Leadership Letter: Back To School!
 
July 1st, 2005

July-August 2005

One of the benefits of association membership is the access it gives you to industry expertise. Finding knowledgeable sources on all the topics our businesses encompass—from selling tile to installing underfloor heating systems, from targeting what the customer wants, to assuring it’s properly installed—is a continuing challenge. For some time now, CTDA’s Regional Seminars have helped you meet that challenge by bringing together some of the industry’s leading experts on the most timely topics, all for the benefit of you and your business.

And 2005 is no exception! This summer could be the best time yet for “going back to school!” Ceramic Tile Trends, sponsored by CTDA and the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) is scheduled for August 11th at the International Market Square in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Mark your calendar now and plan to take part in an awesome opportunity to fine-tune current skills, pick up some new expertise and tap into the trend marketplace.

This year’s schedule offers something for everyone:

Wood Substrates, with Justin Woelfel, Jr. offers an eye opening discussion on the proper way to successfully install tile over wood substrates, including what is and what is not acceptable in the tile industry. Justin is the NTCA Director of Training and Education. He is a 3rd generation tile contractor and a popular presenter at industry trade shows.

One of the features in this issue focuses on the growing market for heated floors and the May/June issue of TileDealer focused on glass. CTDA’s Regional Seminar takes those topics a step further with Heated Floors and Glass Mosaics, Justin Woelfel, Jr.

Update on The TCA Handbook, also offered by Justin Woelfel, Jr. The new 2005 edition introduces 15 New Methods! CTDA is especially happy to offer this first-hand opportunity to understand the Handbook changes.

Pick up on trends with Designing with Style, with Patti Fasan, sponsored by Tile of Spain. Patti’s popular seminars always target the consumer trends you need to know about. When Patti Fasan talks about ceramic tile, peak sales performance, teamwork, and emerging trends in tile applications and technologies, she speaks from experience. Patti brings over twenty-five years of technical research, project experience, senior management skills and passion to her presentations. Her practical management and entrepreneurial experience combined with the CTC designation have given Patti expertise in business excellence, ceramic tile distribution, sales and showroom design.

Exterior Façade Opportunities with Arturo Mastelli, Tiles of Italy, discusses the use of porcelain tile in ventilated facade systems. These systems have been very popular in Europe for some time and they’re gaining a serious following in the U.S.

Finally, get down to the bread and butter with Retail Selling Ain’t Brain Surgery, It’s Twice as Hard, with Jim Dion. This workshop will improve the selling abilities of your staff and teach you new ways to motivate staff and improve sales. With 25 years of progressive retail experience, Jim understands the rigors of selling. He is the founder and president of Dionco Inc., Chicago, and an internationally known consultant, keynote speaker, trainer, and author of best-sellers on the subject.

If you’re looking to stay on top of the basics, improve sales and understand what the consumer wants, this could be one of your best business investments. If you haven’t already made plans to attend this seminar, do so now.

I look forward to seeing you there.

Cindy Bell
CTDA President

 


From the Editor’s Desk: Remodeling today is as much about leveraging the best of technology as it is about changing the tile in the bathroom
 
July 1st, 2005

 

by Janet Arden, Editor
July-August 2005

You only need to stop at the newsstand and review the growing number of shelter magazines or cruise the cable TV listings noting the variety of design and remodeling shows to realize how big remodeling and renovating are to today’s homeowners.

In this issue’s One-on-One with Don Novak, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders’ Remodelers Council, he points out that this year’s remodeling budget is expected to be $235 billion, a whopping 15-percent jump from last year. Whether they are doing it themselves or having professionals tackle the job, whether the budget is in the tens of thousands of dollars or $1,000, remodeling and renovating are big business—and good business—for this industry.

After talking to exhibitors and buyers at Coverings, after listening to the seminars and reading up on the trends, I think one of the most exciting aspects of today’s remodeling and renovating is the opportunity it offers to invest in new technology for our homes and offices. I am more than old enough to remember the early seventies, when the goal of many home improvements was to save energy. Some of them weren’t terribly attractive—insulation-wrapped water heaters, for example—and I’m not sure how much energy some efforts even saved, but they certainly created a marketplace.

Technology in this industry has taken some exciting turns—mold resistant materials that block growth before it starts, underfloor heating systems, harder, more wear-resistant tiles with more exciting finishes than ever. Today’s remodeled baths and kitchens often sport a glamorous mix of ceramic, metal and glass tiles. Substrates and installation techniques continue to benefit from technology.

Remodeling today is as much about leveraging the best of technology as it is about changing the tile in the bathroom.

And, just as importantly, remodeling today is also about upgrading. Homeowners aren’t just replacing old, cracked bathroom tiles, they’re opting for a spa look that mixes stone-look porcelain with glass mosaics. They’re replacing sheet flooring with large-format porcelain. They’re tiling beyond the kitchen and bath to include the sunroom, family room, hot tub or pool surround.

This kind of remodeling is very good business for tile dealers. It brings to your door the customers who want good products and are willing to pay for them and their professional installation.

How do you fit in this remodeling boom? Does your showroom feature the products remodelers are looking for? Are you connected with designers and contractors who manage these jobs? Perhaps the most important question is, how do you want to fit in this marketplace?

Housekeeping:

For all of you who asked about the glass tile on last month’s cover, it is from Crossville.

Ryan Roth of International Wholesale Tile called to say that the company provided 100% of the tile for a complete bathroom and shower install in the St. Petersburg, Florida, Extreme Home Makeover episode profiled in the May/June issue of TileDealer. The tile came from International Wholesale Tile dealer Leverette Tile of Port Richey, FL. “This included tumbled marble from our Tesoro brand and travertine for the floor. The retail value of the donation was almost $3,000,” said Roth.


Underfloor Heating is a Hot Market
 
July 1st, 2005

Remodelers and renovators are especially enthusiastic about the easy upgrade underfloor heating adds to their projects.

July-August 2005

One of the hottest renovation options to hit the home improvement marketplace is, in fact, underfloor heating. According to the Radiant Panel Association (RPA), almost 6 million nominal square feet of electric radiant panel heating elements were sold in North America in 2004!

Lawrence Drake, Executive Director of RPA, attributes the growth in underfloor warming systems to the proliferation of home improvement shows on television and to the product’s increasing availability.

Underfloor warming systems are a great addition to any tile or stone floor, but they are especially popular among remodelers and renovators—the customers who are often upgrading home amenities. The customer reasoning is clear—the opportunity to warm the inherent coolness of tile and stone, especially in cold weather, removes one of the last obstacles to installation.

As Drake points out, underfloor warming systems do not significantly heat the floor. However, he says, if you put your hand on tile, it feels cool because tile absorbs heat. Underfloor warming systems, which typically only raise the temperature a few degrees from 72 to 80 degrees, are really just neutralizing the temperature.

Not just for warming the bathroom floor

Underfloor warming systems seem especially appealing in bathrooms, where cool tile or stone under bare feet can be a rude jolt, but they are just as appealing anywhere tile floors are installed. RPA reports that they are installed in shower walls and under tub surrounds.

NuHeat’s Colin Campbell says he has discovered a niche market among custom home builders who install strips of underfloor heating along ceramic or stone countertops to take the chill off. Campbell says he also has product installed in high end resorts and boutique hotels where pampering the customer is a priority.

Depending on the amount of heat the customer wants and the type of system installed, underfloor heating can supplement or substitute for traditional heating sources. They are ideal for situations in which the homeowner or remodeler does not want—or finds it too expensive—to extend expensive heating systems to new spaces like room additions, sunrooms, finished basements and garage conversions.

Radiant heat has long been prized by the energy efficient.

How underfloor heat works

Most underfloor systems use an electric resistance cable that snakes along the substrate. The cable may or may not be encased in a mat. Both the cable and mat systems adapt to curves and angles in the floor layout. Virtually all municipalities require a qualified electrician to connect the cables and thermostat to a dedicated circuit in the building’s electrical system. The cable and mat—if that is the type of product used—are encased in thinset or leveling cement before proceeding with the tile or stone installation.

An alternative system uses hydronic heating, snaking flexible water tubing on the substrate which will eventually be filled with hot water to provide radiant heat. This too is a growing product category, but one that is more conducive to new construction since it requires the installation of plumbing and boilers.

Ben Abraham, general manager of DK Heating Systems, says his company was the first to use cable in a mat or panel in the early l’80s. His product comes in a 1- by 20-foot continuously rolled mat that is easily cut and turned to custom fit any floor layout.

NuHeat’s Colin Campbell says the company’s mat system comes in sixty different sizes that may be used in various configurations to suit a room layout or the company will produce a custom mat to fit specific curves or angles.

Campbell points out that installation is very easy. It begins with a dry fit layout, then the installer removes the mats, applies thinset and lays the mats back down, “stomping” them into the thinset. More thinset is applied after this. Because the product is only 1/8-inch thick, this does not significantly raise the floor level. And, he says, it’s an “affordable luxury,” since it only costs $500-$1,000 for the average bathroom installation.

Delta Therm Corporation produces a free-form cable and strapping system that anchors to opposite ends of the installation. Marketing Manager Ada Cryer says the cable is woven back and forth like a loom, making it especially easy to conform to the size and angles of a specific space. The cable can be tabbed closer or farther apart depending on the desired heat output. The cable is then embedded in a ¼-inch layer of skim coat.

The company, which entered the floor warming marketplace seven years ago, has been in business since 1968 and produced the first UL listed snow melting cables in the early l’70s. Delta Therm offers the Floor Warner monitor, which sounds an alarm if the cable is damaged.

Step Warmfloor offers yet another floor warming system.

The product is an innovative polymer blend mat that heats when electricity is passed through the mat. Advantages include the low-voltage necessary to use the material; it typically uses a 24-volt transformer but can be operated by a solar- or wind-powered source.

Step Warmfloor senses warm spots from the sun, a piece of furniture or even a rug. The black carbon in the mat expands with warmth or contracts with cold. Company president Monica Ingress says this self-regulating feature really turns the whole floor into a sensor. The system automatically compensates for hot or cold spots.

WarmUp uses yet another variation on the basic principles behind floor warming. Sharon Mangino, general manager of U.S. Operations, explains that the product is essentially an easily-installed wire specially coated for water resistance. The wire, which is UL listed, is only 2 ml thick. It comes in a kit with a primer to prepare the substrate and special tape to anchor the wire. Mangino says the use of an insulated backer board helps prevent heat loss below the floor. Once the wire is installed, it’s easily buried in thinset and the floor is ready for tile.

Installation is easy and because the mat is so thin—just 3/64-inch—it does not impact the height of doors, moldings or cabinets. Although it can be used for whole-house heating, even in very cold climates, it’s most often installed to heat specific areas such as under tile or stone.


Innovations
 
July 1st, 2005

July-August 2005

Florida Tile introduces four new lines

Florida Tile debuted four exciting new product lines at Coverings 2005. Basalto is a glazed porcelain with slightly clefted edges and the look of marbleized stone. Available in two generous sizes of floor tile with matching mesh-mounted sheets of mosaics, including a Multi sheet for mixing and matching that has no limits. Basalto porcelain tile is appropriate for all interior residential and most commercial wall, countertop and floor applications. Biltmore is a soft, matte floor tile in two floor tile sizes, 13″ x 13″ and 16″ x 16″. The three naturally shaded colors are combined in a 3″ x 13″ mesh-mounted listello to add a decorative touch. Use as an accent or as a full back splash. Biltmore floor tile is appropriate for all residential wall, countertop and floor applications. Caldera is a glazed porcelain floor and wall tile with the look and feel of Rapalano Stone at an affordable price. It offers multiple decorative options with two sizes of floor tile and two sizes of wall tile, including the popular 10″ x 13″. Two different mosaics expand options further. Caldera porcelain wall tile is appropriate for all interior commercial and residential wall and countertop applications. VillaAntica is another glazed porcelain with a chiseled edge and natural fume. This rustic tile is available in both floor and wall in generous sizes, 12″ x 12″, 18″ x 18″ and 6″ x 6″, 8″ x 12″ respectively. Multiple decoratives including a 6″ x 6″ embossed insert and five different mesh-mounted mosaic sheets increase the design possibilities.Villa Antica porcelain floor tile is ADA compliant and appropriate for all residential and most commercial floor applications. (www.floridatile.com )

Ultralite Mortar™ from Mapei

MAPEI Corporation has just launched a new lightweight mortar that carries eye-catching benefits for the tile and stone installation trade. Pound for pound, Ultralite Mortar gives twice as much coverage as traditional thin-set mortars. An installer can now use 25 lbs. of product to cover the same square footage that used to require 50 lbs. “The reduction in dead load on the floor is significant. For example, a 20,000 square-foot commercial floor would be lighter by three-and-a-half tons,” says MAPEI Product Manager Brian Pistulka. MAPEI’s unique Easy Glide Technology™ formula creates a buttery consistency that dramatically lessens fatigue while troweling, especially on vertical surfaces. Ultralite Mortar also has all of the best performance characteristics of four separate industry products: Non-sag mortars: Ultralite Mortar installs large-format tile, stone and porcelain on vertical surfaces with no slip or sag. Medium-bed mortars: Ultralite Mortar builds up high and firm without slump under large-format tile, stone and porcelain. Its superior wet-in characteristics also provide exceptional contact. Thin-set mortars: Ultralite Mortar has strength and flexibility comparable to the industry’s leading polymer-modified mortars and needs only the addition of water during mixing to achieve its outstanding application properties. Mastic: Ultralite Mortar is ultra-smooth and lightweight, and it grabs on to the trowel for mastic-like application. Ultralite™ Mortar is formulated with BioBlock™ technology to inhibit the growth of odor- and stain-causing mold, mildew and bacteria. When used with grouts, caulks and waterproofing with BioBlock technology, Ultralite Mortar is part of a complete antimicrobial system for tile and stone installation. (www.mapei.com )

New wall tile palette from United States Ceramic Tile

United States Ceramic Tile Company has expanded its product line to include a new wall tile palette. Offered in both Bright and Matte Glaze, the wall tile comes in 65 various primary, contemporary and speckled colors that will enhance any decor. Each wall tile color has coordinating floor tile to complete the system. Sizes include 4¼ x 4¼, 6 x 6 and 3 x 6 along with a range of trim options. Luxor is a double-loaded, rectified porcelain floor tile that comes in a polished or unpolished option. Luxor , with its natural shade variations, provides endless design possibilities and is available in four colors: Ivory, Sand, Cocoa , and Cinder. Luxor ’s sizes include 16 x 16 and 12 x 12 as well as a 3 x 12 bullnose. Genesis is an innovative, new double-pressed porcelain product. With Genesis, the tile is pressed, decorated and then pressed for a second time before entering the kiln. The second press produces the appearance of natural stone. Compared to natural stone, this product is less porous, has greater hardness and is resistant to staining and freezing. Genesis includes the series Magma and comes in the colors Sandstone, Bedrock and Everglade. This product is available in the sizes 13¼ x 13¼, 13¼ x 21¼ and 21¼ x 21¼. Nevada is a glazed porcelain floor tile inspired by stone. Nevada ’s moderate shade variation allows for a unique and custom look to any room. Available in an 18 x 18 size, Nevada is suitable for both residential and commercial applications. (www.usctco.com)

Assiria Series

Eliane is introducing its ceramic Assiria Series as a timeless floor and wall design element. Simple roses and lilies accent Assiria field tile and decorative pieces. In marble-like hues, Assiria is offered in Assiria Alpe, Assiria Marfim, Assiria Gelo and Assiria Verde. Each shade features floral and square designs in Assiria colors. “Assiria is an elegant option for interiors,” said Marcio Muller of Eliane. “Its soothing colors and original accent pieces make it a unique series in Eliane’s fine collection of ceramic tile.”

Sizes available through Assiria include: 13″ x 13″, 3″ x 13″, 8″ x 12″, 3″ x 8″, 2″ x 8″ and 1″ x 8″. The tile is also available in an ultra-modern, large format of 13″ x 23″. (www.elianeusa.com) Renaissance Tile & Bath introduces Nest

Nest is the new luxury tile line exclusively from Renaissance Tile & Bath. The debut line from the O’Neill Ruppel design studio embraces simple color, large scale and the use of symmetry and repeat. Clean lines and increased scale provide subtle architectural detail in a fresh array of neutral colors. The unique 5″ by 5″ and 2.5″ by 5″ field tile sizes combine with decorative borders and moldings to create distinctive patterns and match the backdrop of any home décor. (www.renaissancebathandtile.com)

Imperial Slate

Natural slate’s fusion of organic colors and clefts defines American Marazzi Tile’s Imperial Slate glazed ceramic line. Resplendent layers of color and texture excite the senses while the glazed surface eliminates the flaking and maintenance routines associated with the original. The tile face expresses the features of slabs riven from the prehistoric earth—scratched, split, robust. Three Class 4 colors—Imperial Black, Imperial Rust and Imperial Tan—are available in 12″ x 12″ size; Imperial Mix (pre-mixed blend of Imperial Black and Imperial Rust) is available in 6″ x 6″ size that conveniently provides exciting design alternatives. Rich, layered colorations of ochers, olives, blacks, browns, cottos, creams, and rusts vary significantly from piece to piece and readily complement other diverse design elements, either rustic or contemporary. The ADA recognized COF of > 0.60 makes it an appealing choice for floors, walls, fireplace and shower surrounds, backsplashes and countertops in both residential and commercial settings. (www.marazzitile.com)


Industry Insights
 
July 1st, 2005

 

July-August 2005

SCB expands research & development facility

Specialty Construction Brands (SCB), manufacturer of TEC® brands, recently completed a yearlong expansion and renovation of the SCB Research and New Product Development Laboratory, continuing the company’s long-standing commitment to innovation, according to Jim Griffin, SCB President and General Manager. He said the project also signifies SCB’s dedication to supporting the industry through a variety of R&D-led programs, including product training seminars and ongoing workshops. The ISO 9001 certified laboratory is the company’s focal point for researching new technologies and making improvements to existing brands as dictated by the evolving marketplace. It is one of the few laboratories in the industry that meets both global (ISO) and American National Standards Institute specifications for formulating and testing of grout and tile setting material. The project involved a complete remodeling of the existing facility, doubled the bench testing space and developed an area used to apply tile-setting products under simulated on-site project conditions. In addition to existing capabilities to run the current industry standard specifications and tests (ANSI and American Society for Testing and Materials), the facility has the capability to run the recently developed ISO Performance Standard for Ceramic Tile Installation materials. This includes the addition of the following state-of-the-art equipment: an ISO-certified abrasimeter, which tests the ability of grout to withstand abrasion; a water impermeability tester, an ISO-mandated device that measures the waterproofing capability of various materials; an environment chamber to replicate nearly any temperature and humidity combination; and new ovens for product stability testing. SCB has doubled its technical support staff during the past three years.

CTDA presents award to Dougherty

At the Ceramic Tile Distributors Association (CTDA) opening reception at Coverings 2005, hosted jointly with Ceramic Tiles of Italy, CTDA honored Jim Dougherty of Crossville, Inc. with the Jerry Fisher Memorial-Service to the Industry Award. The award is presented annually to “An industry professional who has shown outstanding service through invention or dedication of time and effort to the ceramic tile industry.” Dougherty has spent over 20 years making great contributions to the ceramic tile industry and is an active member of CTDA and supports all of the association’s educational efforts. He serves as Chair of the CTDA Education Committee is also the current Vice President of Marketing and Business Development for Crossville, Inc. Dougherty was honored for his continued support of the ceramic tile industry and work with many industry organizations, including Tile Partners for Humanity, NTCA, CTDA, and TCNA. Ceramic Tiles of Italy presented their American Distributor award to Emser Tiles, Los Angeles, CA.

Coverings 2005 reports highest attendance on record

Coverings announced that the number of registered attendees at the 2005 show, May 3–May 6 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, was 32,228. This figure reflects a 10 percent increase in registered attendees from Coverings 2004, making this the second consecutive year of double-digit growth and the highest attendance on record.

“These numbers prove that once again, Coverings is the place where tile and stone professionals from around the world come to do business. We’ve certainly raised the bar and our team is already looking ahead to make Coverings 2006 another year to remember,” says Tamara Christian, Coverings’ show director and president, National Trade Productions. Registration data showed significant growth in five key industry categories as the reason behind the record attendance at Coverings 2005, including a 25-percent increase among installers; a 17-percent increase among tile and stone specifiers; and a 15-percent jump in dealers and retailers in attendance. Fabricator and contractor representation increased by 10-percent and 7-percent respectively. Data from Coverings 2005 showed attendance from all 50 U.S. states and 90 other countries.

TPFH gets 190 pallets of tile from Coverings

Coverings announced that this year’s exhibitors donated more than 190 pallets of tile and tile materials to Tile Partners for Humanity (TPFH) at the close of the show. Freeman, the service contractor for Coverings 2005, donated labor to collect materials from the show floor and transport them to Habitat for Humanity of Greater Orlando. TPFH is a non-profit partnership between the tile industry and Habitat for Humanity International, a non-profit organization working to eliminate substandard housing around the world. Through TPFH, industry partners provide tile, installation services and maintenance materials to Habitat affiliates interested in building with tile. “There was a significant overflow of quality materials simply because our exhibitors did not utilize all of it during booth construction and set up. Fortunately, they generously offered to donate the remaining materials to this worthy cause,” says Tamara Christian, Coverings’ show director and president, National Trade Productions. A portion of the tile collected from the show will be used in kitchens, entryways and bathrooms of Habitat for Humanity homes currently under construction in the Orlando area. The remaining tile will be sold through Habitat Home Store, part of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Orlando, which sells building materials to fund new construction in the community. One hundred percent of the proceeds will be used to support new construction in the Orlando area and operations for both Habitat for Humanity and Tile Partners for Humanity. “We are overwhelmed by the generosity of the Coverings exhibitors! Not only will materials from this donation be used to tile new Habitat homes, but they will also help generate funding for both new construction in Orlando and operations for TPFH and Habitat for Humanity,” says Ally Fertitta executive director, TPFH.

Q.E.P. Co., Inc. Announces Appointment of Clingan to Vice President of Sales

Lewis Gould, Chairman of Q.E.P. Co., Inc. announced the promotion of Jamie Clingan to Vice President of the Q.E.P./Roberts Commercial Sales Division. In this capacity, Jamie will be responsible for North American sales. Mr. Gould, commenting on this promotion said, “Jamie’s wonderful familiarity with our customer base, knowledge of the products and service offered by Q.E.P. and her professional approach to the marketplace, make her the ideal candidate for this position. Jamie will be in complete charge of our sales and sales force to this segment of our business.”

MIA accepting entries for Pinnacle Awards

The Marble Institute of America (MIA) is accepting entries for the 2005 Pinnacle Awards Competition, the natural stone industry’s premier design and installation competition. The highly coveted awards are given to projects whose beauty, creativity, ingenuity and craftsmanship exemplify professional mastery in the use of natural stone in commercial and residential environments. The four categories covered in the 2005 competition include commercial exterior, commercial interior, residential interior/exterior and renovation/restoration. Winners will be announced during the association’s annual meeting at StonExpo in Las Vegas, October 19–22, 2005. The winning entries will be displayed in the MIA booth at StonExpo and at other trade shows. A special brochure will be distributed around the world featuring the winning entries. The Pinnacle Awards, to be judged by a panel of independent experts, are open to all MIA member companies. Entries will be evaluated on the basis of excellence in design and implementation, quality workmanship and suitability of materials. Eligible projects must have been completed within the past three years (January 2002–July 2005) and project teams must include at least one MIA member company. Projects must comply with MIA standards as defined in MIA’s Dimension Stone Design Manual and MIA Technical Modules. Entries must be received by MIA headquarters in Cleveland by 5:00 p.m., July 29, 2005. For further information, visit the MIA website at www.marble-institute.com or call MIA at 440-250-9222.

Questech expands sales team

Questech Corporation is expanding its support staff to better serve its clients’ customers in the southeast and west. Rhonda Hill has joined Questech as the new Southern Regional Sales Representative. She brings to Questech 12 years of experience in the tile and building industries, most recently as Project Manager for a custom homebuilder in Central Florida. Prior to that, she spent 10 years with Intercoastal Distributors in Florida as the Showroom Manager and later as a Regional Sales Representative. Mary White is Questech’s new Western Regional Sales Representative.

Master Tile acquisitions

Master Tile announced it has bought the assets of Colours of the Rainbow Granite Partners and Citiglory Partners. Colours of the Rainbow is one of Houston’s leading providers of marble and granite countertops and natural stone. Citiglory is a national supplier of custom-cut natural stone countertops for commercial installations. Y.J. Liu, President of Colours of the Rainbow said, “This transaction makes great strategic sense for both companies. We have been looking for the best way to expand our distribution and marketing reach for both the Colours and Citiglory businesses. With Master Tile we can expand countertop sales throughout the central region by taking advantage of the existing branch network and sales force. Additionally, with Master Tile’s national commercial sales capability we will be able to expand distribution of custom stone from our China factory.” Master Tile’s CEO Hazem Farra concurred, saying, “We’ve known Y.J. Liu for a long time and value his expertise in natural stone. Adding 300 colors of slab, and an equally-broad range of cut stone, in another central location, gives us a tremendous benefit. Y.J. Liu will take responsibility for expanding these businesses throughout Master Tile’s operations, working in partnership with existing staff in our California and Florida operations, not just in Texas and Oklahoma. We look forward to welcoming him as a part of our senior management team.”

StonExpo Federation now the Natural Stone Alliance

The StonExpo Federation, which formerly operated StonExpo, the major trade show for the domestic natural stone industry, has changed its name to the Natural Stone Alliance. Changing the name was in compliance with the buy/sell agreement with Hanley Wood Expositions, which purchased the show from the StonExpo Federation in late 2004. The Natural Stone Alliance will be one of the lead annual sponsors of StonExpo, along with the Marble Institute of America, and will receive a share of the profits. Income derived from the show by the Natural Stone Alliance will be used to fund important industry initiatives, such as helping the Natural Stone Council, a stone promotion organization made up of several trade associations in the industry. This year’s StonExpo will be held October 19–22, 2005 in Las Vegas. In its first action as the board of the Natural Stone Alliance, a grant of $100,000 a year for three years was made to the Natural Stone Council to help it develop a natural stone brand and to continue promoting natural stone to architects and other design professionals. The board also named Duke Pointer, long-time industry veteran and former President of Fletcher Granite, as its administrative officer.

Warmup Undertile Heating

Expansion & Move

In line with their ongoing expansion program to develop their retail customer base in electric heating products in North America, Warmup Undertile Heating is pleased to announce their move to a larger facility in Danbury, Connecticut. This new facility will centralize Corporate Headquarters and warehousing for all Warmup products to ensure fast and efficient customer service. In order to address an increase in demand from the retail market and homeowners on the west coast for Warmup Undertile Heating products, Warmup has recently appointed a California Sales Executive. This appointment will enable Warmup to increase brand awareness and provide existing customers additional service in product training and sales development.

TCNA presents 2005 Handbook for Ceramic Tile Installation

The Tile Council of North America, Inc. (TCNA) introduced the CD-ROM version of the 2005 Handbook for Ceramic Tile Installation, offering hyperlinks between ANSI standards and the Handbook. This newest edition features 15 new installation methods, three new sections and more than 300 updates. The CD-ROM offers quick-reference CAD details and installation methods for exterior and interior floors, exterior and interior walls, bathtubs and showers, ceilings, countertops, steam rooms, swimming pools, stairs, and movement joints. Some of the changes introduced in the 2005 Handbook include sections on glass, porcelain sound rated floors, cementitious self-levelers, poured gypsum, radiant heat, new underlayments and crack-isolation systems. www.tileusa.com

StonePeak opens manufacturing facility

StonePeak Ceramics, Inc., a new porcelain ceramic tile company exclusively dedicated to the American market, officially opened its new multi-million dollar facility in Crossville, Tennessee. StonePeak Ceramics is the first American subsidiary of its Italian parent company, Graniti Fiandre. The company introduced four of its initial product lines in early May, and the other initial product lines will be introduced later this summer. The 628,000-square-foot facility houses one of the most complex production lines in the world. StonePeak Ceramics is in the process of hiring approximately 150 employees to run the state-of-the-art production line. Dozens of local residents have already been hired and trained at the Tennessee Technology Center and at the Graniti Fiandre headquarters in Castellarano, Italy. “We are committed to the American market for the long-term and, in so doing, are dedicated to being a good employer and citizen of Crossville,” said Cristina Minozzi, president of StonePeak Ceramics. Company headquarters and showroom are based in downtown Chicago. In other news, the company welcomed Drew Giungo and Doug Snell as regional sales managers in the Northeast and Southeast regions, respectively. They join Tom Baker, sales manager for the Midwest region, and Gene Dingham, sales manager for the Northwest region.

Geologica opens Boston Showroom

Italian tile & stone manufacturer GranitiFiandre in partnership with United Distributors opened an exclusive Geologica Showroom located in the Boston Design Center. “The opening of this showroom achieves our goal of providing the Boston design community and its clients access to the complete array of extraordinary Geologica products in an atmosphere conducive to creative design and selection,” says Jeanne Nichols, VP of Marketing for GranitiFiandre USA operations. And she adds, “We believe the Boston Design Center is the perfect location for this important venture and are looking forward to being a part of the Center’s dynamic environment.” Among the advantages of the Geologica showroom are hands-on access to the vast product line, an inspirational on-site workspace created specifically for designers, and luxurious surroundings accented with beautiful installation solutions. The design professional can look forward to working amongst a full resource library with a professional sales staff to assist them.


Installer Briefing: Bone Up on Crack Isolation Systems
 
July 1st, 2005

 

July-August 2005

By Sandra Eich

As crack-isolation systems continue to evolve, it pays to bone up on the technology. Here’s a quiz to help sharpen your skills: 1. The potential for tile cracks is always there.

True. Particularly with concrete. Cracks naturally occur in concrete flooring substrates as the water in the concrete gradually evaporates. These cracks, called shrinkage cracks, can occur randomly throughout the substrate. Potential problems emerge when rigid tile is bonded to the concrete because the cracks can migrate from the substrate to the tile. When that happens, the installed tile can be damaged resulting in expensive repairs.

The solution is to isolate the substrate from the tile. This prevents the shrinkage cracks from transferring upward to the tile flooring.

2. There are two types of crack-isolation formats—one-step mortars and sheet membrane systems.

False. Crack-isolation systems are available in several formats. Membrane formats include sheeting materials (such as polyvinyl) as well as liquids and trowel-applied membranes. Some sheeting materials have a peel-and-stick adhesive that allows them to be applied directly to the substrate. These materials are then topped with mortar to set the tile. Other sheet membrane systems require an initial layer of mortar to be applied to the substrate. Then, the sheeting follows. A final layer of mortar is applied to set the tile.

Liquid and trowel-applied membranes are placed directly on the substrate and topped by a mortar to set the tile. Some liquid membranes also incorporate a fiber mat.

One-step crack-isolation mortars are formulated with polymer additives. This type of mortar isolates shrinkage cracks and allows tile to be set in a single step.

3. If there aren’t cracks already in the substrate, there are no worries.

False. Cracks can and will come back to haunt you—especially when the concrete substrate is relatively new. Shrinkage cracks develop as the concrete substrate dries. In fact, an estimated 80 percent of shrinkage cracks occur within the first year after the substrate is poured.

4. The slip-sheet, crack-isolation method is outdated and a bad idea.

True. The practice of applying an adhesive paper slip-sheet directly to the substrate and then covering it with mortar to set the tile is inexpensive, but problem-prone. Cracks can still transfer through the paper and mortar to the tile. Worse, the paper can lose its bond to the substrate resulting in loose tiles that must be reset. In addition, paper deteriorates when subjected to moisture.

5. A membrane crack-isolation system provides the best protection.

A trick question. It depends on the type of tile installation. The installation might involve a wet area, a newly poured concrete substrate, or might not have any special considerations.

If the installation is in a wet area, such as a shower, some crack-

isolation membrane systems provide waterproofing protection for the substrate, plus crack isolation protection as the name implies. Be aware that some crack-isolation membranes must be applied in a specific manner to be considered waterproof.

If a project deadline requires installation over new, also called “green concrete,” some liquid crack-isolation membranes can do the trick. These products are formulated to accommodate the stress to the tile’s bond that occurs as moisture evaporates from the substrate. This feature allows tile to be installed over concrete that is just three days old compared with the normal wait of 28 days.

If an installation does not involve a need for waterproofing or a green concrete substrate, the choice will be a membrane or one-step mortar system. The answer will be clear when key factors, such as labor and material costs, are considered.

6. One-step crack-isolation mortars are expensive.

Another trick question. A one-step crack-isolation mortar is often a cost-effective option when efficiency is factored into the equation. Because this approach combines crack isolation and tile setting in one step, labor costs are reduced. It also eliminates the additional materials when sheet membrane or some liquid membrane crack-isolation systems are used.

7. Materials and labor are the primary costs to consider when choosing a crack-isolation system.

False. You should also factor in opportunity cost, which involves the ability to finish projects sooner and move on to other opportunities with confidence.

For example, take a contractor who typically completes one installation a week using a crack-isolation system that requires multiple steps. But by choosing a one-step crack isolation system, this same contractor could potentially complete an additional installation each week. The time the contractor saves through the increased productivity translates into greater income. In short, time is money.

8. Crack-isolation systems are just another way for manufacturers and suppliers to make money.

False. Failure to isolate cracks can be costly when cracked tile flooring requires removal and re-installation. And, don’t forget that matching tile and stone from different lots can be a serious challenge. In addition, the trend is toward increasingly larger stone tile sizes, such as 16 x 16 or 24 x 24 inches. Bigger tile can be generally more susceptible to cracking with an untreated substrate.

9. A crack-isolation system can bridge any crack or joint.

False. This has to do with the term bridging, and the definition for various types of cracks and joints.

Bridging refers to filling an existing crack or joint with a setting material to create a bridge over the crack or joint. While many materials will fill a crack, what’s important in a crack-isolation system is the system’s ability to withstand the movement in the crack. That is what prevents the crack in the substrate from transferring to the tile. In other words, don’t be lulled into a false sense of security with a system that claims to “bridge” cracks.

Regarding cracks, there are different types. Shrinkage cracks, which are usually 1/16 to 1/8 inch and naturally occur in concrete substrate, can be successfully isolated by crack-isolation systems. Structural cracks, meanwhile, are caused by structural defects in the substrate. Crack-isolation systems of any kind won’t prevent structural cracks from damaging the installed tile.

There are also different types of joints. Builders typically place contraction joints, also called control joints, in the substrate to channel shrinkage cracks. (Keep in mind that some builders might not do this, which increases the need for crack isolation.) Contraction joints can be isolated from tile by some crack-isolation systems. Another joint type is the expansion joint, or isolation joint. These joints are designed to move with the substrate. They cannot be isolated by crack-isolation systems. In fact, attempting to bridge expansion joints will often result in cracked tile and is not recommended.

10. A crack-isolation system’s bond strength and flexibility are good predictors of performance.

True. A crack-isolation system must balance bond strength and flexibility. The trick is to find one that offers both. A premium crack-isolation mortar, for example, will have bond strength of 375 to 475 psi with quarry tile to cured concrete and enough polymer content providing the flexibility to protect against cracking of up to 1/8 inch.

One sure guideline when searching for a solution is the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) C627 Robinson Floor Test. It measures an installation’s performance over time under a continuous traffic load and assigns a foot-traffic rating. A premium crack-isolation mortar will carry a rating of Residential to Heavy, depending on the substrate. 11. The challenge with crack-isolation systems is the 24-hour wait before you can grout.

False. Some advanced crack-isolation mortars are uniquely formulated to crack isolate, yet allow for the application of grout within four hours of setting tile. This is especially important when contractors are under pressure to finish jobs as quickly as possible because it speeds up the crack isolation, tile setting and grouting processes.

12. Warranties and guarantees are virtually the same.

False. Some crack-isolation system warranties only cover manufacturing defects. In these warranties, the manufacturer will provide replacement product to resolve the problem. Labor is not included. Other manufacturers offer performance warranties, which guarantee crack specific protection (such as up to 1/8 inch) for a specified number of years. Under these warranties, the manufacturer agrees to not only replace the defective material, but to also redo the tile installation. Sandra Eich manages the TEC brand of setting systems, which includes surface preparation, mastics and mortars.


Kitchen and Bath Trends: Where Remodeling Dollars Go
 
July 1st, 2005

 

July-August 2005

The home remodeling business is booming! According to the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI), $224 billion was spent on remodeling in the US in 2004. That’s a remarkable increase of nearly 500 percent since 1990! And, according to the Alliance to Save Energy, kitchen remodeling alone can recoup 70-90 percent of the cost when the home is sold.

The increase in remodeling may be correlated with consumers who view their homes as an expression of their personal styles and individuality, according to Ryan Abruzzo, marketing and product manager at TileAmerica!, Ludlow, Ma.

“A house is like a like a wardrobe. Remodeling trends always begin with fashion, and then trickle down into the home decor market,” says Abruzzo. “Consumers are spending more money decorating their homes, and what we’re seeing is that they are choosing materials and designs that are “in.”

Transforming Kitchens and Baths into Personalized Havens/ From utility to entertainment

Lifestyle trends drive much of remodeling’s current fever. Homeowners are paying more attention to the kitchen and bath, which previously were considered strictly utilitarian areas, according to Abruzzo. And they aren’t just modernizing or updating—they’re restyling. Kitchen spaces are increasingly entertainment areas, and even house home offices. Bathrooms continue to adopt more luxurious, spa-like appointments.

John Babcock, design director of Kitchen Views in Newton Center, Mass., a full-service remodeling firm, agrees that, “Kitchen and bath remodeling has really become somewhat of a ‘fashion’ industry.”

Babcock points out that as the home’s entertainment spot, kitchens are decorated in more detail. With the detail comes more daring. People are getting away from beige and white and moving more towards color. Many of these are bright and cheerful, and very contemporary. Orange, for example, has made a major comeback and is a very trendy color today. Also, metal and matte finishes combined with exotic woods have piqued the interest of homeowners nationwide.

“Consumers are taking more risks as kitchen and bathroom design is more about standing out rather than fitting in,” says Abbruzo.

Tile and stone play a big role in bathroom décor, as homeowners seek to create more of a relaxing haven than solely a functional space, adds Abruzzo. For spas, people opt for natural stone as it provides softer, soothing colors which also give a sense of space and openness.

Mayan Metzler, president of MyHome, a full service design, remodeling, renovation and construction firm in New York City, notes a growing interest in mosaics. “We are installing a lot of mosaics of all types,” he said. “There has been a bit of a move away from marble, while Jerusalem stone is a big stone trend. Generally, the very natural ‘look’ (that is, stone with tumbled or acid-washed surfaces) is still very popular in all stones, with more travertine and limestone being used.”

Tile in any material drives the design

“Tile is the best thing that ever happened to the kitchen and bath remodeling industry. It has unlimited application potential and comes in countless varieties to create a more personalized style in the home,” says John Yates, owner of Maine Kitchen Design (MKD) in Yarmouth, Maine.

Marcio Muller, national sales manager with Eliane USA, porcelain tile manufacturers, reports that the porcelain tile sales have tripled in 2004, compared to 2003.

“The use of ceramic and porcelain tile is as popular as ever. We have definitely seen an increase in the usage of porcelain and ceramic tiles in the remodel segment,” said Muller. “Ceramic tile provides sophistication, durability, ease of maintenance, and for those reasons it has become a product of choice when remodeling. We are now seeing new applications, new areas, the use of upscale products, decorative products and customized installations.”

Porcelain, ceramic tile and decorative metal tiles for borders, inserts, and backsplashes are also growing in popularity with homeowners.

This is something that Mario Klappholz of Ceramic Consulting Corporation has noticed as well. His firm represents a

company called Creative Metalized Products. The company offers tiles with artistic designs that are a fraction of the weight of solid metal. The solid metal veneer can be specified in bronze, brass, copper, silver or pewter that is only 1/32 of an inch thick. The surface treatments include an aged look with green or blue patinas, iron rust, satin and high gloss finishes “Metal tile has made a major comeback in America,” Klappholz stated. “In the l’30s and l’40s, you’d see it used in elevator banks and sometimes as ceiling tile. Now, it is a major design component, which is being widely used as a focal accent element specified in combination with other surfacing products.”

Glass tile is one of the fastest growing trends. (Editor’s note: See The Choice is Clear: Glass Tile in the May/June issue of TileDealer) More and more homeowners have decided to use glass tiles because of their unique design options, ease of maintenance and the fact that they are totally non-absorptive.

“We have seen a great increase in the amount of glass tile specified for remodeling,” said Ann-Britt Malden, creative marketing director of Hakatai Enterprises, a glass mosaic tile importer and distributor, based in Oregon. She said that the blending of glass tile colors is on the rise.

Granite countertops—from slabs or tiles—have become a given in renovated kitchens. Patrick Perus, vice president, marketing and development for Polycor, the second largest supplier of natural stone in North America, notes, “Granite ranks second only to diamonds in its degree of hardness, may be specified in myriad surface finishes, is extremely damage-resistant and is basically stain resistant, as well. When cared for properly, it can last a lifetime. It’s a great material for many aspects of remodeling.

“Many people,” continued Perus, “are choosing granite tiles that match their countertops, for flooring field tile or as accents within a field of other hard surface flooring materials.”

Tile Dealers Embrace Remodeling Boom

“Dealers can embrace this [tile] trend to make their showroom feel like a nice, high-end home,” says Yates. “For example, I’ve enhanced MKD by adding exotic tiles of all types to floors, walls, showers and back splashes.”

This fall, Yates also plans to unveil MKD’s new showroom expansion, which adjoins its present location. The space will include a completely functioning, gourmet kitchen with a stunning curved wall covered with glass and ceramic mosaics and a fully operating master bath built entirely out of multi-colored glass mosaics.

“This will create a showroom with the requisite ‘wow’ factor for my end users,” says Yates. “I also look forward to watching my clients ‘try on’ the showroom’s new gourmet kitchen and master bath to determine if these will ‘fit’ into their own wardrobe!”


One – on – One… with Don Novak, Chairman NAHB Remodelers Council
 
July 1st, 2005

 

July-August 2005

By Jeffrey Steele

The remodeling business is on track to surpass new home construction in the next ten years. Here’s what one remodeler—with his hand on the industry pulse—has to say about how tile fits into this growth.

Don Novak knows a thing or two about remodeling, and has the credentials to prove it. Novak is a Certified Graduate Remodeler, Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist, Certified Graduate Builder, Certified Kitchen Designer, Certified Master Carpenter and Certified Pella Contractor.

In addition, Novak heads his own Cedar Rapids, Iowa-based remodeling firm, Novak Construction Company, and is this year’s national chairman of the Washington, D.C.-based National Association of Home Builders’ Remodelers Council.

Novak recently sat down with TileDealer to discuss the size of the remodeling marketplace, the importance of kitchen and bathroom remodeling, the ways today’s remodelers are learning from the past and how remodelers are using ceramic tile in their projects.

TileDealer: How big is the remodeling marketplace?

Novak: Let me put it this way. There are about 700,000 remodelers, of which 70,000 have employees and are big enough to handle payroll. Some $235 billion will be spent on remodeling this year, compared with $225 billion last year, in the United States . We’re going up about 15 percent a year. That’s compared with about $250 billion on new home construction.

Remodeling is kind of on track to surpass new home construction within this decade, or at least within 10 years. There are a number of reasons why.

Number one, there’s just a bigger inventory of homes out there. Every 20 to 25 years, they need roofs, or need modifications to fit changing lifestyles. In addition, there are a lot of areas in this country where governmental bodies are restricting [new residential construction] to zero growth. So the only way for people to increase the value and livability of their homes is to remodel. New things come along, and people like to have them. And that drives what we do.

TileDealer: How important is kitchen and bath remodeling?

Novak: Remodeling Magazine in one of their issues from last fall basically interviewed somewhere around three to five realtors in about 60 different markets around the country. They asked them what projects people can do that will recoup the most on their investments if they turn around and sell their homes within one year. It seems to vary from year to year, but kitchens and baths always seem to come in close to the top. With a minor kitchen remodel, they say that they can recoup 93.1 percent of their investment. [In this issue], they’re rating total kitchen remodels at about 80.3 percent. Usually kitchen remodels are up a little higher than that.

Minor kitchen remodeling, like replacing a countertop and changing appliances, gives you a quicker return than if you go in and tear out all the cabinets and basically replace everything. That includes replacing cabinets, countertops, appliances and putting in new tile floors with heating elements so the tile is nice and warm. They have a bathroom addition that recoups about 90.5 percent of the investment, and a bathroom remodel will recoup about 90.1 percent.

Kitchen and bathroom remodeling are among the best at recouping investment, but they’re also among the most expensive. For an upscale major kitchen remodel, you’re talking about around $75,000 as a nationwide average. With a minor kitchen remodel you’re looking at about $15,240. That includes refinishing existing cabinets, putting in laminate countertops and replacing oven and cooktop, sink and faucet, replacing the floor and doing some repainting.

TileDealer: What kinds of other upgrades are homeowners doing?

Novak: Sometimes they’re doing attics. Basement refinishes offer a return on investment of about 75.6-percent. That’s something we do quite a bit here in the Midwest .

A sunroom addition offers about a 72.1 percent return on investment. We also do window replacements, roof replacements. People are adding decks, replacing siding.

We’re not seeing as many room additions as we used to. I don’t know why—it may be the economy. It seems personally speaking, we used to run about 10 to 12 room additions a year, and now we’re down to two or three. But we’re also seeing major house remodels, where we’re going in and doing everything. We get one or two of those every year.

TileDealer: How is ceramic tile being used to differentiate better projects from typical remodeling projects?

Novak: We’re seeing a lot more tile going in homes than we did in the past. We went through a period where there were a lot of fiberglass or acrylic tub and shower modules being put in. Now we’re seeing a lot of those being supplanted by tile on the walls of the tub and shower.

We’re seeing a lot more tile going in on floors, particularly in kitchens. The idea of putting in electric heat cables on top of the ½-,3/8- and even ¼-inch concrete Durrock sheets, then putting a cement coat over the cables before putting in the tile, is very popular. This is a great idea for bathrooms as well. And we just finished a basement remodel where we actually put electric cables underneath a big family and living room within the basement. We also did it in their exercise area too. We did the majority of the basement this way.

We’ve been using tile around fireplaces and hearths for a long time for decoration. We’re seeing it going on countertops. We just finished a big kitchen remodel where they had granite countertops, and we used white 4-¼- by 4-¼-inch tile for the backsplash, running from the countertop up to the bottom of the upper cabinets. That was interspersed with other white tile with decorative patterns. We’re seeing some tile that really looks nice in decorative settings.

There’s a lot of different things out there right now. It depends on the [project], but some of the floors we’re putting in, we’re using tile as big as 16-inch square. We’re seeing a lot more porcelain tile, and we’re seeing some of the stone tiles as well. They actually have some that look like stone but you can use it without grout lines and it makes it look more like a continuous floor.

We’re seeing a lot of people in the Midwest stay with the basics. In the kitchen and bath, they’re going toward lighter colors and more of a natural stone look.

TileDealer: Are you using tile in swimming pool jobs? Novak: We’ve done several enclosed swimming pools and have used tile in those locations, where we’ve basically used them on the entire surface adjacent to the pool so it’s impervious to water. It’s basically the walking surface around the pool, which makes it easier to take care of. And when you incorporate some of the heat cables in that walking surface, it makes it really nice.

TileDealer: How has kitchen and bath remodeling changed over time?

Novak: One of the biggest things we’ve seen in recent years is the use of granite countertops. They tend to be very popular, and I would think they’d be popular for years to come.

Speaking from a tile standpoint, we’re seeing an awful lot of products being used now. When I started out in the 1950s and early 1960s, there weren’t as many choices in tile. Most of them seemed to be a plaster-type tile with a glaze over them.

Now we’re seeing so many different things out there: the natural stone, bigger tile than what we used to see, even 16-by-16, 18-by-18 and 24-by-24. Porcelain tile, which wasn’t that popular back a few years ago has now become kind of the normal thing people are doing. There’s just been a lot of improvements in products, and the way we install products.

In homes built before World War II, through the 1930s and early 1940s, they would cut the floor joist down and recess the sub-floor so they would have room for an inch and a half or two inches of concrete. This was to give a good base to the floor tile.

Those floors are still looking as nice as they did when they were put in.

It’s the same with the walls. Instead of putting tile over sheetrock or just regular plaster, they would actually leave the plaster off and would put wire lath over the studs. And then they would trowel cement over that to get a good base for the tile.

Those products have lasted. A lot of those today look as good as when they [were] put in.

After World War II, everybody started taking short cuts. They’d install the floor tile over plywood or over a masonite underlay. And then on the walls, they would just put tile right over the sheetrock. Now a lot of those products are just literally falling apart. That’s why we’re putting in this Durrock, or cement board, and in some places they’re going back to doing a cement build up over wire lath. With this procedure, the product doesn’t rot away from the back the way it did with sheetrock, so it’s more durable. It will last a whole lot longer. It’s strange how we try to take shortcuts, then have to go back to square one where we were years ago.

We’re also putting in shower seats. Durrock works fine on straight walls, but when we put it in a shower seat situation, we have to trowel back over the joints so we don’t get leakage in them. Water’s falling right on it and it’s a good place for a leak if it’s not installed properly.

Shower bases have changed also. It used to be that years ago they put in a lead pan with sides that came up four to six inches and they would pour cement in the bottom of that for the base of the shower and then tile over that. But we found out that the lead after a while starts deteriorating. So now we’ve gone to fiberglass mesh, and they use some resins that prevent deterioration from moisture. They cement over that, then put the tile down on top of the cement. It’s kind of building a fiberglass module in place.


Sales & Management: A Good Time to Be a Creditor: How the New Bankruptcy Laws Will Impact Business-to-Business Collections.
 
July 1st, 2005

 

By Bob Bernstein
July-August 2005

Much has been written about the changes in the U.S. bankruptcy law that becomes effective October 2005. Most of the stories seem to center on how the changes will affect consumers. But if you’re involved in business-to-business collections, these changes affect you as well. According to Bob Bernstein, managing partner of Bernstein Law Firm, there is some good news for creditors in the fine points of the new bill.

“Of course, it’s hard to make generalizations about changes that are so broad and sweeping,” says Bernstein, whose firm specializes in creditors’ rights. “These are different laws that affect different types of businesses. But overall, conditions have become a bit friendlier for companies whose customers are declaring bankruptcy.”

He offers a few examples in “plain English”:

• The new rules of reclamation:

Section 546(c)(1)—The period to make a reclamation demand (recovering goods your company sold) has been expanded from 20 to 45 days. In other words, if you send goods to a debtor company and it files bankruptcy, you now have 25 more days than you did under the old laws in which to send them a letter essentially saying, “We sent you 100,000 widgets and you failed to pay for them. Send them back.”

Section 503 (b)(9)—If you ship the goods within 20 days before your customer files bankruptcy, you are now entitled to an administrative claim. (Previously, you were entitled to a general claim, which meant that you might receive pennies on the dollar at some vague time in the future.) In other words, your claim is viewed as a much higher priority than it was before, which should increase the odds that you are compensated for the full value of your goods.

• Commercial lease laws tighten up:

Section 364(d)(4) “tightens the reins” on debtors in favor of lessors of non-residential properties. It states that the debtor must immediately surrender the property to the lessor if an unexpired lease is not assumed or rejected by the earlier of: 1) 120 days of bankruptcy filing or 2) when the reorganization plan is confirmed. Under the old law, the debtor was required to take action, but the guidelines weren’t as strict. So, if you own commercial property that you lease to tenants, the changes give the law (and you) more “teeth.”

• Protection from preference claims:

Section 547 was strengthened to limit preference claims to those in excess of $5,000. In addition, any claims less than $10,000 must be filed in the court where the creditor is, rather than where the bankruptcy is. This will reduce the number of “nuisance” claims against creditors.

While it’s true that recent changes favor creditors, bankruptcy policy helps those who help themselves. Bernstein urges business owners to keep a close eye on customers you suspect might be on the verge of bankruptcy.

“You can probably recognize the signs that a customer is in trouble,” says Bernstein. “You know—they’re slow in paying, or they’ve stopped ordering, or you’ve heard rumors through the grapevine—things like that. If you suspect bankruptcy looms on the horizon, check the credit reports or contact your creditors’ rights attorney and have him or her look it up for you. Be vigilant. Although there are no guarantees of collecting what you’re owed, generally speaking, the faster you take action, the better.”

Bob Bernstein is the managing partner of Bernstein Law Firm, P.C., in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The firm is known for its expertise in bankruptcy, retail and commercial collections, lease enforcement, creditors’ rights, and mortgage foreclosure. Bernstein is board certified in creditors’ rights and business bankruptcy by the American Board of Certification and was named a Pennsylvania Super Lawyer for 2004 and 2005, a designation awarded to the top 5 percent of Pennsylvania lawyers and sponsored jointly by Philadelphia Magazine and Politics Magazine.(www.bernsteinlaw.com)

 


What is Porcelain?
 
July 1st, 2005

Shedding some light on the confusion over what is and is not porcelain tile.

July-August 2005

Depending on whom you ask, porcelain tile now owns 30-40 percent of the U.S. tile marketplace. Ask dealers what they are selling the most of and they invariably say porcelain. It’s 30 percent harder than granite— tough enough for floors and commercial installations. It’s also stylish enough to suit the most discriminating homeowner, available in sizes, colors and finishes to suit any design scheme.

So, what’s the problem?

Not all porcelain meets the American definition of porcelain, but the customer or end user and sometimes even the dealer are not necessarily aware of this. When the tile doesn’t add up to porcelain’s wear expectations, or an installation fails because it used products appropriate for porcelain on tile that was not porcelain, the dealer, the manufacturer and even the installer get a “black eye.” When the price per square foot ranges anywhere from $1.89 and up, the dealer and the end user want to know what’s driving the cost variation.

Defining porcelain

The Tile Council of North America (TCNA) 2005 Handbook for Ceramic Tile Installation defines porcelain as a ceramic tile that can be “unglazed, glazed, or honed to a high polish. Because of the composition of the body and how the tile is manufactured, the finished product is impervious, having less than 0.5% water absorption.” The handbook also points out—as do experienced dealers and installers—that porcelain’s high absorption rate impacts installation. Setting materials specifically designed for porcelain tile must be used.

TCNA Executive Director Eric Astrachan says the handbook language matches both the appropriate ANSI Standard and the ISO (international) standard. He points out, however, that there is a slight difference in how water is measured in the ANSI and ISO methods. Astrachan says this difference shows up in the absorption rate. Beyond this difference, however, Astrachan says, “We are aware that some tile imported is not at all impervious.”

By definition, vitreous is 0.5-3.0% absorption rate and semi-vitreous has a 3.0 to 7.0% absorption rate. “To be fair,” says Astrachan, “there are some excellent vitreous products on the marketplace.” But, he adds, labeling them as porcelain is misleading the customer. Astrachan says there is no standard definition of “residential porcelain.”

Steve Wallace of Longust Distributing in Mesa, Arizona, agrees. He says some off-shore products have been stamped porcelain when they clearly are not. And, he says, it’s an injustice to dealers and consumers. Like others in the business, Wallace has had experience with imported products from countries all over the world marking vitreous or even semi-vitreous products “porcelain.”

The reason for this, Wallace says, is that there is no one world-wide governing body. And, as Astrachan points out, “Porcelain is a popular name.”

What are the advantages of porcelain tile?

As Linda Hennelly, Director of Residential Sales for Crossville Tile, explains, technology, raw materials and processing make porcelain a more expensive product. Variations in technology have resulted in several types of porcelain, but they all share the 0.5 percent absorption rate.

Hennelly says that originally porcelain was an unglazed, thru-body tile, meaning the color was consistent from top to bottom. It was designed for and installed in high traffic—usually commercial—areas. However, it was also adopted for residential use. Eventually improving technology allowed porcelain manufacturers to achieve more of a stone look by mixing additional dyes in the powder, but the absorptive quality remained. Next came double-filling, pressing two different colors to achieve a more random look replicating stone. This technology was even more expensive, but the result was still 0.5 percent absorption.

What can dealers do?

Clearly, the popularity of porcelain is driving its demand. As Hennelly says, “It’s affecting the total market and driving the price down.” Increasingly expensive technology, growing inequities between the U.S. dollar and the euro, and demand for porcelain have blurred the absorption standard on some imports. Some manufacturers may not have the technical ability to make porcelain, but would like to share in that marketplace.

Wallace believes dealers need to be proactive and protect the definition of porcelain. He now uses “impervious” as the key word to differentiate the 0.5% absorption rate for those porcelains that do not meet the standard. He has created a label that identifies product as Impervious Porcelain or Ceramic and asks his suppliers to check the correct box.

He is insisting on impervious tile with an absorption rate of less than 0.5 percent. He tests what he buys to make sure it meets that standard. He’s also talked to other industry leaders, encouraging them to do all they can to protect the meaning of porcelain.

Crossville only produces porcelain. Hennelly says the company’s target customer wants the quality and style that porcelain delivers.

The bottom line for the consumer, who is probably going to pick what she likes rather than an absorption rate, is the porcelain label with a wide range of price tags. It costs less and it’s not going to perform the same way porcelain tile as defined by US manufacturers performs.

Dealers need to be aware of this. They need to understand the definition of porcelain and the potential for other products to be labeled porcelain when the products do not meet this definition. Finally, they need to educate the customer on these variations.

Foster and Clark Real Estate
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