Leadership Letter: Why CTDA is a lot more than ceramic tile Certification, Education, Stone, & Mold
 
May 1st, 2006

May-June 2006

If it seems as though I have a “laundry list” of topics to discuss here, it’s true. There’s a lot going on in CTDA and the industry and all of it is important to you and to growing your business.

Today’s marketplace encompasses ceramic, glass and stone tiles, setting and installation materials, tools, education and training. CTDA is prepared to help you meet each of these challenges with a growing family of association tools.

Certification & training

CTDA has always been your key to industry education. As the industry grows in both complexity and dollar volume, CTDA’s role has become increasingly important in delivering information, education, and training. Many of you already use Tile Training in a Box and the Shade Variation Program. Now the association is about to offer yet another option.

While many of us were busy working our way through the trade show floor at Coverings in Orlando, a number of CTDA members were graciously “testing” the CTDA Certified Ceramic Tile Salesperson (CCTS) examination. We genuinely appreciate their time and commitment to this important venture.

CTDA developed the certification program as the next step in industry education and training. Employees who have successfully earned the CCTS demonstrate to consumers and competitors that they have the industry knowledge to help customers make informed and appropriate material choices. The certification curriculum includes Basic Selling Skills, Tile Specific Selling Skills, and Installation Basics.

You’ll learn more about the official launch of certification in the months ahead, but it represents just one aspect of CTDA’s interest in industry education.

The role of stone

I’m sure many of you noticed the growing role of stone at Coverings. Industry experts estimate that the total of the US stone supply and imports for 2006 will be valued at $6.8 billion manufacturers’ dollars.

CTDA has also responded to the surging role of stone in the marketplace by adding valuable stone educational materials to Tile Training in a Box. The new stone section is substantial, including Stone Types and Usage, Characteristics, Common Applications, Tools, Installation Procedures, Sealing, and Care and Maintenance. TileDealer magazine continues to add coverage of stone materials and the stone marketplace.

The Mold issue

Perhaps one of the most important panels at Coverings covered the growing concerns over mold and its impact on the industry. Although it has always been present in the environment, current construction methods have led to moisture problems which have in turn led to sometimes significant mold infestations. The cost of remediation is substantial. Mold presents a health hazard to individuals with allergies or other sensitivities to it. Industry standards regarding installation should alleviate these problems. The issue promises to be as stubborn as mold itself. CTDA’s Mold Committee has been established to address this topic and continue to provide members with the latest information on mold.

Ours is an exciting and increasingly diverse business, but with an industry ally like CTDA, we’ll all manage to grow our businesses along with the industry.

Best regards,

Mark Carlson

CTDA President


From the Editor’s Desk: Coverings footnotes and more TileDealer for you
 
May 1st, 2006

by Janet Arden, Editor

May-June 2006

Further on in this issue we have a report on Coverings 2006. If you were there, you know it was the biggest show yet and better than ever. If you were not in Orlando, we’ll do our best in the next few issues to deliver continuing reports on all the excitement.

But right now, I’d like to share a few quick but important observations. We’ll be covering these in depth in future issues, but for now, here they are:

1. Color is making a comeback. In addition to the neutrals and earth tones we all love, deeper, truer shades are gaining popularity. Think rich chocolates, deep umbers, sunset yellows and oranges, ocean-inspired turquoise and more. How would these shades update your showroom and your display vignettes?

2. Today’s consumer is very well-educated. She shops the Internet before she even gets to your showroom. Can you answer her questions?

3. The U.S. dimensional stone market is now worth $3.1 billion. It’s big and getting bigger. You don’t have to be part of this marketplace, but you do need to understand the role it plays with the residential and commercial consumer. What do you know about stone?

4. Today’s tile and stone marketplace has more international players than ever.

5. Technology is driving installation. There are new and better tools, materials and techniques to produce better results. Are you delivering this level of technology?

6. Training is everywhere. Manufacturers are hosting training sessions. CTDA delivers Tile Training in a Box and the Color Variation Program to your doorstop or Online training to your desktop. You must know what you sell and no one else can learn it for you.

7. Customer service can set you apart from the big box stores and the rest of your competitors. Are your customers satisfied? Do they come back? Do they send their friends? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, you know what your homework assignment is.

8. Opportunity is knocking. Today’s booming marketplace offers more opportunities than ever for you to deliver ceramic and stone materials, trims and borders to finish a project, and options like underfloor heating. Call it upselling, call it a broader product line. In the end you’re going to call it satisfied customers.

Lately we’ve been learning a lot about our companion website, tiledealer.org. Two facts have been especially exciting—first, we get thousands of unique “hits” each month. Unique hits are not links from the CTDA website or the result of a Google search. They represent individual web visitors that purposely search out tiledealer.org.

Second, when these visitors get to our website, they stay an average of 7 minutes! That time frame may seem long or short, depending on what you’re doing (On hold with customer service? It’s long! Having coffee with a friend? Never enough time.) But in web terms, 7 minutes is great—it means visitors are finding what they want at tiledealer.org.

We’re thrilled to know that our readers are finding what they want in these pages and on the website. But we want to serve you better. So, as I write this column our web designer is sprucing up tiledealer.org, making it easier than ever to find current and previous issues and connecting you with our advertisers with a simple click.

Beyond that, we’re developing some content exclusive to the website. Keep checking—we’ll be revealing it soon.

Janet Arden


Innovations
 
May 1st, 2006

May-June 2006

GranitiFiandre launches TCL Brand

Italian stone and tile manufacturer GranitiFiandre debuted its American-made TCL brand at Coverings 2006. Produced at the GranitiFiandre Group’s new state-of-the-art facility in Cumberland County , Tenn. , the TCL brand is the result of sophisticated production and environmental technology. With the new Native Stone and Gallery series, American clients are now offered the hues and patterns they desire in glazed porcelain, along with superior technical capabilities they have come to expect from GranitiFiandre. “The TCL brand was developed in direct response to our most important clients’ needs for an economical flooring solution that is high-quality and innovative,” said Jeanne Nichols, vice president of Trans Ceramica, Ltd., a GranitiFiandre company. “We are pleased to meet the expanding needs of our clients with the Native Stone and Gallery series. Commercial clients, residential distributors, and dealers now have access to an extraordinary glazed porcelain tile product, offering exceptional quality and value to their investment.” The distinctive hues and slate appearance of the Native Stones series pay homage to the artistic customs and ceremonies of legendary Native American tribes with three glazed porcelain offerings: Navajo Nights, Cherokee Gold and Chickasaw Sand. An excellent choice for high-traffic commercial and residential environments, Native Stone and Gallery include 18″x 18″, 12″x 12″, and 6″x 6″ sizes, with coordinating bullnose and steptread. (773.848.4461)

LED Tiles

Steuler-Fliesen has introduced “LED Tiles,” which feature a centrally located, stylish LED unit, and install to form a smooth, even surface, providing endless opportunities for luxurious interior design. The lighted tiles can be placed in a wide variety of locations, from entry ways to staircases, integrating a subtle yet ultra-modern feel to any décor. “LED Tiles,” with their polished and unique design, add an instant touch of class and lend well to the ambience of indoor spaces. The tiles can be used to map out superior architectural features, to open up areas or to give a one-of-a-kind decorative touch to floors. “LED Tiles” are also ideal for safety use, whether implemented as emergency exit lighting or to clearly mark obstacles. “There are numerous ways to implement ‘LED Tiles’ into a number of sophisticated décors,” said Paul Heldens, managing director of Steuler Fliesen. “’LED Tiles’ modern and timeless style is perfect for upscale interiors.” (Barbara.trumpp@steuler-fliesen.de)

SOUNDGARD LITE FROM CUSTOM

New from Custom® Building Products, SoundGard® Lite is a technologically advanced, versatile and lightweight mat underlayment for setting tile and stone directly over any acceptable subfloor. Up to nine times lighter than other mat underlayments, SoundGard Lite is easy to carry and install. It can be installed directly over any acceptable substrate, including concrete, plywood, particle board and primed oriented strand board (OSB), making it a highly versatile solution for architects, specifiers and tile contractors.

SoundGard Lite’s design locks mortar into the mat underlayment, creating an exceptionally strong, bonded crack prevention system that will withstand high levels of stress and prevent cracks of up to ¼” against subfloor movement, unlike uncoupling membranes that may disbond when subjected to repeated stress. In addition to crack prevention, SoundGard Lite offers high and reliable impact sound reduction. Made by a patented process, this revolutionary material has been used by the military for absorbing impact in the flight helmets of Navy fighter pilots. Now Custom is bringing this material to the construction market, providing exceptional levels of impact sound reduction for virtually every type of structure, from single family residences to hotels, high-rise residential towers, and office buildings. SoundGard Lite is available in 3, 5 and 12mm thicknesses; 3 and 5mm are available with a peel-and-stick adhesive backing that can significantly reduce downtime on the job by allowing immediate installation of tile or stone. SoundGard Lite is protected by Custom’s MoldGard™ Technology and will not rot, shrink or absorb water, making it a superior alternative to cork underlayments.

When used in a tile or stone installation as part of a qualified Custom system, SoundGard Lite is protected by Custom’s industry-leading warranty for up to a lifetime. (www.custombuildingproducts.com)

OCEANA 12″ x12″ Glass Tile

Oceana LLC, a division of Jeannette Specialty Glass, is pleased to announce the introduction of OCEANA 12″ x 12″ Glass Tile and Oceana Custom Glass Tile. OCEANA 12″ x 12″ Glass Tile is available in twelve glistening colors in 3-dimensional texture. The jewel luminescent colors coordinate with OCEANA Glass Lavatories. OCEANA 12″ x 12″ Glass Tile can be used for interior and exterior installations on both horizontal and vertical surfaces in either wet or dry locations in residential and commercial applications. OCEANA Glass Tile can be substituted for or used in conjunction with marble, ceramic, and natural stone products in application. OCEANA Glass Tile is “Hard Roc Glass”, a unique formulation of borosilicate glass created by Jeannette Specialty Glass for Oceana. Hard Roc Glass is thermal shock resistant and can withstand fluctuations in temperature and humidity and may be used in heated areas including pools, saunas, and steam rooms. OCEANA Glass Tiles are nonporous making them resistant to chemicals and other contaminants in exterior and interior applications.

Oceana Custom Glass Tile is a designer’s dream—circles, triangles, elongated shapes and curves, signature logos and distinctive designs can all be created for commercial or home projects. Oceana glass tile can be custom made from 2″ x 2″ to 12″ x 12″ or we can create custom shapes that together create a design of any size. (www.oceanaglasslavs.com)

Damask Stile & Bellagio by Refin

Stile by Refin celebrates the creativity and talent of Italian manufacturing, with a collection emphasizing color including yellow, orange, green, red and blue as well as black, white, and grey and featuring a damask pattern that incorporates gold and silver tones along with the other colors. The wide range of sizes makes Stile ideal for walls in any kind of environment and is suitable for residential housing as well as public spaces.

The company also introduced Bellagio, which recreates interiors with the warmth and the atmospheres of the historical Italian resorts and villas. The living and the kitchen renew the pleasure of sharing amongst family and friends in a cozy atmosphere combining ancient with modern, wild nature with clear refinement in brown, pearl grey, and ivory. Bellagio is appropriate for both for residential and commercial spaces such as shops, restaurants and show rooms. (www.demetraweb.it)

Textured Tiles

The talk is all texture with CROCO Tiles from Settencento Valtresinaro. The crocodile-skin texture adds distinction to a glazed, edge-ground through-body porcelain tile in Ivory and Moka, Mist and Pearl, Sky and Powder Blue, and black and White. In 24 by 20 cm with a choice of listels. Allure from Edimax offers another take on a crocodile texture in glazed porcelain tiles in eight colors including The Purple Hat, The Dark Boots, Tge Green Gloves, The Blue Wallet, The Golden Purse, The Ivory Tie, The Grey Skirt, and The Copper Coat. In five sizes from 44.6 by 44.6 cm to 2.6 by 44.6 cm. (www.settecento.com) (www.edimax.it)

LAUFEN LAUNCHES CONTRACT LINE

Laufen launched its Laufen Contract line at Coverings 2006. With 20 different series, the line includes polished porcelains, high-technology porcelains and several other stone and concrete looks. The seven new series are Atlas, Bethel, Murano, Odeon, Petra, Salerno and Torino. Atlas is a 17″x17″ through-body porcelain tile. It comes in four colors: Sand, Ash, Amber and Charcoal. A border that coordinates with all four colors completes the package. Atlas is a concrete-look that is uniquely designed for the commercial market. Bethel is a 20×20 through-body, soluble salt polished porcelain that comes in one color, Nacre. This polished porcelain tile is designed for large-format applications.

Murano is a 18×18 double-loaded, soluble salt polished porcelain that comes in Nocce, Beige and Light Grey. Also included in this series is a 12×12 mosaic in each of the three colors. Odeon is a 24×24 through-body, polished porcelain tile available in Ash and Coal. Trim includes a floor bullnose. This “black and white” polished series is designed for the commercial market. Petra is a 17″x17″ and 9″x17″ glazed porcelain tile. It comes in Aurora and Corona. Trim includes a floor bullnose. This series has a coefficient of friction/wet value of 0.80, which makes this series perfectly designed for wet areas and ramps in commercial settings. Salerno and Torino are both 24×24 through-body, soluble salt polished porcelain tiles. Salerno comes in Pearl. Torino comes in Cream. (www.laufenusa.com)

Saturnia and Vesale Stone by Marazzi

Understated elegance with a sense of strength underlies Marazzi USA’s Saturnia. Named after an ancient Italian city renowned for its refreshing natural thermal springs, Saturnia’s glazed porcelain surface features intricate niches and indentations that appear randomly formed by the earth’s internal forces yet remain simple to clean. Four soft, warm, gentle colors (ivory, walnut, gray, gold), can carry an installation on their own or coexist with multiple mesh-mounted mosaic options that add richness and depth to floors, walls, backsplashes and pools. The Class 4 durability rating expands Saturnia’s application possibilities from personal to professional spaces. Both the 13″ x 13″ and the 20″x20″ sizes feature a thick body structure that imparts boldness and massiveness. Elegantly balancing the series is Serena Listelli in a 4″x13″ Border and 4″x4″ Corner. Subdued floral motifs are screened to resemble ancient mosaic pieces that can be used on floors or walls, individually or in tandem.

The company also introduced Vesale Stone to capture the look of refined slates found in the ancient hills of Italy and transport that simpler, organic building material to glazed porcelain for modern dwellings and public areas. Asynchronous glaze applications create dramatic pattern diversity. Rich tonal ranges and dramatic streaks suggest the natural layers and clefting of natural slate while the surface remains flat and easy to clean. A final granular frit application enhances slip resistance and textural appeal. Modern, fresher, clearer earthtones in beige, brown, grey and green with straight edges banish conventionality. Modulars in 6″x6″ and 10″x20″, mesh-mounted mosaics in three (3) incremental sizes (1″x1″ Square, 2″x2″ Square, and 2″x3″ Diamond) and SBN cut from field tile expand the functionality and design capabilities of the series (www.marazzitile.com)

 


The Finish Line: Borders, Accents, and Listellos
 
May 1st, 2006

May-June 2006

Borders, accents and listellos are more than a finishing touch. They can take a tile installation from good to great and offer you an upselling opportunity. Although many manufacturers include these pieces as part of an overall tile program to encourage the end-user to both personalize and trade up in terms of design, other companies have made their name in the business by just offering accents and listellos. But everyone TileDealer talked to agrees that these stylish “extras” are becoming more and more important in both wall and floor tile designs.

“We’re seeing more and more demand for the decorative tile and trims and borders,” notes Laurie Lyza, marketing manager of Crossville Tile in Crossville , TN , the largest manufacturer of porcelain stone tile in the United States . Lyza attributes this demand to changing tastes and a need for greater variety and versatility. “Tile is now looked at not as a commodity product but really as part of an overall design function. The trim and the decorative pieces really tie in nicely with that. Tile is part of an overall design now—and not simply just a floor or wall covering.”

Art tile has always been renowned for its crowns, molding pieces, and decoratives. Guy Renkert, president of The Ironrock Company in Canton , Ohio , says many people who have been interested in decoratives and listellos have had to seek out art tile lines because they couldn’t find what they like in more mainstream tile. “Say someone has bought one of the big beautiful Viking or Wolf stoves…while they may run more traditional 3 x 6 or 4 x 4 field tile under the cabinets, once they get back to the backsplash behind their stove [they want] to be able to frame in a an area that’s almost like a picture window of art.” Different elements in a line, like pencils and rope trim, can be used as a frame “to allow you to express your design so much better.”

Listello USA Ltd. in Southhampton , Pennsylvania , is one of the few companies to focus exclusively on this niche. The company designs its borders and decos in colors that coordinate with field tiles made from manufacturers like Dal or Florida Tile in order to achieve universal usage. Most factory tile comes with a limited variety of listello, notes sales manager Stephen Chiaravallotti, and much of it doesn’t match because the pieces are made in different runs which sparks complaints from homeowners. Listello USA recently launched a service called “Design America” to make custom listellos and borders for other tile manufacturers’ house lines based on a current batch of tile to guarantee an absolute match.

The manufacture of listellos and other decorative elements are certainly not limited to American companies.

Listellos on the floor

Though it has been common to use listellos and other borders to outline tub enclosures or delineate a backsplash, Renkert says a growing trend is to use more borders on the floor. Instead of picking one size and color of tile and applying it like wall to wall carpeting, people will create “rugs” in their tile using borders and tiles set on a diagonal. Even some of Meredith’s dots, which are mainly used on walls, have been set into the floor out of main traffic patterns. “It’s a way to add a little more color, flair, and texture,” says Renkert.

Floor borders have traditionally been made out of hardwearing material like stone, ceramic, or porcelain, but Listello has introduced four glass tiles in the Optima line suitable for floor use. The Optima line, says Chiaravallotti, gives people the ability to use the same elements on the wall and floor, “so it helps to unify a room, especially a bigger room where you may do a border on the floor or the wall and then do decos on the opposite piece. It does give a lot of flexibility and opportunity.”

Crossville manufactures a lot of floor tile but most of its borders and decoratives are meant for use as wall tile. One exception is Questech, with decoratives specifically designed for floor use.

While some companies like Listello USA design borders to work with field tile from other manufacturers, Renkert says it’s very unusual for a customer to pair factory field tile with Meredith’s hand-painted borders and decoratives. “Usually when that happens it looks awkward,” he says. “You wouldn’t mix a white wall tile with a Mexican saltillo strip – one is far too rustic in comparison to the other.” Mass- produced tile has uniform grout joints when set properly, but handmade tile tends to be more uneven and is often far thicker in depth. And he points out, Meredith’s hand painted decos and borders are what set the art tile line apart.

Renkert says that most tile showrooms steer customers away from mixing and matching tile lines “because they know it looks poor.” Renkert also feels that most consumers don’t know much about tile and how to match it: “I don’t know many people who have enough confidence to go in and spend lots of money on decorative molding and hand carved decorative tiles and then go down to Home Depot and buy 4 x 4 wall tile to go with it.” Only a handful of showrooms, believes Renkert, are good at knowing how to mix and match tile successfully.

Lyza isn’t sure how many consumers are staying solely within the Crossville line or mixing and matching with other manufacturers, but says, “Because we design in such a way that you can put together a glass from here a metal from there and a field tile to really put together a nice design you don’t have to search outside the brand….If we can demonstrate that we are a line, a product where you can get your field tile and your trim and you don’t have to go searching that just makes the entire line stronger.” (Renkert agrees with this, saying that “most people want something straight out of a can.”)

Decoratives can be the most eye-catching part of a line and the hook by which someone will buy the field tile, admits Renkert. “It’s typically the art tile decoratives and or molding selection which will hook the customer to stay with that company or manufacturer as a whole. It’s like looking at cars. If you’re in love with a Porsche you’re just not going to be satisfied with anything else.”

Manufacturers of field tile have long been accused of ignoring the decorative aspect of tile. “We ourselves have heard the need for the more decorative pieces to be part of an overall design scheme or solution,” admits Lyza, adding that dealers have been requesting more decoratives, because that’s what gets the attention. In response, the company now designs “in such a way that you can easily go from line to line. We have created some beautiful vignettes that create several elements from several lines. We may use a Questech metal border with a decorative insert from the Palais line or we may put some of the glass with the stainless steel.”

Crossville has a design director who helps its showrooms merchandise its product. Its extensive panel program “gives people an idea of how they can mix and use the different products.” Stunning effects can be achieved by using components in non-traditional ways, Lyza continues. As an example, Crossville displays an interesting use of listello on its website using nine rows of illuminescence prism glass wave listellos stacked nine high horizontally. There are no rules when it comes to tile, suggests Lyza: “What we tell people is it’s really their personal taste. I for instance really love the way bronze looks with our Napoleon blue tile – someone else may not. As long as there are no technical reasons people are free to use tile in any combination that they like.”

The use of decorative trims and borders is often driven by fashion. During the Victorian era people “went crazy with moldings,” notes Chiaravallotti, and it wasn’t uncommon to find eleven different layers from floor to wainscot in bathroom tile. Then there was a long period when it was customary just to apply field tile to walls and floors with no embellishment, using tile much like paint. Today, more homeowners are appreciating the wide range of effects that can be achieved with tile, inspired by the proliferation of lifestyle television shows like Home and Garden television and shelter magazines too countless to name. “Now there is very much a mindset of yes, I want to have decoratives in there,” says Chiaravallotti.

Crossville works with many home magazines to supply the tile on projects because, says Lyza, “we know people are getting so much inspiration from the magazines and from the home shows, from the HGTVS and the DIYs. They see an idea on an episode and want that tile, so we do see that a lot of inspiration is coming from those outlets.”


Industry Insights
 
May 1st, 2006

May-Junel 2006

Crossville, Inc. Celebrates 20 Years of Success

Crossville, Inc. will mark its 20th anniversary on May 6 with an employee celebration, followed by a series of distributor meetings designed to commemorate this achievement and lay the foundation for future success. “As we prepared to mark this milestone, we wanted a way to acknowledge the role our distributors have played in our success. So we decided to bring everyone home to Crossville to share some fond memories, recognize accomplishments, and start looking forward to an exciting future together. Our time together will be very productive, but also a lot of fun,” said Vice President Sean Gibbons, who is himself among Crossville’s 26 original employees. A seven-week series of meetings will begin May 15 and run through June 26. All meetings will be held in Crossville at the Hovmand Center, Crossville’s new state-of-the-art design center and training facility, named for former president Svend Hovmand in recognition of his dedication to education and lifelong learning.

In other news, Crossville announced that Mikeal Jensen has joined the company in the newly created role of Residential Design Director. His responsibilities include heading the Residential Advisory Council and working with the Crossville team on all aspects of design for the residential market. “Mikeal has a wealth of experience and expertise in the residential market—an area that Crossville is looking to grow,” says Sean Gibbons, vice president of sales for Crossville. “We feel very fortunate to have attracted talent of Mikeal’s caliber and welcome him to the team.” Jensen was showroom manager at Contempo Ceramic Tile in Salt Lake City, Utah, where he worked for ten years in showroom sales, design and management. He has also worked with other design groups in Utah and has served on several residential advisory councils in the tile industry. He holds a degree in interior design from LDS Business College in Salt Lake City.

Bob Daniels TCNA TILE PERSON OF THE YEAR

Robert “Bob” E. Daniels was awarded the Tile Council of North America’s (TCNA) prestigious 2006 Tile Person of the Year award during Coverings 2006 in Orlando, Florida. For more than 20 years Daniels has worked on behalf of the tile industry. He has served as Chairman of ISO TC-189 Committee for international tile industry standards; Chairman of the Tile Council of North America’s Handbook Committee; Chairman of the board of directors of the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation; Board member of Tile Partners for Humanity; Member of Board of Governors for the International Tile Exposition, which operates the Coverings trade show; and Member of the ITAC 16 Committee to advise the U.S. Department of Commerce on technical trade issues.

After a successful engineering career in consumer electronics, Daniels entered the tile industry in 1984 as the founding president of KPT, Inc., a leader in manufacturing glazed floor tile. Daniels played a key role in developing a partnership between Clemson University and the Tile Council. The fruits of his labor helped to build a joint research and training center for ceramics, which includes a 20-meter roller hearth kiln, 680-ton press, and other laboratory equipment available to conduct innovative and cooperative research. The growth of the TCNA Product Performance Testing Laboratory, the success of the Clemson University partnership, the scale of industry participation in standards development, and the recognition of the Tile Council within the industry reflect his vision and leadership abilities. As TCNA’s spokesman, Daniels has written numerous articles regarding ceramic tile, education, and installation. He continues to educate our industry at architectural training seminars across the country in his capacity as TCNA’s Executive Director Emeritus.

TCNA also announced the appointment of Stephanie Samulski to the newly created position of Project Manager. Samulski’s responsibilities include coordinating industry training programs, developing educational materials, lecturing, working with product standards groups, and project inspection and consulting. “We are planning for the future. We have witnessed increased interest in three key areas—training, product standard development, and inspection services. Ms. Samulski’s educational responsibilities include being a guest instructor at the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation and assisting in a variety of educational projects. She will also be participating in the ANSI A137.1 standard discussions along with project work for TCA Team,” said Eric Astrachan, TCNA’s Executive Director. She brings seven years of residential and commercial tile installation experience, project management, crew supervision, estimating, customer/trade relations, and technical writing.

World Sales Group, LP named Importer of the Year

Pacific International Corp. names World Sales Group, LP of Dallas, TX its Importer of the Year for 2005. Pacific International is a producer of fine ceramic and porcelain tiles in China and has chosen World Sales Group for this honor based on sales volume and product development.

Polycor appoints Niedbalski

Polycor, the second largest supplier of natural stone in North America, appointed Alexandra Niedbalski to the position of Regional Sales Manager, Tiles and Slabs Distribution, for the eastern United States. Her responsibilities will include developing the tiles and slabs market to meet the important strategic objectives established for the sales organization as well as promoting new Polycor products throughout the eastern United States. “We are confident Alexandra will further enhance customer satisfaction with Polycor and promote our company as a one-stop shopping experience. She is an outstanding team leader, a creative person, and great to work with. Her new colleagues are thrilled to have such a dynamic person on board, and so am I,” said Mr. Jean St. Onge, President of Polycor Tiles and Slabs.

Iberia names Quimby vice president

Iberia Tiles named Jason T. Quimby Vice President. Quimby has been with the company more than 11 years and has been a true journeyman, experiencing nearly every facet of the business during his tenure. He began as a Management Trainee in the Pompano Warehouse. From here he quickly moved up the ranks, serving as Purchasing Manager, Sales Manager, General Manager of the Atlanta office and General Manager of the Florida office. After earning his MBA in Finance from Florida International University, Mr. Quimby also became the head of the Accounting Department. Rosa Sugrañes, Chairman of Iberia Tiles stated, “We are extremely excited about Jason’s new leadership role with the company. His dedication has been an invaluable asset to Iberia Tiles for more than a decade. Jason believes in our products and our team and has expressed his excitement at this new chance to strengthen our brand.”

HACKER INDUSTRIES, INC. ROLLS OUT TRAINING SEMINARS

Hacker Industries, Inc., the leading supplier of gypsum floor underlayments, acoustical control products and cementitious self-leveling underlayments, announces a new series of comprehensive training seminars for Licensed Applicators. The 2-day training seminars will focus on the company’s self-leveling underlayment product line—TRUE-SCREED® Cementitious Leveling Underlayment (CLU) and DYNA-SCREED™ SLU. Hacker Industries, Inc.’s underlayment specialists, technicians and outside experts will provide professional instruction regarding preparation techniques and installation guidelines for the new hydraulic cement-based floor underlayments. Other topics include step-by-step methods for successfully preparing slabs before installation, industry terminology, estimating and sales.

ACTIVANT TO HOLD DISTRIBUTION TECHNOLOGY DEMONSTRATIONS
IN 30 CITIES

Activant Solutions Inc. is hosting a series of FREE Distribution Technology Demonstrations to show distributors what Activant Prophet 21™ can do for their businesses. “Even if you are not currently in the market for a new enterprise software solution, you should keep up-to-speed on what is available,” said Steve McLaughlin, senior vice president and general manager of Activant’s solutions for wholesale distributors. “Distribution Technology Demonstrations will show you how leading distributors use technology to keep ahead of their competition.”

Trikeenan Purchases NY Tile Factory

Trikeenan Tileworks announced the purchase of a 45,000 square foot tile manufacturing facility in Hornell, NY. The factory, equipped with state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment, will allow the artisan tile company to produce up to 1,200 square feet of tile daily. Trikeenan plans to utilize the facility to produce its newest line, Modulus. Trikeenan will also maintain its West Swanzey, NH facility, where it will continue to produce many of its smaller handmade field and Elementals collections, decorative tiles and trim. “Put simply, we’ve had the good fortune to outgrow our current space,” say owners Kristin & Stephen Powers. “Trikeenan has attracted a lot of attention among designers, homeowners and the press, and the demand for our unique tile continues to grow around the country. The purchase of this facility enables us to meet that demand. It also allows us also bring mid-priced artisan lines to the market, such as Modulus, making Trikeenan tile accessible to a larger range of customers. People are about to see some very exciting new things from Trikeenan.”

MIA and OSHA agree to provide training

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Marble Institute of America (MIA) in Cleveland have signed an alliance to provide MIA members and others with information and training resources to help them protect employees’ health and safety. The alliance was also signed by the state OSHA consultations services of Ohio, Minnesota and Wisconsin that offer free job safety and health advice, primarily for small businesses in high-hazard industries. State consultations services are confidential and separate from OSHA’s enforcement arm.

“This partnering effort with OSHA is another important step in MIA’s aggressive safety initiative,” said Gary Distelhorst, executive vice president of MIA, which has more than 1500 members around the world. “In the past two years, MIA has produced four safety videos, each of which was distributed to more than 10,000 stone industry companies. In addition, MIA created several safety posters which are being rolled out to industry companies.” Distelhorst said impetus for the alliance with OSHA began when MIA worked with the agency in developing a video promoting the importance of OSHA compliance. During the two-year alliance, OSHA and MIA will develop information to help MIA member employers and workers recognize and prevent such hazards as exposure to silica and handling slabs of stone. The alliance will also develop safety and health training and education programs and will provide expertise to develop workplace safety and health curricula on the prevention of silicosis in the stone industry. OSHA will encourage states that have OSHA State Plans to participate in the alliance.

Ilva names Torres

Ilva S.A., the leading Argentine producer of porcelain tiles, has named Javier Torres as export manager. Torres brings to the position experience in sales as well as time spent as marketing manager and foreign trade manager in the food industry. Ilva’s Board of Directors expressed their confidence in Torres’ ability. “Javier’s previous experience makes him a perfect fit for this position. We have no doubt he will bring a fresh approach to Ilva and continue making great progress with the company.”

In the position of export manager, Torres will be based out of the company’s Buenos Aires office and will work with the exports team, continuing to provide the quality service to customers that Ilva has become known for. “I’m looking forward to the challenges of this position and the opportunity to work with our clientele,” said Torres.

2006 Cornerstone Award to Craig Hamilton of MAPEI

The National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) gave one last honor to Craig Hamilton, MAPEI Corporation’s Director of Research and Development, at the 2006 Coverings event. Hamilton, who passed away unexpectedly in September 2005, was awarded the Fourth Annual Joe Tarver Cornerstone Award for Service to the Tile Industry. A commemorative plaque was presented to his wife and family during the Tile Letter Awards ceremony on April 6. Hamilton was in the tile and stone industry for more than 20 years. In 1989, he joined the MAPEI Corporation, headquartered in Deerfield Beach, Florida. While at MAPEI, Craig first managed the Technical Services Department. More recently, he served as the Director of Research & Development, working on new technologies such as Mapecem® Quickpatch, Ultra SkimCoat™, and BioBlock™ antimicrobial technology. In fact, Hamilton last spoke at Coverings on the topic of antimicrobial technology and its importance in the tile and stone industry.

Hamilton served on a number of committees, including his role as convener of ISO Technical Committee 189, which was responsible for drafting the recently approved ISO 13007 Classification Standards for ceramic tile adhesives and grouts. At the time of his death, Hamilton was also serving as President of the Materials and Methods Standards Association (MMSA). Because of his interest in standards, Hamilton also worked with the ANSI Standards Committee and was a member of NTCA. His articles appeared in numerous industry publications as well as being published by the Ceramic Tile Institute of America (CTIOA).


Installer Update: New Standards Will Redefine the Tile Market.
 
May 1st, 2006

 

Does one mortar really outperform another?

By Mike Micalizzi, Manager, Technical Services, MAPEI Corporation

May-June 2006

The best scientific minds around the world have spent endless hours and tens of thousands of dollars developing new grouts and mortars that promise to speed up your installations, reduce your callbacks and increase the life of your installations. The question in every contractor’s mind is naturally, “Is there really a difference between all these products; and, if so, how can I tell?”

The answer is: Yes, there is a BIG difference.

After years of research and negotiation, the mystery of mortars is about to become de-mystified. Through voluntary participation, a body of technical experts operating under the oversight of the ISO 13007 Classification Standards Technical Committee 189 have agreed upon a set of universal, global standards for the tile-setting industry. ISO is the International Standards Organization, made up of members from the National Standards Bodies of more than 190 countries. (ANSI is the National Standards Body of the United States .)

Essentially a combination of American, British and European ceramic tile adhesive standards, these new standards require that an adhesive pass certain minimum performance tests before it can be accredited with a performance classification. The classification is expressed in letters of the alphabet and numbers. The letters indicate the type of adhesive and special characteristics, while the numbers indicate whether the performance is “normal” or “improved.”

In total, there are more than 35 different combinations under which a product may be classified using the ISO 13007 performance standards versus the existing—and more familiar—eight (8) ANSI classifications. The bottom line? Contractors and installers no longer have to interpret the marketing hype that has become increasingly common within our industry. Instead, they can choose mortars based upon installation conditions and product classifications.

Why are standards only becoming available now?

It took a long time for all the ISO members to agree on which tests could be reliably performed and give meaningful results. The ISO 13007 standards require manufacturers to prove product performance in more detail and in more consumer-friendly ways. Under this new classification system, manufacturers must be able to prove and declare on the packaging itself how the product performed under various tests. One example is the text for adhesive strength after freeze/thaw cycles—a test that involves 14 days of curing, then 21 days of water immersion, then 25 freeze/thaw cycles, then a test to meet a minimum prescribed shear force. If this sounds complicated, it is. Manufacturers must gear up for these new standards. This often involves expensive equipment, better-trained technicians, and more precise engineering.

The process may be complicated from the manufacturers’ side, but the end result for the installation industry (including architects and specifiers, distributors, dealers, contractors and installers) is a simple-to-follow alphanumeric classification system. Those manufacturers at the forefront of this technology will leap ahead of their competitors by providing today’s increasingly sophisticated customers with needed information for their purchase decisions.

Chart courtesy of MAPEI Corporation

How do the ISO 13007 Classification Standards impact the tile-setting business?

With upwards of 115 mortars on the market within the U.S. alone, product differentiation has been a minefield for the installation market. Once the ISO 13007 Classification Standards enter the U.S. market, contractors and installers will be able to make better-informed decisions about the choice of products for their particular installation. Under the new standards, manufacturers bear the burden of proving that the product does, in fact, perform as they are promising.

With immediate and strong support anticipated from the architectural and specifier communities, U.S. manufacturers are moving quickly toward classification of their product lines. It is believed that once product categories are called for within design specifications, all levels of the installation supply chain will be impacted. For manufacturers, the race is on. For distribution channels, a major shift in expected installation knowledge is imminent.

Is this just a clever way for manufacturers to sell higher-priced products?

Interestingly enough, an installer may be able to reduce costs with these new classifications. Depending upon the installation conditions and the materials chosen, he may find that the product he is currently using is over-engineered for the installation. ISO 13007 classifications are designed to pinpoint the correct product for any installation.

Are other installation materials covered under this new system?

In addition to adhesives of all types (mortars, mastics, epoxies, etc.), grouts are being classified as well. Although there are not nearly as many combinations of ratings, grouts have at least 19 classifications they can fit into—such as an improved cementitious grout that is fast-setting (CG2F). See chart for more detail.

When is the industry going to see the benefits of adapting the ISO Classification Standards into their businesses?

That depends upon the manufacturers’ products dealers choose to carry. Depending upon their level of commitment toward the future, manufacturers are at different stages of testing their products’ performance. Within the United States , a few companies began testing about two years ago. Those manufacturers should begin their new packaging rollouts within the year. For others, it’s a game of catch-up.


Tile or Stone: Helping Your Customer Choose
 
May 1st, 2006

 

Knowing the upside and the downside of these products, and educating the customer, is key to their satisfaction.

By Jeffrey Steele

May-June 2006

At Surface Concepts, a Laguna Hills, Cal. company that offers tile, stone and glass coverings, many stroll into CEO Lisa McVey’s showroom with preconceived ideas about their preferences for either stone or tile. “If they want tile, they want a porcelain,” McVey says. “Or they want stone. But do they leave with that same mindset? No!

“They find that they can buy tile that looks like stone, and avoid the upkeep. Or they realize they can get a stone that possibly has a lot more opportunity for edge characteristics, much wider range of color variation and a wide range of surfaces.”

In short, many people are convinced they absolutely, positively know all the pluses and minuses of their favorite covering products, only to find their preconceived notions turned on their heads. And that’s what makes comparing tile and stone so much fun. With that in mind, TileDealer talked to some industry experts to learn their thinking regarding the benefits and drawbacks of each covering material.

Both tile and stone have distinct advantages. Tile’s benefits include a non-porous nature, lighter weight, easier installation and a look that’s increasingly natural looking, says Rick Danter, certified kitchen designer through the National Kitchen and Bath Association, and senior designer with McNulty Design Group in Glencoe, Ill. “If you have a glazed ceramic tile, it’s sealed,” he says. “And with a glazed seal, it has the advantage of being non-porous. It doesn’t absorb bacteria, so that will not be absorbed into the surface. That’s more a concern with kitchen countertops than floors.”

Howard Pryor, CCS, CTC, director of architectural services with Harrisburg, Pa.-based Conestoga Tile, also appreciates the non-porous qualities of tile. Ceramic tile is mold and mildew resistant because it’s an inorganic material, says Pryor, whose 47-year-old company carries both ceramic tile and stone. “Stone is more porous than tile, so there are areas for mold and mildew to collect and grow,” he says.

Because both ceramic and porcelain tile are lighter weight than stone, they’re also easier to install, Danter says. Ceramic and porcelain tile are generally installed with thin set adhesives, while stone requires cement or mortar, which adds to the cost of the stone. In addition, ceramic and porcelain tile now offer patterns that mimic the look of natural stone, he comments. For that reason, individuals looking for the appearance of natural stone but without the upkeep and maintenance often choose tile.

Pryor also comments on the increasingly attractive look of today’s tile products. “Ceramic tile today has double-pressed, double-loaded materials,” he reports.

“That allows it to mimic the look of natural stone. One Italian company has come out with a vertical-loaded process. They can take a digital picture of stone and with the vertical-loading process manufacture a porcelain tile product that looks exactly like the stone product. The beauty of porcelain is you can’t scratch it as you can with stone. It’s impenetrable from staining and it’s frost resistant, so you can put it outside.”

Ellen Cantor, ASID, CID, and president of Torrance, Cal.-based Ellen Cantor Interior Design, agrees with the observation about porcelain tile. An interior designer who specializes in residential remodeling and new construction, Cantor notes that porcelain tile is one of the strongest materials that can be applied to a floor.

Advantages of Stone

When experts discuss stone’s many advantages, they invariably start with one simple fact. Stone is, in Pryor’s words, “God-made,” and is the most natural surface you can apply to walls, countertops or floors. It’s also absolutely unique in all the world, remarks Guido Gliori, a board member of the Marble Institute of America, and executive vice-president of Eagen, Minn.-based Grazzini Brothers, an 85-year-old Twin Cities-area subcontractor that installs tile, terrazzo and stone products.

“No two stones are the same, so the appearance of the material is varied,” Gliori says. “You go out and buy a green granite or a green marble, and I’ll buy the same product and they’re not going to be exactly alike. That gives people something that they alone can boast about, because it’s not the same as any other stone.”

In the eyes of many, stone is also the most beautiful of all covering materials. “The fact that tile manufacturers are more and more trying to copy the look of stone says a lot about the preference for stone,” Gliori says.

Adds Cantor: “I work with travertine, slate and limestone for floors, and granite for countertops, and there’s nothing more beautiful than natural stone.”

While some cite upkeep as a major negative of stone, Richard Scott, president of Seattle‘s Status Custom Ceramics, says that often depends on the type of stone. For instance, dense granite will require less upkeep than many other kinds of stone, he notes.

Is there a downside?

While tile has many advantages, it’s not perfect. What it offers in the way of cost-effectiveness, ease of installation and other benefits may be at least partially offset by other considerations. Among them is the fact tile lacks the uniqueness of stone, according to Gliori. “Porcelain tile manufacturers can come up with five or six appearances and vary them slightly, but they can’t come up with a million,” he says.

There’s also the issue of prestige. “There is the perception stone carries more cache, more status,” observes McVey, adding with a laugh: “Though sometimes if I put both [tile and stone] down side by side, people can’t tell the difference.”

Also among the disadvantages of ceramic and porcelain tile is that both feature ridges that make them difficult to clean, particularly in the kitchen, Cantor says.

“So I encourage my customers to choose a smoother tile, and one that doesn’t have little indentations where the dirt can get in, especially if it’s a lighter color,” she says. In addition, ceramic tile isn’t as durable as porcelain tile, she notes. “If it’s not through-body and it chips, you’ll see the different color in the area where it chipped.”

Maintenance concerns top the list of disadvantages associated with natural stone. According to Cantor, stone has to be sealed every year, which makes it problematic for busy families. “If you’re using limestone or travertine, which are usually lighter materials, and you stain it by spilling wine, tomato sauce, orange juice, mustard or vinegar, you have to be careful to clean it quickly,” she notes.

“If you leave it on even for an hour or two, you will have a stain. Sometimes you can get that stain out yourself, but if it’s really bad you may need to have a professional come in. It can be removed, but stone takes more care.”

Danter also cites maintenance as the chief disadvantage of natural stone. Some kinds of stone require sealing every six months, others every year, he says, although he admits some of his clients have gotten by with sealing every year and a half. There are natural stone products that don’t necessarily have to be sealed, he adds, but most stone manufacturers suggest putting down a sealer, which will repel the majority of stains.

For his part, Pryor says sealers are necessary on marble, granite, slate and limestone. “Once you start, that’s a lifetime process,” he adds.

“Sealers will wear according to traffic patterns, and then they have to be stripped and reapplied. There are penetrating sealers that are better than top finish sealers because they are permanent, and never need to be reapplied again.”

Another downside of natural stone applies particularly to slate. While a beautiful flooring material, it can be uncomfortable to walk on barefooted, Cantor says. It’s sold in both ledgered and non-ledgered versions, and the former has levels, which can make it feel as though you are walking outside on rock if you trod it in bare feet, she remarks.

The lack of uniformity offered by natural stone is also a downside, according to Pryor. Many of his uninitiated customers expect stone to be uniform in color and consistency, and quickly find it simply is not. Customers of Conestoga Tile can return stone within a week for a refund, but they must return the entire order.

“That’s because people tend to pick out the best stone and return the rest of the order, which leaves companies with discarded stone,” he says.

For that reason, he recommends stone be “laid out dry” before it’s installed so customers can get a sense of how it will look when set. That helps avoid the problem of customers disapproving of the way veining or shade variation has been placed.

“With stone, you get what you get,” he notes. “There’s a lot of variation, and it has a lot of imperfections and blemishes, but that’s also the inherent beauty of it.”

One final negative is that the cost of stone, when one factors in life cycle maintenance, is substantially higher than ceramic or porcelain tile, experts say.

“A nice, high-quality stone will run you close to two to three times what a nice quality porcelain will run you,” Scott says. “Then you have your installation, which will be more expensive. A good installer should lay it out first, to make sure the stone looks good together and that each piece is totally unique.”

Pryor echoes the sentiment about cost, and provides numbers to back up his analysis. Ceramic tile can cost as little as 32 cents per square foot per year in life cycle costs, which includes owning, maintaining and disposing of the product. By comparison, marble can cost up to 61 cents per square foot per year, he reports.

Citing a study by Scharf & Godfrey, Pryor says the approximate installed costs of ceramic tile and porcelain tile are $6.83 and $8.30 a square foot. Compare that with marble, which as a category installs at $21 a square foot. The least expensive marble, a Turkish travertine, comes in at $12.50 a square foot, he reports.

What’s Best for Commercial and Residential Applications?

Ask experts if tile or stone is best suited to residential or commercial applications, and you may find yourself receiving widely varied answers. Danter believes natural stone’s high cost and upkeep makes it better suited for residential than commercial environments. “Natural stone would almost be prohibitive to use in a commercial setting,” he says. “It’s the upkeep and maintenance. And unless you’re doing a real high-end boutique or clothing store, natural stone is kind of cost prohibitive.”

Pryor says granite countertops make up most of the natural stone in residences. “Commercially, you see a lot of stone being used in floor and wall systems, particularly in high-end hotels, where they like the look of natural stone,” he says. “You’re starting to see the ceramic tile companies come out with products that assimilate that look. Down the road, the ceramic tile manufacturers will be able to give them that look, but at less cost and better performance, because it doesn’t stain and scratch.”

Sources:

Ellen Cantor, president
Ellen Cantor Interior Design, Torrance , CA
310-375-1782

Rick Danter, certified kitchen designer, senior designer
McNulty Design Group, Glencoe , IL
847-835-0868

Guideo Gliori, executive vice-president
Grazzini Brothers, Eagen , MN
952-292-7565

Lisa McVey, president/CEO
Surface Concepts, Laguna Hills , CA
949-348-1088

Howard Pryor, director of architectural services
Conestoga Tile, Harrisburg , PA
717-564-6860 ext. 4252

Richard Scott, president
Status Custom Ceramics, Seattle
206-282-0181


One – on – One…With Stephen Powers
 
May 1st, 2006

 

By Jeffrey Steele

May-June 2006

“It’s not having more dealers every year, but finding ways to better serve them.”

Artisan tile manufacturer Trikeenan Tileworks has generated some major national buzz over the past few months. First, the 15-year-old New Hampshire company’s booth captured the “Best in Show” award at the May 2005 Coverings exposition, besting some 1,200 other exhibitors. Soon, Trikeenan’s owners began appearing on the nation’s TV screens, on shows like This Old House, Bob Vila’s Home Again and others set to air in 2006.

Recently, Stephen Powers, who with wife Kristin founded and owns the company, sat down with TileDealer for an in-depth interview. In the enlightening One-on-One that follows, Powers recalls the early days and rapid growth of Trikeenan, discusses the company’s working relationship with tile dealers, and expounds on the design trends likely to emerge in coming years.

TileDealer: Tell me about Trikeenan’s genesis and evolution.

Powers: My wife and I are both graduates of the Rhode Island School of Design. Kristin’s degree was in ceramics; mine was in printmaking. We met after we’d graduated, and we were both working at a restaurant. Kristin had convinced the owner that at the same price as cheap tile, she would make hand-made artisan tile for the bathroom of the restaurant. I was intrigued with the whole process, so I just volunteered to help her out. It was just a very cool process. We had no tools, no studio. It was just an adventure in tile. We had a moped, and we transported dry tile across town to a friend’s kiln, fired it and transported it back to the apartment on a moped.

At that point, we decided this is something we both wanted to do. We became a couple, started making tile and eventually married. We began making tile in the basement of our house, really rudimentary, pounding it out on small frames—just learning about the craft of making tile.

Fifteen years ago, there were very few people making art tile. We started taking it around to people selling tile, first to Boston. It was an interesting time, because it was so new. We got a little bit of encouragement. We did Coverings, which at that time was called the International Tile and Stone Exposition, out in Anaheim, California. That was really when we jumped off the cliff. At that time—1992—there were maybe two or three other art tile studios exhibiting at the show.

We grew pretty steadily. In the early years, we tried to hold down the growth. We tried to keep it somewhat manageable, and as a studio environment. We had a young family, and had to keep a manageable life. We averaged between 50 to 75 percent growth a year, but on a small base. It’s been evolutionary. We moved from a studio to an old mill building in 1997. Within three years, we’d grown out of that, and into our current location, a bigger mill building.

Today, we sell coast to coast, with some accounts in Canada. We have about 130 dealers nationally. In the last five years, we’ve averaged 15 to 18 percent growth per year. We have about 35 employees across the company, and by and large, we train them ourselves.

TileDealer: Trikeenan has had some significant national exposure lately. How do you go about getting that kind of publicity?

Powers: We were on some HGTV shows, and on This Old House on PBS. And we’ll be on Bob Vila’s Home Again show. I think there are a number of factors. I think we make great tile. It’s different, unusual and special, and people respond to that. We certainly make a concerted effort to obtain exposure. We value that; it’s a great way to get your message out.

It’s not always easy to quantify dollar sales after a show airs. We do analyze our Web site, www.trikeenan.com, and have tools to basically decipher where people are coming from, or where they’ve seen us. We can tell if someone has come from the This Old House Web site to our site, for example. We do get jobs from local people who come right to our showroom.

But we also see increased traffic from our dealers. We take the hits to our Web site after the show airs, and funnel them to our dealers.

TileDealer: Trikeenan was awarded “Best in Show” at Coverings last year. What enabled your company to capture that award?

Powers: In total, there are about 1,200 exhibitors at Coverings. So we were incredibly honored to be recognized. We really felt the booth we had at the show reflects our product. I designed the booth, fabricated it and built it myself. We don’t farm it out to a trade show booth firm.

Our booth has got to reflect our tile, and our philosophy toward our clients. So we felt it was an honor for our booth to be recognized, because we’re competing with some of the finest companies in the world, many of them much larger companies. Your booth has to not get lost in the crowd, on the floor of the show. That was our main goal: to get people’s attention. And we felt it really did that well.

You see more art tile companies every year, and you see many of them at Coverings. The Tile Council of America does a great job of encouraging people to participate in the show.

TileDealer: How can dealers leverage the publicity a manufacturer receives, or create their own?

Powers: One thing we definitely do is keep our dealers informed about the coverage we receive, so they can be aware of it if a customer asks. We also send high-resolution imagery out to our dealers in digital form, so they can have a wide repertoire of installation shots, enabling them to expand on their own customers’ visions of what they want.

As the publicity starts to snowball, we’re making significant changes to our Web site, as it pertains to our dealers. We’ll be adding additional tools for them, to enable them to capitalize on the publicity we’re receiving. We do see dealers starting to use our product in promoting their showrooms. As the exposure grows, [dealers] want their clientele to know this is where you can source the product. So as we get more publicity, we’re having more dealers use our product in their own advertising. Generally that’s an independent activity. Often, we’ll have dealers ask us for images or photography we can supply, and we certainly are happy to cooperate. It’s not having more dealers every year, but finding ways to better serve them. That’s our mantra.

TileDealer: Trikeenan seems to have captured some interesting and timely design trends. What are some of those trends, and why do customers respond to your tile?

Powers: When we started out, we did a lot of sculptural relief tile, and hand-painted tile. That served us well in the early years. But what we found is there is so much [of that] out there, clients wanted to see more interesting patterns, sizes, colors and textures. So now we’re doing more dimensional brick sizes and a whole line of mounted mosaics, which is really where the growth has been in our company. In terms of how we see these trends, I go around to showrooms, see what people are responding to, talk to dealers and read the trade publications.

Having our own showroom is an added benefit, because we’ll often do tile for people as a special request, and then that style will be rolled into our line. Ultimately it comes down to our aesthetic judgment. Does this fit with what the Trikeenan look is? You can have your ear to the ground, and respond or react to trends. But in the end, some of the things we offer that sell the best would not be on the list of this year’s hot color. They buck the trend.

TileDealer: What is your process for staying on top of design trends?

Powers: We look around a lot. We look across industries. We’re looking at industries like the furniture industry. And we don’t just look at America. My wife grew up in Europe, so we have a certain connection to a European aesthetic. But we always try to translate that into our product looking like it’s coming from an American perspective. And that’s tricky, because people don’t always view tile in America as having a rich tradition and history. But there’s quite a lot there. There’s actually a lot of depth in American tile history. And we try to blend the best part, or what we like in the American tile lexicon, and bring a more modern sensibility to it.

TileDealer: What other ways do you work with and support your dealers?

Powers: Training our dealers is big. One of the most effective things we do is hold seminars in our factory and showroom. We invite dealers to come and spend the weekend making tile in our factory. We take them all the way through the whole process. It results in a really complete depth of knowledge in the possibilities of Trikeenan.

We also get to personally connect with the salesmen, and that’s really valuable. They come from all over the country. At our last seminar, we had people from New Orleans, San Francisco and New York. They love Keene. We host them all weekend long. We take them to dinner and have a reception for them. Then we have two full days of tilemaking and tile selling activities.

TileDealer: Where do you see tile trends going in the next year? And the next five?

Powers: Most tile companies will look at this high-end market as the place where the growth is headed. So obviously, we’re trying to be smart about that, too, and position our company where we can take greatest advantage of that growth. I think that is longer term.

TileDealer: What’s next for Trikeenan?

Powers: We’re really working on a program to make our products more accessible to greater numbers of people. It’s a function of looking at a new price structure for our products, and increased volume to keep up with the growth.


Sales & Management: How Tile Fits With Green Building Being knowledgeable about Green Building can give you a competitive edge
 
May 1st, 2006

By Janet Arden, Editor

May-June 2006

Recently the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) announced that 2006-2007 is the time frame in which green building—which encourages environmentally responsible and sensitive construction materials and techniques—will involve more builders (and presumably consumers) than not.

This is a big step for a movement that’s only about a decade old.

A bit of background

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), founded in 1993, is an industry-led and consensus-driven nonprofit coalition for advancing buildings that are environmentally responsible, profitable and healthy places to live and work. The USGBC has developed the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) rating system that awards points—based on a fairly complicated scale—for using environmentally responsible products and practices. This can range from managing construction waste to optimizing solar energy.

From a regulatory point of view, codes, ordinances and regulations are increasingly favoring green building qualities. A number of governmental bodies have begun to require green construction in their buildings or in buildings in which they have a vested interest. The LEED program has been adopted by various governmental bodies at all levels.

But green building is also driven by culture. The environmental movement is increasingly mainstream. As NAHB discovered in its survey, builders are increasingly green because “they believe it’s the right thing to do.”

NAHB has published its own Model Green Home Building Guidelines designed to move environmentally-friendly home building concepts further into the mainstream. The guidelines, used right now by about 30 communities across the country, help facilitate the adoption of green home building practices and the formation of additional local programs in the parts of the country not currently served by these programs.

The guidelines contain sections covering such topics as site preparation, resource efficiency, energy efficiency, water conservation, and indoor air quality. This last category is particularly important to the tile industry, since the NAHB guidelines call for the installation of moisture resistant backerboard, not paper-faced sheathing, under tiled surfaces in wet areas. The intent of the recommendation is “to reduce the risk of problems if water penetrates tile surfaces in kitchens and baths.” The recommendations go on to say, “A cement-based backerboard does not contain organic paper that can deteriorate, swell (potentially causing cracking in the grout), and be a substrate for mold growth when wet. Cement backerboard is resistant to the deleterious effects of moisture.”

Earlier this year, the Responsible Solutions to Mold Coalition (RSMC) (see March/April TileDealer) was established within the tile industry to ensure the communication of more accurate information about mold avoidance and control.

Obviously, moisture control is only one of the issues related to green building. Others include—but are not limited to—recycled products and products manufactured close to the building site to cut the costs of transportation in both dollars and energy,

What does this mean for consumers & tile dealers?

Green building has become increasingly important in construction and remodeling, first, of course, because residential and commercial consumers are asking for it. They want to save energy and water and enjoy improved air quality. Typically these factors add up to long-term operational savings as well. This is always advantageous, but even more important in these days of volatile energy costs.

According to the USGBC, LEED certified buildings have lower operating costs, higher lease rates and happier and healthier occupants than conventionally built structures.

If you’re selling and/or installing floors, backsplashes or bathrooms for these builders, it’s time to do the research and get more knowledgeable about green building issues. Consumers are increasingly well-versed in green building as well—or at least they want to be—making your knowledge about green building issues an important factor in distinguishing yourself from the competition.

Knowledge will not only help you answer questions, it may help you outflank competitors who are not well-versed in green building.

USGBC

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is the nation’s leading nonprofit coalition for advancing buildings that are environmentally responsible, profitable and healthy places to live and work. Major programs supporting its mission include the Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Green Building Rating Systems™ for New Construction, Existing Buildings, Commercial Interiors and Homes; LEED Workshops; LEED Professional Accreditation; the Greenbuild International Conference & Expo; and a robust local chapter program.

Today, USGBC includes nearly 6,000 member companies and organizations—representing more than 1000% growth in the past four years alone. During that same period, more than 458 million square feet of building space has been registered or certified under LEED, and the annual US market in green building products and services has grown to $7 billion.

The Council is as diverse as the marketplace, including building owners and end-users, real estate developers, facility managers, architects, designers, engineers, general contractors, subcontractors, product and building system manufacturers, government agencies, and nonprofits. Leaders from within each of these sectors participate in the development of the LEED Rating Systems and the direction of the Council through volunteer service on USGBC’s open committees.


COVERINGS 2006: Significant Trends from the Expo Floor
 
May 1st, 2006

May-June 2006

Form followed fashion at Coverings 2006, where the hottest looks on the expo floor came straight from the popular consciousness and current styles. Some tiles were textured to look like animal skins while others incorporated their own bit of bling. Products included precious metals and rare stones, sleek minimalism and ornamentation to the max, fresh candy colors and graphic black and white, photorealistic prints and traditional damask designs, earthy natural influences, and tons of texture, pattern, and dimension—in scales from small to large. Vertical surfaces were everywhere, too, as tile manufacturers introduced all sorts of fabulously inventive and decorative options to pave the wall.

Donato Grosser, a longtime consultant to the ceramic tile industry who presented one of the 70 free seminar sessions during the four-day international trade show, predicts that the future of the ceramic tile market in the U.S. is increasingly at the high end and strongly becoming a fashion business. Customization and the luxury looks that end-users demand are becoming a greater reality thanks to technological innovations, such as the water-laser jet cut.

Ceramic tiles are putting on a stone face, these days, mimicking everything from granite, marble, and basalt to flagstone, schist, and shale. Many of them are textured, such as an elegantly routed version from Tau. Porcelanosa, in its L’Antic Colonial Collection, has stone mosaics, large, shale-like pavers with textured surfaces, and even mini bricks, called Brick Butan, which can be used to construct a vertical surface that resembles traditional Pennsylvania fieldstone.

A reverence for wood was everywhere, with ceramic styles so realistically resembling wood grains and species, from bamboo to mahogany, cherry, maple, and teak that showgoers were doing double-takes. But, with the advantages of ceramic vs. wood so compelling—resistance to moisture, bug infestations and wear, and requiring minimal upkeep—the ceramic editions were winning fans easily. Among the most impressive exhibitors of this genre were Caesar, whose Feel collection was shown in a variety of shapes from square tiles to planks and trims, in colors that range from the palest neutrals through such saturated shades as jade, ocean, and moonlight, with the option of insets glass strips that add both design interest and a little luminosity to the surface underfoot. Exelle was offering Yacu, a wood-like tile with a Japanese feel, which it is showing with Decoro Flower, a decorative tile with a floral pattern influenced by both William Morris and Japanese textile design.

Don’t forget the bling

Metallic surfaces were popular; shiny titanium, chromed or brushed stainless steel, and gold teased the eye, as did the patinated bronzes and corten steels that have taken the market by storm. Furthermore, insets were everywhere—from colored glass “jewels” set randomly or in patterns to metal-finished mini-moments for visual interest. Deltaker’s Plasma Series and Special Pieces, for example, were sporting iridescent metallic finishes, in brilliant saturated colors such as magenta and cobalt. Geleite Building Material Co., Ltd., a relative newcomer from China, was offering a range of stainless steel finished tiles and mosaic patterns from traditional interlocking lozenges and herringbones to circles. Iris also was showcasing a metallic surface that dazzled with its semblance to steel.

A continued infatuation with mid-century modern design along with the ‘70s retro revival also had an impact, effecting color palettes, textures, and surface patterns. Viva’s Central Station collection included the Simple Emotion series of inserts, with sophisticated nostalgic patterns that range from poppies to branches to sunbursts—in the flame reds, teals, and avocados of an earlier era. Royal Mosa, from The Netherlands, reissued its Kho Liang le Collection, a ‘60s classic of gloss white tiles with a relief of circles, arcs, diagonals and triangles that combine to create unusual effects. Tau was introducing Tissue Dec Pop, a delightfully pop-art-inspired pattern for vertical surfaces in a range of cheery colors. Vitra, the Turkish firm, offered the Koz Series, designer Defne Koz’s inspired abstractions of Iznik patterns from the Ottoman Empire and cypress motifs, styled for contemporary bathrooms. They are quartz-glazed for added durability and light reflectivity.

Wallpaper and Textile Lookalikes…

Another clear-cut Coverings trend were tiles imitating wallpaper and textiles, from flocking to damask to grasscloth and linen. Venis offered Venezia, a traditional Venetian damask that contrasts matte and gloss finishes. Exelle’s Decoro wave is another vertical design with a mid-century modern feel. Tiles also showed some skin, from leather and reptile-inspired surfaces to ostrich and leopard. One of the finest was Cerim’s Croco, a bold, gutsy pattern finished in rich, elegant glazes. Florim Cermiche’s Ma Touche Collection also wowed attendees with four faux textures suggestive of leather, elephant and crocodile.

Candy Colors from Viva’s Bloom, a circular mosaic for vertical application to Vitra’s Penny Round Mosaic made a comeback, yet black and white, was as strong as ever. Etruria Design presented Optical Haring, a collection of beveled black and white tiles (some black with white incisions, some white with black outlines) based on the pop art and graffiti movements launched by the late Keith Haring. Natucer offered Techno, a dimensional tile with an abstracted rose pattern that scales the wall in matte black, gloss white, and a handful of other colors.

The arts and crafts movement also was palpable, especially in glass mosaics and tiles. Oceanside Glass Tile presented Facets, a mini-mosaic field tile in three sizes and a cornucopia of colors, and Elevations, a larger-format field tile and geometrically patterned liners. Motawi Tileworks continued to execute its superb reinterpretations of traditional arts and crafts motifs.

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