Blue Cat Tile is a new decorative tile product suitable for use in residential and commercial applications. Blue Cat Tile’s new advanced technology permits high quality reproduction of stock or your proprietary images in any quantity, large or small, on individual tiles or large murals which are highly scratch resistant and durable in any situation. No other imaged tiles can match Blue Cat Tile quality, choice of images and ease of custom orders. Perhaps the most exciting feature of this new product is its affordability. Blue Cat Tile is the most advanced decorative tile product on the market at a highly competitive price.

For the first time you can have your image on tile without having to commit to a large amount of stock or a major investment. Blue Cat Tile can put any image on tile for use in commercial or residential applications. Imagine one of the company’s stock image or your own image in applications as diverse as floor medallions, murals, kitchen back splashes, showers, ceiling murals, lobby art, advertising specialties or wherever your imagination leads. (www.bluecattile.com)


Industry Insights
 
May 1st, 2004

 

May-June 2004

Baldini presented CTDA Service to the Industry Award

CTDA President Gail M. Schovan presented the Jerry Fisher Memorial – Service to the Industry Award to Rick Baldini, president and CEO of Aqua Mix. The award is presented to “an industry professional who has shown outstanding service through invention or dedication of time and effort to the ceramic tile industry.” In making the presentation, Schovan recognized Baldini’s more than 20 years in the industry, serving on the boards of CTDA, CTIOA, Western States Ceramic Tile Association. He serves on various industry committees and has been a lecturer for the CTC course. Beyond the tile industry, Baldini has a scholarship named after him at the University of Utah. “For him there is no other place than number 1,” said Schovan, recounting how in the fall of 2003, Baldini and his family formed the “Life is Good” team and participated in a 3-day, 50 mile MS walk. Their goal as a team was raising $25,000; in fact, they raised $42,000! “He truly embodies a drive to be successful while all along respecting others and recognizing that he cannot do it alone,” said Schovan.

Roca Group Wins Award at Coverings 2004

Coverings honored the Roca Group with an award for Best in Show over 500 square feet. Each year, the Board of Directors for Coverings walks the show floor and reviews all of the exhibit displays. Based on their observations, they select what they consider to be the best booths of the show. The criteria for the Best in Show award includes: creativity of the design; creative use of tile and/or stone in the booth’s design and architecture; how well tile and/or stone are displayed within the context of the design elements; and overall look of the booth and visual aesthetic The Roca Group shared the award with two other exhibitors. There were a total of 176 booths in the over 500 square feet category. The Roca Group exhibit featured Roca, Laufen, Incepa and United States Ceramic Tile Company products.

“Our concept in terms of showing ceramic tile this year has been to take the more sophisticated products in our company and showcase them in the form of an art gallery,” said Laufen and United States Ceramic Tile Company CEO Don Olsen.

TPFH and Industry Partners Celebrate Coverings Donation, Successful First Year

Tile Partners for Humanity (TPFH) coordinated the donation of 150 palettes and 16 crates of tile and setting materials from individual exhibitors at Coverings to Habitat for Humanity of Orlando. The Coverings donation filled six trailers with unused materials that will go to both new homes in the Orlando area and the Habitat Home Store, which sells building materials to fund new construction in the community.

Freeman Decorating Company donated labor and trucks to transport the materials from the Orange County Convention Center to the Orlando Habitat affiliate.

TPFH is a partnership between the tile industry and Habitat for Humanity, a non-profit organization working to eliminate substandard housing around the world. TPFH works within the industry to raise awareness of Habitat and to solicit donations of tile, installation materials, tile tools, cleaners and sealers, installation labor, and installation training for volunteers and homeowners.

“We are overwhelmed and overjoyed by the generosity of these exhibitors!” exclaimed Shirley Jones, manager of the Habitat Home Store. “This is a real win-win for us because we can put tile in the homes we build and we can sell tile to pay for new construction. We even got a donation of 29 palettes from one exhibitor – Roca/Laufen/United States Ceramic Tile Company – and I knew our ship had come in! This will benefit our community more than these wonderful exhibitors know.”

TPFH hosted a seminar at Coverings on Wednesday, March 24, to demonstrate the need for the entire industry to get involved with TPFH and Habitat projects. Larry Prible, a member of Habitat for Humanity International’s Board of Directors, was the featured speaker along with remarks from representatives of the National Tile Contractors Association, Houston Habitat for Humanity in Houston, Texas, and Habitat in Jacksonville, Fla.

Through installation training and interaction with industry professionals, TPFH partners hope to increase the number of volunteers who can donate labor as well as interest volunteers and new homeowners in a career in the industry.

TPFH is guided by seven industry organizations whose representatives sit on its board of directors, including the Ceramic Tile Distributors Association, Ceramic Tile Education Foundation, Ceramic Tile Institute of America, National Tile Contractors Association, The Tile Doctor, Tile Council of North America, and Tile Heritage Foundation. For more information on TPFH or to make a pledge, please visit www.tpfh.com.

Assopiastrelle launches sustainability program

Ceramic Tiles of Italy launched “S_tiles – Italian Tiles Towards Sustainability,” a new integrated environmental and social communication strategy created by Assopiastrelle and coordinated by EOS-Environmental Consulting Group at Coverings 2004. It will include a new website developed in cooperation with Pomilio Blumm, a book (in Italian and English), seminars and meetings with diverse stakeholders around the world. The project is being developed in cooperation with the Italian Ministry of Productive Activities – Foreign Trade Department and the Italian Institute for Foreign Trade.

The “S_tiles” initiative fulfills the need of Assopiastrelle for an effective environmental and social communication strategy that goes beyond a purely technical or promotional project. The aim of the initiative is to raise awareness of the Italian tile sector’s strategic approach to concrete application of the principles of sustainable development, taking account of all components of this development, whether environmental, social or economic. Through environment protection policies, especially measures for increasing energy efficiency, the Italian ceramic industry improved the quality of its products and enhanced their prestige among the parties most sensitive to sustainable development, namely policy-makers, legislators, bioarchitects, ecodesigners, as well as a number of distributors and an increasingly large segment of consumers. The “S_tiles” website is an active forum open to the contributions of members and other stakeholders, and will post case-studies, news and reports. As one of the main objectives of the initiative, Assopiastrelle intends to make “S_tiles” an important international reference point for everyone working in the field of sustainable building. For more information on S_tiles visit www.s-tiles.it or www.italiatiles.com.

Dinkel named TCNA Tile Person of the Year

Paul E. Dinkel was awarded the Tile Council of North America’s (TCNA) 2003 Tile Person of the Year award during Coverings 2004. The annual award recognizes a person who has been instrumental in increasing the consumption of ceramic tile. Dinkel started his tile career working summers for his uncles while he was still in high school. As a tile contractor and salesperson, Dinkel noticed tile contractors were experiencing failures when tile was installed in wet areas. Using his basement as a laboratory, he began an intensive research and development program with glass mesh mortar units. This quest produced a backerboard and underlayment comprised of lightweight concrete and glass mesh for ceramic tile applications that would not degrade when wet. In 1967, a new corporation emerged manufacturing the patented and trademarked new product called WonderBoard. WonderBoard, was the first cementitious backerboard and as such, revolutionized the ceramic tile industry. Previously, tile over wood floors was set in a mud bed, a time-consuming and expensive method. WonderBoard allowed tile installations to be completed faster and at less cost. On walls, WonderBoard eliminated failures that were previously occurring in wet areas. Dinkel’s innovative achievements and generous support for installer education continues to enhance the contractor trade as well as our entire industry.

TCNA leadership

Eric Astrachan accepted the executive director position for the Tile Council of North America, Inc. (TCNA) on March 1, 2004 succeeding Robert E. Daniels who has held the position for the past 10 years. Daniels will continue as TCNA’s Executive Director Emeritus. As the Corporate Secretary of International Trade Expositions, Mr. Daniels is working with National Trade Productions through the management transition of the 2004 Coverings show. He also manages the TCA Team, the tile and stone consulting subsidiary of the Tile Council, while volunteering his time as the Chairman of the Board for the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation. Daniels will continue as the chairman of the ISO committees dealing with tile and Dr. John Sanders of Clemson University accepted the role of Secretariat.

TCA now The Tile Council of North America

The Tile Council of America now represents American, Canadian, and Mexican tile manufacturers with the addition of four large Mexican tile manufacturers to its membership. Reflecting the expanded membership, the TCA Board of Directors approved changing the organization’s name to the Tile Council of North America. An estimated 80% of the tiles made in North America (Canada, Mexico and the United States) are represented by the Tile Council’s membership. With combined tile production in 2003 for North America estimated at 2.2 billion square feet, the Tile Council’s membership represents approximately 1.8 billion square feet of ceramic tile production. “The addition of Mexican manufacturers allows the Tile Council to represent a powerful North American ceramic tile manufacturing industry,” remarked Robert E. Daniels, Executive Director of TCA. “Similar interests such as developing standards, publishing installation guidelines, and educating installers, sales staff and everyone in the ceramic tile chain on installation practices bonds our membership.” Four of the largest Mexican manufacturers have since joined the association: Grupo Porcelanite, Internacional De Ceramica (Interceramic), Lamosa Revestimientos and Manufacturas Vitromex.

Crossville brand initiative and repositioning

Jim Dougherty, vice president of marketing and business development for Crossville, announced a major brand initiative – Crossville® – for the company, accompanied by a new tag line: “Elevate Your Space.” Extensive market research conducted in 2003 confirmed that Crossville is a brand that needs no further clarification or description. In addition, while Crossville has been the preeminent U.S. company that designs, manufactures and markets Porcelain Stone® tile for almost 20 years, the company’s message has expanded to include the industry’s largest collection of glass, metal and stone accents and trims, plus coordinated floor and wall tile ensembles for commercial and residential applications of the highest order. “Crossville’s position in the marketplace has changed,” states Dougherty, “and it was time that our message and identity change as well.” The name Crossville® is now the master brand of Crossville, Inc. Crossville will encompass three sub brands: Porcelain Stone® by Crossville, which includes Cross-Colors®, Cross-Colors Mosaics and the full range of stone-look Porcelain Stone tile to Milestone Mosaics to the newly introduced WeatherStone, an indoor/outdoor tile, and Tuscania, with the look of cross-cut travertine; Accent Innovations™ by Crossville, including glass, stone and metal accents; and Design Solutions™ by Crossville, coordinated wall and floor tile ensembles, such as the Le Ville collection. Dougherty concludes that “no other brand of home surface décor is as uniquely positioned as Crossville to make and deliver this promise: Crossville will ‘Elevate Your Space’ and keep elevating it by continual product, style and service innovation – now and in the future.” For more information, contact Crossville at 800-221-9093 or visit www.crossville-ceramics.com.

Ceramic Tiles of Italy Distributor and Design Awards 2004

Assopiastrelle, the Association of Italian Ceramic Tile and Refractory Manufacturers announced that Virginia Tile Company, of Farmington Hills, Michigan, received the 2004 Assopiastrelle American Distributor Award. For the past 14 years, this award has been granted to premiere American distributors for their dedication to the promotion and use of Italian ceramic tiles in the North American marketplace. According to William Stephenson, the company’s president, Virginia Tile Company was founded in 1928 by his grandfather. The company has seven showroom locations spread across Michigan, Ohio and Illinois and distributes to nearly a thousand dealers throughout their region from warehouses that occupy more than 200,000 square feet. The company represents more that 20 Italian ceramic tile manufacturers.

Assopiastrelle also announced the following winners of the Ceramic Tiles of Italy Design Competition 2004: the New York City firm of Bernard Tschumi for the design of the Paul L. Cejas School of Architecture, on the Florida International University Campus, Miami, Florida; Gillies Stransky Brems Smith PC of Salt Lake City, Utah, for the Clearwater Center, Bountiful, Utah; and the Jones Studio, Inc. of Phoenix, Arizona, for the Walner residence, Scottsdale, Arizona. The Design Competition was started 11 years ago, to recognize outstanding achievement by North American architects or interior designers using Italian ceramic tile in commercial, institutional or residential installations. The criteria used by the jury include: overall design of the project, innovative use of tile, tile design, quality of installation and degree that tile enhanced the setting.

Carlos Socias new VP at Laufen

Carlos Socias has been promoted to the newly created position of Vice President of Sales and Marketing of Laufen and United States Ceramic Tile Company. Socias has been directing the efforts of the company’s Regional Sales Managers and Marketing Department. In his new capacity he will be responsible for the company’s comprehensive sales and marketing implementation. Socias has been with the Roca Group for 19 years, the last 12 years with the Ceramic Tile Division. His global knowledge and his US market expertise make him ideal for this critical role.

Johnson receives Tile of Spain 2004 Industry Award

Richard Johnson, vice president of Florida Flooring Products, was presented with the 2004 Tile of Spain Industry Award. The award recognizes an industry professional who has contributed significantly to the marketing and distribution of ceramic tile from Spain in the US. Established twenty years ago as a full-line floor covering distributors, Florida Flooring started carrying ceramic tile in 1999. In five short years, under Johnson’s guidance, they have developed their own ceramic tile line which today represents one third of the company’s total sales. “The people in Spain are very gracious to work with and we have developed very strong relationships,” said Johnson, noting that ceramic tile from Spain is of the highest quality. “That is something we have to be very careful about because we guarantee our tile and, on this front, Spain’s manufacturers have been very responsive.” In terms of pricing, he added, “We appreciate the fact that the factories are taking the hit regarding current Euro/dollar exchange rates.”


Technology for Tile Distributors: Taking You Where You Want to Go
 
May 1st, 2004

 

By Doug Levin May-Jun 2004

Increasingly, tile dealers realize they must adopt technology to increase sales, improve customer service, and reduce operating costs. While some tile dealers have embraced technology in the form of market-specific software solutions, far more have implemented packages designed to handle only the financial side of their businesses.

As a tile dealer, you need much more than accounting software. To be successful in today’s ultra-competitive, margin-squeezed market, you also need strong inventory management functionality that tracks shades, lots, and slabs. You need the ability to monitor costs when importing product, and the power to effectively manage relationships with all of your business partners – vendors, homeowners, contractors, architects, and specifiers.

Bob Traxler, president of Arizona Tile, one of the country’s largest distributors of ceramic tile and natural stone, says his company’s success and profitability would have been impossible to attain without leading edge, industry-specific technology. “Technology has absolutely helped us grow in a number of ways,” Traxler says. “We wouldn’t have been able to accommodate the customers we have today – or the stock we carry – if we didn’t adopt a scalable solution with functionality that fits our needs.”

What You Need

An enterprise software solution – the system on which your business runs – is your main source of technology, and it should come from a company that understands your business. Your technology partner should know that you might handle just as many sales through your front counter or in a showroom as you do at your loading dock, and understand that inventory control is crucial. And, perhaps most importantly, your entire solution should be fully integrated so information flows seamlessly throughout your company.

For example, you might buy product by the carton or pallet and sell it by the piece or square foot. Your solution should convert pallets and cartons into square feet and pieces prior to price extensions to ensure you always maintain adequate profit margins. Additionally, because many of the products you sell are natural, color lots often vary greatly. Your solution should control color lots by shade to ensure pickers always pull single orders from the same color lots, improving customer service and inventory management while reducing the chance of returns.

Also, many contractors and end-users want to take a few pieces of tile to see what fits best in their kitchen, bathroom, or foyer. While you may charge nothing for these samples, you should track what leaves your showroom to better calculate inventory costs – and your software solution should make it easy for you to create sample invoices within order entry. In addition to better understanding inventory costs, you can use this capability to follow up on sales opportunities, track popularity trends, and pursue the pieces you want customers to return.

Because customers often call to request the same item they ordered one week, one month, or one year before – without the original invoice or knowledge of the item’s part number, your solution should allow you to search through complete sales histories by self-determined criteria. You should be able to narrow your sales history search by date range or keywords – i.e., “6 x 6 stone brown” – and, in a few simple steps, add that item to the customer’s current order. This saves time – and eliminates trips to the file cabinet to thumb through customer invoices.

What You See

David Hayes, IT director at the Massachusetts-based Maline Tile Company, says that fully integrated, technology specifically developed for tile distributors has changed the way his company does business. “You can’t manage millions of dollars worth of stock using a typewriter and inventory cards anymore,” he says.

Tile-specific functionality in Maline’s software solution has helped the company improve customer service and increase sales. “Our solution lets us check on everything – from stock availability and square footage information to specific pricing information – while we have customers on the phone, so we don’t have to call back and give them information an hour or two later.” As a result, sales representatives can make sales instantaneously – improving revenue.

Without the right technology, many tile distributors have floundered. But, with the right technology and tools, many distributors – like Arizona Tile and Maline Tile Company – have flourished. Says Hayes: “Because we use a flexible solution that includes functionality specific to our business, we’ve saved a huge amount of time, money, and aggravation.”

Doug Levin is widely recognized as an expert in technology for distributors. As Executive Vice President for Prophet 21, Levin is dedicated to helping companies of all sizes leverage new technologies and maintain a competitive advantage. Prophet 21 is a leader in providing tile distributors with innovative, adaptive enterprise technology solutions and services.

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