Leadership Letter: Taking Off
 
July 1st, 2006

July-August 2006

As we go to press with this issue, a number of us will be on our way to Turkey, accepting the generous offer of the Turkish Ceramic Federation to visit their country and get to know them and their products better. This is my sixth trip to Turkey and I have enjoyed both the country, the business and the relationships I have developed over the years. Being able to partner thru CTDA should be a great advantage for those distributors who are participating in the trade mission along with us. This type of trip and contacts that will be made would have taken years to develop.

It’s a wonderful opportunity, personally and professionally, and it reminds all of us that tile is an international product in an increasingly international marketplace. Despite the advent of the Internet, email and wireless communications, the personal touch—meeting face to face—remains the hallmark of successful business ventures. It works locally, nationally and internationally.

For almost 30 years, CTDA has been facilitating these important face-to-face meetings, at industry trade shows, at association events, and elsewhere, whenever members and associates meet and even do business. Certainly one of the greatest benefits of CTDA membership is the opportunity it affords all of us to enjoy easier access to our industry counterparts here and abroad.

Perhaps another of the great benefits of association membership is the way in which it forces us to look ahead, consider the future and envision new opportunities and markets. It’s very easy—especially given the frantic pace of most of our professional and personal lives—to put our head down and our shoulder to the wheel and just keep working.

But, it seems, we would miss a great deal that way and—when markets change as they inevitably do—we’d miss that as well.

One of CTDA’s functions is to identify future changes in business and bring to its members not only the educational programs about those changes, but also options and opportunities to stay ahead of them. They are happening so fast that a true collective effort is required to keep up.

One way we try to meet these challenges is with TileDealer.

The topic of mold—like the ubiquitous invader it is—seems to be everywhere. This month our One-on-One talks to Paul Schipp, Senior Research Associate at USG and chairman and one of the driving forces behind the Responsible Solutions to Mold Coalition (RSMC). He’s not here to sell us product; the purpose of this group is to become the voice of reason and expertise—a clearing house for information—in the midst of the clatter from all quarters about the dangers of mold.

I hope this issue of TileDealer offers you some inspiration and opportunities to meet the challenges ahead. That’s why we’re here!

Mark Carlson

CTDA President


From the Editor’s Desk: Why Standing Still Won’t Work
 
July 1st, 2006

by Janet Arden, Editor

July-August 2006

When my now-empty nest was populated by two young children, standing still—for them at least—was an impossibility. They wiggled and squirmed, dribbled balls, climbed any conceivable obstacle, ran instead of walked—you get the picture. At some point, a remarkably gifted teacher pointed out to me that unless children have access to physical activity early, they won’t develop the muscle to allow them to sit in a chair in a classroom later.

I think of this as the “standing still theory,” and I believe it goes well beyond first or second grade. In fact, it needs to become a permanent part of our lives.

If we just stand still we aren’t going to learn what we need to know to move on. We’ll be stuck, out-flanked by the students who have developed the muscle to keep moving.

Remember when so many of us resisted first computers and then the Internet? Where would we—and our businesses—be without them now? It’s a good thing we didn’t stand still then or since. Technology has too much to offer.

Developing that “muscle” is a challenge. It takes time and energy. (How many of us have not been so frustrated by computers at some point that we’ve threatened to throw our machine out the window? Enough said.)

So it is with TileDealer

We’ve recently debuted a new and improved website, www.tiledealer.org, to streamline your access to advertisers and feature archives. It’s point-and-click easy the way the web is supposed to be. If there’s an advertiser you’re curious about, you can link right to their website. If there’s a story you want to check from a few issues back, you can do that too.

Even more important, www.tiledealer.org now offers web exclusives—features not found in our print version, as well as previews of what’s coming in the issues ahead. It turns out that sometimes there’s just more industry information to share than we can fit between the covers of any given issue. (But that’s as big a hint as I’m going to offer—you’ll have to go to www.tiledealer.org to see exclusives for yourself!)

We hope you’ll visit www.tiledealer.org soon and often

In case you haven’t gotten the point yet, standing still is also not a good idea for your business. For example, I encourage you to read this issue’s feature on the latest in kitchen and bath trends. This is the stuff of magazine ads and newspaper features; it’s what the manufacturers are offering and what designers are using. Your customers are going to ask about these looks and products. Are you ready or have you been standing still?

On another front, undertile heating and cleaning and maintenance products have not been standing still either. Technology and smart marketing have introduced new features and selling propositions that make them an even more attractive option for your business. In addition, your customers are getting smarter about these products. They’re asking for them. Read up on the options here and then see how they fit into your marketing plans.

The bottom line for TileDealer and www.tiledealer.org is that our goal is to help you build the right kind of muscle to keep your business growing!

Good luck!

Janet Arden


Innovations
 
July 1st, 2006

May-June 2006

Cancos Tile & Stone

Cancos is proud to introduce its new Lava Stone Tile Collection. These elegant glazed tiles offer both visual texture and exceptional depth to reveal a wonderfully distinctive beauty. Available in 11 rich colors for immediate delivery, with 10 additional colors available by special order, Lava Stone Tiles are appropriate for both residential and commercial installations. Cancos has also introduced the DaVinci Glass Collection. A unique blend of back painted colors and exquisitely detailed accents carried randomly throughout, make this series appropriate for both commercial and residential applications. With one of the largest warehousing capabilities in the country, Cancos provides the A&D community with direct access to the finest products at the most competitive prices. www.cancos.com/glass

Bostik adds 15 new colors to DURABOND® grout line

The Bostik Flooring Group has expanded its proven DURABOND® grout line 33 percent, from 30 colors to 40. Bostik Flooring added 15 hot new shades, and removed five outdated colors, based on color trends identified by its color consultancy partner, the Color Marketing Group of Alexandria, Va., as well as from feedback from customer focus groups comprised of tile manufacturers and installers. “We have a complete, modern, expanded DURABOND grout line, with great supporting sales tools including a new color kit, display box and color cards,” said Phil Pitts, Product Manager, Bostik Flooring Group–Ceramic Products. “DURABOND grout is a proven player that just added 15 more tools to contractors’ arsenal of customer-pleasing flooring solutions.” New colors include Acorn, Adobe, Beeswax, Birch, Buckskin, Carnation, Cheyenne, Cobblestone, Forest Hills, Gingko, Raisin, Rosa Roja, Soapstone, Sundance and Sycamore. The expansion of the DURABOND grout line is in keeping with Bostik’s tradition of providing cutting-edge flooring products. “It’s our job to stay on top of the latest color trends as they affect grout sales in the context of related construction and design trends,” said Robert McNamara, Bostik Flooring Group’s National Sales and Marketing Manager. “We want our distributors and retailers to have all the options necessary to serve their end users— architectural firms, design centers, developers, construction companies, contractors and consumers. The 15 colors we’ve added will allow them to do just that.” www.bostik-us.com.

Firenze Tecnoarte from Lamosa

Lamosa introduced Firenze, Tecnoarte, a new porcelain tile luxury line collection combining European techniques inspired in nature and art. Lamosa’s Firenze, Tecnoarte proudly makes universal surfaces in porcelain gres with the most technologically advanced and best–equipped Mexican plant. This collection offers high quality products ideal for both residential and commercial use and can be used either in interior and exterior applications. Certified large format (24″ x 24″) porcelain tiles providing absorption and chemical resistance, overwhelming finishes and an extensive variety of colors and textures. Firenze, Tecnoarte includes 9 porcelain lines with functional, comfortable, decorative and artistic products inspired in the beauty of nature. Among the introductions, Soho has a consistent color that penetrates the entire body of the tile. It can be installed with a minimum of grout because it has been cut and rectified. The colors are Sand, Notte, Dream and Caffé. Sizes available are 24 x 24″, 12 x 24″, 6 x 24″, 12 x 12″and 18 x 18″. Canova is an elegant classic, blending the beauty of the finest Italian marble with the value of a porcelain ceramic material that uses high technology to repeat the random open tones and veins in each piece. The colors are Camelia, Antorium and Orquidea. Sizes available are 24 x 24″, 18 x 18″ and 6 x 6″. Additional introductions include Leuca, Modus, Pietra del Casale, Dolomia, Savage, and Pietra del Sole. www.lamosa.com

UNITED STATES CERAMIC TILE INTRODUCES HOME PROGRAM

The United States Ceramic Tile Company has introduced the USCT Home Program, a new product series geared toward the new home construction market. The program is divided into four price-point levels—Classic, Advantage, Prestige and Elite. Within the USCT Home program are six new series— Palermo, Stratford, Duomo, Tuscany, Avalon and Tiburon. Palermo is a 6×6, 12¼x12¼ and 17½x17½ glazed porcelain tile. It comes in four colors—Oyster, Forest, Rouge and Coffee. A complete trim offing is available. A 12¼x12¼ decorative insert, 6×12¼ border and 6×6 corner available in all four colors complete the package. Stratford is a 12×12 and 17½x17½ glazed porcelain tile. It comes in four colors—Beige, Bamboo, Copper and Graphite. Trim includes a 3¼x12 bullnose. A 3×6 tumbled marble decorative tile is available in all four colors. These decorative tiles offer a unique rustic feel in a tumbled-stone look. A 17½x17½ mosaic, 4½ x17½ mosaic border and 4½x4½ corner are included in this series. Duomo is a 63/8×63/8, 13×13 and 17½x17½ glazed porcelain tile. Tuscany is a 13×13 and 17½x17½ glazed porcelain tile with a coordinating 10×13 wall tile. Avalon is a 12×12 and 16×16 ceramic floor tile. Tiburon is a 12×12 and 16×16 ceramic floor tile with a coordinating 8×12 wall tile. The Bright Glaze offering is expanded to include 13×13 ceramic floor tile in White Ice and Biscuit. A 3¼x13 floor bullnose is available. Each introduction includes a variety of trims. www.usctco.com

Target Announces the New G2 Tile Saws

Target recently announced the next generation of their Tilematic and Super Tilematic tile saws. The new G2 saws feature several new components sure to make tile cutting easier for any operator. The G2 models’ cutting capacity is the most noticeable enhancement. The Tilematic G2 will cut 16″ diagonally, up from 12″ previously, while the Super Tilematic G2 will cut 22″ diagonally, up from 18″ previously. The Tilematic G2 will now rip cut a 24″ tile and the Super Tilematic G2 will rip cut a 31″ tile. Both are the largest cutting capacities in their respective class. The new, galvanized pan will resist rust while the new bladeshaft lock will make blade removal easier. The conveyor cart is 50% larger to better support bigger tile and comes with a standard extension in the Super Tilematic G2 version. Both saws have the unique ability to make spring-assisted plunge cuts and feature cam adjustment to aid in belt tensioning. The 1-1/2 horsepower Baldor continuous-duty motor is totally enclosed, fan cooled and designed exclusively for Target. It is available as a single voltage in the Tilematic G2 or as a single or dual voltage in the Super Tilematic G2. Able to run on most 115V outlets, the motors are UL and CSA approved and backed by the manufacturer’s limited, one-year warranty. Some features remain unchanged: premium, six-groove poly V-belts that are totally enclosed by the guard for operator safety and protection of components. www.targetblue.com

TEC® Brand Introduces AccuColor XTTM Next Generation Grout

AccuColor XTTM grout offers resistance to grout stains, cracking and mold and mildew, in an easy to-use, cement-based formula.“This breakthrough in technology leverages the heritage of the AccuColor® brand in delivering color accurate and consistent grout joints and adds exciting new performance features,” says Rachel Gibbons, TEC brand manager. “The unique combination of features in AccuColor XT grout delivers an exceptionally durable, yet easy to apply, grout that complements the beauty of tile and stone for years to come.” Unique stain-blocking technology gives AccuColor XT grout built-in resistance to most common household stains. These spills can’t penetrate into the grout, allowing them to be removed from the surface. Because the stain inhibitors are built right into the grout, the stain resistance never wears away. AccuColor XT grout’s stain inhibitors also reduce dirt pick-up, making it easier to maintain. The unique microstructure gives AccuColor XT grout extreme durability. It is formulated for superior wear resistance and warranted against grout cracking when used as part of a TEC brand 1/8-inch crack isolation system. AccuColor XT grout exceeds ANSI A118.7 performance specifications and carries an Extra Heavy Commercial Foot Traffic Rating under ASTM C627. Special antimicrobial additives in AccuColor XT grout protect it from mold and mildew growth, which helps simplify maintenance particularly in wet areas. The mold inhibitors are tested under ASTM D5590—a stringent test for mold growth resistance. Leveraging the heritage of the AccuColor grout brand, AccuColor XT grout is also manufactured under strict color standards and the grout’s curing process is chemically controlled to help ensure accurate, consistent color across the entire installation. Ideal for all types of ceramic and natural stone tile installations, AccuColor XT may be used in both wet and dry applications, including floors, walls, countertops, pools and fountains. AccuColor XT is available sanded in 25 lb. bags and unsanded in 8.3 lb. containers. www.tecspecialty.com

New Tile Hole Saw

Q.E.P.’s new Tile Hole Saw (#10043) features a unique bonded tungsten carbide “gulleted” cutting edge, resulting in much faster cuts, less dust, less chance of chipping and a longer life. Ideal for faucet and showerhead installations, this 13/8″ pro tile hole saw is also efficient in cutting holes in cement board, dry wall, brick, fiberglass and wood. When the Q.E.P. gulleted Tile Hole Saw was tested, it consistently out-performed and out-lasted traditional toothed alternatives. The cuts executed in ceramic tile were 50% to 80% faster, when compared to conventional hole saws. It also has a very low wear rate. This is due to the thinness of the kerf and the way the gullets move cut material away from the edge. The new technology, coupled with the value driven price point, should make the new Q.E.P. Tile Hole Saw a must have for tile installation contractors. www.qep.com.

Activant® Releases B2B Seller version 5.0

Activant® announced availability of B2B Seller version 5.0, the latest version of the fully integrated, Web-based storefront solution for distributors, which includes new features based on customer requests such as enhanced search capabilities, a redesigned customer purchase reporting and analysis module, support for alternate units of measure, and many more. “B2B Seller version 5.0 is full of enhancements that give distributors more control over how their customers interface with their Web-based storefronts, allowing for a simpler and more efficient shopping experience,” says Steve McLaughlin, senior vice president and general manager of the wholesale distribution group at Activant. “Each new feature in B2B Seller 5.0 is developed to help distributors increase market share and cut costs—without sacrificing service.” Features in B2B Seller 5.0 include: Multiple Strings in One Search, allowing customers to perform searches using the same logic methods found in many popular Internet search engines; Customer Purchase Reporting and Analysis in My Account; Search Field Selection Control simplifies the process of administering the search environment by offering a user-friendly, graphical interface that allows your site administrator to assign separate search fields to the Keyword Search, Product Search, and Advanced Search headings; and Alternate Units of Measure for ordering in multiple units of measure for any item that has been set up that way in your enterprise software solution. Customers can now buy in bulk without having to manually convert from one unit of measure to another. www.activant.com.

Questech® Launches Q-Seal™ Technology

Questech Corporation announced the introduction of Q-Seal™, a revolutionary new sealer technology that permanently protects tiles made from natural materials from the effects of water, stains and abrasion. The factory-applied lifetime sealer gives contractors and homeowners a maintenance-free solution to preserving the quality and beauty of Questech tiles. This innovation will be available on all Questech Cast Metal and Cast Stone products, as well as its new Tumbled Marble field tiles. Questech’s President and CEO Barry Culkin explained that the Q-Seal formulation for Questech’s Tumbled Marble is a revolutionary breakthrough. “Unlike ordinary stone sealers which must be reapplied periodically over the life of the tile,” said Culkin,” Q-Seal is factory applied and the tile never has to be resealed again.” Culkin also said that Q-Seal technology is an improvement over the company’s existing protective sealer for its Cast Metal and Cast Stone products because of the addition of Ultra-Fresh® anti-microbial protection, which inhibits the growth of odor and stain-causing mold. The Vermont-based manufacturer conducted independent tests showing that Q-Seal performs better than conventional sealers in protecting tile from water and stains. Culkin added that “Q-Seal has a trio of benefits other sealers just don’t have—abrasion resistance, protection from household cleaners, and built-in anti-bacterial protection.” Questech backs up the Q-Seal technology with a lifetime guarantee. www.questech.com

REVOLUTION XT from Gemini Saw

The evolution of the Revolution continues. The tile saw that gives you the ability to cut inside and outside radius curves as well as straight lines has been redesigned from the ground up so that it can do more for you. The New Revolution XT will cut endless lengths of tile and stone including granite up to 6 cm thick. The cutting mechanism is set so that when endless cuts are made they will be absolutely straight every time even when pushed through by hand. The new design makes it possible to do plunge cuts when needed in the middle of a tile. A new heavy duty motor is twice as powerful as in previous models. It has many times the torque than is found in most other tile saws. The water bath is a separate self contained detachable unit that can be easily removed for cleaning or filling. The unique design of the Revolution XT does not require a water pump. The new XT can be used inside on any job site because it is the quietest and cleanest operating saw ever made. Lightweight and portable, the heavy duty, powerful, high torque Revolution XT is easily set up and carried by one person. The new Revolution XT comes with a single sided blade for standard cuts or an optional double sided blade for extreme curves and backwards cutting. The right saw for cutting around medallions, pipes, pillars, drains, bathroom fixtures, stair edges and for all design work. The Revolution XT is affordable with state of the art technology. www.geminisaw.com


Trends in Bathroom and Kitchen Tile
 
July 1st, 2006

By Jeffrey Steele

July-August 2006

You don’t have to look far to see the latest kitchen and bath tile trends. The materials are familiar: stone, glass, and wood. The design directions are equally clear: upscale, outdoors (for kitchens) and spa-like (for baths). TileDealer turned to leading interior designers and manufacturers to learn how they envision tile and stone in kitchen and bathroom designs.

Start with the products

Two of the biggest trends are stone and glass. Glass is everywhere. It can be matte or shiny, colorful or neutral, in large formats and small. A glass shower or counter top is a knockout. Used along or in combination with other materials, glass tiles can lighten a design because of their transparent or translucent finish. This quality broadens the design options since you can play with the grout color behind the tiles to give them a different or more enhanced hue.

Spanish tile manufacturer, Onix Ceramica specializes in recycled glass mosaic tiles perfect for adding a personal touch to your kitchen or bath. Stylish colors and endless combinations are available for building custom mosaics or the Roseton Collection features mosaics on mesh ready to install.

For homeowners considering stone but hesitant because of the maintenance issues, tile offers an ideal solution. Marble and polished granite can scratch and may stain, but glazed tile with a PEI 4/Grade 4 rating or higher can resist such damage. Tile can also offer a lighter weight solution when load bearing is an issue. In some cases, tile may be a less expense alternative and with the advances in screening and glazing, many tiles are hard to distinguish from the natural material. Stone-look ceramic choices are available in a broad range of size, prices, and even programs that combine a variety of sizes and trim pieces.

Another trend is the use of tile that mimics such materials as leather and cement. Jeanne Nichols, vice president of Transamerica, Ltd., a GraniteFiandre company, points out that, “GranitiFiandre has introduced the NewGround collection, a sleek alternative to stained concrete. This innovative flooring solution does not require stains, waxes, sealants or coatings. Now, kitchen and bath flooring is able to support homeowners’ busy lifestyles and impeccable taste.”

The Kitchen Reborn

Kitchens are as much about living as they are food preparation, and that means comfort and class are as crucial as sinks and stoves.

“It’s the new meeting place, the hearth, the gathering place,” says Anita Wiechman, senior interior designer with The Interior Design Firm in Omaha, whose 13 designers focus on residential, health care and hospitality interiors. “Everyone’s in the kitchen these days, so it’s very open. It has to be a multi-faceted area [accommodating] at least one cook, plus someone visiting and kids doing their homework.”

The key word is function, adds Nancy Barsotti, owner of Nancy Hoff Barsotti Interior Design, with offices in New York City and Pittsburgh. The materials must work for living and entertaining as well as preparing meals.

In the kitchens Barsotti designs, counters tend to feature stone such as granite or marble, and in most cases, the floor is chip-resistant porcelain. She uses less glazed tile, and favors softer, matte finishes on porcelain as well as slate and other natural stone materials. Marble is popular, but appears with a honed, matte finish, she adds. Details are important, for example, mosaic medallions combined with solids and anything with a border.

Varied surface materials are a priority in kitchens designed by Michael Thomas, president of Jupiter, Fla.-based Design Collective Group, which creates interiors for single-family homes and condominiums, and specializes in remodel work.

On floors, “We don’t want to use the same travertine over and over again,” Thomas says. Instead, a porcelain mosaic or a wood accent may be incorporated to prevent one material from dominating.

The same goes for counters. “If we have the main prep area in granite or a solid surface, we’ll try to do the island in maybe a glazed ceramic, maybe a hand-made tile,” he says. “We’re making sure a sealer’s on them, so they don’t have to worry about tomato juice staining the grout line. And we’re carrying that same tile or hard surface from the island over to the backsplash to maintain the theme.”

Because some tile can be costly, Thomas tries to make the most cost-efficient use of accents. The island is frequently seen as a special area in the kitchen, and clients may be more willing to spend on an accent there, he says. They may even be willing to spring for a border on the floor running around the island, as a means of framing the island in the same material seen above.

For her part, Wiechman believes “tile is everywhere” in today’s upscale kitchens. “If it’s not limestone, porcelains are a very close knockoff of tumbled marble or honed limestone,” she comments. “In general, the looks are honed, and not shiny. The exception is glass mosaics.” Metallic tiles are turning up in borders or in backsplashes behind stoves. On floors, eight-inch and 12-inch squares have long since given way to 18-by-18-inch and even 20-by-20-inch formats. Four different sizes and shapes of tile may be combined in one floor, to give a varied appearance reminiscent of stone. Porcelain tile, limestone and honed marble are the materials most often chosen. “Everything is very natural looking,” Wiechman adds. “They even have tile that looks like wood plank.”

The Outdoor Kitchen

Pools and spas have always been ideal for tile, but today exterior tile installations are increasingly mimicking indoor living space, especially the kitchen. Where homeowners once equipped their patios with a charcoal grill and a picnic table, today’s homeowner is interested in outdoor or auxiliary kitchens, with built-in grills, refrigerators, ice makers, and even kitchen sinks are increasingly popular.

Designers credit the cocooning instinct, our passion for remodeling, and even our interest in cooking (about 500,000 viewers tune in to the Food Network to watch shows like BBQ with Bobby Flay) to this trend. But whatever the source, outdoor living spaces offer great opportunities for tile installations.

Materials in these exterior spaces need to withstand exposure to elements, making ceramic tile a natural. Thanks to its inherent durability and low maintenance properties, ceramic tiles are resistant to fading from ultraviolet rays; inhibit the growth of mold, mildew and fungus; and when installed correctly, can last up to 40 years. Tile will not rot, attract termites or require painting. An eco-friendly covering made from 100 percent plentiful raw materials, ceramic tiles do not require toxic detergents and waxes for maintenance.

As with interior designs, combining different styles in tile will create a custom outdoor retreat. Tiles in a wide range of formats from accent pieces and mosaics to the familiar squares and large rectangles add interest to a plain patio or define areas.

New options in tile offer a more cost- and maintenance-efficient alternative to stone but with the same rugged rustic appearance. The Roncal Series by Garogres is porcelain stoneware in 16” x 17” that also captures the characteristics of natural stone with texture and relief. Each tile is produced with fingerlike protrusions that interlock when laid to eliminate the grid effect. These tiles are suitable for outdoor applications that may experience seasonal temperature fluctuations as they are frost resistant and designed to be used in areas where slip resistance is needed.

Spell Bathroom l-u-x-u-r-i-o-u-s

Bathrooms have undergone a dramatic metamorphosis, transformed into spas with soaking tubs in elegant surrounds, walk-in showers, under floor heating, towel warmers and warming drawers, according to Wiechman.

She recently completed on an opulent Omaha-area home with “His” and “Hers” master bathrooms, connected by a walk-in shower with two rainheads and additional body sprays. “Her bathroom has a therapy tub and a plasma TV, and both bathrooms have TVs behind the mirrors,” Wiechman relates. “Radiant heat is very big in bathrooms, and in that ‘His’ and ‘Hers,’ we put the radiant heat in the walls, in the seat of the walk-in shower and in the floors.”

Tile, stone or glass surfaces set the tone for the décor. “They represent such a big portion of the total area,” Barsotti says. “Other than the fixtures . . . every inch is covered by those materials.”

Glass tile may be the most luxurious, but it’s also the most expensive. Barsotti frequently uses glass tile as an accent, often in combination with porcelain tile, to provide beautiful looks and lighten the budget. For instance, she may create a porcelain walk-in shower with a glass tile border.

Glass block is making a big comeback, often used as a wall on one side of the shower. “A lot of times, it can define a separation between the shower and the tub,” Barsotti reports. “The nice thing is, it allows the light to pass through, but still gives a sense of privacy.”

Porcelain offers a softer look and can deliver slip-resistance. Large formats are often used to create a look of spaciousness and expand the room. In many instances, it’s laid on the diagonal, to imbue the room with “some geometry,” Barsotti says, and provide a more open feel.

Ceramics and stone have always been naturals for the bath, but today many designers are looking for the warmth and luxury of wood. Using natural wood in a bathroom presents a unique set of problems, moisture being the biggest one. Ceramic tile will not warp or rot and will never require refinishing. The obvious solution is tile that mimics the look of wood.

Manufacturers such as Hispano Azul and Ceramicas L’Alcalaten have invested tremendous time and effort in developing techniques to achieve perfect graining, life-like veining, and shading and highlighting. Production and rectifying methods have greatly improved since its introduction about 10 years ago, so, today’s tiles can be installed with nearly invisible grout lines. They are also producing formats that more closely match those of plank or parquet wood floors. Some manufacturers offer wood inspired tiles for use on walls as well. Hispano Azul presents the Irati Collection with matching floor and wall tiles.

The Fusta Collection, a wood look from Ceramicas L’Alcalaten, is available in four finishes and 12″ x 23.75″ and 6″ x 12″ formats. For a modern edge, tiles from the Fusta Collection can be combined with stainless steel accents. The Galeon Series from Azulejos el Mijares, which come in 6″ x 17.75″ format, can be laid in a herringbone weave for a genuine parquet look and are available in three natural shades that capture the characteristics of wood.

Low-Maintenance, Safety and Timelessness Rule

Regardless of whether he’s designing kitchens or bathrooms, Thomas says he’s seeing specific trends impact both areas. One is a desire for low maintenance. “People don’t want to spend a lot of time working on their houses, or mopping their floors,” said Thomas, an expert in aging-in-place design. Safety is also a consideration where spills or excess moisture can be commonplace. Tile with a honed or textured finish is crucial to keeping people safe, regardless of whether they are older or not. Grout lines in tile floors can also be an effective way to increase traction, he notes.

Thomas forgoes passing trends in surfaces and selects tile that offers timelessness. “We try to choose things that are neutral in color,” he notes. “We don’t want ‘bland’ or ‘boring,’ but try to make sure tile or natural surfaces have a classic quality to them. We pick things that are classic in nature and timeless, as well as easy to maintain . . . For the good of the long-term completed project, doing things that are timeless and classic makes economic sense, as well as provides for a stronger design statement. Stone and tile need to be classic statements, by and large.”

What Designers Want from Dealers

As they strive to give their clients the luxurious custom looks they desire, interior designers believe tile dealers can be important allies. Wiechman says she likes to see wide selections of actual samples, not just photos. “In a book, some of the photos are not true to color, or we’re not seeing the real texture,” she comments. “Some of our clients, and even some designers themselves, need to see ideas. Changing out materials frequently, mixing different products not normally associated together and having tile vignettes on display all help sell it.”

Barsotti likes dealers to go beyond discussions about a tile product’s features and benefits to offer information on its applicability and recommended installation. “It’s great to have them say, ‘This is the newest thing, and available in 10 colors,’” she says. “But I feel what’s very helpful is when they offer seminars, particularly on installation . . . A very important aspect is where the tile should be specified, and how it should be installed, and whether there are any special requirements.”

When Barsotti specifies tile for a client’s project, she tells the dealer about her intentions regarding the material. If the dealer sees a problem, he or she can provide the necessary cautions. “They can really help you ensure that when the installation is complete, clients will be satisfied,” she says.

Sources:

Nancy Barsotti, Owner

Nancy Hoff Barsotti Interior Design,

New York City, Pittsburgh

212-838-6850

Michael Thomas, President, EASID, CAPS

The Design Collective Group, Inc.

Jupiter, FL

561-745-4146

Anita Weichman, Senior Interior Designer

The Interior Design Firm

4315 North 154th Circle

Omaha, NE 68116

402-968-5232

Special thanks to Tile of Spain

www.spaintiles.info

GeoDesign Project 2 offers a less-than-traditional look in mosaics to great effect in the home of Melissa Bogusch, AIA, senior project manager for Whiney Architects, Inc

Photo courtesy of The DESIGN Collective Group, Inc. of Jupiter, Florida; Michael A. Thomas, President, FASID, CAPS


Industry Insights
 
July 1st, 2006

July-August 2006

Vince Pompo Joins Ceramic Tile And Stone Consultants

Ceramic Tile And Stone Consultants, LLC (CTaSC) announced that Vince Pompo has joined the company as New Business Development Manager and will be focusing on promoting the University of Ceramic Tile and Stone (UofCTS) training programs. Pompo began his career in the ceramic tile industry in 1949 at Gladding McBean & Company in Glendale, CA working for the famous manufacturer of Franciscan Tile. He remained with the firm for 26 years, rising to the position of Sales Manager. In 1975 he founded Southwestern Ceramic Tile & Marble Co., a wholesale importer, distributor and retail operation serving the greater San Diego region. Foreign products were growing in popularity during that time and Vince teamed up with other key importers to form a co-op importing company in 1980 called Certico. Southwestern Ceramic Tile & Marble enjoyed a successful reputation among members of the design community, the construction trade, distributors, suppliers and consumers for 25 years. Vince embarked on another venture in 2000 with the opening of Tile Depot, a retail store offering a wide selection of tile and stone for residential and commercial applications. He recently sold the Tile Depot business which enabled him to take on his latest assignment as part of the CTaSC Team. In 1977, Pompo became a Certified Ceramic Tile Consultant (CTC), a credential granted by the Ceramic Tile Institute of America (CTIOA). He was a charter member of the Ceramic Tile Distributors of America (CTDA) and served as its president from 1982 to 1983. He has also been a member of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), American Institute of Architects (AIA), Producer’s Council, USC’s Architectural Guild, Building Institute Association (BIA) and Construction Specification Institute (CSI). Pompo was also honored with the prestigious Sales and Marketing “Sammy Award.”

NTCA Contractor Safety Program

Effective May 1st the National Tile Contractors Association introduced its new NTCA Contractor Safety Program for tile contracting companies. The NTCA Contractor Safety Program was created to meet the specific needs of tile contractors. “We recognize the importance of safety in both commercial and residential tile installations, and we also know how hard it is for small businesses to implement and stick to a safety program,” said Bart Bettiga, NTCA executive director. “We feel the NTCA Contractor Safety Program offers a real solution for tile contractors on this important issue. In addition, we are convinced that by implementing this program over a period of time, contractors will have a significant opportunity to reduce their workman’s compensation costs and at the same time offer a safer environment for employees.” The NTCA Contractor Safety Program is an annual subscription and is available to NTCA Members at a reduced rate. The subscription includes features and benefits such as monthly safety topics; a worker safety policy for each company to personalize the policy; recommendations outlining the purpose, function, and organization of a viable safety committee; an outline for a drug-free workplace policy outline; a safety violation policy; what to do in case of accident or injury; and OSHA’s quarterly safety newsletter. Additionally, NTCA will offer a second year, reduced-cost subscription that will include twelve new safety topics for monthly meetings; two supplemental issues for personal or home safety concerns; safety award certificates and hard hat stickers; and the OSHA quarterly newsletter. “We urge contractors who do not have safety programs to seriously consider this opportunity that will walk them through it every step of the way,” Bettiga said. For more information and pricing, contact NTCA at (601) 939-2071.

Alpha Professional Tools® Hires new sales representative for the northern california territory

Alpha Professional Tools® is pleased to announce that Mr. Oscar Soltero has joined their sales team. He will be responsible for the Northern California territory including the Reno/Lake Tahoe area of Nevada.

Soltero has many years of experience in the tile industry. He can be contacted through the main office at (800) 648-7229

Questech® Opens New State-of-the-Art Facility

Questech Corporation announced the opening of the company’s new 70,000 sq. ft. headquarters and manufacturing plant in Rutland, VT. The new facility features fully automated equipment for producing their Cast Metal and Cast Stone decorative tiles, and their revolutionary Tumbled Marble field tiles with Q-Seal™ lifetime sealer. “We are excited for our employees and our customers,” said Mr. Barry Culkin, CEO and President of Questech Corporation. “Our new state of the art manufacturing equipment and the consolidation to one location will make our organization more effective and our company more valuable to our customers.” The new facility, made necessary by the company’s growth rate over the past 5 years, will house all operations and administrative functions under one roof. Questech had moved its product design and administrative staff to the Rutland location two years ago to make room for more production capacity in their old facility. “That’s when the planning for a new and improved manufacturing facility began in earnest,” according to Barry Culkin. Culkin says that this move was an important step forward for the company.

NATURAL STONE COUNCIL GIVES SUPPORT TO GREEN MOVEMENT

The Natural Stone Council (NSC) has given long-term budget approval to participate in and raise awareness of the environmentally-friendly Green Building Movement, said John Mattke, chairman of NSC’s Committee on Sustainability. Mattke, president and COO of Cold Spring Granite, said “Stone is a natural product, and we felt that it would be important for the Natural Stone Council, as representatives of the industry, to do all we can to help educate and promote stone as an environmentally-friendly building and landscape material. Real stone, the world’s oldest building material, is enjoying unprecedented growth in both the residential and commercial segments,” he continued. Mattke said the attributes stone offers environmentally-friendly building and design include: a natural product, an enduring life-cycle, ease of care and maintenance, recyclability, and quarry and manufacturing best practices. The short and long-term goals of the NSC are to provide documented, factual information on the overall benefits of natural stone and position natural stone as a material that supports Green awareness, initiatives and certifications. A major component of the program will be promotion and education aimed at both the natural stone, design, construction and landscape industries.The NSC also joined the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) of Washington D.C.

MAPEI Sponsors Marathon winner

MAPEI-sponsored marathon runner Rita Jeptoo of Kenya won the Women’s Division of the 110th Boston Marathon with a time of 2:28:38. Wearing the trademark MAPEI “cubes” and logo on her running outfit, Jeptoo came in 24th overall in a field of more than 22,000 men and women who entered the famed marathon. Due to a late arrival, she did not have a chance to review the course before the race, but Jeptoo felt that she had trained well and had a good chance in her first American marathon. Her instinct proved right. The company sponsored the MAPEI Professional Cycling Team from 1993 to 2002. In 2006, MAPEI is sponsoring the Italian National Soccer Team. MAPEI’s commitment to sports is also reflected in its sponsorship of marathon running, mountain biking, car racing, skiing, equestrian events and other activities. The MAPEI Sport Service, located in Varese, Italy, opened in 1996 to support the athletes of the Professional Cycling Team with scientific rationality and a precise ethical approach. Today, the MAPEI Sport Service has evolved into a centre for all sportsmen and women. The staff concentrates on optimizing performance factors for athletes, researching the problems encountered by active men and women, and disseminating scientifically validated concepts regarding sporting and fitness activities. MAPEI has been able to transfer the concept of teamwork to the corporate world. Setting and achieving a shared goal by working together not only increases the chances of success, but also strengthens the company through positive feedback.


Installer Update: Getting in the Know About Tile and Stone Care
 
July 1st, 2006

By Rachel Gibbons

July-August 2006

With tile and stone offerings constantly changing, it’s a challenge to figure out how to effectively protect and clean these surfaces.

Fortunately, you don’t need a degree in chemical engineering to select the right product for the job. In fact, recent advances in cleaning and care technology have helped simplify the task.

The following information will help you understand the basics of tile and stone cleaning and to tell the difference between routine jobs and those that require special attention.

Consider the surface

One of the first steps in cleaning tile and stone is to assess the type of surface being cleaned and the nature of the materials that need to be removed. These factors will help you select the proper cleaning products.

Tile and stone surfaces fall into two general categories: nonporous and porous.

Nonporous simply means the surface naturally prevents materials from being absorbed. Examples of these surfaces include glazed ceramic and glazed porcelain tile. A porous surface, on the other hand, allows materials to be absorbed. These surfaces include natural stone, such as granite, limestone, marble and travertine. Other examples include unglazed ceramic tile, brick, terra cotta and concrete.

At this point, you might be thinking that it must be difficult to choose the right product to match the surface. Actually, the choice can be easy because some of the latest product innovations work across multiple surfaces.

What also makes things easy is to understand the two categories of material to be removed from a tile or stone surface – organic and inorganic. Organic means substances of a plant or animal origin, such as food and grease. Inorganic refers to substances with origins that are not plant or animal. Examples include rust, lime and hard water deposits. Knowing the origin of materials is important because each best responds to specific types of cleaners.

Routine care and cleaning

Another important element of tile and stone care has to do with identifying the extent of cleaning needed. There’s a significant difference between routine cleaning and something that goes beyond the average job.

Routine cleaning has to do with removing everyday dirt. In addition to creating poor aesthetics, dirt particles can scratch the flooring surface. That’s why routine tile and stone care starts with dusting or dry mopping regularly to remove dirt particles.

For routine cleaning, it’s important to not only know what to use, but what to avoid. To this day, some cleaning professionals mistakenly believe that it’s OK to use products like vinegar, bleach, ammonia and general-purpose cleaners or abrasive cleansers on tile and stone flooring. Those products should be avoided because they can erode stone, grout and some types of tile, and can strip sealers, leaving an unprotected surface susceptible to staining.

Instead of using general-purpose products for routine cleaning, it’s important to use pH-neutral cleaners specifically formulated for tile or stone. Recommended for daily use, these products are chemically balanced to effectively remove a variety of material without damaging the tile or stone. Some are available as a wipe for easy cleaning of tile countertops and other relatively small areas. Regular use of these cleaners prevents a build-up of dirt, scum and other deposits that can compromise the floor’s natural beauty. These products also require no rinsing.

For routine cleaning of porous natural stone and grout joints, an ideal product is one that cleans and seals in the same application. This advanced technology removes dirt and adds a water- and oil-repellent sealer that protects the surface from staining and makes it easier to keep clean. The light sealer also helps extend the protection achieved when the tile or stone is originally sealed.

When a cleaning project includes warm, damp and dark spaces, consider using products that provide mold and mildew resistance. Mold and mildew are plant-like organisms, collectively known as fungi, which can grow quickly with the right combination of moisture, warmth, darkness and a food source.

Cleaning products containing fungistatic agents carry an extra wallop. The cleaners remove the fungi while the fungistatic agents slow or stop growth of the organisms.

Restoration

Tile, stone and grout joints that are extremely dirty or stained require a heavy-duty cleaning to restore the original look. When it comes to restoration work, the key is to focus on the surface involved and the material to be removed.

  • Organic material: Organic materials dictate the need for an alkaline-based cleaner that may be used on both tile and stone.
  • Inorganic material: Inorganic materials are safely removed with acid-based cleaners when working with porcelain, ceramic, or natural stones like slate, flagstone, or granite. A word of caution: marble, limestone, and travertine stones should not come in contact with acids in general. Although granite is unaffected by common acids, the polished surface may be softened if exposed to stronger acids for prolonged periods of time.

Remember that while acid-based cleaners are effective in removing rust and mineral deposits from grout, they should be used with caution on grout that is installed with polished or honed stone. This is because the acid could damage the adjacent stone surface.

Naturally, every tough cleaning situation is different and it may be difficult to determine the nature of the material to be removed. As a general rule of thumb, use an alkaline cleaner first to remove grease, oil, soap scum and similar materials. On glazed tile surfaces only, follow up with an acid cleaner to remove ground-in dirt. It’s a good practice to test all cleaners in an inconspicuous place before cleaning the entire floor to ensure that the products won’t damage the surface.

Heavy-duty cleaners are available premixed or may require mixing of ingredients prior to each use. For ease of use, premixed cleaners are often the best choice.

Tile and stone restoration can also include removing stains. Stains of an organic nature can be removed from tile and stone with alkaline-based stain-removal products. Inorganic stains can be removed with acid-based products, but consider the surface before using them.

Deep, stubborn oil stains in porous tile, stone or grout need even more attention. An effective method is to use a poultice, which is a paste (available premixed) that lifts out the stain. The product is typically applied to the stain, allowed to dry and then swept or vacuumed away.

Acidic stains, such as wine or lemon juice, can etch a stone surface. In those cases, the surface may need to be repolished with a special stone restoration product. This job should be left to a stone installation expert.

Sealing

Adding protection from stains and dirt is another important aspect of tile and stone maintenance. Toward that end, porous natural stone and unglazed tile must be sealed after a heavy-duty cleaning or stain removal. Nonporous surfaces, such as glazed ceramic and porcelain tile, don’t require sealers.

Sealers range from topical sealers that cover the surface with a film to penetrating sealers that are absorbed into the stone or tile. Topical sealers will effectively hide scratches, but require constant maintenance if used in areas with heavy foot traffic.

Some penetrating sealers contain fluorochemical compounds. This advanced impregnating technology protects the stone or tile by creating a chemical barrier within the pores of the tile or stone that repels water and oil. Unlike topical sealers containing synthetic oils like silicone that can block water vapor transmission from the underlayment, the product doesn’t block the pores so vapor transmission will naturally occur. These are invisible penetrating sealers that retain the natural look of the surface.

Until recently, it was important to understand the unique characteristics of different stone types to choose the right sealer because some sealers were formulated for porous stone and others for less porous stone. But, innovations using fluorochemical technology make multi-surface sealers possible, which can be successfully used with stone or tile of varying levels of porosity.

Some penetrating sealers also go beyond just sealing. These sealers provide stain protection while enhancing the color of unpolished stone. They work particularly well on natural stone installations, such as marble, limestone, tumbled stone, slate, travertine and textured granite. Water-based stone enhancer sealers are recommended for very porous surfaces while solvent-based enhancer sealers should be used on less porous surfaces.

Because they will affect the stone color, it’s a good idea to touch base with the facility owner about the final result before using these kinds of sealers. As with cleaning products, first test a stone enhancer sealer in an inconspicuous location, or on a sample piece of stone.

When choosing a sealer for outdoor use, look for a multi-surface product that is ultraviolet (UV) stable, water resistant and able to withstand harsh chemicals, such as deicing compounds.

Sealers can usually be applied within three to four hours after a heavy-duty cleaning. Be sure to allow enough time for the surface to completely dry before installing the sealer. Most sealer applications will last three to five years, depending on the cleaning methods used and the amount of environmental exposure. For optimal performance, sealers should be reapplied every one to three years. One quick test is to see if water beads up on the surface. If not, it’s time to reseal.

The long-lasting protection provided by sealers eliminates the need for high maintenance waxes. Instead, the tile or stone floor’s look and protection can be maintained with the routine use of a pH-balanced cleaner.

Getting started:

Some basic knowledge in tile and stone care will help you get started with this important service. To obtain this knowledge, you can attend training seminars offered by manufacturers of care and maintenance products or to seek out programs presented by trade associations.

Getting an education in tile and stone care is also a good investment in your business and yourself. Your customers will appreciate your efforts to help them protect their investment and ensure long-lasting beauty.

Rachel Gibbons is brand manager at TEC. One of the most respected and trusted names in the industry, TEC is the leading brand of installation and care and maintenance systems for tile and natural stone flooring.

Porous natural stone, unglazed tile and grout must be sealed to prevent staining. In this example, water and oil bead up on stone treated with a penetrating sealer but are absorbed by untreated stone.

Some penetrating sealers provide stain protection while enhancing the color of unprotected stone.


UNDERTILE HEATING: An Affordable Luxury for Customers and a Profitable Upsell for you
 
July 1st, 2006

July-August 2006

Whether you think of it as “affordable luxury” or necessity, undertile heating is an increasingly popular—and profitable—upsell for new construction and remodeling. As much as we all love the look of tile, it feels cold underfoot, especially so in more temperate climates in the Midwest and northeast.

But the advent of affordable, easily installed undertile heating units has made the chilly bathroom or kitchen floor a thing of the past. And it has allowed homeowners and designers to consider tile in additional spaces—on basement floors, on shower benches, even counter tops where a cool surface may not be conducive to eating a bowl of cereal on a chilly winter morning.

In fact, Ben Abraham, general manager of DK Heating Systems, says one of the most important reasons to include undertile heating in your product mix is to keep your customer happy. Woe to the dealer whose customer discovers—after an expensive remodeling or installation—that they could have had under tile heat installed if they had consulted another vendor. If the customer doesn’t know about it now, they will eventually. And they’ll want it.

What’s new in undertile heating are the continuing innovations that make it easier than ever to sell, install and enjoy.

Technical innovations

The sale is always easier with new and improved products and all of the manufacturers in the category have worked hard recently to deliver the latest technology for your customer’s floors.

Warmly Yours’ Monica Irgens says the company’s product has a long history in the marketplace, but the recent boom in remodeling paired with a desire for more energy efficiency and the growing marketplace for both wood and tile floors has lead to even more growth.

Warmly Yours is also the only self regulating product. Irgens likens the black carbon and plastic mat to one large sensor that will detect a warm spot of sun, a rug or even towels left behind and adjust that area only. The floor stays uniformly warm but cannot overheat in those places.

EASYHEAT’s Warm Tiles® electric floor warming division has introduced a new convenient dual conductor cable. Traditionally, electric floor warming was designed with two cold leads; one at the beginning of the installation that attached to the electrical box and one for the end of the floor warming system, which required being routed back to the original electrical box.

Engineers at EASYHEAT realized the two lead system was cumbersome and awkward. They completely redesigned the cable and mat systems to be outfitted with one cold lead only. By eliminating the need for snaking the second lead around the room, Warm Tiles has successfully redesigned two customer friendly options for your floor warming needs.

The Warm Tiles Cable system provides unlimited design configurations for even the most difficult shaped room. The cable allows you to install full floor warming coverage by lacing the cable on the floor wherever you require a heated area. Two different spacing options enable these extremely flexible cables to be installed virtually anywhere.

The Warm Tiles Mat system provides a quick and easy pre-fabricated installation by using the same Warm Tiles cables mounted onto a mesh backing. Warm Tiles Mats are ideally suited for concrete slab or multi-unit applications, as well as square or rectangular installations where the mat fits the shape of the room. These standardized rectangular mats help reduce installation time and labor costs. Custom mats are available for a variety of shapes and areas.

“The new Warm Tiles system is quick and easy to install. An average size bathroom of 30 square feet should take about 2 hours to install the floor warming component of the system,” stated Ben Shoemaker, Warm Tiles National Sales Manager. “Additionally, your Warm Tiles thermostat will regulate only enough electricity to heat your floor to the desired temperature. When the floor reaches your preset temperature, the electricity will cycle off. Since the electricity is generating warmth about one-third of the time, the cost savings are significant. On average, the operating cost is 1c per heated square foot per day, regardless of the size of your installation,” added Shoemaker.

Smarter selling

WarmlyYours wants to make it easier than ever for you to introduce the idea of undertile heating and then sell their product with new, easy-to-install electric floor warming kits, conveniently designed to cover most of today’s bathroom floor plans. The kits, which are available in three sizes to accommodate most bathrooms, are specifically designed to help dealers capture immediate sales and build in-store awareness for the comfort and luxury advantages of including undertile warming in remodeling projects.

The in-store presence of ready to install kits is seen as a way to bundle floor warming systems sales with bathroom flooring purchases, and to increase custom orders of larger bathrooms or kitchen systems using WarmlyYours free overnight design service. All kits are backed by the WarmlyYours exclusive 24/7 installation support service and lifetime technical assistance plan for maximum customer confidence and convenience.

EASYHEAT’s® Warm Tiles® Floor Warming system has recently earned the prestigious Good Housekeeping Seal, a highly recognized statement of the magazine’s renowned Consumers’ Policy. (The Good Housekeeping Consumers’ Policy states that if a product bearing the Seal proves to be defective within two years of purchase, Good Housekeeping will replace the product or refund the purchase price. )

The Good Housekeeping Seal is a hefty endorsement. Founded in 1900 for the purpose of improving the lives of consumers and their families through education and product evaluation, the Good Housekeeping Institute evaluates the actual product and reviews all advertisements submitted to the magazine; only those that it finds acceptable are published.

The company has also introduced multi-lingual retail packaging and brochures and a high speed web site featuring new web tutorial that simplifies the installation learning curves for electricians, tile installers and homeowners.

DK Heating offers a new self-adhesive mat to make installation easier than ever. The company’s products are also double-insulated for safety.

Danfoss Inc.’s new LX floor heating system is also supplied as a self-adhesive mat, which can be rolled out quickly on the subfloor or, in a renovation, on top of an existing floor. The company has also introduced the Danfoss LX thermostat with dual voltage capabilities (120V or 240V), four-event seven-day programming, and built-in GFCI functionality. Danfoss LX comes with an industry leading, non-prorated 10 year warranty on the heating mats and a two year warranty on the electronic thermostat.

Abraham believes that the demand for under tile heating “is growing by leaps and bounds.” Consumers are increasingly knowledgeable about it, making it an affordable luxury that thousands of Americans are adopting in new homes and renovations. For dealers, under floor heating presents an ideal opportunity to increase the bottom line on every floor installation.


One – on – One…With Paul Schipp
 
July 1st, 2006

May-June 2006

Recently unveiled at the International Builders’ Show, the Responsible Solutions to Mold Coalition (RSMC) is an industry association formed with the help of a grant from USG Corporation. The RSMC’s mission is to ensure more accurate information is disseminated about mold avoidance and moisture control.

In the vanguard of those working to make RSMC a success is Paul Schipp, the senior research associate at USG Corporation’s Research and Technology Innovation Center in Libertyville, Ill. Schipp, the recipient of a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota School of Engineering and a registered Professional Engineer (P.E.) in the state of Ohio, recently sat down with TileDealer for a wide-ranging interview.

In the following “One-on-One,” he discusses the RSMC’s formation, the broad-based support it’s garnering, and its goal of educating the public and the trades, including tile dealers, to the means of avoiding mold and moisture.

TileDealer: Why was the RSMC founded?

Schipp: It came about primarily because, as you know, mold has been a topic of great concern and interest in recent years in the construction industry. A recent poll of consumers involved in remodeling indicated 86 percent of them were concerned about mold, and 44 percent had previously had problems with mold.

So among homeowners there’s a heightened awareness and concern. When they talked to contractors, 64 percent had a concern and 43 percent felt it was the most important issue they faced. By important, I interpret that to mean they were concerned about delivering the performance expected of them.

USG is a leading manufacturer of building materials. And we’ve become very aware that the most important way for people to be able to deal successfully with the issue of mold is to be armed with accurate information.

There’s a tremendous amount of information about mold out there. But unfortunately, as you dig into it, you find much of the information is misleading or wrong, and much of the accurate information is very technical in nature. It’s very difficult for the layperson to identify what the key points are for their project and their needs. With a lot of different kinds of information available, there was a need for someone to step in and serve as a clearinghouse, trying to distill the useful and accurate information that homeowners, contractors and subcontractors need to know— and get it out to them.

TileDealer: What’s been the response to RSMC?

Schipp: Thus far, it’s been very positive. In the course of a little over a month, we were able to recruit 13 members to initiate the effort, and we have a broad base of support and interest from the building science community as well as from the trades and manufacturers, and the design communities. We all have a role in mold control and moisture control. So it’s been gratifying to see this kind of response.

TileDealer: What are the primary messages you are trying to communicate about mold and moisture control?

Schipp: Our principle message is that mold is fundamentally a moisture control problem, and you must control moisture in buildings if you expect to control mold. There are a number of sub-messages that go with this. Moisture intrusion is primarily a direct result of poor building practices. And ‘building practices’ covers a very broad range.

For instance, a building may be designed well. But if it’s not built according to design, there can be problems resulting from the construction practices and whether or not the materials used were the ones specified for the job. You need to specify the right materials, and also make sure substitutes aren’t used that can degrade the long-term durability and performance of the structure.

Another aspect of our message is that while there are many excellent mold-resistant products, by themselves they are not a solution or a fix for the problem. They are not the answer.

If you have moisture intrusion problems and try to treat it with mold-resistant products, ultimately you’re going to have problems in the building. Even if the mold doesn’t grow on those products, water will find its way to other sensitive elements of the building and mold will manifest itself there.

TileDealer: Is the organization gaining industry buy-in?

Schipp: I would say yes. As I said, we have 13 members actively participating. We’re still in the formation process of establishing the bylaws and the articles of incorporation, and we hope to have that completed soon. We’ve already been contacted by other organizations and companies interested in joining. We decided not to expand our membership until we complete this process of finalizing the bylaws.

We would be pleased to have people contact us. We’re putting together a list of people interested in joining us. Contact info@responsiblemoldsolutions.org. The Web site is www.responsiblemoldsolutions.org.

TileDealer: What are some of the obstacles and opposition RSMC expects to face?

Schipp: At this point, we find we don’t face any obstacles from an industry standpoint. When I’ve spoken with fellow building science researchers and other members of the industry, I’ve been pleased to find there is general support of the message that moisture control is key to mold control.

Probably the biggest challenge we face is the enormous amount of information, mixed with misinformation, out there on the Internet and being promoted. There are many aspects of mold growth in buildings not fully understood in terms of their impacts, and many opportunists who want to promote products that are quick, simple solutions.

And the whole issue of moisture and mold control is a systems issue. There’s very rarely a single cause or party that’s responsible for the problem or that can control the problem. There’s rarely a quick fix, so the systems aspect of this needs to be understood. A lot of the fixes are pretty superficial, in that they can create the appearance the mold has gone away. But it can come back if they haven’t fixed the basic problem with moisture in the building.

TileDealer: Will the organization gain other industry partners from, for instance, the U.S. Green Building Council or EPA?

Schipp: We certainly anticipate that we will see growth in our membership. We’ve been fortunate to attract the Washington, D.C.-based National Institute for Building Sciences (NIBS), and likewise we’ve also had favorable interaction with the USDA Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, a division of the U.S. Forest Services, which is in turn a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In addition, we’ve had participation and assistance from Syracuse University and the Building Research Council, a part of the School of Architecture at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana.

TileDealer: How will the RSMC help the tile dealer?

Schipp: As we’ve discussed, our mission is primarily educational. It’s our intention to identify some of the most important issues for each of the trades, including tile dealers. This gets back to the point I made earlier. Moisture control is a systems issue. There’s no one trade responsible for causing or fixing the problem. It’s usually the result of a series of miscues. But each of the trades is responsible for ensuring the right materials are specified for its part of the job, and that those materials are installed correctly.

Blame is usually assigned to the location where a problem is observed, but that may not be where the problem occurred. There may, for instance, be something else going on undermining a tile installation, such as inappropriate installation of a substrate. What we hope to do is make everyone aware of how they impact the effectiveness of their particular part of the construction, and also help people understand how they impact other aspects of the performance of the building, and vice versa.

One trade following another trade may wind up undoing or damaging work that a previous trade has already completed. If they perceive it as not their problem, they may or may not call attention to the problem if it’s not what they’re directly responsible for. But it IS their problem. It may indirectly impact them, and if there’s a problem, someone’s going to have to deal with it during the lifetime of that building.

From a cost standpoint, the best and least expensive way to do it is to do it right the first time, and prevent problems from happening in the first place.That’s because going back and trying to fix the problem after the building is completed is much more expensive and much more difficult than simply installing all the systems correctly in the first place.

TileDealer: How will the organization communicate with dealers?

Schipp: Training classes are one possibility. We’ve been toying with the idea of creating an interactive interface on our Web site, where tile dealers could make a series of selections. From that, they would be able to identify some of the top 10 issues they need to be aware of for the types of jobs they’re undertaking. That’s one possibility. In the organization of RSMC, we’re looking at having two primary committees. The first would be responsible for identifying the information we wish to communicate and ensuring its accuracy. The second will be responsible for developing the plans and communicating them to the audience, figuring out how to get that message out.I’m an engineer, and I communicate well with engineers. But when I try to communicate [engineering topics] with my wife or daughter, their eyes glaze over. There’s the skill of understanding the technical aspects of the issue, and the skill of being able to communicate non-technically to people who need assistance in identifying what they must be aware of, so they can act on it.

TileDealer: Is the RSMC going to communicate with the public?

Schipp: Definitely yes. Our Web site will be our initial point of contact, and we’ll also do some brochures. That will expand and grow as the organization grows.

TileDealer: Where would you like the RSMC to be in one, five, 10 years?

Schipp: Our hope is that in the near term, we can make a real difference in how people view moisture control, and help them learn to prevent mold growth in their buildings. If we can make our mark in that arena, we hope to expand to a broader discussion of what it takes to keep buildings and homes safe, warm and dry. It’s how to make attractive, comfortable, energy-efficient, healthy places where people enjoy working and living. Moisture control goes far beyond just the issue of preventing mold. It also impacts indoor air quality and health, comfort, energy efficiency, durability and maintenance. It ties into all the attributes we would like and need to have in our buildings.

SOURCE:

Paul Schipp, Senior Research Associate

USG Corporation’s Research and

Technology Innovation Center, Libertyville

847-970-5259


Sales & Management: Five Tips for Competing Against the Big Box Stores
 
July 1st, 2006

By Craig Stimmel


July-August 2006

Tile dealers and distributors often worry about the Big Box stores encroaching on their product turf. They get upset, complain to their friends and contemporaries, try and get their local politicians to “intercede,” talk to their trade association about “protection” and more. Then, instead of really looking at the challenge as something that offers opportunity, they, generally, continue doing business as usual.

These competitors can be the DIY super stores (Lowes, Home Depot plus any number of regional players in this same category), consumer focused big box stores (Wal-Mart, Target), and specialty retailers. The threat is genuine but these companies are not “picking on you” or anyone. The trend towards consolidation in distribution is here to stay and it’s only a matter of time before almost every industry is faced with it.

Historically, the big boys have always had better buying power.

Opportunity Knocks

There is a solution, but it will take some thought, planning and effort to turn the big box challenge into an opportunity.

1) Specialize. If time is your enemy with Big Box stores taking a bigger and bigger chunk of your market share at the expense of your company’s profitability and viability, consider the specialization option. Specializing in one key area allows you to communicate a clear message—avoiding comparisons with the big box stores. Don’t try and be everything to everybody. Focus on your expertise in tile design and expert installation. Communicate this expertise to the marketplace—don’t be uncomfortable about blowing your own horn.

2) Local/Regional Branding. Companies who build a vision of the business that people will recognize always do better than companies who seek to be just like every other reseller. Think about some of the regional powerhouses who have created their own “vision” in the eyes of their marketplace. While they are regional in scope, they have separated themselves from the Big Box stores by offering a better value proposition than what the Big Box stores offer. And they’re successful with contractors who keep coming back time after time They make money because they haven’t confused what they are and who they serve. They’ve built their brand identity.

3) Sell your company’s value proposition. Unless you’re buying better than even your largest competitors, train your staff to compete against the Big Box stores by providing real value. Know your value proposition. What your value proposition is varies from dealer to dealer. Maybe it is:

  • Your product mix—you’re not selling anything and everything. You’re selling your company’s ability to efficiently deliver tile products and services. Besides the products themselves, you are selling your knowledge of how to enhance a room’s appearance, provide design recommendation and expert installation on practically any tile product. What else could you have in your back pocket which helps make you and your business development team “different”? With new designs coming fast and furiously from markets around the world, your product mix might be especially appealing to architects and designers. That is “if(?)” they know you “specialize” in that product area?
  • Your area of specialization.
  • A market niche e.g. designers/architects, NARI builders, high end residential GC’s, developers, agricultural, schools/colleges, government, etc.
  • The systems you offer to help make buying as painless and hassle free as possible. You need to make sure all your business development team know what it is and how to use it in the field.
  • Is your website (commerce site where people can place orders) user friendly? The author has found that many of them are so difficult to navigate that it amazing that people can actually find what they’re looking for. Is it fresh—or full of ancient news of little, if any, value to a visitor. Is it “sticky”—in other words will people who go there want to stay, click through to the “buy page” and buy something—or pick up the phone and call you to place an order?

4) Product knowledge. Train your business development team to ask relevant questions and lead a customer (or prospect) to make a more informed decision. By asking questions and getting an answer from the customer, you can utilize your product knowledge to ensure the customer buys the right product for the job.

5) Network. If you’re the best-kept secret in town, in your county, region or state, you’re not likely to begin to gain traction against the Big Box stores. Your market must know you exist and be familiar with your firm and its reputation. But you ask….how can I build visibility if I am struggling just to compete and make a living? Distributors and resellers can and do succeed! There are a number of possible avenues that can be used within their community and beyond. Search out local networking organizations, offer seminars and one-day classes to the design/build professionals in your area, or support local building efforts where you can show off your product, work and knowledge.

If you’re looking for the magic bullet, there is no such thing! But if you have an open mind, a willingness to try another way to build revenue, profits and make things easier, there are excellent answers.

Don’t be afraid to change.

Craig Stimmel, CMC MBA, president of Planned Growth Business Development Solutions LLC, is a Certified Management Consultant with offices in Tewksbury, MA. Stimmel has served distributors, resellers and contractors since 1971. Learn more about Craig by visiting Planned Growth’s website: www.plannedgrowthllc.com, calling (978) 640-0803 or by emailing him at cstimmel@plannedgrowthllc.com.


TILES OF ITALY
 
July 1st, 2006

July-August 2006

When it comes to fashion, Italy sets the pace. Like industry icons Dolce and Gabbana, Versace and Valentino, Italian tile manufacturers continue to produce cutting-edge fashions for hard surfaces. The latest options offer inspirations from brighter, clearer colors; surface textures and effects; and endlessly versatile sizes and shapes.

The Scabos series from ABK is available in numerous sizes and 6 modern colors. The natural and lapped surfaces and wide range of finishes make it ideal as both a floor and wall covering. The series is complemented by accents produced using innovative techniques and materials that are inspired by nature while maintaining the identity of such diverse materials as wood and bronze. www.abk.it

Dado’s Beauty Matt offers six boldly contrasting field tile colors—white, beige, coffee, orange, green and light blue—that coordinate with the elegant relief strips to create installations of enormous creativity and vitality. Available in 25×33.3 cm and 12.5×33.3 cm sizes. www.dadoceramica.it

Impronta Italgraniti’s MySkin leather-imitation collection in glazed porcelain is suitable for a range of compositional solutions and comes in 6 colours and a 34×56 cm large-format edge-ground size and a classic 28×35 cm size. The accents feature glossy, luminous finishes such as glass, platinum and gold, lending sophistication to even the most strictly minimalist installation. www.impronta.it

The rustic yet elegant new Le Cascine porcelain tile collection by Gresmalt is inspired by terracotta from the Italian tradition. Available in 2 sizes (34×34 cm and 17×34 cm) and 3 colours (terracotta, beige, pink), it is complemented by accents and trim pieces allowing for various types of installation. www.gresmalt.it

Ragno’s Summer is an aptly-named white body porous single-fired wall tile and glazed porcelain floor tile. The Summer series comes in a lively mix of colors. The glossy surfaces and timeless neutrality of white and beige alongside bolder, brighter colors such as red and orange or fresher, more relaxing tones such as blue and green make the collection ideal for residential installations. www.ragno.it

Raku by Maestri Majolicari combines the richness of the authentic Raku ceramic used for the decorative strips with the essential style of the field tile.

Islatiles’ Prêt-à-porter is inspired by the world of fashion. The texture reproduced on the 20×50.2 cm field tiles and the 20×20 cm coordinated wall tiles is reminiscent of prestigious fabrics. The series comes in 7 colors, while the wide range of listels and compositions allows for unlimited combinations and original installations. www.islatiles.it

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