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.

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