From the Editor’s Desk
 
March 1st, 2005

 

by Janet Arden, Editor
March-April 2005

Running Your Business as if it’s for Sale

A business owner (involved in distribution and installation in a completely different industry) told me recently that he runs his business as if it’s for sale right now.

His business is not on the market, and in fact he has only been the owner for a little over three years. But, he has been scrupulous about devising and documenting “systems”—written procedures that specify activities for all aspects of the business—from loading delivery trucks to processing customer payments.

The question, of course, is “Why?”

Making mistakes is expensive. It costs time and materials, not to mention manpower, to correct mistakes. If you deliver the wrong materials to a jobsite or forget a tool, you spend time and money backtracking. If you don’t install the product properly and it fails, you lose a lot of time and money in callbacks, you may lose a customer and even worse, that customer is going to tell the neighbors (or co-workers, or the bridge club) just how much your company messed up on her purchase.

Having systems in place guards against mistakes. Some systems are pretty straight-forward: for example, check lists for what goes on every truck headed for an installation.

Developing and documenting business systems for ordering, invoicing, etc., requires more than paper shuffling. It requires you to walk through each of the business tasks at your company, document the steps, and then review and refine the steps until they are efficient and do-able by anyone stepping into the business.

This last step—“do-able by anyone stepping into the business”—is also an important benefit. It means, of course, that if you sold your business today, the new owner could come in tomorrow, study your systems, and pick up where you left off with your customers and suppliers. More importantly, it means that if the company bookkeeper is on medical leave, someone else really can do that job. If you’re at Coverings, or another CTDA event or even on vacation, business crises are far less likely “back at the store,” because the employees have your systems to rely on.

I have run this theory—Running your business as if it’s for sale—past other business owners and they agree that it’s a worthy goal, although the ones I have talked to say they are not there—yet.

My question to TileDealer readers is: are you “Running your business as if it’s for sale?” If you are, what did it take to get to this point? If not, why not? I’d love to hear from you. Email me at editor@tiledealer.org.


Upselling with Borders, Accents and Listellos
 
March 1st, 2005

Using quality materials and paying attention to installation details will deliver creativity and process

March-April 2005

By Karen Gustafson

Just as that perfect piece of jewelry or elegant tie can enhance your everyday business suit, borders, accents and listellos can make an ordinary tile installation extraordinary—and provide dealers and distributors with the opportunity to upsell.

At the recent International Builders’ Show, “personalization” was the buzzword. Architects, designers and homeowners are all looking for ways to personalize their projects and environments with color, color, color and details, details, details. In the tile industry, both color and details are in welcome supply today, but many dealers hesitate to suggest their use because they aren’t sure what’s out there or how they can best be used.

THE CHOICES SEEM ENDLESS

Just as tile is being used throughout the home today, borders, accents and listellos are also going beyond the kitchen and bath and being seen in living and dining rooms, home offices, family rooms and bedrooms, as well as outdoor entertainment areas.

Borders, accents and listellos come in a variety of shapes, materials and sizes. In ancient Greece and Rome, tumbled stone and marble mosaics were used in floor and wall murals. Accent tiles have traditionally been small to large mosaics (1″ x 1″ up to 4″ x 4″), while decorative tiles usually have a painted design or a three-dimensional, raised pattern. Decorative trim pieces, such as liner bars or listellos, have traditionally replicated ancient motifs (such as the egg and dart or rope patterns), but today they come in a wide variety of designs and textures. In addition, trim pieces are now available as crown moldings, chair rails and cove base moldings to create the look and finish of a period installation.

In fact, Jim Dougherty, vice president of marketing and business development at Crossville, Inc., has seen such an increased demand for borders, accents and listellos in the marketplace, that Crossville now offers Accent Innovations™, a large collection of glass, metal and natural stone accents and trims. These are in addition to mosaics, borders and trim pieces in Crossville’s trademark stone-look Porcelain Stone® tile and its newly introduced Color Blox line, a smooth textured, minimalist look Porcelain Stone® that comes in 20 colors.

Dougherty sees the following trends: lots of mosaics in all sizes, especially mixed with large-format square and rectangular tile in multiple-size applications; real metal tile in nickel silver, bronze and copper, as well as aged patinas of verdigris and rust; stainless steel in a mix of textures; the iridescence and reflectivity of glass tile on floors, walls and countertops; and, finally, the use of bolder and deeper colors, along with the water-inspired colors that have been popular the last few years.

What is important to remember is that while your customers might choose to tile an entire room with borders, accents and listellos, their strategic use in small quantities can make an impressive design statement and not break your customer’s budget. And because small quantities add up, borders, accents and listellos can inspire both new heights of creativity and profits.

Karen Gustafson, a former editor and design journalist, has written several books on design; she currently heads The Gustafson Group Ltd., a New York-based public relations firm specializing in the design/build industry.


Coverings: Seminars, Training and More at Coverings 2005
 
March 1st, 2005

 

March-April 2005

Coverings 2005 will feature a range of speakers, conferences and seminars designed to address key issues of interest to the wide range of exhibitors and attendees who participate in the show. Free seminars for members from all communities, including architects/designers, installers, dealers, distributors and fabricators will help raise awareness of current trends and uses for ceramic tile and natural stone, giving attendees an increased understanding of the tile and stone market and business opportunities in the U.S. In addition, many of the seminars will offer ASID, AIA, or Florida State Continuing Education Units.

“We learned with our highly successful conference program last year that attendees truly value educational sessions targeted to their business areas,” says Tamara Christian, Coverings show director and president of National Trade Productions. “As a result, for the 2005 show we’re offering even more customized sessions that will help each attendee group expand its opportunities to increase the use and sale of tile and stone. We have scheduled sessions on a broad range of topics including everything from doing business with homebuilders to increased profitability for tile contractors to green building and mosaic design. We’re confident our attendees will come away from Coverings 2005 with tools and training they need to drive their businesses,” Christian adds.

Immediately after the PRISM and Spectrum Awards are announced, keynote speaker Dave Barry will kick off the show on Tuesday, May 3, from 8:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. A humor columnist for the Miami Herald, his column appears in more than 500 newspapers in the United States and abroad. In 1988 he won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary. Barry has also written a total of 25 books, and he plays lead guitar in a literary rock band called the Rock Bottom Remainders http://www.rockbottomremainders.com, whose other members include Stephen King, Amy Tan, Ridley Pearson and Mitch Albom.

Featured Sessions Provide Something For Everyone

“Like 2004, Coverings 2005 offers a forum, conference, exhibit or workshop for everyone involved in, or looking to enter, the ceramic tile and natural stone business,” notes Christian. “Attendees know that Coverings is the show for superior hard surface education to help them increase sales, perfect installations, and be more profitable.”

Leatrice Eiseman, principal of the Eiseman Center for Color Information and Training, and executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, returns to Coverings on Tuesday, May 3 at 12:30 p.m. to present “Color Trends: How Will They Change?” Once again, she will identify the newest trends in color and consumer buying habits. Eiseman is the author of four books about color and is regularly quoted in a wide range of fashion, interior design and graphics publications.

On Wednesday, May 4 at 8:00 a.m. Vince Marazita of Marazita & Associates will discuss the booming use of natural stone in the United States, from countertops to skyscrapers. This Seventh Annual “State of the Industry” presentation will give attendees a birds-eye view of the dimensional stone market in the USA, covering sourcing, marketing and application trends in the Stone Industry over the past year, including examples of award-winning projects that have been recognized for their use of natural stone.

Barry Wood, of “Trading Spaces,” one of the top-rated shows on The Learning Channel, will present at 12:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 5. Best known for his work on the show, Wood is one part artist, one part architect, and one part rock and roll. His diverse professional experience and wide-open spirit allow him to create thoughtful, yet fun, environments. His Trading Spaces rooms are layered with a balance of precedent, theory, exploration and invention.

On Friday, May 6 at 8:00 a.m., Bruce Van der Linde of Virginia Tile, who has his own talk radio show in Virginia where he’s known as “The Tile Guy,” will discuss Media and Its Impact on the Floor Covering Industry.

Specialized Conferences

Coverings has developed many new conferences and sessions to appeal to each of its primary attendee audiences. Some of the 2005 Coverings conferences include (comprehensive list attached separately):

• What’s Available in Distribution/Retail Software and Why Should I Use It? For distributors and dealers, this session will make attendees aware of the products available on the marketplace and educate them on the importance of software systems for tracking inventory and customer relationship management.

• Embracing Change in the Building Industry: Targeted to installers and specifiers but useful to all attendees, this presentation will look at some of the trends in home building such as more open spaces, larger kitchens and bathrooms, changes in ceramic tile and stone and how the demand for wood building materials is creating conditions that installers, specifiers, salespeople and builder/remodelers need to consider before starting their next jobs.

• Five Key Productivity Measures That Will Increase Your Sales and Profits Now! For the stone fabricators, this presentation will identify the five most important productivity measures and how to use them to increase sales and profitability immediately. Five key measures to be discussed include: Turnover, Average Transaction, Items Per Ticket, Conversion Rate and Gross Margin Return on Inventory Investment.

• Designing For Our Future Selves: The Baby Boomer Generation: Now that the Baby Boomers have come of age and reached success, they are ready to purchase or renovate their last homes. They want luxury and adaptability so that they can age in peace. Use the concept of universal design and the knowledge of products originally made for the disabled but now beautifully designed for use by everyone, and learn how to make your client’s home “cutting edge custom.”

Contractors may participate in free workshops held in the exhibit hall show floor, some of which include:

• Tuesday, May 3rd: Installation of Electric Warm Floors

• Wednesday, May 4th: Installation of Crack Isolation Membrane on Floor

• Thursday, May 5th: Layout and Installation of Ceramic Tile Walls

• Friday, May 6th: Installation of Epoxy Floor Grout

“Just as we did last year, we plan to do a series of special hospitality events to thank the contractors, architects, designers, distributors and retailers who contribute considerably to the success of the show each year,” adds Christian. These hospitality events are scheduled for Wednesday, May 4th and Thursday, May 5th, at Universal Studios in Orlando. There will be three events scheduled, one for contractors, one for architects and designers, and one for distributors and retailers.

“We are confident that we have once again put together a program for Coverings 2005 that will have all attendees leaving knowing that they’ve just attended the show with the most to offer in terms of education and business building in the flooring industry,” Christian adds.


One-on-One with Denise Siegel
 
March 1st, 2005

 

By Janet Arden
March-April 2005

Denise Siegel is an accomplished artist who has blended her love of bas relief, sculpture and bronze into a growing number of stunning tile designs marketed by her company, New Age Bronze Tile, Inc. In 2004, her 2″ bronze tile dots and 2″ by 12″ bronze liners were installed as accents in a slate floor and ceramic wall tile in the House Beautiful Makeover Show House in Glencoe, Illinois, and subsequently in the magazine. The look was stunning and served to underscore what Siegel already knew—the bronze accents are absolutely suited to stone and ceramic installations.

TileDealer recently talked with Siegel about her tile making process and its success in the marketplace.

TileDealer: How did you get started?

Siegel: I’ve always been an artist. About 12 years ago I had a dream about a big, empty house with nothing in it but a sculpture. I woke up and decided to take a sculpture class. As soon as I got into the clay, I knew it was what I wanted to do.

TileDealer: How did you get from sculpture to tile?

Siegel: I’ve been very focused on making a living as a sculptor. I work hard. You have to be very clear on your plan. I started with a few commissions referred by students. Then it just mushroomed. It occurred to me I could make a living as a tile sculptor. People doing a kitchen or bathroom wanted something wonderful to go in it. Bronze tile is more expensive but since the customer uses only a few for accents, it’s an affordable way of incorporating art into one of these rooms.

TileDealer: Why bronze?

Siegel: I’m not a ceramic artist and I don’t know anything about ceramic glazes. But, I have always been interested in bas relief, which is sculpture built up on a flat surface.

TileDealer: How do bronze tiles differ from ceramic tiles?

Siegel: You have to know how to get clay tile into bronze. Ceramic clay has zero-percent absorption, but sculpture clay, which I use, has a high rate—9-percent in the terra cotta, which I use. Rather than firing and glazing in the studio, I sculpt the clay to the finished design and it’s cast by a foundry.

TileDealer: How do you turn your bas relief design into the bronze tile?

Siegel: When the bas relief sculpture is complete, liquid rubber is poured over the tile to make a mold. After it sets and is removed from the sculpture, the mold is used to make a wax positive. The wax positive is stamped into sand; the space left by the stamp is filled with bronze. This casting is completed at a foundry. Once the casting is complete, the real work begins.

The piece must be sandblasted to clean it. The foundry does this for me. Next come the patina and burnishing. I always do this myself. I use liver of sulfur to achieve the patina on my pieces. You can use any chemical to react with the bronze. Liver of sulfur was used during the Renaissance and is the oldest, most traditional patina. Eventually it darkens and enriches the bronze. Then I burnish the bronze by rubbing it with a non-metallic scouring pad to even the patina and bring out the highlighted areas. Next I lacquer my pieces to maintain the look of the finish over time. Bronze has been without lacquer for centuries and can maintain its original look with minimal but regular care. However, the bronze will tend to “green.” This is not a look many homeowners want, especially if the tiles are being installed in a humid climate, kitchen backsplash, bathroom, outdoors, etc. Finally, the tiles are waxed and buffed. My staff in the studio helps with these last two steps.

TileDealer: Does the customer need to do anything to maintain the bronze tiles?

Siegel: Bronze is forever. It absolutely does not break. The tiles should be washed with mild soap and water—no additives like bleach or vinegar. They should be waxed yearly with simple butcher or paste wax.

TileDealer: How did you approach the marketplace with New Age Bronze Tile, Inc?

Siegel: I started with Materials Marketing. They fabricate high-end stone and tile in the Chicago area. They supplied the materials for the House Beautiful project and one of the designers on that project, Tony Stavish of A.J. Stavish Designs, used my tile. I also went to Ann Sacks Tile and Stone. It so happened that they were looking for someone to produce bronze tiles.

TileDealer: Your Foundry Masters line continues at Materials Marketing and your new Antiquity Bronze line of tiles and liners will debut this spring at Ann Sacks. How do these successes impact your studio?

Siegel: It’s volume and it’s just a question of getting more people in the studio to help me. I’ve spent the last three months setting up my studio and systems to do it. The New Bronze Age Tile continues to be all custom work. I’ve just finished an 18′ square bronze relief sculpture to go behind a cook top. The homeowner is also using some of the smaller Foundry Masters tiles from Materials Marketing to continue the look. I’m working on another project of three panels based on some amazing jellyfish drawings that date to 1846.

TileDealer: What’s next?

Siegel: The fun stuff is at the studio. I get a kick out of every tile I make. I also continue to work on my own figurative sculpture and to teach figurative sculpture. Teaching keeps me tied to art history as well as to sculpture history and figurative work.


Care & Cleaning
 
March 1st, 2005

 

March-April 2005

As the installed base of tile grows, so does the need to keep it clean and maintained! Professional cleaning and sealing, mechanical cleaning and do-it-yourself cleaning all offer options for you to add profitable products and/or services to your business.

One of the most all-encompassing programs is offered by Aqua Mix. The company is now offering Continuing Education Credits (CECs) for IICRC registered technicians in the cleaning and restoration industry, effective January 1, 2005.

Aqua Mix’s IAP training program received CEC approval by the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC). The IICRC is a nonprofit certifying body for the inspection, cleaning and restoration industry representing over 3,300 certified firms and 27,590 certified technicians in eleven countries. The IICRC, with participation from the entire industry, sets standards for inspection, cleaning and restoration. The IICRC requires two CECs each year in order for registrants to maintain their certifications. By attending Aqua Mix’s IAP training program, registered technicians will qualify to earn the two CEC units that they need.

Aqua Mix’s two-day IAP training program is designed to provide technical and hands-on product expertise, application techniques, marketing and sales strategies, and extensive knowledge of the geology of natural stone.

“Most applicators have told me that it was well worth the investment just after the first day of training,” said Christine Jenkins, corporate training manager. “Also, once they have completed the program, they receive the benefit of being listed on the Aqua Mix website as a trained applicator.”

“The Aqua Mix ‘Independent Care and Maintenance Applicator’ training program is the best training dollar we have ever spent,” comments Bill Batchelor of Cornerstone Stone and Tile Care. “We sent an employee through the course that was new to the industry. We were so impressed with the knowledge and experience he gained; we have since sent all our experienced applicators through the course.”

One of the newest ways to clean tile and grout relies on basic science and uses no chemical additives. As Lawrence Kavalloro, National Sales Director for VaporLux® Inc., points out, ceramic is popular because it’s easy to clean but grout is not. The VaporLux system heats water to 285-295°. When this steam comes into contact with the cool pores of the tile and grout, the molecules expand, forcing dirt, debris, and bacteria to the surface where it’s picked up. The high temperature also kills mold and mildew spores at their root structure.

The technology comes from Europe but Kavalloro’s company manufactures the machines in this country to comply with U.S. electrical systems. The VaporLux cleaners are the only commercially UL listed systems in North America.

The system is designed for use in homes, hospitals, the hospitality industry, and others. The latest model, the 5.0L Sani-Vap can use non-toxic, biodegradable cleaners. The system’s steam component vaporizes any residual chemicals off the surface, leaving no residue.

Kavalloro says the VaporLux systems have spawned a new cottage industry in tile and grout cleaning services. VaporLux is also the perfect add-on service for dealers. For the relatively small capital investment of $2400-2800, the dealer can add this service for a fee or rent the equipment out.

Trend Watch: The Midwest

March-April 2005

Large format is getting larger. Porcelain is very strong. Stone is as popular as ever. Glass is making inroads as an accent, as is metal. Color continues to stay in the beige/off-white/nocce category.

After talking to a number of dealers in the Midwest about their current sales trends, TileDealer realized that the answers in Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Ohio were remarkably similar and also that tile choices in these areas have gotten far more sophisticated than the traditional 4 by 4 and 6 by 6 units.

Mary Berkemeyer, owner and showroom designer at Kemper Design Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, summed up her marketplace this way: “Large formats like 24″ by 24″ are as well accepted now as the 20″ by 20″ formats were earlier. Stone is as popular as ever but more refined and not as distressed looking as it was.”

At Butler Tile Sales in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, manager Patti Wallemann says travertine and larger units are very popular, especially in rectangles like 12 by 18 and 12 by 14. “Anything that looks like stone or slate is good,” she says.

Scott Hintz, who is ceramics product manager at Cole Wholesale Flooring in Minneapolis, Minnesota, says porcelain is popular in 8 by 10 and 10 by 13 rectangles. Ann Rosinski, showroom manager and interior designer at Genesee Ceramic Tile in Grand Rapids, Michigan, says large format porcelain in 18″ and larger sizes is the biggest trend there right now.

Tory Jaeckle at Jaeckle Wholesale, Inc., in Madison, Wisconsin, says 12 by 12 and 13 by 13 floor tiles represent about 80-percent of the flooring square footage they sell, but large format like 16 by 16 was up in 2004. The company also experienced a big jump in porcelain sales and, although 4 by 4 and 6 by 6 wall tiles are by far the most popular, 8 by 10 large format wall tiles are also growing.

Farther south at Keen Tile, Inc. in Normal, Illinois, owner Brian Jackson says the stone look is dominant, and “We are selling more and more of the large formats in 16, 18 and 24-inches.” In fact, he says he estimates that 20-25 percent of the company’s floor sales are in sizes larger than 12 or 14 inches.

Beyond large format

Berkemeyer notices a few trends in her business. For example, she says they are seeing a lot of glass used as accents in traditional homes, but the marketplace doesn’t have the contemporary or loft-type spaces that would support a whole glass wall. Metallic accents are also popular, but color is still in the golds, greens, warm brown and beige shades.

Wallemann also believes metal and glass accents are coming on stronger in her area. Glass is popular in his area says Hintz, along with glass and stone mosaics and some metal accents.

Jaeckle said he noticed big increases in the sales of glass and metal accents in 2004. Before then, he said, sales of those items were almost negligible. Jackson credits the increase he sees in glass and metal with more sophisticated buyers and new home construction. “People want something new for their homes, something the neighbors don’t have,” he says.

Berkemeyer and Wallemann point out that modular programs are popular with some customers, offering a custom look with less design risk. Berkemeyer says they are also seeing more planks—what she describes as 4 by 16 tiles, when customers want something out of the ordinary. Rosinski noted that some customers are buying accessories like companion towel bars to outfit showers and baths.

What about color?

Wallemann says she is seeing more yellows, sages and even some blues in Milwaukee . Rosinski says that although she has not seen primary colors, pale aquas and yellows are more popular, especially in combination with glass. Otherwise she says, earth tones are the shades of choice. Although the taupes and beiges continue to be strong on walls and earth tones remain a favorite on floors, Hintz says he has seen a rise in sage greens—still earthy but more colorful. Jaeckle does not see color as an issue in Madison . Beige, white, off-white, and gray dominate that marketplace.


Surface treatment
 
March 1st, 2005

 

Perhaps one of the most traditional ways of cleaning and/or sealing tiles is with one of a variety of surface cleaners and sealers. One of the biggest companies in this business is Miracle Sealants Company. Founded three generations ago by an Italian immigrant who had already established a marble, terrazzo and tile company in this country, today Miracle Sealants says its products are on 15 billion square feet of surfaces around the world.

The company offers a unique line of sealers featuring polymerized silicone which make its products last longer and wear better, as much as 3 to 10 years for a floor, and 3 to 20 years on walls, says Sales Director Harry Adler. Miracle Sealants’ products are typically impregnators (in fact, the company coined the use of the term in this context), meaning they penetrate the substrate to reduce water and stain absorption.

Today Miracle Sealants continues to develop and introduce innovative cleaning and sealing products. The company has just introduced 511 Seal and Enhance to seal and add a low-patina sheen. Another of its recent innovations are Anti-Bacterial Wipes which clean and polish kitchen or bath surfaces with the added bonus of anti-bacterial action.

Stone Care International, Inc. (SCI) also manufactures and distributes a complete line of sealers, cleaners, disinfectants, polishes and stain removers to clean and maintain natural stone, as well as ceramic tile and solid surfaces.

SCI is introducing a 2 bottle care kit that can be made with any combination of SCI products, including: Clean Encounters® countertop cleaner, Marbamist® countertop cleaner, Deep Cleaner for DuPont™ Corian®, International Stone Polish®, Stone Spray-N-Seal® penetrating sealer, and Counterrific™ countertop disinfectant. The packaging offers an attractive retail option.

SCI has also introduced StoneGlide® countertop disposable wipes ideal for cleaning kitchen countertops after each use. They contain a degreaser and are safe for food-handling surfaces.

As an alternative in the quick-cleaning category, StainEraser Inc. offers a line of cleaning products that use no chemicals, are easy & safe and produce instant results. Erase It® works on all types of flooring, concrete, plaster, tile grout and much more.

These products and others like them offer you the means of making tile and stone care and maintenance an integral part of your business, whether you are offering professional cleaning surfaces or the supplies for do-it-yourself clean-ups.


Installer Briefing: We Are Thinking About Remodeling, Can We Tile Over…
 
March 1st, 2005

 

March-April 2005

By Dave Gobis

Succeeding at installing tile in renovations requires more work on your part, but it can make you the “go to” company. Those of us in the tile business love to hear that question.

The statement is near and dear to the hearts of us all who sell construction products and services. Residential sales of ceramic tile have driven the market higher every year since World War II. Ceramic tile continues its higher percentage of growth against other floor covering products in the US and this trend is expected to continue. In our current unprecedented new housing boom, remodeling continues to hold a substantial (or some would say equal) share of that residential market. However challenges to keep expanding that market are growing.

The skill set for sales and installation of products in renovation projects differs from those needed for new construction. In new construction things are relatively straight forward. The installer can readily see how the floor or wall was constructed and readily select the appropriate materials for the job based on those observations.

This is not the case in remodeling projects. X-ray vision would be most helpful in analyzing the make-up of the structure and successive layers of flooring. Unfortunately, we do not have that option; we have to do it the old fashioned way—search and discover. Equally unfortunate, many ceramic tile salespeople and installers do not search and discover, hence the start of unforeseen problems and eroding profits as you try to correct an inappropriate installation.

Successful and profitable renovation work requires substantially more knowledge and skill than typical new home construction. Professional estimators, contractors, and installers up to the challenge are often difficult to find. Most installers in new construction prefer to avoid dealing with the unknown factors of renovation.

Remodeling is where the money is at for contractors and installers. Historically in my company, our remodeling margins were double that of new construction projects. While this is not always the expectation from the sales side of the equation, having knowledgeable people on staff and the availability of contractors or installers to do the job can make you the “go to” place for that market. That in turn allows for increased sales and better than average margins. Remodeling projects typically use higher end products and are more material intensive than new construction.

So what can you do to either join or grow in this lucrative area of the market? Educate, search, and discover! Like anything else, the rewards are commensurate with the risk taken. There is much you can do to enjoy the market and protect your profits. Someone once told me you make all your money when you get the sale or job, the challenge is to keep it.

Common renovation pitfalls

First and foremost, however, the structure needs the ability to support the tile installation. In my days of estimating it never ceased to amaze me that very few of my competitors ever looked at what was supporting the floor or examined the structure of the current floor system. One typical call we receive time and again at the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) is from an installer after the tile has cracked on a job. When we ask what the span of the joist, spacing of the joist and floor panel thickness is, we hear a long, silent pause on the other end of the phone followed by “how am I expected to know that” or “I don’t know, couldn’t tell.”

There is not a floor out there whose make-up can’t be determined by some means. Some are more work than others. The simplest solution is to examine the floor from an unfinished basement or crawl space below it. Another solution is to use a stud finder.

The most basic requirement of any tile installation is support. If we have a concrete structure, we are fortunate; there is no question of support if we are slab on grade. However, in most areas of the country we use wood construction including second stories in slab on grade construction. All wood framed structures are not automatically adequate to support ceramic tile.

Building code requires that the floor joist support structure meet L/360, which coincides with the tile industry recommendation. However, from a tile industry perspective, L/360 applies to the entire floor, not just the joist (See March/April 2004 TileDealer). There is no rating system in the wood industry that rates deflection of the wood panels between the floor joists as we do in the tile industry. Installation recommendations relative to panel thickness come from the tile industry using the Robinson Floor Tester (ASTM C-627). All panel thickness recommendations are a result of this test.

The proper method of installation needs to be determined by the supporting structure. The overwhelming preference of all manufacturers is a structure that has 16″ centers. This provides a good base for subfloor panels. Most new homes today use engineered floor joists. The largest manufacturer of engineered floor joists also recommends 16″ centers for tile areas. If the spacing between the floor supports is 19.2- or 24-inches, there are numerous methods that can be employed successfully listed in the Tile Council of America handbook.

While it is always important to follow manufacturers’ instructions, it becomes critical at 24″ centers. Floors with such wide spacing leave very little if any margin for installer error. In general, if you have a 2×10 floor joist, the maximum unsupported length can be 16 feet, a 2×12, maximum length of 18 feet.

Engineered floor joists are much tougher to judge. It takes an engineer to make the calculation. There has been little study in determining what the maximum length of an engineered joist can be. What study has been done resulted in a recommendation of 16″ centers and a maximum length of 27 feet.

To determine subfloor and underlayment(s) thickness, go to the heat vents. Gas lines and refrigerator lines work well too. If necessary, drill a hole to determine total thickness. The minimum thickness for a subfloor panel to receive a backerboard is 5/8″ for ½” boards and ¾” for 5/16″ or ¼” boards under industry standards. Membrane systems typically require ¾” subfloor on 16″ centers, but requirements vary by manufacturer for 19.2- and 24-inch centers. Subfloor panels should be tongue and groove. If they are not, which is not uncommon in some areas, the seams must be blocked between the joists.

In remodeling we often discover multiple layers of underlayment and flooring material. Of course we would remove any carpet, but what about layers of vinyl or hardwood? What if there is pressboard or two layers of ¼” luan and sheet vinyl? This is where experience counts. Different systems come with different risks.

We have now reached a point in the sale where the manufacturer wants to sell a product, the distributor or store wants to sell it for them, the installer wants a job, and the customer wants a floor. The decisions made here will have a great impact on cost and how to proceed. Removing existing underlayment affects cost and may add environmental concerns. There is no clear right and wrong in many instances, so it truly becomes an issue of risk assessment.

So let’s take a look at some “what if” situations

The opinions expressed from here on are based on my experience and that of my employees over almost three decades. They do not reflect any industry position. Please note, I did not say all were successful, they were not. There is a learning curve to success in remodeling, and I paid for some of my training with trial and error just like everyone else. The purpose of creating the following conditions is to create a thought process, not make a specific recommendation.

Installing over layers of vinyl

The customer wants ceramic tile and has a great support structure, but there are two layers of ¼” underlayment with sheet vinyl. From the vinyl side of the flooring business, the vinyl manufacturers wouldn’t be all that excited to put another layer over that assembly, too compressive. If existing conditions are too compressive for vinyl, they are certainly the same for tile. Cover with a layer of backerboard? I think that would make a bad situation worse, and I would anticipate some cracked tile or grout. Every successive layer adds to the problem. The old layers really need to come out. You cannot nail all of the compressiveness out of the floor, especially with an air gun, which is commonly used today.

What about the potential for asbestos in the sheet vinyl? A local environmental lab can answer that. If it does contain asbestos, the laws of your state apply on how the removal needs to be done. There is no way to avoid this issue. A single layer of luan with sheet vinyl is still a bad idea and removal would be a good idea. Two layers is way too much risk. Do yourself a favor and let your competitor do the job. If you are contemplating a stone floor, you positively need to go all the way back down to the subfloor.

Tiling over sheet vinyl

This residence has ¾” tongue and groove sub-floor with a 5/8″ plywood underlayment and sheet vinyl. Can you tile over the sheet vinyl? Any setting material manufacturer will say certainly with our super duper thinset. The conditions: make sure the floor is firmly bonded (many are not), cleaned and de-glossed (requires scrubbing the floor), fastened correctly (different requirement for fasteners when using ceramic tile as opposed to sheet vinyl), and of the non-cushioned variety. The last one is really tough because almost all modern floors have a certain amount of cushion. How much is too much? You are entering a very gray area.

If the floor has a heavy texture, it is probably too much. Ideally, the sheet vinyl should be removed. Completely removing the floor and the adhesive along with environmental concerns can make that a challenge. In many cases estimators gravitate to installing a tile underlayment over the sheet vinyl. Depending on the compressive nature of the floor, this is not a bad idea. Too much compressivness will result in cracked joints at the panel edges at a minimum. Bonding directly to the sheet vinyl product would be my last choice. In the event you make that choice, double the initial cure time before you get back on the floor to grout. Bonding porcelain tile to sheet vinyl is a very bad idea in my opinion and certain to fail at some point if the floor is not properly prepared. Never use mastic over sheet vinyl with porcelain tile under any condition.

Installing ceramic tile over hardwood floors

The residence has hardwood floors, but the customer wants tile. As usual, it would be best to remove the floor and get back to the basic structure. But, depending on how it was installed, removal can be serious work. Most installers prefer covering the floor with a tile underlayment. This is a tough call; most wood floors tend to cup with seasonal changes, and in some areas the cupping is much worse than others. If cupping has been a problem, the floor should be removed. If the home is acclimated year around that helps some, but then the concern is moisture coming from the basement, crawl space, or slab. If the floor is on sleepers over a slab, I would not hesitate to remove it, though there may be some elevation issues in that case. Covering the wood is certainly going to alter the ability of the wood to breathe. As you can see, there are a lot of “what if’s” to this condition.

Tiling over a vinyl tile on a cement slab

The customer says it’s time to up-grade the basement or slab on grade kitchen that currently has vinyl composition tile bonded to the slab with black glue. This can be trouble with a capital T. First, from an environmental perspective, not all tile or black glue contains asbestos. Many types of glue did have some fiber as recently as 1985. VCT tile stopped a few years before that. If removal is considered, have the tile and adhesive tested by a local lab. Removal requirements vary by state, and if this material ends up in a dumpster, be prepared to have the documentation in hand.

Other than environmental concerns, the caution here is how the adhesive is removed. Liquid adhesive removers are not a good option, unless you have the ability to neutralize and flood rinse the floor several times. Adhesive removers attack polymers and these are the same polymers that we would be using in thinset to install the tile. Mechanical removal is preferred. There is power equipment available to remove adhesive down to the opaque layer manufacturers desire. You cannot sand glue, because heat reactivates adhesive and gums up whatever you use for sanding.

Once again, while removal may be preferred, it may not be possible for environmental or economic reasons. The preparation is then the same as for sheet vinyl type products. The downside of tiling over vinyl tile in slab on grade applications is altering the vapor emission of the installation. It may have been there for 50 years and never exhibited any problems, till it was covered. On wood installations an underlayment is desirable. The cleaning prep may trap moisture in the vinyl installation and then be covered with tile causing the floor to release. Depending on the nature of the tile, backerboard underlayment may fracture the tile when they are fastened making for a crunchy walk across the floor when the job is done. The thinset will mute the problem till it is dry.

Renovation with ceramic tile is a never ending subject. I have tried to touch on the more common issues we deal with at CTEF on a daily basis. There is no clear right or wrong way with installation issues in renovation. If you would like to hear more on renovation or have interest in other installation related subjects for a future issue, please submit your ideas or questions to the editor.

David M. Gobis, a 3rd generation tile setter, is the Executive Director of the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation. He has been in the trade for over 30 years and owned a successful contracting business many years prior to his current position. Mr. Gobis is a member of the NTCA Technical Committee and the American National Standards for Ceramic Tile Installation (ANSI A108 ) and TCA Installation Handbook committees. He can be reached at 864-222-2131 or dave@tileschool.org. © 2005 Ceramic Tile Education Foundation


Innovations
 
March 1st, 2005

 

March-April 2005

Diamond Tech Glass Tile launches its Mosaic Series glass tiles

“Now anyone can have the look of glass mosaics, without the expensive price tag,” states Thomas Montano, DTGT Sales Manager. Available in 24 colors, DTGT Mosaic Series glass tiles are transparent and semi-opaque, rich in color and texture. The ¾” by ¾” tiles have a smooth front and textured back for a better adhesive grip. Their miter beveled edges provide for perfect angled corners. “Our Mosaic Glass tiles are strong, waterproof and are easy to apply,” adds Montano. Mosaic Series will enliven any installation at half the price of products currently on the market. The Mosaic Series glass tiles can be used as clever accents or in a multitude of areas such as halls, bathrooms, kitchens, pools or large areas in hotels, banks and shopping centers. “DTGT wants everyone to be able to afford the beauty and luxury of glass tile,” says Montano. (www.dtglasstiles.com)

Marmo Meccanica introduces edge polisher

Marmo Meccanica USA announces the LCT 522 CAI, a highly effective edge polishing machine featuring a user friendly operating system that ensures a high rate of production at a low cost per lineal foot. Its small footprint, reliability and low cost make it ideal for granite shops in North America who want high quality processing of marble and granite.

The LCT 522 produces 30-60 lineal feet of 3 cm bullnose per hour with no human intervention, because edge processing on the LCT 522 CAI machine is continuous. Different pieces of identical thickness can be inserted sequentially without the need to change forming or polishing heads. The LCT 522 handles slabs vertically, which reduces material breakage and floor space and work area requirements. In addition to squared off or inclined edges, it polishes toroidal edges, rounded and other convex shapes on slabs of marble or granite. (800-279-9233)

Tico Taco from Gruppo Ceramiche Saicis

Gruppo Ceramiche Saicis S.P.A. has introduced its latest HI-TECH Gres porcelain tile: Tico Taco. Tico Taco features the HI-TECH Gres characteristics of unglazed, multiple-loaded porcelain with rectified and polished options. Perfect for both residential and commercial environments, Tico Taco offers a shimmering stone look that’s complete with a variety of colors, sizes, mosaics and decorative pieces. The Tico Taco color spectrum includes: Blu (sapphire), Rosato (rose), Dorato (chocolate), Bianco (white) and Grigio (ash). Size options available through the series are 4″ by 4″; 6″ by 6″; 9″ by 9″; 18″ by 18″ and 9″ by 18″. Companion 1″ by 1″ mosaics mounted on 12″ by 12″ sheets are also available through Tico Taco. HI-TECH through-body porcelain characteristics provide a high slip-resistance when wet and make the tile applicable for heavy traffic areas. Tico Taco is ideal in both exterior and interior applications. According to Vittorio Galerio, Saicis North American Manager, Tico Taco offers a classic interior/exterior look with stone that’s touched with a bit of contemporary. “This is a tile line that was introduced to North America to present an array of design options for commercial and residential building projects. The industry hasn’t seen anything like Tico Taco. We’re very excited to bring the collection to market,” he said. (877-675-3772)

New shower system places waterproofing membrane on top of the assembly

Water and vapor penetrate through the grout joints (even sealed grout joints), mortar, and backing materials in shower walls and floors, allowing moisture to collect in the wall cavity or floor structure, which is the primary cause of mold growth. The Schluter® Shower System for ceramic tile installation eliminates the possibility of mold growth due to moisture penetration. A major breakthrough for installers, the Schluter® Shower System permits the installation of ceramic tiles on shower walls constructed with standard drywall. Installers and do-it-yourselfers no longer need to use cement board or other specialized tile backers when installing ceramic tile showers and tub surrounds—even in the most demanding situations. The Schluter® Shower System consists of four primary components: the prefabricated Schluter®-KERDI-SHOWER-ST tray, the Schluter®-KERDI-SHOWER-SC curb, the Schluter®-KERDI waterproofing membrane, and the Schluter®-KERDI-DRAIN. When used together, these components make installation much easier and eliminate the potential for the growth of mold and mildew. The KERDI-SHOWER-ST tray and -SC curb were developed to allow the installation of a completely watertight shower without a mortar bed. Comprised of expanded polystyrene (EPS), they are lightweight and easy to install. The KERDI-SHOWER-ST tray has a pre-sloped base and can be quickly cut to size and fixed in place using thin-set mortar. Total project time is dramatically reduced with the use of this tray and -SC curb because there is no longer time spent waiting for a mortar bed to cure. Schluter®-KERDI is a sheet-applied waterproofing membrane made of pliable polyethylene that is covered on both sides with fleece webbing. The sheet is applied to the walls, corners, and floor of the shower using thin-set mortar in much the same way wallpaper is installed—without the challenge of matching patterns. KERDI must be overlapped by a minimum of 2 inches at all seams in order to create a totally watertight system. Tiles are then set directly onto the KERDI with thin-set mortar. The Schluter®-KERDI-DRAIN is the critical component in the system, allowing a simple and secure connection to the KERDI at the top of the assembly rather than below it. The KERDI-DRAIN and KERDI waterproofing membrane can be used with either the Schluter®-SHOWER-ST tray or a mortar bed. In traditional tiled shower installations, a mortar bed, over time, becomes saturated and can become a breeding ground for bacteria and mold. By using the KERDI-DRAIN and KERDI, the moisture is locked out of the mortar bed, thereby preventing efflorescence, and fungus and bacteria growth. The end result is a high-quality, maintenance-free shower enclosure. KERDI-DRAIN was recently accepted for listing by the Uniform Plumbing Code (UPC®). This listing will provide installers and inspection officials with an instantly recognizable indication of code compliance and open new markets for the KERDI-DRAIN. (www.schluter.com)

Pearl Abrasive introductions

Pearl Abrasive introduced a new super duty continuous rim blade for cutting hard tile and porcelain. With an 8 mm tall x .060″ wide rim, the HPXL Porcelain Blade’s performance exceeds that of competitors. Its high-strength core eliminates wobble and warping, while its laser-cut cooling slots dissipate heat and extend the life of the blade. The HPXL was engineered with an optimal blade thickness for unparalleled cutting speed and accuracy. In addition, its smooth, thin kerf ensures chip-free cutting. The HPXL Blade is ideal for a range of applications including porcelain, hard tile, hard ceramics and ceramic tile, as well as granite and other natural stone. It is available in 7″, 8″ and 10″ sizes. Pearl Abrasive has also introduced a portable professional tile saw that handles large format tiles. The VX 10.2XL 10″ tile saw features a patented telescoping main table and unique arm technology, enabling users to rip cut 24″ tiles and diagonal cut 16″ tiles without making any adjustments to the saw. The complete saw and table assembly weighs only 83 lbs and is only 23″ long. Other features include: Patented roller guide bar that runs on 10 sealed bearing rollers, 1½ hp motor, liquid-cooled bearing housing, automatic thermal overload protection prevents overheating and protects from power surges, high-impact ABS water tray withstands the harshest work conditions. Stand is available separately, along with a wide variety of blades. (www.pearlabrasive.com)

1Flex® Crack-Isolation Mortar

TEC® brands introduced a new fast-set version of 1Flex® Crack-Isolation Mortar, a first-of-its kind technology that delivers the advantages of both a one-step, crack-isolation system—and—a fast-setting mortar with a high performance bond in a single solution. With 1Flex® Fast Set, contractors can not only crack isolate and set tile in one step, but also grout within four hours—eliminating the need to wait up to 20 hours to grout when a standard mortar is used. 1Flex Fast Set is a single-component modified polymer mortar that acts as a tile setting mortar and a 1/8-inch (3 mm) crack-isolating technology. By combining a unique blend of exclusive acrylic spray-dried polymers and hydraulic cement in a non-staining white formulation, 1Flex Fast Set provides an outstanding bond with virtually all ceramic and natural stone tile. It also carries a heavy-duty commercial floor rating. 1Flex Fast Set simplifies installation and cuts labor costs by combining all the steps into one. It also eliminates the need for labor and material associated with sheet membrane systems. When cure times are considered, the amount of time saved is multiplied because 1Flex Fast Set allows for crack isolation and tile setting in one step. (www.tecspecialty.com)

Additions to Summitville line

Five new color blends have been added to the Summitville Thin Brick Line. This addition offers a rustic, handcrafted look to building brick surfaces. Patterned after the hand-made brick of the 18th Century Williamsburg, of Jefferson ’s Monticello and of the Federal Period buildings in the early canal towns of Ohio , the Landmark Series was created from brick molds taken from many of the structures located in and around Ohio ’s historic Village of Hanoverton . Each of the five color blends in this series has a wide range of shades, blended at the factory, to create a unique and distinct color effect. Custom blends, in any combination of the five standard colors, are available as a special service. The Landmark Series is offered in a 2 ¼” x 7 5/8″ x 11/16″ size with a 11/16″ thick corner trim available in all colors. Thin Brick is made from select clays and shale chosen for their relative purity, fired strength and proven service characteristics. Summitville has been a leading manufacturer of brick products for over 90 years and these products have passed the test of time, in quality and durability.


Industry Insights
 
March 1st, 2005

 

March-April 2005

International Stone Institute launched

The International Stone Institute (ISI) has been established to help fill a much-needed void for those companies and individuals who design, install, fabricate, restore and/or maintain dimensional stone and other stone products for the construction industry. ISI contracted with Fred Hueston, head of the National Training Center (NTC) for Stone and Masonry Trades, Asheville, North Carolina, to manage the new association. Hueston will act as the Executive Director of ISI. NTC is the only training center for dimensional and engineered stone in the U.S. and is well respected in the industry. “ISI is solely focused on advancing the industry and helping promote the use of stone, engineered stone and fill a void in the industry,” said Hueston. “That void is education, practical standards, useful information and technical help in dealing with issues and problems confronting our industry.” ISI estimates there are 50,000 or more U.S. businesses involved in the stone, tile and engineered stone industry. Among its benefits, ISI will offer a Certification Program available through the IICRC Hard Surface Inspection Committee, of which ISI affiliate NTC is a member. ISI also offers its own certification program with certifications in Stone Fabrication, Interior Stone Restoration and Preservation, and Stone Inspector. (www.internationalstoneinstitute.com)

Florim personnel changes

Officials with Florim USA have announced the appointment of a new Plant Manager and the creation of a new position within the company—Vice President of Distribution Sales.

Giancarlo Adani is Florim USA’s new Plant Manager. Adani was formerly the Plant Manager of the Florim Group’s Italian company, Rex. He comes to the company with many years of accomplished experience in the tile industry, with great successes in terms of product quality and advanced design production. Clyde Black, previously Vice President of Florim USA’s American Florim and Gold Seal brands, has been named to the newly created position of V.P. of Distribution Sales. Black will oversee sales activities for the Esquire, American Florim, Gold Seal and Finale brands. He has been with the company for six years. “Florim USA is concluding a great year,” says Mirco Migliari, President of Florim USA.

North American Stone Machinery Association

The North American Stone Machinery Association (NASMA), has been formed to represent the interests of capital equipment manufacturers and distributors in the stone industry. The new association was formed by executives from the following companies, each of whom will serve on the board of directors for three years: AGM, Z. Bavellone, Bergman-Blair Machine Corporation, Breton USA, CMS/Brembana, Euro-Stone/Pyramid Supply, International Machine Corporation, Marmo-Meccanica USA, and Salem Distributors.

John Bergman of Bergman-Blair Machine Corporation was elected president; Anthony Banchitta of International Machine Corporation was elected treasurer; and Renato Meiohas of AGM was elected secretary. A NASMA founding principle was to present a unified front to various trade show organizations in the selection, endorsement, support, attendance and exhibition at certain trade shows. This effort is intended to bolster successful trade shows, reduce exhibition costs while increasing members’ exposure and profitability. One of the board members’ first acts was to select and endorse the following two industry trade shows: the International Tile and Stone Show (ITSS), held March 31- April 2, 2005 at the Miami Beach Convention Center and the International Tile and Stone Show (ITSS), held November 11-13, 2005 at Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas. (www.itssexpos.com).

Schluter®’s Sales Team Expands!

Schluter®-Systems is pleased to announce two new additions to our sales team. Alex Dickman, will be working with Great Lakes Territory Manager, Eric Williamson, to provide field support and education throughout that region. He comes to Schluter®-Systems with a Marketing Management degree from Ballstate University in northern Indiana, and a year of outside sales experience with James Hardie Building Products in Memphis, TN. Dale Kreider, will be working with Mid-Atlantic Territory Manager, Larry Horton. Kreider worked as a tile installer for a retail flooring store for nine years, and then ran his own ceramic tile installation business for eleven years.

DuPont acquires StoneTech™ Professional, Inc.

DuPont Chemical Solutions Enterprise (DCSE) has acquired the business and marketing assets of StoneTech™ Professional, Inc. of California, a provider of stone care products and solutions to the stone and tile industry. DCSE’s Surface Protection Solutions (SPS) has been supplying various markets and end use applications with chemistries to protect surfaces from water penetration, staining, spotting and soil damage for over 35 years. This acquisition enables DuPont to build upon its core competencies in providing durable surface protection for a growing market segment.

Marble Institute unveils training program

The pilot phase of a new localized continuing education program on designing natural stone projects is underway and the entire eight-part program could be rolled out by the end of 2005, according to the Marble Institute of America, which is creating the package.

The program, which will be taught on a local or regional basis by members of MIA, will include eight power-point presentations that cover an introduction to natural stone, stone selection criteria and how natural stone goes from the quarry to the residential countertop or commercial project. The MIA Natural Stone Continuing Education Program is being developed to train architects, interior designers, general and residential contractors and stone industry employees. “This is one of the most exciting training programs ever developed by MIA,” said Garis F. Distelhorst, executive vice president of the organization. The continuing education package focuses on educating versus selling. “It can create a great deal of credibility for companies eventually participating in the effort,” he said.


Sales & Management: When is Business Travel Considered “Work Time ” Under the New Overtime Rules?
 
March 1st, 2005

 

Part Two [For more information on what constitutes “nonexempt” versus “exempt” employees, see Part I of this article in the 2005 January/February issue of TileDealer.]

By Naomi R. Angel, Esq.
March-April 2005

The Department of Labor issued new regulations governing overtime pay on August 23, 2004. The new regulations were intended to bring more clarity to determinations of those entitled to overtime and those who are not. If exempt and nonexempt employees work in the office beyond regular hours to compile materials for sales presentations, once the time actually worked exceeds 40 hours that week, the nonexempt employee is entitled to overtime pay at time-and-a-half of base pay; the exempt employee is not. This situation is common and well understood.

What about out of town travel time?

We travel to Coverings, training sessions, educational conferences, out-of-town employer-required meetings, etc. And what about those extra out of the office hours to get ready for and attend sales meetings and conventions, training meetings, trade shows and other such events? What’s actual working time and what’s not?

The nonexempt employee travels from Chicago to California to attend a meeting or trade show. If the employee is staying overnight in another city, travel occurring during normal working hours, e.g., 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM, regardless of the day of the week, is considered time worked. Compensable work time would commence when the employee reached the airport (or other transportation vendor site) during regular working hours. Time worked on site out of town and travel back during normal working hours would be added to the work week computation. Travel time after regular working hours on overnight trips is not compensable.

A different rule applies when all of the travel occurs on one day. For example, if the employee were to leave Chicago at 6:00 AM and travel to a meeting at an airport hotel in the D.C. area and return at 7:00 PM the same day, all of the hours would be work time.

If the employee drives rather than flies to an out of town meeting, the same travel time considerations apply for overnight and same-day travel. One exception to all of these examples is that any time spent working while traveling is compensable work time.

Local travel considerations

Now our nonexempt employee attends a local meeting out of the office. Travel time from home to the meeting site, e.g., a hotel, would be regarded as non-compensable commuting time until it exceeded the employee’s normal commuting time to the office. If the employee went to the office first to pick up materials for the meeting, or went to the hotel after part or all of the day at the office, travel time from the office to the hotel would be work time.

While the nonexempt employee is at the out of town event, work time there would be included in the work week calculation. Employees often start their day at an early morning staff meeting to plan the day’s events. The work day would commence at the meeting. All of the time on site during the work day and evening when the employee was required to be in attendance at business functions would constitute work time.

What about “bank time”?

“Bank time” or paid time off to compensate the employee for time worked out of the office including travel, or days away from home, or on weekends, as well as overtime getting ready for or during an event, is a common, popular and mostly illegal practice if used in lieu of paying overtime. Federal law requires that overtime be paid in the same pay period in which it is earned. Therefore, bank time used to offset overtime hours must be used in the pay period in which the overtime was accrued, and provided at the rate of time-and-a-half for each overtime hour. “Banking time” derived from overtime hours for use at some future date is against federal law.

Employers may, as a matter of policy, decide to permit exempt and nonexempt employees who travel away from home or work weekends to take days off or to provide other benefits to recognize the extra efforts that go into conventions and meetings. That is a matter of policy, but it is not mandated by federal or state law, and may not be used in lieu of overtime pay to nonexempt employees.

What are employers required to do for exempt employees?

The old and new rules do not require employers to pay overtime to exempt employees for work beyond the 40 hour week limit, or to pay travel time, or to provide compensatory time off. Nothing has changed in that regard.

Audit your workplace. Keep these key distinctions for exempt versus nonexempt employees in mind when determining compensation obligations and you should stay out of trouble. For more detailed explanations of the revised overtime rules see the U.S. Department of Labor website at www.dol.gov.

There are other specialized exempt categories outside the scope of these articles, including outside salespersons, highly compensated computer systems analysts, programmers, software engineers, and similar technical personnel. Special rules apply for them. There are other job classifications which historically or by court decisions are regarded as nonexempt, including police, firefighters and other “first responders,” and the revised rules specifically state all of these classifications remain nonexempt. These are also outside the scope of these articles.

ii Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), travel time is “actually worked” when it occurs on weekdays or during normal working hours on weekends. Many state laws expand this rule to require that all travel time, regardless of the time of the travel, be counted. Check with your attorney for your state requirements.

Naomi Angel serves as legal counsel to industry trade associations and is a partner at Howe & Hutton, Ltd., Chicago, IL. She can be reached at (312) 263-3001 or nra@howehutton.com.

This article is provided solely for informational purposes and does not constitute legal advice. If you have specific questions or concerns about a legal issue, consult your company’s legal counsel for guidance.

Foster and Clark Real Estate
CTDA - Online Education
CTDA - Membership