Leadership Letter: Leveraging your opportunities
March 1st, 2006

March-April 2006

This is a remarkably busy season for the tile industry. There is the flurry of industry shows—Surfaces, Cevisama and Coverings—and the need for those of us in attendance to maximize our time, meeting with established vendors to maintain those relationships, searching out new products, leveraging educational opportunities, and often running our businesses from afar while we do so.

At CTDA we have also been very busy

First, the Certified Ceramic Tile Salesperson (CCTS) examination will be pilot-tested at Coverings. CTDA developed the CCTS program with the help of Southern Illinois University’s Department of Workforce Education and Development. The CCTS program is the first and only program specifically designed by and for ceramic tile salespeople. Certification offers you a way to differentiate your business from others.

We all need to be on top of our business—to know what’s happening. One way, of course, is to read TileDealer. Another is to attend industry events like Coverings.

Coverings is the premier international trade show and conference dedicated to showcasing tile and natural stone. This is our chance to see, touch and handle new materials. To talk with vendors about what they can offer our business and our customers. We all need to know what’s new now and what will be new later. Nothing replaces walking the show floor.

But there is much more to Coverings than the exhibits. Dozens of seminars and speakers are scheduled to help you do business better. These events are planned for industry professionals like you to learn more about products, installations, trends, and running your business. Not taking advantage of these opportunities is like walking the show with your eyes closed. You’re missing half the substance.

CTDA has developed the distributor and retailer seminar track. Here’s just a sampling of the schedule:

• Improving Your Warehouse Safety: Have you made safety part of your corporate culture? Is it everyone’s job or do you assign a few employees to be safety specialists?

• Ceramic Tile Showroom Design and Sales: Seminar leader Patti Fasan will lead you through some simple concepts to transform any showroom into a flooring fashion center.

• Taking Control of Your Business: Al Bates talks about the issues that really drive performance and how to take your business from typical to high-profit.

• The Growing Concern About Mold: Learn about the latest technology to prevent mold, installation techniques to stop it before mold becomes a problem, and the status of insurance issues and the potential for expensive mold claims.

Coverings is also a remarkable networking opportunity. Everyone there is in the same business you are—they have the same questions and some of them already have the answers. Experience is invaluable—whether you’re tapping your own or someone else’s.

I think CTDA members have a real advantage at industry events like Coverings. First, our association relationships encourage us to meet and network with distributors and manufacturers throughout the industry. It’s easy to leverage this networking into better business relationships. CTDA events at Coverings also offer the opportunity to “level the playing field” among competitors large and small. We are, after all, in the same business and sharing many of the same challenges.

But, before you pack your bags and head for Orlando, there’s no time like the present to start leveraging your educational opportunities and this issue of TileDealer has important information you can use now.

For example, the cover story and Installer’s Update tackle mosaics. They may be tiny tiles, but as you know they are increasingly popular on their own or installed in combination with other materials. Take a look at what’s available today and then consider some of the installation requirements for mosaics.

As I said, there’s a lot going on in the industry. CTDA, TileDealer and Coverings are great tools to help you manage it!

Mark Carlson
CTDA President

From the Editor’s Desk: Stay on top of your business.
March 1st, 2006

by Janet Arden, Editor

March-April 2006

“A big part of our job is helping you learn more about what’s happening in the business.”

I have a confession to make. I read grammar books. There is no self-help group for this—no Grammarians Anonymous that I know of, although I do know other editors who enjoy the same indulgence. I do this because language is a significant part of my business and I want—and need—to know what’s happening with it.

So what does this have to do with tile?

We all need to be on top of our business. And, the tile business is increasingly complex. Think of the new products you have added in the last few years—glass, metal, and stone—and the sizes that range from mosaics through increasingly large formats. Then there are the innovations in installation that go with these products. And what about new add-ons like under-floor heating?

At TileDealer we think a big part of our job is helping you learn more about what’s happening in the industry, so you can “stay on top of business.”

This issue, in particular, has some important features on future industry issues.

First, the current One-on-One interview features a lengthy talk with Vince Marazita, president and owner of Vince Marazita & Associates, an international consulting firm specializing in the stone industry.

Why are we talking about stone?

Because stone is an increasingly important product in this business. Many of you are stocking and selling it now—and if you aren’t, chances are good you will be soon. Learning more about stone, especially from experts like Vince, is all part of staying on top of the business.

One of the points Vince makes so convincingly is that stone is no longer reserved for commercial installations and high-end homes. It’s an increasingly important feature in moderately priced homes. Technology has made quarrying and cutting stone more accessible, and that makes it more affordable to the consumer. He points out the number of real estate ads that note “granite countertops” or “marble bath.” Stone is often part of a larger design scheme with other materials. Designers will tell you that stone and ceramic materials are often both installed in the same room.

Stone is just one of the trends we’re looking at now. Another one is exterior tile. Although exterior tile has always been popular in some settings, technological and design advances have made it even more desirable for these installations. Manufacturing processes have improved the hardness and wearability ratings of many porcelains, while design advances have increasingly captured the look of more expensive stone installations. Technology is also a factor driving this trend.

The growth of outdoor kitchens and living spaces has encouraged more use of exterior tile. In commercial settings, porcelain’s greater mechanical strength but lower weight make it an “added value” in exterior cladding. Check out the feature on page 42 on “Exterior Tile Trends” to see where these products are going.

Not all the news TileDealer covers is about a product. One of the most important issues we’ll be covering in the near future is mold. Recently, industry leaders lead by USG Corporation joined to form the Responsible Solutions to Mold Coalition (RSMC). Their purpose is to act as a clearinghouse for accurate information on mold and moisture control. As the RSMC points out, mold is “ubiquitous in nature.” It is always in the air.

We first talked about mold in the July/August 2005 issue. At the time we said mold had become an increasing problem because today’s tighter building practices do not allow moisture to escape. Controlling mold depends on controlling moisture and a food source such as dirt, wood or other organic material. Left untreated, mold can destroy building materials, and remediation is very expensive. More information about RSMC is on page 47. Look for a followup to this important topic in an upcoming issue.

As always, there’s a lot going on in the industry and between the pages of TileDealer.

Read on!

Janet Arden

March 1st, 2006

March-April 2006

New Decorative Tile Brand

Olivia Daniels is a new line of decorative tile manufactured through an innovative process using composites rather than ceramics. According to company president Michael Goldman, Olivia Daniels provides an intricacy of design that is hard to find in ceramic tile lines, although it is offered at a competitive price point. “The composite material we developed allows a depth and precision of relief that gives each tile a new dimension of artistry. The hand-applied finishes we’ve created further enhance the appearance of the sculpted areas. The retailers and designers who have seen and touched the tiles are quite impressed with the fineness of detail,” he said. Olivia Daniels will introduce four collections at Coverings—French inspired St. Etienne, classic Palatino, sophisticated Biarritz and Asian influenced Pagoda. Each collection includes a selection of different designs, sizes and finishes.


Laufen continues its tradition of quality craftsmanship by introducing two new series— Bergamo and Murano. Bergamo is a 13×13 and 17½x17½ glazed porcelain tile with a coordinating 10×13 wall tile. It comes in three colors—Haze, Cashmere and Fawn. Trim includes a 3¼x13 floor bullnose, a 3×10 wall bullnose and a 3×3 bullnose corner. A 2×10 listel and 2½x13 border coordinates with all three colors and completes the package. Murano is a 18×18 double-loaded, soluble salt polished porcelain. It comes in three colors—Nocce, Beige and Light Grey. Also included in this series is a 12×12 mosaic in each of the three colors. Both Bergamo and Murano are included in the Laufen Home Program. (www.laufenusa.com)


For those seeking a Mediterranean flavor, Ravera from Villeroy & Boch is a great new choice. This Vilbostone range, far easier to maintain than natural stone, is made of glazed porcelain stoneware that is not only exceptionally resistant to daily wear, but also is frost and acid-proof, making it an ideal surface for outdoor terraces, patios and balconies. Available in light beige, red-beige and gray, the three basic sizes are 12 and 17-½ inch squares and 12 by 23 oblongs. The series includes cut borders with mosaic inlays made of real slate and an asymmetrical option reminiscent of brickwork. (www.villeroy-boch.com)

Introducing Wet Tent

Introducing the world’s best water protection system. Never worry about the watery mess created by wet saws again. For years installers have been propping up pieces of cardboard, wrapping with pieces of plastic and laying tarps under their wet saws. They’ve set up their wet saw outside or in an area removed from the installation. This product has been designed, tested and guaranteed to be a water containment system that can be set up on any interior surface. Wet Tent allows the installer to be closer to the work area, increasing productivity. The Wet Tent looks professional and shows the installer cares about his customers and their property. The convenient, collapsible aluminum frame sets up in minutes and comes with its own carrying bag. (1-888-350-TENT)


Gruppo Ceramiche Saicis S.P.A., one of Italy’s top producers of high-end porcelain tile, introduces the Perfido series: a sophisticated floor tile collection. Designed with waterjet cut pieces mesh mounted, this full body porcelain tile series is a recreation of cobblestone presented in natural hues. Perfido is available in Chiaro (light blend) and Scuro (dark blend) and is offered in an 18” x 18” size. Although this series is designed for outdoor areas, it is also appropriate for interior use. Perfido is also perfect for both commercial and residential applications. “Since the Roman Empire people used ‘Porfido’ stones to pave the streets: the stone that was the inspiration for this series,” said Tilia Galerio of Saicis North America. “We do not want to replace this famous stone, but rather, create a mirror image of it to highlight its beauty for our modern society.” Saicis’ Perfido does not need high maintenance. It is a hard and durable tile series that only needs to be washed with water. Multi-loaded with a thickness of 18mm, Perfido has a 0 porosity, as well as frost and stain resistance.

Crossville’s Journey

With an aged appearance reminiscent of Africa’s rugged topography, Journey lends a sense of adventure to any room. Available in three earthen tones, Journey combines the best of nature with the most advanced manufacturing technologies to create a level of realism never before offered in stone looks. Homeowners and designers may need to touch the tile’s surface to be convinced that the cracks and crevices in the “stone” aren’t real. Journey’s tonalities are subtle yet rich, mixing well with today’s interior finishes because the variations within each colorway provide an incredible range of design options, from the soft beige of Savanna Breeze to the warm gold of African Sunset to the rich noce of Tribal Path. Designed for residential and light commercial applications, the Journey Series is 3/8″ thick and available in three modular tile sizes: 12″ x 12″, 12″ x 18″ and 18″ x 18″, with a precision edge. These sizes may be mixed together for floors alone, or in floor and wall combinations. A 3″ x 12″ Single Bullnose trim piece is offered, plus Crossville’s own Accent Innovations™ offers a full complement of glass, metal and natural stone tile, trim and borders as accents. The Journey Series is more durable than natural stone, refuses to scratch, stain or fade, never needs sealing or waxing, cleans with just hot water, and is slip-resistant. “The Journey Series has taken the roto-color or roll print technique to the limit of what is technologically possible. The result is an amazing trompe l’oeil effect,” explains Jim Dougherty, vice president of marketing and business development for Crossville, Inc. Barbara Schirmeister, Crossville’s color and design consultant adds: “Homeowners and designers will love working with the Journey Series; its appearance is soft yet sophisticated and its tonalities reflect the color trends we’re seeing today in cabinetry, kitchen and bath fixtures, and paint colors.” (www.crossvilleinc.com)

Character Series

Architects and designers looking to make a BIG design statement have some BIG new puzzle pieces to play with. Crossville® introduces the Character Series of Porcelain Stone® tile—an urban minimalist look with a slight hint of stone, offered in a giant 24″ x 24″ square tile, plus an 18″ x 18″ square and a 12″ x 24″ rectangle. All have through-body color and rectified edges that may be set with tight grout joints. “Commercial designers of corporate, hospitality, restaurant and retail environments have been asking for a new look in large-scale minimalist tile. Character maintains the sleek appearance demanded by monolithic design schemes, yet its surface texture is softened by the merest hint of veining found in natural stone,” says Jim Dougherty, vice president of marketing and business development for Crossville, Inc. Character’s colorways also set it apart. Most minimalist looks have not offered lighter colors; Character is available in Vanity Almond (a light almond tone) and Joy Beige, as well as Arrogance Black, Liking Green (an olive tone) and Loyalty Moka (a warm brown). An additional option is a Single Bullnose, which is available in all colors. The Character Series is slip resistant, more durable than natural stone, refuses to scratch, stain or fade, never needs sealing or waxing and cleans with just hot water. (www.crossvilleinc.com)

AccuColor Easy™

Grout installation is now easier and more reliable than ever with the new, premixed AccuColor EasyTM Ready to Use Grout, the latest innovation from the maker of TEC® brands. AccuColor Easy continues a 10-year legacy of unsurpassed color accuracy and consistency that has made TEC AccuColor® grouts and caulks a top choice among tile installation professionals. A patented, breakthrough formulation, combined with proven technology, makes AccuColor Easy extremely easy to use while delivering predictable results and high durability. Added benefits of stain resistance and mold and mildew resistance make AccuColor Easy a great choice for shower installations, kitchens, and other areas subject to intermittent moisture, high use and foot traffic. AccuColor Easy delivers superior performance regarding durability, stain resistance, mold and mildew resistance, color accuracy and more. A unique, patent-pending formulation eliminates shrinkage, joint cracking and the inability to be used in water-exposed applications—issues traditionally associated with premixed grouts. Because stain-blocking technology is built right into the grout, there is no need to add a sealer. AccuColor Easy contains inhibitors that protect the grout from mold and mildew growth. AccuColor Easy continues the AccuColor grout legacy of providing superior color accuracy. Strict color tolerances for manufacturing and a premixed format that eliminates common mixing errors provide assurance that the installed grout color will be the same as the color sample used to select the grout in the flooring store. AccuColor Easy adheres to existing premixed or portland cement grout, making it an ideal choice to refresh or repair existing grout installations and for problem-solving. Additionally, AccuColor Easy is backed by a limited, lifetime warranty against staining, cracks and fading. (www.tecspecialty.com)


Sardinia, Italy, an enchanting Mediterranean island, lost between the Italian mainland and the northern tip of Africa, represents a unique blend of color and vibrant landscape. From this floating diamond in the Tyrrhenian Sea, Mediterranea, an Italian-based, multi-national tile production and design firm, has quarried a magical blend of flavorful stones to create a bold new tile collection titled “Indian Trace.” Indian Trace uses a rich blend of natural colors and unique shading to create a series full of earthen charm and inspiring movement. Using the very latest in Rotocolor technology, this glazed porcelain tile presents a new and unique honed finish stone look that invokes a sense of the islands’ natural surroundings. This level of technology lends a dramatic sense of movement and variation to this collection, making each tile as different and autonomous as the natural stone that gave birth to the Indian Trace collection. Developed in Italy, the series is produced in a plant in Argentina rich in history and experience. This facility recently completed a large-scale investment in glazing and graphic equipment, including a brand new, double battery, eight-head, jumbo Rotocolor machine capable of providing twice the amount of graphics normally utilized in glazed porcelain production. This collection is offered in three sizes: (6 x 6”), (13 x 13”) and (18 x 18”), and available in five natural colors: Sioux (Ivory), Cherokee (Cream), Comanche (Taupe), Apache (Terracotta) and Navajo (Noche). Indian Trace passes C.O.F. testing requirements for ADA, making it ideal for both residential and commercial spaces. (305-444-3676)

Our November/December feature on Showroom Trends pictured these space-saving racks, but inadvertently omitted the manufacturer— McColl Display. To learn more, go to www.McCollDisplay.com or call 888-462-2655.

Coverings Seminars Target Distributors and Retailers

Distributor and retailer attendees at Coverings 2006 can choose from more than a dozen FREE educational seminars being offered during this year’s show. The four-day expo and conference April 4 – 7, at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida, includes sessions to address subjects such as how to retain and train employees, the dos and don’ts of selecting computer software to monitor inventory, how a customer-friendly showroom can increase sales and other valuable guidelines that are vital to building a more successful business. Other topics include Green Building, The Future Of Ceramic Tile Distribution, Up-selling Strategies and Approaches, and The Porcelain Jungle.

What can attendees expect to see?

Here is just a sampling of some highlights of the unique and uncommon products that are due to debut.

• Artflor, Inc. (Booth A6) will showcase a hybrid-concrete tile line with textures, inlays and color effects never before seen in the industry. www.artflor.net.

• Azuvi (Booth 1914) will showcase its newest series Shape, part of the Performance collection. It is ideal for exterior facade applications. www.azuvi.com.

• Cerdomus (Booth 5025) will be launching Sculpture, an imaginative design from renowned Italian architect Massimiliano Fuksas. The collection’s corrugated surface can be laid vertically or horizontally on interior or exterior walls. www.cerodomus.com.

• Clay Décor, LLC (Booth A9), an artisan company that creates distinctive works of art for elegant home décor, will introduce a new line of elliptical-shaped tiles at the show. www.clay-décor.com.

• Coem/Fioranese (Booth 5430) will showcase the Chiaroscuro collection. From damask patterns to Asian-inspired floral motifs, the patterns in this line play with the contrast between light and dark. www.coem.it.

• Cotto D’Este (Booth 5420) will be exhibiting Kerlite, enriched with Zirconium particles which allow the piece to radiate in the light. www.cottodeste.it.

• Eco Ceramica (Booth 5438) will introduce New Liberty, a marriage of color, pattern and Celtic-inspired designs. www.ecoceramiche.com.

• El Barco (Booth 2336) is debuting several designs from Spain. The Earth Collection features Vulcano and Provenza in six different colorways and three sizes, both with companion hand-cut mosaic trims for kitchen or bath. www.elbarco.com.

• Etruria Design (Booth 4716) will debut the Optical collection of beveled wall tiles and the Haring collection, reminiscent of the designs of 80′s pop art icon Keith Haring. www.eturiadesign.com.

• Florida Tile Industries, Inc. (Booth 3100) is adding to its portfolio with Horizon, a fine glazed porcelain floor tile with stunning visual appeal reminiscent of the Nepalese landscape. Pinecrest is a glazed porcelain with the look and feel of natural sandstone. Stonehenge is a rustic glazed porcelain with slightly chiseled edges and distressed surface area. www.floridatile.com.

• Graniti Fiandre (Booth 418) will be introducing GeoDiamond Textured, a tile embedded with tiny, sparkling metal embellishments. NewGround, a superior alternative to stained concrete, can be used on interior and exterior floors and walls without the need for stains, waxes, sealants, or coatings. NewStone employs a new technology that allows slabs to be formed into right angle curves without seams or grout lines. www.granitifiandreusa.com.

• Inalco (Booth 2616) will debut the Oppalo series, available in such fresh colors as Naranja (orange), Verde (green), Frambuesa (raspberry) and Azul (blue). Each color features a lighter and darker version, which mix nicely with its complementary lines of crystal borders. www.inalco.es.

• Iris Group (Booth 3205) will be launching MA.DE (Materials and Design), a contemporary series that includes three distinct textures: a three-dimensional waffle-grid structure; a rattan pattern; and, a smooth sleek metallic. www.irisus.com.

• Lea Ceramiche (Booth 4640) is adding the Studies line to its extensive portfolio. Developed by Diego Grandi, Elle Decor Italia’s Young Designer of the Year, Studies is sandblased tile. Included in the series are such fresh patterns as Scratch, Seed, Route, Knit, Plan, Grid and Outline. www.ceramichelea.it.

• Oceanside Glass Tile (Booth 3222), a world leader in the design and production of handcrafted luxury glass tile, will debut Facets®, a new line of intricately detailed borders and field tile patterns features gem-like mini glass tiles as small as ½ inch square. www.glasstile.com.

• Florim Cermiche S.P.A. (Booth 5006) will showcase the Ma Touche Collection of fine porcelain stoneware offered in four faux textures imitating leather, elephant and crocodile skin, and three colorways: Ivoire, Tabac and Charbon. www.rex-cerart.it.

• Roca (Booth 1035) will feature the Norway series. This porcelain tile, available in six colorways, can be combined to create unique effects. A wide range of decorative inserts also is part of the collection.

• Venus (Booth 2400) will introduce Medusa to its existing Scandal Touch Collection. The leopard-inspired tile, available in Red Amour, Brown Hypnotic and Blue Feeling, complements other lines in the existing Venus collection, including Decor, Idol and Oh La La. www.venusceramica.com.

Making Coverings navigable

Coverings can overwhelm. It occupies every inch of the 505,000 net square feet of exhibit space at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, filling it to the rafters with individual displays and pavilions of ceramic tile, natural stone and relevant ancillary products and services—machinery and tools, grouts and adhesives, installation and cleaning supplies, to name a few. The number of vendors totals close to 1,200 representing some 56 countries on six continents. Factor in the 75 free and accredited educational workshops, conferences and seminars that are scheduled throughout each of the days, April 4-7, and it adds up to a tremendous number of business opportunities to be explored for any one of the 32,000 professionals who attends.

This year, however, the show has been made more manageable by connecting buyers to sellers with the Coverings Matchmaking Service, a user-friendly online program that lets an attendee search for exhibitors of interest by product or service. Accessible year-round, www.coverings.com/matchmaking, can generate a personalized “must see” list of exhibits to have in hand upon arrival at the show. Visit www.coverings.com to get started!

CTDA’s Certified Ceramic Tile Salesperson!
March 1st, 2006


March-April 2006

The Ceramic Tile Distributors Association (CTDA) reaches another milestone in its 27 year history of maintaining a strong industry with the launch of the Certified Ceramic Tile Salesperson (CCTS) program! Through the CCTS program, companies can gain prestige, professional recognition, expanded knowledge and increased customer satisfaction through documented sales competence. It’s the first and only certification program specifically designed by and for ceramic tile salespeople!

Developed by professional ceramic tile sales experts with the assistance of Southern Illinois University (SIU), the CCTS program covers the necessary skill sets to meet customers growing demands.

The benefits are significant:

• Increase professionalism

• Promote focus on product features and benefits

• Increase employee pride

• Provide a competitive edge

• Increase profits

• Establish the CTDA as an important standard-setting body for professional competence in the ceramic tile industry.

SIU’s Department of Workforce Education and Development (WED) is one of the largest workforce-related professional development preparation agencies in the United States , and offers undergraduate and graduate preparation through the master’s and doctoral degrees.

Pilot testing will be held April 3, 2006 at 3 p.m. EST and April 4, 5, 6, 2006 at 7:30 am EST at the Orange County Convention Center . Those people who take the pilot test will be given complimentary registrations to the formal certification testing that will begin in November of 2006 at the CTDA Management Conference in Ft. Lauderdale , Florida .

For more information or to register for the pilot testing, contact the association at 630-545-9415.

Industry Insights
March 1st, 2006


March-April 2006

CTaSC Announces Winners of U.S. Stone Survey Contest

Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants, LLC (CTaSC), a national company providing marketing research and business planning services, announced that Bob Traxler, president of Arizona Tile, Phoenix , AZ and Larry Mattero, general manager of Marble Crafters Inc., Trainer, PA, are the winners of Apple iPod nanos for their participation in the recent U.S. Stone Survey. The winners were randomly chosen from a record number of industry members that completed the U.S. Stone Survey that was conducted last fall by CTaSC. Over 2,000 manufacturers, quarries, exporters, importers, distributors, fabricators and retailers were invited to take the stone survey developed by CTaSC using progressive online technology that ensured the confidentiality. Each person who completed the survey will receive a free summary of the survey results. Importers, distributors and retailers were quizzed on the types of stone they carry, slab and tile sizes, sales by type of customers and sales by types of applications. Fabricators were asked to answer questions about their fabrication business, including shop size, equipment brands and value, purchase and selling price of stone, annual sales, and types of products and stone that are fabricated. Each group was asked to indicate their business performance during 2005 and their forecast for next year. Donato Pompo, owner of CTaSC, underscored the importance of the information gathered from the survey by stating, “In-depth information about the stone industry is very hard to come by.” Pompo cited the difficulty in pinpointing the amount of slab versus tile sold in the U.S. since much of imported stone is not clearly differentiated by size when it enters the country, so the survey allows CTaSC to extrapolate that information. CTaSC’s partner, Catalina Research, a prominent research firm for the tile and stone industries, will incorporate the stone survey findings into the 2006 Stone Study that will be released in early February. For information, contact CTaSC at www.CTaSC.com.

Great Lakes Ceramic Tile Council appoints new Consultant

The Great Lakes Ceramic Tile Council is pleased to announce the appointment of Kurt von Koss as Consultant. Kurt has 26 years of tile industry experience. The Great Lakes Ceramic Tile Council was formed in 1958 to promote ceramic tile, related products and proper installation methods to the professional design community for the Detroit Ceramic Tile Contractors Association. Kurt replaces Mr. Robert Hund who guided the council since 1963.


LATICRETE’s North American division is proud to announce that its salesperson, Ron Nash, was unanimously selected by officials at Inland Northwest Distributing as Outstanding Vendor Sales Representative for 2005. Based in Utah , Nash’s territory includes Utah , Wyoming , Idaho , Montana and eastern parts of Washington State . In 2005, his territory returned a remarkable increase in sales above last year’s totals.

Nash credits tremendous support from LATICRETE, and his regional sales manager Matt Sparkman, as well as Northwest’s dedicated team of sales representatives for enabling him to meet and exceed his goals for 2005. “I partner with my customer’s sales representatives,” Nash said, “I go as far as I can to meet their needs.” Nash combines a great understanding of Inland Northwest and LATICRETE’s business objectives with the will to rise above the “call of duty” to help achieve sales goals. His work ethic, product knowledge and enthusiasm set him apart in an ultra-competitive industry. “The effort that (Nash) puts forward and his absolute focus and dedication to the end result are amazing,” said Gary Verhey, President of Inland Northwest Distributing.

Joe Renzetti Joins Specialty Construction Brands

Joe Renzetti has been named president and general manager at Specialty Construction Brands (SCB), the manufacturer of TEC® brands. Renzetti was previously general manager of Adalis, a global consulting firm that serves the consumer packaging, wood panel and corrugated manufacturing industries. Under his strategic guidance, Adalis extended its reach by redefining its brand and service offering. SCB and Adalis are both in the H.B. Fuller Company’s Full-Valu and Specialty Group. Renzetti has held multiple positions with H.B. Fuller since joining the company in 1994 after serving as an officer in the U.S. Army. A native of Virginia , he holds bachelor’s degrees in economics and history from the University of Virginia and a master’s degree in management from Purdue University .



The Tile Council of North America, Inc. (TCNA) Product Performance Testing Laboratory is meeting increased demand for product testing by expanding its facility, purchasing equipment, and adding staff. “Over the past six years, we have seen a steady increase in the demand for our testing services,” said Eric Astrachan, the TCNA Executive Director. “In part, this is due to the growth of new materials coming on the market, and in part, due to our expanding client base.”

“We expect the demand for product performance data will continue to grow. To meet this demand, we expanded the testing area, purchased a new Instron machine, and hired Dr. Virgil (Sonny) Irick as Senior Laboratory Manager,” remarked Noah Chitty, Director of Product Standards and Laboratory Services. “We are now evaluating additional equipment to provide further services for the tile industry,” said Mr. Astrachan. “New ISO standards and future changes in the A137.1 standard will require additional test equipment.”

MIA installation video demos thin-set method

A major new training video that provides a comprehensive overview of how to measure, prepare the surface and install natural stone with the thin-set method has been produced by the Marble Institute of America (MIA) as part of its continuing educational video series. This video was sponsored by Walker Zanger, one of the industry’s most prestigious companies. Called “Basics of Natural Stone Flooring Installation: Thin-Set Method,” a major focus of the program is proper substrate preparation, without which there is a high probability of failure. It also covers measuring, preparing a grid, installing the stone tile and applying grout. “We are pleased to be working with the Marble Institute of America on its expanding program to provide quality video training programming for the natural stone industry,” said Jonathan Zanger, president of Walker Zanger. “We believe that when there is consistency of quality throughout the marketplace, it eventually benefits the entire industry. The only way to achieve it is through continuing education.” Two industry veterans collaborated with MIA’s video production team to create the program. They included Ralph Williamson, Ceramic Tile Consulting of Arizona, Inc. of Phoenix , Arizona , a leading consultant on stone floor installations, and Kevin Padden, KM Padden, of Pinal County , Arizona . “We expect the new training program will have wide usage throughout the industry and hope it will help raise the level of professionalism and quality in the industry. We are extremely pleased to have Walker Zanger’s sponsorship for this important element in MIA’s continuing series of training programs,” said Ken Krebs, the 2006 president of MIA.

Installer Update: Mosaics – Beautiful, Practical and Sometimes Challenging
March 1st, 2006

By Rachel Gibbons

March-April 2006

Mosaic tile patterns are a beautiful, practical art form that can be installed in commercial and residential applications ranging from kitchens to swimming pools.

Although mosaics can pose installation challenges, installers shouldn’t be intimidated. The path to successful mosaic projects takes education, practice and knowing where to find help.

A bit of background

An art form that dates back thousands of years, mosaics are intricate designs or patterns made up of small tiles or pieces of material that are thinner than conventional tiles. Commonly used materials include ceramic, porcelain, glass and stone.

While the traditional piece-by-piece fabrication of mosaic designs still occurs, most designs are mounted on paper or mesh fabric sheets (often 12-by-12-inches or 24-by-12-inches) for faster installation. The mosaic material may be face-mounted (often paper), clear film-faced (plastic adhesive film) or back- and edge-mounted (mesh fabric, perforated paper, resin, polyurethane or other mounting material).

Installation challenges largely stem from the nature of mosaics. Because the individual tiles are so small, it doesn’t take much to interfere with the adhesive bond between the mosaic sheet and the substrate. For example, mesh fabric back-mounted material can prevent the mortar from properly adhering to the substrate. The small tiles can also be pulled loose from the wet mortar as the face-mounted material is removed.

Understanding installation materials

Each type of material used in mosaics has different properties. Therefore, it’s important to remember how each mosaic material reacts with installation materials. Here are some examples:

Porcelain: Because it’s an impervious material, porcelain ceramic tile requires a high degree of bond strength. A latex-modified thinset mortar (that meets or exceeds ANSI A118.4) or a new mortar type, called performance mortar, provides the necessary bond strength to successfully install porcelain mosaics. Unglazed ceramic tile is more porous and can be installed with several types of mortars, including performance mortar or latex-modified mortar.

Glass: Also an impervious material, glass requires a high degree of bond strength. A latex-modified thinset mortar that meets or exceeds ANSI A118.4 is recommended to bond glass mosaics. However, it’s up to the project specifier and the installer to confirm with the mortar manufacturer and the glass mosaic manufacturer that the installation product being considered is right for the job.

Another point to keep in mind: White mortar provides a consistent appearance and is generally recommended for glass tile mosaics. Gray mortar can darken the look of glass and might not be suitable for some glass tiles.

Natural stone: Higher density stone varieties, such as granite or marble, are often used in mosaic designs because it’s important for the small tiles not to flake or chip after installation.

While a portland cement mortar may be used to install stone mosaics, latex-modified thinset mortars provide flexibility that allows a secure bond with higher density stone varieties. All stone types require 100 percent coverage of the bonding material to achieve a successful bond.

Performance mortars are formulated to adequately cover many stone types while delivering bond strength. For mosaic wall applications, some performance mortars have non-sag characteristics that support sheets weighing up to 6 lbs. per square foot without the use of bracing. Performance mortars are not recommended for installing mosaics made with green marble or other types of moisture sensitive stone.

A word about grout

Unsanded grout is generally recommended for the narrow (1/8 inch or less) joints found in most mosaics. Unsanded grout also won’t scratch the surface of glass, stone or porcelain tiles.

An acrylic grout additive should be considered for grout used in mosaic installations that may be subject to expansion and contraction from exposure to the sun and/or freeze-thaw conditions. Grout additive is not recommended for natural stone tile.

Installation methods

A key consideration to successfully installing mosaics is to match the installation method with the type of mosaic being installed and the substrate.

Three basic installation methods—direct bond, backbuttering and conventional wet set—are described here. It’s best to consult with the mosaic manufacturer for specific installation recommendations.

Direct bond: In the direct bond method, the mosaic is bonded directly to the substrate (such as cured concrete) with a bonding material, like a latex-modified mortar or a performance mortar.

Extra care should be taken to apply a uniform amount of mortar under the tiles and then flatten the ridges with the smooth edge of the trowel. This will help prevent the mortar from filling the grout joints. After the mosaic sheet is applied, a beating block and hammer are used to bed the mosaic into the fresh mortar.

If the mosaic sheet is face-mounted, the paper facing material can then be dampened with a sponge and peeled away. Any loose tiles should be immediately pressed back into place. The mosaic can be grouted after the mortar has cured (approximately 24 hours). If the facing is plastic, it’s recommended to wait at least 24 hours before removal. The mosaic can then be grouted right away.

Backbuttering: Backbuttering involves applying a thin coating of mortar to the back of the mosaic sheet to help ensure adequate coverage. This is done in addition to spreading a layer of mortar on the substrate. Backbuttering may be necessary when installing back-mounted mosaic sheets. This is because the mesh fabric that holds the tiles together can interfere with the mosaic sheet achieving a good bond with the substrate.

Conventional wet set: In the conventional wet set method, a slurry, or bond coat, consisting of sand, cement and lime, is applied to an uncured, still-workable concrete substrate. The mosaic sheets are then installed on top of the bond coat. Any face-mounted paper can be dampened and removed. The installation can be grouted after the bond coat has cured.

In addition to the three common installation methods, some types of glass mosaics may be installed by using a “one-step” technique. This calls for mixing a premium unsanded grout with an acrylic mortar additive, which provides adhesion and flexibility. By backbuttering the mixture to the mosaic sheet, the installer pre-fills the grout joints. The paper facing on the glass mosaic sheets is removed after the mixture cures (typically 24 hours).

Because sanded grout will scratch the glass, unsanded grout must be used in the “one-step” technique. Colored grout may be used to add variety to the installed mosaic.

Avoiding problems

Common installation problems with mosaics include bond failure and unsightly mortar ridges. Here is a brief overview of these problems and solutions:

Bond failure. Most bond failure of mosaic sheets stems from one or both of these factors: 1.) The bond strength is inadequate for the type of tile; 2.) The mortar coverage is insufficient to bond the mosaic sheet to the substrate.

To ensure that a mortar has adequate bond strength (particularly for impervious materials, such as glass and porcelain), consult with the mosaic manufacturer before beginning installation. To ensure sufficient mortar coverage, consider using the backbuttering method, particularly for back-mounted mosaics with unique mounting materials, such as mesh fiber, resin, polyurethane, etc. Consult with the mosaic manufacturer regarding specific installation recommendations.

Also be aware that contaminants on the substrate, such as dust, paint or seals can cause bond failure if not removed prior to installation and that substrate movement can affect the bonding of mosaics.

Unsightly mortar ridges. This problem occurs when troweled mortar ridges are visible through the clear or translucent mosaics. It can be avoided by flattening out the ridges before setting the mosaic sheets or by using the backbuttering method.

In addition, some glass tile used in mosaics is sensitive to the high alkalinity of mortar. This may result in the glass becoming discolored and/or the installation losing its adhesive bond.To prevent this problem, consult with the mosaic manufacturer to learn which mortars are compatible with the glass.

Using resources

Mosaic tile manufacturers and installation product manufacturers are excellent starting points for mosaic installation advice. Other industry resources include the Marble Institute of America, the Tile Council of North America and the Ceramic Tile Institute of America.

Rachel Gibbons manages the TEC brand of tile and stone installation systems. For more information, see www.tecspecialty.com.

Mosaics Choices in stone & ceramic
March 1st, 2006


By Jeffrey Steele

March-April 2006

How long have mosaics been around? The simplest answer would be just about forever. Pieces of colored stone, glass and enamel decorated furniture and architectural detailing in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. Small pebbles were used as mosaics in Greece as early as the fourth century. And columns and fountains amid the ruins of Pompeii are adorned with glass mosaics.

As the saying goes, everything old is new again, and that’s particularly true of mosaics. Today mosaic tile is as big—or bigger—than ever. Ceramic, natural stone and particularly glass mosaic tiles are increasingly favored as ways to provide fresh and vibrant looks throughout residential and commercial settings. They are used as accents to other tile and hard surfaces, in kitchens, exterior walls, in landscape design and particularly throughout upscale bathrooms.

Mosaic tiles refer to a tile product 3-by-3 inches or smaller, says Donato Pompo, owner of San Diego’s Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants. Pompo’s firm provides the tile industry with consulting services that include forensic investigations of ceramic tile and stone failures, installation specifications and qualifying suitability of products for applications, and live training, marketing and business planning through its University of Ceramic Tile and Stone.

For years, the most popular mosaic tiles were glazed porcelain or vitreous mosaics, which were and still are used as water line features in swimming pools, Pompo says. These products are less often seen in residential settings today due to glass mosaics’ increasing popularity. Glass mosaics come in a variety of colors, textures and shapes ranging from square or rectangular to those with radius or curved edges. They are chiefly imported, but some are made domestically.

“The originals were the Venetian glass mosaics that have been around for centuries,” Pompo says. “About 10 years ago we started seeing glass liners, used as accents within ceramic tile installations. As the popularity of accents in installations grew, the glass offerings became broader, and glass tiles were offered for the whole installation. They started off with relatively small sizes, and today have glass tiles that go up to a square foot in size.”

By contrast, unglazed mosaics are familiar to anyone who has ever entered a gymnasium, YMCA or fitness club shower, locker room, bathroom or similar wet room, Pompo says. Frequently, custom designs incorporating logos or accents are created using these mosaics. Because it’s an unglazed product surrounded by grout joints, it’s not only durable and wears well, but offers the kind of slip resistance a commercial pool or fitness center demands, he adds.

Wall and floor patterns and full-sized murals depicting an image or logo can be created using mosaics. And unlike the dots of old dot-matrix printers, which earned the disdain of early computer users because of their poor reproduction, tiny mosaics can be blended to create a representation of an image that closely resembles the original from a distance, Pompo says. “You can do logos, geometric-type designs, and that takes it into the realm of artwork,” he notes. Glass mosaics are best suited to this use, because they provide a full spectrum of colors.

Labor-intensive installation

Because of their small size, mosaics would demand a cost-prohibitive amount of labor if they were mounted one at a time. That’s particularly true of mosaics being woven into special patterns or accents. Instead of being mounted individually, they are mounted sheets at a time.

The mounting is undertaken using one of three popular methods:

• Face mounting. In this technique, paper is glued to the front of the tile with a water soluble glue. That leaves the back exposed for full contact with the setting bed, Pompo explains.

• Back mounting. Here, webbing material is glued to the back of the tile, leaving voids within the webbing that allow the tile to attach to the setting bed. “The back mounted means can be problematic, because the backing or glue can act as a barrier, not allowing the tile to properly attach to the setting bed,” Pompo reports. “Also, some of these backings can be water sensitive, resulting in them not being recommended for wet areas.”

• Side mounting. Also known as dot mounting, this method attaches glue to the four corners of the tile intersection. These dots keep the tiles in place, allowing them to be installed in large sheets to increase the productivity of the mosaic setter.

Of the three ways of mounting mosaics, the back mounting method is the most commonly used but also the most prone to problems, Pompo says. However, its popularity continues, largely because the technique makes mosaics easier to install and provides more adjustability.

Glass mosaics that create images are installed using sheets of numbered tile corresponding to numbers on the artist’s rendering of the image. Installers set in place that numbered pattern in accordance with the artist’s determination of where those colors and shapes should be.

The Stone Age

In the last 5 or 10 years, stone has become available in mosaic form. “You can create custom patterns using different colors and types of stone,” Pompo says. “They’re actually being provided in historic patterns taken from the ancient Greeks and Romans. They replicate them, create liners, and these liners tend to be more geometric combinations of shapes and colors. They’re back mounted on sheets and installed as liners to accent ceramic tile and stone installations. That’s become very popular, and it’s a more expensive option.”

This, he notes, is another indication of just how far technological advancements in stone cutting have come. Sizes vary from square to rectangle, and can be as small as half-inch square to 3-by-3-inches in size.

Some stone mosaics are offered in polished form and used as accents, while others feature honed surfaces, allowing them to be utilized in shower floors for slip resistance. Honed stone mosaics are also used in areas requiring more durable surfaces. In such areas, some polished mosaic tiles can wear down and reveal traffic patterns, Pompo says.

As for the types of stone used in mosaics, low-priced and readily available travertine is particularly popular. “But all kinds of marble is being provided in mosaics as well,” Pompo says. “You don’t see as much granite, partly because granite is much more expensive to cut and tends to chip. So the stones that are softer than granite tend to be more suitable for mosaics.”

Mosaics Today

When Ashland, Oregon-based Hakatai Enterprises began importing glass mosaic tiles in 1997, they were sold mainly for use in kitchen backsplashes, tub surrounds and bathroom floors, says company sales and marketing manager Ann-Britt Malden. In commercial settings, glass mosaic tiles were added to shower walls as well as restaurant accent walls.

But as designers and architects embraced the glass mosaic tile trend, residential and commercial applications grew almost exponentially. “Today, glass tile is used residentially to tile entire bathrooms, including showers, spas, walls, floors and vanity tops, as well as larger portions of the kitchen,” Malden notes. “As our glass tile lines continue to expand, with colors ranging from bold citruses and striking iridescents to natural hues and minimalist whites, glass tile becomes more and more versatile to design with.”

For instance, architects and designers are utilizing Hakatai’s online design tools to create and order their own unique mosaic blends and gradients, which bring distinctive style to such commercial settings as clothing stories, supermarkets, casinos and hotels. Custom blends and gradients are particularly popular for use in restaurant walls and bathrooms, Malden adds.

Hakatai offers a wide variety of sheet-mounted glass mosaic tile ranging from 9/16-inch square to 2-inches square. The company also makes loose tile available to mosaic artists. Newer products include the iridescent Fantastix Series of 9/16-by-9/16-inch mosaic tile in 42 colors, and the Aventurine glass tile series of ¾-by-¾-inch mosaics in 25 transparent, gold-laced colors and blends introduced at the 2006 Surfaces show. In addition, Hakatai’s Ashland Series of 1-by-1-inch tile has been expanded to include an array of iridescent colors and standard blends.

“Finally, we continue to add new Custom Design Tools to the Web site so anyone from a homeowner to an architect can create, price and order their own designs online,” Malden reports.

By accessing custom blend and gradient tools, customers can select desired colors and create personalized designs. The lead time for custom work is two to four weeks from the time Hakatai receives a 50 percent deposit. Prices for in-house custom designs are slightly higher.

Asked what popular trends she’s seeing, Malden lists custom blends, glass tile gradients in showers, iridescent tile, organic hues, bold and vibrant hues, and glass tile accenting wood, steel and stone. In addition, she says, abstract murals on commercial exterior walls, glass tile in landscape design and glass tile in salons and spas are all widely-popular trends.

A favorite provider of mosaic tiles is Valencia, Spain-based Vetro Mosaico, which manufacturers glass mosaics and tile. Its Los Angeles office is an importer of stainless steel mosaics, glass tile and glass mosaics, says manager Marcel Wilhelm. The company offers mosaic tiles in three sizes: 3/8-by-3/8-inch, ¾-by-¾-inch and 1-by-1-inch.

Among the most important trends he’s witnessing is the move toward brick pattern or multi-colored sheets, Wilhelm says. “People are getting away from the one-color wall and going to multi-colored mosaics,” he says. “They’re going into miniature subway brick. Subway tunnel platform areas once had subway brick, and that’s where that term came from. Now the new style is the 1-by-2-inch, staggered pattern. They also come on sheets of 12-by-12-inch.”

Like Hakatai, Vetro Mosaico prides itself on its ability to handle custom blends. Customers can indicate desired percentages of colors—for example, 20 percent white, 10 percent black and 50 percent purple—and Vetro Mosaico can create the color in its warehouse.

“Custom blends can be turned around fairly quickly,” Wilhelm adds. “It’s done in-house here in Los Angeles. It’s not a matter of waiting six to eight weeks to import. Most of the colors are in stock right here in Los Angeles.”

Though mosaic tile comprises a comparatively small percentage of its sales, mosaics are still a key part of the product mix at Lakeland, Florida-based Florida Tile (www.floridatile.com), says vice-president of marketing Jim Cuthbertson.

“It’s a very important design element,” he reports, noting Florida Tile offers 2-by-2-inch rhomboids, 1-by-1-inch rhomboids and square mosaics in standard sizes.

Florida Tile offers glass mosaics under its VitraArt Series, as well as a wide assortment of natural stone mosaic tiles under its PietraArt Series, which includes mosaics of various sizes and shapes in travertine, limestone and slate. The latter series represents Florida Tile’s effort to capture the growing market for natural stone mosaic tile, which Cuthbertson says is expanding.

Because they are so adaptable to so many uses, Cuthbertson isn’t surprised by the growth of mosaic tiles. “They’re very versatile; you can do a lot with them,” he says. “They can be used on bathroom floors, kitchen backsplashes, in the dining room, living room and kitchen floors. Any area of the house where natural stone or tile products are used, a complementary decorative mosaic can also be part of that installation.”



Jim Cuthbertson
Vice-President of Marketing
Florida Tile, Lakeland , FL
863-284-4049, ext.5049

Ann-Britt Malden
Director of Marketing and Sales
Hakatai Enterprises, Ashland , OR

Donato Pompo
Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants,
San Diego

Marcel Wilhelm
Vetro Mosaico, Los Angeles

Information on history of mosaics:

One – on – One… With Vincent Marazita
March 1st, 2006


By Jeffrey Steele

March-April 2006

“For a reasonable price, you can have an everlasting material or surface.”

“In high-end areas, it’s amazing how many times the words granite, stone, limestone and marble are mentioned. The point is that natural stone is a recognized marketing element and value addition in real estate listings.”

Vincent Marazita is the president and owner of Los Angeles-based Marazita & Associates, an international consulting firm specializing in market research and educational seminars in the natural stone industry. He’s also a member of the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) and the Marble Institute of America (MIA). In addition, he serves on the board of the National Advisory Council for Continuing Education of the American Institute of Architects (AIA).

Marazita isn’t hesitant to discuss the skyrocketing popularity of stone in home building and remodeling. In this frank and engaging interview with TileDealer, he talks about the factors behind that growing acceptance, the ways stone producers are responding to the surging demand in the U.S. and elsewhere, and stone’s future as a much-sought-after building material.

TileDealer: What is your background and business experience?

Marazita: I graduated from college with a degree in sociology from Harvard, then went to Genoa, Italy, on a Rotary Scholarship. As part of the Rotary Scholarship year, I studied in the architecture department at the University of Genoa, and then spent five years as an English lecturer in the architecture department of University of Genoa. I then took a job with the Italian Trade Commission in Los Angeles for 13 years, during which time the main goal was to promote Italian products in the States, and act as a liaison between U.S. and Italian companies. Because of my architectural interests in the building trades and materials industry, I was hired to promote Italian business in the U.S., helping small- to medium-sized companies establish a presence here. I also accompanied architects and design professionals to Italy to learn about and buy stone.

At a certain point, salary issues told me it was time to move on. So I started Marazita & Associates in 1998, and now about two-thirds of my business is related to stone, and that’s growing every year just because the stone industry is doing so well, and—I like to think—because I provide good business services. As part of those services, I’ve been hired as a speaker, and have spoken at many design industry conferences and conventions, as well as to stone trade shows and mining conferences in Italy and other countries.

And at least once or twice a year I bring a group of design professionals—architects, designers and sculptors—to Italy to learn about the stone industry—from the quarries to installation. These continuing education courses I’ve offered have been audited and approved by the AIA, ASID, NKBA, RIBA and RAIC.

TileDealer: What is the value of stone in remodeling?

Marazita: In terms of primary value, with regard to all things done in remodeling, the kitchen is number one. I‘ve heard it’s no longer location, location, location in real estate but location, kitchen, kitchen. In most real estate listings, you have 25 words to list a home. Especially in high-end areas, it’s amazing how many times the words granite, stone, limestone and marble are mentioned. The point is that natural stone is a recognized marketing element and value addition in real estate listings.

Since 1996, we’ve had double digit growth every year in stone imports and use in the U.S. That has varied from 15 percent on the low side to 28 percent in 2005. If you go to remodel your kitchen, it’s the cabinets that are the most expensive elements in a remodel. But countertops and flooring are really the number one value added, and they’re already the number one marketing tool, in terms of real estate listings. Stone should be used in the design, if you want to add value to your house.

TileDealer: Where besides a kitchen and bath do remodelers or builders use stone?

Marazita: After kitchens and after baths, they use stone in horizontal surfaces everywhere, including living rooms, family rooms and media centers. In high end homes, it’s definitely found in entryways and grand staircases, and here I’m speaking of homes $500,000 and up. But even in $200,000 homes, it’s being found in entryways. You might not see a stone staircase in a $200,000 home, but that also depends on the area of the country where the home is located.

Most prevalent are fireplace facings and flooring in every conceivable room. Particularly in living rooms, and sometimes in family rooms—though those often tend to offer wood and carpeting. Smart designers should try to incorporate stone in every room.

It could be in countertops, it could be in fireplace facings, window sills, even in things as simple as thresholds between two dissimilar materials, such as tile and carpeting, or tile and wood. Or even two different stone materials.

TileDealer: What are the design trends for stone at various price points?

Marazita: I see stone entering at lower and lower price points. Now stone competes in many cases with ceramic tile, with carpet and even with vinyl tile. Natural stone is certainly competing well with other hard surfaces. In fact, for more than eight years the overall value of stone imports has surpassed the value of ceramic tile imports.

TileDealer: A $200,000 house?

Marazita: At the $200,000 price point, stone wouldn’t be seen on floors throughout the house, but you might see it in certain areas, such as the kitchen and bath, the vanity, the counters and fireplace facings. And natural stone is a popular choice for hearths because it satisfies fire codes, and it’s beautiful as well. And in the outside, even where there is vinyl or wood siding, you might see exterior elements of rubble stone masonry, slate, fieldstone and other types of stone. You might see stone paths.

TileDealer: A $500,000 house?

Marazita: Stone will be used throughout, from kitchens to wine cellars, from bathroom vanities to sculptural columns, from stair treads to balustrades. I’ve even seen alabaster used as doors, and in backlit divider walls. With the introduction of waterjet technology, all sorts of decorative elements and medallions in stone are also used.

And of course you’ll see it in kitchen counters and backsplashes in kitchens; stone is used as vanity tops and tubs and shower surrounds in the bathroom. You know, we shouldn’t refer to them as bathrooms at this price point. I really think that they should be referred to as “home spas.” Because of the value inherent in a spa, you really need to have high-end materials, and that’s where stone comes in. It offers great value, and isn’t necessarily the most expensive choice.

TileDealer: Stone requires upselling, so how should a dealer approach that?

Marazita: [Dealers should emphasize] number one, stone is unique, and number two, it has an incredibly interesting production cycle. All stones are different, brought out of the ground in different parts of the world, and brought out of the ground differently.

Not only is the color variety incredible, but nature’s way of painting these incredible, unique surfaces also makes stone a great addition to a home. And even if it’s a bit more expensive in the short run, it will pay off in low maintenance and durability in the long run.

It will remain beautiful forever. If you see a scratched stone countertop, architects and designers still love that, because it’s rusticated. If something looks used, it gives a history to the house, and stone is one of those things that can look like it’s been used, and in that way give history to a house. But if you see a scratched butcherblock or Corian® or stainless steel countertop, you’re probably going to replace it. In general, stone will last forever, and remain beautiful forever.

TileDealer: Are there grades of stone that the buyer should be aware of?

Marazita: For residential use, not really. Most stones will hold up to most residential uses. The time to be more diligent is when you use stone for structural applications, such as cladding and weight-bearing pavements.

At any rate, it is a fair question to ask your stone supplier. Sometimes, lower quality stone costs less and is adequate for the particular use. I would also warn design professionals and consumers to ask for “range samples” when they can, to get an idea of the color and texture variation they will receive, especially on projects with large square footage requirements of the same material. Shopping malls, plazas and exterior cladding would be examples of such projects.

TileDealer: How are stone producers responding to the growing popularity of stone?

Marazita: Around the world, quarries realize that the U.S. is one of the hottest consumer markets for dimension stone. And they are investing in new equipment and labor to increase their quarrying capacity, while at the same time looking for new quarries and new stones. If you’re in the stone industry, you have to learn about new materials all the time.

TileDealer: Is there a downside to using stone?

Marazita: If you don’t have a qualified stone installer, it can be terrible. As easily as we can get it to market, getting a competent stone installer is not as easy. Because the industry is growing so fast, you have people who have never installed stone installing it. Up until yesterday, they might have been cabinet manufacturers, and now they’re installing stone.

Because of the great demand for stone, we don’t have a large enough competent labor force to keep up with the growth. You want to get someone who’s done good work and has good references, and if you have to wait a couple weeks or even months longer, it’s worth it in order to have the correct installation. Because stone is the one thing that will attract everyone’s attention, and you don’t want your most attention-getting material to be poorly installed.

That’s especially true when you get around kitchen countertops. Because when you get into standard-sized cabinets, not so standard-sized sinks, and the irregularities of plumbing and electrical fixtures, and the structural requirements to support the stone correctly, you can begin to understand the importance of finding someone who knows what they’re doing.

The main problem with stone installations is the tradesman who was there previous to the stone installer. That’s why it’s very important the stone installer approve whatever came before, whether it’s the substrate for the floor, or the level and support of the countertop.

TileDealer: Overall, what do TileDealer readers need to know about stone?

Marazita: Stone is unique. The countertop you have, no one else will have. The floor you have, no one else will have. And the higher up the high end of the market you go, the more customers will want that uniqueness. If you have a Jewish client, what better way to design his home than with important elements in Jerusalem stone? If you have an Italian client whose grandparents came from the Carrara area, what better way to personalize his home than to include a carved fireplace facing in white marble from Carrara? If you have a Chinese client, what better way to serve him than by designing a carved portal out of limestone from China?

Here’s a building material that actually has a story. There’s definitely a story with stone. The bottom line is for a reasonable price, you can have an everlasting material or surface.

TileDealer: How do you view the future of stone in building and remodeling?

Marazita: I know it sounds like a straight promo, but I really believe there is a new renaissance in the use of stone. As more and more stone gets used, more and more people see it for what it’s worth: A beautiful, unique building material that can upgrade the quality of the built environment.

I also predict that as new construction slows, remodeling with stone will continue to grow, or at worst, remain constant, in that we all want to protect our main investment—real estate. By upgrading the materials and by making a more beautiful home, consumers will see first hand that they have a great return on the remodeling investment when they’ve included stone in the design. Remember to look at the real estate ads. You’ll see what I mean.

Sales & Management: B2B Commerce: Standards Streamline the Process
March 1st, 2006


By Kate Simpson

March-April 2006

Like any new technology, the acceptance of the Internet as a business tool has taken time. Yet over the past few years, it has become apparent that distributors who don’t include e-commerce, also known as B2B commerce, in their business plan will be left behind.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the flooring industry, where manufacturer, dealer, supplier, and distributor organizations have worked together to develop a list of standard transactions between their respective groups. In addition to identifying the shared business processes, this group has established a specific format in which to conduct these transactions.

Recognizing the challenges a trading partner has to consider prior to implementing these standards, the group has defined common mapping specifications of data, taking into consideration the cost of getting started. Ultimately, they agreed upon low-cost data exchange methods that allow participation by trading partners of any size and flooring commodity.

Why Now?

As a tile distributor, you may wonder why you need to adopt the e-commerce flooring standards within your business. But, given how quickly manufactures, dealers, suppliers, and even some distributors are adopting these standards within their organizations, the need might be more immediate than you think.

Distributors are continually looking for ways to differentiate themselves from their competition and offering B2B transactions provides a value-added service for customers while increasing your margins by streamlining processes.

What Can B2B Standards Do For You?

The e-commerce standards will enable you to more efficiently conduct business processes, such as buying or selling through the distribution channel. These streamlined operations will result in lower operating costs, shorter time to delivery, and reduce communication, shipping, and keying errors. Using the B2B standards will also help you realize lower transaction costs and eliminate VAN charges.

The benefits of using a solution that supports the B2B standards goes beyond the supply chain to improve your business processes.

Specifically, adopting B2B standards will reduce the amount of time employees spend re-keying data. For example, a purchase order you send to your trading partner can be acknowledged, invoiced, and reconciled electronically.

Similarly, when you receive an order, B2B standards allow you to confirm the item, quantity, and price electronically, vastly reducing material returns or credits resulting from incorrect shipping and invoicing.

In addition to improving your processes, the B2B standards can help you improve service and retain customers, all the while freeing your staff to grow your business and give you the visibility and flexibility to keep ahead of changing market trends.

It Takes Commitment

Of course, just the desire to use the industry standards won’t help you achieve the anticipated reduced costs, increased efficiencies, and improved service. You must have the technology in place to support the current accepted standards while having the capacity to grow with your business over time. While this may require some initial costs, the benefits you receive from complying with the industry standards will quickly maximize your return on the investment.

When choosing a B2B solution, make sure it will meet your business needs as well as support the B2B basics. The solution must be reliable, secure, and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Above all else, it must support the common flooring industry documents in use today, including EDI 810 and 832.

As a business executive, you should always be on the lookout for how technology can bring value to your company. E-commerce, and the flooring industry standards, can take you to the next level of success.

In addition to serving as a Product Manager with Activant Solutions Inc.®, Kate Simpson serves on the marketing and education committee of the CTDA. For more information, visit www.activant.com or call 1-800-776-7438, press 1.

Looking for a Commercial Mortgage? Know These Facts
March 1st, 2006


By Jim Lynch

March-April 2006

Home ownership has always appealed to the individualistic spirit of Americans. That same desire for freedom from capricious landlords and ever-escalating rental rates is also prompting a growing number of people to seek commercial mortgages so they can own the real estate that houses their business. Here are some facts you should be aware of if you are seeking a commercial mortgage for a privately held business enterprise.

Some buildings are better mortgage risks than others. The best are existing buildings with office and warehouse or office and manufacturing space, as well as new construction if it’s amenable to a number of commercial uses. Special-purpose buildings such as churches or tennis clubs are not considered good risks.

You will need to come up with at least 20 percent of the purchase price as a down payment. If you can come up with 25 percent, you may be able to get a better loan rate.

Commercial mortgage loans are generally structured with a rate that is fixed for a certain period of years; the loan itself is amortized for anywhere from 20 to 25 years. An often-used formula is one tied to the five-year U.S. Treasury rate plus a certain number of basis points. At end of the fixed-rate period, the rate would be adjusted according to the prevailing five-year U. S. Treasury rate plus a certain number of basis points. The fixed rate period is generally five to seven years.

The application process can take up to 30 days. It can take two to three weeks to obtain a copy of the final appraisal of the property. Once a bank receives it, along with the company’s most recent financial statement, a prospective borrower should have an answer in about a week.

Lenders review commercial mortgages just as they do any other credit extension to a privately held business. They look at the value of the buildings and the cash flow of the business. And they always look at how management has reacted in the face of what they see in their marketplace: how they have met the challenges that any owner/operator has to meet in business. All are a direct reflection of how well the company is being managed, and the financial statement is management’s report card.

The age of the business and the strength of the management team might be a consideration. The younger the business, the less history it has and the tougher it will be to finance—unless the future looks bright and all the fundamentals are good. In order to get a glimpse of the future of the company, the bank also evaluates the management team that is in place to support the owner/operator. The bank looks closely at the company’s infrastructure and makes sure all the financial paperwork is in order, so that any member of the management team could help answer future questions, if necessary. Management is always critical.

Certain things raise warning flags. If a prospective borrower didn’t have enough cash to put down on the building, that would be a cause for concern. Also, if it appears that the historical cash flow of the business wouldn’t be sufficient to handle the debt service payments going forward, that’s another issue. An uneven financial history makes financing like this more difficult, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done, only that the lending institution will have to satisfy itself as to the company’s future cash flow.

Lenders look for a cash flow that is at least one-and-a-quarter times the amount of debt service. The stronger the cash flow, the better the financial condition of the company, the lower the risk of the transaction and the lower the rate.

If the value of the property declines, it may have an effect on the loan, depending on whether the customer can continue to make the prescribed payments. But if the value drops precipitously and the bank feels its collateral position has been negatively impacted, it may seek additional collateral.

To the extent that the lender knows you, the process is generally easier. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get deals like this done with another financial institution. Owner/operators tend to look at a building as a long-term solid asset, so lenders feel that these are stable loans to have in place.

Jim Lynch is President and CEO of Leaders Bank in Oak Brook, Illinois.

Responsible Solutions to Mold Coalition Launched

The Responsible Solutions to Mold Coalition (RSMC) was launched at the recent International Builders’ Show in Orlando, Fla. RSMC is an industry association formed through a grant by USG Corporation to ensure that more accurate information is communicated about mold avoidance and control.

The issue of mold continues to be an important topic to builders, homeowners, and government agencies. Its importance has been further emphasized by post-hurricane conditions and rebuilding plans in the Gulf Coast.

“Everyone connected with the building industry has a stake in making sure effective solutions are embraced in solving this important problem,” said Robert Daniels, Director Emeritus of the Tile Council of North America. “First and foremost, consumers and business owners will be more satisfied with their homes and buildings, builders can avoid expensive callbacks, warranty claims and even litigation, and the financial community can be assured of the long-term security of the investment it underwrites.”

Due to the building boom over the past several years, thousands of new builders and subcontractors have entered the marketplace. They want to become informed on important subjects such as mold control, but the amount of information on mold is overwhelming. It was clear that some scientifically-based organization needed to review the best thinking on the subject and present this information in an understandable format to everyone involved in the building trades as well as to homeowners.

The RSMC will maintain a website that will serve as a clearinghouse for information, publish a brochure with accurate information on the systems approach to mold control, host industry forums and participate in demonstration projects, and publish articles and participate in industry events.

The coalition will not endorse products. It will, however, work to meet the needs of both the trade and consumer audience.

The RSMC was formed through a grant from the USG Corporation. In addition to USG and the Tile Council of North America, current members include the Association of Wall and Ceiling Industries International; the Building Research Council, School of Architecture, University of Illinois; International Institute for Lath and Plaster; Lath and Plaster Institute of Northern California; National Institute of Building Sciences; North American Insulation Manufacturers; the U.S. Forest Products Laboratory, Department of Agriculture; and the Western Wall and Ceiling Contractors Association.

What Consumers Say About Mold

In a recent Ducker Research poll of homeowners involved in a remodeling project,

• 86 percent said that mold control is very important to them.

• 44 percent said that they have had mold in their home at some point.

• 86 percent also believe that moisture is the most significant cause of mold.

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