From the Editor’s Desk
 
May 1st, 2005

by Janet Arden, Editor
May-June 2005

The “C” Words

Do you remember the Curious George stories? In each one a lovable pet monkey has an improbable adventure simply because he’s inquisitive and open to new ideas. You may recall them from your childhood or from reading them to your children. They capture young imaginations because they are genuine flights of fancy.

For many of us as adults, curiosity like George’s is a thing of the past. We have customers, employees, shipping problems and email to deal with. Text messaging and cell phones leave little time for inquisitiveness. I propose that starting now, with Coverings, we try to recapture that sense of curiosity, along with creativity and customer service.

Curiosity

With 1,000 exhibitors in 500,000 square feet of exhibit space, we all need to keep our minds and imaginations open to the possibility of what’s new at Coverings. You never know what new product or process you may find that will benefit your customers, your employees or your business. It can be as exciting as a new tile program or as straightforward as a new hand tool. It can be the solution to your shipping or inventory problems. The idea is to remain open to the possibility of finding something terrific and unexpected, but important to you.

Creativity

Tile is a creative business. From the design of the materials and installations to the development of new and better tools to make it work, we depend on creativity. As you know, creativity is not limited to “pretty.” The manufacturer that develops a better grout or anti-bacterial additive is as creative as the artisan who captures the light with glass tile or the architect with the vision to use ceramic cladding on the exterior of a building.

Creativity is also about solving problems, and in the business world we are faced with many of these challenges. Marketing on a budget, maximizing showroom space, and motivating employees are just a small handful of the challenges that require creativity. Creativity requires us to look at problems from a different perspective. This is why brainstorming is so often an effective way to develop new solutions for old problems.

The articles that follow in the pages of this issue are brimming with creativity—sometimes subtle and sometimes not. From installation techniques that offer real solutions to the special problems of installing glass tile to a new way of looking at business succession, this issue encourages you to look at things in a new way.

Customer service

A happy, satisfied customer is our bottom line. This is true whether you are a manufacturer, distributor, dealer or installer. We all try to deliver the quality materials, installation and techniques that guarantee a satisfied customer. When the customer is unhappy, we are sometimes compelled to deliver our best customer service—repairing or even replacing an installation at our own expense to get it right.

How do you define customer service? In this issue’s One-on-One interview, designer Kenneth Brown places a premium on dealers who can pinpoint stock availability at any time. NAC’s Patricia Bohnert compares the right underlayment to insurance—it goes “a long way to guarantee that the tile installation won’t fail.”


Art Tile – Part 1: The fine art of handcrafted tile
 
May 1st, 2005

May-June 2005

The category of handcrafted tile embraces far more than art tile—designs recalling the Arts & Crafts movement at the turn of the last century. Today’s handcrafted tile may or may not mimic that era or the Victorian. It’s just as likely to embody a design inspired by the customer’s vision—an image from nature, a love of animals, a favorite sport. Whatever the design source, however, handcrafted tiles reflect an attention to detail and color nuance that is distinctive from mass-produced tile.

At their most essential, handcrafted tiles are hand-pressed in hand-sculpted molds and then hand-painted or glazed, says Ron Williamson, Marketing Services Director at Meredith Tile in Canton, Ohio. In fact, while most handcrafted tile manufacturers have established tile programs of field, accent and border tiles, many also are enthusiastic about handcrafting those designs in custom glazes or crafting additional tiles to meet the vision of the customer. Handcrafted tiles are chosen by the customer who wants handcrafted rather than mass-produced materials, or the customer who wants authentic Arts and Crafts design, or the customer who wants something custom-crafted just for their home or office.

“This is a fairly collaborative studio,” says Roger Maylind, owner and designer at North Prairie Tileworks in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The company has a staff of six, including two part-time sculptors, Maylind, and another designer, and two hand painters and glazers. Together they produce the company’s line of Arts & Crafts-inspired tiles as well as additional tile series. Maylind says about half of the company’s new designs are inspired by client-generated ideas. They are based on custom work for architects, designers and individuals. The other fifty-percent of the company’s new designs developed after one of those six artists explored a possible design and then worked alone or collaboratively with others on the staff to produce the design.

For example, Maylind says the company’s Prairie Lattice series was originally conceived as a series of eight pieces based on staff conversations and drawings. The result was intended for vertical installations, but then the artisans in the company worked with it in horizontal installations like backsplashes and liked the look. Eventually an architect used it in a fireplace surround where he was also able to incorporate the same pieces into imaginative corner designs. “We’re open to that kind of input,” says Maylind, although it’s counter to some studios.

Not all handcrafted tile is ceramic

Oceanside Glass Tile is handcrafted from recycled bottle glass and silica sand, turning those ingredients into functional art, says company representative Carolyn Brown. Unlike other handcrafted tiles that borrow designs from an earlier era, Oceanside uses one of the most popular newer mediums—glass—to capture light and color in its mosaic and larger formats.

The recycled glass/sand mixture is heated, along with various earth oxides to provide color and glass fluxes to help melt the glass, to a molten state, then processed into tile using iron molds in hydraulic presses. A mixture of tin is dusted on the surface to add iridescence and durability. After slowly cooling, the tiles are handcut. Glass trimmings from the cutting process are recycled into more tile. Despite the popularity of the company’s mosaics, larger formats including some with matte and even skid-resistant finishes are also included in the product line.

Who buys handcrafted tile?

Everyone. Architects and designers use handcrafted tile to distinguish particular installations. Many homeowners use handcrafted tile because it suits their interior design, especially Arts and Crafts designs, but also those who simply want something special.

Handcrafted tile costs can vary widely. Williamson says the price can range anywhere from $15 to $80 per piece for handpainted tiles. Field tile runs about $12 to $15 per square foot and up. Maylind agrees that the low end of single polychrome pieces may be in the $30-40 range, but custom pieces, which can start at $100, can run up to $2,000 and more depending on size and complexity.


Innovations
 
May 1st, 2005

 

May-June 2005

TEC® 1Flex® Crack-Isolation Mortar

EC® brands’ new fast-set version of 1Flex® Crack-Isolation Mortar 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 crack isolate and set tile in one step, and 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. By combining all the steps into one, 1Flex Fast Set cuts labor costs and the need for additional material associated with sheet membrane systems. “Ceramic tile contractors and installers are under increasing pressure to finish jobs as quickly as possible for a number of reasons,” said TEC Brand Manager Sandy Eich. “1Flex Fast Set allows contractors to speed the crack isolation, tile setting, and grouting processes with a single application. Additionally, specifiers and users can feel confident in knowing that 1Flex Fast Set is built on a heritage of proven tile-setting technology from the manufacturer of TEC brands.” (www.tecspecialty.com)

StickNStep by SafeStep

SafeStep introduced StickNStep, a patent pending, adhesive-backed strip used to provide a non-slip, decorative surface to a variety of substrates. Available in seven colors and two sizes to accommodate virtually any application, StickNStep can be used indoors or out, and has been tested in a variety of climates for durability and longevity. The product will be marketed by M-D Building Products under the brand “StickNStep.” (keelingk@mdteam.com)

Laufen introduces Palace and Verona

Laufen Tile has introduced two new porcelain products offering exceptional durability. Palace polished porcelain is a micronized, double-loaded, soluble salt screen through-body porcelain with less than 0.5% water absorption. In 12 by 24, 18 by 18, an 18 by 18 polished medallion and 2-½ by 18 border, Palace is available in Aurora , Cream and Nocce colors. Verona unpolished porcelain is also a micronized, double-loaded, soluble salt screen through-body porcelain with moderate shade variation in Pearl, Tan and Almond and in 12 by 24, and 18 by 18 sizes along with an unpolished 4-¼ by 18 border. Both products are ideal for medium to heavy traffic and can be used for commercial installations. (www.laufenusa.com)

Warmly Yours simplifies installation

The Safety Siren from WarmlyYours helps attain a fault-free installation on every job. By checking the continuity of the floor heating system at all times during installation, the Safety Siren brings peace of mind to tile contractors. It beeps as soon as a short in the system is created, alerting the tile contractor to call WarmlyYours 24/7 technical support for immediate assistance.The troubleshooting team will then work to help the installer fix any problems ASAP. Though OHM readings can help determine if a system is working, they identify the problem only when it is too late. The Safety Siren detects incidents BEFORE the tile contractor lays tile over the system. The Safety Siren is simple, effective, and is a preventative maintenance item for a successful tile installation. (www.warmlyyours.com)

StoneXpress

StoneXpress is presenting its Travertine Series. This collection offers 40 natural stone travertine SKU’s in six colors and two finishes. In Beige, Giallo, Noce, Espresso, Macchiato and Latte, the Travertine Series is offered in two finishes: honed & filled (Latte and Macchiato) or tumbled. The Travertine Series is perfect for residential and commercial markets. StoneXpress offers consistent product quality and supply through its US based warehouse. StoneXpress is ‘stone made easy’ without all the typical problems encountered with ordering stone direct. In the Travertine honed & filled finish, sizes available include: 18″ X 18″ and 12″ X 12″. In the tumbled finish, sizes include: 6″ X 6″, 4″ X 4″, 2″ X 2″ and 1″ X 1″. Listellos, mosaics and liners are also part of the Travertine line. StoneXpress offers full product support with promotional tools and is presented with an easy-to-use, segmented landed pricing structure. Pricing includes both high-end residential and commercial products. (207-828-8050)

Ashland added to online blend tool

Hakatai Enterprises’ Ashland Series, a rustic, multi-toned, 1″ x 1″ glass tile available in a palette of 17 stylish colors, is the latest addition to the company’s online Custom Blend Tool. By simply visiting www.hakatai.com and clicking on the Custom Blend Tool link, architects, designers, builders and homeowners can quickly and personally create, price and order their own unique Ashland custom blend online. Hakatai’s Ashland Series glass tile inspires old-world sophistication with rough-cut edges and handmade textures and yet is versatile enough for interior, exterior, residential and commercial wall, countertop or backsplash installations. “This tool opens up new ‘self-service’ doors for customers who are interested in the fast growing trend of using colorful and unique custom glass tile blends to modernize a shower, spa or kitchen,” says Ann-Britt Malden, Creative Marketing Director for Hakatai. The Custom Blend Tool gives the customer the option of choosing their own sample grout color. Hakatai does not sell grout or setting material but they do offer a list of grout manufacturers. Each Ashland Series’ custom blend sheet is mounted with clear film on the face of the tile. With any custom blend, there is a 3-5 week production lead time from the point of Hakatai receiving the 50% deposit. This does not include shipping time. (www.hakatai.com)

10″ Diamond Glass Blade

Pearl Abrasive is pleased to introduce a new 10″ diamond blade engineered specifically for cutting glass tile. The blade’s unique bond and thin matrix minimize chipping and ensure a clean cut while promoting long blade life. Other features include:

• Extra thin kerf (rim width is .048″) contributes to smooth, chip-free cuts.

• Premium diamond concentration enhances blade life.

• Extremely fine grit optimizes the blade for glass tile applications. Available in 10″ diameter.

(www.pearlabrasive.com)

WhisperMat for sound control and moisture resistance

Many professionals overlook the concern about reducing sound transmission through hard flooring surfaces, but eliminating noise problems in multi-story construction is a sign of quality installation, and a feature that clients appreciate. Protecto Wrap offers a full line of high performance underlayments to reduce floor noise to a whisper. The line includes: WhisperMat-CS: for ceramic and natural stone tile; WhisperMat-HW: for engineered hardwood, parquet, and laminate flooring; WhisperMat HW Plus: same qualities as WhisperMat-HW plus protection from subfloor moisture emissions. WhisperMat-CS is a peel-and-stick sheet membrane that reduces impact and airborne sound transmission while isolating finished flooring from subfloor cracks. It is constructed of cross-linked poly-olefin foam sheet combined with an aggressive rubberized adhesive and a polyester mesh fabric. WhisperMat-CS has the flexibility and strength to withstand structural movement and concrete shrinkage cracks up to 1/4″ without transferring stress load to finished tile. It also has superior moisture resistant properties that make it the most comprehensive underlayment product for ceramic and natural stone available. WhisperMat-CS is approved for installation over radiant heated floors. (www.protectowrap.com)

Supercut grout removal tool

The Fein Supercut is the tool for a wide assortment of jobs. Supercut’s 400-watt motor and 6-speed variable speed control uses a patented oscillating technology and wide blade assortment to eliminate hundreds of previously manual tasks. The Supercut does not rotate like most conventional power tools. It oscillates, which permits the user to do extremely fine and delicate work. The Supercut removes grout quickly and safely without risk of damaging the tile. The Supercut reaches even the toughest positions because its blades can be attached in a wide assortment of angles. The hexagonal mounting system assures you never have to worry about blade slippage. Supercut’s diamond blades allow you to remove grout at the low cost of .09 cents per linear foot. (www.abrasiveenterprises.com)

Marmo Meccanica HTO-1B bridge saw

Marmo Meccanica announced the HTO-1B, a fully automatic bridge saw ideal for cutting granite and marble slabs. The HTO-1B is an extremely heavy-duty, well built machine designed for the toughest cutting jobs. It is made with a double-beam bridge and oversized steel construction. Bridge movement is on cylindrical rollers contained in oiled guides. Rack and pinion gearing with helicoidal teeth ensure smooth movements, reducing play and wear. The bridge saw allows the operator to program its movement in manual, semi automatic and automatic cutting mode. It can even operate without the operator present. It can program up to 792 different cuts for maximum flexibility over a wide range of jobs. The controls are easily understood and simple to operate. A 20 HP motor provides cutting speeds of approximately 120 lineal ft. of 3 cm. (1.18-in.) material per hour. The motor is connected directly to the cutting blade without the use of V belts. This direct drive system allows the HTO-1B’s motor to obtain the characteristics of a 25 HP belt driven motor. The unit’s cutting blade head can tilt from 0° to 90°. Each HTO-1B is equipped with an hydraulic tilting table lockable at any angle position. The table is easily rotated. The angle shot indicator displays the angle at which the table is being rotated through, which can assist the operator in positioning angle cuts quickly and accurately. (800-279-9233)

Neo Collection from Eliane

Eliane has introduced the Neo Collection three series—Neo Provence , Neo Marmara and Neo California . The innovative Neo Collection combines striking style and cutting-edge technology to decorate and accent virtually any residential or commercial floor installation. Neo Collection porcelain tiles, smooth-to-the-touch, are offered in a variety of colors with unique, soft looks specific to each series. Field tile sizes include 18″ x 18″, 12″ x 12″ and 12″ x 24″. Decorative pieces are also available. Neo Provence is presented in warm colors accented with slight veining. Neo Marmara reflects the natural beauty of marble with intricate stone veining and calming colors while Neo California explores trendy hues and unique size options. “Eliane’s Neo Collection is a balance of the latest production technology, interior design trends and classic elements of design. We’re very pleased to introduce our new generation of glazed porcelain tile geared specifically to the North American marketplace,” said Marcio Muller of Eliane. (www.elianeusa.com)

DL700 saves installation time

Current trends indicate an increasing demand for jobs using high-end materials and specialized inlay installations. The DL7000 from Diamond Tech International helps installers meet this demand while saving time and money. “The saw paid for itself after the first job!” quotes DL7000 user, Sid Sidman, Fantastic Floors Inc. Designed for the shop setting, this ¾hp wet band saw makes precision cuts through natural stone, porcelain, glass and ceramic tile. It can even handle slab materials up to 1 ½” thick. “We used to cut circles on a regular table saw, taking up to ½ hour to cut. Now using the DL7000, we cut them in 10 minutes; saving time and money,” states DL7000 customer Raul Rodriquez of Whistler Tile Marble. The saw’s durable metal construction stands up to the heaviest shop use. Easy-to-use adjustments allow installers to cut quickly and its large two-wheel design creates a 13″ throat depth for deep diagonal cuts. The DL7000 includes instructional manual, toll free tech support and 1-year warranty. (www.diamondsaws.com)

Arsemia from Vitra

Vitra Tiles USA is introducing the Arsemia line of large-format porcelain tile with a natural look. The new line is available in 12″ x 24″, 18″ x 18″ and 24″ x 24″ sizes in matte and semi-matte finishes for floor tile. The 10″ x 16″ wall tile is offered in both matte and glossy finishes. The colors are Sand, Mocha, Mink, Light Grey, Dark Grey and Black. The tiles, ideal for both commercial and residential use, have a porcelain body that makes them resistant to abrasion and chemicals and also resistant to frost. The floor tiles can be used in both interior and exterior applications. “With its natural look, Arsemia transforms rooms, creating a rustic-but at the same time modern-look,” said Esin Aksan of Vitra Tiles USA. “Its beveled edges and matte and semi-matte surfaces make it smooth to the touch as well soft to the eyes. Arsemia will not scratch or wear out, keeping its new look for years.” (www.vitrakaro.com)

Palais from Crossville®

Crossville combines the look of three French limestones to create its new Palais series of Porcelain® Stone tile for floors, walls and countertops. This sophisticated mix of unpolished stone patterns was inspired by Crema Marfil, Beaumanniere and Casablanca —three French limestones that are prized for interior floors and walls. But while natural limestone is costly, difficult to clean and requires regular sealing, Crossville’s Palais is Porcelain® Stone, so it’s stronger than natural stone, refuses to scratch, stain or fade, never needs sealing or waxing, and cleans with just hot water. For residential and commercial installations, the Palais Series comes in four of nature’s colorways and multiple sizes for floors that include 2″ x 2″ and 4″ x 4″ sheet-mounted tumbled mosaics and 6″ x 6″, 6″ x 12″, 12″ x 12″, 12″ x 18″, and 18″ x 18″ individual tiles with a precision edge—all slip-resistant. The coordinating wall tile is available in an 8″ x 10″ tile with single bullnose and bullnose corner trim pieces. In addition, the series includes wonderfully ancient-looking decorative trim pieces that recall the rope, ribbon and vine motifs found in centuries-old Italian architecture. Palais gives homeowners and designers unlimited possibilities for creating “rooms of stone”—one of today’s hottest trends—floors patterned with multiple-size tiles and walls tiled floor to ceiling. (www.crossvilleinc.com)


Industry Insights
 
May 1st, 2005

 

May-June 2005

Crossville names Smith

Crossville, Inc. has selected John E. Smith as its new president and general manager. Smith succeeds Svend Hovmand, Crossville’s current president and CEO, who has been a board member since Crossville’s founding as Crossville Ceramics in 1986 and who has served as Crossville’s president since 1989. “We couldn’t be more pleased that John will be leading the Crossville® team,” says Tim Curran, speaking for Crossville’s owners, the Curran Group of Crystal Lake, IL. Smith began his career in the hard-surface flooring industry 35 years ago on a tile production line while he was a student majoring in mathematics and physics at Florida Southern College. Over the years, he worked in positions of increasing responsibility in manufacturing, quality assurance and operations. In 1994, he joined Crossville as vice president of manufacturing to oversee the company’s manufacturing and logistics operations. In that position, Smith worked closely with Hovmand to increase production of the company’s large-unit Porcelain Stone® tile and to build new manufacturing facilities—including a 300,000-sq.-ft. plant and distribution center with state-of-the-art production technology in 2001. More recently, he was part of the Crossville team that expanded the company’s product offering to include Accent Innovations™ metal and glass tile, and Design Solutions™ wall tile. Hovmand will become chairman of Crossville, Inc. while he continues to build the industry education programs at Crossville’s Porcelain Stone® Institute and serve as Crossville liaison with industry organizations. He is currently president of the Tile Council of North America, Inc.

Florim converts to 100% porcelain production

Domestic tile manufacturer Florim USA converted to 100% porcelain production in February 2005. “The conversion to 100% porcelain production reflects our leadership in the industry,” says Mike Rohnert, Executive V.P. of Florim USA. “The future of tile is porcelain. We’ve been at the forefront of U.S.-based porcelain production for several years. This total conversion signifies to our customers that we are the right manufacturing partner for future growth and opportunity.” Florim USA began porcelain production more than 4 years ago. At that time, the company was only the 2nd manufacturer to produce porcelain tile on U.S. soil. Since then, porcelain’s popularity has risen strongly. “When Florim USA began offering porcelain lines, many of our direct customers were just starting to take note of the porcelain advantage. Today, the demand for porcelain has extended to end users…and consumers are now specifically asking their retailers for porcelain tile,” explains Rohnert. Florim USA brought industry experts on board to ensure the plant’s advanced technological capabilities and equipment were implemented and used to their full potential. Plant Manager Giancarlo Adani was charged with guiding the porcelain conversion.

IMPO becomes AvanTile

Avanti means “forward” in Italian, which made AvanTile an appropriate new name for a growing and changing tile company. Formerly known as IMPO, AvanTile is the new identity of a network of 12 warehouses and distribution centers and the instant-access customer service network that supports them. “We thought AvanTile was more indicative of the direction we were going,” says Davide Giovagnoni, president, AvanTile. “We are looking at new ways to improve the company, including streamlining our existing product line while working closely with our factories on developing new and quality products. AvanTile reflects that forward progression.” AvanTile is wholly owned by the Florim Group of Italy, making the Italian origins of the name even more fitting. The Florim Group owns several tile manufacturing facilities worldwide. These relationships allow AvanTile to continue to develop quality ceramic tile solutions for homeowners, designers, commercial developers, architects, and retail outlets. In addition to the new name, AvanTile will have a new home, as a 100,000 sq. ft. building on an eight-acre sight in Tinley Park, which is set to open spring/summer 2005. The new site will host the corporate offices and Tinley Park, IL branch operations, as well as a distribution facility that will serve as the flagship 4,000 sq. ft. showroom for the new company.

ISI offers discounted stone testing

The International Stone Institute (ISI) is offering its members a 15-percent discount on the Basic Five Testing package of ASTM C 97, C 99, C 170, C 1353/C 241, and C 880. The package, which normally costs $800, has been reduced to $680. The announcement was made by Fred Hueston, executive director of ISI, the new organization that was formed to provide education and technical assistance for individuals who install and fabricate stone products. “This discounted price is an exceptional value and is representative of many other discounts and benefits that are being made available to our members,” he said. “Quarries, producers and sellers are ideal candidates for testing their limestone, marble and granite every five years,” Hueston said. “That’s necessary because of the changes that occur in stone due to its mineral makeup.” Testing is performed by Testing Engineers International, Inc. (TEI), Stone and Tile Laboratory.

Nick Di Tempora named Man of the Year

Boys’ Towns of Italy, Inc.—the oldest American charity in service abroad—recently announced that the Florida Chapter of the organization has named Nick Di Tempora, President of MAPEI Americas, as their “2005 Man of the Year.” Mr. Di Tempora’s personal interest in the welfare of children prompted the honor. Mr. Di Tempora commented: “I was born in Campobasso, Italy, in 1939, and I faced many of the same difficulties as the children who became the first inhabitants of the Boys’ Towns of Italy. Happily for me, my parents immigrated to Canada in 1951, and I was able to take advantage of the great opportunities offered to me in the Americas. Today, I am fortunate to be able to assist this worthy charity, and I am deeply honored by their wonderful tribute to me.” The Boys’ Towns of Italy began in 1945, when Monsignor John Patrick Caroll-Abbing, an Irish priest in the Vatican Diplomatic Services, began a mission to help homeless, hungry children. Today, the Boys’ and Girls’ Towns of Rome respond to the needs of children in Italy, focusing on the international population of children who pass through Rome, and is deeply concerned with the rights of children and the quality of child care worldwide. The charity is strongly supported by the Boys’ Towns of Italy, Inc., an American organization headquartered in New York, New York. Any individual or group interested in supporting the efforts of Boys’ Towns of Italy, Inc., can visit the Website at www.boystown.it for more information.

Hart joins World Sales

World Sales Group of Dallas, TX has named Rick Hart as its representative for the Central region of the U.S. Mr. Hart will assist the company in promoting all of its brands—Ceramics, Inc., New World Tile, Optimus and Terra Green Ceramics—in this territory.

Alpha expands sales department

Alpha Professional Tools® announces the expansion of its sales department. As of February 14, 2005, Mike Salinger and Al Benoliel have joined Alpha® as our new Regional Sales Managers. Both Salinger and Benoliel come to Alpha® with extensive sales and sales management experience within our industry. In other news, Alpha announced the following additions to their sales team: Al Ellis, responsible for Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi; Dick Hargett, responsible for Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama; and Mike O’Coin, responsible for Quebec, Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Eastern NY state.

MIA proposes accreditation program

The Marble Institute of America (MIA) has proposed the creation of a major accreditation program for residential and commercial natural stone companies. An eight-member group of industry leaders has already met to lay the groundwork for accreditation, which they hope to launch in 2006. The concept for accreditation received support in an MIA survey a year ago, with a majority of respondents saying they favored industry standards for competency and certification.

Ceramic Tile Plays a Big Part in Extreme Home Makeover

When ABC’s “Extreme Home Makeover” constructed a new home for the Dolan’s of Tampa Bay, Florida, Gulf Tile’s Port Richey showroom manager Rich Orloski pulled all the tile for the project together in a week. When the same show traveled to Birmingham, Alabama, to build a new home for the Harris family, Jenkins Brick and Tile of Montgomery supplied tile, granite, slate and brick.

The Extreme Team

Makeovers typically start with host Ty Pennington arriving at the doorstep of the unsuspecting family and shouting “Good morning!” through a megaphone. Then the whirlwind projects take on a life of their own with hundreds of workers and volunteers.

Overnight the foundation for the Dolan house was laid and the walls and roof were up. The next day, more than 200 contractors worked feverishly to install the air conditioning and heating systems, plumbing and electric. Later came the stucco on the exterior, drywall and finished goods in the interior.

“We get a phone call and had a two hour window to get everything to the jobsite,” Orloski said.

It was 42 degrees and pouring rain that day but Rich and sales representative Val Waldron loaded up and took the tile to the site. After waiting in the cold for over six hours they were finally allowed to unload.

The same show’s cast and crew approached the Harris home in much the same way, demolishing their hurricane-damaged home and rebuilding an “extreme” home in its place complete with a heated and cooled tree house and a water park in the back yard.

“It was really neat to be involved in a project of this caliber,” said John Faught, general manager of the Jenkins Brick & Tile Birmingham location, who seemed to speak for everyone involved in both projects. “There were so many people working from so many trades. Everyone joined together to really do something good. We were pleased to be part of it.”

TPFH Tiles Five Homes in Baton Rouge

Members of the tile industry, working through Tile Partners for Humanity, donated tile, setting and floor preparation materials, tile tools, tile cleaner/ grout sealer, and installation labor/training to tile five homes in Baton Rouge, La., in October and November 2004.

Industry partners included Accardo Tile, Aqua Mix, Aztec Tile Company, Bolick Distributors, BPI, Jenkins Tile Company, Laticrete International, North American Tile Tool Company, Orchid Ceramics, Rickert Tile, TileArts and Viking Distributors. This marked the first TPFH project in Baton Rouge, which amounted to nearly 4,200 square feet of floor space.

“What a wonderful experience it was for Habitat for Humanity of Greater Baton Rouge to work with Tile Partners for Humanity this past fall! From the national tile and tile-product manufacturers to the local store owners and professional installers, everyone was so incredibly generous and supportive,” said Lynn Clark, HFHGBR development director. “It was one of the best partnerships our affiliate has been involved in. The benefits were many—our homeowners received gorgeous, long-lasting tile floors and our volunteers were able to learn a great new skill under the patient tutelage of the skilled installers. We definitely hope to have the good fortune to work with Tile Partners in the near future!”

Laticrete International donated setting and floor preparation materials for the full project. Senior Technical Representative Jack LeBlanc, who lives and works in Baton Rouge, spent several days working with homeowners and volunteers to install tile in the homes. Technical Sales Representative Victoria Wright of Houston also donated time to work with volunteers.

“I’m glad TPFH asked us to be a part of this project. It’s always a blessing for me to be able to give back, especially here in Louisiana,” LeBlanc said. “It’s such an awesome feeling to be able to use my talents and our products to help people reach their goals. On a project like this, we can be the oars that people use to get through the water.”

“I think it’s a terrific program and I know it helps a lot of people,” said Aztec Tile owner Gary Kennan. “I [participated] mainly because I know Habitat and I’m a firm believer helping people by not just giving something to them. I like that homeowners work on their homes through sweat equity and I hope to donate to many more TPFH projects!”


Installer Briefing: Don’t Be Afraid of Installing Glass Tile
 
May 1st, 2005

 

By Arthur Mintie
May-June 2005

Glass tile has been with us for many years, but nowhere near the level at which it is today. The number of colors, the different sizes, the unique shapes and the opportunities it offers for creative design are all growing at breakneck speed. Robert E. Daniels, Former Executive Director of The Tile Council of America, corroborates this, saying, “From anecdotal evidence, we know that ‘specialty’ tiles are growing in volume at a rapid pace. This category would include glass tiles. Glass tiles can go virtually anywhere and are definitely popular in high-end residential as well as most commercial applications involving the retail public.”

Whereas the popularity of glass tiles is increasing, there is a discomfort factor with some contractors. Familiar with installing traditional ceramic tile via traditional methods, they view today’s glass tile as a foreign element, which requires special procedures relative to installation. This small group really has nothing to be concerned about. Glass tile should be installed professionally and problem-free with every project, providing the contractors are knowledgeable relative to certain techniques. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions relative to glass tile installation.

Why are contractors afraid to work with glass tiles and glass mosaics?

Since glass is impervious, it requires good mortar mixing and mortar spreading techniques as well as consistent and accurate tile placement. Additionally, most installers have had bad experiences with glass tiles losing bond, generally because they did not use quality liquid latex fortified Portland cement mortar. Impervious tiles like glass require a thin-set mortar with tenacious bond strength. Simple dry-set mortars and most low-end, multi-

purpose thin-set mortars do not have the bond strength to ensure a good “grip” to the glass surface. Also, most of the glass mosaic tile made in the past was paper-face mounted. Working with paper-faced tiles requires more skill and accuracy than other type of mosaic tile applications where the tile is generally back dot-mounted or rear mesh-mounted. Most installers have had bad experiences with these types of applications and, therefore, they shy away from installations similar to these.

When installing glass tiles in “wet areas,” what are some of the considerations?

For areas where damage can occur to adjacent or spaces below the tile application (e.g. bathrooms, showers, countertops, etc.), installers should use a waterproofing membrane below the tile installation. Consult with the manufacturer of the tile installation materials to specify a compatible waterproofing membrane system relative to the buildings substrate, which could consist of a number of different materials.

What are the special techniques for installing glass tiles?

There are two methods for installing glass mosaics:

A. One Step Method—Thin-Set and Grout in one step

If the glass mosaics are paper-face mounted, installers may use the one-step method of installation. In this method, the thin-set mortar should be spread on the substrate with a 3/16″ square notch trowel and then additional thin-set mortar is combed onto the backs of the tile sheets, (in effect, filling the grout joints with the thin-set mortar).

Using a liquid latex thin-set mortar designed for this purpose, contractors should then mix in a Sanded Grout and use this combination of material as a “colored” thin-set mortar. The tile sheets should then be placed into the freshly spread thin-set mortar spread onto the surface and tapped into place with a beating block or rubber grout float. Via this technique, the contractor will have installed and grouted the tiles in one application. Once the tiles have reached an initial set, then the paper facing should be peeled off. After the tiles are set firm, the same “colored” mortar should be used to touch up the grout joints where the sheets meet and for any other pinholes, imperfections, etc.

B. Conventional Two-Step Method

For rear mesh-mounted or paper-face mounted tile, spread the thin-set mortar (generally white in color) using a 3/16″ square notch trowel, onto the substrate. Then, carefully set the sheets into place and tap with a beating block or rubber grout float. (For paper face-mounted tiles, once the tiles reach an initial set, peel off the paper.) Once the tiles are set firmly in place, contractors then can grout all tiles in the normal fashion.

In either method used, installers should be as accurate as possible in placing the tiles. Rear mesh-mounted tiles are more forgiving in that the tiles can be more easily adjusted (if necessary.)

Installing glass tiles (not mosaics)

Use high-quality liquid latex fortified thin-set mortar (generally a white thin-set is used). If installing for walls, start from the bottom up—use a supporting ledger board fastened to the wall, in order to support the weight of the installation. Spread the thin-set mortar, using a notch trowel to ensure maximum coverage. The tiles should also be back-troweled with additional thin-set mortar to ensure that the mortar’s trowel lines do not show through the glass tiles.

The tiles then should be tapped into place, with either a rubber grout float or a rubber mallet. For larger format glass tiles, layout can make the difference in the final appearance. Spread out the work to visualize the finished job. This is done so that cuts ultimately are minimized. The more full tiles one sees, the better the installation appears.

Special Tools Required:

For Glass Mosaics

Glass Mosaic Tile Nippers—a special type of nipper that has cutting wheels on both nipper arms give this tool the ability to cut through the glass and make very accurate, very straight cuts.

3/16″ Square notch trowel—a great trowel for installing glass mosaics—however, it is hard to find. You may have to special-order this tool.

For Glass Tiles (Not Mosaics)

Conventional tools are required as needed.

Cutting Glass Mosaic Tiles:

Use the Glass Mosaic Tile Nipper to make accurate cuts for glass mosaics.

For larger format Glass Tiles, Villiglas® recommends the following cutting and fitting guidelines:

Straight cuts: Score and snap with hand cutter, newer 8 mm carbide wheel housed in a ball bearing casing. The lighter one scores (applying the least amount of pressure to score the tile) the better it snaps—the glass tile does not break because of the force; it breaks because of the heat generated from the carbide wheel.

Corners: Nip with nippers.

L-shaped cuts:

(a) Marble diamond bit (5″ wheel) on an electric hand grinder. Using masking tape over cutting line may minimize chipping.

(b) Water jet.

(c) Wet saw (may result in chipping top and bottom of tile causing an irregular edge and some color loss) is only recommended when cut area will be covered by more than ¼” of switch plate or molding. Using masking tape over the cutting line may minimize chipping. Wet saws, generally, are not recommended for cutting high quality glass. High-quality glass tile has a manufacturing process resulting in tile with breaking strength that exceeds 970 lbs. per sq. inch. Most wet saws cannot cut the tile without excessive vibrations, which cause chipping.

Drilling: Holes may be drilled in high-quality glass tile using a wet drill process.

Edge finishing: It is recommended to use a rubbing stone or Dremel® (rotating electric sanding/smoothing device).

What type of grout should be used when installing glass tiles?

For best performance in all types of installations, and to get a grout joint as dense and easy to clean as the glass itself, I recommend using an epoxy grout. (NOTE: Epoxy grout can only be used in the conventional two-step method of tile installation). Generally, epoxy grout is best for wet area applications.

Installers can also use a non-sanded or sanded grout depending on the grout joint texture desired. The non-sanded grouts will have a smoother texture, while the sanded grouts can look a little more rustic. Also, note that most sanded grouts will achieve higher strengths than non-sanded grouts.

There is more that could be written here, but the main point overall is that installation of glass tiles, whether they are mosaics or larger format units, is nothing to be afraid of. Glass tile is so beautiful, that if every project is installed correctly, the subsequent outcome should ultimately be a brilliant, work of art!

Arthur Mintie is Technical Services Supervisor at LATICRETE International, Inc. Prior to working for the firm, he was a ceramic tile installation professional for over a decade. He may be contacted via phone at 800-243-4788 ext. 326 or via email at amintie@laticrete.com.


Glass Tile: The Choice is CLEAR
 
May 1st, 2005

Glass tile’s eye-catching good looks offer stopping power in a marketplace filled with many more conventional ceramic and stone products.

May-June 2005

By Jeffrey Steele

In a rainbow of colors and textures, glass tile boasts a seemingly limitless number of potential applications. While some mistakenly think of it as fragile, today’s product is anything but. That’s why you can find it everywhere from floors and stairsteps to swimming pools and building exteriors.

In this issue of TileDealer, we offer a window on some of the best-known and respected glass tile manufacturers and importers, and the issues they face in this fast-growing niche market.

Some names to know

Among the leading providers of glass tile is OpioAmerica (www.opioamerica.com or www.opiocolor.com), which handles the distribution, sales and marketing of the product manufactured by its French-based parent company, OpioColor.

OpioColor was founded some 40 years ago, but 1-1/2-year-old OpioAmerica is relatively new to the marketplace, said the American company’s Los Angeles-based president Harvey Malloy.

“We specialize in the manufacture of high-quality glass mosaic,” he says. “We don’t make large sizes. We’re really a mosaic company interested in the fascinating applications of glass mosaic for architectural applications. And that can be anything: the facade of a high-rise building, the interior baths or kitchens of a home. It could be swimming pools.”

Malloy views his company as being part of a long and proud tradition in which mosaic has been used as decoration. That tradition goes all the way back to 6th Century Europe , where artisans began using mosaics in the interiors of chapels, as well as in building exteriors.

“The tendency today is to show glass as some kind of durable paint,” Malloy notes. “It goes far beyond the use of color. We use shape, we use movement, we use subtle manipulation to transform the architectural space.”

Even longer established than OpioColor is Bisazza (www.bisazza.com), a nearly 50-year-old Italian company with U.S. headquarters in Miami . Several factors combine to help make Bisazza a standout among glass tile, reports New York City-based spokeswoman Elisa Stocchetti.

“First of all, it’s the absolute best quality glass mosaic tile,” she says. “Second is the design. We always collaborate with important designers such as Marcel Wanders, Fabio Novembre and Alessandro Mendini, and architects such as Jurgan Meyer.

“Third, it’s the applications…Mosaic tends to be thought of as something appropriate for bathrooms. We want to make people understand that mosaic can be used as a wallpaper anywhere in the house.” Bisazza’s products are used in every setting from residential bathrooms and kitchens to swimming pools, upscale office building lobbies and building facades, she adds.

Another notable supplier is Chatsworth, Cal.-based UltraGlas (www.ultraglas.com), which was founded by CEO and president Jane Skeeter in 1987. At first, the company served the high-end residential, commercial and hospitality industries by providing decorative architectural glass and signage, or what Skeeter calls “architectural art in glass.” As the company evolved, Skeeter decided to expand her offerings by adding a heat-sculpted or “slumped” product.

“UltraGlas,” as she termed it, started out in the form of architectural panels, such as doors, walls and windows. But Skeeter discovered the product could be used in various other applications, such as tile, lighting, surface materials, flooring and staircases, she recalls.

“About six or seven years ago, we started making the pieces smaller for tile,” Skeeter says. “These were all hand-painted and very lustrous. But we had some issues with its permanence, or the adhesion of the backing to the glass. We resolved that by borrowing technology from other industries. What we do is use a high-fired glass material that becomes part of the tile itself, and fuses into the glass. This means we get a very permanent type of backing that can be used in all kinds of conditions, and won’t separate from the glass tile itself.”

In this process, sheets of low-iron glass completely devoid of green tint are cut into the sizes desired.

Coloration is then fired onto the back of each tile, resulting in an appearance that allows end users to look through the very clear, fluid glass and see coloration beneath.

“The pigment in the coloration on the back is very luminous and highly reflective, so it gives a soft glow to the glass, really enhancing the depth of the glass itself,” Skeeter says. “To make this even more pronounced, we put a low linen texture on the back, and that results in small surfaces from which the light will refract back through the glass. All this helps distinguish the tile from other glass tile that can be mistaken for ceramic tile.”

One of the best-known companies in this category is Oceanside GlassTile (www.glasstile.com), a Carlsbad, Cal.-based company founded in 1992. The company produces a range of glass tile products, its primary product being Tessera mosaics. These mosaics come in sizes from one inch to two inches square and are offered in 40 different colors and finishes. Associated borders, blends and field patterns are also featured in the Tessera line, says executive vice-president John Marckx.

The company also markets larger modules in sizes measuring four-by-four up to eight-by-eight inches. A broad variety of decorative pieces, such as liners and borders, round out the selection. “Those pieces have ocean motifs and nature themes applicable to different markets,” Marckx says. “Glass is a medium that allows for a whole range of tile products.”

The Oceanside glass tiles are cast products, meaning they begin as molten glass with color already added, and fired to about 2,400 degrees Fahrenheit. When this lava-like glass emerges from the oven, all colors look the same: a glowing orange to red hot color.

After the molten glass is poured into individual cast iron molds and begins to cool, the individual color starts to slowly emerge. From the molds, the glass tiles and decorative pieces go into other coloring and heat-treating processes before proceeding to an annealing process, allowing slow cooling to room temperature.

“We actually start with recycled bottle glass as the primary materials,” Marckx says. “In a number of our products, the glass consists of up to 85 percent recycled bottles. That adds a lot of interest among people looking at sustainable products or green products.”

Also located in the San Diego area, Boyce & Bean (www.boyceandbean.com) is a 5-1/2-year-old Oceanside manufacturer of glass tile and metal tile, and also imports ceramic tile from Mexico . In addition to its Oceanside plant, the company also maintains a manufacturing arm in the traditional glass-making city of Ottawa , Ill. , said senior customer service rep Grace Kalina.

Boyce & Bean provides two primary types of glass tile. In its Oceanside operation, it produces Beach Glass. Made in a “cold glass manufacturing process,” this glass is sea green and is cut into mosaic pieces, deco tiles, field tiles and medallions. Meanwhile, the Ottawa operation uses a cast glass process, in which molten glass yields Water and Light Glass, a Boyce & Bean mosaic product that is offered in three colors and finishes of clear, frosted and iridescent.

“Another type of glass tile is dichroic moonglass,” Kalina says. “These accent pieces can be used with our Beach Tile and our other tile lines. It comes in five different colors, and has a very magical appearance, changing colors throughout the day with changes in light.”

Up the coast, Marshall Malden founded Hakatai Enterprises (www.hakatai.com), an Ashland , Ore. importer and distributor of glass tile from China , about eight years ago. Importing glass mosaic from Chengdu , a city in the Sichuan Province , Malden sells to dealers throughout the United States . The mosaic tile ranges from 3/8-inch to two inches, with the most popular sellers the 3/4 and one-inch tiles, which are mounted on sheets about one square foot in size.

Hakatai’s glass tiles tend to be found most often in backsplashes, walls, showers and tub surrounds in residences, as well as in swimming pools, condos, hotels, restaurants and offices.

Growth of the glass tile market

Quoting The U.S. Ceramic Tile Market (Market Studies, 2004), Malden reports glass mosaic tile has been growing more than 40-percent per year since 2001. Anecdotal reports suggest the remainder of the glass tile market is also growing swiftly.

Nonetheless, the market for glass tile remains a small fraction of that for the much longer-established ceramic tile, Marckx reports. He estimates the ceramic tile market at about $2.5 billion annually in the United States , compared with the glass tile market’s approximately $100 million. “Glass is a nice niche in the overall ceramic and porcelain industry,” he says.

But many glass tile experts believe the market can grow much larger. “What are we limited by?” Malloy asks. “We’re limited by the imagination and conservatism of the public, designers and the dealers. They think of this as a very modern sort of cladding, and think of it only in terms of color.

“They don’t really understand the potential glass mosaic has for truly transforming a space and bringing in new light and new artistic vision.” That said, he adds his conviction that the market for glass tile is potentially as large as the one for ceramic tile.

Skeeter agrees. “I think we’re just scratching the surface,” she observes. “It’s just in its infancy. If you look at the size of the ceramic tile industry, there’s no reason glass can’t be equally large. Glass has more applications and a greater range of size and thickness.”

How should dealers sell glass tile?

In selling glass, dealers should keep in mind several considerations, say experts. One key is recognizing glass complements other natural materials. “If you have a glass liner or glass field tile, it can be a great complement to natural stone,” Marckx says. “Whether it’s an accent on the floor, a decorative band or just a component of an overall design.”

Malloy agrees. “I think we have to show [glass tile] more in combination with other mediums, because it can be integrated well with stone or ceramic surfaces,” he says. “The general preconception is that it’s very modern. But the reality is it can be modern, antique or reflect the style of any period. However, you have to bring to the material itself a knowledge of style and design. So I think one of the challenges in the dealer’s world is how to show the material not just as a series of color swatches, but as a fundamental building block to create design.”

The idea of creating greater design possibilities also resonates with Skeeter. “Ceramic tile has been around for a long time, and it’s pretty accepted,” she points out.

“Glass is able to still add an element of surprise. For instance, with our embossed and textured tile, you get a much greater tactile and visually more interesting surface.

“You can’t NOT touch it. It invites the touch.”

Dealers must also trumpet the tremendous versatility of glass tile, Stocchetti believes. “The array of color is amazing,” she says. “The main argument I would use is its versatility. It really goes with anything. It matches with natural color, with fabric, with wood.”

The bottom line on selling glass tile is that dealers must have support from distributors and manufacturers, experts maintain. Glass tile requires more sales support because it’s an inherently higher-end product, Marckx says. He recommends distributors make design tools, architectural books and sample products available to dealers, end users and trade clients.

Malloy also emphasizes the importance of sales support. Glass tile, he notes, takes more time and effort to sell, and many dealers don’t have the time or the focus. Some dealers have design professionals on their staffs, but most don’t. To maximize their ability to sell decorative materials and use space efficiently, dealers must look to the manufacturers for substantial help.

“That’s something we do,” Malloy notes. “For example, I’m working on several swimming pools with intricate hand-cut designs. The rough concept has been developed by the dealer, but the actual implementation of that concept is done by us.”

When dealers take time to ensure glass tile is used as effectively as possible, the rewards are enormous, he adds. Jobs are bigger, margins better, business development much more lucrative. “You create something you can take out into the world and show your real creative ability,” he says.

Today’s most important trends

The trends impacting today’s glass tile marketplace are in some cases the same ones affecting ceramic tile. A good example is the increasing tendency of customers to embrace not just the traditional neutral colors, but more vibrant colors such as oranges and grassy greens. “I think this is fostered or precipitated by the clothing or fashion industry,” Skeeter says.

“We see the color trends starting there, and then trickling down to the home fashion. The lag used to be several years; now it’s a much shorter time.”

Marckx agrees stronger colors are coming to the fore. He believes that’s particularly true of reds, both in primary reds and in wine-colored reds such as burgundy. In addition, metallic colors have won increasing acceptance. Bronze has received the most attention, but Marckx says his company also is witnessing demand for pewter and copper.

Along with interest in new colors, demand is also increasing for iridescent glass tile, Malden reports. Iridescent glass tile changes appearance with changes in light, something difficult to convey in typical marketing materials, he says. “We have a challenge trying to show it in a brochure or Web site, and you even have to be careful at trade shows to display it in changing light.” Iridescent glass tile, he adds, is growing very popular in kitchens, bathrooms and pools.

For his part, Malloy believes one of the trends is growing interest in glass tile lined pools. “People are becoming more vested in their homes, and there’s a willingness to do these fully clad swimming pools, where the glass will be there for the life of the pool, virtually maintenance free,” he notes. “A typical pool will have to be redone every so often. A glass pool doesn’t have to be.”

Kalina takes that observation one step further, remarking that the public seems to be more and more aware glass tile can function well in many settings. Glass tile seems to work whether it’s used indoors or outdoors, on floors or walls.

“People are starting to understand glass isn’t this fragile material,” she says. “It’s now being used in an architectural sense… We’re doing a lot of swimming pools, fountains, spas. People use our stuff on floors and a lot of bathroom applications, because it can be used in any kind of environment—wet or dry.”

Stocchetti reports glass mosaic is increasingly replacing wallpaper in some upscale residential settings. In this vein, one trend is baroque, with glass mosaic creating the feeling of a fabric or flower decoration. The other is minimalist and decidedly understated, with the mosaic reproducing stripes, tone on tone or white on white. “It’s very elegant,” she says.

The cost efficiency of glass tile

While they acknowledge glass tile’s higher costs, industry experts make a compelling case for the cost efficiency of glass tile. Marckx estimates glass tile ranges from $10 to $40 per square foot, compared with ceramic tile’s $2 to $10 per square foot. But 80 percent of glass tile is in the $20 to $30 price range. At that price, glass tile can be a viable field tile solution. If it’s factored into overall construction costs, the incremental cost of glass tile is not cost prohibitive, he asserts.

“When you break it down as a decorative element or accent material, it can be very cost effective,” he adds. “It adds a lot of visual excitement…without adding a lot to project cost.”

Malloy maintains that the cost of glass—when compared with some other popular materials—is within most budgets. Contrast glass with Japanese or Taiwanese mosaic, for instance, and there is little cost differential, he notes. He argues that the vast majority of glass mosaic falls within the $7 to $25 range. “And so from that point of view, I don’t see it as all that much different in costs,” he remarks. “Where it does get pricier is in installation. And that’s partially because it takes more care and more time to install it. But the price of installation is also driven by the fact there aren’t as many experienced installers. Many of the guys are afraid of it.”

Skeeter’s philosophy is that in many applications, the additional cost of glass tile is well worth the investment. Being a new and highly distinctive product, glass tile offers an eye-catching alternative to other products that have been around much longer. “You can get a look that’s much more unique and customizable,” she comments. “When you’re doing a high-end custom commercial, residential, hospitality or health care project, people are looking for something that’s out of the ordinary, something that’s unexpected. And glass offers that opportunity.”

The best applications

Marckx echoes the feelings of many when he observes that glass tile can be used in virtually any tile application, whether indoors or outdoors. The glass tile his company sells tends to end up most often in bathrooms, followed closely by kitchens and rooms with fireplaces.

“People want some sanctuary and are interested in creating a different feel and look to their bathroom,” he says.

“So we see a lot of sales there. The kitchen backsplash is a no-brainer. It’s a small area, and it’s right near eye level. Kitchen backsplashes are great candidates for glass tile. Fireplaces are also a focal point in a home, and a fireplace surround can be a really fun area for a feature wall or some other focal point.”

Asked what she believes are the best applications for glass tile, Skeeter responds by saying, “All kinds of surfaces.” Glass tile offered by UltraGlas can be used anywhere, including in the floor and as stair treads, she reports. That’s because they’re manufactured with a high coefficient of friction, which is imparted by the surface texture.

The texture also conceals scratches, marring and other wearing, as well as dirt, grease and grime. These tiles can be used in horizontal or vertical configurations.

“It’s great as furniture cladding, in tables and cabinetry,” she adds. “We can increase the thickness, depending on where it’s used. The larger the piece of glass, the thicker we make it…It can also be laminated, to give it additional strength when it’s suspended.”

Calling glass tile a very warm product, Stocchetti believes glass tile is most appropriate for the private interiors of homes. The material has the capacity to soothe the spirit, relax the soul and make people feel protected and comforted within their homes, she says.

Asked to forecast the future of glass tile, Skeeter says, “I really think it’s here to stay. It’s really a durable material, and as other products get more expensive, glass will retain its price in the marketplace. It’s got legs.”

 


One-on-One with Kenneth Brown
 
May 1st, 2005

 

By Jeffrey Steele
May-June 2005

“I want a place where we can check stock at the click of a mouse, and know that what we’re designing will be available to us to meet our project deadline.”

Kenneth Brown is principal of Kenneth Brown Design in Los Angeles and host of HGTV’s popular new show, “reDesign.” He is uniquely positioned to talk about what consumers want—based on what they see in the media—and on working successfully with designers. In this wide-ranging interview with TileDealer, Brown talks about the impact of his Louisiana childhood on his design career, what he likes and doesn’t like about dealer showrooms, and how technology is affecting the appearance and durability of ceramic tile.

TileDealer: What’s your educational and design background?

Brown: I grew up in Baton Rouge, LA, in a middle income family, and my family wasn’t one to have a designer help with home decor. I shopped with my mom at a local J.C. Penney’s to pick out furniture for our home. From an early age, I always had an interest in design, the whole process, and naturally felt the inclination to do it. I would rake the neighbors’ yards, and rake them into floor plans. Having grown up in middle America plays a huge part in everything I do in my current career. And that basically comes from the fact that today, more than ever, people want access to good design. It’s no longer just for the upper class or wealthy people.

I went to Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, and I studied interior design. And I spent a semester studying in Manchester, England, where I focused on product design and industrial design, which really opened the door to a lot of opportunities I didn’t know were there. After graduation, I was offered a job in Los Angeles. The day after graduation I moved out here, and got an entry-level job in a design firm focusing on hospitality and hotel interior design. After about a year and a half there, I realized I wasn’t cut out to be confined to a drafting table all day. I needed to be out meeting with people and having a relationship with the client and the homeowner. So I left, and honestly had no plans to do anything. Luckily, I was approached by a contractor Lori Webb. And she was into buying rundown houses and refurbishing and restoring them, and then reselling them. She gave me the opportunity to do all the design on her properties. And as people came through, they would ask who the designer was. Through word of mouth, I began building a base of clients and opened my own business. That was in 1997. To make a long story short, here we are.

TileDealer: What is your design philosophy?

Brown: It gets back to my growing up and being able to relate to anyone who was willing to hire a designer. I took it as an honor to work with them. My attitude may have been different than others. My approach, my design philosophy, is to be friendly and really get to know the homeowner, and check the attitude at the door. My design philosophy is to really allow the homeowner to be the driving force, while I serve as the tool to help guide them along, to make the right decisions and keep them on track.

TileDealer: How did you get the opportunity to host a TV show?

Brown: I’d been working in Los Angeles, helping a lot of people, and through word of mouth I was given the opportunity to appear on various HGTV shows as a guest. People were taking note of the design process I prefer, which is being recognized as a very disarming, approachable process where the homeowner is very much involved. And HGTV wanted that kind of show. The mold fit perfectly.

TileDealer: If you were given a bathroom or kitchen remodel for an average to upscale home—what questions would you ask the homeowner?

Brown: I would ask them to give me three words to describe the bathroom they want to create. You listen, and you ask them to take it a step further, by pulling images, talking to them about how they use the bathroom. Some like to read in the bathroom, some like to see it as a place to escape their day. Bathrooms are no longer just for the obvious functions. Realizing how they use it and what they want starts to paint the picture.

The kitchen has to be more of the working horse for the home. That to me is the obvious: ‘Do you cook, and do you cook a lot? Do you really use this room, or is it just for show?’ Then I ask them for the three words that describe what they’re trying to achieve.

TileDealer: How would you prefer to work with the tile dealer or distributor on this kitchen or bath remodel?

Brown: We work with tile dealers. We don’t really come into contact with distributors. The interesting thing is in today’s information-driven society or culture, our homeowners or clients are so educated about products that they know what they’re looking for. They may have researched it on the Internet, they’ve read design magazines, they’ve seen design TV shows. They have a better understanding of what it is they want. Our homeowners come to us and know the tile they like. But the problem is they don’t know how to apply it. How to fit it into a design and install it in such a way that it creates a custom look just for them. So what we do is go on field trips to the actual tile dealers. We go in with a good idea of what we want. We don’t go into the showroom without a good idea of what we’re shooting for, because to walk in and see all these options in one place, [clients are] going to shut down.

From a designer’s point of view, I like to go into dealer showrooms where there is someone who can check stock for availability and get prices immediately. Because when we’re doing kitchens and bathrooms, we may be working with six or eight different tiles. And nothing is more frustrating than creating a design with numerous tiles, only to find out some are not in stock. So the computer data base is what I’m getting at. I avoid places where they say, ‘I’ll have to call and get back to you tomorrow.’ I want a place where we can check stock at the click of a mouse, and know that what we’re designing will be available to us to meet our project deadline. At that point, we’ve come up with something that’s remarkably beautiful, and we know it’s in stock. We can sign off on it, while the emotional commitment is there on the part of both the homeowner and the designer.

Nothing is more upsetting to homeowners than going through that process and finding the next day that some of it is unavailable. When those things happen, we tend not to revisit that dealer. No one wants to go back and have to redo things.

TileDealer: What’s the best way for a dealer or distributor to get connected with a top designer?

Brown: Have a showroom that’s well maintained, that has reasonable hours, and has a friendly staff and service. A place that also takes appointments, that has a private conference area where the designer can work by himself and with homeowners and clients. In dealerships we’ve gone into that have bad fluorescent lighting, tiles do not look right. They need really good lighting to really allow the tile to be what it is. Tile is heavy, and tile is very tactile. People love to touch it. Tile boards have to be easy to handle and easy to move around. And tile that is fixed to wing displays is harder to move around, more difficult to hold, and to see in combinations with other tile.

TileDealer: How should dealers market tile to you?

Brown: I wish I could get out more than I can, but I can’t. Waterworks, a company I deal with, has a person assigned to me. When they have new tile products, Natalie, my sales person, comes to me, brings me what they have and keeps me on top of what’s out there. They’re putting things in my head, so when it comes to designing another bathroom, I’m going to first remember what Natalie brought me. Another showroom I go to, Ann Sacks, I think they have the best showroom for tile by far. The girl I work with there, she knows my favorite chocolate. And whenever I go there, even if it’s at random, she’s got my chocolate in her drawer. It’s these little things that make a difference. Last year, my office purchased more than $100,000 worth of tile. [Obtaining some of that business takes] doing those little extras, on top of course of having things in stock and those other things we talked about earlier.

TileDealer: How do you follow through on jobs?

Brown: When I do bathrooms, I highly, highly recommend the tile installer I’ve always worked with. A bad tile installation can make the most beautiful tile look horrendous. And so I’m lucky that over the years, I’ve developed a great relationship with my tile installer, who knows how I like things cut, where I like center lines to be, the size of my grout line, just the little details that are so crucial. He goes the extra mile. When clients tell me they want to hire a less expensive installer, I tell them you might as well choose less expensive tile as well. Because you get what you pay for. I do tend to go by [the job site], but I’m never there for the day [tile] arrives. I do have people in my office that are there when tile arrives, but I don’t go personally. But I do oversee the process and inspect the work along the way.

TileDealer: What about the future of ceramic tile?

Brown: There’s the debate between ceramic tile and real stone. Recently, they’ve come out with a great combination of both. There are products that involve both man-made and natural material. You get the durability for high-traffic areas of man-made products, and the luster and beautiful natural look of stone combined. So you can have a very high-end, natural look, but it’s still going to be durable. Technology is definitely increasing the options for combining the best of both worlds.For times and dates of “reDesign,” check TV listings at www.hgtv.com.

“When clients tell me they want to hire a less expensive installer, I tell them you might as well choose less expensive tile as well. Because you get what you pay for.”


Sales & Management: Fear Factor: Facing Business Transition Head On / How Employee Stock Ownership Plans can lead to a successful business succession.
 
May 1st, 2005

 

By Richard Tanner
May-June 2005

Smart and successful business owners who make tough decisions daily are often confused and frustrated by the prospect of succession planning. Business succession decisions are subjective, and can’t always be measured by numbers. Good succession planning forces owners to consider their values and how they will spend their time and money for the rest of their lives. Many owners are simply afraid of making the biggest mistake of their life with their most important asset.

If you’re like many business owners, you don’t know where to start or even how to begin succession planning. Often the first person you speak to is your attorney or CPA. You trust them and they already know your business. You pay them for advice on legal and tax matters and business succession is a legal and tax matter, isn’t it? Not exactly. Although legal and tax advisors are great resources for specific advice, they often fall short when it comes to planning and helping sort through the complex family dynamics and non-financial issues that drive succession planning decisions. Business succession planning is complex because it crosses many disciplines including:

• Business valuation

• Merger and acquisition

• Tax planning

• Investment planning

• Estate planning

• Management and leadership development

• Financial planning and cash flow modeling for post retirement

• Insurance for shareholder agreements

• Personal insurance for health, estate liquidity and estate equalization

A new approach to succession planning uses firms skilled at integrating family and non-financial issues with the disciplines listed above. This integrates the financial and estate planning needs of the primary shareholders with the needs of the business and its key stakeholders. The result is a financial strategy to serve all stakeholders.

An important succession tool often overlooked by small business owners is to “go public privately” though an employee stock ownership plan or ESOP. While an ESOP is not for everyone, the tax benefits and flexibility for closely held companies are powerful incentives. Business owners should go though a feasibility process to rule an ESOP in or out right away.

What is an ESOP and how does it work?

The following questions may be helpful if you are an owner of a successful private company and have considered involving your employees as part your business succession plan:

1. How can I make wise decisions about ownership succession if I am not ready to give up control of my company yet?

Business owners are rarely ready to give up complete control of their companies and as a result procrastinate until it’s too late. The real solution is to start early with a process of ownership succession that initially requires giving up only a small amount of ownership and no control. This approach sends the message to key stakeholders that you mean business and will follow through with your succession plan. A partial sale to an ESOP allows an owner/seller to convert some stock to cash while retaining 100% control of the business and the right to remain working in the company if they choose.

2. How can I maintain family harmony through business succession if I already have conflicting goals within my family?

If there is family conflict while you are alive, imagine the problems that may develop if you weren’t around to mediate. Sixty-five percent of all planning failures result from a lack of trust and communication. Family wealth counseling and coaching though a values-based approach to business succession that includes all family members improves trust and communication. The development of a Loving Will™ for the family and the business is a great way to start.

3. What are the tax and financial advantages to an owner who sells to an ESOP?

The owner of a regular or C corporation may sell to an ESOP and elect to permanently defer capital gains taxation on 100-percent of the sales proceeds provided a few simple rules are followed. In addition to capital gains relief, the owner can take a business tax deduction for 100-percent of the cost of financing their own buy-out. For the owner of a sub-chapter S corporation the tax advantages are slightly different. Instead of capital gains relief, the owner benefits from an unusual tax provision that allows the stock sold to the ESOP to become permanently tax exempt. If 50-percent the company is sold, then the company’s tax bill would be cut in half permanently!

4. If there were no tax advantages to an ESOP, would it still make sense to do one?

ESOPs allow an owner to sell all or part of their company and yet remain in control for as long as they want. The key is flexibility. An owner who does a partial sale to an ESOP has many options including:

• Keeping ownership at the same percentage

• Increasing ESOP ownership through a future sale

• Reduce the ESOP through stock redemptions as people leave the company

• Bring family members into the business and give them ownership and/or control

• Sell the entire company including the ESOP to a third party.

5. Is it true that ESOP’s are expensive and very complicated?

ESOPs are easy to understand with the help of professional advisors who specialize in them. The complexity and cost of finding the right outside buyer can be very frustrating for an owner. While an ESOP transaction might cost 3-5-percent of the total amount sold, a third party sale can easily run 20-25-percent when you factor in all transaction fees and taxes. The bottom line is that while ESOPs are complex, they eliminate many of the obstacles that keep owners from making wise business succession decisions. With proper guidance, ownership transition can be completed successfully and in a timely manner through ESOPs.

6. If I want the best price for my company is an ESOP the right approach for me?

A sale to an ESOP usually results in the best after tax price for the owner. There may be situations where a strategic buyer will be willing to pay a premium above what an ESOP can pay due to a special desire for your business. More often than not, however, the flexibility available through an ESOP sale outweighs the premium a strategic buyer may be willing to pay.

7. If ESOP’s are so good, why aren’t more companies doing them?

Although employee ownership has been around for a long time, the tax incentives that created ESOPs as we know them today have only been around since 1984. ESOPs are not well understood by many owners and their professional advisors and as a result are not recommended as often as other forms of business structure. While ESOPs initially may appear complex anything worthwhile is worth the extra effort to understand. ESOPs appeal to business owners who care about their people. As more owners realize the value of protecting the human capital in their companies, more will turn to employee ownership as the preferred method of business operation and the ultimate tool of business succession.

Richard Tanner, President of Ownership Advisors, Inc. in Cleveland, Ohio, has been recognized as a leader in relationship solutions in the financial services industry. He is an authority on the use of Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs) in family held companies, and has written and lectured extensively on the subject. Reach him at rtanner@ownershipadvisors.com.


Building a Better Tile Job with Underlayment
 
May 1st, 2005

 

May-June 2005

No matter how you apply it—with a trowel, a spray, a roller, or as a sheet—underlayment helps build a better floor from the bottom up.

By its narrowest definition, underlayment is a leveling layer topping the subfloor and offering a flat surface for applying tile. Some manufacturers broaden the definition to include underlayment materials that also suppress cracks, provide a moisture barrier or even reduce noise. But most importantly, the right underlayment for the installation can keep the tile and/or grout from cracking and failing. The wrong application or the lack of one can ruin the best tile installation.

Patricia Bohnert, president of National Applied Construction Products, says using the right underlayment for the substrate and the tile above it makes for a better installation and one that is less likely to fail from subsurface cracks or movement. Leigh Hightower, National Business Development Manager for C-Cure, says “underlayment should level the floor to provide a flat surface” for tiling. Because tile is set on top of it, underlayment is often the overlooked layer in any installation. It also adds to the cost of materials, time and installation. What the customer can’t see, he or she doesn’t necessarily want to pay for. So, how necessary is it?

Bob Pritchard, of Southern Grouts, points out that surface preparation varies significantly based on what’s under that surface. Construction in southern regions of the country is predominantly over slab on grade. Every slab cracks and virtually every slab is steel trowel finished, says Pritchard. Both conditions require the right surface preparation.

In other parts of the country, the installation goes over a subloor installed over a basement or crawl space. Even if the joists are on 12-inch centers, the span of the joists may not be stiff enough for a particular tile installation, especially large format tiles. Charlie Martin of Halex, which makes plywood underlayments, says current residential trends calling for larger rooms finished with larger-format materials, simply require a stronger base.

Hightower agrees that although a flat surface has always been important to a successful tile installation, they are even more critical as tile size gets bigger. This can be especially troublesome in commercial and multi-family construction where the installation is often on concrete. Architects don’t specify leveling compounds, because that would imply that the cement contractor is not leveling the floor. However, the TCA Handbook specifies that the substrate should be level to ¼-inch within 10-feet. This almost never happens, says Hightower. The result, however, is a debate over who levels the floor—the builder or the tile contractor.

Choosing the right material or what goes down first?

Some underlayments go only over cement; others are designed for use over wood. The surface you’re laying tile on determines the underlayment choice. Hightower points out that trowel-applied underlayments are dependent on the installer’s ability to get the material flat. Self-leveling underlayments have a pourable consistency that allows them to flow and seek their own level. Because self-leveling underlayments contract, then expand in the curing process, they must be applied to a rigid substrate like wood or cement. In either case, the underlayments should be Portland-cement based. Gypsum-based materials are weaker. The stress of ceramic contraction and expansion can shear the gypsum-based underlayment, resulting in a failed installation.

There are other considerations. Additional underlayment layers such as waterproofing or sound-reduction materials are often applied separately. Self-leveling underlayments can’t stop a crack. Crack isolation membranes need to go on top of self-leveling materials.

Consider what else may be under the tile installation. Pritchard points out that a multitude of contractors are typically on the job between the installation of the subfloor and the installation of ceramic tile. Plasters, painters, electricians, etc. leave a trail of dirt and debris—much of it stuck to the floor—before the tile contractor even arrives to install. Tile contractors are left terrible installation conditions, ones in which the underlayment will not bond.

But, says Pritchard, not every builder or tile contractor makes underlayment part of the package—even if it costs just pennies. However, if the tile fails, the builder wants the installer/contractor to assume responsibility—financial and physically—for the repairs.

Bohnert advocates full floor coverage of underlayment—as opposed to applying it just over existing cracks as some contractors do—because she believes it limits the contractors’ liability for installation failures.

In the end, most experts agree that the contractor has to educate the builder about the role underlayment plays. Underlayment, Bohnert says, is like insurance—done right it’s going to go a long way to guarantee that the tile installation won’t fail.

What’s under the underlayment?

Underlayments are a wonderful thing but without exception they all need one thing first and foremost, an underlying supporting structure. Backer boards are designed to provide a solid and stable backing for ceramic tile. Membrane systems are designed to provide not only backing, but in an underlayment scenario, may also contribute crack suppression and waterproofing capabilities not otherwise possible. None provide structural value, which is not their purpose.

There are many instances where the subfloor is not adequate to the task due to lack of thickness (rigidity), improper installation, and weathered or abused conditions. In such cases, given a choice, and there is always a choice, either the addition of a layer of plywood or in cases of height or budget constraints, a layer of plywood in lieu of a backer board or membrane underlayment may be appropriate.

Another common misperception is the use of 5/8″ square edge plywood where a 5/8″ thickness is an acceptable to the manufacturer. All tile underlayments recommend a tongue and groove floor system. Maintaining the subfloor manufacturer’s recommendation of 1/8″ spacing between panels is also important to prevent telegraphing of panels through the underlayment system. All subfloor panel manufacturers publish specific recommendations based on type of finished flooring selected.

For a generic recommendation on wood floor systems you can go to www.apawood.org and click on their publications page for a wealth of free information that can assist you in understanding proper subfloor installation for various wood flooring systems.

Special thanks to Dave Gobis, Executive Director of the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation, for this information. Mr. Gobis is a member of the NTCA Technical Committee and the American National Standards for Ceramic Tile Installation (ANSI A108) and the TCA Installation Handbook Committees. He can be reached at 864-222-2131 or dave@tileschool.org.


Product Review
 
May 1st, 2005

 

May-June 2005

Cutting and Shaping

TileDealer takes a look at what’s new!

An Urban Diamond Exclusive

The Bulldog Turbo

This Turbo blade won’t leave you with flat dull diamonds after a few cuts. The Bulldog Turbos have a special diamond make up needed for the hard materials. Our Bulldog Turbo likes the Hard Granite, Quartz Materials, Cambria and Silestone. Available in the standard industry diameters.

Urban Diamond’s Phantom Thin Wall Core Bits

The Fast Cutting Matrix makes for Easy Starts & Easy Drilling. It handles Hard Stone & Tile Applications. Available in Standard Industry Diameters.

Raimondi’s new Bull Dog Bullnose machine allows you to perform perfect bullnose and 45° miter cuts on porcelain, granite, or marble tile.

Fabricate your bull nosing on the job, cut your costs, and ensure that all of your tile and stone looks like it just came out of the factory.

This is truly an innovative machine!

Urban Diamond’s RONIN Cutter

An Aggressive free cutting blade, great for general shop use. The Ronin Cutter’s diamond make up works great for all Natural Stone applications. The Ronin Cutter also handles the hard material from Granite to Quartz including Cambria and Silestone. Available in the standard industry diameters.

Alpha® Contour together with AWS-125 Stone Cutter allows fabricators to a cut sink hole along the cut line quickly and safely. In order to shape the edge to a desired profile, Alpha® introduces the Profiler Z-30, a Vertical Grinding Wheel.

Latictete - Floor Heat
CBP - Fusion Pro 3
Marazzi
CTDA - Online Education